the Never-ending story: When dogs Fence Fight

Standard

For most dog owners with dogs that “fence fight” it is a miserably familiar never-ending story of escalated energy, quick movements, ugly sounds, and foolish dog shenanigans typically played out in a corner or section of the yard whenever the neighbor happens to let their dog out at the same time the other dog is outside.   Fence fighting is a difficult issue to navigate for many owners because it is so unnatural and frustrating for the dogs themselves.  Nowhere amongst the various Yellowstone wolf packs is there a man-made fence wherein these wild canids can lunge and cuss back and forth at opposing, rival wolves with unrelenting abandon.  If a wild wolf has an issue with another wolf in its pack or with a rival pack it can deal with the individual wolf (or the entire pack) directly in wide open woodlands or on the prairie and, if the individual or the pack want to brawl, there is going to be a definitive winner and a clear loser.  Than, and this is important, life moves on.

06207-germanshepherd

With fence fighting nobody ever wins.  With fence fighting everyone loses (dog owners and neighbors included) because the cycle repeats itself over and over as the pumped up and persistent puppy participants doggedly attempt to get at one another behind their protective, man-made enclosures.  So close to gripping and biting and tearing at each other and yet so far away!  (By the way many cities have ordinances stating dogs left in backyards are not allowed to bark for more than 15 minutes straight!  Be a good neighbor and a good dog owner and STOP your dog from territorial fence fighting and from boredom or anxiety-based barking in your yard)

In a real fight there’s real risk.  Risk can be good.  It can also be bad.  Calculating risk is what wise creatures do to survive.  A wolf or coyote only has so much energy/gas in the tank/ammunition per diem in order to survive.   Their choices count for much more than our domesticated dogs’ choices.  The wolf calculates risk.  The wild animal MUST make wise choices.  Their lives depend on it!  High Stakes.

The comfortable and convenient life of the modern domesticated dog (easy access to food, water, shelter 24/7) particularly in 2019 lends itself to more foolish decision making among our pampered pets.  Dog dignity is at an all time low because owners are basically off their rockers as they lavishly gush the softest of affection (and often not much more) onto their animals.  This allows for dog brats to rise up and take over.  Basically, our dogs can totally waste their energy on idiotic fence fighting numerous times a day and think little to nothing of it!  Zero consequences.  Our dogs don’t have to hunt in order to eat.  They don’t have to hike to a water source.  They don’t have to survive brutal winter storms.  Heck, they don’t even have to get along and employ team work and adaptability anymore in order to survive (which is the very thing that helped make them become dogs thousands of years ago)!  Dogs these days can act like morons in perpetuity, blowing their energy at the drop of a hat knowing full well that there’s a comfy dog bed inside and an owner that will hand them another high-caloric treat and loads of affection  if they simply walk back inside the house!  Is it any wonder more and more dogs are becoming insane?  Wild animals could never afford to muster and then employ all the energy that some dogs casually and consistently waste on fence fighting and frivolous barking unless it was for a real fight or during a dangerous flight for their lives.

Well, what’s the answer to this common dilemma?  I’ll start by telling you what the WRONG answer is…recalling your dog back inside.  Do NOT call your dog back inside to curtail fence fighting!  That’s like placing a Band Aid on a bullet wound!  It will not work for very long.  The next time you let your dog outside when the neighbor’s dog happens to be out there – guess who’s fence fighting again?  You’ve got the same problem day after day after day despite you calling your dog back inside.  But I should call the dog back inside the house in order to be a “good neighbor”, right?  Wrong.  Why settle for “good” when you can be a “better neighbor” and an “excellent dog owner” and actually stop the stupid behavior altogether?  Calling your dog back to you, FYI, is never a natural, dog-like solution in a situation like this because parent dogs go towards who they are addressing/correcting and the older dog will intentionally take up some of the problematic pup’s space.  This means you must move and get outside and stop the behavior where it is occurring in your yard.  You need to take away the space in front of your fence fighting dog.  Do you need to be harsh?  Not usually, but you do need to be firm enough to interrupt the dog at the exact moment in time when your dog is displaying high energy because he/she is in the very act of fence fighting.  You need to break your dog’s eye contact.  You need to respond in order to match your dog at the energy level he/she is at at that moment.  I often suggest turning the dog away if body blocking is not working.

  1.  Move with a purpose toward your dog.  You can yell one time if it helps (often yelling does Not help but experimenting is always a good idea when looking for the most efficient way forward).
  2. Upon reaching your dog and the fence you may have to grab the collar in order to break the dog’s eye contact with the neighboring dog.  If you cannot catch your dog because its rudely blasting by you and making a mockery of your discipline and a mockery of your physical prowess (or lack thereof) continuing to fence fight with the other dog then.. next time you attempt this step in the process… be sure to have the dog dragging a line/rope/leash (not attached to anything).  In this way you can step on the line and then pull the dog quickly into the proper posture.  The proper posture is one where your human rear end is facing the fence and the dog is backed away from the fence to make room for your body.  The proper posture is one where the dog is looking at you and not the other dog behind the fence.  (Do not pay the dog to look at you – there’s no respect in that) In some cases the proper posture is when you place the dog in the “heel” position next to you as you both angle looking away from the neighbor dog and the fence which are now (because of your actions) behind you.
  3. Allow a few heartbeats to pass so your dog can achieve a lesser level of energy.
  4. This next step is a rare and wonderful key to this method so please listen up…As you prepare to let the dog go (yes, you are going to let your dog go again and this will show your dog that you’re trying to establish a bit of trust in your relationship – it will also show supremely confident leadership on your part because it’ll look like you aren’t really concerned about the behavior – although you’re expecting it to stop – if you’re letting the dog go).  Begin to disconnect by standing up fully and looking away from your dog.  Your eye contact and denying eye contact is super important.  Then, let your dog go and start to walk back towards your house.  Yes – this may be shocking info to those of you with very reactive fence fighters but listen to me and do it – walk away as if the whole thing never happened.
  5. If it’s your dog’s first time being trusted and first time given this second chance (as opposed to being dragged inside the home or just recalled for some dumb food treat) your dog may turn and go right back into fence fighting. That’s ok.  Anticipate that failure.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Our goal here is that over the next few days your dog can “fail forward” as you intercept and interrupt the poor behavior and soon the behavior begins to greatly lessen in intensity and then the neighbor’s dog, even when barking its head off, begins to be almost boring to your dog.
  6. Day two looks much like day one.  Repetition is needed for both owner and dog.  Practice makes perfect.
  7. By day three when you go to stop your dog there should be a noticeable difference IF you’ve been following my advice to the letter.  When you go to grab your dog or go to grab the line that’s dragging on the ground you may not have to even touch or grab this time – so be ready to scale it back a hair.  Less is becoming more!
  8. Et cetera…et cetera…as the days pass the magic begins to work and you don’t come out the backdoor or off the porch as far into your yard.  Soon you only open the backdoor and yell out a parental warning to your dog and, after a bark or three, your dog stops and looks at you and you respond by instantly turning around and going back inside – teaching your dog that you expect it to be quiet and act properly and not escalate his/her energy in YOUR yard and that you are trying to TRUST your dog to remain outside and relax.  You are denying eye contact on purpose and showing real dog leadership.  If your dog heads away from the fence and comes towards your space just ignore it (do NOT praise or give attention to your dog).  Walk inside leaving your dog OUT because you’ve now achieved both respect for you and for your yard and the fencing, and you’ve cultivated some trust between yourself and your dog.  Nice work.

The technique I’ve described here really works.  If it doesn’t work for you then I would humbly suggest you are performing it improperly and your body and energy needs an adjustment.  Be advised, it is initially a difficult technique for some people spatially speaking.  Also, if your dog won’t listen to you inside your own house or is controlling who is touching who inside your home (and basically manipulating you) then there’s an enormous chance that the technique I’ve described here will NOT work for you outside because you have other relational work to do before you could ever hope to accomplish this type of “next level” spatial work outdoors between you and your dog.  All in all though, if you’re dog respects you and trusts you inside your home, the technique detailed here usually takes a week or two to achieve calmness outside in your yard FOREVER!  And often calmness can be accomplished even sooner!  The question is, are you willing to work hard for a week or two to win calmness for you and your dog FOREVER?  Are you genuinely willing to improve your life, your dog’s understanding, and improve your neighborhood?  I know plenty of people who sadly will NOT do the work.  I hope, Dear Reader, that you are different.

Be sure and subscribe to this fine blog!!!  Share this with a friend in need!

-G

Questions?  Read my books, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety then, if you still have questions, let ’em rip as I’d love to help you if I can!

 

 

Dealing with Aggession and hiring a Professional!

Standard

Are you dealing with dog aggression?  Whether it’s dog-dog aggression or dog-human aggression have you contemplated the possibility that maybe you should hire a pro?  In this article I am, as the author of the Hot Listed book Dog Myths, being brutally honest to protect your family, your dog or pup and your finances.  Let’s jump into it, shall we?

 

Many folks hire a professional when their dogs are becoming (or already are) aggressive.  As a professional dog trainer who deals extensively and literally on a daily basis (or almost daily…I recently stopped working seven days a week!  Yay!!) with dog’s manifesting aggression I do recommend hiring a professional to help.  However, and this is a huuuuuuuuuuuge however, big problems occur when good people hire professionals who are more than willing to take their money yet the “professional” only knows how to add more, “sit, down, stay, come, watch me, heel,” etc, etc to the situation!  Please think about this.  Please consider this all-too-common problem!  And, again, let me quote myself here and say that most training and behavior modification is based in Excitement and that is NOT beneficial when dealing with Aggression!

Let me give you a few real life examples/horror stories I’ve heard from my clients who spent thousands of dollars with other companies only to receive little to no help with the real and serious issues of aggression their dog’s were dealing with…

  1.  The professional behaviorist uses fancy talk.  They throw around “science” and “proven scientific methods” like it’s going out of style.  They will convince you that all animals can be trained using “positive reinforcement” (meanwhile they are dogmatically Negative against any and all facts, studies, opinions, contrary to their own dogmatic belief system)!  (I always say that when it comes to working with an animal the only thing a trainer or behaviorist should be dogmatic about is tailoring their custom responses and methods to each individual dog and owner and to be dogmatic about the natural way…ask yourselves What would a balanced mother dog do in the situation!)       While these “scientific,” “positive only” types adamantly disagree with any other methodology; they personally are getting horrible results with the method they keep pushing!!!   I personally agree with them that all animals can be “trained” using “positive only” or “scientific” methods of conditioning.  My point is WHO WANTS TO SETTLE FOR TRAINING when So MUCH MORE IS AVAILABLE!!!!  (Sadly, most professionals are unaware or unwilling to realize that so much more truly IS available to them and their clients!)

2.  The professional will sign clients up for as many sessions or classes as possible!  They want to keep you on the hook.  They want to keep you as a lifetime client.  Great money-making strategy!  Horrible ethics and morals!  I always help equip my clients with the motivation, education, tools and skills needed to work with their dogs themselves!  If more dog professionals were honest and open instead of conniving, thieving, con artists I know they would find greater results both morally, ethically, and monetarily.  In my company we always only start with one session even if clients call and tell me on the phone they want a package deal…I always advise just starting with one!

The goal for the professional trainer or behaviorist should be to sign the client up for the least amount of sessions and do the best job possible in the shortest amount of time (with the caveat of following mother nature’s timing).  Remember if you aren’t more than happy, impressed, and starting to see real results during and after the first session with your professional behaviorists or trainer really consider trying someone else!  (keep in mind, results always start with the owner changing and learning and then, naturally, the results flow to your dogs!)  

I would Never sign my dog up for more than 10 sessions at a time.  After 10 if you need more (some extreme cases may) you can reevaluate.  If someone tried to sell me 6 months worth of classes I’d have to ask why it would take so long…are they really that horrible at training and modifying behaviors?  (Remember, dogs live in the moment and are ready to move on from the past faster than us humans)  If they attempted to sell me a year’s worth of lessons I’d politely just walk away shaking my head!

3.  The professional needs several classes (and more money from you) because they don’t just take action and start disagreeing with the unsocial behaviors while building a healthy relationship and getting to the heart of the issue.  (Example:  Your dog is aggressive with other dogs so instead of equipping you the owners first and then jumping in the pool, so to speak and getting to work on the problem (real life stuff).  Instead they bring you to the edge of a park…I’m talking about the farthest edge possible and when your dog notices another dog a mile away they’re going to try and bribe the dog with food so it has a “positive” experience and begins to associate something pleasant = food with something it usually wants to bite and lunge for = the dog.  Sounds great, right?  Makes sense, right?  Wrong!  The problem is that if you have real aggression your dog will not be smelling once he sees the dog!  He will not be interested in eating a treat because he is not tasting at that exact moment in time.  He is staring and raising his energy and trying to fixate.  He is using his secondary senses (vision and hearing) and ignoring his primary senses to the detriment of his own sociability and to the detriment of your peaceful walk and straining shoulder muscles!  The professional who stays on the edge and bribes will never amount to much.  And, tragically, the client who hires them will think that there isn’t much help for their aggressive dog!  This can lead to the dog being put down unnecessarily!  Or the dog biting another dog or person unnecessarily!  And all due to poor training and behavior mod. methods.)

4.  The professional claims to know about aggression but they seem nervous around your dog.  You would not believe the amount of times I have heard over the years that the clients have seen and sensed that the professional they hired in the past was actual afraid of their dog!  (**note to professionals who are afraid of getting bit…please get another job!**)

5.  The professional enters your home (or you enter their facility) and they start the relationship with your aggressive dog totally the wrong way...either with excitement and bribery with treats and high-pitched human talking (trying to gain trust through the external bribe of food) or by taking an over-board, dominant approach to the point of excessive harshness and smashing the dog down in a roll or lifting a dog they just met up into a hanging.  Both methods are based in excitement and should be super familiar to you but, and here’s the kicker, both are foolish, unnatural, and applied at the wrong time so both are the WRONG way to meet an aggressive dog.  (If I had a penny every time someone greeted a dog the wrong way I’d be a multi-billionaire 10 years ago!)

6.  The professional uses his former military or police experience.  While this, of course, can be beneficial (in protection work, obedience, the sport of Schutzhund, and elsewhere) it can also be a hindrance and backfire, particularly when we are dealing with house dogs!  I see this all the time!!!  The number one requirement for a great house dog is surprisingly NOT obedience!  The number one requirement for a great house dog is calmness!  Again, almost all training and behavior mod. is rooted and based in excitement and over-excitement.  Please don’t confuse a dog performing a “Platz” or a “Sitz” as a calm animal that is learning to self-soothe, lower their own energy and eliminate their aggression.  Police and Military dogs are bred and trained for high intensity work and not as house dogs.  (I am extremely thankful and respectful of our brave veterans and LEOs who have served honorably.  I do feel I  must still warn good folks about the common traps of applying military-style dog handling and training on house dogs.)

7.  The professional makes ridiculous statements like, “Maybe your dog should Not be around people.” Or possibly “Perhaps your dog should Not have other dog friends and you can just be his friend.”  They come up with excuses instead of real solutions.  They should fully understand that a social, pack creature that was once a wolf surviving in a group and then has lived with humans and our other animals for several millenia that sociability is the heart of the matter!  (Remember these are real life stories that my clients have told me about things their previous “pros” have told them!)

Some professionals also quickly turn to the blame game and start to lay guilt trips or threaten the owners into signing up with more classes or sessions, blaming or intimidating the owner all the while.  There is a company out our way with a woman who is infamous for her intimidation and threatening tactics.  Claiming to have a Buddhist-like balance this company is run by a tyrant!  This is a horrible reputation to have.  Almost nothing is worse in business, training and in life!    Other professionals blame the dog, or the owner, or the dog’s past, or whatever else pops into their mind…anything except their own methods!

8.  The professional suggests the use of drugs before attempting natural methods first.  Talk about a current problem, this is it!  As humans many of us are sold Hook, line, and sinker on the quick fix, the new drug, the special technology or formula that can tame the beast.  Instant gratification is a curse.  Proceed with caution when they talk prozac or whatever other drug they are comfortable pumping your dog or pup full of! (Some drugs can and do work, of course, but many do NOT and can be costly in the long run.)  (*I am not a vet – I don’t claim to be)  Many dogs I have behaviorally rehabbed over the years were on drugs and the drugs were not working.  Again, just proceed with caution.

9.  The professional is part of some large, faceless daycare, pet store, grooming, or all inclusive training facility.  These places are very common.  And you may be able to find decent training but remember not all trainers and behaviorists are equipped for aggression (even if they advertise that they are!)  These places founded their business on selling food, treats, pet supplies, grooming, vet visits, dog daycare and then found out they could make more money adding dog training.  They wouldn’t be successful if they only did training and behavior modification. They also will, of course, upsell you and get you to buy all of their supplies (from clickers and treats, to ridiculous potty pads, you’ll have everything you need and many more things you don’t need in your shopping cart before you leave!)

These sort of places will offer to train you as a trainer too and it typically only costs 600-1000 bucks!  Imagine that!  Meanwhile they have training programs for your dog or pup that cost more.  Meaning they must be offering shoddy training methods to you if it cost as much or more for them to train your new puppy than for them to educate, inspire, equip, train and support you in becoming a pro trainer at their facility!   Many of these places push agility training or preparing your pup for the show ring.  The professionals there usually don’t know much of the natural, dog way.  They don’t handle aggression well.

This dog doesn’t need more training.  He doesn’t need to eat more treats or get hanged by the neck!  He does Not need to build a relationship based on anything external.  He Needs To Calm Down!  He Needs Real Leadership!

 

Now where, I wonder, does that leave us?  Who can you hire and trust to provide the best possible services for our own unique dogs and their aggressive issues?  Didn’t I just eliminate almost every form of professional behaviorist and animal trainer?  Do we then seek out some bizarre, incense-sniffing, hippie animal communicator?   (No, we don’t!)

We search around, do our research, make our calls, talk to people, read testimonials and pick through them and look at the types of issues the dog’s faced on the reviews/testimonials (almost any clown posing as a trainer can get some great reviews for a simple group class…but have they fixed aggression in several large and powerful breeds?  Are they recommended by laypeople and several professionals alike?)

My main questions if I was looking to hire someone to help with aggression… Is the professional doing things the natural (dog) way?  Or are they performing some cookie-cutter system?  Do they maintain an excellent reputation with their clients and other pet professionals? (Be careful about the question of reputation, especially in a digital age where any fool can post/snap/tweet/share/review/yelp about almost anything or anyone from the safety and security of their computer or phone…a few bad reviews may not necessarily mean they aren’t a top notch professional.  But the overwhelming majority of reviews and testimonials should be fantastic or great.)  Have they fixed, reversed, or cured aggression before?  Do they have a track record of success?  

Results speak for themselves…“Success requires no apologies; failure permits no alibis.”

Calmness and Sociability are what cure aggression.  The pro has to really have a deep understanding of and be able to apply the dog language.  If the professional you’ve hired isn’t calming you and your dog then your dog won’t be able to go into a social, everyday situation.  If they can’t get your dog to be social you are wasting your time, energy, and money!

Good luck and happy hunting!  I told you I’d be frank and totally honest with ya…remember it’s for YOUR benefit! (These sort of articles don’t usually win us more fans…they are risky to write – especially with today’s victimhood culture but I’ve got to be honest for my clients, my future clients, and of course, the dogs!)

And please take a moment now to order Dog Myths, my book!  When this baby comes out (Update: it is out now!) we will win a lot of new fans and a lot of new hate mail from trainers and behaviorists who are Not open to all nature has to teach.  It will be extremely practical and beneficial to anyone who wants to build a healthy, real relationship with their dogs or pups based on respect, trust, energy control, and actual dog communication through spacial manipulation, touch, and how dogs think and speak.  It will be even more beneficial to those who have a dog suffering with aggression, fear, hyperactivity, separation anxiety, etc etc.  Below is the link to order my book…

Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

Order this bad boy.  I guarantee it will forever change the way you look at the dog –  human dynamic and that it will benefit you and your family greatly.