Walk This Way

March 21, 2019

Girl walking her Beagle DogI remember a conversation I had a while back with a friend whose dog Charley, a 3-year-old Lab, is a big lug of a sweetheart. On walks, she proudly told me, Charley walks right next to her. Whether they’re on the street, at the park, or in the woods, it doesn’t matter; Charley is always right by her side. That paints a lovely picture of companionship, and from a training standpoint, it’s impressive. Clearly, she’d put in the work to teach Charley what she wanted and had worked with him so that regardless of who passed by or what happened around them, he stayed at her side. But is that level of strict obedience necessary on a constant basis when walking our dogs?

Let me contrast that with something that happened not long ago during one of our morning walks at the park. I had Bodhi with me. As we passed a man I knew, Bodhi was out at the end of the leash ahead of me. The man said good morning and then chuckled, “Who’s walking who?” Now, this is a nice man who was just trying to be funny, and no, Bodhi wasn’t actually dragging me at all. But, again, it begs the question: does your dog really need to walk next to you all the time?

It’s a strange thing, if you think about it. We train dogs to sit and to lie down on cue. Those are things do naturally anyway, so it’s not a big stretch. But nowhere in dogdom do dogs purposely walk shoulder to shoulder like some four-footed militia. Remember West Side Story? I can’t help but imagine a gang of leather jacketed dogs striding ahead shoulder to shoulder singing, “When you’re a pet…” But I digress. Learning to walk by a person’s side must seem strange to dogs. Besides, the tradition began with hunting dogs and police dogs, because it was necessary for the dog to be on the left so the gun could be held in the right hand. Seems to me if you’re walking down the street nowadays with a gun in your hand, you’ve got bigger problems than which side your dog is on.

Although I don’t require my dogs to constantly walk next to me, they do it when asked, because that’s what I trained them to do. If they’re happily sniffing and exploring at the ends of their leashes and I say, “With me,” they know to immediately place themselves by my sides, Sierra on the left and Bodhi on the right, because that’s easier for me. Alternately, sometimes I ask them both to walk on the same side because we’re about to pass another dog or some other distraction. Flexibility is key. I love that my dogs can wander a bit and immerse themselves in the fascinating scents that surround them, sniffing plants and grasses and places where other dogs have been. I think how I would feel if you took me down a street of shops that had the coolest clothing, and then told me I had to walk down the sidewalk and not explore a single store. What fun would that be? The bottom line is, it’s up to you where you want your dogs to walk. But one thing is always true: the better trained your dogs are, the more freedom they can have. And that will make your walks, as well as the rest of your life with your dogs, a lot more pleasant for both of you.
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Don’t want to miss a blog post? Subscribe above to be notified of new postings. And, now you can sign up for my free Training Tips Tuesdays by going to www.nicolewilde.com and clicking on Join Nicole’s Inside Scoop List! You can find my books (including Keeping the Peace: A Guide to Solving Dog-Dog Aggression in the Home, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me!), seminar DVDs, and blog at www.nicolewilde.com. And, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 


Trainers Say the Darndest Things

March 14, 2019

dog see no evil cropI went to see a new training client last week whose dog has separation anxiety. She lives in a two-story house, and whenever she goes upstairs even for a moment without the dog, he panics and barks non-stop. When she leaves the house, he howls and howls. In the course of our session, she mentioned that she had spoken with another trainer before she’d called me, and had described to him what her dog was doing. His response? “He’s being a Beyonce.” Huh? This baffled me. What does that mean, I asked? That he howls beautifully on key? No. The trainer had explained that the dog was being “a diva.” Really? I took a deep breath, bit my tongue, and rather than disparage another trainer, explained the difference between “being a diva” and experiencing serious anxiety.

A friend recently told me a story about a trainer she once had, who told her that her dog was being manipulative. What was the dog doing? Squatting to pee frequently. This, according to the trainer, was the dog’s attempt to extend walks and to get attention. Beyond the fact that this makes no sense logically, it turned out that these were the first signs that the poor dog had bladder cancer. A recommendation to see a veterinarian would have been a lot more helpful than the half-baked attention theory.

I could go on and on. And it’s not just me. Ask any professional who’s been training for years and they’ll tell you about the strange things their clients have heard from other trainers. This is no slam on trainers in general. I love trainers. Many of my friends are trainers. Hell, I write books for trainers and have mentored many along their paths. I believe trainers should support each other, not tear each other down. However. Along with the ones who mistreat dogs, the ones I take exception to are the working trainers who have no real training themselves or any real understanding of dog behavior. It might surprise you to know that in most U.S. states, no license is required to open a dog training business. There is no obligation to demonstrate proficiency. Nothing. You could hang out a shingle and start seeing clients tomorrow. (Please don’t.) And just as in any business with zero regulation, practitioners range from very experienced, ethical professionals all the way down to those who don’t even know how little they know. Even if an inexperienced trainer means well, they can endanger dogs if they’re taking on serious issues like separation anxiety or aggression.

There is actually a certifying organization called the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). Becoming certified is voluntary, but is not effortless. It requires having hundreds of hours of training under one’s belt, taking a written exam (as well as a physical hands-on test at higher levels), and providing peer and professional testimonials. The test is not easy; I know, because I took it many years ago. Does having this certification guarantee that a trainer is perfect? Of course not. But it does prove the person has a certain amount of experience and a solid knowledge of modern, positive training methods. There are also organizations whose websites feature a trainer search where you can enter your zip code to locate a trainer in your area. A few that come to mind are the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). (The CCPDT site has this feature as well.) While members are not individually grilled on their experience or training philosophy, these organizations do promote positive, gentle training.

Wherever you find a potential trainer, ask a lot of questions beyond just pricing and availability. I cannot tell you how few people who call for training actually ask about training techniques. If someone were coming to train my dog, I’d sure want to know their training philosophy and whether they use tools I’m comfortable with. Some of this information may be on the person’s website, but if not, don’t be shy to ask. If a trainer is working with you in person and you’re not comfortable with something he does, say something. Just because someone is a “professional” does not mean they know your dog better than you do. If your dog appears scared or uncomfortable, or is becoming reactive with the trainer, that person is doing something wrong. Positive, gentle training does not push a dog past his comfort zone, and you should be comfortable as well.

Years ago one of my training clients told me about a group class she attended where the trainer taught the dogs the meaning of “no” by whacking them over the nose with a piece of rubber hose while shouting, “No!” The woman was appalled. She told the trainer in front of the entire class that she would never do that to her dog. She then took her dog and left. That woman is a hero. Standing up to a professional of any kind can be uncomfortable, and peer pressure makes it even harder. But whatever the scenario, if a trainer advises something that clearly doesn’t seem right, or does something with your dog that doesn’t sit right with you or your dog, just say, “Sorry, I’m not comfortable with you working with my dog.” Because hey, trainers aren’t the only ones who can say the darndest things.
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Don’t want to miss a blog post? Subscribe above to be notified of new posts. And, now you can sign up for my free Training Tips Tuesdays by going to www.nicolewilde.com and clicking on Join Nicole’s Inside Scoop List! You can find my books (including Keeping the Peace: A Guide to Solving Dog-Dog Aggression in the Home, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me!), seminar DVDs, and blog at www.nicolewilde.com. And, you can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 


“It Hasn’t Happened Yet”

March 7, 2019

grapes pixabay smallAt a recent training appointment, my client and I were discussing her dog’s issues when I noticed a dish of hard candies sitting on the coffee table. “Is that dish always left there?” I asked. She said yes. I asked whether she was concerned that her dog might eat the candy. She looked surprised. “It hasn’t happened yet,” she responded. Then I noticed a dish of grapes sitting on another low table across the room. “What about the grapes? Are they always there?” When she once again answered in the affirmative, I mentioned that grapes can actually cause kidney failure and death in dogs. Also, that it might not go well for the dog if he got hold of the hard candy. Why take chances?

A man I see regularly at the local dog park seems to have a similar laissez faire attitude. His large, unneutered, six-year-old male dog had been pestering an adolescent male at the park week after week. The younger dog would run and sit between his owner’s legs facing out, and when the older dog came by to harass him, the youngster would show teeth, lunge, and snap. I mentioned to the owner of the older dog that sooner or later the dogs were going to get into a fight. His response? A shrug and an unconcerned, “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I’m sorry, but I will never understand this philosophy. When the woman with the too-tempting dish of grapes said, “It hasn’t happened yet,” my response was to bring up her very young granddaughter, who visited often. “So,” I said, “if you keep a loaded gun on the coffee table whenever she comes by, and a few visits pass and she hasn’t shown any interest in it, should you leave it there? I mean, nothing has happened yet, right?” She quickly got the point, and the grapes and candies vanished. To her credit, when I’d initially mentioned the dangers to her dog, she’d responded, “That was pretty stupid of me, huh?” (Actually, this is a kind, intelligent woman. The dog was adopted not that long ago, and for whatever reason, she hadn’t reevaluated the environment.)

Look, none of us are perfect. We’re all guilty of being lax in our management or good habits now and then. But when it comes to our dogs’ well-being, we have to consider the worst case scenario. No doubt some of my training clients think I’m the Harbinger of Doom. Especially when it comes to owners of young puppies, I seem to be constantly warning them about this or that terrible fate that could befall their young furball. And that’s okay. I’d rather be overly cautious than have a tragedy on our hands. Risk-taking is fine if we’re the ones who will be affected by it. If we want to go bungee jumping, or ski an insanely high slope, that’s our choice. If things go wrong, we’re the ones who will suffer. But it’s simply not okay for our dogs to pay the price because we’re willing to play fast and loose with their safety. So, will I ever stop warning people about the harm that can come to their dogs if serious risks are taken? I think you know the answer. “It hasn’t happened yet.”
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Don’t want to miss a blog post? Subscribe above and be notified of new posts. You can also sign up for my free Training Tips Tuesdays by going to www.nicolewilde.com and clicking on Join Nicole’s Inside Scoop List. You can find my books (including Keeping the Peace: A Guide to Solving Dog-Dog Aggression in the Home, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me!), seminar DVDs, and blog at www.nicolewilde.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 


Miracle Cure for Dog Aggression!

February 28, 2019

aggressive dog on leash malinois editedI recently came across an online video that stopped me in my tracks. Essentially, it promised to stop dog aggression and reactivity “in minutes”. Naturally, I had to see this miracle for myself. Enter a trio of dogs who were barking reactively at passing dogs. The “trainer” struck the dog who was doing the most barking. Struck as in hit the dog with something that had been given a cutesy name but was actually a rolled up towel. The actual hitting was not shown, but rather, conveyed in text on the screen. (Apparently someone realized no one wants to see a dog being hit.) Not surprisingly, once the dog had been struck and startled, he stopped barking. Dogs are not stupid, and they understand how to behave in the moment in order to avoid being hit again. To be fair, there was mention of some training being done after this since the dogs were now calmer. And so, once again the other dogs were paraded past these dogs, who now remained silent. If you didn’t know any better you might be impressed, and might even believe that the problem had been solved. If you did know better, you’d notice the body language of the newly “trained” dogs, who were displaying subtle signs of anxiety and fear. The trouble is, whether on a television show, a Youtube video, or anywhere else, it’s all too easy to make it seem as though an aggression problem has been solved when in reality, the dog is simply suppressing the reactive behavior to avoid further pain.

Seeing a dog being being hit (or reading about it) gets all of our hackles up, and rightly so. But let’s take the emotion out of the situation for the moment and consider it logically. Does hitting or otherwise punishing a dog who is reactive to other dogs actually solve the problem? The majority of dogs who are classified as “aggressive” to others are actually displaying fear-based reactivity. They’re not comfortable with dogs in close proximity, so they bark and lunge in an attempt to increase the social distance between themselves and those dogs. And it often works, as dogs who are being walked past on leash do seem to move along! But what’s the real problem here? Is it the barking and lunging? No. That behavioral display is merely a symptom of the underlying issue, which is the dog’s emotional response to other dogs.

Dogs make associations between things by learning that one thing predicts the other. It’s simple classical conditioning. To use a human example, let’s say I’m afraid of spiders.  Each time I see one I scream. This really bothers you, and you wish I’d stop. So, you decide that each time I scream, you’re going to smack me. Well, I’m not stupid, so I learn quickly not to scream when you’re around. What did this accomplish? Now whenever I see a spider I’ve got one more thing to worry about, as I’ve associated spiders not only with being scared, but also with being smacked. I think Damn, I knew those spiders were trouble! If, on the other hand, you had shown me spiders at a distance at which I was still comfortable while feeding me enticing morsels of dark chocolate, gradually closing the distance as I became more relaxed, in no time at all I’d be raising my fist in the air and shouting, Bring on the tarantulas! Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. I’d have learned that spiders predict good things. With a bit of patience on your part, I would eventually lose the need to scream when I saw the creepy crawlies, because now they would predict something I really, really like. This example of classical conditioning works similarly for dogs, although it is not, of course, the entire solution to helping a reactive dog. (Just don’t feed them chocolate. Not only is it dangerous, but it leaves more for you.)

The vast majority of the time, behavior modification for serious issues such as fear or aggression is not a quick fix. It takes patience and dedication. It’s not something that is instantly cured as shown in a quick video clip, alluring as that might be. In reality, making meaningful changes in a dog’s behavior can be less than exciting to watch. But you know what? It actually works, and the change in the dog’s behavior lasts a lot longer than the length of a video shoot or the few minutes it takes to brag on camera. Again, real behavior modification takes time. But the reward for all that effort is that the dog’s underlying emotion changes, which naturally changes the behavior in the long term. So don’t be fooled. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are; and that applies double to fixing behavior problems in dogs.
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Don’t want to miss a blog post? Subscribe above and be notified by email of new posts. You can also sign up for my Training Tips Tuesdays by going to www.nicolewilde.com and clicking on Join Nicole’s Inside Scoop List. You’ll get free tips on training and behavior weekly! You can find my books (including Keeping the Peace: A Guide to Solving Dog-Dog Aggression in the Home, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me!), seminar DVDs and blog at www.nicolewilde.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 


When “Come!” Means “Run the Other Way!”

February 21, 2019

recall practice crop smallHere’s a conversation I’ve had many times over the years with owners of small dogs:

He won’t come when I call him. He’s so stubborn!”
Could you show me? Can you call him now?”
The dog comes running…and stops a few feet away from the owner.

Why don’t these petite pooches come closer? Are they teasing their poor owners? Do they get near and suddenly smell something bad? No, and no. Those dogs know all too well that when they get close enough, their person will swoop down and pick them up, so they stop just out of arms’ reach. Not only does that swooping motion seem scary from a small dog’s point of view, but many dogs simply do not enjoy being air lifted.

It’s not only small dogs who learn not to comply with requests to come. There can be many reasons, but they all have to do with consequences. Imagine that you need to leave the house for a few hours and your dog, whose superpower seems to be shredding anything within reach, must be crated. You say, “Buddy, come!” Nothing. “Buddy, come on!” Again, nothing. Is Buddy deaf? Nope. Buddy, smart dog that he is, has learned that if he comes to you he’ll be put into the crate, which he does not love. In other words, Buddy has learned that, “Come!” means Run the other way!

Other unpleasant consequences from a dog’s point of view might include being put back on leash after running free, being removed from a dog park where he had been playing (if you’d like to know my feelings about dog parks click here), having to go back inside when he’d been romping in the back yard, being put in the car when the only places he goes is to the vet or the groomer…you get the idea. Coming to you when called should never result in something your dog perceives as unpleasant. Of course, there are times you need your dog to be with you immediately. In those cases, simply go and get your dog, or use a different word or phrase in a high-pitched, happy tone to encourage him to come to you. The reason for using a different word is that you don’t want to sully the magical recall word that predicts good things only.

It’s funny when you think about it. Don’t your dogs come running every time they hear “Cookie!” or “Treat!”? It’s a no-brainer. But are those words really magical? What if, instead of having used those words, you had instead said, “Come!” each and every time your dogs got something yummy? Don’t you think they’d be flying through space at warp speed to reach you when called? It’s all about conditioning. In the first few examples, your dog was conditioned not to come, whereas here, when he’s being rewarded each time he hears that magical word, he develops a positive association with it and is more likely to come whenever he hears it.

Years ago when my German shepherd Soko was alive, I heard barking in the middle of the night. It sounded suspiciously familiar, but it was coming from far off so I didn’t think much of it. When it didn’t stop after a few minutes, though, I ran out on the porch to investigate. Surprise! Soko had managed to get beyond our fencing and had run down the hill, across the dirt road, and up to our neighbor’s property. To say I was not pleased would be an understatement. Standing on my porch at 3 a.m. in my jammies, freezing my butt off while yelling, “Soko, come!” was not my idea of a good time. And yet, I used a pleasant voice, with the same pitch and intonation I used during training sessions, to call her. As she ran to me, although I was saying something along the lines of, “You little s#$)! You are a very bad girl right now!” the words were said in a happy, encouraging voice. When she reached me, I praised her and got her safely back inside. Had I yelled at her when she reached me, which is something I see so many owners do, I would have been punishing her for coming to me, not for what she’d done before that.

Instilling a solid recall is not rocket science, but we do need to be conscious of our actions not only when we’re training, but in everyday life. If we show our dogs over and over that “Come!” predicts only good things, and we are diligent about practicing around distractions, gradually increasing the difficulty over time, always with a positive consequence, our dogs will reliably come when called.
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Want free weekly training and behavior tips delivered right to your inbox? Sign up for Training Tips Tuesdays at www.nicolewilde.com (click on Join Nicole’s Inside Scoop Mailing List). For alerts of new blog posts, click Subscribe at the top of this page. You can find my  books, DVDs (including Train Your Dog: The Positive, Gentle Method) and blog on www.nicolewilde.com. 


Permanent Separation and Strict Managment for Fighting Dogs

January 28, 2019

brown setter pugLast week, I wrote a blog called Dog Attacks Dog in Home: Is This Situation Salvageable? I received a lot of feedback on Facebook and in email, and some on the blog site as well. Unfortunately, many comments related stories of one dog gravely injuring or killing another. They were heartbreaking, horrific situations where management had failed. My heart goes out to those owners. There were also many comments describing how management had been successful and the owners were able to keep both dogs, and had lived that way for many years. But, one poster asked, what exactly is solid management? What does it entail for the average pet owner? Good question!

When two dogs who have previously cohabitated peacefully are suddenly fighting and no other resolution can be found, some owners opt to keep both dogs by implementing a strict management protocol. In a small space such as an apartment, keeping dogs safely separated is likely to mean using the “crate and rotate” approach, where one dog is crated out of sight and reach of the other dog, who is left at liberty. The dogs’ positions are then periodically switched. Of course, no dog should be crated all day; the idea is to rotate the dogs at least every few hours. The free dog gets exercise, potty breaks, attention, and whatever else meets his needs and makes him happy. Ideally, the crated dog would be napping or at least resting comfortably during that time. Sometimes, rather than a crate, dogs are simply kept in separate rooms or gated and let out separately.

In a larger space such as a home with a back yard, one dog normally stays in the yard while the other is in the house. Their positions are then rotated. Care should be taken, however, if there is a sliding glass door where the dogs can see each other, as constant, close visual contact would only cause stress. In that case, the outside dog might need to be kept in an area where he does not have access to the sliding glass door, or the inside dog would be restricted from the room where the door is located. Regardless of the management setup, both dogs should receive adequate daily exercise. If two people are available, the dogs could be taken out for walks, hikes, or runs separately early in the morning, for example, before the owners go off to work. If there is only one person available, the dogs will need to be taken for exercise one at a time. These double-the-exercise owners are very dedicated people who are in very good shape!

I know of many people who are and have been using separation protocols successfully for years. It is, however, very stressful for the humans, and may be for the dogs as well, depending on how it is implemented. It is always vital that no one in the family let down their guard. I have heard story after story along the lines of, “Everything had gone well for years, and then one day my son opened the door to the yard and Buster came in and immediately attacked Goldie.” It takes only one split-second mistake for tragedy to strike, particularly when a dog who means harm to another finally sees his chance and takes it. If there are young children in the home, the chances that protocols will be followed are drastically reduced. Even with the most responsible children, kids are kids and stuff happens. The same goes for teenagers who are distracted or irresponsible. At the other end of the age spectrum, I know of a family where the wife’s elderly father was living with them. The man was highly forgetful and, one day when the couple was away at work, he absentmindedly opened the sliding glass door to the yard. Tragedy ensued when one dog came in and killed the other.

Those are obviously worst case scenarios. Again, there are many who do successfully keep their dogs separated without accidents or unfortunate incidents. This is a personal decision, and the amount of stress and walking on eggshells that one will live with should be considered. People who choose this lifestyle are making a sacrifice for their dogs. Aside from the challenges of daily living, it can be difficult if not impossible to go on vacation, unless one has a pet sitter they trust implicitly. The other consideration, beyond the emotional stress and whether potentially irresponsible parties live in the home, is the age of the dogs. If one dog is 15 years old, it could be that management will only need to be implemented for a few months, or a year or two. The outlook is a lot different when both dogs are, say, under the age of three.

Whether or not to implement a strict management protocol in order to keep both dogs who are fighting is a personal decision, and is often a difficult one to make. Owners should be educated so as to make the best decisions, and should then be respected for their choices and offered support whenever possible.
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You can find my book Keeping the Peace: A Guide to Solving Dog-Dog Aggression in the Home and my other books and seminar DVDs at www.nicolewilde.com. Don’t want to miss a blog post? Subscribe above and be notified by email of new posts. You can also sign up for my Training Tips Tuesdays by going to www.nicolewilde.com and clicking on Join Nicole’s Inside Scoop List. You’ll get free tips on training and behavior weekly!


Dog Attacks Dog in Home: Is This Situation Salvageable?

January 22, 2019

dogs fighting graphicA trainer friend recently asked my advice about a situation involving three dogs who live in the same home. One of the dogs belongs to a young couple who are living with the girl’s parents, and the other two belong to the parents. The couple’s dog is a 60-plus pound bully breed mix, while the other two dogs are much smaller; one is fourteen years old. These circumstances alone do not necessarily guarantee trouble, but in this case, the larger dog had already attacked each of the other two dogs to the point that they required treatment by a vet. The couple is planning to move out of the house within the year, but what, my friend wanted to know, could they do in the meantime? Could training fix this issue and if so, how?

My response was that although it’s always a good idea for a dog to be trained, in this case, strict management was the answer. The dogs needed to be kept separate until the couple moved. You might have seen a television show where a trainer miraculously causes dogs who were previously fighting to throw their paws around each other’s shoulders and sing Kumbaya, but the reality is that this dog had already showed a willingness to hurt the other dogs. Had the attacks not been interrupted, he might have killed them.

Strict management is never easy. Even with the best of intentions, it is extremely stressful to live in a house where one has to be constantly on guard, constantly rotating dogs between safe spaces, and never feeling truly relaxed. Worse than that is if an owner rationalizes that the situation isn’t quite that bad, that it probably won’t happen again if everyone is being careful, and lets down their guard. Interestingly, someone recently brought up a blog post I wrote back in 2012 called Tough Decisions, which described two arguments that I use to this day with owners who want to keep dogs who are at high risk. The blog was about a 14-year-old dog who was at risk of being injured or killed by another dog in the home:

The first thing to consider: “Imagine that you’re living in a house with someone who has attacked you physically. Although someone is keeping him away from you, you know he’s around and that he wants to hurt and possibly even kill you. How anxious and stressed out would you feel, every single minute of every day you were at home? What would your quality of life be like?” (To clarify, this does not apply to those keeping their dogs completely separated visually and physically.) I went on to explain that chronic stress is not only harmful to dogs mentally and emotionally, but also physically; among other things, it can cause gastric ulcers, and suppress the immune system, which opens the door for a variety of diseases. Chronic stress was the last thing this poor 14-year-old dog, who had lived in the safe haven of a loving home all of those years, needed or deserved.

The other thing I said was, “Imagine that you decide to keep this dog, and the worst happens; she kills your 14-year-old dog. How would you live with yourself, when you knew this could happen and that you could have prevented it?” I have worked with many complicated, dangerous behavioral situations over the years, but when the truth comes down to that the dog should simply not be in the home, I have found posing these two questions helpful to allow owners to come to the right decision.

In the case of the young couple my friend was working with, since they would be moving and this was not a permanent situation, the dogs simply needed to be very carefully managed for a prescribed period of time. In permanent situations, tougher decisions have to be made. This is not to say that dogs who are fighting in a home can’t be taught to get along; to the contrary, as a behavior specialist, I’ve worked with many dogs in just this situation, and it is in fact the entire focus of my book Keeping the Peace. But when there is a huge differential in size and strength between dogs, with the bigger, stronger dog being the attacker, that is one very red flag. The same goes for young dogs attacking seniors. The other red flag is the history. If a dog has already demonstrated a proclivity to attack another dog, the intensity curve normally goes up, not down. Working with an experienced behavior specialist is absolutely warranted in scenarios where change is possible, or to assess a situation properly. But the bottom line is that in truly dangerous situations, for the physical safety, as well as the mental and emotional well-being of all involved, another solution should be found.
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You can find my books, seminar DVDs and blog at www.nicolewilde.com. Don’t want to miss a blog post? Subscribe above and be notified by email of new posts. You can also sign up for my Training Tips Tuesdays by going to www.nicolewilde.com and clicking on Join Nicole’s Inside Scoop List. You’ll get free tips on training and behavior weekly! You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 


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