Posts Tagged ‘dog classes’

Fulfill the need and you fulfill the dog!

 

Dennis and his amazing dogs

Dennis and his amazing dogs

I have been thinking about this for quite sometime now and decided it was time I put my thoughts into words through a case study of a great dog and family I have been working with.  I am not going to mention names because of privacy issues but am hoping you will enjoy the read. I have chosen an amazing profession where I get to work with people and their dogs.  Could there be anything better in life to do and get paid for it?  In the last six years I have become a behavior junkie and have devoted my life to helping as many dogs and people as I can through positive training with people and their dogs.  I have been thinking for awhile how as a trainer am I addressing the real needs of my clients and their dogs which is why the saying ” fulfill the need and you fulfill the dog” has become my mantra of sorts. 

On to my case study.  I first met my clients after their dog had bitten another trainer and also my client on many occasions.  Although the bites were not to the point where hospital visits were required they were still bites which for dogs are never good things.  It had gotten so bad that my clients were becoming afraid of their dog and I have to admit this dog did worry me.  They had been to puppy classes, adult dog classes and although their dog could perform the task there was something missing for this dog.  One of my favorite people, trainer/behaviorists in the world the amazing Kathy Sdao recently wrote a great book call ” plenty in life is free” her book really hit home for me.  Kathy’s book was a very personal essay on the dangers and over use of the NILIF protocol (nothing in life is free) as it applies to dogs.  NILIF pretty much says that your dog has to earn everything it wants from affection to tug games or anything else that your dog values. 

Kathy herself will admit that the NILIF protocol was something she had advised her clients to do with their dogs for years until her own dog Nick bit one of her friends.  I think she said in the book ” what am I doing” this was a huge revelation for Kathy which led to her book.  I have never been a fan of the NILIF protocol but have to admit I have advised my clients to ask their dogs to do things like sit for their food, sit before having the leash put on but never agreed that a dog has to preform for attention.  Like any training method it can take on a life of its own and get out of  hand by well meaning people and trainers trying to figure out how to address behavior issues. 

I consulted with my client and their dog after the last bite to the previous trainer had happened.  What I found is that they had been taking their dog to the dog park then immediately after the visit were going to classes.  They thought that they were fulfilling their dogs needs by socializing him as well as making sure he got daily amounts of exercise which most American dogs never get enough or at least an appropriate amount for their breed.  After the bite the trainer recommended they see me, which I will forever be grateful to this trainer.  This dog was seriously at the point where the owners were considering putting him down as they could no longer trust him and their lives were constantly in a state of anxiety day to day because of his erratic behavior.  The bite to my client was totally out of the blue and according to them there was no warning. In my opinion there is always some kind of a warning if we really look close.  This dog had been giving all of the signals and responses to situations but most had gone unnoticed by everyone. 

I think the dog park visits for this dog were very overwhelming at the time, especially when he was expected to perform at class right after.  He had been playing with other dogs, had free access to the other dogs and people and if I could get in his head I am sure he would have told me that it was way too much for him as far as attending class and to be expected to do the required task without being able to interact with the other dogs in class.  I think he just did not understand why he could not play anymore and it took him over the top with frustration and he bit.  After our initial consultation I recommend that he discontinued the classes as well as the dog park visits for the near future until we could work through some of the more serious issues as we did not want another bite to happen.

I recommended that they get rid of the NILIF protocol and had my clients start the Karen Overall relaxation protocol.  This dog was very stressed by having a harness put on him, he would become very mouthy and grab very forcefully on the leash as well as becoming very mouthy while attempting to put the harness on.  His behavior would deteriorate progressively as they made their way out the door, he would chew on his leash, jump, snap, bite the leash and would not let go so walking was very difficult.  My clients could not walk him together as he would jump very forcefully on the female (client) to the point she was becoming more afraid of her own dog and her safety was being questioned. 

The relaxation protocol was working great and the mouthing while putting on the harness was getting much better, the walking however was not.  I recommended that only one person take the dog for his walk (the male client) he was much more relaxed then his wife and had never been bitten.  We got rid of the leather leash and went to a very lightweight chain leash to help stop the mouthing while waking (worked wonders right away).  I had my client give his dog something to carry while on their walks, when I was with them the first time I gave him my glove and he seemed very relaxed until he got bored with the glove. He had started to jump on me very forcefully and at one point grabbed my arm pretty hard. I then stayed away on the rest of the walk about twenty feet away, which seemed to help him calm down.  I still felt that something was missing with this dog, his needs were not being met. 

Cole

Cole

As the weeks went by we did some TTouch ground work to help with teaching his brain new patterns of movement. He did very well and the mouthing seemed to be getting much better.  We followed this up with a play session with our dog Cole.  Cole is a rescue wolf dog that has been invaluable to us working with dog dog issues. My clients dog really seemed to enjoy the play session after training.  My clients sent me a very nice and positive e-mail the next day saying that he was so calm after the training and that the walk the next day was almost perfect, some mouthing was still happening but not to the level it had been. 

Dog sniffing

Dog sniffing

I recommended that the relaxation protocol continue as well as some structured play session with Cole and our assistant Andrea’s dog.  I also started my clients dog on a nose work program that my wife Pam Bigoni teaches.  We started out with just Cole and then added a few other dogs to the class.  While my client waited their turn to search I had them practice the relaxation protocol which worked very well between searches.  Each day my clients reported that their dog was becoming the dog they really envisioned and hope to have.  My client (female part) was still not able to walk her dog because of not only her fears but her dogs over the top behavior when she would join the walk, jumping, mouthing, grabbing etc,etc.  I also forgot to mention that their dog has very bad night terrors (doggy nightmares) which I am sure was contributing to his behavior and anxiety.  I want to mention that during all of this we were working with a veterinarian. 

My wife Pam and I had teamed up for a home visit because one of their other concerns was their dogs behavior when company would come over.  He would constantly beg for attention, get very mouthy and overall very stressed whenever anyone would come over.  So our visit was meant to duplicate a couple of friends coming for a visit.  In the beginning he was kept behind a barrier so he could calm down a little before the greeting.  He got a frozen kong to chew on as well as clicks and treats for good behavior.  He caught on very quick.  They let him out and right away he started to get a little obnoxious and mouthy. It was right then when a huge light bulb went on in my head, this dog is screaming to get attention but has no clue as to how to ask in a way that was acceptable (thump on my own head) his needs were not being met or fulfilled to his satisfaction. 

I borrowed a great acronym from another very gifted trainer that I met during a seminar in seattle last year. Her name is Emily Larlam.  The acronym is RIP(not rest in peace) Reinforce, Interrupt and Prevent (brilliant), I teach this to all of my clients as a way of noticing great behaviors their dogs do on their own without being asked.  It basically sets our dogs up to succeed in everyway while adding some great management tools.  I had my clients write down a list of the things they would like their dog to do more on his own without being told.  I also had them write a list of all the great things they love about their dog as well as the things they wanted to change.  I also do this with all of my clients, as the training progresses the list of the things they want to change gets shorter and is a way for them to see real change.  I had them start to reward (R) all great behavior they see as well (I), interrupt behavior they are about to see and then by setting their dog up to succeed they really learn to  get creative about management and (P) prevention. 

I also borrowed abother great trainng tool from Kathy Sdao called SMART training.  (S) see, (M) mark with clicker or verbal marker like yes (A) and (R) reward (T) training.  This has really been helpful to my client as far as noticing more good behaviors in their dog, marking the behaviors and rewarding them.  They have noticed a dramatic increase in good behavior.   

We did another play session with Cole and a K9 nose work class that followed and the next day I was sent another great e-mail about how calm their dog was and how the walks were actually becoming enjoyable.  She still could  not go for a walk though so here is where I went out on a limb by talking with my clients in detail about what needs were not being met and recommending a dog park visit.  This is a park that they were very familiar with and had been taking their dog when he was in previous classes.  I know I am probably going to take some flak for the recommendation but they agreed and so we went.  I forgot to mention one of the other issues was getting in and out of the car which was becoming a huge problem after clicker training and shaping this is no longer a problem.    

We spent about an hour at the park and monitored his play very carefully.  The next day I got another e-mail telling me how thankful hey were because for the first time in 8 months she could actually walk her dog.  OK, were we onto something with their dog?  I think so.  They told me that they had some friends with a dog about the same age and breed and could be available for play dates, they started having this dog spend the day with their dog, they included the other dog on walks and trips in the car.  I also recommended that dog park visits would not be a bad thing (I know what you are going to say).  They started to make visits to the park two times a week as well as play days with other dogs at their home.  Each day we would talk and the news just continued to get better.  My client actually cried when she told me that for the first time in 8 months she was able to walk her own dog by herself. 

It has been almost two months since their dog has mouthed them, they have gotten rid of the chain leash and they are also in our K9 nose work class with 5 other dogs and their dog is doing amazing (one of our best students).  They also have for the first time since they got their dog they have been able to get away for a vacation.  We recommended our pet sitters to them and the meeting went very well, no mouthing.  She said he was an absolute perfect gentleman.  They recently had a huge gathering at their home and reported that their dog was so calm and relaxed and everyone had a great time.  I had talked to her at an event and she asked me ” is this normal”?  I said is what normal? She said that you see such an overnight turn around in behavior.  I said it was not actualy overnight but I was surprised that it did happen so quick.  I told her that a combination of changes that they made, positive training and fulfilling their dogs needs played a huge role in the change. 

I said that it was not just one thing that has really helped to change this dog but a combination of the relaxation protocol, K9 nose work, TTouch training, clicker training, getting rid of NILIF and alot of patience.  I also told that above all there is one common thing with all of this, we did it in a very positive way where nothing was forced and we came up with ways to fulfill the needs of their dog.  I am so proud of this case for a lot of reasons most of all that he is still around to have been able to change as he was very close to loosing his life.  They never gave up on him and did so much good work and had the patience that few have.  This dog has also taught me so much as far as how the dogs in my care are getting their needs met in a way that works for my clients and their dogs. 

Whenever someone ask me why their dogs do what they do, I ask them what they think their dog is getting out of the behavior.  Most will say attention is what their dog is getting.  This is where the conversation can begin and how I try and teach them to fulfill their dogs needs before their dogs fulfill their needs for themselves. 

Disclaimer. I have never been a fan of dog parks and caution all of my clients as far as the safety of dog parks.  In the end it is their choice to make.  If they decide to take their dog to the dog park I try and educate them as best as I can and hope that they have good experiences with their dogs.  Thanks for reading

 

Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)

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