remote training for fear/aggressive dog - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-19-2010, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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remote training for fear/aggressive dog

ive got a four year old female german shepherd. she has been fearful and dog aggressive for years. a trainer at petsmart said that they could 100% turn my dog around using remote training. i'm pretty skeptical, not just about the money but also doing more harm than good.

i'm sure there's two sides when it comes to remote training. does anyone have an opinion on it, especially for a fearful dog?

one of my main problems is that i cant walk my dog on a leash in the neighborhood. she pulls me the whole time and i think that this is from anxiety and fear. she just wants to get back to the house.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-19-2010, 01:00 PM
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This thread may be of interest https://www.germanshepherds.com/forum...-overcome.html
I aske the same question way back when, Lou Castle who is an e-collar expert chimed in with a link. There was much discussion, and some got off the topic. But the thread is worth reading.

Personally, I don't think you can fix it with just an e-collar, it is daily management and confidence building. If you haven't had your dog thoroughly checked by a vet for medical problems, I'd start there first. She may be vitamin/mineral deficient and her brain is misfiring.

If medical checks out fine, then go with counter-conditioning and confidence building.
The book Control Unleashed helped us and I highly recommend it over a Petsmart trainer. If you can find a class based on the principals of the book, I would go to it as well.

If you decide to go with the Petsmart trainer, I would have them explicitly outline every step(and throw some scenarios in there) to tell you how they can fix your dog 100% with an e-collar. And have some reference clients to back up their claims.

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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-20-2010, 12:59 AM
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I went to a seminar with Trish King today and she was very clear. E-collars should never be used with fear. First, the "explosions" we see are reflex, like the way you automatically squint when a bright light is shone in your eyes. You can't control that. For dogs, these reflexes are just as automatic. The vast majority of dogs are peaceful. They don't want to fight. So fear means flight usually. But if they're on a leash, they can't flee. So they reflexively offer behaviors that create distance: barking, lunging, growling, etc. Usually these work because either the thing that made them afraid (the other dog) leaves or we, the owner, are embarrassed and scoot out of there fast.

Punishing fear actually may squelch the behaviors for a while, but it won't undo the fear. Plus, fearful behaviors are often warnings to us. If we squash those behaviors, we can lose the warnings, and then just have dogs that erupt on us. Those are dogs that people say "we never saw it coming." Well, the dog TRIED to warn us. But we told him that warnings aren't allowed by punishing barking, lunging and growling. If he still can't flee and now he can't create distance -- he no longer has "flight" as an option -- plus owners are more inclined to assume that a quiet dog is "ok", so they don't automatically scoot out of there like they used to- then he often will "fight." He's still afraid. We just took away all of his tools, except the most powerful, most damaging one.

I've personally read or watched almost all of these books and DVDs. Buy one or better yet, several and get a good idea of what options are available. Browse Dogwise.com

Browse Dogwise.com

I especially like Aloff, Sdao and Donaldson. Click to Calm is a good book, and although I haven't read it yet, someone I trust says that Nicole Wilde's book Help For Your Fearful Dog Welcome to Dogwise.com is excellent. Check it out. Chill Out Fido is a phenomenal book I recommend to almost everyone with a young or even slightly high-strung dog. It just has lots and lots of small easy-to-do tips and exercises.

Of all of them, I like this approach best: Grisha Stewart's BAT DVD Welcome to Dogwise.com . And, best of all, I've seen that it WORKS!!!!!


If I had a dog with significant reactivity issues, I'd make sure I had a trainer with significant experience dealing with behavioral issues, especially aggression. Training obedience skills is NOT the same as dealing with behavior issues. If the PetSmart trainer says they do, then they should be able give you references -- clients who have had aggressive dogs and have improved.

Here are some places to look for experienced credentialed trainers:

http://www.apdt.com/petowners/ts/default.aspx

http://www.iaabc.org/

http://www.ccpdt.org/index.php?option=com_mtree&Itemid=16

When you call around, ask about experience, tell the trainer exactly what you have and generally what you're looking for. Since you've read a book and watched a DVD or a few, you'll have a better idea of what you want to do. Of course, you should be open-minded to what the professional suggests, but it helps if you start with a shared vision.


So, I think it might be very helpful to load up on some books.These will have some ideas of what you can do at home right away. Learn about fear vs. aggression. THEN decide how you want to deal with training. When dealing with behavioral issues, we're investing in our dogs for the rest of their lives. So it makes sense to take the time, do some homework, and do what really makes sense. If she's been fearful for years, it's going to take an investment of time to rehab her. I won't lie to you. But a good trainer should be able to help you.

And finally -- and this is just my opinion -- but a good PROFESSIONAL trainer would never EVER guarantee you 100% turn-around in training a living breathing creature. Nothing is certain in dog training. Nothing. Should you be able to expect success? Probably. Or the trainer should be very honest about that upfront with you (and review with you your options at that point). But 100%? I'd run away from that trainer and never look back....

(BTW, the Dogwise links above work. They're just not labeled right.)
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-20-2010, 09:20 AM
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I just came across this article today but haven't had time to read it all yet: Say No to Shock Collars

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-20-2010, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by 3K9Mom View Post
E-collars should never be used with fear.
This would be my thought.

I have a fear aggressive dog and I work at keeping her stress levels low.

Other people have had success in working through the aggression.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-20-2010, 10:11 AM
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I had the same issue with Roscoe..ie the fear agression. The only way to make it better was confidence building and mass socialization desensetising. My trainer uses both the pinch collar and the e-collar. The e-collar was not used for confidence building one bit. My trainer showed me how to use the e-collar properly but it is used to train in the recall. Roscoe had an issue not so much running away but coming when called off leash. She explained that I had to be VERY careful with Roscoe and the e-collar because he can easily shut down. On the dogtra collar roscoe responds to a nick of like 15 to no more than 20, which when I putt on my own arm I can barely feel...most times he responds to just the vibrate function. At this point, 4 months using an e-collar off leash, Roscoes recalls are darn near perfect, however I would never let him off leash without it. I like having some control with him off leash playing frisbee etc just in case he decides to chase a stranger run into a street chase a car, not come when called ...he does none of these things now but i like the just in case control for the amount of control one can have off leash.

I would say in the case of my GSD Roscoe an e-collar alone no way it would have stopped the fear agression by itself, knowing what I learned in training, I feel it would have made him one times worse if it was just an e-collar alone.

The confidence building with Roscoe is still an ongoing project. In the begining all he did was bark and lunge at people. The pinch or prong collar helped with that bigtime. Me personally until I went to training would never have dreamed of getting a pinch or e-collar. My trainer also trains service and therapy dogs so I figured so knows me than me. The pinch/prong collar got Roscoe walking perfectly and virtually eliminated all of the lunging and 99% of the fear agression barking.

The thing that helped bigtime was the multitude of trips to petsmart and "hi I'm John will you pet my dog, will you give my dog a treat". I was in petsmart so much, like literally 5 nights a week, I felt bad for not buying things. Then as the weather got warmer the park. Same thing Hi will you pet my dog. This has helped roscoe BIGTIME. I guess it like face the fear and the fear dies. Slowly he has begun to understand people are ok and even very fun. I notice if I slip up or slack on the continued socialization he will slide back a bit...nothing like when I first got him..small things I notice.

I am continuing training to make him a therapy dog. He also recently got involved in Dock Dogs..he's no huge flyer but man he loves the water and frisbee. I got Roscoe as an adoption in Baltimore and was from the straight out gehtto. He was absolutly used for protection. While the orginal did not mistreat him I would absolutly say this is where he recieved his fear agression because the people he was around were something to be afraid of I suppose. He is night and day now 6 months later. It takes a lot of time thats for sure but he is woth every minute of to me.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-20-2010, 01:01 PM
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I find it interesting that a Petsmart trainer is allowed to promote e-collar training. The company's policy is that their trainers are supposed to use "only positive" methods. They actually have to get permission from their manager if they want to suggest a prong collar be used on a dog in class.

You need to be extremely cautious and really think it over before opting to go in this direction with your dog. E-collars can help with some things (such as Roscoe's recall) but there is a huge risk of doing irreparable damage to your dog using one too. In my area there was recently a very sad case where a successful sport dog was sent to a big name chain e-collar trainer to be "rehabbed". Despite his success with competition his owners had struggled with aggression issues since they adopted him as an older puppy. Within weeks of coming home from the trainer, he attacked his owner. It was as though he had totally flipped out. He was still so agitated the following day that he was euthanized in his crate because no one could get him out. No doubt this dog had always had aggression problems but not to this degree. A friend of mine lives in an area where e-collar training is extremely popular with pet owners. When I told her about it, she said it didn't surprise her because she had talked to many people who reported that after using ecollar training their dogs were never quite right - would obey but act agitated or nervous all the time or would have stress related behaviors such as excessive pacing, whining or licking. Sort of like post-traumatic stress disorder with dogs.

Again I'm not saying this is always the case with ecollar use. I was be extremely cautious of any trainer who tells you they can 100% turn your dog around, regardless of what method they are promoting. There are just too many variables and such much depends on the individual dog and owner involved. I would be especially cautious when they are promoting ecollar training as some sort of guaranteed fix-all because IME that is the exact type of trainer that is likely to really screw up your dog.

The very first dog I ever trained was an extremely fearful and at times reactive Dobe mix that was rescued form the dog pound as puppy. The thing that worked for him was taking him to training classes consistently, working him him at home, teaching him lots of tricks and fun stuff like nose work/jumping/doing obstacles and taking him every where with him. People who met him after he was about three or four could never believe when I told them he used to have any problems, he was such a happy, outgoing and "normal" dog by then. When we moved to a new neighborhood, this dog was a favorite of the kids - everyone wanted to see his tricks, especially the counting one.

Around the same time, a friend had a PWD that had been totally unsocialized and mostly kept in a basement until she got him at 6 months. It took him a bit longer to come around - I started working with my dog at 8 weeks (he was already fearful, so I suspect there was a genetic component at work there) which is an ideal age to start a puppy. But that dog too eventually was able to be normal, other than never warming up to strange men in uniforms.

Both us us had several things in common. We both didn't put a lot of focus on our dog's problem. This was the dog we had gotten and while we may have wished for an easier dog at times, we were too busy training our dog to worry too much about working on any special behavior protocols for their fear issues (and didn't know about them anyway). We both were able to focus on working with just that one dog, until they were really good. We both started working with those dogs when we were 11 years old and joined a 4H club. We certainly didn't do everything right! But what we lacked in training know-how, we more than made up for in enthusiasm for teaching our dogs to do stuff. Yep two young girls without any special behavior knowledge, who had never trained any other dog before managed to successfully rehab two large fearful (and in my dog's case reactive) dogs. There is hope for your fearful dog but the solution is never going to come from a quick fix.

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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-20-2010, 06:24 PM Thread Starter
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this girl worked for petsmart but i think she does her own thing on the side. she said she had went to las vegas for some class on remote training. i think it was related to the sit means sit guy.

she said it was all 100% positive reinforcement but i became skeptical when she "guaranteed" results.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-20-2010, 06:28 PM
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this girl worked for petsmart but i think she does her own thing on the side. she said she had went to las vegas for some class on remote training. i think it was related to the sit means sit guy.
Yes Sit-Means-Sit is a franchise, the original owner is in that area but there are now SMS training schools all over the country. Remember in my story I said the dog was sent to a big name chain e-collar trainer?

I would contact Petsmart and at least make the manager aware that this woman is promoting her own training business on the side working there and that it conflicts with their training philosophy.

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she said it was all 100% positive reinforcement but i became skeptical when she "guaranteed" results.
You are very right to be skeptical.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 06-21-2010, 01:25 AM
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You CAN'T use an e-collar and call that technique "positive reinforcement." It's either negative reinforcement or positive punishment.

The trainer can add in treats or toys which may be positive reinforcers (if, in fact, they reinforce the behavior and cause it to repeat.). But we can also reinforce behaviors we don't want. So if the e-collar creates more anxiety and therefore more fear-based behaviors, then adding in reinforcers can cause behaviors we don't want to replicate. And via classical conditioning, we can even replicate and intensify the fear.

At any time with training, we have the option of using any of the four quadrants of training: Positive or Negative Reinforcement

We can use one, two, three or all four. It depends on the trainer, her philosophy about training, what she's trying to accomplish, the subject dog and what works best with him, the environment, the owner's desires, -- a whole host of variables that SHOULD be carefully thought out.

But a good trainer understands what she is doing and how she is using them.

This woman doesn't appear to have a clue -- if she did, she wouldn't be saying it's "100% positive reinforcement." I don't know her, don't know anything about her training or experience. But based on what you've said, she's tossing around buzzwords like "positive reinforcement," but doesn't really know what she's doing.

People like this are dangerous. Putting a fearful, reactive,much less an aggressive dog in their care can cause you far more problems than you have now, more than you can imagine.

It's not the e-collar itself. It's the e-collar in the hands of someone who doesn't understand the BASICS of learning theory. I mean, this basic behavior psychology that is taught in most Psych 101 classes. If people don't comprehend learning theory, they most certainly should not be using heavy-handed tools like e-collars.

I wouldn't let her within 500 yards of my dogs.
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