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Just for a bit of perspective, I thought I would share my latest challenge. I occasionally board and train dogs. Usually they are aggressive and have a bite history and such.

My current client is a family member. His mom is on vacation and he is staying with us until she returns in a couple weeks. This is the second time I've had him for 2 weeks. Once at 6 months old, and now at around a year.

He's a middle of the road WL/SL sable. Pretty boy. Nice temperament for a pet. Confident and biddable. He's got enough drive to train, but he's not bouncing off windows when a squirrel farts.

He is really giving his mom fits. He's tearing up the house, jumping up on counters, pulling like a train on walks, nipping and herding kids in the yard, doesn't listen at all.

Here's the challenge. He's perfect here. He brings me a toy when he feels like training (5-6 times a day). He tried to charge out a door once and it was fixed easily. He hasn't been in a crate once in 3 days with no issues. He's walking nicely. Recalls like a rocket. I'm going to teach him Nosework just for something to do with him (it's winter here and I'm a wimp).

It's so much harder to train people than dogs. People come with pre conceived notions, past experience with labs, and skewed memories of childhood dogs.

PS... he's not as fat as he looks in this picture.
557557
 

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I've had this on my phone for a couple of years. It could be helpful for your family member. Take out the bits that aren't relevant. Unfortunately, the desire to change comes from within the person, if they don't want to develop a skill, we can't make them (own kids excluded).

Leadership is an attitude, a state of mind. Leaders are fair, kind and consistent teachers.

Leaders lead with their posture, their eyes, their voice and most of all with their breathing. Did you know that dogs recognize the one with the slowest heart rate as the leader? That’s the one who will be calmest under pressure. That’s the one they can follow to safety, to food, to rest.

Often, dogs are asked to make decisions that they are incapable of making. This is the reason for most lack of socialization and behavior problems.


Leadership is a grossly misunderstood concept. Leadership is often associated with words like “dominance”, “alpha”, “authority”, “respect”, and “challenge”. Rarely, if ever, is it associated with the word “trust”.

Leadership is a role that requires the earning of trust from followers. Trust cannot be demanded. Force (the tool of the Dominator) creates resistance. Trust can only be given, not taken. Leadership, unlike "dominance", requires followers to CHOOSE to follow. Trust is broken in a heartbeat, but repaired, re-earned, only over a long period of time--not hours, but days, weeks, even months or years. Sometimes, it's irreparably broken.

An individual dog always has the right to choose whether to follow another dog or not. Even the most severe aggression will not force an individual dog to follow a leader it does not willingly choose to follow. It is only the benefit offered by the leader that encourages a follower to follow.

Whether we are referring to corporate management, family structure, or canine management, the basic principles of effective leadership remain the same:

To lead is to set the example. To design structure of activities. To plan. To create expectations. To minimize conflict. To intervene and mediate conflict. To consider the best interests of all parties when creating boundaries or structure. To listen as often as speak. To compromise your own ego, your immediate interests for the benefit of all parties, putting the needs of your followers before your own. A good leader builds willing cooperation.

To “dominate” is to bully. To ignore the needs of your followers when it conflicts with your own personal interests or desires. To repress free will. To have one-directional conversations. The product of domination is conflict, since only one party’s will or desire is considered, but all parties have needs. The “dominator” forces “cooperation” (compliance).

Among households with canine family members, lack of leadership is a common cause for serious problem behaviors. Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say. Responsibility for leadership issues is often shifted to the dog, calling the dog "dominant".

While a dog may have strong leadership tendencies or even capabilities, it is the yielding of follow that creates a leader. When a human or another dog reacts, rather than initiates, that individual is following. Interestingly, this "reaction" is the very hallmark of application of "dominance" techniques-- wait for the dog to screw up, then intervene. Who is leading who?

Waiting for the car to run off the road before steering is obviously a bad idea. But somehow "because dogs aren't like us", this approach is often attempted.

Sadly, I've seen a well-intentioned "positive" approach used in the same way. The dog jumps up, THEN the person asks for a SIT. This is ineffective for so many reasons, now "positive" training has been misidentified as the cause of ineffectiveness.

The key to leadership for your canine pals is developing the ability to read the current situation, anticipate what behaviors come next, identify "crossroad" moments when steering is needed, and a toolbox full of ways to elicit the behavior you want BEFORE an undesirable behavior emerges.

I'm often asked by folks with dogs displaying aggression toward other dogs what to do if the dogs get into a fight, again, reflecting the "follow the dog" backwards approach. Some people are looking to use the fight to "teach their dog a lesson". Others are simply trying to prevent injury to the dogs.

Returning to our model of leadership as steering the car, PREVENTION is the key strategy to address accidents. Maybe there's that 1-in-a-million race car driver out there who can adeptly intervene WHILE the car is crashing--maybe. But if you were that 1-in-a-million dog owner who could effectively intervene while your dog was in a fight...your dog wouldn't be in a fight to begin with!

Once you've "crashed the car", once you've missed the "crossroad moment" where you needed to steer the behavior in the correct direction, once the dog has jumped or barked or lunged -- the dog's learning is out the window. You may be able to use the moment to learn how to handle such a circumstance, but the dog's learning for application to future interactions has ceased.

By learning to lead effectively, you will not see the "crashes"!
 

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Well isn't he just a love. What a sweet expression.
When my husband lived with me I commented several times that the dogs were WAY different when he was around. Bud in particular was downright demonic in his presence. When we separated the first time and he took Bud I used to hear horror stories about how awful the dog was.
Funny because he was a big suck when he lived with me, my obedience rock star, well behaved and easy to manage.
For 13 years I tried to teach husband and failed miserably. We would go on walks and while he held the leash Bud was yanking, lunging, etc. I would stop him, take the leash and whole different dog.
Can you recommend a trainer for her?
 

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I've had this on my phone for a couple of years. It could be helpful for your family member. Take out the bits that aren't relevant. Unfortunately, the desire to change comes from within the person, if they don't want to develop a skill, we can't make them (own kids excluded).

Leadership is an attitude, a state of mind. Leaders are fair, kind and consistent teachers.

Leaders lead with their posture, their eyes, their voice and most of all with their breathing. Did you know that dogs recognize the one with the slowest heart rate as the leader? That’s the one who will be calmest under pressure. That’s the one they can follow to safety, to food, to rest.

Often, dogs are asked to make decisions that they are incapable of making. This is the reason for most lack of socialization and behavior problems.


Leadership is a grossly misunderstood concept. Leadership is often associated with words like “dominance”, “alpha”, “authority”, “respect”, and “challenge”. Rarely, if ever, is it associated with the word “trust”.

Leadership is a role that requires the earning of trust from followers. Trust cannot be demanded. Force (the tool of the Dominator) creates resistance. Trust can only be given, not taken. Leadership, unlike "dominance", requires followers to CHOOSE to follow. Trust is broken in a heartbeat, but repaired, re-earned, only over a long period of time--not hours, but days, weeks, even months or years. Sometimes, it's irreparably broken.

An individual dog always has the right to choose whether to follow another dog or not. Even the most severe aggression will not force an individual dog to follow a leader it does not willingly choose to follow. It is only the benefit offered by the leader that encourages a follower to follow.

Whether we are referring to corporate management, family structure, or canine management, the basic principles of effective leadership remain the same:

To lead is to set the example. To design structure of activities. To plan. To create expectations. To minimize conflict. To intervene and mediate conflict. To consider the best interests of all parties when creating boundaries or structure. To listen as often as speak. To compromise your own ego, your immediate interests for the benefit of all parties, putting the needs of your followers before your own. A good leader builds willing cooperation.

To “dominate” is to bully. To ignore the needs of your followers when it conflicts with your own personal interests or desires. To repress free will. To have one-directional conversations. The product of domination is conflict, since only one party’s will or desire is considered, but all parties have needs. The “dominator” forces “cooperation” (compliance).

Among households with canine family members, lack of leadership is a common cause for serious problem behaviors. Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say. Responsibility for leadership issues is often shifted to the dog, calling the dog "dominant".

While a dog may have strong leadership tendencies or even capabilities, it is the yielding of follow that creates a leader. When a human or another dog reacts, rather than initiates, that individual is following. Interestingly, this "reaction" is the very hallmark of application of "dominance" techniques-- wait for the dog to screw up, then intervene. Who is leading who?

Waiting for the car to run off the road before steering is obviously a bad idea. But somehow "because dogs aren't like us", this approach is often attempted.

Sadly, I've seen a well-intentioned "positive" approach used in the same way. The dog jumps up, THEN the person asks for a SIT. This is ineffective for so many reasons, now "positive" training has been misidentified as the cause of ineffectiveness.

The key to leadership for your canine pals is developing the ability to read the current situation, anticipate what behaviors come next, identify "crossroad" moments when steering is needed, and a toolbox full of ways to elicit the behavior you want BEFORE an undesirable behavior emerges.

I'm often asked by folks with dogs displaying aggression toward other dogs what to do if the dogs get into a fight, again, reflecting the "follow the dog" backwards approach. Some people are looking to use the fight to "teach their dog a lesson". Others are simply trying to prevent injury to the dogs.

Returning to our model of leadership as steering the car, PREVENTION is the key strategy to address accidents. Maybe there's that 1-in-a-million race car driver out there who can adeptly intervene WHILE the car is crashing--maybe. But if you were that 1-in-a-million dog owner who could effectively intervene while your dog was in a fight...your dog wouldn't be in a fight to begin with!

Once you've "crashed the car", once you've missed the "crossroad moment" where you needed to steer the behavior in the correct direction, once the dog has jumped or barked or lunged -- the dog's learning is out the window. You may be able to use the moment to learn how to handle such a circumstance, but the dog's learning for application to future interactions has ceased.

By learning to lead effectively, you will not see the "crashes"!
This is a Nicole Silvers article. I have it in my documents that I print out for people. It's definitely a good read.
 

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How are you going to achieve your challenge?
Stuck it up and spend a lot of quality time with mom. Canine leadership training is difficult for me. I grew up in a kennels. I took naps on a Saint Bernard or German Shepherd. My mother was a trainer and from birth, I was around good canine leadership. It's not something I had to consciously learn, so it's difficult for me to explain.
 

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What a sweet face he has. Good luck with Mom and it's good to see you posting. And we've had a mild winner you have to admit. ;)
 

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What a sweet face he has. Good luck with Mom and it's good to see you posting. And we've had a mild winner you have to admit. ;)
Yes, it's definitely a mild winter. I've had so many surgeries involving hardware lately that I really hate the cold. I'm sure I'll get used to it!
 

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Does helping explain that dogs are intelligent and know if they have to behave or not depending on the person? That you have to show and work with the dog so they know that you are somebody to be listened to? Some people do well understanding it explained like that. I do wonder if that's why Ceasar Melan says that the dogs are being dominant. Its maybe a way to get the owners respond and think, well I can't let my dog dominate me and be in charge!
 

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It might be the children and not the mom. If they are running around and wild, the dog picks up on their energy. I had a female German Shepherd puppy with young children. When they were not home, she slept a lot and waited. She was calm, she walked nicely in public and was a pleasure to be around. When they were home, they raced around and she was “on” for hours until they all wore each other out. Can you work with the children on good behavior around their dog?
 

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It might be the children and not the mom. If they are running around and wild, the dog picks up on their energy. I had a female German Shepherd puppy with young children. When they were not home, she slept a lot and waited. She was calm, she walked nicely in public and was a pleasure to be around. When they were home, they raced around and she was “on” for hours until they all wore each other out. Can you work with the children on good behavior around their dog?
I've noticed this with Karma. When she is with tiny human and my wife, she is much more calm. Always around TH and making sure she is safe. When i get home she instantly has a burst of energy and zooms around our little house. However, i'm also the one who takes her outside to play, and wrestles with her. When monkey (5 year old) runs around the house, Karma chases and her herding instincts kick in.

TH has some mobility issues at this current time and is much easier to watch to Karma. They are BFFs and where one is, you know the other is nearby (EXACTLY what i wanted). Karma watches and sticks close to Monkey when we are outside and playing, but for the most part it's typically me playing fetch our rough housing with her.

These dogs are so smart, it's like they purposely reserve their energy just for a certain someone to be near because they know it's "go time"
 

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It might be the children and not the mom. If they are running around and wild, the dog picks up on their energy. I had a female German Shepherd puppy with young children. When they were not home, she slept a lot and waited. She was calm, she walked nicely in public and was a pleasure to be around. When they were home, they raced around and she was “on” for hours until they all wore each other out. Can you work with the children on good behavior around their dog?
No kids most of the time.
 

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Just a quick note. He's super fun to train. We had some friends over. Everyone was hanging out in an area where there was a dog bowl sitting on the floor. He was there with us, hanging out by the dog bowl.

He threw a meaningful glance towards the dog bowl when I was watching him. I said "bring it here" in an excited tone, and he picked it up and carried it to me. We worked on it the next day. He figured out that I wanted him to do something with the bowl, and proceeded to push the bowl around the whole kitchen and living room with both front feet in the bowl. I appreciate his enthusiasm.

He figured it out a few reps later.

I can't wait to get a text from his mom about him throwing his bowl at her.

Dogs are fun :)
 

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Captain is currently in joint custody with us and his mom. His first night home, he was very good, but the following morning, he busted out of his wire crate while mom was at work. She now just lets him in our house every morning on her way to work and picks him up on the way home.

I've had (3) 2 hour sessions with his mom over the last week, concentrating on leadership and controlling his excitement level. She's a good study and has made some very good progress. Captain used to violently attack the sweeper. I fixed it here, but that doesn't mean it would stick. She corrected his excitement level and put him in a down when she got the sweeper out, and then sent me a video of her sweeping the floor around him while he was laying on his side, completely relaxed.

I love the victories!

Our next hurdle is walks.
 
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