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Tough workingline dogs, positive methods?

2647 Views 20 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Brightelf
I'm a self-confessed wimpy lil' shy nerdy owner with physical weaknesses, who owns a ruff-n-tuff, powerful Czech 15 month old with a double-wide mastadon-like build and a will of iron, but a heart of melted butter. Strong dog, wimpy handler.

Grimm has issues with other dogs-- my fault-- due to lack of canine socialization. His barking and lunging puts frail me in danger. I'm doing some Feisty Fido excersises with him on my own when I can, (seems to make some difference!
) but I am looking for a trainer to help. Due to my disability,the trainer will either need to board Grimm for a few short weeks and work on this issue in concentrated fashion, or, hopefully if available, go with me and Grimm to a doggy class and do all the work him/herself, and 'be my hands,' as my hands are MUCH too weak to handle Grimm in a class situation.

Here are my concerns:
1) Grimm is an energy-reactive dog.. if you get exceited, he gets moreso.. etc... due to my extremely weak hands, I have been using a prong and a loose lead to walk him safely down the street on walks as there are many dogs here.... but, I know with such a reactive dog, prongs can escalate stress-reactivity, teach the dog to ramp up in charged situations like seeing another dog..
2) Most of the calm trainers willing to use calm energy, who have the necessary access to many calm, NON-aggressive dogs for Grimm to learn around, are from the animal protection societies here. This means: Haltis, clickers, and harnesses. No prongs.

Are methods like using a Halti temporarily to rehabilitate/condition a dog to accept being onlead around other dogs a bad idea with strong-minded workingline dogs who do need limits, borders, corrections?

As for the reason why he barks and lunges onlead when he sees other dogs, I am no longer 100% so sure it is only insecurity of the unfamiliar.... if I verbally correct him STRONGLY, as well as lead correction with prong, he can go by a few dogs and be nearly non-reactive, not barking. He is great offlead with other dogs. If the dog is far away enough, I can even get a 'Watch' command out of him for his treat reward.

I am, by the way, not contributing to the problem by tensing up.. I am too sight-impaired to usually ever see the other dogs until Grimm barks/lunges.

Is a trainer using positive methods like Haltis a waste of time for such a sweet but strong-minded, pushy dog who needs clear, firm limits? Or, are things like Haltis helpful in helping a dog react less, because a prong can exacerbate the tension in the situation? Ideas?
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Anything is worth trying provided it will not be a traumatic experience for Grimm. I cannot see how a halti, clickers, or a non pull harness could be traumatic. If I were you I'd try these other collars WITH a prong for control reasons. Nothing says you cannot have two leashes on him, one clipped to a halti or harness and one on the prong.
Personally - I think haltis, gentle leaders etc are the worst things ever invented. The dog is not TAUGHT anything, it is a behavioral band aid, a compulsive tool that keeps the dog where you want him.

I believe, like Ivan said in a seminar, the dog needs to understand three things - very very clearly YES NO RELEASE - when you redirect and then reward, IMO and I AM in a minority on this at the AKC type club!!!, HOW do you know the dog does not believe he is being rewarded for the reactivity???? The NO (not acceptable) message should be loud and clear and not segue into the YES message.

I am working with a pup who was walked on a halti or a prong because her owners were too physically challenged (they were small boned, light weight people) . She can pull you off your feet on a flat collar because she LEARNED nothing. Now, with simple basics she is learning.

I have a reactive GSD but she has gotten MUCH better in fact in recent weeks I have not had any problem at all with her. One thing I can tell you is what did not work was the prong. All it did was amp her up even more. What did work was desensitizing her with the watch me/food treat reward or to just have her busy working with a toy as a reward while other dogs were present while giving her lots of verbal praise for not being reactive. I think people forget to praise sometimes when their dog is doing something right. It does take time and patience but that has worked for me. On the other hand if I could tell she was even thinking about being reactive I would redirect her or tell her "leave it" if she did react, then redirect her.

I have another female that was also leash reactive and the prong did work on her and all it took was a couple of hard corrections and the problem was solved but she was not as high drive as the other one I mentioned above.

Good luck.
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I'm not a frined of Haltys or Gentle Leader (that has little of gentle in the dog psique) myself, but in cases like Patty, elderly people or people with disabilities I think that they have their own place.
From my perspective and I could be totally wrong.. But if you have a strong dominant reactive male.. Nothing in the world is gonna work with him if he doesn't first have a strong, calm, consistent, leader.. (Then you can focus on the type of equipment)

He will always feel the need to be in control because his handler is not.. This isn't directed at Patty, just me expressing my beliefs and what I've seen over the years..

The dog needs to learn boundaries and what is acceptable behavior and what isn't..

I like what Chris suggested in teaching the dog to focus on it's handler or preform/hold some kind of command.. Give the dog something else to do/focus on.. That way you can correct the dog for breaking a command.. This way it puts the focus on the command and you back in control of the situation..
Prongs, in my opinion, work on some dogs and not others. I am not a halti fan and for a dog who lunges I think they can potentially hurt their neck.

Here's what I use and like because it gives me control over the front part of their body:

I have the same problem with Rafi when we see other dogs, bunnies, foxes, etc.

I agree that you need to continue to work on your leadership skills with him but also do focus work every day in your apt. without distractions. Then take him outside and use low level distractions, etc. And keep using food like you have been. That works wonders for Rafi. If he knows when I say look that he's getting a piece of hotdog he will happily sit for the hotdog. Another great trick if Grimm is bouncing around like a crazy puppy is to show him the food and throw it on the ground. This is good way to distract him when you really need it. Then you can throw in the sit and focus command once he's distracted from the other dog.
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All GREAT input, everybody-- thank you! The Feisty Fido excersises basicly builds a habit of responding to the watch command (we already have that as a part of daily NILIF before he comes thru doorways, gets food, water, toy, snack, etc etc.. all with SIT and WATCH)... then, you venture from the livingroom into quiet ourdoor settings using the watch... then when you see a dog at a distance. Eventually, (takes weeks or MONTHS) the dog learns: See other dog, automaticly look at handler. Gives them some OTHER way to react out of habit besides freaking out, simply by making it an automatic habit. No dry kibble used in high-distraction zones, a better quality treat is used for outdoor stuff when you may see another pooch. Eventually, you do this work closer and closer to other dogs. Anyway, that's the ideal-- I am living smack-dab in the middle of a congested, busy, dog-crowded city, with no yard... so, I am doing the best I can. Oddly, sometimes using a clicker makes the excersises more... intense, more serious in his focus on me, might lessen stress somehow, not sure how or why. I can work Grimm longer (dog is closer) without reaction better when a clicker is being used, maybe because he thinks clicker = excersises/work, like at home?

I also ask him for something superduper after a watch-- like a zippy, dancing-human-hurry-up-Grimmi figure 8 heelwork patter, outta nowhere! He never knows what's coming.. but, see another dog, hear watch command-- snack, toy, or funky dancing will follow.

Anyway, I personally will NOT be doing Grimm's training. I mean, yes, I am doing this daily, not sitting on my butt about the problem, and it IS having a positive effect in lessening his reactions.. he focuses without explosion now easier than he did before when other dogs are in sight. But, I WILL be finding a trainer to "take over" during a classtime setting, or to take over for 2 weeks of concentrated work. I will then work with the trainer and Grimm-- then Grimm alone-- forever keeping up with what was started.

Now, he has a prong on a lead that just hangs as he stays in place heeling. I DO give corrections for any aggression. I also don't like Haltis, I just have the feeling that's the only flavor of trainer available to me in my area here.
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My sweet bundle of fur gets excited -- he's tends to be a reactive boy -- and high pitched "good boy" reinforcement sets him off just as much as stern corrections yelled at him. So a year ago, my trainer taught me to whisper to him. For two weeks, I could only whisper to him, no matter what. This taught me to keep it calm and cool. A small bit of treat with a calm "good" was a reinforcer. A calm "uh-uh" for a correction. If he were particularly out of control (lunging, barking) a calm quiet "no" with a pop of the prong.

The thing is, the more escalated my reactions got, the more escalated his reactions got. Once I got ME under control, he fell in line. Not all of our dogs do well with the squeaky "what a GOOD boy you are!" happy dance." The clicker CAN help here because it's more neutral sounding. Everything is calm.

"Click." = You're a good guy. Remain calm.
Not SQUEAKY HAPPY You're such a GOOD Boy! What a good boy you are!= GET EXCITED NOW!!! WOO HOO!
... Oops. You're out of control. Darn.

It was suggested that I use a GL on Camper (by a trainer, whom I don't use anymore). Camper HATED the halti and wore his muzzle hair off with the Gentle Leader til it was bloody and scabby. For whatever that's worth. He pulled and resisted. I was told that this would pass and he'd get used to it. I stuck with it. We were both miserable. I went back to the prong. It seemed a lot more "Gentle" to me. But I'm willing to give an accepted piece of equipment a try
for a while. But it didn't take us long to realize that the Gentle Leader wasn't for us.

So, keeping in mind Lee's wise words above, you could try it, provided you're with your trainer. I think John may be on to something where you use both a prong and a halter. Do you have a standard two-sided leash (like many of us service dog teams have), so that you can attach both on to the same leash?

BTW, I don't think a prong is an energy-producing piece of equipment in and of itself. I think that the energy comes from us. My guy is calmer in a prong or a fur saver than he is on a flat collar and definitely more so than he was on a GL/halti. But if the prong isn't working for you given your disability, and that frustrates you; then THAT may be creating energy.
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I swear, Camper and Grimmi have just GOT to be related somewhere along the line! I think you hit the nail on the head, 3K9Mom. The click takes *me* out of the picture. My emotions don't help. My praise does need to be toned down. I may try 2 weeks of whispering, too-- and see if that helps some with focus as well. You have great advice-- Thank You!!

Being in Germany: I think equipment (Halti vs prong/fursaver) is only part of my concern. Finding a pet trainer here (they're nearly all purely positive) who will understand that Grimm needs some consequences to his actions and corrections, is as difficult as finding a sportdog trainer here who can train a too-excitable, reactive dog in a soft, calm tone, using soft, calm energy.

Which one do I choose? Neither one fits the bill well... I have to try and hope.
I think the Halti/GL is the best tool to redirect a dogs head. And he will very well learn from it- if you only teach him.
I've used a Halti on my GSD who became overly excited everytime he saw other dogs and due to his size was hard to manage and even to hold onto. With the Halti I redirected his head away while rewarding him. After a short time he learned to pass dogs without getting excited at all and we walk with our regular collar nowadays.

If the Halti is used correctly it doesn't cause injury to the neck. But you also need another leash or harness for backup (I used a leash with two clips and attached one end to the Halti, the other to the harness). The dog also needs about a week to get used to wearing the Halti and you don't do any training during that time, only let him wear it minutes at a time, during feeding etc.
It's a great tool and I'll always use it again.
Originally Posted By: BrightelfI'm a self-confessed wimpy lil' shy nerdy owner with physical weaknesses, who owns a ruff-n-tuff, powerful Czech 15 month old with a double-wide mastadon-like build and a will of iron, but a heart of melted butter. Strong dog, wimpy handler.
Oh you are not!
You guys are on the way to becoming a great team and already are a wonderful team.

Toss out your other labels. You are his leader, he is your dog. I know sometimes I define some of my dogs-like Ilsa-and I think I limit both of us by doing it. Of course, you have to be sane and safe-I am never going to say Ilsa is good with other dogs, strangers, etc. But I go back to the I am your leader, you are my dog and we have a nice feeling with that mindset.

I am sure he's getting settled in again after time away. Going back to some of those things that you were doing prior will probably help. Did Val suggest Tellington Touch?

As far as the equipment, you know, if it doesn't work, you'll know. I got a rental of a head collar for one dog-someone let me borrow theirs-so I didn't spend the money on it. Hopefully if you do that you can do that. (did that make sense?)
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I've had really good luck with halti's and gentle leaders - it's all in the handling (like with most tools).

But what I recommend more than anything else for a strong dog like the one you describe is one of the harnesses that has the ring for the leash clip on the chest strap. Gentle Leader makes a harness like this, and there are other places too. I know that when most people think "harness" they think of a dog pulling even worse, but these front-clip harnesses are really effective on most dogs - even really large dogs. I've used them on my own dogs, we've put them on numerous dogs in classes, and the gentle leader harness was much more effective than a prong collar on my Mom's 95 pound dog-aggressive German shepherd (my Mom is in her 80's, and with that harness she could control her dog).

So even if the people you find to train in your area are not willing to use a prong, I'd be willing to bet that they'd use one of these types of harnesses. And if they know what they're doing, they will use the harness only to get the dog to give them the proper behavior and then they'll use calm positive reinforcement techniques to help the dog learn to maintain those behaviors. And, of course, you'll need to follow the same concepts. The tool is not the trainer - it's simply a means of obtaining a behavior so that the dog CAN be trained. Being able to reward the good and discourage the "bad" will go a long ways toward getting him through his current attitude. But it's really hard when you're fighting with the "bad" all the time.

What you're doing in the training so far - using the attention, adding in distractions, rewarding, etc. - sounds really good. It's what I recommend to people too. You may also want to take a good look at your roles within your home, and see if there are ways you can increase your leadership there. Nearly every dog I've owned has had to have increased leadership (stricter rules) while going through the "teens". For awhile they seem to test every boundary and it can be tough!

One other thing - are you able to get some really good exercise into this boy every day? I know that when I don't get Tazer out to run, she is just a butthead. So we go out every day - three times a day when we can - and I throw a toy for her until I have to stop (she never gives up before I do). When I do this, she is much easier to handle. She's Czech and German lines and is a little spitfire. I love that she's got attitude but it can be difficult when I'm unable to get her exercised enough! The other dogs are still wondering when I'm going to send her back .. *L*

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
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Many Schutzhund trainers use positive methods. Somehow I think those are forceful, strong willed dogs.
How about checking out Ivan Balabanov's tapes (as I've just been suggested to do for my forceful, strong willed girl).
Originally Posted By: middleofnowhereMany Schutzhund trainers use positive methods. Somehow I think those are forceful, strong willed dogs.
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Chris, any of your pups gone to homes as active companion dogs ever been trained with haltis or harnesses or such?

Jen, wish I had the money for tapes now.. or DVDs. What are Balanabov's methods like for reactive dogs?

Thanks for your input, Melanie. I guess everyone has different experiences with haltis, prongs, etc.

Jean, you always have a way of putting things in great perspective.. thank you! You have so much experience with rehabilitating dogs with all sorts of physical and behavioral conditions coming through rescue... do you think I should look for someone who rescues to advise? It is looking like finding someone who has *experience* here in onlead doggy aggression may be tough.
Originally Posted By: BrightelfChris, any of your pups gone to homes as active companion dogs ever been trained with haltis or harnesses or such?
Several have gone to active companion homes.
None have been trained using haltis or harnesses though. Motivational (food, toys, praise) for the majority of the training, then pinch collars as needed for corrections and proofing.
Patty, I get the feeling that you're only looking for excuses to continue to use the prong without even giving the Halti/GL a chance.
I sincerely believe that esp. with your physical limitations the Halti is the very best tool to use, bc it really gives you the most control.

I did a T-touch seminar a couple years ago with Kathy Cascade. She has several high strung Malinois and only used the Halti for training while walking through crowds etc. I thought you might find her article on reactive dogs helpful:
Reducing Reactive Dog Behavior
The thing with using a prong collar in situations where the dog is in a high state of energy is it is going to take a WHOPPER of a correction to shut down all that energy. Anything less than that is just going to feed him more energy. Prongs can work great for this if the handler has the skill, timing and physical strength to pull off the needed correction. Otherwise, it just makes the situation worse.

Dogs aren't disobedient or obstinate in nature. If they disobey us, 99.9% of the time it is because they didn't understand or we didn't give them a sufficient motivation to comply and they felt it would be more rewarding to do otherwise. When this later happens, it's not because the dog is stubborn, it's because we as the owners haven't given the dog sufficient motivation to obey. That motivation can come in the form of rewards (praise, treats, toys) or in the form of consequences (corrections). The former is much preferable to the later, but regardless there has to be some sort of motivation.

One of my personal mantras in dog training is that if I'm finding myself in a situation where I need to be constantly correcting my dog, I've done something wrong on my end and the dog doesn't understand what I want him to do or I haven't done a sufficient job motivating him. So while I prefer prong collars over other tools when corrections are needed, I generally don't need many corrections in training. Once in a while is about it. If more than that is necessary, there's something more fundamental that needs to be looked at in the training and issuing more corrections isn't the answer.

I personally don't care for head halters on dogs, and I've never had a dog that gave me a reason to try one. But no one tool or method works well for every dog. One of the keys to dog training is to be able to recognize when a tool or method isn't working for a dog, and try something else... So that said, if you've not had success with the prong, give a halti a try. It may help by breaking the current cycle through introducing something new, and also helping Grim get a better understanding of what you do want. Worst case scenario is it doesn't work and you're back where you started.
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