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Prong Collars: Why I Don’t Use Them In Reactivity Training

Postado por admin em 08/Aug/2021 - Sem Comentários

Let me first start off by saying that I am not anti-prong collar by any means, and I have quite a bit of experience with them.

So in this blog I’m not going to be saying never use them… I’ll just be explaining why I believe they should not be used in aggression or reactivity training.

Before I knew anything about dog training, I used one with Gibson because the trainer I hired told me to. It helped a bit with stopping him from pulling, but it didn’t stop it by any means.

It also didn’t do anything to help his leash reactivity, which at the time was absolutely horrible. In fact, it made it worse.

But on the other hand, my brother’s Belgian Malinois, Cash, is a completely different dog with a prong collar.

Before my brother started using one with him, walks were a complete nightmare, no matter what we tried. He pulled as hard as any dog I’ve ever seen.

Food didn’t work, turnabouts didn’t work, all the other (several) techniques we tried didn’t even help the pulling a little.

So we tried a prong collar, and I swear to you, one mild pop and he instantly straightened up and walked right at my side like he’d been doing it his whole life.

And since he wasn’t reactive at that point (he was before, but it was easily fixed), structured walks with him became incredibly easy for my brother.

I tell that story just to demonstrate that there are times where the prong collar is really helpful and makes life better for both the owner and the dog.

But that is not the case with aggressive or reactive dogs.

If you go on YouTube and look up videos of people fixing leash reactivity and in 95% of them, the absolute FIRST thing they do is put a prong collar on the dog.

That’s addressing the symptom (reactivity), not the cause (fear, improper leadership, etc).

Sometimes that’s okay if the cause is just over excitement like in Cash’s case. But in the case of a fear-reactive dog, it’s not okay. It’ll make the problem worse.

This is the best way I can describe why using prong collars on a reactive dog won’t stop the reactivity, like people think it will.

Let’s assume 0 means the dog is neutral. They’re not happy, they’re not mad, they’re just neutral.

+10 means they’re really excited, -10 means they’re really fearful/angry/anxious/whatever.

If you’re on a walk with your human-reactive dog, and they see a person across the street, they go instantly from a 0 to a -10, right? They’re mad, they’re scared, they’re upset.

If you whack that dog, who’s at a -10, with a prong collar… do you think that’s going to bring them back to 0? No!

It’s going to send them to -20.

That’s why so many owners get bit by their own dogs in situations like that. The dog is already super frustrated and likely already an unstable dog to begin with… and then you’re inflicting pain on them while they’re in that amped-up state.

They have so much negative energy built up, they release it on the owner, bite them hard, and then the dog gets put down.

Obviously that’s a worst case scenario, but my point remains.

Prong collars don’t calm a dog down, and that’s what a reactive dog needs, they need to learn to be calm in those situations.

And there’s no training “tool” that will be able to do that for you.

There’s no hidden secret or training method that will fix it instantly, which is what people want (including me at the time), and that’s why the prong collar is so popular.

But for aggression and reactivity training, you don’t want to use them.

Because in those situations, they don’t calm, they frustrate, and that’s the opposite of what we want.

3 Common Aggression Management Mistakes

Postado por admin em 08/Aug/2021 - Sem Comentários

In this blog I want to talk about 3 common mistakes that well-meaning dog owners make when living with and managing their aggressive dog.

This isn’t going to talk about how to fix aggression or reactivity, just some best practices on handling them day-to-day so they don’t hurt anyone and so the problem doesn’t get worse.

1: Prong Collars

Prong collars have their place in dog training, but it’s not with aggressive or reactive dogs. I went into detail on why that is in this blog here, but to sum it up: prong collars will only frustrate your reactive dog even more when they’re in a reactive state.

If you’re alone in your backyard and teaching them to walk nicely next to you, that’s one thing. But using them out on a walk, and then popping the dog with it when they react is a recipe for disaster.

The frustration and angst in your dog will only build up more and more, and they might even redirect that anger toward you.

If you’re in a situation where your dog might react or be aggressive, don’t have a prong collar on them.

2: Matching their energy

Let’s say you have a human aggressive dog who gets furious when visitors come into your studio apartment (this was my situation for a while).

So when visitors do come, you put your dog in the crate, so then they can’t hurt the visitor. That’s sensible obviously.

Here’s where people go wrong. When the visitor walks in, and your dog goes ballistic, you can’t start screaming at them or trying to shush them or anything like that.

Not only will that not work, it’ll pour more fuel on the fire. Think about the dog’s energy in that moment: there’s a lot of it, and it’s very negative.

You getting worked up too, yelling at them, or shushing them, or telling them “it’s ok, it’s ok”, all of that just adds to the stress.

We’ve all been in situations where we’re frustrated, something as simple as missing a turn on the highway, and then the other people in the car start saying to you “OH you missed it” “turn turn turn” you get what I mean.

When they’re doing that, does it add to your annoyance and frustration, or make it better?

It’s not the best example, but I’m sure you understand.

You need to be completely calm, and ideally the visitor does too.

Don’t even look at the dog, don’t add any sort of extra energy onto the situation.

This applies in any circumstances where your dog is getting riled up inappropriately. Don’t add to it, stay calm.

3: Giving Them a Chance to React

I understand this isn’t always possible, but some people are always putting their dogs in situations where they get upset, and then get upset when the dog gets upset.

It sounds crazy, but I admit even I did this for a long time.

Even when Gibson was at his worst, if I had visitors come over, I’d put Gibson in the crate, and then when everyone was settled in, I’d introduce Gibson to the visitor.

There were many attempted bites and nips through me doing this. It was so stupid.

My thought process was that if I introduced him and kept everything calm, that he would learn there’s nothing to be afraid of.

But he wasn’t in the headspace to be able to make that kind of progress. He needed training and a lot of work before he was ready for that, but I just kept putting him in that situation and it went badly many times, which made things worse for everyone.

Avoid situations where your dog will get reactive or aggressive. Train them, build them up, then when they’re ready, teach them to be calm in those situations.

Crowded City = My Aggressive Dog’s Safe Haven?

Postado por admin em 08/Aug/2021 - Sem Comentários

In this blog I just want to talk about one specific part of my story with Gibson: how moving to downtown Chicago helped Gibson’s aggression and reactivity.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming it’s likely that you’re familiar with our story, at least a little. So I won’t rehash that whole thing again.

But in case you’re brand new, hello, thank you for reading! My name is Jon Somers and Gibson is my dog and he was very human and dog aggressive for 4 years.

A lot of things failed but it wasn’t until I moved to a high-rise studio apartment in the middle of downtown Chicago that his reactivity finally was fixed.

Now, I’ll first say that it wasn’t downtown that fixed the reactivity.

If I took Gibson downtown without learning everything I had learned at that point about dog training, it would’ve been a disaster.

So if you have a reactive dog, I am in no way saying take them to the most crowded place you can and it’ll be fixed.

But it’s undeniable that living downtown, with people, dogs, and cars everywhere, was extremely helpful in turning Gibson’s reactivity around so fast.

And it’s not like he went into a shell around all those people and dogs either, far from it. He just learned that they weren’t a threat and to basically ignore them.

When we were downtown, we would often find ourselves in an elevator with say, 2 other people and a dog, and Gibson would be an angel.

I actually got many compliments at how well-behaved he was, which was and still is hilarious.

So why did he get so much better so quickly once we moved downtown?

The answer is repetition. We got our “reps” in. Reps of being near people and dogs several times a day, every day.

And because I had worked really hard on preparing him and me both for moving there, when we did, basically every interaction was positive and so after 1 week I was comfortable taking off his muzzle in the apartment building and we never had any issues.

Again, I want to emphasize that it was because of the weeks of training *before* he moved downtown with me that allowed the interactions to be positive.

When we got there, it was a completely new place, around new people. Since I had earned his trust at that point, he really leaned on me and depended on me in that new environment, which is exactly what I wanted.

So since he was following my lead, he wasn’t blowing up at other people or dogs.

And since he wasn’t blowing up, he was realizing that, “hey, these aren’t so bad after all” and one positive experience built on the last and eventually he came to understand that there was nothing to be afraid of.

It got to the point where other dogs who were reactive would be barking and lunging at him, and he would hardly even pay them any attention.

If I had done all that training but still been in the same old neighborhood I was in, we wouldn’t have had 10% of the opportunities to be around people and dogs that we did downtown.

And all that exposure accelerated Gibson’s progress more than I could have ever thought possible.

The Dark Side of the Dog Training Industry

Postado por admin em 08/Aug/2021 - Sem Comentários

In the US alone, there are an estimated 77 million dogs living as pets.

So, naturally, the dog training industry is massive. There are a lot of different trainers out there, using different methods, holding different beliefs, fixing different issues.

It’s also one of the “easiest” industries to get into. Anyone (me included) can just wake up one day, call themselves a dog trainer and then start training dogs and getting paid for it.

Now, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, far from it. But it’s undeniable that it makes it easy for people who don’t know much about dogs to claim they can train dogs, even when they can’t.

And because there’s no legal qualifications needed to become a dog trainer, big training chains will often hire anyone, no experience needed, as dog trainers.

And 95% of dog trainers take on dogs with any issue. It’s rare to see a dog trainer who turns away dogs with complex or severe issues because they don’t know how to fix it, even though they don’t.

Here’s my point: there are thousands of aggressive dogs being sent to trainers who don’t know how to fix aggression, 0 clue.

And some of those trainers aren’t good people. And in order to keep the money that the owner paid them to fix their dog’s aggression, they try to fix the aggression whatever way they can.

This is what leads to abuse, straight up abuse.

People put an aggressive dog in a situation where they know it’ll get upset and bite or growl, then they light it up with a shock collar, prong collar or something else until the dog gives in.

It’s awful and it’s criminal.

And it will never, ever work either. You won’t fix an aggressive dog by punishing it, never.

And it’s happening far too often. Be careful with where you send your dogs.

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