Another Day, Another Off-Leash Dog

running dog

In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.
- Deepak Chopra

Let’s get something clear: your dog needs to stay on-leash in public spots. I don’t care how friendly Fido is, or how much Schutz you’ve put in your hund.  Training only takes you so far.  Your dog is still capable of ignoring your recall command.

You never know who may have a dog-reactive dog. Your dog may be bounding recklessly towards another dog who is more than willing to show them that your dog’s behavior is unsavory. It’s stressful to everyone involved.  And if you think it’s okay because your dog is friendly, and likes to meet other dogs, well guess what?  Not every other dog thinks your dog is adorable. You are blatantly wagering your ability to control your dog against the safety of not only the other dog, but the safety of the other person who is actually holding a leash. You know… the part you’re supposed to be holding as well?

See how easy it is to hold it?  There's even a nifty little loop for your hand!

See how easy it is to hold it? There’s even a nifty little loop for your hand!

Hell, at this point, I guarantee that not every human thinks your dog is cute.  I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  Not everyone wishes to get up close and personal with your beloved little Fifi.  You are proving nothing but your ability to be obtuse.

Now, for those of you subjected to off-leash dogs, here’s some hints:

- If someone calls out that, “It’s okay, their dog is friendly!” I like to call out that my dog is NOT friendly…and neither am I. Make sure your body language is speaking the same words your mouth is: confidence.

Confidence is key

Confidence is key

- Pilot  your own dog. It’s up to you to handle whatever comes at you, even if it means faking your way through self-confidence. Go ahead and be scared, but act confident.  The show must go on. Control yourself.

- Do whatever it takes to keep your dog safe.  I don’t care if it’s an old Lab, if you need to make them back off of you, and you feel safe doing so, make them move!

- Scream.  Yes, scream.  Loud as you can.  That will get the owner’s attention.  As well as anyone else’s, which may be important if things go badly with the other dog.  You may need help.

- Drop the leash. If you have a dog running at you who is definitely not part of the welcome wagon sometimes the safest thing to do is to let your dog try to run away without you getting tangled up in the mess.  Leashes can get wrapped around you very easily, ensnaring and trapping both you and your dog, subjecting you both to a vicious bite.

- Finally, report. Even if your dog responded well to the approaching dog, the next one may not.  All dogs respond differently to each other.  By you reporting the dog, you may have saved that dog’s life. Because the next time he goes charging at another dog could be his last.

In short, if a dog comes running at you hell bent for leath-ah, make sure you have a game plan in mind.

Yeah, I know you’re too young to know this song, but here ya go.

For more detailed information on how to make sure you are controlling your own dog on a walk, visit this link:

- Leash walking

How to deal with your dog-reactive dog on a leash, read this link:

- Dog Reactivity

Finally, step-by-step how to deal with an off-leash dog:

- When an off-leash dog attacks

What to do in a dog attack

Have you ever been subjected to an off-leash dog charging at you? What did you do?

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

 

 

Stop Hammer Time: The Problem With Dominance Focused Training

From time to time, we here at Darwin Dogs love to have the thoughts and ideas of others expressed here through guest blog posts.  Today is a fellow trainer, Chris Ramsay, owner of Shaker Hound Academy. Today he shares his thoughts on dominance training.

Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will.
-Yoda

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

So, what kind of issues are you having with your dog?

Well, he thinks he’s alpha. And I need to be alpha.

(Shit. I have some work to do.But not with the dog, with the owner.)

Oh…OK. We’ll circle back to that. What kind of expectations do you have for you and your dog?

Well, he should do what I want, when I want. Immediately. No questions asked. That’s it. And right now he doesn’t. He bolts out the door. Pulls me on the walk. Takes food off the counter. Chews my shoes. Barks at the mail carrier. Jumps on my friends. It’s crazy. No matter how much I yell at him and punish him, he still does it.

So, he makes a bad decision and you ‘bring out the hammer’?

Hell yeah! He shouldn’t be doing any of that!  Am I right?

Yes. You are right. In that he shouldn’t be doing any of that. But, before he makes a bad decision, he’s going to tell you that he’s THINKING about making a bad decision. And *that’s* where you need to intervene to stop the undesired behavior.

You’re saying I need to be able to tell what my dog is thinking?

Yep.

And predict what he’s going to do?

Yep. Or minimum, that he’s in the decision making process.

How the hell do I do that?

You pay attention. And put more tools in your toolbox. Besides that big hammer of yours.

Let’s say you are having a great walk with your dogs. Walking around the neighborhood. They’re walking, sniffing, doing their business like a good dogs. Birds are chirping. Mrs. McGillicutty waves hello from her porch.And then suddenly, they turn off the sidewalk. And stop.Their bodies go stiff. They’re staring into a neighbor’s yard. Stop blinking. There is a squirrel at the base of a tree. They’re transfixed. For a brief period, you could put coffee cups (filled to the top) on their heads, and it wouldn’t spill. Now…what would you say they’re thinking?

We are tired. We need a rest.

No.

We really need to get home to finish our taxes.

No.

If we practiced our 3-point shots more, we could really do some damage from downtown.

Really?

Obviously, they’re telling you they are thinking about chasing that squirrel. Which is normal for dogs as they have millions of years of ancestors as excellent predators. “Apex predators” to be exact. But if you do nothing, if you say nothing, in the dog world, that’s approval. Give them approval, and they’ll run and yank the arm out of your socket every time.My friend and fellow trainer Kerry Stack of Darwin Dogs has a great explanation of this: dogs will constantly ask you questions during daily life. And if you don’t “Pilot” them, answer them AT THE TIME THEY ARE ASKING, they will provide their own answer. Most often, this is not the answer that you want.Military combat professionals have an term for this process: The OODA Loop…Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. And, believe it or not, it applies to dogs just as it does to humans. It’s a repeating loop that animals constantly go through when evaluating their world, especially when there is a stimulus involved. It’s worth looking up.
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For some dogs, this OODA Loop is big and elongated. They see something, keep meandering or don’t even break stride, decide that they don’t want to interact with it, the owner does nothing, and then the dog acts by going about their business. Rarely do I get calls from these owners.Other dogs, lots and lots of others, have a very tight OODA Loop. They see something (observe), and then face the thing they are focusing on (orient) quickly. The owner does nothing. The “decide” and “act” portions will come fast and furious. By the time the dogs hits the “act” portion of the loop, the owner is waaaaay behind the curve. And in reactive mode. I get plenty of calls from these owners.
Intervene at the “observe” or “orient” portions, and you are in proactive mode. And much more likely to have an impact on their behavior. In this immediate instance, and future ones.Want to see humans in the midst of an OODA Loop? Watch the Olympics, down hill skiing. Or boxing. Want to see a crazy tight OODA Loop? Watch table tennis. It’s so fast, you almost have to see it in slow motion to witness the speed around the Loop.Some dog trainers will just focus on bringing out the hammer on the act portion. Mess up? BOOM! You get the hammer! Do it again. I dare you. HAMMER! Again? BIGGER HAMMER!
In my opinion, good trainers will step in at the observe and orient portions in several proactive ways. And with various techniques (using multiple tools in their toolbox) can change the dog’s experience and thought processes to help them make good decisions BEFORE they get too far around the Loop. If you want to put numbers on it to make it easier,: 

ooda-loop-dogs-01-1000

“Observe” would be a 1-2
“Orient”, 3-5
“Decide,” 6-8
“Act”, 9-10

 

One of the difficult things that owners have a hard time grasping is that between 1 and 5, the dog is typically quiet and usually still. They may vocalize at 6, but sometimes not. At 8, the dog is already on the edge to implementing their decision. Whether you like their decision or not. So if the owner is not paying attention, the dog is telling them that they are on their way around the Loop. Remember, no action by the owner is approval. Wait for them to bark and/or lunge and you have missed your opportunity.Being “alpha” is about dominance. Hammer wielding dominance. And, as it turns out, the creator of the term says not to use it any more because it doesn’t apply. Skeptical? Well, check out David Mech for yourself. He’s the guy who invented the term. And the #1 expert on wolves in the United States.
http://www.davemech.org/news.html

 

My advice? Picture yourself as a coach. A leader. An answerer of questions. Not as some pissed off warden with prisoners that need to obey, or else. Humans and dogs should act as a team. With a similar purpose. Aligned agenda. Constantly communicating. Working together towards a common goal. Is there a hierarchy in place? Yes. But not out of dominance. Or fear of the hammer.Pay attention. Guide them. And it will pay off in spades.

 maple-snickers-track-1000
Chris Ramsay, K-9 Specialist at Shaker Hound Academy, has been working with problem dogs (and their problem owners) since 2005. He is a “balanced trainer”, and has helped hundreds of owners achieve a more peaceful and productive relationship with their furry friends. He is based in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and services Cleveland’s east side neighborhoods.