Author Archives: dianeatdogtrain

Why Teach Stay? Or Obedience??

I got this from Ann Seymour, my client and friend of 15 years this afternoon:

“Maus is a red mini dachshund who is fear aggressive, mainly to other dogs, but with other issues as well, most involving the word “aggressive.” She’s a lot better than when she first came to me, and that is entirely due to the classes she continues to take at DogTrain, including Advanced classes. She loves to work,  she knows the commands, but her behavior needs improvement. For that, exposure to the behavior of other dogs and owners is invaluable – especially inexperienced dogs who (understandably) can display a degree of uncertainty as they and their owners continue to learn how to work together, control their adrenaline, and listen. So, my favorite sessions are the ones most like real life: when dogs break stays, steal treats, try the patience of their owners, and challenge Maus to control herself and me to keep her focused and calm. All this with Diane aware of everything, in control, and calling out instructions and encouragement to owners (and intervening if need be). In one recent class, during a “hustle” (aka: Paper plate recalls) exercise, Maus hustled on one side of the room while another hustled on the other side. The other dog – a lovely, super-nice young Great Dane – ultimately found Maus way more interesting than the treat on the plate (or her equally super-nice owner) and came bounding after Maus. I called Maus in and she stayed focused on me instead of attacking the Dane (well – when the Dane turned to go to her owner, Maus did try to nip her back leg, but I think there was almost some humor in that not entirely serious nip, and Maus came immediately when I called her on it).

Hustle had one more unexpected episode. While one dog was being sent on hustle, another younger dog broke stay, raced to steal the treat before the older dog could get it, walked on top of Maus and fussed at Maus’s neighbor. Maus started to come out of her down stay, turning toward the activity – I could see air between her and the floor; she looked at me in mid-air, and when I said “stay,” immediately dropped and hugged the floor. I told her “good,” reminded her to stay while order was restored, and yes-rewarded as soon as was practical. What made this so great was that it seemed like Maus was beginning to use the floor as an anchor to hold her, reassure her, and help drain some of her adrenaline. Also unexpected was how this translated into a 15-minute down stay (sometimes with her head on the floor!) in the vet’s waiting room on Saturday, while some of the others were not quite as reserved. That kind of payoff is tremendous and couldn’t have happened without these sessions where life imposes itself on class. A kind of planned imposition, I suspect. Seeing Maus make progress toward a more balanced and stable world view is an amazing experience. 

Thanks, DogTrain!


Thank YOU, Ann.    And tonight, we had yet another fabulous Maus moment.  

Week one of my advanced group, we put out ALL the dog bones, antlers and Kong toys in a line on the mat between the dog (who is expected to hold a stay) and the owner.  The owner is to call the dog past/through/over the distractions and help as needed.  Point for the dog is to learn to come when called no matter WHAT is in the way, and most of them get it in 4 to 6 tries.  

I tell students it is like playing *good cop, bad cop* with your dog, verbally.  Owners get four sounds.  Come or here.  Good.  The No-reward mark of their choice, the usual here being ahh-aah.  And the reward marker Yes. Some do better than others shifting gears.  It is a learning experience in the timing game.  But I digress. . .

To bring this back full circle to der Maus . . . I make the waiting dogs stay on a line watching the working dog.  Owners typically have feet on leash, because the leash is moving out of the hand at this point.  Maus was on a stay with Ann sitting across the room, as she is able to work at a higher level than most (all) the newbies.  

At one point a young Portugese Water Dog pup went AWOL, and ran over to Maus who STEADFASTLY held her position and continued the attempt to stay even as the leash of the Portie went around her (the Dachshund’s) neck.  At no time did Maus respond or retaliate in any way, and tried her best to maintain eye contact with Ann (and the stay) while a crazy Portie pup was zipping around in her space and in her face.

Do not believe those who would tell you “stay” is outmoded and unnecessary.  Or that Obedience training is a drag, and unnecessary.  Obedience provides the language of learning, the framework upon which rests the relationship.  The rules, the boundaries, the expectations.

The lifeblood, the very essence of the dog/human relationship is COMMUNICATION.




Apparently training was out of the question…

From a friend of mine.
****To Fletcher the Beagle,   All of us tried so hard to inform your owners you were on the wrong path. We started when you were just a pup of 6 months. It fell on deaf ears. They loved you. Now, just after your 3rd birthday, your owners finally reached out to me as a trainer. Why now? Because their son is now 13 months and toddling all over. It was okay when you bit them for the last few years. And even when you tried to bite other family members. But not their son.   It was okay you spent the last 3 years conflicted, anxious and unguided. They loved you. It’s okay we know in a different home you would’ve blossomed. They loved you.   It was apparent when as a trainer I told them to remove you from their home for the safety of their son and others that they loved you. We all worked hard at trying to find a suitable home; a rescue that would take you with your history. I know it wasn’t entirely your fault, probably not even mostly your fault. They loved you.   And yesterday when they failed at finding another home and had to let you go from this earth we know THEY LOVED YOU TO DEATH.   I know in a different home you would’ve been a different dog. I also know you are no longer living each day in internal conflict and are finally at peace.   Rest in Peace Fletcher 12/20/09-3/14/13 you deserve it.***
Vaya con dios, Fletcher. Love won’t fix NUTHIN. “If love would fix instability, there wouldn’t be an unstable man in the world.”  Cesar Millan.
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This is a wonderful piece of writing. The research is immaculate, and shows in graphic detail the **lack** of research of many opposed to e-collars. I tip my hat to Janeen. Well done, lass. WELL DONE!!!!

Smartdogs' Weblog

The internet hosts hundreds of articles warning you about the dangers of electronic training collars (e-collars). Ruth over at Spot Check recently summarized a few of the most often cited studies in a post on the heated rhetoric surrounding the recent ban on the use of e-collars in Wales. Her post was the inspiration for this one.

The literature is full of references to studies by Schalke et al., Schilder and van der Borg and more recently, Herron et al. whose authors warn us that e-collar training (and indeed, any use of aversives) is unpleasant, painful, frightening — and pointlessly ineffective.

If you spend some time reviewing these articles, as I recently did, you might assume that no research supporting the use of e-collars is currently available.

And you’d be wrong.

Given the widespread references /cites to studies that support the idea that e-collars are not only…

View original post 4,995 more words

I have a problem. . .

I have a problem with **rescues** that adopt inappropriate dogs out to people who are trying desperately to do the “right thing”.  Giving them dogs that bite, or dogs that have been bounced back to that same rescue multiple times due to a variety of nebulous issues; generally speaking, dogs that bite.  It’s just that no one will tell the truth when they return that dog, as they don’t want to be “responsible” for the dog being put to sleep.  Maybe we’re just not the right home.  Maybe, just maybe – there is NO right home.  Mother Nature did not ever intend for everything to live.  And as we already know, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

I have a problem with a rescue that will put multiple eye surgeries ($$$$$)  to correct entropion on a Shar pei mix who is already visually impaired due to a combination of genetics and poor or nonexistant pre-natal nutrition.  Nevermind the “nutrition” he received AFTER his birth.  How much of that $$$$$ could have gone to heartworm treatments, or spay/neuters of those who DON’T  feel the need to bite people?

I have a problem with rescues who don’t properly work with the dogs they wish to foist off on the unsuspecting public, assuring them right along they are doing the “right thing” to adopt.

I did two appointments with this dog.  He had been placed with a dear woman who has had one other dog in her life.  I told her what I mentioned above at our first visit; not everything is intended to live.  She has some health issues as well, so I felt bad about that comment.  We did our second appointment, and things were going pretty well when the dog sort of “charged” at my face.  For no particular reason.  He’s near blind, so was easy to avoid, but the point remains “WHY? are we doing this?”  This is a fearful, impaired dog with a bad beginning and multiple foster homes placed with a hopeful novice owner.

We worked through all that, and then.  I got the call.  She was on the phone, in her night clothes, back to the dog (and how threatening is that?) when he charged her and bit her in the derriere so badly as to draw blood.  Seriously??  She returned him to the rescue, and good on her for doing that although some lame brain has already volunteered to foster him (yet again).

This lovely stand-up  woman came in to DOGTRAIN to return her training manual (which she had paid for, in my world).

Are you going to get a dog again?  Oh yes.  Then you must keep the training manual (which, btw) you have already paid for.  Call me when you are ready, and consult me when you get another dog.  I will help you make the right choice.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . . I need to get up with the veterinarian who is responsible for this particular rescue and have a chat.


A Wood Duck for Twenty

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Things came ‘round to full circle on the nineteenth of January, when our young Labrador ‘Twenty’ went on his first hunt with my husband and our good friend Keith Griffin.

All we really wanted out of this duck season was to get this 11 month old dog into a hunting situation with a reasonable guarantee of success.  It wasn’t looking very promising, as the lack of weather up north has resulted in a good many of the ducks we usually see this time of year staying put.  If the waters they frequent are frozen, they must move south.  If not?  Well, that’s what has resulted in the current dearth of birds here.

Some of you reading this may remember a piece I wrote four years ago about our elderly male Labrador ‘Laszlo’ after his final hunt.

Keith (aka:  designated hunter!) was there for Steve to initiate ‘Twenty’ into the grand ritual with his first Wood Duck, just as he was there to help ‘Laszlo’ get his last on January 21, 2008.  He is a good friend, and I so appreciate his contribution to our dogs.

Then, as now.


Behaviorism vs “Train the dog”

I received a nice email  today from a student/friend who has *seen the light* regarding the difference in behavior modification and obedience training.  There are a good many of us old timey dawg trainers who look at all kinds of behavior issues (from timidity to aggression) on a daily basis and say “train the dog.”  Here is real time, real life proof o’ dat. . .  

The Maus That Roared

This is the story about an out of control dog, an overwhelmed owner, an obedience school and its trainer, and how the methods and discipline of obedience training corrected behavioral problems and saved a dog’s life.


In the summer of 2010, DogTrain owner Diane Gallagher suggested that I take in a young female smooth red miniature dachshund who had begun biting her owner’s four-year-old daughter. The dog had attended at least one obedience course at DogTrain and come to some small dog play groups, where I had seen her once or twice, noticing only that she stayed close to her owner and seemed nervous, but not overtly aggressive. The owner reported nothing more than some snapping at the daughter; although not acceptable, it sounded fixable.  I agreed to take the dog and work on her behavior.

The extent and severity of the dog’s problems became rapidly evident, probably fear-based, and stemming from poor socialization and inconsistent handling. It also appeared that the dog had spent more time in a crate than was healthy. Her behaviors included:

•   nonexistent housebreaking

•   ignorance of the world, both indoor and outdoor

•   food aggression

•   aggression to other dogs

•   challenging the resident dog

•   excessive, aggressive barking

•   nervousness and excitability

•   situational aggression to humans, including children

•   destructive chewing

•   challenging of handler

•   barrier frustration

•   obsessiveness (ie, remembering that the mailman had made a delivery several hours prior to being let out of her crate, attacking the mail slot and mail as soon as she was let out)

•   being touched by me or another dog

•   mouthiness with me during play and on other occasions

The list is organized by the order in which the behaviors presented themselves, albeit a very short time. And once started, they cascaded.

Aggression to other dogs

Within the first few days, Maus (her new name) attacked my other dachshund (Stella – female black and tan smooth standard, 10 years old at the time, who has attended DogTrain since the age of 12 weeks). The attacks were unprovoked, severe and increasing in frequency, finally averaging three attacks a day over a period of approximately six months. Stella’s initial response was bafflement, but as the attacks increased and intensified, she began to fight back. The dogs were never left alone and I interrupted the fights, but when I couldn’t respond quickly enough, Stella chest-bumped and trash-talked Maus into retreat – fast, yipping, puppy-like retreat. The moment Maus yielded, Stella calmly walked away. When I did interrupt, I settled Maus (and sometimes Stella) until Maus calmed down, the longest settle lasting 45 minutes. Aggression frightens me and I knew I was going to have to do better.

As it turned out, Stella put an end to Maus’s aggression toward her. One day, after interrupting another attack, Stella did not walk away. She looked at me very calmly, turned back to Maus – again, very calmly – and chest-bumped and trash-talked Maus into a more serious retreat. No wounds, no marks. The next episode, a few days later, was the last. Again, no wounds, no marks. This is, of course, not an ideal or recommended solution. I was lucky that Stella’s years at DogTrain have given her the experience and sense to handle Maus.

Maus’s drive to dominate manifested itself on numerous occasions. I use that word gingerly, as it is often overused or misused; Maus is not a genuinely dominant dog. My feeling was that it was fear-motivated. Patterns included, but were not limited to:

•   me picking up either of the dogs. If I picked up Maus and put her down, she would attack Stella. If I picked up Stella and put her down, Maus would attack Stella.

•   if I paid attention to Stella, Maus would attack her.

•   exiting or entering the deck, house, or room would set Maus off, as she had to be first.

•   feeding time had to be strictly supervised, as did distribution of treats or handling of toys.

•   getting in and out of the car (which meant picking them up)

•   Maus needing to sit closest to the storm door when the front door was open.

Needless to say, there was a lot of work done on picking up dogs, walking in and out of rooms, examining paws, etc. For about a year, I focused on “behavioral” issues, as opposed to “obedience” issues. Note: the distinction was entirely mine. I felt if I could correct her “behavioral” problems, I could then move on to “obedience.”

Over that year, I talked to Diane, took Maus to DogTrain’s small dog play time, worked on aggression, exposure to the world, housebreaking, play, etc. and although her behavior did improve, it didn’t improve enough. She was a dangerous and exhausting animal, and by the late summer of 2011, I was at the end of my rope. I talked to a very fine person who does dachshund rescue and broached the idea to Diane. After a long talk, Diane was not encouraging. She did not feel that Maus was a good candidate for rescue (or re-homing to almost anyone) as her aggression and general bad habits would result in more re-homing and escalation of aggression until she was ultimately put down. That was rough to hear. Being told it might be that I put her down was worse. I don’t think Diane was being too harsh; the reality itself was harsh. Diane suggested that before I do anything, I re-enroll Maus in basic obedience. I said, “She’ll attack everyone and I can’t control her. I’m afraid to bring her.” Diane said that we would work on that and she would sign me up for the Beginner Family Dog Obedience Program, where Maus would review the lessons she had completed with her previous owner and I would relearn the patterns and methods of basic obedience training.

Obedience training

As I expected, I did have to look for and correct Maus’s dog aggression, which was pretty bad. Also as I expected, she did pretty well at the basic commands: I had always felt she was extremely bright. She was quick and remembered what she was told to do. What I had not expected was that as her confidence in our communication and in herself grew, her eagerness and delight in the process grew. The best word I have to describe her behavior is joyous. I was floored. I had no idea she would learn as quickly as she did and so clearly want to do more. For the first time, she wasn’t challenging me. She was asking, in the best possible way, for me to challenge her.

Maus and I continue to take obedience classes. When they are remedial, we raise the difficulty level for her: recall becomes down on recall; stay becomes a down stay (which she resists); heeling becomes off leash heeling. Competition class is much easier for her than for me. She shines at everything but a down stay, while I make progress in things I need to improve on, such as how to teach stand, properly delivering all the cues she is so sensitive to, and so on. Maus took to agility so quickly that I built a homemade course in my backyard. She astounds me. She is so trainable: “back” took one demonstration and she got it. Same with “place.” With Diane’s encouragement, I am looking into the possibility of obedience competition. And my concerns are more about my ability, rather than her issues.

Maus’s behavior continues to evolve as we use the tools of obedience to control her issues. Out of control barking calls for commands to sit, stay, look, lemon juice, etc. A successful, uneventful walk utilizes many obedience commands. We start every walk with Maus in heel position, leave the house in a controlled manner, immediately perform look, left and right heels (in place) and only then begin the walk, the first few minutes of which are at heel. The command string focuses her brain (and mine) where it should be. As we walk, we do spontaneous, random heeling, circles, U-turns, etc. She performs agility on anything that presents itself: curbs, small obstacles, etc. Aggression on walks is immediately addressed and is broken up by heels, U-turns, calls to front, look, etc. Having her on a pinch collar helps correct her behavior with considerably less force and more effectiveness than a buckle collar. Marking desirable behavior and the distinction made between desirable and undesirable behavior provides the vocabulary and mindset to successfully and unemotionally interpret and manage the world for her, and define for her what our respective roles are. And it teaches her how to manage the world. The vocabulary of obedience training delineates what she can fret about and what she should expect me to be concerned with. It controls her, teaches her how to control herself, and appropriately stimulates and tires her. The boundaries of obedience training define her life, give her the freedom to operate within it, and find a measure of balance: something she never had.  And rewards. Constant food rewards.  Hey!  It IS a dachshund!!!

We still have so much work to do and there are things I have to be alert to: too much praise overexcites her, for example. We want Maus to feel what we describe as self-esteem without snarkiness: her automatic response to lavish praise is to nip the nearest dog, so praise has to be delivered calmly. Anyone outside the DogTrain family has to be told not to pick her up and not to overuse affection, as she will try to bite Stella (this is the one situation when she still wants to nip at Stella). Maus is still aggressive to visitors, so the rules are explained before anyone is allowed inside. She wants to attack cars as they approach from the rear at a speed of about 25 mph or higher. Slower cars or cars approaching from the front are OK. (She has just started growling at cars when we stop at red lights while driving, which I need to talk to Diane about.) Barrier frustration (the storm door, fences, the window at DogTrain, the back window of the car) is better, but still an issue.

There are real marks of progress. Overall, the habit of obedience to commands means she challenges me less often: the frequency of “youmeanit-youmeanit-youmeanit?” has been greatly reduced. Maus has alerts me when she needs to go outside. There hasn’t been a housebreaking incident in months. Her excessive barking is more controlled. She doesn’t constantly try to get into the front seat when I’m driving. Mouthiness with me is better, but is something we continue to work on. She eats slower (she would almost make herself sick with the speed of her intake). When Stella lies close to Maus, Stella frequently puts her head on Maus’s back, and Maus accepts it; when Stella inadvertently brushes against her, Maus accepts it. In competition class, the tail of the Lab walking in front of her kept brushing her face; she accepted it. Walking in my neighborhood is fun. She still sometimes wants to go after other dogs, but it is much more easily corrected and she more often ignores the dogs, cats, birds, bikes, squirrels, motorcycles, and people we encounter. Her behavior at DogTrain’s play time is greatly improved as she tries to figure out how to interact with other dogs: sometimes the attempts at nipping is more flirty than aggressive and sometimes she really is trying to play, but fear still colors her response to other dogs. She is happier. Her life is fun and stimulating. At the same time, she’s learning to be bored, such as during prolonged down stays in Competition class, something she needs to accept as a part of life.

Obedience training has also helped me. I had exhausted my patience. I was beginning to yell at her, I spanked her twice. She was out of control, and I was losing control myself. I’ve gotten control back and it’s through the vocabulary and tools of obedience training. As much as it defines Maus, it defines me. Or I hope it does. I’m a work in progress, too.

Maus still can’t completely relax and I don’t think she completely trusts me yet. I do think the day will come when she will relax. And I really hope that someday I will see the sign that means she has completely surrendered control to me. But, I don’t think I have a problem any more. Instead I have, as Diane wanted from the first time she mentioned the little red dog, a project.

Ann Seymour

February 8, 2012



Dang it!!!

Today I lost my first e-collar transmitter.  I started training retrievers back in the mid 90’s, and until today had never lost a piece of equipment.  Well, once I left a hand-launcher in the field, but I *fetched* it the next day.  And I will admit to losing the occasional bumper.  Who hasn’t, right??

But a transmitter??  Dat’s EXpensive equipment.  Of course it was not one of mine, but a client’s top of the line Dogtra 2300…..

What started out as a pretty laid back (many of my dogs are hunting now, our duck season just came back in) day turned into a logistical nightmare which involved driving BACK to my original training field (20 minutes) and a fruitless search (20 minutes).  Then back to the pond (20 minutes) and a fruitless search (maybe 10).  I will go back to the field tomorrow a.m. (20 minutes) and resume the search,

because. . .

If I don’t find it, I will be ordering a replacement transmitter.  I am equally confident the arrival of said replacement will facilitate discovery of the original.

Any takers???