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March 24, 2014
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Leerburg Q&A
Ask your training question here

Question: We have two dogs that have leash reactivity with other dogs, but they manifest in different ways. What would you suggest we do?

I have both a 6-year old Beagle and a one-year old Australian Kelpie that came into our lives only a couple of months apart. We've owned a Kelpie/Cattle Dog cross before, so we are familiar with the breed and their quirks but never have owned a scent hound before. Our biggest issue with both of them at this time is leash reactivity with other dogs, but manifesting in different ways. The Beagle is very gregarious towards other dogs and whines consistently in the presence of them as well as wanting to always get closer, i.e. pulling. The Kelpie reacts aggressively, barking and lunging. We currently have them in obedience training (marker) and we are not really getting solutions from the trainer on how to handle this besides complete avoidance suggestions, which I really don't see as a practical, life-long solution. We have been working hard on training and are absolutely willing to put the work in with regards to leash reactivity as well. Any suggestions appreciated. Thank you.

Ed's Response:

In my opinion the solution begins with management. That means control the environment you allow these dogs in while you deal with the training.

I am a balanced reward based trainer, which is how I structure my training program. Simply put this means I start training with "markers." When my dog understands the language of Markers, I use markers to teach behaviors by using high value food rewards.

When I am 110% done with the food rewards and if the dog has toy drive, I will add toy rewards after I teach the dog “the rules of play” (that’s another subject though).

Here is the rub. 99.99% of dog’s out there will eventually reach a point where the distraction they face (in your case that’s another dog) has a value that is higher than your high value food reward. At that point the dog will not follow your commands.

At that point the handler needs to give a correction that is strong enough to change that dog’s behavior.  

Now the purpose of corrections are not to "correct a dog for bad behavior." The purpose of a correction is to change behavior. What that means is that some dogs may only need a verbal warning to change behavior. Some dogs may change behavior with a slight pop of a leash or a tap on the butt to redirect the dog. But there will be some dogs that require a very strong leash correction with a prong collar for it to change its behavior.

Learning how to determine what level of correction to use requires handler training and a willingness to do what is needed to change behavior. Some people simply will not apply the level of correction that their dog requires. They think there must be another way. They are always wrong and they always end up with a serious problem, because at the end of the day they have allowed their dog to practice bad behavior.

What also happens when handlers administer ineffective corrections is the dogs become desensitized to corrections. That is when the real mess starts, because that dog just went to a whole new place where it now really needs a serious correction to change its behavior. That new level is much higher than it would have needed if the owner had not TRAINED THE DOG that it can handle nagging corrections.

So, if you want to change your dogs' behaviors you need to learn.

You may want to consider the online Basic Dog Obedience course we released a few weeks ago. It has 150 videos in it and is designed as a 6 week course that is open to students for 12 weeks.

I produced my first obedience training video in 1982 and revised it more times than I can remember over the past 30 years. The course contains the full version of my DVD Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet and the full version of The Power of Training Dogs with Markers.

There is no question in my mind that this is better than taking a dog to a local training class. Dog training classes have 20 to 30 dogs. This is a HUGE, HUGE distraction for any untrained (or aggressive) dog which results in the owners being more concerned about their dog acting stupid than they are in hearing what the instructor is saying.

Here is a link to an article I wrote titled Ed Frawley's Philosophy of Dog Training. You may want to read it.

Regards,
Ed Frawley

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Obedience or our Q&A on Marker Training.

We get a number of Q&As every week, if you would like to read this week's Q&As, click here and check out the 'Recent Questions' section!

Have a question for Ed & Cindy? Try the Leerburg Search Engine. This search engine was written specifically for Leerburg by our in house IT manager. Our search engine is specific to Leerburg and only searches leerburg.com and the Leerburg web forum. If you can't find the answer to your question by using our search engine, you can email Cindy here at Leerburg at cindyr@leerburg.com. If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!

Customer Comments

On Leerburg's Website

Hello Cindy and Ed, 

Recently, I had asked a question regarding my rescue German Shepherd named Rome. I was having a extremely difficult time training her, typically she would just shut down on me causing me to get frustrated, this was highly upsetting for both of us. I was given advice about high value food rewards and encouraged to dive into marker training. I found the link for Ed's free eBook on Marker Training, and I glad I did. I'm finding a lot of mistakes I've made with training my dogs, but now I can at work on fixing the damage. My Shepherd, though she is still a slow learning is doing MUCH better. She is much more cooperative, she wants to learn and try things. I always used to love Ceaser Millan, but I was naive and interpreted everything my dogs did (or didn't do) as an act of dominance. I was constantly trying to correct them, but now I can see that I was just damaging our relationship. I plan on enrolling in the basic obedience online course.

Thank you! 
Erin

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