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Leerburg's Weekly Newsletter
October 11, 2010

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Michael Ellis on Classically Conditioning Behaviors

Michael Ellis on Classically Conditioning Behaviors

This is part of a lecture on classical conditioning that Michael Ellis gives on the opening morning for his two day course on remote collars.

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Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet

4 Hours, 9 Minutes| $40.00

Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet DVD

The goal of our pack structure training program is to produce a dog that is calm and submissive and a dog that follows the rules of the pack leader. This DVD teaches people how to become a pack leader that their dog respects and loves.

Most people are not born pack leaders. In fact far from it. The majority of dog owners (many who have owned dogs their entire life) simply don’t know anything about the instincts that control our dogs or how strong these instincts are in the domestic dog. Oh people may have heard that they need to be a "pack leader" or they may have heard they need to be an "ALPHA" with their dog but they don’t understand what this really means or how to accomplish it.

Current shows on TV about dog training lead people to think they can deal with behavioral problems but the fact is these shows are often misleading. In many cases these TV shows offer limited to dangerous advice that only a professional dog trainer with years of experience should attempt. While these shows are interesting to watch, because the dog owners are so inept, they don’t offer a program that pet owners can follow.

Our DVD outlines a program that I have developed over the past 45 years of owning, breeding and training German Shepherds. This program works on every breed of dog and dogs of all ages. This program is the foundation for solving almost all behavioral problems, especially those related to aggression.

New pet owners are often told the road to a calm, submissive dog is to attend obedience classes and socialize their dog. In our opinion this is not correct. The road to a calm dog is to first establish pack structure and leadership. When that's done you can obedience train your dog.

Dogs are pack animals. Every breed of dog is hard wired with genetic pack instincts. From the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Great Dane, dogs wants to live in a family pack. Once they find their pack they genetically need to determine their rank within that pack.

Read more.

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Dog Bite

To view these dog bite photos, click here.
Warning: these photos are very graphic!

We are always looking for photos of people who have been bitten by their dogs while trying to break up a dog fight. If you send us photos and the story on how the accident happened we will put them on our website with the hope that your mistakes will help other people realize how dangerous it is to try and break up a dog fight the wrong way.

Dog Bite:

Fresh from last night... I hope you can clean it up a little bit. It was between a 2 year old male, neutered Malamute and a 5 year old female, spayed GSD/Siberian mix. Both indoor, normally loving dogs. I've never even heard the Malamute growl. She was the instigator, and stole his toy. She had bullied him from a pup and he has just now gotten brave enough to fight back. We tried grabbing hind legs, putting a bucket over heads, throwing a bucket over water, throwing the actual bucket, inserting a folded chair in between, then my husband did the unthinkable and grabbed a collar. He knew better, too. We finally turned the hose on them.


Have a Question on Dog Training?

Have you checked the Leerburg Discussion Board? It is one of the most active dog web boards on the internet. The Leerburg Web Board has over 16,000 Members with over 165 forums and 269,000 posts in its archives. The web board also has an excellent search engine that only searches the web board's 212,000 posts.

This Week's Featured
Question & Answers

Question: My dog started showing aggression towards my wife, so we implemented better pack structure. What can we do to cement his submission to my wife and be more certain of his behavior?

Dear Ed,
First let me thank you for opening our eyes to a whole new way of looking at our dogs, training and leadership. After a lot of work we still have a problem I would like your advice on.

We have two Portuguese Water Dog males (10 and 3 year old) We have had aggression problems with the young male (Pete)since he was about 1 1/2 year old. These include fights with the older dog, aborted attacks while on leash on walks and biting us (mainly my wife). Things are MUCH better after buying and applying your great training knowledge DVDs in Basic Obedience, Dominant Dog, ECollar and Pack Structure. Pete has an ecollar on most of the day, every day. Dog/dog aggression on walks has gone down from 2-3 times every walk to maybe 1 time every 3-4 months! We stop it before it happens. I almost never nick him on walks.

However, the problem that worries me is Pete started showing aggression to my wife about 8 months ago. He bit her on 4 occasions, once in the face making a small cut. None serious but very scary and disturbing. I bought a muzzle from you after the face bite. We decided that my wife was not showing good pack leadership and Pete was changing his rank to #2 after me. Several of the bites occurred in the kitchen when the dog was in "his spot." These happened when she was being affectionate with him. Both my wife and I rededicated ourselves to your training methods and it seems to have paid off. It has been hard to get my wife to change her behavior and be less soft but to her credit she has been working on it and things seem much better and we have not had an incident for a couple months.

The problem is we don't really trust him yet. I believe he is far less likely to try any aggression with me because he respects me and I will correct him immediately if he tried. Yet I am nervous about him around my wife even though he seems to be respecting her leadership more. I guess my question is what can we do to cement his submission to my wife and be more certain of his behavior? Can we test him? When can we be certain of him?

I am afraid we can never really be affectionate with this dog as we are with our other dog. But we would like to be. Will we ever be able to fully trust Pete?

Thanks for all your information and support.

Best regards,
Matt & Cheryl


With dogs like Pete, this is a tricky question. If you appear nervous or tense around dogs like this, then they sense it and the likelihood of an incident increases. If you try to be too friendly and affectionate, these dogs see it as weakness and will challenge.

I think it's a healthy idea to not completely trust a dog like this, because with dominant dogs it's always a balancing act of leadership and being the boss in a clear and calm way. Usually the whole affection thing is more for our benefit, and with a dog like Pete is not what he needs. Every dog is different and some dogs can be cuddled and hugged and played with and there will not be any reason to think the dog will challenge you. Since you know that Pete is a dominant type personality, it will just mean that you'll spend your time doing what is BEST for Pete and that is by giving him clear, fair rule and structure. What you want and what is best for this particular dog may be 2 very different things. Realize that dogs don't see affection as the same thing that we do.

I don't recommend the typical pet owner test a dog like this, because you run the risk of getting in a situation you would rather not be in. If you were a professional dog trainer and you had a lot of experience with aggression it may be a different story. Why push it and risk losing any ground you have recovered? The other side to this is that the dog needs to feel comfortable and accepting of your leadership, and if you feel the need to 'test' him it will undermine that.

I have horses and while I love them very much I never forget to have a healthy respect for their power and ability to hurt me. I deal with them very much as I do our dogs, I establish leadership in a way that doesn't damage the relationship that I hope to have with them but I don't get sucked into wanted to be too cuddly with them or do something that will put them in a position to feel they need to defend themselves or to try to assert their dominance over me. Like our dogs, all of our 5 horses have very different temperaments so I handle each one according to what is best for the individual, even if I would really like to behave otherwise.

We owe it to our animals to give them what they need, and I think you have been doing great so far. Keep up the good work.

Cindy Rhodes

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Aggression.


Question: What can I do to give my dog confidence and be more comfortable in his surroundings?

Dear Ed,

I have some basic to intermediate experience with dog training. I have never tried a remote electric collar before, and just purchased one locally (I have no idea if this is a decent product or not). I just found your website, and would really appreciate some advise as I have a very unique dog. I am a veterinarian, and this dog came in on emergency one night after being hit by 2 cars. The history on this dog was minimal, he was seen by someone in the town being hit in the morning, no-one could catch him, then was hit again in the evening. He crawled under this person's deck, and a member of the SPCA dug him out and brought him in to me. He was pretty traumatized, but interestingly has never tried to snap, growl or bite anyone. He is a rottie x pit bull, probably something else too- not sure. Further investigation revealed that this dog had no home, and had been running around in this village for about 8 months- no-one could get close to him.

He is very gentle, and fine with other dogs, but he is absolutely terrified of people and any loud noises or quick movements. Genetics or environment- we'll never know. Every client I have says that their dog's been beaten, but with this guy, I really don't know what has happened. I don't believe he'd every been in a house, never on a leash, and hid under a tree for days when we first got him. He still can't walk with anyone walking behind him, has major trust issues and bolts if any stranger even looks at him. I've frankly never seen anything like it.

So, the problem I have with him is that he is so sensitive to any correction that I'm really reluctant to do any serious training with him as every time I gently correct or even say no, he turns into a quivering mess! However, he has developed some bad habits: 1) he will run away when given the chance, even with a long lead on, 2) he chases wildlife and 3) he won't come unless he has the long lead on- he knows we can't catch him. He is very slow to respond to a command... he just starts shaking when we put any pressure on him. He just recently started trusting enough to take treats and actually eats when we watch him now, he will sit, down, heel, come, and a few other polite basics on-leash, but any intense training and he falls apart. I started agility with him and he seemed to catch on really fast, but I am afraid that he will run away if something distracts or scares him. We have had him for a year already, and have made slow but steady progress, but recently had a house sitter that allowed him to run wild- on the street, on other peoples farms, on walks etc, and I feel that a lot of our patient training has completely gone down the drain. I think remote training might be the way to go with this guy, but having no experience myself, and being unable to find anything comparable to our situation on your website, I am a bit afraid to try it and cause more damage. He is a great dog, and we have a pretty tight bond despite his challenging "special needs," so I'm willing to try whatever I can. I look forward to hearing from you and hope you can share your expertise to help me help our guy.

Thank you for your time in advance.



I think with this dog, based on his fear and lack of self confidence I would work with him using marker training. It’s one of the best systems I have found for any dog, but especially for dogs that need self esteem.

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers DVD

I also use an ecollar, but since this guy seems to have such trust issues and is worried about normal everyday stuff, I think I’d work him only with markers until I saw his personality start to open up and his confidence increases. He could wear the collar daily, just don’t switch it on at this point. He needs to realize that the collar doesn’t mean anything is going to happen.

When you get ready to use the collar, I would recommend this DVD, Electric collar Training for the Pet Owner. The training is the same no matter what brand of collar but I prefer the Dogtra simply because you can increase and decrease the stimulation level in tiny increments. Most of the other collars have a huge jump between stim levels.

I would direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website for any additional questions you may have. If you type in your key words it will guide you to articles, Q & A’s and posts on our forum.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

For more information on this topic, see our Q&A on Obedience.


Comment on a Recent Newsletter:

Hi Cindy,

In regards to dogs with collars off while playing -- this is unusual but not unheard of.

When the area coordinator for Southeastern Guide Dogs, Jacksonville Area told the following story about her dogs you can believe it caught our attention!

She had a personal dog and a guide dog pup that were playing when a collar got stuck on the other dogs teeth. The dog with the collar in its mouth began to flip in circles trying to get away. The dog with the collar on began to be choked. Both dogs were wearing the standard buckle collars...she could not get the collars off and ended up holding tightly to the dog that was flipping and cutting the collar off. It was fortunate that she was not only there but within reach of a knife to cut the off collar.

We now only use "clip" buckle type collars for tags but take them off when inside with other dogs. The thought process is that the clip buckles will be easier to release in an emergency.

More importantly though, I would suggest people get their dogs micro chipped or have a tattoo (or both) as a permanent id in the case of getting lost.
Collars and tags both can get lost.

Love getting the emails and learning different things each time... watching you and Rush this month was great!


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!!!

Leerburg Testimonials
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Hi Cindy,
I just wanted to write you, and thank everyone at Leerburg. You have really opened my eyes to living in a happy world with my dog. I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. My little girl is only 11 weeks old, and we still have a lot of time to work with her and prevent so many issues before they ever happen. I stayed up so late last night reading all of the information. Today, Roxy, has been on a leash all day. We conquered a HUGE fear of hers, the stairs. A few hot dogs were harmed in the destruction of that fear, but Roxy was a happier dog at the end of it. She is more than happy to trot along behind me wherever I have gone today. I am not afraid to put her in the crate if I need a break, and we have worked enough. My dog was asking me to be her leader, and now I understand what she was asking.
So again, thank you. So much.

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We Support & Recommend
The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers

More details on courses, course content and dates available on the website.
A list of Michael Ellis Seminars

There are still some openings for upcoming classes!

Advance Obedience class, October 25th-29th - FULL
Puppy Development, November 1st-5th - Openings Available
Protection: Theory class, November 8th-12th -Openings Available
Protection: Decoy class, November 15th-19th - Openings Available


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