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Leerburg's Weekly Newsletter
October 14, 2010

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Michael Ellis on Capping a Dog's Drive

Michael Ellis on capping a dog's drive and why it is just as important for pet dog owners as it is for working dog owners. Michael also explains the relationship between using a toy reward vs. a food reward in your dog training. He talks about how some dogs will always prefer a food reward, while others start out preferring a food reward and mature into preferring a toy reward.


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The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog

5 Hours, 25 Minutes| $65.00

The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog I have been around higher levels of dog training for a long long time and thought I knew a thing or two about how to play tug with your dog. When I started to go to Michael Ellis' seminars I found out there was an entirely different side to this work - a better side.

Since 1982 I have produced a lot of training DVDs, but hands down the ones I have done (and am doing) with Michael are the ones I am most proud of. These DVDs are going to make a dramatic difference on how people live with and train their dogs. They are changing the relationship people have with their dogs.

At 5 hours and 25 minutes, this is the first two DVD set I have ever produced. There was just so much great information that I wanted to get into this training DVD that I had to make it this long. I believe you will agree when you study it.

This DVD on playing tug is the second video in the Building Drive and Focus Series with Michael Ellis. The first DVD, The Power of Training Dogs with Food, and this DVD, teach new trainers how to establish the foundation of Michael Ellis's training system on their dogs. Once that is accomplished, the principles of Michael’s system can be used to teach a dog any behavior or exercise.

Michael’s system is based on marker training or operant conditioning. If you are new to markers or new to Michael Ellis’ system of dog training I would recommend you view the free 1 hour streaming video of Michael lecturing on his philosophy of dog training in the streaming video section of our web site.

You should also review the free 87 page eBook I wrote titled “The Power of Training Dogs with Markers.” It is in the list of free eBooks on our web site.

Our DVD opens with Michael’s lecture on why and how to play tug with your dog. Michael then demonstrates technique with his dog Pi. Unlike other dog training DVDs most of the dogs I included were untrained dogs with handlers new to this system of training. I feel people learn more from watching others learn the work than by only watching the instructor work with his own dog.

For the tug to be used as an obedience reward with your dog, you must have 3 things.

1- The dog must tug with enthusiasm,
2- The dog must out when told to out,
3- The dog must bring the tug back after you release it.

This is the core goal of our training DVD. If dogs will not do these three things then handlers can not use a toy or a tug as a reward in training.

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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.


Featured Question & Answers

Our newsletter will always contain several featured customer Q&As from that week.
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!!!

Question: Should I use a prong to correct my 10 pound puppy from lunging at other dogs in class?

Good morning, Cindy.

I wanted to thank you for offering me help with my dog in the past. I have a quick question for you if you have a minute.

I have been taking my dog to training classes, and although there's been some progress, they are very against corrections of any kind. They are 100% reward based trainers. I told my trainer that I purchased a prong collar from your site, and he was mortified. The reason I purchased it is because my dog is a little dog, and she has a bad habit of barking and lunging at other dogs if I allow it. His solution is to pull her off to the side and feed her while the other dog passes, but this unfortunately doesn't always work, and I need to be able to provide a correction if she decides the dog is more interesting than the food. My trainer believes that she does this because she is a little dog, and feels the need to "act big" around other dogs. He said some dogs never actually get much better with this kind of behavior. I feel it is an issue, and his explanation is not good enough for me. I want a dog that I can take anywhere, and I believe every dog is trainable.

I know that there are a lot of variables, but do you believe I should be using a prong collar on my 10lb dog to control this behavior? I've done some reading on the E-Collar and have been thinking a little about whether or not I should purchase the E-Collar DVD and learn to use it instead. I am receiving mixed advice about how to deal with the barking and lunging at strange dogs, and I could really use a little advice from someone who actually knows what she's talking about.

Thanks Cindy. I appreciate any time you can offer.


I do not believe you should use a prong for THIS behavior and I also believe you shouldn’t be putting your dog in this situation. She’s not ready for it. If she is barking and lunging at other dogs the worst thing you can do is continue to put her in this situation. She needs to learn to listen to you under distraction and you don’t get that kind of behavior by overwhelming her in a class full of dogs. A prong collar actually makes things worse. It’s great for finesse work in obedience, or for pulling but to use it when a dog is excited/aggressive actually makes the behaviors you DON’T want worse.

If your dog is reactive to other dogs you need to work on this at a distance from other dogs. If she reacts to dogs 20 yards away, then go to a distance that she can relax and focus on you and gradually work your way closer. By doing what you have been in a class, you are actually teaching her the very behavior you want to extinguish.  Engagement with you should be your goal.

If I recall your dog is a puppy, so you need to back up and start over using a strategy that isn’t based on corrections.  I am all for corrections when needed, but in this situation a correction (especially with a prong) is only going to cement the idea that dogs are bad and scary because their presence means a correction.

Become a student of marker training. When your dog (AND YOU) know and understand markers you are going to be able to tell him the EXACT instant he does something correctly or just as important the exact instant he does something wrong.

Markers opens a level of communication between you and your dog that was never available when we all started training dogs many years ago. We have a free 85 Page eBook titled THE POWER OF TRAINING DOGS WITH MARKERS. It’s on the web site in the list of eBooks on my web site. This is the place to start.

I would also recommend you go to the free streaming videos on the web site and watch the lecture of Michael Ellis where he talks about his philosophy of dog training. Not only will you learn a lot you will understand why we are doing a series of training DVDs with Michael.

Here is the short list I recommend to new trainers: Engagement with YOU starts here. I train all my dogs from puppies using this method.

The Power of Training Dog with Markers
The Power of Training Dogs with Food
The Power of Playing Tug with Your Dog  **optional
Focused Heeling with Michael Ellis

The work in these DVDs will take you through the first 6 to 8 months of your dogs life but the foundation you established with this work will be used for the rest of your dogs life. It will give you tools to train any endeavor you care to get involved with.

Good luck.

Cindy Rhodes

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


Question: My dog has been showing more and more aggression towards my daughter and I'm worried about her safety. What would you suggest? 

Hello, I have sought help from numerous sources(too many to mention here), including my vet. I have one huge problem with our border collie, named Oreo, she is 7 years old, we've had her since she was 10 weeks old. She is a wonderful dog all the way around for obedience, etc. no problems.

The problem is she is showing aggression towards our daughter who will be 4 years old in February. She used to be able to go and pet Oreo and help me feed her, etc. However over the last couple months her aggression is getting worse and worse. I've gone to the point that she is back in the kennel or tied to me with a leash or has to wear a muzzle in efforts to prevent her from biting my daughter. Oreo has even gone to the extent of preventing Elisha from getting on her own bed. If Oreo is close to either me or Rob, and Elisha comes walking by (not at all provoking oreo) Oreo will growl then show teeth. Two suggestions have been made - either find her a new home or have her put down. She also has dog aggression. As well as more and more not willing to let people see or pet her. I work from home as a pet groomer, I need to fix this.

If you need more info let me know what you'd like to know.

What would you suggest?


The problems you are seeing are the result of the way you live with your dog. When dogs act like this they lack leadership from their owners. In other words their owners don’t understand how important pack drive is in how they raise their dogs.  As your daughter gets older, your dog is trying to make sure he keeps his place in the pack order by making sure your daughter doesn’t become higher ranking than he is.  It’s up to you to be the leader, you have been allowing your dog to call the shots without even knowing that you are doing so. This is completely normal behavior in dogs and how they interact with each other. This is also very dangerous behavior especially when children are involved.

Owners of dogs like yours underestimate the genetic power of  "PACK DRIVE." Pack structure is not something new and it is not optional, and if you don’t provide the structure and leadership a dog NEEDS then he or she will behave as canines have for thousands of years and will structure your family and household their own way.  Your dog is not behaving badly out of spite or stubbornness; your dog is simply being a dog, a dog that needs some guidance and rules.

If you want to fix a problem like this you can but it takes some work. 

I’d start with our Groundwork program and the video that picks up where the article leaves off; Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Here is a DVD that I would recommend titled Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs. If you go to the link on this DVD you can read about what it covers. You will also see a detailed outline of what’s in the video.

I’d use a muzzle and this dog would be either on a leash, muzzled attached to me or in a crate at all times until this issue is under control. Oreo should not ever be loose in your house at all, she’s lost those privileges by behaving in a dominant manner.

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. You will find out that your problem is probably the most common issue discussed on our website. 

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

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


*If you have a training question – write Cindy here at Leerburg at cindyr@leerburg.com
*If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!
*Our newsletter is a big success and we would like to send out a huge THANKS to our wonderful customers! Since beginning this newsletter our volume of email has greatly increased and you may have a longer than usual wait for a reply to your question. We will answer; it just may take us a bit longer than you are accustomed to. In order to speed up this process, please condense your questions to a paragraph or two. This will make it MUCH easier for us to answer in a timely fashion. Your questions are important to us and we always appreciate receiving them. If you have a medical issue or emergency, please consult with a health care professional right away. We can’t diagnose or treat sick dogs via email. Also, try using the search function on our site - it now searches the site AND the web board. Thank you. Ed & Cindy

A Recent Leerburg Comment
See Previous Testimonials

Cindy, your response to Matt and Cheryl in the October 11 Newsletter was great! Your second-to-last line summed it up beautifully: “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.” It’s hard to practice, but people grow, too, by learning to become good pack leaders—they often learn to deal better with other humans as well!


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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

Email Michael directly for questions on class openings.

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