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How to Manage Obnoxious Dog Behavior

Updated on August 14, 2014

People shouldn't have to tolerate an irritating, destructive or dangerous dog

It has happened many times: I go over to somebody's house, and the dog's presence detracts from the interaction.

I am sure that you have all seen it:

  • Your friend opens the door and the dog either bolts out the door or almost knocks you over.
  • The dogs are kenneled up in the back but make so much noise you can hardly hear her talk.
  • You are eating and the dog is begging and the noise level escalates to appalling decibel levels. OR you have dog slobber all over your lap.
  • Dog nips your heals or tears the cuff of your pants.
  • You sit on the couch and this poof of "l'essence du chien" wafts up.
  • You try to sit on the couch but your friend can't get her 130 lb. dog to budge.
  • You are trying to put together something that involves multiple pieces and the dog comes and nudges her, and everything gets scrambled, etc.
  • House has a subtle, yet persistent smell of dog urine.
  • You take the dog on a walk to get some fresh air, and your friend is out of breath because the dog keeps pulling her halfway into the street.

There are so many examples of dog behaviors that are just range from mildly annoying to downright dangerous. I can't think of any other way of putting it. Most of the time when dogs act like this, the owners give you this "puppy-eyed" "I'm sorry" look and say something to the effect of "the kids really wanted a dog" or "the kids love him" or "this is my husband's thing, but he is never around" etc. So the bond between the caretaker and the dog just isn't there, and the dog is, whether we want to admit it or not, reducing the person's quality of life and control over his or her environment.

Here are some aggravating outdoor behaviors that if managed poorly, can lead to social ostracism for the owners, lawsuits and even a euthanized dog:

  • Constant barking.
  • Biting, nipping.
  • Destruction of property.

If you manage these stress-inducing behaviors, you will enjoy your dog a lot more. Although you might feel "mean" at first, I can assure you that the joy that a well-socialized canine can bring to your life will make it all worthwhile.

This article is a sequel to my "Top 10 Stress-Inducing Behaviors in Dogs." I figured that it is one thing to point out the behaviors that cause us aggravation, but it is another to offer solutions to them.

I don't care if it is "natural" for a dog: property destruction is awful!

Sorry but I can't tell you how many times I have been lectured by dog rescue folk who seem to have more empathy for a pit-bull who tears up a carpet, then for the carpet-owner or exploited carpet-weavers.

Even if your carpet cost $15.00 at Walmart, the fact that we consider material items to be disposable chew toys is insidious.

I have many issues with condoning destructive dogs and pressuring others to tolerate their antics, but here is one of them:

It is philosophical.

If you paid people fair wages, up and down the chain, that Pit Bull probably would have chewed more like a $150 - $200 carpet. Look at where the fibers were manufactured or processed, and where the thing was glued and woven together. Who did that? How much were they paid? How much is the guy paid who runs the sweatshop, or the women who process the books and the orders, or the transportation guys in that third world country that bring the thing to port? They are compensated horrendously so that you and I can acquire cheap consumer goods, that they themselves could never DREAM of affording. They would probably be appalled to hear that we value our dogs' whims over the carpet that they took the time to weave just right for us. What about the Walmart employees stateside, who spent hours on their aching feet, earning minimum wage, to make that carpet, and every other "disposable" consumer item, available and attractive for you?

All of this ... for a $15 dollar welcome mat that your dog can shred to tatters simply because he felt like it.

If these people were paid a decent wage, and you paid that retail, you would be outraged at what your dog did! Or, if any link in the chain that processed that welcome mat were your own friends and family, the insidiousness of it would render the destruction inexcusable.

So letting your dog destroy property, or acting as though "it is just stuff, it can be replaced" is putting the ephemeral needs of your dog, over the appreciation and respect for the privilege we have in owning it, at the expense (blood, sweat and tears) of the labor who produced it - totally taking for granted, of course, the human suffering that made that carpet affordably disposable to you in the first place.

So the fact that Fido has the urge to chew doesn't mean that his behavior has any place whatsoever in human society, except for a very, very, and very limited one.

The other problem with property destruction is that frankly if you are a landlord and you are nice enough to allow dogs, you will probably get "screwed over" at some point. And by "screwed over" I mean, bent over, taking it repeatedly with some sort of robo-device.

Why?

Because when you the tenant signed a lease, especially in a non-premium market, such as a working class section of town in a Midwestern city, you gave your landlord one month rent as a security deposit.

So what was your security deposit? $1,500 for a palatial sweet? And the pet deposit? $200?

Have you looked into the cost of fixing chewed molding, pulling up and replacing urine-stained carpet, carpet padding, etc.? How about the floorboards underneath? Never mind the fact that walls will need to be repainted, doors might need to be replaced, etc.

And chances are it will take about a month to clean up after your destructive dog. So he not only loses money in gutting and renovating the entire place, he loses a month's revenue cleaning all of it up.

I hope to God that the vast majority of tenants with dogs have more consideration than this. But I have seen what dogs can do . . .

Every single incident like this, adds another nail in the coffin for considerate renters and for their dogs. Try apartment hunting with dogs. Most places won't take them and understandably so.

Owner gets in a bind and then what happens to the dog?

But then there is also the homeowner, who works their tail off to make house payments that they can barely afford. How tolerant does s/he need to be of the dog turning the house and yard into tatters?

People have different motivations for having dogs in the first place but in my own experience, nothing breaks the human-canine bond, quite like property destruction. There is something about it that is so insidious.

And yes, there is something you can do about it, but it is at the dog's expense.

And no, you are not a monster for not being willing to accommodate this urge in your dog.

Then there is the nipping and biting issue

That is also awful but fortunately, dogs don't really seem to "want" to bite. In fact, from what I can tell, dogs do everything they can to avoid biting.

Nipping is another story. I've encountered several nippers.

Nipping, for me ... is some serious yellow-zone behavior.

An actual bite that clamps down, is red.

Anything that sends a person or animal to the emergency room, is so damn scarlet it is actually purple!

If the reasons here aren't obvious, I don't think that taking more time to explain it will do much good.

Solutions to chewing, biting and nipping problems

OK this is a tuffie, and I am not going to make friends here.

But your solutions are few and far between, until your Rottweiler, Pitt Bull, Lab, Golden, Dobie ... outgrows it, and rumor has it, some never completely outgrow this.

Keep in mind, these are my OPINIONS.

  • Put the dog in the yard. And don't get too upset when your yard looks like it has "gone to the dogs" because it will. And do not get a high-energy, chewing breed, unless you have a yard. Sorry, I know that today's anti-animal cruelty voice says dogs need to be housed indoors with you, but come now ... these breeds were not developed indoors ... the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. These are working dogs, with high drive and energy. Respect and admire their potential as individuals, and as a breed. There are dozens of dog breeds with far less of a chewing drive. Next time around, get a non-chewing breed.
  • Caveat: don't just dump the dog in the yard, and ignore him. Interact with him and have a good time and bring him in the house when you can supervise him. Make sure he has a shady area, and that fences are secure because he can dig under them.
  • Crate the dog when you are not around. If somebody is always home, awesome. By "crate the dog" I am talking about 2-3 hours max. We have a boxer. She is crate trained. But she does not spend her life in a cage. She sleeps and wakes up under the stars, chews thick branches that we bring for her, urinates and defecates whenever it strikes her fancy, and wrestles with her best friend Dusty Rotterman, whenever the mood strikes them. Crating the dog is supposed to be a puppy potty training thing, and a "protect your home when you can't supervise" thing, and a lifesaver for the dog if you have to evacuate thing. But 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, and 10 hours at night? Dogs do not belong in crates. Period.
  • This is not politically correct, but you actually CAN use a muzzle. Not one of those cloth ones, but one of those intimidating looking ones. If your problem is dog chewing, muzzling him when you can't supervise can save you thousands of dollars in property damage. It also would allow him more freedom than being crated.

When you can supervise, give him appropriate items to chew, such as a rawhide or nylabone, if he will take it.

Training a dog not to chew something is like training a cat not to chase an item that moves across the floor. It isn't realistic because this is a fundamental urge that they have.

As for biting problems, you have two choices and if you pick option two, you have two more:

  1. euthanasia
  2. muzzle

Choice "2" comes with better socialization, training and a really secure fence, if your dog spends time outdoors. One of your choices is NOT letting him "outgrow it" or hoping that this latest training method will work some sort of minor miracle. The situations that lead to dog bites can be very subtle for us, and it takes seconds for the dog to give of the signal and then snap.

At the first instance he nips a human, use the muzzle consistently whenever you leave the house, regardless of what precipitated it. If you love your dog, you will protect him from himself.

You should look into WHY the dog is biting. That is a whole different conversation. But in the meantime, protect your dog's life, and the people and animals around you, and muzzle him. Even if you do figure out why he is acting like this, just this understanding alone is not going to change the behavior. You might need desensitization and counter-conditioning, etc. But I am of the belief that once he has bit, the muzzle needs to stay on in public.

James vs. Golden Retriever

Who has more stink potential?

See results

You decide ...

Golden Retriever
Golden Retriever
"James"
"James" | Source

Dog stinks!

Well, yes, in fact, a large percentage of dogs stink.

But the stink can be managed. You can make them stink less.

Stinking is generally not a "behavior" issue in dogs, like it is in humans. And actually ... people who don't bathe for some reason or another can actually outstink a dog ... even your most natty, tick-infested, muddy, poop-covered farm-dog .... real fast.

I mean seriously ... if James did not have access to a shower, who would stink more after 5 days ... James or his golden retriever?

You can't teach dogs personal hygiene. But you can modify the areas to which he has regular access so that you can have a clean house, even if you have a dirty dog.

The dog stinking up your couch can be solved by not allowing the dog on the couch. I know ... it is mean, horrible, cruel and nasty because dogs are people too, but honestly it is very simple. And dogs are not people.

If sitting on the couch releases a poof of doggie stench, it is time to get your dog a dog bed, and say NO! and push him off when he gets on the couch.

In my case, I put our little dogs outside during the day so that they can run around and be dogs, and at night I crate them, but the crate is outfitted ultra-comfortably. And if they want out, they just yelp and I let them out. They are not crated all day, day in and day out, like prisoners with nobody to attend to them.

Not to be a meanie, but if your dog is like mine, he probably finds it comforting to rub his face into the cushions and seriously ... "scoot" on the carpet, floor or couch.

The scooting thing is his anal glands. That really will make your house stink to a higher vibration of super-stinkdom.

If he is doing that, take him to the vet or groomers and get his butt squeezed for everybody's sake. It generally costs $15 and if you go in for another complaint, they often do it just to be a nice guy.

I don't let my dog on the couch except for on very special occasions, for this reason, (among others actually). If he is allowed on the couch at will, he is not going to understand why he can't join us on the couch because he smells like a yeasty old gym sock, has eye-boogers the size of grapes, and has a dingleberry stuck to his backside.

My impression is that dogs have little or no sense of this, and any hygiene that they have is something that we impose on them.

And why does he have a coat in such a condition?

Well ... because perhaps you have a sick child, a husband who just got called into the nightshift three days this week ... a class you are taking toward your degree ... an obligation at your church ... there are pretty much a gazillion possible reasons, and anybody who judges you for your dog's ishiness should perhaps help out with the bills, housecleaning or childcare instead.

if you don't have time this week to bathe or groom your dog to a "couchable" standard, you are not some kind of monster. It happens.

Solutions to the general canine funk problem

This is how I did it ...

Get an overall sense of what stinks on him and why. Then try the cheapest solution and move upwards.

The cheapest solution is NOT a $60 bag of dog kibble.

Use a shampoo from the dollar store or Walmart if you are a high roller. Use a dog shampoo though because the Ph. is different for dogs than for humans. Some people swear by dish soap. If this works for you, awesome. More money to spend on cool outings and gear for the dog.

Dry. Wait 24 hours.

Sniff.

Check out all these areas: butt, ears, mouth, paws, eyes, and ruffle the fur and see if you pick up an odor.

All of those areas are known to stink in dogs --- some of which are actually symptomatic of either a mild yeast overgrowth or a major medical condition. Then do the research on how to solve stuff like corn chip paws.

If there is no noticeable odor, wait another 24 hours. If more than a few days go by, perhaps all he needed was a bath.

I am not convinced that our dogs need to be on some sort of designer kibble "just because." There is a lot of high emotion in this department but very little scientifically-verifiable evidence that feeding a dog something like "Canidae," "Wellness" or "Blue Buffalo" has any health benefits at all, as in promoting longevity etc. over feeding them Dog Chow or Pedigree. By "scientific evidence" I mean multiple studies done independently over a long period of time comparing different cohorts of dogs and different diets and controlling for variables like breed and training and lifestyles.

But here is some anecdotal evidence: my shih-Tzu x terrier stank so bad that my eyes would water whenever he was within a couple of feet of me. I suspected that the problem was yeast, due to the gloppy gunk that I was shoveling out from under his bug eyes every day and the Dorito-paws.

I put him on an INEXPENSIVE premium diet called "Nutra-Nuggets" and over time, the eye-watering funk went away. He still smells like a dog but it is what it is. Nutra-Nuggets have also practically eliminated Squeaky's (a cream-colored miniature poodle) red tear stains. This is a generic version of that expensive Blue Buffalo stuff, by Diamond Foods. It is the same company, and NO I am not a sales rep. It is hard to find in most places.

By the way, our Rotterman did not digest Nutra-Nuggets well, and she and Barbara Boxer eat Purina Dog Chow. That was the only thing she could digest properly but that is a different topic.

If basic stuff like using a kibble low in yeast-feeding sugars, bathing, cleaning out the ears, giving him a dental chew, etc. doesn't seem to solve the problem, contact your vet because s/he might have an idea based on more sophisticated diagnostic criteria and detecting illness is part of our job as stewards to our companion animals.

Dogs have a doggie smell but it shouldn't be at a level that we consider "obnoxious." That is a sign that something isn't quite right, in my opinion.

Noisy dogs!

They get so excited when they see us! But no ... this is not a scene you want on 24 hour replay! We let them "blow off steam" in short intervals and they generally tire of it.
They get so excited when they see us! But no ... this is not a scene you want on 24 hour replay! We let them "blow off steam" in short intervals and they generally tire of it.

Dog noise problem

Well, yes ... I know that your dog uses his voice to express himself.

But perhaps he can do it less frequently ... or be more choosy about what he chooses to express, when and why ...

Or do it in a way that doesn't rival a 1980s heavy metal band in decibel output.

Or in a way that isn't analogous to nails on a chalkboard.

To be honest, most of us can tolerate our own dogs, but think of the neighbors.

If you live in an apartment or condo, somebody might be living right above you or right below you, who has to listen to your crated, anxiety-stricken German shepherd bark for 10 hours a day. And if you have dogs in your yard, your dog-less neighbors might be stuck listening to your outdoor dogs 24/7 as they engage in their neighborhood bark-offs with other dogs.

But there are solutions!

Solutions to dog barking problems

Well, there are a few but some are kind of touch and go, and others are politically incorrect.

  • Spend more time with the dog. That is pretty hit or miss. That could backfire and make him even more dependent on you, and he will bark due to separation anxiety.
  • Pay for doggy daycare. But if you are like the rest of the world, and live on anything less than a six figure salary, drop him off at a friend's house who has a dog and a yard, and give him or her some pocket change at the end of the week, or a bag of dog food for her trouble. OR be her unconditional go-to dogsitter, when she needs it. Get the key to the gate and drop him off on the way to work. Problem solved.
  • In the apartment or condo scenario, if I were the guy who is stuck listening to the dog barking all day, I would actually offer to take the dog during the day to keep him company. But that is just me. If you are that guy, consider having them purchase another crate for your house, if there are housebreaking issues. Some solutions can be frighteningly simple.
  • Get another dog and put them in the yard and let them be dogs, as long as they are quiet. Go to the shelter, get yourself a good mutt with a temperament suitable for your dog. This will work if the dog is sounding off because he is lonely and bored. And it will save a life.
  • When the dogs bark at frivolous nonsense, yell out the window, in a sharp voice: "NO!" "NO BARKING!" ... your neighbors will also hear that you are at least making the effort and they will be less annoyed. Be consistent. When they bark at stuff that raises your own hackles, praise them copiously.
  • Don't reward frivolous barking. By that, I mean, don't drop everything, run out to the yard and deliver Fido a lecture. That is attention and that is a reward. The other thing, don't throw him a bone because you will train him to bark his head off for a bone or whatever it is.
  • I use a device that emits an ultrasonic sound that gives the dogs ugly feedback when they bark. That takes the fun out of barking. I have two, and from different manufacturers. They work but the dogs can become desensitized to them. Some are very sensitive, they work best with small dogs, but they can also give ugly feedback with any high-pitched sound so the dogs might not get the connection. The one that is more suitable for larger dogs don't pick up small dogs, because the little dogs go yapping away and the big dogs are muffled. They don't destroy the bark if it is a necessary bark. All they do is make it not fun anymore for the dogs to bark frivolously. Unfortunately the devices can not penetrate anything except for a chain-link fence, and they all have a limited range.
  • Then there are electronic bark collars, a.k.a. "shock collars." Haven't tried one because the barking is at tolerable levels right now. If you go this route, please save money elsewhere. Cheap electronic collars have a reputation for misfiring. That is cruel and frankly I would rather have my dogs barking directly into my ear, all night, than even entertain the possibility that the thing could be misfiring.
  • Please do not just strap a nasty collar on Mr. Arf, crate him and call it a day. That is cruel. At least give him something to chew, or a companion, or take him on a walk to tire them out, etc. If he can't bark to release energy and stress, he might do something that is a real pain in the padoodie which is lick himself repeatedly or poop and eat it, or chew on his tail.
  • Finally, if you are the neighbor who has to listen to Mr. and Mrs. Barker, and their companion Lady Barkworthy who lives behind you, and Sir Barkenton across the street, try making friends with the dogs. Odd as it sounds, if you form a relationship with the dogs, you might have good luck because chances are they are barking because they are bored. So if you are surrounded by barking dogs, I suggest that you do get an ultrasonic device to deter them. (You might need one for every surrounding yard, actually) but actually befriending the dogs might solve the problem too, as they may be barking because they don't know what else to do with you, or about you. The ultrasonic "barkinators" are training devices ... Just hooking up a machine will be, at best ... a temporary solution without some sort of reinforcement. I would call the dog by name and give him a treat or two, if he is quiet. He will begin to like you a lot.

Shock collars are a last resort. I haven't used them on our nuisance barker, because he also happens to be our most proficient watchdog. If you have multiple dogs outside who like to wrestle, they can also chew the collar off the other dog, and chew up the device. So not suitable if you have a destructive dog in the pack, unless the destructive dog is surrounded by non-destructive dogs, and he is the barker.

I haven't used vibration or citronella collars either. My attitude is "why complicate your life?" Get the real deal, and get it over with. He won't be wearing the thing forever, it is a training device.

What doesn't work:

  • I agree with this guy: stuffing a Kong and then locking the dog up all day is a non-solution. It might feel good to suggest that kind of thing, but let's get real.
  • The idea that exercising a dog will make him bark less is like ... meh.

He will wake up, or finish his premium dog treat, and bark his head off. A sleeping dog is not a trained dog. Neither is an eating dog. He is simply a sleeping dog or an eating dog. And I don't know about you, but being locked in a routine of getting up at 5 am to take doggie-doo out for an hour long walk or jog, then get ready for work, face traffic .... sorry. They can sell that **** sandwich to somebody else!

Solutions to dog noise problem pt. 2

Very simple: do not reward noise.

Dog wants to beg at the table ... put him in his crate, strap on a bark collar and enjoy your meal in peace. Give him a reward for being quiet though, like a rawhide. That will keep him busy and redirect his anxiety.

You can try this sans e-collar, and I know that that is the politically correct way, but chances are, you will continue to reinforce the barking unless you use an aversive.

You can try ignoring him, but be prepared to have a long and noisy road ahead of you. And at some point you will have to get him out of the kennel and if you don't get a moment of silence, the dog will think that you are letting him out because he "barked you into it" (rather than "talked you into it --- see?). And saying "NO!" and all that is still attention. Even saying no and being all ugly is still better than nothing, from the dog's standpoint.

Try desensitizing.

When we are getting ready for a walk and I hear a whine from one of my dogs, I turn around and walk away. Whine = not getting your way.

The other solution to the whining problem is firing off the trigger but shooting a blank.

By this I mean ... rattle the leashes. In our dog's case, that triggers a whine. The whine is so loud that I can hear it from the yard, in the house, with two rooms and the outside wall separating us. She stopped whining when I rattled the leashes frivolously and randomly. If you are going on an excursion tomorrow, try loading the car this afternoon. Rattle the leashes, act like everybody's going somewhere and take the other dog on a drive around the block, or to the dog park or whatever. Let her whine her lungs out.

She is too smart to stop whining if one of her people are in the house though because she knows that it is only real, if everybody goes out. Perhaps take the whole family out to get groceries but loaded up as if you were going on a trip.

Do that a few times and she won't really know when it is actually a dog-trip. I believe this is called "desensitization" or "counter-conditioning."

Snuffing out the whining habit becomes harder when one of you is more tolerant of the whining and nagging than the other. Or when she whines in the middle of something, and you have to do the thing anyway that she is whining about, which reinforces the whine.

For example, let's say you are getting ready to get in the car, and you are putting a harness on the other dog and she whines. You can't stand around and wait for her to stop whining to get in the car. Not only is that a reward, as you are holding everybody up and it leads to tension and stress. So she will think that nagging and whining is what got what she wanted, which is hopping in the car.

For this kind of thing, honestly an e-collar is the only thing that works for me. Yes, a "shock collar" ... very simple. Whine ... zap. Convenient ... it is like operating your dog from a remote control.

That way, if she whines as we are taking a bit too long for her liking (such as getting ourselves ready to go, buckling three other dogs into the car, putting bags down or making sure we got everything) ... if I hear a whine I hit the button, end of story. Yelling "no" at her is still a reward because you are giving attention.

zap.

And I feel bad but guess what ... she doesn't feel bad about nagging and distracting the bejesus out of me. Sorry but every time we go for a walk, I don't want to hear whining and if you don't extinguish the behavior, it will get more and more intense because she will think that the whine is what got her the walk.

And I stopped using the e-collar and that obnoxious nagging whine came back. It came back in contexts where we really can't zap it, except by zapping.

Touche.

A note on electronic collars

When browsing for collars, you will know when your collar is from a reputable company because it carries a high price tag.

There are reasons for why a veterinarian-run company like Drs. Foster and Smith carry a limited selection of them, all of which are expensive. It is easier to make a lot of money selling lots of cheap stuff, than it is to make some money selling expensive stuff that is out of many people's price range. The fact that they have no cheaper option suggest that there really is no cheaper option that they consider ethical.

Why the massive price difference between name brand ones and cheaper ones?

Multiple layers, checks and balances in the areas of research, development, testing, manufacturing ... all that good stuff. Necessary stuff.

If you can't afford a collar from a reputable company, it is best not to use one. That is all I have to say.

Solutions to undesirable dog behavior

Behavior
negative
positive
Jumping up
*zap
"Sit!" and treat.
Bolting in and out of doors, etc.
**zap
"Sit!" and treat and attention, behind he door.
Pestering for attention
ignore
Offer attention when the dog amuses himself
Get off the couch!
**zap
Give the dog his own place, be consistent about it and make it nice for him.
Bolting into the car
Keep car door shut.
"Sit!" The reward is getting into the car.
Bolting out of the car
Dog should be belted in at all times, this should not even come up.
 
Humping other dogs
Get the dog fixed.
A neutered dog is not getting sexual gratification from this, but even if he is, so what.
Digging
***zap
Designate a digging pit in your yard. Use brick as a boundary, and train him by burying something he will be motivated to dig for. Hit the "good dog" button on the e-collar.
Pissing on the floor
Catch him in the act and take him outside. Get male dogs fixed.
If you have to, use a belly-band with a sanitary napkin, in order to protect your carpets. This is a good temporary measure but act as though he has nothing on.
The e-collar is something of a last resort but if you have tried everything and nothing works, using it could be best for your dog in the long run, if his behavior is disrupting your quality of life, or putting his life at risk. *If you are going to

Tugging, pulling on leash and downright tiring behavior on walks

I am not sure if there are people out there, who enjoy being dragged by their lab, boxer, German shepherd, rottweiler ... down the street. Maybe they are out there, but I can assure you, there is another way.

Taking the dog out for a walk should not be an unpleasant chore. It also shouldn't be something that risks your life or limbs, or puts your dog in danger.

You think that I enjoy using aversives, like a shock collar or a prong collar? I get some kind of pleasure out of it?

That would be completely off.

I have tried it all:

Walk -> "heal"-> treat. "Good dog!"

Well she got the treat, so let's keep tuggin'.

OK ... rinse and repeat.

So she got to tug a bit, got my attention, now all she has to do is stop tuggin' for a bit, and lo and behold, treat!

Awesome, isn't it.

Then there is another method ... "act like a tree."

She tugs, and we stop.

Although it makes me feel so much better about myself not using a prong collar or an e-collar or a head halter, it is getting nowhere.

Literally.

She tugs, and we stop.

Rinse and repeat.

In theory, this teaches the dog that pulling only slows you down. Dogs pull on the leash because pulling gets them where they want to go, faster.

This is probably true. However, many of our dogs are smarter than we give them credit for, and they have a "Plan B."

Making you stop draws out the walk longer, and gets your attention focused on them. The dog knows that you are stopping because of his or her actions, and not for fits and shiggles.

So you get a great sequence ...

She tugs. We stop. I say "heal!"

Heal for a while (just enough) and tug ... stop.

Brilliant.

Dog got what she wanted, which is your attention and a longer walk.

Anyhoo, if this works for you, that is great. This might work for dogs who are motivated by actually getting somewhere, rather than pulling for the sake of running the show their own way.

But if it doesn't, you have a couple of options which is a prong collar and an e-collar. I have my reasons for using both (NEVER simultaneously though.)

My reason for using these aversives is that I weigh 120 lbs. soaking wet, and I have two dogs who are far more tough, powerful, muscular and younger (in dog years) than I am. I don't care about the "dominance" issues: I just don't want to play tug-of-war with a dog, or be dragged into the street or loose the use of a finger, hand or arm.

  • The tugging and "stand still like a tree" thing won't do you a lick of good if you have a dog with a high prey drive who drags you into a busy intersection when she sees a cat or another dog. If you survive such an incident, you are one lucky dog-walker.
  • It also won't do you any good to offer treats for being a "good dog" who heals on command, and usually doesn't tug, etc. if you have a dead dog, due to the fact that he ran in front of a car, chasing something.
  • Unless you are ok with the prospect of knocking your wrist or a finger out of alignment trying to control a muscular dog on a mission, I would advise you to consider other options.
  • A dog who jerks suddenly on the leash can seriously damage a human back. We are a lot more fragile than they are.
  • Try restraining a rottweiler or Doberman who is agitated by a couple of dogs barking at him behind a fence. If you weigh 250 lbs. that is great but the rest of us need a more practical solution.
  • A dog like Dusty doesn't actually care about a pile of poop that she knows about on somebody's lawn, or getting to sniff that fire hydrant. She just wants to be in charge and control the "inflow" of attention. Belaboring walks, in the name of "training" is a good strategy for this.

With that being said ...

A prong collar is effective at making it painful for the dog to lunge, jump, chase, etc. It has a marginal effect on the tugging ... our "Rotterman" has this irritating way of tugging just enough so that it isn't painful for her, and she leads the pack.

That is why I converted her to the e-collar.

Sorry but I am not going to be led by a dog, or have my arm feel mysteriously tired at the end of a walk.

Sequence goes:

"Dusty heal!" -> Hit warning button. -> She heals. -> "Good girl!" -> Hit "reward" button.

She heals for about 3 minutes and decides that she is going to do it her way and test the waters.

... pushing ahead . . . -> "Dusty heal!" -> Hit warning button. -> doesn't listen -> Zap! -> She gets back to my side.

I hit the zapper when she is getting unfocused or walking off or trying to be slick and walk behind me (like I am not going to see where she is ... and she can edge her way to the front of the group.)

And even with the use of aversives she is still very hardheaded. So they can't be too painful for her because she still tries to pull her nonsense when she thinks she can get away with it.

The other dogs view her as the leader of the pack. That is fine and all, but when she leads the group, the other dogs don't know who to listen to, us or Dusty and then they get confused and act screwy and the whole operation begins to suck royally. And Dusty gets the idea that she, in fact, is the leader of the pack. And that brings on other behaviors that are associated with that much-maligned D-word. But who cares ... just control your dog and everybody will be happy, including the dog, actually.

By the way, don't use an e-collar without a nylon collar. For obvious reasons, do not use a metal collar with it. Restrain the dog with leash and a nylon collar and hit the button if you have to.

I dream about the day that that electronic collar collects dust in the corner of the garage somewhere. Until then, it is a useful tool.

The real reasons I don't use chokers or head halters

She is a boxer and when she gets excited you can hear her "snarfing." She has enough trouble breathing ... anything that restricts the neck is a no-go with me. She also has eyes that are pop out of her skull in an unnatural way.
She is a boxer and when she gets excited you can hear her "snarfing." She has enough trouble breathing ... anything that restricts the neck is a no-go with me. She also has eyes that are pop out of her skull in an unnatural way. | Source
I can't do it ... I can't bring myself to lead dogs like this by the nose.
I can't do it ... I can't bring myself to lead dogs like this by the nose. | Source

Why I don't use a choker or a head halter or harness

I don't use a choker because I am actually afraid of well ... choking the dog.

I have two dogs who have those bug eyes. I am afraid of doing retinal damage on the dogs, because choking the dogs puts pressure on the eyes. It is not I who would choke the dog, but rather the dog himself. When dogs get really excited by something, such as another dog barking at them from behind a fence, very little will stop them from pursuing it, and they will tug on that chain like crazy and be like demoniacally desensitized to any pain or injury it causes.

I have heard rumors of dogs eyes popping out. Not sure about all of that but this is not a risk worth taking.

A prong collar ... at worst ... could break the skin. I have never experienced this myself though. The dog would recoil in pain from a superficial injury to the skin, before the prongs will do any damage that a choker can do, which is long-term like crushing the trachea. I have never heard of a prong collar injuring a dog to the point that he is bleeding profusely, recoiling in agony, expressing fear of the collar, etc. I have never seen a prong collar injure a dog at all, actually.

I have found that the prong collar stops the dog before he can really "get into it" so to speak. A choker just isn't painful enough to deter the behavior, and then they get all nuts-o and then it is past the point of no return.

I don't use those nose-guiding-things because I think they are cruel. This is my own theory but I think that a lot of canine intelligence is in his nose. Dogs aren't people. They are very oriented by smells, and they pick stuff up with their nose that we humans can not even begin to imagine or experience, even if we were loaned their olfactory nerves for an afternoon.

As far as I know, dogs don't orient themselves visually .. as much. Like they are less responsive to shapes, colors, textures, etc.

So guiding a dog by the nose sure seems like the ultimate way of deflating his or her seat of power.

I am speculating here, but unless they have some sort of kink, people really hate being put in handcuffs. I would hate being put in handcuffs far more than being led by a leash or asked to sit, or wearing a mask that prevents me from smelling anything. That is because our hands/manual dexterity - brain connection .. is OUR seat of power ... see what I am saying?

So I don't put a halti on my dogs because to me, leading a DOG BY THE NOSE is cruel. There are reasons for why nobody ever, in the history of dogmanship, has used such a harness except for now. It is perhaps because living in close proximity to livestock, they knew what these animals are like, and what they are not.

Dogs are not horses.

And horses are not dogs.

I also don't want to deflate my dogs. I just don't want them running into the street, or exhausting me to a point to where walking them becomes a drag ... in the literal sense of the word.

My philosophy is that if you have to use an aversive, use one that is quick, efficient and then move on. No matter what you do, you are restraining your dog. You have to restrain him, by law.

I also don't use the ordinary collar on a pulling dog because I hear that you can actually damage their trachea. When a dog is hell-bent on going somewhere, and they are "above their threshold," they might not feel the injury to their throat that their 100 lbs. of lunging weight inflicts, until it is too late.

I also don't use ordinary harnesses on walks simply due to the fact that most of a dog's muscle is in his chest. I know that there are harnesses with anti-pulling features, and I must confess that I have never tried one. But if they were as effective as the "mean" stuff, we would see more of them around, rather than controversial aversives, such as prong collars.

Dogs are like .... dogs.

Yeah, the dog vs. cat thing ... it is what it is.  Anyway ... "dude ... get off my couch."
Yeah, the dog vs. cat thing ... it is what it is. Anyway ... "dude ... get off my couch."

In conclusion

In a way, dogs are like kids. Both need to be trained up, otherwise you get a product that is unpleasant to be around. Sometimes their behavior needs to be shaped using tools and techniques that are unpopular with a very vocal crowd. You try everything, and get little result, and both parties suffer more for it in the long run. Why draw out the agony?

Most of the training devices I mentioned should be temporary and as time goes by, they might find their way into your bag to use on an "as needed" basis, and finally, you misplace them because it has been so long since you used them. Once you've shaped the behavior and continuously rewarded the "good" behavior, it should become a habit.

Dogs can be wonderful creatures. They look to us for guidance, and then when they figure out what the "rules" are, they generally follow them because they learn that this is what gets them the cool stuff that they want.

Dogs are not like cats in this way. A cat will figure "well if she won't give me what I want, I'll get it on my own somehow." Plus, cats don't really want stuff like walks in the woods with their favorite human. Their brains also don't have this odd switch that sees everything as a reward to compete or perform for, like dogs do. A dog's brain says "better grab this before somebody else takes it" and this is a basic survival mechanism.

So it is best not to treat your dog like a person, or like a cat, no matter how much you might want to.

People should not have to "put up with" their dogs. That is a cruddy deal for both dog and person. They also should not be hounded and harassed when they bring up solutions that don't involve a bag of doggie treats, a clicker and a haltie.

Yes the clicker works, if you have a lot of time, patience and money for dog treats, AND if you are a one-dog family. It isn't going to prevent your dog from bolting into the street. Your dog will say "hell, you can keep your damn cookie ... I'm going after that cat!"

You also can't use realistically use a clicker for stuff like constant barking. The dog will learn to bark, and then stop to hear a click, and get a treat. Rinse and repeat.

People should enjoy their dogs. When inquiring folks are discouraged from using every available mechanism in order not have their stress levels get even higher, you know who ultimately suffers?

The dogs.

The dogs who don't get walked anymore because they pull too much ... the dogs who get thrown in the yard alone because they make too much noise in the house ... the dogs who get chained because they bit somebody. At some point, many well-intentioned people often give up, especially when life issues them more pressing demands.

Ask a shelter worker. They'll tell you exactly HOW the dogs suffer, if you have the stomach for it.

In the meantime, don't be afraid to impose discipline on your dog. You might actually save his life.

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    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      If you buy ingredients like chicken feet and necks, beef trachea and face meat, pig tripe, etc, then feeding raw is cheaper than the cheapest dog food. It is a lot more work, but I think my dogs are worth it. I have a hub on buying cheap ingredients.

      Sorry I cannot comment on the vet costs.

    • poweranni profile image
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      Anne Gillingham 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      All dogs don't stink and I certainly don't think that ANY dog HAS to stink. But some breeds are worse than others. I also don't think that is is normal for a dog to stink so bad that he makes your eyes water.

      I have not experimented with raw diets. I am a bit afraid to do so and they are kind of out of budget for me. I am afraid because if something goes wrong, we need to be able to get them to the vet and that is also out of budget.

      Dogs are remarkably resilient in what they can eat. I think that they can hunt but it seems like they prefer the "carcass" already killed, as in scavenging.

      Actually I think that two people can be at loggerheads about what to feed a dog, and both can be right.

      I will be posting some more dog articles. Thanks for your reply!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      There were just a few things, which is very few, since two dog owners will always disagree about some things.

      On the stink issue, I feed my dogs a "paleo diet", or raw meat and bones. Their skin is healthier than ever, but since they bathe every day in the ocean or river definitely not stink free. The evidence for the raw diet´s benefits are anecdotal, but it has been used enough by people around the world that I think the benefits are obvious. It is not expensive, like some of the dog food companies claim, and if you gather the right ingredients the dogs benefit in many ways.

      As far as barking goes, I think that exercise is the number one way to stop that behavioral problem, as well as so many others. My dogs go on long walks at least 2-3 times per day. All dog owners can make the time for their dogs if they really care about their "fur babies". One less TV show will make time for a half hour or one hour walk.

      My Schnauzer is bumping my leg right now and reminding me it is time for her walk.

      Thanks again for writing this!

    • poweranni profile image
      Author

      Anne Gillingham 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Thanks for the comment! I have read some of your dog posts and they are really good. I am flattered that you looked at my page!

      You say you don't agree with everything ... what would you do different?

      I am wondering because maybe you have a better approach.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Wow, very honest and you have a lot of good ideas here. I do not agree with everything, but I can tell you have put a lot of thought into this.

      By the way, not all dogs stink. And yes, I have used a prong collar too, and when you have a 60 kilo Rottie being led by an 80 year old man, sometimes it is the best solution. I agree with your ideas on the head collars--dogs are not horses.

      Sharing this too.