Reactive Knox: Elevators

If you’ve ever wondered:

  • Why I’m militant when it comes to dogs being on leash in a building
  • Why I get extremely frustrated (and cry) when an elevator incident happens

Here is a post from Your Dog’s Friend that details how much time and effort we take in management the safety of OTHER dogs in the building in order for us to take the elevator with Knox. We only take the elevator between 7:30am to 7:35am on weekdays; if we’re late, we take the stairs from the 28th floor. In the evenings, we only take the elevators between 6:45pm to 7:00pm to avoid evening dog traffic.

Original source: Your Dog’s Friend: Reactive Dogs in Multi-Use Buildings

If you have a reactive dog in an apartment building or condo, you are probably anxious every time you take your dog out. You never know what will be around the corner or down the hall, and there’s usually no means of escape. This handout will provide some tips for living in such close quarters with other dogs. Consistent practice will help make these strategies habits, instead of hassles. A few safety measures will also help you feel more confident and less stressed when you are with your dog in public areas of dog-friendly buildings. Read More


Hey, Old School Dominance Theory: School’s Out!

Again, it’s not a matter of effectiveness; hitting, poking, and pinning your dog will stop a behaviour momentarily but it doesn’t stop the reason why it happened in the first place.

All methods take time to perfect, the patience to be consistent, and the practice to be efficient. If a non-aversive, scientifically tested (and constantly researched!) method can be used with animals of all sizes and species, why opt for the aggressive, outdated and disproven methodology?

The biggest fallout I’ve experienced with Knox using reward-based communication? An excited dog that offers too many good behaviours when I don’t communicate. This is coming from a dog that used to communicate frustration by nipping hands, arms, feet, and your head, or destroying anything close.

It’s true that there’s no one-size-fits-all method with training, which is why understanding the science behind behaviour, learning and modification is so important. It uses a simple model that can adapt to all animals. Pinning, choking, and rolling assumes one thing: respect comes from dominance and you have to fight to get it.

Wilde About Dogs

Nic Phantom posingA pediatrician is attempting to examine an infant. He holds the stethescope to the tiny chest but the baby won’t stop squirming. It’s difficult to get an accurate listen. The doctor informs the mother that the baby can’t be allowed to run the show; he needs to show her who’s boss. He slams the baby on her back, places a hand around her neck, and nearly chokes her until she lies still. Does this sound absolutely crazy? Of course it does, because it is. Now replace the words pediatrician with veterinarian and baby with dog. Although the species is different, the dynamic is the same. The difference is that treating dogs this way is all too common.

The story that was partially responsible for inspiring this blog involved a nine-week-old puppy who had been nearly choked by the family vet. Unfortunately, there seens to be an endless supply of similar…

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Normal Dog Sociability Levels

Original by Bad Rap.

Paws Abilities

Just like people, dogs have many different levels of tolerance for other dogs. Most puppies and adolescents (up to about 12-18 months for most breeds) will enjoy most of the other dogs they meet. It is normal for adult dogs to be less interested in meeting and playing with new dogs. Just as we no longer play with new friends on the swings at the park, adult dogs may no longer want to meet a new bunch of rowdy dogs at the dog park. Most adult dogs prefer to hang out with other dogs they already know and like.

Below are the common levels of dog tolerance:
Dog Social: This is a dog who truly enjoys the company of other dogs. These dogs generally get along with all other dogs and can tolerate even very rude behavior. This group includes most puppies and a small percentage of socially…

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Use of physical punishment in training – why it works and the harm it can do (part 1)

“I think arguing against the effectiveness of forceful training is futile. What we should be doing is educating about the fallout or effect it has on our relationship with our dogs.”

Absolutely true. We dedicate ourselves to a “method” because we want the best for our animals. But we should continue to move forward to find the BEST way forward, rather than just “whatever works.”

Glasgow Dog Training By Dog Behaviourist John McGuigan

Before I start this post, I want to preface it by saying I am now a 100% non aversive trainer and have been for some years now. I can’t remember the last time I shouted at a dog other than my own (which was a long time before I knew any better) and don’t even say “No” any more, rather I may repeat the cue to give the dog another opportunity to respond.

If any of you have read my first post, you will know that I came from a background of traditional dog training. I took my young Dogue de Bordeaux to a sports dog club, where the use of choke chains and prong collars was common place and shock collars were sometimes seen.

The reason I used metal collars was because

1. I wasn’t shown anything different and

2. I was getting results.

My dog Bosco was a…

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Red Zone Dogs

Imagine if every time you were scared, someone punches you in the face. Now imagine that you have to live with and depend on the assailant.

Working with reactive dogs is like working with people with a phobia. Slow and gradual exposure. You only move forward when you’ve learned to be comfortable and rationalize at that instance.

Glasgow Dog Training By Dog Behaviourist John McGuigan

I re-blogged a post by the wonderful Nicole Wilde yesterday discussing whether or not some dogs need a heavier approach to training meaning more physically aversive techniques. The answer to that is no, they don’t and I agree wholeheartedly with Nicole’s well educated opinion on the matter. It got me thinking about the term “Red Zone Dog” which has been popularised by Cesar Milan on his show “The Dog Whisperer”

I want you to imagine that you are frightened of something. You have also learned that screaming and shouting and acting like a crazy person generally makes the thing you are scared of go away. You also have no ability to rationalise things. Your screaming usually works either because the scary thing wants nothing to do with your insanity or that the scary thing was going to go on it’s merry way regardless of how you act. Now, lets say the scary thing is getting closer and closer. Having learned that…

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Fear Itself

The Science Dog

Last year, on the drive home from our annual vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine, our 11-year-old Brittany, Vinny suddenly and inexplicable awoke from a sound sleep and began to tremble, pant, pace, and obsessively lick at the sides of his travel crate. When I crawled back over the seat to find out what was wrong, Vinny’s eyes were “squinty” and he avoided looking at me as he continued to lick and pant. Mike immediately pulled over to a rest area and we got Vinny out of the car. As soon as he was on the ground and moving about, Vinny relaxed, looked at us calmly, gave each of us a nice Brittany hug, and off we went for a little walk. Perplexed, we thought that maybe he had to eliminate (nope, no urgency there), was feeling carsick (no signs), or had a bad dream (who knows?). Within less than a minute…

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Training: Extinction vs. Negative Punishment

Reblogged from because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Isn’t withholding a treat negative punishment? I’m still trying to wrap my head around it; it feels a bit like semantics right now but… what do I know? I have a lot more to read!

Extinction is the cessation of reinforcement. When you shape behavior, you start by reinforcing a tiny bit of behavior. When you make your criteria harder, you stop reinforcing the lesser offerings. Because these previously reinforced behaviors are no longer being reinforced, the dog stops offering them, choosing instead to offer the new behavior that is being reinforced.

Extinction is not punishment. Punishment is an event. When you punish, you either add something (positive punishment) or take something away (negative punishment) in order to suppress a behavior. Extinction is a “non event.” You didn’t add or take away – you simply did nothing.

Read More

My Dog is Friendly! A Public Service Announcement

My usual response: MINE’S NOT! And I’m not either.

Though you’d think that Knox’s barking and raised hackles would have told them otherwise.. (body language is an important lesson to learn for so many.)

There is epidemic happening across the country and no one is safe. It’s occurring on crowded city sidewalks and spacious country walking trails. It doesn’t discriminate based on race, age, or economic status.

Innocent dogs and their owners are being terrorized, chased down the street, pinned into corners by…other dog owners.

But, you ask, don’t all dogs like to meet, greet, and play with other dogs, even unfamiliar ones? How rude of them not to greet me and my dog! Not so, kind hearted dog lovers, not so at all.

In every city, town, and suburb, loving, law abiding families share their lives with dogs that, for a variety of reasons, cannot or would rather not, socialize with other dogs.

Today I call on all dog lovers to take a stand on behalf of dogs that walk in public while they simultaneously cope with one or more of the following:

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ReactiveKnox: Counter Conditioning

While we’ve had a little bit of progress with his reactivity, I’ve spent the last month wondering why all the counterconditioning work we’ve done has gone nowhere. Counterconditioning: how hard could it be, right?

Long story short, I’ve just taught my dog to like getting treats. The stimulus should be the predictor of high value food, not my hand in my pockets!

When they say humans learn ridiculously slow, they weren’t lying. You’d think 10 months into this, I would have figured it out sooner!