I’m not seeing clients anymore, beyond helping out an occasional friend, but a conversation with some colleagues got me thinking about the value of thinking through an issue with your dog as if you were your own client. I’ve used this technique before myself–writing out the “problem behavior,” deciding what behavior I do want in its place, and then working up a plan. Yet, when I ended up looking at some posts from 2016 this week, I realized how much this skeleton plan lacks. Going through the posts I wrote on doing good intakes, I realized how much depth there might be in being your own client, whether you have one family dog or are a Certified Applied Animal Behavior consultant. I’ve decided to repost these writings, while adding my thoughts about how it might apply to ourselves, when we need a little help dealing with that one thing (at least), that we REALLY wish our dogs would do. Or not do. [My current, additional comments are in italics.]
Here, to get us started, is the first post from December, 2016:
HOW TO DO AN INTAKE INTERVIEW: I’ve thought about intake interviews every day since someone wrote, “Yes, please tell us what you asked clients during an intake interview.” I don’t know why this question speaks to me so much, but perhaps it is because of my interest in human psychology. I’ve always said that my two favorite species are people and dogs, and although there are times that the people part of that equation challenge my affection, I still am equally fascinated by the species at both ends of the leash.
That might be why I’ve found myself thinking not so much about what I asked clients, but how I asked it. Honestly, the bare bones facts that you need are pretty straight forward (I’ll list them next week in Part II), but I’m going to argue that HOW you ask the questions is the key to a good interview. Ah, yes, highly relevant here for ourselves as clients, yes? How do we talk about ourselves–as trainers, as owners–when our dog does something that’s not up to our expectations or desires? Me, often not as kindly as I would to a client.
Much of what I’m about to say is not a strategy that I carefully considered. It is just what I did, and in hindsight, I think that there were good reasons for it. Nor do I think it’s the perfect prescription for an intake interview; there are many roads to the top of the mountain. I am counting on the vast experience of our readers to add their wisdom and experience to this discussion. But here are some thoughts from me to get us started:
GREETING THE CLIENTS First impressions, right? Job one is to let people know you care about them. “Did you find the office without any trouble?” “Oh, such a long drive, can I get you some tea or coffee?” It seems so simple, but that doesn’t make it trivial. How many appointments have you had in which you were immediately asked to hand over your insurance card, or to give your birth date? How did that feel? What a difference it makes if someone first inquires about YOU! If we expect clients to listen to us and take our advice, we need them to feel like we’re on their side. Let them know that right away. First things first. What could be more important? And how kind are we being toward ourselves? Need a little tea? A kind word?
GREETING THE DOG Our next job, immediately after asking about the client, is to focus on the dog. No matter what the dog is doing, how you feel about Scandinavian Tree Hugger Hounds or Ethiopian Rough-legged Dachshunds, or if the dog looks like the bad guy in a B movie who is about to pull the trigger, you have GOT to let the owners know that you care as much about their dog as you do them. This is easy for most of us, because we wouldn’t be doing consults if we didn’t care about dogs, right?
The trick is to respect what the dog is telling you (as in “…for the love of heaven do not approach me right now…”) while making it clear to the clients that you truly care about their dog. This can be tricky. I can’t tell you how many clients I have had who said “Oh, he’s fine, go ahead and pet him” while the dog lip licked, and whale eyed and did everything he could to pretend he wasn’t in the room, begging me with every possible visual signal to stay away, at least for now. The fact is, you have to respect both needs: The dog for space, and the owner’s need to have you interact with their dog. I’ll say something good about the dog first thing, even if it’s “What a gorgeous tail Ripper has!” Then I’ll explain that Ripper is telling me he’s a bit nervous—see how he keeps turning his head away from me and his mouth is closed up tight?” Always appropriate, of course, no matter who the dog lives with. Respect is the name of the game in my opinion, I can’t think of any thing much more important. That doesn’t mean catering to our dogs–I meant no disrespect to Maggie last night when I said “Enough,” and pat, patted her head after her 1,287th attempt to get me to keep petting her after 30 minutes of doing it non-stop. (And Jim was still petting her from the other side.) Boundaries, right?
This moment is a wonderful opportunity to start teaching owners how to read their dog, especially for subtle signals related to fear or anxiety. It’s also a fine time to exploit our tendency to be anthropomorphic. I had so many clients who were resistant to seeing their dog as fearful, but it helps when you couch the issue in human terms— “Would you want a hug from a stranger who was 10 feet tall before you even had a chance to get a good look at him?” But no matter what is going on, you have got to communicate to the owners that you don’t just love dogs in general, but that you are committed to getting to know and help their dog. Asking a list of questions about a dog’s medical history, diet and daily exercise isn’t going to do that. Whether you admire a dog’s tail or sit down on the floor and let him slobber all over you, make it clear to the owners (and the dog if you can) that you are establishing both a professional and a personal relationship. I don’t need to say here that “reading” dogs is probably the most important thing we can do for them. That doesn’t just mean being able to interpret their expressions and gestures, it means paying attention. Not as easy as it sounds, and not possible every second of every day for any of us. But, still . . .
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? People want to tell you about the problem as soon as you’ll let them. Why not, that’s what they are there for; that’s what has kept them up at night worrying themselves sick. And yet, so many intakes I’ve seen start with details that might be important when we are designing a treatment plan (age, diet, daily routine), but feel like diversions to the client. How do you feel when the nurse or PA sits you down in the doctor’s office and asks you a gazillion questions, while focused on her computer screen? Valued? Taken care of? Feeling the love?
I found early on that clients are desperate to tell you what’s wrong. That’s why it’s my first question. “Why are you here?” “What’s going on?” “How can I help you?” Pick your favorite phrase, but let them tell you what the behavior problem is before asking anything else. Otherwise, you are just frustrating them and losing an opportunity to communicate that you are on their side. Probably not a problem here if the dog lives in your house. You KNOW that Barney lunging at the door when visitors come is the reason you have sat down and put pencil to paper. Thus, you have a great advantage over a consultant or trainer!
BE PATIENT An answer to this question can take five seconds, or a half an hour. Usually it takes several minutes, because any answer needs clarification. “He’s aggressive to other dogs” leads, as you well know, to a discussion about what dogs, where, and what “aggressive” means. If there are two people in the room (or more), be sure to ask everyone, because they often have different experiences with the same dog (not to mention different perspectives). As a wife, friend, professional, as well as a dog owner trainer, I am ALWAYS patient, every second of every day. I am sure you knew that and expected nothing less from me. But then, you also probably expect honesty, so, uh, never mind.
KNOW YOUR ABCs Now is the time to thank behavior analysts like Dr. Susan Friedman, who remind us that the key to changing a behavior is to understand its Antecedent (some people call them “triggers”), the exact, actual Behavior, and the Consequences of the behavior. First, what happens right before the problem behavior occurs, or, what is the Antecedent event? I asked clients “If I promised you a $100 if you could get the dog to do X right now, what would you do?” That gives me a good idea of what triggers the behavior, which will be critical information when I was designing a treatment plan. This is a GREAT question to ask anyone who lives with a dog and wants to change a behavior. Ask it of yourself, because knowing the answer can be critical to success.
Next, what exactly is the Behavior that is problematic? As I noted earlier, it can take some time to get a good, detailed picture of what’s going on. “He goes crazy at the door” is only helpful if you know what “goes crazy” means. After several years, I learned that asking people to “be a video for me and describe exactly what I would be seeing when visitors come” is an effective way to get a good description. Of course, seeing it yourself as the visitor, or watching a video is much better than a verbal description, but you don’t always have that option. Be specific, be specific, be specific! It will help you as much as anyone else. EXACTLY what does your dog do that you want to change? Remember that behavior occurs in micr0-seconds, so if your dog “goes crazy at the door,” is it the rushing, the barking, the leaping that’s the problem, or the selling all of his toys to buy Bitcoin?
Finally, what is the Consequence of the behavior, or what happens immediately afterward? Does the dog achieve an increase in distance between it and another dog if she barks aggressively on the street? Does growling by a nervous dog result in a withdrawn hand? In other words, what is reinforcing the behavior? Something is, or by definition, it wouldn’t be happening, right? Yup, don’t skip this part. It sounds so simple but it’s often not what you think. Try video taping too, you might be amazed at what you’ll learn.
In addition to getting clear on the ABCs, I’ve found it essential to get a good chronological history of the problem. You can ask when it first started and work up to the present, but I’ve found it most useful to start with the most recent incident and work backward. That way you can discuss what is fresh in the client’s mind, and work your way back in time. Working back one incident at a time also seems to help jump start people’s memories, and often I’d have clients say “Oh! Wait! I forgot… do you remember that Ripper was attacked at the dog park the week before he began growling there?” This could be hugely important to any dog lover. Maybe not so much the crazy at the door scenario, but what about that dog who was fine on walks but is now growling at any dog she sees? Finding the beginning of such a problem can lead to finding the solution.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE? This question is as important as the ones above. It is also one that often surprises the client. I don’t need to tell this group that you can’t stop X behavior without deciding on what you want to replace it with. But it is exactly what many dog owners haven’t yet thought about. “I just want him to stop X!” they say, without having pictured what they’d like the dog to do. This is one of my favorite parts of the interview, because it is where you can begin to provide a path to what will make both the owners and the dog happy. What I didn’t say in the original post is that this idea behavior needs to be not just what the person wants, but what the dog is able to do. I had a client who wanted their five-month old puppy to stay, for hours, on a tiny towel placed on the living room rug. I suggested a stuffed dog. (I really did, but as kindly as I was able. I also never saw her again, so apparently I wasn’t kind enough. Fail.)
OBSERVATIONS OF THE CLIENTS This is another critical part of the interview. While you’re talking to the client(s), what is happening? If it’s a couple, how are they seated? Are they facing away from each other and never look at each other’s faces? Is the single owner in your office unable to keep her hands off her dog? Does one spouse continually tell the dog to stop exploring the office, lie down and stay put? All of this should have a significant impact on how to talk to the owner(s) and what kind of treatment plan you suggest. Oh, this is huge! If you and the dog live with anyone else, you don’t get to go through this without everyone living in the same house. And I mean it about being observant! It’s easy to make assumptions about people who live with you, and not give them the same amount of attention and focus as we would a stranger. Totally understandable, but not helpful, right? Does your spouse/partner/room mate look away when you describe the behavior you’re going for? Uh huh, pay as much attention to that as your dog, it matters.
OBSERVATIONS OF THE DOG Wait? Isn’t this about the dog? Have I forgotten the dog? Nope, honest. While all this talking is going on I’m watching the dog. If it is safe, (as in, I’m not about to be mutilated), I ask the owner to let the dog off leash as soon as the door to my office is closed. You can learn so much a about a dog, and his relationship with his owner if you give him the freedom to make his own choices. Does he avoid me? Fine, that provides a lot of information. Sniff the carpet obsessively for 10 minutes? That’s useful too. The only exception, of course, is if my internal red flags start waving, and I think the dog needs to be restrained for my own safety. That didn’t happen very often, because I’m pretty darned good at avoiding a confrontation with a dog, but when it did I didn’t hesitate to say something like: “Ripper and I don’t seem to be comfortable with each other. Would you put his leash back on for now? That way Ripper can relax while we can focus on talking.” Notice there’s no blame going around—just a simple request that will allow me to focus on something besides my own tender flesh
Of course, if the dog enters the lobby with a tense mouth and body, and goes out of his way to look directly at my face with eyes as hard as obsidian, I’m not going to suggest that the dog comes off leash right away once we enter my office. Not until he begins to soften, and also not until the owner is comfortable letting the dog off. If the owner says “I’d rather keep him on leash,” we absolutely must respect that, even if the dog is a melted puddle of Christmas caramel and is begging us to pet his belly. Our job is to make the owner comfortable, not to impress him or her. Again, observations are everything, no matter the context. If you have any doubt, or the issue is serious, do what you can to video tape the behavior and your responses. I’ve seen tongue flicks in my dogs I never noticed in real time. Don’t beat yourself up about this, there’s not a brain around that can take in everything, all the time. Just know the limitations of any of us, and do what you can to overcome them.
BE FUNNY IF YOU CAN I say that in all seriousness. I can’t emphasize enough how nervous people are when they come to talk to you the first time. The more relaxed they are, the more they will remember, the more honest they’ll be, and the more open they will be to taking your suggestions. However, if you can’t channel your inner stand up comedian, don’t try to fake it. Your clients will see through that in a microsecond. However, you could say “This is when I want to say something funny to lighten things up, but I’m never gonna be able to quit my day job to be a comedian. I can’t even remember any good jokes. But I do care deeply about helping you and Ripper, and I have some ideas for you that might help a lot.” Mission accomplished. You HAVE lightened things up, and just increased the empathy quotient in the room up to high. Yes, yes, yes, to all of us! This is especially important for all of us because we can be sooo hard on ourselves. The expectations of how a good dog owner/companion should behave have sky rocketed, and not always in any one’s favor (including the dogs). I’ve talked to people smothered in guilt who tried to save a cancerous dog by seeing 8 vets, spent tens of thousands of dollars, and still felt horrible they couldn’t save their dog from the inevitable. I talk to people all the time who are SOOO hard on themselves for not being perfect trainers, or feeding the absolutely perfect food (there is no such thing), or having a dog who doesn’t behave like Lassie in a movie. So your dogs jumps up on visitors because they love them so much? If the visitors don’t care, (I don’t), why should you? (And if someone wobbly or who does care comes over, there’s always that leash by the door, or the crate in the back room.) Laughing at ourselves, and our dogs, might be the most important part of this whole post. We are human. We are occasionally brilliant, reliably inconsistent, often unclear, usually well-motivated, and most often doing the best we can with the skills we have, at the time we need them. Be your own best friend for a moment, and be as kind to yourself as you would your dearest friend. On a good day.
By the way, in 2016 I wrote a follow-up post, Intake Interviews, Part II, with more details about the questions I asked. Check it out if you want more.
Okay your turn! Whether you see clients, or see your one dog lasering his eyes at you because you almost forgot his dinner, jump in here with your own thoughts and observations. We’ll all learn from it, and appreciate your time.
[One last note: I mistakenly erased a lovely comment after the post about Therapy Dogs, which included a link to the “spoon theory.” Links to the theory are fine (ie, those of us with lupus, or, chronic fatigue, for example, only get so many spoons to give away every day. When you’re out, you’re not “tired.” You’re out. If that was your comment, my apologies and thanks for weighing in!]
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: It is glorious here. Sixties to seventies, blue sky high pressure, a riot of flowers, and a jewelry store of colorful birds. Here are some native Columbine blooming in front of Iris buds:
Behind those flowers are the Mystery Woods, so called because we rarely ventured there for years, when it was a jungle of honeysuckle and buckthorn. We’ve gotten rid of those, and are working on encouraging more native plants. We’ve succeeded with the Garlic Mustard, but Dame’s Rocket is another thing altogether. But some native plants are coming in; I’ll take photos of them when they start to bloom.
I have a nasty cold right now, $%#!@%$#%, but Jim and I got to the newly redesigned International Crane Foundation before it kicked in. Cranes are some of the world’s most amazing birds, and 10 of the 15 species are endangered. The ICF works in 50 countries around the world to protect the cranes, and their habitat, which is as good for people as it is for cranes.
Here is Omega, a male Whooping Crane, one of our native cranes, in a large, natural enclosure:
I rather liked him performing a grooming ballet:
This next photo is of a Wattled Crane, tending to an “egg,” that is more likely a rock. For some species, the staff take the egg(s) to ensure that it hatches and is healthy.
Here’s a welcome visitor to the crabapple blossoms. The yard is literally buzzing. Love it.
[Maggie and Skip would like you to know that they ARE NOT PLEASED that there are no photos of them this time. Skip is learning to carry the camera for Trisha, who keeps FORGETTING TO TAKE IT WITH HER UP THE HILL FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, like she JUST DID, and Maggie is perfecting the muzzle bump once they all get up the hill to take photos of her working the sheep. Ahem. Promises, promises.
I’ll see if your blog lets me publish a comment; usually it won’t.
So my one big problem with Poppy is recall. She’s a Decker Rat Terrier, so a hunter (we also do agility together). I try VERY hard to be ‘sexier than a squirrel,’ but it doesn’t always work. We have five fenced acres, but she keeps finding ways to get out that I haven’t tracked down (she’s sneaky, and there is abundance plant growth in NW Oregon). Eventually she’ll return to our entrance gate and whine to tell me that she can’t get in, but I am terrified that something bad will happen to her while she’s AWOL sometime, and the stress is shortening my life. On top of that, sometimes she thinks it’s a grand game to chase the horses, which also puts her at mortal risk, and SHE WILL NOT BE CALLED OFF. I finally broke down and ordered an electronic collar that beeps, vibrates, and, heaven-forbid, shocks, but I don’t really know how to train her to it and don’t want to mess up.
I documented our first year of working as a Therapy Dog team with my dog. But somehow I did a really smart thing. I documented both from my own perspective and from that of D’Artagnan. It’s now in the editing stages of becoming a book and D’Artagnan and I are co-authors to the book. I could easily write my observations and learnings on a visit as we learned to be partners but writing about how he felt about things and what he was learning and figuring out required me to genuinely pay attention and think about his perspective in a way I’d never done before. At times I was genuinely surprised by what he had to say. I know we ask a lot of dogs having them join us in our human designed world but I’d never really understood how confusing and downright arbitrary humans are. D’Art and I are far better partners for having done this.
If I were seeing clients I think one of the things I’d ask of them is to describe what’s happening from the dog’s perspective. It was an eye opener for me and we weren’t working on a problem issue but merely learning to work together. I suspect a person could learn a lot about a problem behavior by thinking about how their dog would describe it.
I love your gorgeous flowers. At my house currently it is Rhododendron heaven. I love the stunning display when I walk out my front door.
And finally, if I may, a suggestion for @Michelle. Simone Mueller has a predation substitution book and course that could be very helpful for keeping Poppy off the horses. D’Artagnan, a giant Great Pyrenees, would try to chase rabbits on a walk. Since he is stronger than I am and can run faster than I can this was a problem. Simone Mueller’s course made all the difference in the world. We can now walk through a rabbit infested meadow and watch them and stalk them and do it all without me being endangered.
Charlotte Kasner says
I would be interested to hear how people manage the “marriage guidance” bit. So often the dog is in the middle of the conflict between the humans, especially if one partner is bearing the brunt of the unwanted behaviour and if they don’t really agree that a behaviourist is necessary.
It can be hard enough to persuade clients that they will have to make changes to get the results that they want, never mind if the one person getting on board with it is being undermined by the other household members.
Of course this happens with training too.
Paula D Sunday says
Much of what you have in this post is what I have done for years. Like you mostly retired, now. I am absolutely sure I learned how to do this and why from years of following you around to seminars! Full disclosure I have read and recommended all your books and published works to clients over the years and even to shelter workers who need more information to work with unknown dogs on a regular basis. Thanks for all you give to us to help people learn about their own dogs. I love the light bulb moment when they “see” the dog’s communication with them. So thanks for this posting as a reminder to anyone who communicates with owners and their dogs. I have learned so much from you!!!
Thanks Paula! And yes, isn’t it great when clients see things they’ve never noticed, and how much it improves their relationship. Makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it?
Charlotte: Oh, how I wish, we all wish, we had a magic wand. All we can do is try by being as understanding as possible to both sides. I’ve have many clients who truly did “get it” when I explained things anthropomorphically. (How many times did I say, usually to a large, strong man who dismisses his wife’s concern about getting bitten: “Imagine you are living with someone 8 feet tall, who weighs 350 pounds, and wants to stab you with a knife.”) I did tons and tons of mirroring, did all I could to help each party feel listened to and respected, and talked a lot about from the dog’s perspective as well as their own. In some cases, very carefully, I suggested counseling (often just to one in a different conversation.) Worst were the clients who I felt danced on the edge of domestic abuse… Argh, this is not an easy job. And people think we spend our time running through fields of daisies with puppies.
Kat, I love love love this double perspective! Can’t wait for the book. And thanks for the recommendation to Simone’s book. I think I have it, but will look for it again.
This is such a helpful and timely post. I haven’t taught classes in a couple years and don’t advertise for privates anymore. The occasional, “can you help this person” still pops up… one coming this week. Thank you for the link to your Intake Interviews and all these reminders!
(Love that your cold hasn’t dampened your sense of humor :>)
In my view, supervision is key. I’m not a fan of dogs wandering on their own, even within an enclosed space. Without Poppy under your watchful eye there’s not much hope of reinforcing preferred alternative behaviour. I’d also prefer to characterize her evasiveness as clever and adaptive, although I perfectly understand “sneaky”. My dogs understand my training messaage as “Don’t get caught counter-cruising” vs “Don’t do it”, so they take care to prevent their tags from rattling or their nails from clicking when they hit the floor. Sneaky, yes, but I have to admire their canine brilliance. For e-collar training, I’d recommending consulting Robin MacFarlane first. Best of luck.
Ted Ridley says
Sorry Tricia, my comment was in reference to Michelle’s post, specifically. I was nodding along as I read your post, from the vantage point of both dog trainer and child/youth/parenting mental health specialist. Besides the handy ABC acronym, I try to follow up in some way with a remark on the important considerations re consequences, positive or negative; that it’s not the severity of the negative consequence that is most important, but the immediacy, salience, and inevitability or reliability, in both instances that need to be examined. Love your blog, thanks.
As we began our succession of living with dogs-with-issues, I ran head-on into a steep learning curve that I didn’t even realize existed. Thankfully, I found your books (and a few others 😉 and this blog. Our many dogs and the pair of two-leggeds thank you for improving our collective lives and adding a tremendous amount to our gross national happiness quotient. We literally couldn’t have done it without you and this village.
I confess that in the early years of Olive, I often felt inadequate to the task of helping her have the best life possible (I still have that feeling creep in every now and then). She had so many issues and so many triggers that I felt like Lucy in that chocolate candy wrapping episode. I couldn’t move as fast as the conveyor belt and panicked at the increasing speed of belt and the numbers of chocolates (issues) needing to be wrapped up (addressed correctly and sustainably). I felt like stuffing each new anxious behavior into my shirt. In other words, I was overwhelmed and under-resourced, and I had a sentient being who was suffering. It was a lot.
It wasn’t until I searched for a holistic vet that would help Olive and me create a plan for her rehab and physical therapy (she blew out her CCL and I knew in my heart of hearts that surgery wasn’t an option for her. I was correct, but as her physical world shrank, her demons got larger). We needed someone who would look at the whole dog and the whole environment and work with us as we were and see where we could go. Luckily, we found the perfect vet match, and then we found a vet behaviorist. The village was filled with team Olive. Both vets asked many questions, observed us frequently, asked me to write up detailed descriptions of Olive’s pre- and current conditions and worked with us to make a plan that we all could follow and that would ultimately help Olive—physically and mentally. We switched her food, her supplements, her stimuli. It involved a lot of note taking and daily journaling and listening to Olive, and it involved a lot of trust. That is one thing I would add to your steps. We needed to trust each other and trust the dog implicitly.
Her behaviors at the time were clear signs of serious distress more than unwanted behaviors. The unwanted behaviors came later, and by then, we could either ignore or redirect most of the time. (She is a terrier after all😉
Fast forward 12 years, and Olive is hovering around 14 and going a bit blind and deaf. She is still and will always remain awe-inspiring.
Love your comment Ted about the importance of immediacy, salience, etc. Truly critical. Timing is easy to understand but critical, salience to the dog I think is our biggest challenge, and what so many newbies don’t understand. Understandably.
LisaW: Olive is going on 14?! Oh my, Olive, Olive. I feel like I know her. She might be the luckiest dog in the world to have you, and have a village of vets and behaviorists to work so hard to figure her out. I love your reminder that we need to add “resources” onto the list. I too feel so lucky to have some great vets who also understand behavior in that they respect my saying “no, that won’t work for Willie.” Or me. Please give Olive my love, in the way she would most appreciate it. And thank you for letting us go along with you on your journey.
Barb Stanek says
Sometimes it’s not what we want the dog to do differently, but what we want to have done differently ourselves! Oh my! I am regularly lax when it comes to reliable husbandry training. Have been for years. None of my dogs have been the worse for my laxity.
Along comes my current (and probably last PWD — as I age, my energy level does not match theirs!) pup. Turns out that he is extremely allergic to the blooming spring grasses and has been trying to lick the pollen away. He has only suceeded in making his front paws so raw and tender!
And, he is not happy with my “it-will-feel-better-if-you -let-me-put-meds-between-your-toes” strong-arm approach! So now I am doing what I should have done all along! Teaching him to let me touch his feet! That’s going well. The meds should get administered in about two or three days. Lucky me, he is forgiving! He did chew up one clicker, however!
So I don’t want the excessive licking. I need to train my beloved pup to let me handle his feet. Ah yes. I think I remember hearing that before.
I fostered failed an abused overbred female pitbull/am staff who does not like men, and runs and cowers to loud noises. I have had her for 7 months and she is truly a smart good dog. We have completed household obedience and I took her to a professional trainer for pulling on leash issues. She now wears something akin to the gentle glider and while the pulling is significantly better, she is still so strong that she can continue to pull. Usually because she wants to be first, so if anyone on the trail is in front of us, well oh boy here we go, can I add that many many people get on the trail in different ways. When she is focused on getting ahead there is not a treat in the world that she is interested in, including praise. She does sit, stay, wait, down almost perfectly at home, but distractions well…I haven’t given up! any thoughts anyone, I am 63 and we walk 4 miles per day!
To lak: First off, 4 miles a day? Yay on you. Second, how about the tried and true Premack principle? It’s what I used on Skip going up the hill to work sheep. His reinforcement was going forward. If he charged ahead I’d just slow or stop. If he stayed beside me, even for a second, I’d let him go, because that was what he wanted (ie, the most predictable behavior). Gradually expected longer and longer of him not pushing forward. (This is off leash, usually I’m on a 4-wheeler now. He knows the sound of the engine and all I have to do is take a touch off the gas, and he’ll slow down himself. It’s become a fun game we play.)