Needs some positive training tips for aggressive dog

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by Adrienne, Aug 9, 2006.

  1. Adrienne

    Adrienne New Member

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    I am really interested in finding out how positive trainers deal with aggressive dogs.

    Some of you may know about Katya already. She is a six-year-old Caucasian Ovcharka, (very basic breed info can be found here http://www.i-love-dogs.com/dog-breeds/Caucasian-Mountain-Dog.html)

    Basic background. Katya was in obedience training at a very young age. She is very responsive to commands in certain situations, excluding ones that include suspicious people/animals. She is well mannered with her family and those she knows. She is not play motivated and has very little intrest in food rewards. Katya has been raised by my mom for the majority of her life. While under my mom's care Katya has bitten four people and consistently aggressed moving vehicles, bikes, adults, children, other animals. While under my care for over a year I never once had a problem with aggression, she was properly introduced to people and other pets on my terms. When she first met someone new and would aggress she was given a verbal correction first and if that was not enough she was given a collar correction on a buckle collar(we always use a prong on walks for everyone elses safety). If that still was not enough she was placed into a seperate room for the visitors safety.

    Question. How do you positive trainers teach a dog proper behavior without corrections when the dog has no interest in rewards during their high payoff behavior of lunging and aggressing? Desensitization has been attempted but under the right circumstances (everyday run in's on walks, etc.) no matter the length of time the dog has been allowed to become desensitized (honestly tried for months) the behavior continues. When Katya goes into guard mode there is no stopping her with treats/reward, she has absoulutly no interest in anything except getting to the perceived threat.

    During Katya's time here she went on daily walks with me, whenever I saw a person approaching us we stepped off the walk to the side, issued a sit command and made sure she was not looking at the person. If she aggressed she was given a firm correction with the leash. Within two weeks time she ceased to exhibit aggression on walks at any person or moving object.

    Now she is back with my mom, next door to me. We walk all four dogs daily for approximately 2-4 miles. My mom uses Cesar's methods of implementing exercise, correct discipline, and then affection. This has been working well for her and she is finally confident enough to walk Katya on her own (took about six months). We both are honestly curious to hear how a NRM and only positive enforcement would be used with a dog of this caliber with no interest in rewards.

    How would you initially approach the dog and what type of response would you issue when the dog lunged, ready to attack? How long of a desensitization period would you use to condition the dog not to aggress every moving object/person. How would you build up to the moment of the introduction, keeping in mind everyones safety?

    I would really appreciate a breakdown of the methods you would use in this type of situation. I have been planning to try some new methods even though the ones I used with her were successful to a degree that she is not a threat anymore.

    This thread is not intended to spark any arguments or debates, I am all for using whatever techniques work for you and your dog. I am just really interested in having the techniques broken down so I can attempt a new angle with her training.
     
  2. elegy

    elegy overdogged

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    i think that's the key to it right there- you need to step in and act BEFORE that little switch flips.

    a lot of positive-method training to deal with aggression/reactivity is about preventing the dog from popping off. if the dog goes bananas and self-rewards, it's a big set-back to training. so you start small and far away, rewarding the behavior you want in a place where the dog is able to respond to you, where the dog is NOT aggressing.

    it's hard, especially if your dog has a lot of triggers, and it can take a very very long time, but you end up with a more trust-worthy dog than one who has just been subdued with corrections.

    a book that might be of interest to you is bringing light to shadow by pamela dennison. it's her journal of rehabilitating an aggressive border collie through only positive methods. she's also got another book called how to right a dog gone wrong but i've not read it. her website is http://positivedogs.com/
     
  3. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    If Cesar Milan's methods are working for you and your dog is no longer aggressive toward anyone at any time, why not stick with those?

    Positive method trainers don't use punishment, as in collar yanks or scoldings for aggression because the premise is that you're associating a bad thing with the people the dog is lunging at. So, instead of making the people into good things....friends, you're making them seem even more rotten. This is how dogs think....they make associations between things, tie things like that together.

    When you say your dog is not interested in food, doesn't your dog need to eat? How does it stay alive? There are ways to make sure the dog has motivation, reinforcement and reward. A couple of books I recommend highly: Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson and Don't Shoot the Dog, Karen Pryor. Sometimes people say positive methods don't work. But they do. It's often that they're not being implimented properly. They work because there's proof all over the place that they do. They use clicker training, for instance in all kinds of venues with dogs and they use it with other animals, tigers in zoos have been clicker trained to accept medical procedures like drawing blood without the former necessity of anesthesia. If you're interested, I'd find a trainer who is well versed in this and look into it. It's fun, makes for a more thinking dog, a happier dog than one who obeys in order to avoid an unpleasant consequence. It's so much more fun to work for a pleasurable one. And it's been shown scientifically that working for a reward is more effective than working out of avoidance. A dog is less apt to shut down, become submissive, become aggressive and is just plain more willing to work when bad things aren't happening to it.

    When the dog is acting out toward somone, there is some moment where he is not. He has to breathe. He has to take a breath between his barks or snarls. You can shape this behavior into longer periods by use of clicker training along with a properly carried out desensatization process to get him so he is indeed more comforatable around people.

    It is impossible on the Internet to do much. There would need to be known a lot more about this dog as far as it's history, it's experiences, socialization, how it's dealt with in day to day interactions.

    Dogs do what works. If it works to keep people away from him by his lunging and barking, then that is reinforcement for him. Also, jerking his neck and using aversives tends to cause aggression and/or aggravate it.

    Since this is the Internet, it is not really a great idea to base your training plan on it since no one can really see or know what is behind this. It's different when it's something like food or toy guarding aggression. That one is usually more basic. If you don't like the method you're using or it's results, it's longevity, it's reliability....if you think Cesar Milan's ways might be supressing behavior, but not getting at the source of the problem, whereby it may turn up later or in some other problem, I would suggest you find a certified behaviorist who uses and specializes in operant conditioning/motivation and reward based methods.

    A book which I recommend would be "Click to Calm...healing the aggressive dog." (Emma Parsons) Other authors to look for would be Jean Donaldson, Ian Dunbar, Karen Pryor.

    But in addition to reading more, I really think in this case, you need some hands on help. Good luck.
     
  4. Angelique

    Angelique New Member

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    Alright now, I'm really getting sick and tired of this almost blinding support of Cesar. Don't you realise that there is also a correct time and place where positive reinforcement works wonders?! Geeze! :D :D

    I start with Cesar's methods to address (not supress) behaviors and stabalize a dog - there is a difference. And, to help a dog understand their place and relationship with their owner. So, most of it IS working with the owner, and the dog's stability will follow. I usually find behavior problems in the dog to be a symptom of the relationship with the owner and/or household environment.

    Once a dog is stabalized in the relationship with the owner, I incorporate training methods which are largely positive reinforcement based. Corrections are mostly replaced by verbal boundaries and communication about what I want before the behavior happens or escalates, so I am also directing and instructing rather than simply reacting to the dog's behavior with a reward or punishment.

    I believe a dog finds great reward and a relief of stress in the stability and safety of good leadership and knowing their place with their social group, too.

    IMOAE, dogs clearly understand direction and instruction and respond far better in addition to reward, rather than when only receiving a reward or unpleasant consequence after the fact.

    I'd say your mom sounds like she has done well with this dog so far. I'd support the program she is working with the dog, and add in training as you go. :)
     
  5. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Huh? I don't get it. I wasn't being sarcastic. I meant what I said. The op had an aggressive dog and now it's not or at least it's better and this is what they've been using. So...if they're happy with everything, they think they've got it licked.... that's great. Why look for something else? If they're uncomfortable about anything, then I suppose that would be a reason to look for another way.
     
  6. Angelique

    Angelique New Member

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    I'm just teasin' you in good fun, Doberluv! :)
     
  7. RD

    RD Are you dead yet?

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    Of course people should stick with what works, but I think Adrienne just wants to know if there is a more positive approach that she can take to training Katya. I know that using physical correction is working with one of my dogs who has occasional issues with people, but I'd prefer to use positive methods if possible.

    Is there a way to build up a dog's motivation and drive? I know I've seen people working young dogs/puppies to be more drivey, but is there anything that can be done to build food/toy drive with older dogs?
     
  8. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Oh, duh...I'm a little slow witted. Oops. .:)
     
  9. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Well, I'm getting the idea that people don't want to hear about it, but since you asked, here's my opinion. The most motivated dogs I've ever seen are trained with positive training methods, void of collar corrections and most forms of punishment...etc.

    Using only positive methods, they are working toward earning something rather than away from, or working to avoid a consequence. IMO working toward something or forward builds momentum and drive. They also use their own heads more, are more mentally stimulated because they're not being forced to do something, but are given a choice....to think about. OF course, they're set up to make the "right" choice. But they still become more thinking animals. I think that punishment in the way of collar yanks etc tend to not only stop the behavior you're aiming at, but also other behavior which may be happening at the same time....so that the dog shuts down to some degree....tones down. This is not what you want if you want a drivey dog.

    Drive, I believe is in part....a part of the individual dog's personality. I'm sure it can be modified with a lot of encouragement and good management, but a lot of that is what a dog is born with, I think.

    Also a little deprivation will increase the value of rewards. But you still need to find what motivates your dog. Something does or the dog would lose the will to live. (IMO) If a dog is happy about anything, find out what it is which floats his boat. Deprive him of it a little bit and it will be more valuable to him yet.
     
  10. RD

    RD Are you dead yet?

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    I agree with you, Doberluv. I know part of it is personality and breed, but my dog who was trained with positive methods is much more motivated by food and toy rewards than my dog who was trained with aversive methods.

    However, is there something wrong with my dog when he goes to sniff the ground instead of getting his food reward? He knows what behavior is wanted, but there is still something more rewarding to him about smelling the ground. I've tried fasting him for three days, and only when he reached the peak of his hunger did he stop paying attention to distractions and look at my hand with the food in it. I really do think it's odd that he doesn't value food very much; has he just been spoiled and taught that food will always be available to him twice a day? Or does he have no survival instincts whatsoever?
     
  11. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    Have you read the book, Culture Clash? It's invaluable to me. She offers so many good ideas. You might find that very helpful. And next, Don't Shoot the Dog? I loved those books.

    Why not turn the sniffing of the ground into a reward for him? He seems to like it a lot. What do you suppose is on the ground which he finds interesting? If he doesn't like food treats, how about some unusual smell that dogs like, something a little on the gross side and smear it on a piece of wood or cardboard (not too big) and carry it around in your other hand. When he does something even close to what you want, give him a little sniffing party. LOL. You can start out using it as a lure to keep his head up and watching you, but stop using it as a lure asap. You've got to get his attention in order for him to do the next thing. And aversive punishment will tend to shut him down more and lost interest more in this training game, IMO. So, it's a little trickier to try to be creative and try to entice him, but once you hit on something that works, I think it's so much better for the dog to become more involved with you and what you're doing.

    He is having difficulty paying attention in distractions. Why not go back to practicing in no distractions and working up more gradually?
     
  12. RD

    RD Are you dead yet?

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    LOL, that is an interesting idea! I'll have to try that... though I don't know what smells I should put on a little pad. Definitely worth a shot!

    He performs wonderfully in familiar environments but even the most subtle transition to a different one is murder to his performance. He just shuts down and has to sniff every inch of the place before he'll consider paying attention to me. I don't know if it's a stress thing or if he's just that interested in what's on the ground (he is awfully low to the ground, I can't imagine the kind of smells he gets down there) but it makes it very hard to introduce even the most subtle of distractions.

    I believe I read Culture Clash but do not remember it. I need to buy it. Don't Shoot the Dog is one of my favorites.

    I'm sorry to hijack the discussion, Adrienne! Thank you for your advice, Doberluv. :)
     
  13. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    There's Eude de doggie toilet, road kill parfum, strange, unknown doggie slobber, dander, fur, especially from near the posterior end....the sky is the limit.
     
  14. casablanca1

    casablanca1 Happy

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    Although I'm sure you're familiar with the 'leadership' thing from Cesar, that's probably the key in getting the dog to be content with simply alerting on the 'other' instead of progressing on to attack mode. I am under the impression that this breed is highly independent and naturally aggressive toward anyone it doesn't know well, and it's very commendable that you're training her instead of simply attributing the problems to her breed. But given the reality of that breed's nature, it may be very hard or impossible to convince this dog that she should defer an aggressive decision to your judgement. I'd take it very slowly, and never push the issue. Which I'm sure you're already doing, since you seem to have done a great job already.

    I do think that positive training doesn't have to mean cookies. I had a dog whose contempt for food bribes was equalled only by her outrage at physical correction. Either one was worse than useless. I had to abandon the treats and the choker to get any reaction out of her; she tuned me out otherwise. Everything had to be done in context. 'Sit' and 'stay,' for example, she learned at street corners, where she saw the usefulness of it as cars ran past her nose. Granted, it took 2x as long to train her as it did to train my food-snufflers, but when she was trained, she was trained. She was probably the best-behaved dog I've ever owned; once she got the idea and realized the point of it, she would apply it to other situations without prompting.
     
  15. OutlineACDs

    OutlineACDs Crazy Dog!

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    To me it does sound like a stress issue. Isn't this the dog that has no problems with people at home, but as soon as he was in a different environment, (the yacht club) he started barking?

    As far as a suggestion of something for him to sniff, can't you buy like that fake 'deer' scent at walmart and stuff. Pretty much anything you could find at a hunting store would probably smell pretty good to a dog. Try getting him a rabbit pelt to play with. Some dogs go absolutely nuts for them.
     
  16. BostonBanker

    BostonBanker Active Member

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    I'm curious if anyone has used this method of training for aggressive dogs. I actually heard about it being used on timid prey animals (horses, llamas, etc), but thought it sounded like it would carry over. Forgive my tangled train of thought, and feel free to comment.

    Dogs bark, lunge aggress to get a person to leave, right? It's what causes so much aggression in chained dogs. Person approaches, dog barks/snarls/lunges, person passes by, and the dog thinks, "well, that worked". So the plan is to teach the dog that polite behavior will make people retreat, not aggressive.

    So you would start with the dog in a very quiet, secluded place, with one person as far away from the dog as necessary to prevent aggressive behavior. With the dog quiet, the person approaches a step or two. If the dog remains quiet, you (handler) click, and the other person backs up. If the dog starts acting up. The person stands still (doesn't back up!), and the handler restrains the dog until it settles (it will have to take a break eventually). Then click, the person backs up.

    Obviously, you would need to be sure the dog was well-restrained during the training. You certainly wouldn't ever want to push the dog; for instance, this may never be a dog that can handle strangers touching it. But you work slowly to teach the dog that remaining quiet at your side is the best way to make sure that people leave him alone.

    Any comments? Again, this is me distorting a training technique used for a very different species (I think it was for approaching llamas who had no human contact).
     
  17. oc_spirit

    oc_spirit Snow Girl

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    Sounds like you have a Caucasian Ovcharka! And honestly if you can''t recognize this then I have to seriously wonder if your thoroughly researched before looking into getting this breed. The behaviour yuo are describing is exactly what comes natural to the breed and is exactly what they want to be doing. They are a guarding breed, bred to live with sheep or other livestock and protect them from anything that may bring them harm, whether it''s a wolf or a sheep-napper. In your case, Katya has made the family the ones she has bonded to and the ones she wants to protect. She doesn;t know who is friend or foe and she doesn''t care to find out. If she can get the stranger down before he attacks then her family is garunteed saftey, gets to live, and she has done her job.

    The thing you have to realize is when a Caucasian goes into defensive mode you can not break it. That is why she isn''t responding to distractions, she is bred not to. If she did than someone wanting to steal some livestock could just bring a juicy steak and toss it to the dog while he steals the sheep. COs are not like normal dogs. Livestock guarding dogs (LGD) in general are not like normal dogs. They don''t like anything outside their family and should not be expected to because it is complately against their nature. When these guys go into defensive mode, it is cujo's worst nightmare!! A friend of mine actually got scared out of his pants when his first CO went into defensive mode. He has now owned the breed for many years and currently breeds some gorgeous animals, true representations of what the breed should be, bold and fearless!

    Correcting her for wanting to protect you and your family is like correcting a retriever for bringing a ball back to you, or correcting a border collie for working sheep, or correcting a husky for pulling in harness. The thing is though this behaviour is so ingrained and hardwired, it''s even harder to break than the above mentioned breeds and traits.

    You must remember that these guys ae supremely dominant and confident. They have to be in order to face off woles or other threats. If they would back down because the threat is posturing and looking bigger and tougher than them then they wouldn;t be successful at their job. I''m not saying Katya doesn''t respect you as Alpha of the household, but these guys don;''t really percieve that whole Alpha thing like other dogs do. You don;t really own a Caucasian, you build a trusting, understanding relationship with them. If you try to do a positive-only training with them, they''ll walk all over you and you will never gain full control over them.

    In all seriousness I really worry that there is going to be a bad attack from Katya soon if you continue to try to turn her into a Lab (accepting of anyone everywhere until they make an offense towards you). I fear that these little successes you have been having using Cesar (*shudder*) methods will put you into a false trust zone and an accident will happen. You can''t untrain what hundreds of years of breeding has created.

    I''m going to PM you the URL to a forum that though it is intended for all Molosser Breeds, most of the people on it are focused mainly on the Livestock Guarding Breeds and are very experienced with them. There are breeders, exhibitors, owners, workers, handlers, people from all walks of life that have owned or worked with LGDs, mostly Caucasian Ovcharka, Central Asian Ovcharka, and Sarplaninac. A handful of them actually come directly from Serbia and see these guys daily in their native land doing what they are supposed to be doing. I strongly urge you to post this question there and get help from the experts.

    Edited to Add: I just wanted to give everyone an idea of how serious this breed is when it comes to defending their family and territory, I believe it was the Russian police (don''t quote me on that because the exact natian escapes me at the moment) attempted to use this breed as police dogs for confronting offenders and such but they kept having accidents during training. You see, when a police dog attacks, after the sleeve is removed from the person and the dog allowed to take it away the attack should cease. The attack should also cease when the handler calls the dog to stop because the situation is under control. The problem was, the CO would attack brilliantly as expected BUT if the CO noticed the offender still concience and moving, regardless of what the handler would say or do he would attack again, and keep attacking until the offender was motionless. Only then would the CO be satisfied that the offender was no longer a threat.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  18. Doberluv

    Doberluv Active Member

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    I haven't had to use that but have definitely read about it. It is part of learning science and a viable and often used technique.


    OC! Great post...very interesting. Not a breed for me. LOL.
     
  19. oc_spirit

    oc_spirit Snow Girl

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    Thanks! My boyfriend is hoping to obtain one in the very near future so I''ve been researcing them along with him and learning TONS through him and some people I know who are heavily involved in the breed and other LGDs. Theyre so facinating!!
     
  20. buldog

    buldog Guest

    OK, its like this. you have CAUCASIAN OVTCHARKA, not a german shepherd, or a rottweiler or any other of todays "aggressive" breeds... This is a completly different animal, with a completely and very seriously different set of rules, regulations, instincts and reactions and triggers. Whats happening with you female is very common for the VOLKODAV variety, or more hair trigger variety of the CO. These dogs, whether the more hair triggered or laid bak (although, there is no such thing as a laid bak co), will react to very very subtle triggers that 99% of people jus ignore and pay no mind to. For example, when walking her down the street, next time look to see if the person or animal she tries to kill, and i mean kill as thats what theses dogs will do for their owner and not think twice about... Pay attention to wether they r looking at YOU or at the dog, and if they are looking at the dog, where on the dog are they looking. If any person outside the family looks a CO in the eyes, it will attack, as a look in the eyes is a threat and these dogs DONT TOLERATE THREATS AT ALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!! I said earlier that these dogs will kill for their owners, and i mean it. These dogs r the sweetest animals on earth with THEIR family, and can be completly trusted with the FAMILY, but will kill the entire country for their owner, and like i said earlier, wont think twice about it and will have their tail wagging!! This dog, when in attack or defense mode of its family, is the thing that would send CUJO himself running for the hills!! These dogs r so finely tuned and are so old world, that the world of 2day, the USA in particular, is going to ban them for being mindless savages, which is SO WRONG!!! These dogs do not belong in the cities, they dont belong in apartments, they BELONG on farms, with serious JOBS to do. These r not dogs that you can socialize for 10 yrs and be comfortable with leaving them alone with strange people, the second you turn your back, BAMM, they make their move!! YOU cannt EVER, NEVER relax your guard, not for 1 split second with this breed. Its cousins, the Central Asian Ovtcharka, the Sarplaninac and the Serbian Sylvan dog r the exact same way, but people are just getting these big fluffy teddy bears because they look so cute and cuddly, but dont realize that when you get a dog of this calibur, its like being called up to the major league in sports. You just NEVER take it for granted that they will be accepting of ANYTHING or ANYONE!! They wont!! These are dogs that will only accept their master and their masters IMMEDIATE family, thats it!! Evry1 else is fair game, and are considered a strong and severe threat and are dealt with accordingly.You dont own a CO, CAO, SAR or SYLVAN, your live as pack members, and if you dont establish dominance with these dogs from DAY1, and i mean the second you are picked by your pup, your relationship is doomed!! They will always love their owners, but if they dont respect you and see you as ALPHA from second 1, they WILLLL BE ALPHA, and when this happens, YOU cannot regain alpha status, or knock them off the top, less you terminate them!! And, i dont know who said it, but if you try to take a CO, who doesnt repsect you as alpha, and try to PUT IT ON ITS BACK, you WILL END UP with many many many stitches, and many brutal scars, and tons of hospital bills, and a soon to be dead dog! AT 6 months old, these r more dog than just about any rottweiler, GSD, American Bulldog, or any other of the days new and improved guard dogs, its actually quite impressive and scary at the same time. The co does NOT take commands, it hears your words, and then puts it thru its assembly line instincts, and if it deems it to be the right thing to do, it will obey you. If they have even an ounce of DOUBT, its over, they wont listen to you and will rely on their instincts to carry them thru, period! This mindset, these instincts come from thousands of years of breeding the best dog to the best dog who had the tools to survive on the KAUKAS mountains and its surrounding region. The CO is essentially an SARPLANINAC on steroids, and being bred on the KAUKAS, where the sar is bred on the balkans, it had to be bigger, nastier and downright more evil due to the harsher environment, bigger and badder predators it had to deal with, and the worse climate!! These dogs r simply magnificant animals, but people, please please please do many years of research b4 you decide to be owned by 1 of these, to do less will end in tragedy. I love these dogs, and i really dont want them to hurt the wrong people, and be put into the wrong situation.. I hope this has helped, PLEASE send me a personal message if you have any other questions or i have confused you in any ways!!!

    Mike
     

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