Submissive, Dominance and Clicker Training

Discussion in 'Puppies' started by fletcher, Oct 19, 2007.

  1. fletcher New Member

    Hey thanks guys. We are actually really starting to have some issues which I need some help with. I need to take him for a walk now and I will write about it when he is sleeping. I really do need some advice.

  2. Jean Cote Administrator

    Sure - let us know and we'll try to help you the best we can! (Hope he didn't bite you lol!)
  3. fletcher New Member

    Hi Jean (and everyone)

    Ahhh, you laugh about the biting!! That is one of the major problems - to the point where at times he is drawing blood and has started ripping my clothing!! I really dont know what to do because everything I read seems to contridict! Sorry, this might be a long one..... I will start at the beginning. (he is now 15 weeks old - schnauzer / poodle cross)

    A bit of history:

    We got him at 7 weeks old. A very gentle, playful, confident little puppy.
    At 8 weeks old we got a trainer (an expensive one at that!) who came to our home and taught us to teach him the basic commands and talked a bit about and how a mother dog repremands her puppy. She came again at 9 weeks and during the lesson told us that he was showing very dominant characteristics and told us to flip him on his back, pin him down by his neck, growl at him and if he didnt "submit" by rolling his head back and going limp, to shake him. This felt really wrong but we did it as she told us "when he didnt listen!"

    She didnt tell us anything other than this about being "top dog" and so I was merrily going about doing everything (other than rolling him on his back) to make him feel that he was/had to be top dog including letting him climb all over me and laughing / thinking it was (somewhat innopropriate) but cute when he humped my feet and leg. the only of these "top dog rules" we knew was eating before him. The poor little guy must have been soooo confused.

    At puppy class, she would do this domanicne thing until he peed and even with that sign - which i now know is submission, because he didnt completly relax and completly avoid eye contact she would continue.

    The "domanance" training we had has seemed only to teach him to fight. There was a time when we were at puppy pre-school (same trainer) and I had cuts and scratches up my arms and all over my hands and tried to talk to her about other ways to go about repremernding him because I was concerned this method was harming him and she said no - he is dominant and needs to be put into place so ontop of this she told us to grab him by the scruff of the neck and force him into his crate - which i tried once, by that time he had learnt to fight and there was no way he was going in there without schredding me.

    By this time, he was biting everytime we put our hands near him - not just softly but hard enough often to draw blood. I sought advice from a new trainer because I was sick to the stomach about what we were doing to him - it felt so wrong. The other trainer was horrified. She taught us to yelp when he hurt us and stand up immediately and ignore him for a minute. This worked quite well for a while - it didnt stop it but it definately reduced the biting. He seemed to get bored very quickly with nothing to fight with and stopped jumping up and has now stopped attacking ankles most of the time.

    Unfortunately he still has that fight every now and then and at times -set off by diferent things - me being on the phone (when I could not repremand him before), at times when we play in the park and he gets really excited and sometimes in the car for no reason that I can put my finger on, he just lunges at us and sinks his teeth in - at the park he comes flying at me with his teeth bared. It has got really bad over the last few days and I cant think what has set him off. A loud clap is not enough to break the "frenzy". The last two days i have been keeping very calm and banging a spoon on a pot lid when he lunges or bites my legs and this seems to have worked very well. The sight of the spoon calms him down and then we have a "nice play" and he is a different puppy.

    Its like he just flips and it breaks my heart because I know that it is us that has caused it. I am terrified that this is a "habit" that he is not going to break and he is going to remain unpredictable.

    He is very bright and picks things up very fast. Co-insiding with this last few days lunging has been the "boredum" with training. Jean, you were right - I was getting very boring and I tried spicing it up a bit this morning and it worked a treat. I made it much more physical and verbal praise and put a few tug games in the middle he was much more attentive

    I have been so concerned with how to tackle the dominance problem and following all of the rules of "not breaking eye contact, and going thru doorways and narrow places first and not patting him without making him work for it and not feeding tidbits between meals and not talking in baby talk that I think I forgot he was a puppy!! I have been very boring.

    Exercise: I read my post above and it sounds like he dosnt get much - he is free in the dog parks 1 - 1.5 hours per day chasing balls and sticks and having fun and walking on the lead for about 1/2 hour per day. He also has a good play with the next door neighbours lab once or twice per day and goes to two puppy classes most weeks.

    Food: I looked into feeding when we first got him and he is on a high quality, no byproduct food and also gets about 10% - 20% of his meal in fruit, vegetables and real meat. I looked into "real food diets" and have spoken to a lady with a lady with a PHD in animal nutrition and she suggested sticking with a high quality kibble.

    Suffice to say, we are not going back to the original trainer and the second trainer we go to is just a class and we will have to wait a few weeks before she can come to see us or we see her again as it is a public holiday this week here - we have talked after class but only briefly.

    I would love to hear your suggestions etc.

    Also, it would be great to have a thread for new puppy owners to talk about the very basics of living with a puppy.
  4. Jean Cote Administrator

    Hi Fletcher! This is a very long and interesting post, so I will reply the best I can to each section.

    I am definitely not an expert on dog aggression - I have been very fortunate to have two dogs that have never shown any real signs of aggression. But I do believe that my early training has played a part of the way they are now, so the only thing I can do is share with you what I have done with them.

    First of all - this is a problem that you should not take lightly. It is a very severe problem that will only get worse if it is not fixed.

    From reading your post, it looks like you have hired two trainers who teach completely different methods. It seems to me like the first one is a traditional correction-based trainer, which was the norm 20 years ago. And the new/second trainer sounds more like a positive reinforcements trainer. I have personally found that there is some truth to both; however I tend to lean much more on positive reinforcements while training.

    The techniques which your first trainer showed you aren't wrong, bad or mean. Dogs in their pack do this to each other to establish who the leader is and to keep harmony within the pack. However ... I personally believe that the whole dominance thing over your dog is much overrated. You can become a strong leader in your dog's eyes without having to do all those things they say to do.

    If you were to follow what they say, you would have to walk through the doorway first, eat before your dog, stare your dog down and basically punish him every time he does something bad. I don't think this is why you got a dog in the first place, right? I bet you wanted a lovely companion who you can just share time, have fun and play together.

    When my dogs were puppies, I did shake their scruff and make them submit a few times. I especially learned to do this with my husky, which she did not like to be held by her collar at all. I do not recommend that you roll your dog on his back; you can get the same thing by just holding the scruff and collar.

    So how is my technique different than yours? I believe it is in the recognition of the submissive signs. A dog will offer you signs that he is submitting well before he urinates on the floor. First your dog will look away, ears will go back, tail will be tucked in or between the legs, licking of the lips - what they are telling you in this situation is that they do not want a confrontation.

    But the most important thing to do in this situation is to reinforce your dog for submitting! Praising your dog and petting him will reinforce him for being in that state - this is where I think you failed to do.

    Let me explain how I made my puppy submit: I grabbed hold of Onyx's collar and she started to yipe, scream and try to force her way out of my grip. I kept on holding on to her until she stopped screaming (a good two minutes), then she started to calm down and I noticed signs of submission. I proceeded to pet her head along with praise and a few treats. I didn't let go until she was in a calm and submissive state. But when I let her go I had a huge party with her, played, and got her to play with a toy or eat some treats.

    Submitting your dog can be a good thing - but only in rare and extreme cases. Bad situations like this do not develop overnight - they are always created by the dog getting away with it. Small dogs are usually the most vicious, since the owners let the dog get away with it. Dog owners would freak out if their 100 pounds dog would behave the way their small dog does!

    Wow. I really don't see how you can go to a training school and you come home with cuts and scratches all over your arms. This should not happen - and the trainer should have intervened and showed you how to do it properly (if he knew). A discipline should rarely if ever be used – and you shouldn't freak out on your dog because he made a mistake.

    You also mentioned that you've grabbed your dog's scruff to place him in his crate. I don't believe this is a good idea since your dog has no option of solving the problem - and will most likely create a very bad association with the crate - thus hating it. You should never force your dog into his crate; his crate is his little territory, his den, his paradise and his place to call home.

    OK... Here is what I recommend that you do.

    First, you should always have a flat collar on your dog so that you can grab him whenever you want to. If you need to grab him by the scruff then make sure you grab a bit behind the neck so he cannot bite you. Do not let go until he submit and praise, treat and play with him when he does.

    Second, if you are unable to grab his scruff or collar, then you can have a leash or line on him at all times when you are in the same room. By using the leash you are able to bring your dog to you and grab his collar.

    From your post, it sounds like he will probably lash out everything he’s got at you. You should never let him get away with growling or biting you. That is why you’ve got the leash there to correct him.

    One final thing – a very important one – is that you should not give up hope. Your problem can be fixed, and if you are dedicated to it – you will be able to. The last thing I would recommend is getting a licensed Dog Behaviorist, not a Dog Trainer. They always say that the third times the charm right? :)
  5. Jean Cote Administrator

    P.S. I forgot to mention that you can use clicker training to get your dog to accept you to touch him anywhere on his body, teethes or even change fearful reactions to certain situations. I will write more on the subject tomorrow, I'm a little brain-dead right now! :)
  6. CollieMan Experienced Member

    Like Jean, I don't believe any one style of training/correction is right or wrong. And like Jean, I like to borrow from all styles. However...

    In your case, I think your trainer was fundamentally wrong and I think that her advice set you, and the puppy, on the wrong course from the start.

    At that time, I think time would have been better spent playing to form a bond, with daily grooming to help the pup get used to touch, and with a gentle introduction to basic (clicker-based) training. Even thinking of "dominance" at that age seems like a nonsense to me.

    We all need a puppy to learn that it can approach without fear, will get 'paid' when it performs well, and will be taught appropriate behaviour when it gets it wrong. I believe that your trainer failed completely on all counts, but in particular on the last count.

    For example, your dog gnaws at your finger, you 'dominate' it in order to make it stop. The dog stops, and all seems well. However, you can bet your life that the dog will repeat the same thing again, maybe even minutes later, particularly a puppy which will endure the teething period, and will seek to relieve the discomfort of his gums. So you have to look at why it stopped and why it will then repeat the behaviour.

    It stopped because it had no choice; you physically prevented it. It repeated the behaviour because you didn't fill the vacuum by showing the puppy what the right thing to do at that point is. Now, you could have kicked the dog and that would work because the cost of biting you far exceeds the pleasure it gives. However, what you will end up with is a dog that just won't approach you. It won't approach you because you are unpredictable and you potentially threaten its existence.

    What I have always done in that situation, and always successfully, is give a sharp "ah-ah" sound, quickly give the dog something that it can "legally" chew on, such as one of its toys, and I withdraw my attention by walking away. The dog very quickly learns that if it nips me, it loses my attention, and it learns an appropriate behaviour to fill the vacuum left when I say no to it chewing on me.

    As Jean says though, you have every chance in the world of reversing any damage that has already been done. The pup is still very young and still very open to change. It will take persistence and consistency, but I have absolutely no reason to believe that you can't still end up with a perfectly normal dog. Here is what I would do, in your position:

    Attention Withdrawal
    As mentioned above, when puppy nips, give a sharp sound, give it a legal toy, and walk away for a minute or two. Don't talk, don't even look at the dog. It must get no attention, not even negative attention. Maybe even close the door behind you. Once the time is up, don't hold a grudge, and treat your dog normally.

    Dog Play
    Your dog is still very young and so if the lab next door has any bad habits, your dog may well learn them too. We all love to see our dogs playing with other dogs, but you really do have to consider the priorities here. Give your dog a solid foundation first. Play with other dogs can them come later. Please give it serious thought.

    Invisible Hand
    Purchase that light-line and keep it attached to the dog all day, providing it is supervised. This line will become your new "invisible hand" for pulling him off couches, away from people, etc. which will immediately reduce the number of accesses your nipping dog has to your real hand. The fewer accesses it has, the fewer opportunities it has to practise its biting habit.

    You might even start to hook the line over the door handle when you are on the phone, so the dog can't nip you when you are too busy to react.

    Create Positive Touches
    I've had to use this method before on a previous dog, and it worked wonders. Ensure you have treats with you. When your dog is relaxed, perhaps when you're all relaxed watching television in the evening, get up, give it a quick stroke, click, reward, and sit back down again. There is no need to even look at the dog if it looks up at you. (If you choose not to use a clicker, just give a "Good dog" or similar.) Yes, that's it.

    This works because you are not giving the dog the time to react to your touch, and you are associating your touch with good things - the rewards. You are also not staying long enough for the dog to get stressed or anxious, if indeed that is what it does anyway. Repeat this several times per day - the more the better - but make sure that you don't try to push your luck. After three days, just stroke for a second or so longer, and keep on repeating this, stroking longer and longer.

    Have a Universal 'Wrong' Marker
    I think, to make things clearer for a dog, it needs to be able to instantly recognise when it has messed-up. All too many people switch between things like "bad dog", "no", "stop", "oi" and more. I personally, use a sharp "ah-ah" and them immediately correct. Whether my pup walks slightly ahead of me on the leash, or pees on the carpet in front of me, it knows that if it hears a "ah-ah" sound, it's the wrong thing to be doing, and immediately looks to me.

    Nothing in Life...
    I am a firm believer in this style. My puppy has to earn everything it gets. Nothing in life is free. I believe that it builds respect without the need for dominant actions. I control the things that the dog cannot possibly control for itself. It's unlikely that the dog will abuse me if it's reliant on me for basic needs. Basically, if it wants something from me, then I want something from it in return.

    If it wants me to stroke it, then it knows it can't just jump up at me to get it. It needs to sit by me.

    If it wants feeding, then it can't dance around my feet, but must respond to a random command in order for me to put the bowl to the floor. It must then wait for a "tuck-in" command. If it doesn't, I take the bowl away for two minutes and try again. Each time it doesn't, I add a minute. She always responds and waits first time now.

    If I open the crate, it can't just bolt out to get attention and freedom. It has to wait in there until invited to come out. When she initially tried to bolt out of the door, I just closed it quickly, and calmly said "waaaaait".

    It cannot create havoc at walk times. It must sit to have the leash attached. It must wait while I exit through the door, and it must repeat the process when we return.

    None of the above are about dominating my dog or being "leader". I don't even want a "leader" in our relationship. It's about the dog having control of her own emotions and building focus and concentration. In my case, my Mother-In-Law has cancer of the bowel, kidney, and lungs, and so it's imperative that our dog learns to control itself in order to ensure her physical safety when she visits.

    What is particularly sad of course, is that I think you've been concerned about a problem that wasn't there in the first place. You were just ill-advised. Do as your dog does every day; forget what happened yesterday and the day before. Take today as a new start and learn to enjoy it, even the bits that go wrong.

    Whenever the pup gets something wrong, look at yourself first to see why it failed. Are you expecting too much too soon? Did you not make it clear enough? Are you not being consistent? Did your body-language not match your verbal command? It's sometimes hard to accept, but it's very rarely the dog that is wrong, when you really consider all the factors. It's usually us mere mortals. :)

    Please remember, the pup is only a few weeks old. You have an entire lifetime to teach it. Take a bit of that pressure from yourself and have some fun. :)
  7. Jean Cote Administrator

    Hey ColliMan! Thanks for joining up on the discussion - you've pretty much summarized what I was going to say this morning! :great:

    I've done this with my neighbor’s dog - when I first started training her she would not allow me to pet her head, touch her rear/back, step over her, be behind her or groom her. With a simple clicker training I was able to do all of the above - and she loves it now.

    For example, all i did was: Touch the head, click, and give a treat. Touch the rear, click, and give a treat. Touch her with the groom brush, click, and give a treat. I did this all over her body, eventually I was able to step over her, and even groom her.

    So doing this could improve a lot between you and your dog. It seems like nothing, but it really does work. I'd work on getting him to accept your touch all over his body, without you disciplining or submitting him for a while. You want your dog to love being around you - and clicker training will help you tremendously.

    I hope I didn’t confuse you with my previous post – I wanted to explain to you in details how to submitting works – I wasn’t endorsing it – especially since he’s learned to lash back at you at any sign that you might go after him. I just wanted to show you that reinforcing him to be in a calm, submissive state is more important than being the dominant/leader.
  8. CollieMan Experienced Member

    Yup. It's not an overnight solution but it sure does work. The knack, I believe, particularly at the start, is being so quick that the dog (particularly a young puppy) doesn't get excited and starts to nip. Puppies are so prone to nipping when they forget themselves. This method doesn't give them time to get in that state.

    Aside from encouraging a tolerance of touch, the puppy also learns that "hang on, if I just lay here calmly, I get treats". I firmly believe that it makes for a much calmer dog. Running around and nipping gets me nothing, but laying here gets me food. It's a no-brainer really.
  9. fletcher New Member

    I had tears in my eyes of relief when I finished reading your posts. I have been so worried that I have been lying awake all night!!! The time you both put into your answers is really appreciated. I think that we missed alot of the submission signs - he did alot of licking his lips and turning his head away but we were taught to wait until he showed complete submission (ie, no quick glance back to check what we were doing). He also did not get praise for submitting. From reading your post I think we were taught to overuse the "dominance" thing. We stopped using the "dominance" thing several weeks ago and things in general improved but we seemed to be left with the "lunge biting" problem. I will not be doing it again - it seemed to cause more trouble than good and wasnt good for either of us psychologically!!

    I did agree with you on the crate Jean - I felt that this is where he slept so it should not be a place of "punishment". It was another reason why I only did it the once.

    You did not confuse me with the first post. It was very interestering to hear how it should be done and how wrong we got it - helps me understand.

    Attention withdrawl - I had not thought of giving a "legal toy" to show whats right to chew on - would this be rewarding the bad behavour though? or is the attention withdrawl enough to counteract that? This morning I managed to get out of the room onto the deck, closed the door and turned my back - that really settled him down.

    I love the idea of the invisible hand tied to a door knob when I am on the phone!! That idea will definately be implemented quick smart!!

    I tried the positive touches this morning with the clicker and treats and was amazed how much well it worked. He knows the wait command very well and I could say wait, touch briefly and he would wait. By the end, I could handle his ears and stroke his back and tummy for short periods without those sharp puppy teeth "holding my hand"! I will do this several times per day. He does not seem have an aversion to touch, in fact he seems to love it but, without a stuffed toy in his mouth (before this morning with the clicker training), he will lash his head around until he finds something to put in his mouth and that is usually my hand or arm!!

    I love the nothing in life is free philosophy!! He may well have had a few too many freebees in his time. - I always leave toys around to chew on so have now bagged them all up and will give them out over the day as part of his training. I have been teaching wait for meals and walks and he is very well mannered in this respect.

    Really overall he is a wonderful wee man and we love him dearly - I guess he is now just being as unpredictable as we were!!!

    Thank you collieman for your words on "living in the now". I do tend to worry about what has gone on, it is good advice. Onwards with fun and laughter (and clickers and treats).

    I have just realised that I have hijacked your great post collieman. Jean, are you able to move this part of the thread so that colliemans original question thread can continue?

    I will keep you updated on our progress.

  10. Jean Cote Administrator

    Hi fletcher, I moved all of our posts into this thread as requested! :dogblush:

    The purpose of giving your dog a chew toy is to redirect him to the proper object. It is not a reward since CollieMan would say his “Ah Ah!” to stop his dog from chewing, and then he would guide his dog to the proper object, and praise his dog for chewing on the right toy.

    Are you saying that without a stuffed animal in his mouth, then he will lunge at you and bite you? :msneek: You have to be careful that you are not reinforcing that!

    The way this works is that you can place your hand on a part of your dog’s body where he is currently accepting you, and you gradually expand to more sensitive areas while making sure that he remains calm.

    If your dog is afraid of your hand being anywhere near him, then you can start by moving your hand towards him, clicking, and then throwing him a treat on the floor. You can go slowly and gradually closer each time, until you can touch him and pet him. This will take some time – but it will work.

    Your dog has learned with your first training that if your hand is close to me, then I’m going to get attacked, rolled over and punished. This is the association you need to change into: if your hand is close to me, then good things will happen like petting or treats.

    If you haven’t noticed, I show how to do it with the. We are not training your dog to stand, but we are teaching him to accept touch – and it’s taught in the same way. Please watch the video to see how I do it. Again, you might need to start with your hand a foot away and move closer and closer each time. If your dog ever growls, shows his teethes or snaps at you then you are moving too quickly.
  11. fletcher New Member

    Hi Jean. Thanks for moving the thread. I felt a bit bad that I had launched into a different topic on Colliemans thread.

    We are doing so much better. Thanks for all of your help.

    He is not so much "afraid of hands" just very very mouthy and if we play or touch he turns his head - almost like he needs something in his mouth and if there is no toy then it is hands. His lunging and biting attacks are quite different and kind of out of the blue (these have also reduced in intensity and frequency over the last few days) In saying this, we have been doing what you showed on the video with the clicker and treats and he is sooooo much better already.

    I am quite excited and relieved about the amount of progress we have both made over the last few days.

    Thank you again for all your input.
  12. CollieMan Experienced Member

    You'll find that a great many puppies do this. It's partly excitement. If you happened to have something in your hand at that time, I'd bet that the puppy would nip that instead. As it is, you don't and so it nips the things it sees moving - your hand.

    I also gather, when you say that he turns, it relates to when you are stroking his back. This area is quite sensitive for a dog (mine too) as they can't see what's going on. They can feel something, but can't see it. My puppy still goes to nip if she is stroked on the back. However, she's learned to stop in time. But the basic reaction is still there. She will also move backwards so that you can't stroke her back.

    You just have to keep on going, little by little.
  13. fletcher New Member

    It is good to know that this is natural and to learn how to teach him calmly and positively. This is one of the things that the dog trainer I talked about told us to "get him to submit" when he did it!! I think he is starting to trust us more now and he is relaxing now that we have changed - thank goodness.

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