Zac Is Clever But Kinda Stupid...

Discussion in 'Off-Topic & Chit Chat' started by running_dog, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. running_dog Honored Member

    Gus's head tends to follow his paw and the water everywhere sounds familiar! From the expression on his face the water everywhere might be even more important than getting the floater...:D


    I should have known you and Tigerlily would have thought about this before :cool:. I totally love the idea of your training game/exercise. There are just so many good things this could teach an aggressive, shy or territorial dog. It teaches the dog a signal to clearly communicate fear in an acceptable way, it builds up trust, it reduces fear because it shows the dog that approach does not mean contact, it rewards for nice behaviour by the stimulus going away...
    brodys_mom likes this.

  2. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Charmed Wolf and Running Dog, I find this very interesting. I was actually reading over the thread you are talking about over the weekend. The one about dog aggression and shyness being hard wired genetically. And yes, I have read many of Tigerlily's posts, although I find them somewhat difficult to follow sometimes. Her writing style is interesting, to say the least. So many fonts. So many colors. :)

    I have also watched a few of Grisha Stewart's BAT demonstrations on video. I have to admit that I feel very ignorant when watching them. I have a real hard time figuring out what is going on, and don't pick up on how the training is helping the dog. I would have difficulty implementing this, but I do like the idea of teaching Brody an exit strategy, rather than rewarding him for moving toward his target. My puzzlement with him comes when he is actively pulling toward the stranger. I don't think I have ever rewarded for approaching, only for calmness in the presence. I have always attempted to maintain distance and calmness, rewarding for looking at the trigger then back to me. I have given the strangers treats to feed him, so they reward him for approaching, but I don't. So if I am in the room with him on leash, sitting at distance from the stranger, and I am feeding him treats, but the stranger also has treats, why would he feel the need to actively pull toward the stranger? And if I continue to resist him and not allow him to approach, what message does that send him about the stranger?

    Maybe these posts need to be moved to a different thread?
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  3. running_dog Honored Member

    LOL it is quite a derail. Tigerlily and I are quite the experts in that line. I don't think it matters really though we can start another thread if you like. I think it does still relate in a round about way because it is still about what dogs are thinking and the associations they make.

    This is what Zac would do with other dogs, he would pull towards them, and seem to really want to be with them but after a while he would growl at them. The method that Charmedwolf has described is much much more useful for a dog with Brody's problems and if you can try it I think it would really help Brody to communicate with you. However I struggle to mobilise volunteers for most training so my method was something I could do on the go without necessarily asking for any help from other people. It does seem to teach and reinforce an acceptable exit strategy.

    When I allow Zac to approach strange dogs I call him away before he reaches them (and while the lead is slack) and reward for the recall, then repeat and repeat sometimes letting him get a little closer, then maybe let him reach the dog (I move in closer so the lead is still slack but shorter) but call him away almost immediately and reward, then repeat but let him stay a little longer before calling him. I've noticed that he will now usually choose to come back to sit in front of me once he's finished sniffing the other dog instead of growling at it. After a few of these meetings I might (depending mostly on the other dog) ask the owner if we can try them off leash, Usually Zac sniffs for a few moments and then goes off to do his own thing.

    If, like Brody, Zac is very keen to approach then I try to call him back before the lead goes tight. if he is at the end of the lead and not listening I tug the lead gently and repeatedly just to make him aware I am there and encourage him to pay attention, I don't drag him back to me. If that doesn't work I will walk away, "let's go" and then try again further away. I don't think you should drag him away and maybe not really "resist" him that could give bad ideas but the recall does not cause any issues that I know of.
  4. brody_smom Experienced Member

    How long is your leash? I only use a 6 foot so that doesn't really give much freedom. It's fine for in the house. (I also have trouble recruiting helpers, but if I use his muzzle, it might be easier, then we could work in a more neutral setting, as territory also seems to be an issue.) The only long lead I have is one of those nasty yellow nylon rope things.
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  5. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I am interested in trying this. I would need to teach a cue for "get behind" first, I suppose. Did you actually use the phrase, "please leave"? How would you use this in a social setting in a home? With Brody, he got upset if I removed him from the situation. He would bark in an upstairs room the whole time our visitors were over, so I would bring him down on leash and sit with him in the next room, where he could see and hear what was going on, but not be right in it. I didn't restrain him if he started to wander, but I did keep him at a distance from our guests while asking him for behaviors, etc. It was only when he pulled toward them that I let him approach. It seemed like the thing to do, as it was 100% initiated by him.

    I'm desperate to find some way to keep my whole family happy with "the Brody situation" . It is forming a rift in my relationship with my daughter and her new boyfriend, who is from another country and needs to stay with us when he is visiting her.
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  6. running_dog Honored Member


    The leash I use is a probably about 6 feet if that - it is just his ordinary lead and it is doubled up most of the time for road walking etc but I can unclip one end so it is single and so longer. I'd probably be starting with about 4 foot.

    You don't need to have anyone within the radius of Brody's lead during your earlier sessions so you might be able to find more ready helpers :confused:.
  7. charmedwolf Moderator


    It doesn't have to be "get behind", just a reliable cue that Brody knows well. It could be him pawing at your shoe if that works for you and your family. In my house especially, the dogs will go into their crates if they are uncomfortable. Outside of the house, they'll go behind me or lean against me. With this exercise, Brody should never be leaving. The person you are using as a helper will be.
    This video is from a Documentary called Wild Horse Wild Ride, it's on Netflix if you want to watch the full thing. Even though it is horses, it will at least give you a visual of what you and Brody should do and Kris explains how it works with horses and dogs better than I ever could. Around 2:00, You'll see it start. You and Brody would be the horse in this case and your helper would be in Kris' place.


    In the beginning, with helpers I used "Please leave." but I faded it pretty quickly. It was just a verbal marker for my helper to turn around when my dog got settled behind me. Most of my helpers were not dog people so they didn't really know what I was asking at first.

    I would definitely do as Running_dog suggested and recall him back before he gets close. He is already semi-conformable about approaching but when the duration becomes too much then he doesn't know how to exit safely.
    One thing I did with Jinx (who had almost the same problem it sounds like) was to teach the long down via the "sit on the leash" for her duration work then slowly add people walking and leaving.
    "Sit on the dog aka Long Down" or for a more visual look ;)

    "This" is a good link on territorial aggression particularly the second technique which combined with the long down might be a good idea.

    Running_dog- That's exactly why Tigerlily and I came up with it!! Jinx didn't like people touching her and still doesn't so I needed a way to tell her that people coming at us didn't mean they were going to touch her. It just had some extra added benefits :)
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  8. brody_smom Experienced Member

    So do you recommend not using treats at all for this, or only just for responding with the cued behavior with the other person being there? How do you know how long to wait before asking your helper to leave? What kind of sign do you look for from your dog? In order for this to be effective, the dog must realize the person is there, be given the opportunity to approach, then be called back to safety. If no food is given, then he is learning that nothing bad happens, but there is no real counter-conditioning, correct? What am I looking for so that I can let the person come closer? I would do this with a muzzle on due to his history.
    running_dog likes this.
  9. charmedwolf Moderator

    For responding to the cue, absolutely you can give him a treat. But you want to cue Brody as the person is approaching. You are conditioning him that when a person comes towards you, the behavior will be cued. Usually, the person leaving should be a reward by itself but you can give an extra reward for Brody re-engaging back to you if you feel it is needed.

    In the beginning, the helper leaves very quickly. Literally, as soon as the dog is cued the behavior, helper leaves. Then dog is cued the behavior, 1 second, helper leaves. You can build on duration after that with bouncing the times (1,3, 2, 5) and working your way to a longer time. Even still at a distance.

    What signs will depend on your dog. I used this almost exclusively with Jinx. When Jinx feels really stressed, she'll sit and her eyes will get this hard look. Before this however, her ears will go back and then (because she had been conditioned to sit behind me) she'll walk and sit behind me. This is when I'll ask them to leave or remove her from the situation if I can't get them to leave.

    For now, if his eyes start to fixate get them to leave. If he goes into a full reaction, remove him from the room til he calms down.

    For running_dog's way, yes. For mine, don't allow Brody to approach. You want him staying in one spot for now.

    No, it's not counter-conditioning at least not in the beginning. It's called Systematic Desensitization. or just desensitization. Desensitization is often combined with counter-conditioning because it's near impossible to teach anything if it is actively being aggressive or being fearful. So you expose the dog to something that's a weaker or less scary version (desensitization) until it becomes able to eat treats (counter-conditioning)

    Right now, work on duration. You know, Brody will allow them to get close but he can't handle them that close for that long. So, start a little farther away and a little longer to work your way up. If Brody lets someone stay 5 minutes at 8 feet, then you can let the person come a foot closer. It's gonna take some time. If you can sit in the same room as everyone else with Brody on a leash (and muzzle if you think it's needed) and in a down, that's perfect. Stay still, let him catch his breath and calm down.

    Him pulling towards the people could just be that the food is that good in his mind. Personally, I am terrified of crickets, but you pay me enough money I'll have no fear of them. At least until the money runs out ;).

    Have you ever tried Brody out off-leash with his muzzle? Or has he always been on leash for all his reactions?
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  10. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I was actually thinking I would start this process outside in the park behind our house. Because of his territorial aggression, I would never be able to have a person approach without him freaking out and releasing his anal sacs. That way, the distance could me much greater to start. Our house is very small, and walls and such would make distance with visibility near impossible.

    I have read a great article on desensitizing and territorial aggression:
    http://www.northgatepetclinic.com/articles/bid/86611/TERRITORIAL-AGGRESSION-DIRECTED-TOWARD-VISITORS
    I really love this idea, my only problem is in recruiting volunteers, as it would require several different people over days and weeks to be really effective.

    What I have done that "works" with Brody is to have him in an upstairs room when people come over. Once he has heard the voices and barked for a bit, he seems able to handle being brought downstairs without releasing his anal sacs. I would have the visitors sitting in the kitchen eating area, away from the living room, which is at the bottom of the stairs. When I bring him down, on leash with Halti or muzzle, I sit with him in the living room and feed him treats until he is no longer focusing on the visitors. Then I can stand up and move around with him, ask for behaviors and move him closer to the table. I ask the people to ignore him even if he approaches, but I give them some treats to feed him if he does approach, but they don't offer them unless he approaches first. I also have the same treats, so there is no advantage to him in getting the food from the scary people. The last visitor we had was about a month ago. You can read what happened in my thread "What can I do differently next time" in Behavior Problems. It's post #12.

    None of Brody's bites happened on leash. Two of them were on strangers approaching the house, one outside the gate (who reached her hand over to let him sniff, even though he was barking like a mad dog), the other was just stepping her foot over the threshhold of the door when he rushed at her and bit her leg. The third was the one I described in the thread I mentioned. None of the bites was serious, ie, front teeth only, no punctures. Nip and run.
    I did think about letting him wander off-leash with the muzzle on, but the anal sac problem is what stopped me from doing so. The smell is really bad, and lasts for about 24 hours. Then it just reminds everyone about how bad the situation is, and the stress level in the house is too much for me.
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  11. running_dog Honored Member

    See this is where I think the usual, oft repeated, generally accepted, theories of training can sometimes be a bit woolly and illogical. When I had to train Zac not to attack sheep I didn't try to give the sheep treats to feed to Zac to make him feel more kindly disposed to them nor did I let him approach them when he felt like it O_o. I think you have come to a fork in the road of your training journey and you have to decide whether you are going to:

    1. Go on trying to change what is in Brody's head by letting him approach guests and be fed by them knowing you can't predict when he will flip.

    2. Work with what is inside Brody's head and teach him coping strategies and behaviours that mostly keep him and your guests safely apart.

    Tigerlily's Buddy is a stunning example of both approaches, he was terrified of and aggressive towards people because of how he had been treated and Tigerlily re-wrote what was inside his head so now he loves people, he is genetically dog aggressive and Tigerlily worked with what is inside his head to teach him how to avoid confrontations and keep him calm and confident and the dogs he passes in the street safe.
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  12. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I like #2, as #1 is clearly not working. I don't believe Brody was mistreated in the traditional sense, but that he was tragically under-socialized to people. Being part Border Collie doesn't help matters, but I don't know whether genetics has much more to do with his behavior other than making him sensitive and reactive to his environment, much like most BC's. Is there some way to condense Tigerlily's posts down to the one's relevant to this topic? I would love to read more about her actual work with Buddy, but I find it very difficult to wade through her posts, as they are very emotionally charged.
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  13. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Another example of clever but stupid...

    I have been working through Jean Cote's "Walk in Harmony" program with Brody. Yesterday's lesson was on impulse control, where I put a bowl of tempting treats on the floor, and keep Brody away from it using his leash. He was rewarded for choosing to leave the food, sitting beside me and looking at my face. This went well yesterday, using cut up bits of sausage for both the temptation and the reward. Today I decided I needed to work on teaching Brody to leave the cat food alone, as it is an ongoing problem trying to provide the cats with a calm eating environment. So I put the cat dish with food in it on the floor the same as yesterday, with sausage as the reward. Turns out cat food is more rewarding that sausage! At first, he would go to the length of the leash, but when he couldn't reach it, he would give up, come sit beside me and look up for his reward. Once he realized he was only getting sausage, he started pulling more. When I still didn't give in, he lifted his paw, grabbed the bowl and pulled it closer! Cheeky monkey! (And before anyone says it, Brody is clever, but... I am stupid! I decided to start using cat food as the reward, and the rest of the session went much better!)
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  14. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I have a bit of an opportunity for some regular helpers, I'm just not sure how to go about setting it up. On our street there is a Recovery Group Home for drug addicts. Part of their recovery is daily required walks. There are between 9 and 12 people living there at any given time, and they are there for months, sometimes years. There are some, maybe 3 or 4, who walk past my house everyday, several times per day. One man in particular passes every couple hours or so. Ever since I read that article on Territorial Aggression (linked in a previous post),I have been thinking about how to approach the director and ask if I could get some of the people to volunteer as helpers, since they are walking past my house anyway. If I manage to get them on board, how would I set up the exercises?
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  15. running_dog Honored Member

    In my opinion dogs, even border collies, that are under-socialised do NOT end up like Brody. Buddy was both mistreated and under-socialised on a totally different scale and over a longer period than Brody. It seems very likely that Buddy was kept caged 24/7 in a puppy mill all his life before being abandoned as a hairless, emaciated, battered, urine burnt travesty of a border collie (you can read about Buddy's arrival on Tigerlily's information page). If that isn't enough his legs are full of shot gun pellets where he was shot. He was understandably fear aggressive towards people (biting Tigerlily on at least one occasion that I recollect) but all of his horrible experiences with people could be and were over written by good experiences using the kind of methods you have been trying with Brody - and they worked because Buddy is not naturally/genetically shy he was only traumatised.

    Dogs can be taught to be aggressive to other dogs too, like Michael Vicks dogs for instance. But this aggression that is caused by bad experiences can be over written by good experiences, de-sensitisation and counter-conditioning and with patience and positives they can become normal friendly dogs.

    By contrast Buddy's dog aggression, and Charmedwolf's dog Jinx's shyness (please correct me if I'm wrong CW) cannot be removed only managed, Buddy is never going to love every dog he sees (over time he can learn to like a particular dog but he cannot generalise those dogs he likes to all dogs) and Jinx is never going to love every human that approaches her. If ANYONE could remove Buddy's dog aggression then Tigerlily would have, and Charmedwolf would have cured Jinx and Jackienmutts would have cured Makina of her problems.

    To be honest it is only while reading your posts that I have finally understood why Tigerlily posted so insistently and emotionally about dog aggression being genetic. I can finally see why it matters so much - there is a complete paradigm shift when you really accept it.

    Sometime when I have more time I will try to condense or link to a summary of Tigerlily's argument. In the mean time... LOL I can't believe that I am so ardently supporting the position that dog aggression and shyness are genetic, I do hope Tigerlily drops by some time and notices, she'll laugh and laugh and laugh :D.
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  16. running_dog Honored Member

    LOL! Dogs are sometimes quite weird about how they rank rewards... Zac has caught me out similarly when I've been doing distraction training with "low value" kibble scattered over the training area while I used "treats" to reward the him for leaving them alone. It turned out he preferred his ordinary kibble!
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  17. running_dog Honored Member


    Sounds like a really good opportunity, all being well I'll sleep on the idea, and maybe think about it when I'm walking the dogs tomorrow, that's usually when things fall into place.
    brodys_mom likes this.
  18. running_dog Honored Member



    Only you know the exact context so only you can decide how to set up the exercises - as I realised when I visualised this with my own dog I could see so many variables that someone outside of the situation could not guess in advance :( ... so these are more general suggestions that will hopefully help you shape your own training plan :cool:.

    Would it be helpful for each exercise that you plan to carry out to have a run through in the location you are going to be working first with your son who gets on well with Brody and then with your daughter who doesn't?

    Double check you have done all the ground work you need beforehand - I think for the link you posted you need a 20 minute down stay and a 30 second watch me. For CW's exercise you need Brody to respond readily to a cue to go behind you. For the exercise I posted you need to be working on recall with distractions, the stronger recall the better. If you are doing the exercises from the link you posted I would totally skip that part about people eventually touching Brody and offering him treats, I know you are desperate for that to happen but CW's method seems to have a lot more to teach Brody right now.

    Write down your training plan for each exercise.

    You need to meet with the people who are going to be involved, be clear about Brody's problems, be clear about what you want them to do, be clear about the fact that you are not expecting progress quickly. Preferably I would walk through the location with them (without Brody). Make sure they know which exercise you are doing and when. Underline to them that they must not approach Brody ever with the intention of touching him and if they see him in the yard they must ignore him.

    Work out and mark the distances you will be working with so there is no confusion for the helpers and agree the signals you will use to request both approaches and exits. Try not to use signals for the people that Brody can easily learn and predict.

    Lay in a stock of thank you cards and boxes of chocolates. You are in this for the long game and keeping your helpers motivated is essential if you are to have any success ;).

    I hope you are successful (y)
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  19. brody_smom Experienced Member

    My daughter who doesn't get on well with Brody will not help. She has no hope that he will ever get better. She has informed me that she believes I have lost perspective and am blind to Brody's faults. She will not demand that I get rid of him, as she knows that I will resent her for it. What she has done is declare that she will not be visiting with her boyfriend when he is in town, and if I want to see him at all, it has to be somewhere other than our house. If they hold to this, Brody will never get over his fear of him.
    I have accepted this as our present reality. In talking with my older son, he remembers pretty much ignoring Brody's antics in the beginning, being a tree when he was barking at him, but otherwise not trying to get Brody to like him. Brody LOVES him now, even though he has been away at college since September. Whenever he is home for the weekend, Brody will sit beside him, lean against his leg, bring him toys, etc. It's very sweet.
    This sounds very doable. I will get started on this today. Thanks for all this.
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