Why are some dogs aggressive?

Why are some dogs aggressive?, dog aggression, aggressive dogs, Michael Burkey, Dog Behaviorist, Michigan Dog Training, Belgian Malinois

Michael Burkey and Radar

I’m often asked the question, “Why are some dogs aggressive?” People make up all kinds of reasons and will give it so many different labels such as leash aggression, stranger aggression, territorial aggression, barrier aggression, etc. However, it generally boils down to either fearful aggression or dominant aggression. In the labels listed above the reason for the aggression is fear of the inability to avoid and escape in the case of leash aggression, fear of the unknown such as with strangers, fear of people entering their territory (think of the yard as being a large crate in which they cannot escape from a stranger entering), etc. Dominant behavior is the willingness to display aggressive behavior to obtain or retain a resource such as food, toys, petting from a owner to ensure another dog doesn’t receive same. Dominant behavior is not walking ahead of you, stepping on your feet, jumping up on you, going out the doorway first, etc.  That’s simply the dog being a dog and wanting to be an opportunist. (Note, some aggression cases are due to physical pain or medical conditions which need to be evaluated by your veterinarian and/or have a discussion to determine if anti-anxiety medication would be beneficial to aid behavioral training).

Most aggression cases I work with are due to the dog being fearful. When we understand that, then it’s possible to come up with a management and treatment plan to desensitize the dog to fearful items, build their confidence and increase their reliability to obedience commands. If we simply, label a dog as being bad, then it’s a label and a character judgment without the willingness to see what is really troubling the dog and how to improve their situation.

So to answer the above question of “why”, one can look to whether the dog received proper socialization at a young age (generally before 16 weeks of age), are poor genetics part of the problem and/or was the dog exposed to bad experiences that taught him/her to be afraid of people, other dogs, etc. Even more important than – Why?, is the question of what do we do about it now? It would be nice if the dog could tell us why so we can understand why the dog feels the need to use aggression to keep itself safe or to obtain/retain resources. It would certainly make us feel better so we can understand and be empathic to the dog for our own personal needs. However, that question really isn’t too helpful to the dog nor does it answer the much more important question of how are we going to help the dog and everyone else remain safe?

Case in point is Radar, a Belgian Malinois who I am training and his owner via private lessons. He was adopted so the owner doesn’t know if Radar wasn’t socialized properly, has bad genetics and/or was exposed to frightening experiences when he was younger. He trusts her and her father but not strangers. In the first lesson, he continuously barked at me or avoided me. It was clear to see from his body posture and behavior that he was scared of being close to me. In the second lesson, he took treats from my hand hesitantly but discontinued the barking saying “stay away from me.” A caution note here, while I use food treats to desensitize Radar to me one has to be careful to watch for any change of body language. Sometimes people become over confident because they see the dog is willing to cease the aggressive display of behavior to obtain the food treats. So they think everything will be fine. However, if the person moves suddenly, leans toward or over the dog or even if the food runs out, the dog may remember that they were truly scared and react with aggressive behavior. So was the food desensitizing the dog to the person (the intended objective) or was it only acting as a temporary distraction?

In the third lesson, Radar continued to bark at me despite responding to my commands to sit or lay down. Since he was responding to my commands despite lots barking, I felt I would be able to walk with Radar and his owner. So we walked together for a bit with me gradually coming Why are some dogs aggressive, dog aggression, aggressive dogs, Michael Burkey, Dog Behaviorist, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigancloser and closer to them as we walked in line with each other.  He kept his eye on me but ceased his barking. Often times I would start with a muzzle first but I believed Radar would walk with me and wouldn’t bite but may return to his barking repertoire. As his owner handed me the leash and gradually faded out of our proximity, Radar started to walk with me and didn’t bark. He showed some avoidance behavior at first but quickly responded to my commands to heel and come that were well-taught by his mom. This obedience knowledge aided in his ability to come closer to me. After walking on a loose leash for awhile, I sat down at a pause table (agility table) holding Radar’s leash in my hand. I was pleasantly surprised and honored that Radar immediately came to me eliciting petting from me. As I petted him, he leaned into me for comfort and support.  I had just made a new friend.

Another question I’m often asked is, “Why do you do what you do (train dogs)?” The answer is “to enhance the lives of dogs and humans so they can live in harmony together”, as is with my new friend Radar.  : )

 

To learn how Michael Burkey and the MDT Staff can help you and your dog, call us at 734-634-4152 or check out our website at:  Michigan Dog Training.

 

Robert Ankiel – Employee of the Month

Michigan Dog Training, Robert Ankiel, Employee of the Month, Plymouth, Michigan

Robert Ankiel, MDT Kennel Technician

 

On June 1, 2017, Robert Ankiel, a Kennel Technician at Michigan Dog Training, 1031 Cherry Street, Plymouth, Michigan 48170 was selected as MDT’s  May 2017 Employee of the Month. Due to his excellent work performance he received a certificate, gift award and placement on MDT’s Employee of the Month wall.

The certificate was in recognition of Robert’s perfect attendance and always being early to start his shifts, being able to handle all the dogs, having received the “Speedy Award”, proactively and efficiently completing his duties, willingness to promptly do anything asked of him, being an excellent team player and his positive work ethic and attitude.  He joined the MDT Team on March 18, 2017 and we are very proud to have him be a vital team member.  Congratulations to Robert!

Michigan Dog Training, Employee of the Month WallRobert Ankiel, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

How do I introduce my dog to guests in my home?

Michigan Dog Training, train your dog not to jump

Dogs accepting people into your home can be frustrating. Whether your dog is overly excited or fearful aggressive toward them, it takes training and patience to teach your dog to accept friendly visitors into your home.

With either situation, it’s important to desensitize your dog’s reaction to the sound of knocking or the door bell ringing. You can do this by pairing the sound of either with a tasty food treat. Don’t worry, your dog won’t learn to never bark as I know people still want their dog to alert them to visitors. They will still bark. We just want to reduce your dog’s level of reactivity to the sound so your dog remains in a thinking state of mind instead of a panic reactive state of mind.

To do this, have a family member the dog knows well knock on the door or ring the bell while standing indoors. Yes, the dog will know it’s them doing it but we want to start with easy exercises so your dog can have lots of success. Later, the family member can stand outside while knocking or ringing the bell. Have your dog on leash and when the sound is triggered, stuff your dog with a tasty treat. This way your dog won’t have time to bark. Repeat with many repetitions, and then reward your dog with the treat after he shows a few seconds of calmness upon the sound being triggered. At some point, your dog will look to you when the sound is triggered, when he does, reward with a treat. I call this desensitization process; 1. Stuff a dog, 2. Reward a dog, and then on the dog’s own terms, 3. he’ll look to you for the treat upon hearing the sound.

Michigan Dog Training, German Shorthair Pointer, Plymouth, Michigan, Place command

Hunter on place while Michael writes this blog post.

I also recommend teaching your dog to go to “place” which is a pre-determined location such as a place board, dog bed, or other item to go to and sit or lay down on. Once, on the place board; they can sit, lay down, change positions, etc. as it’s a location not a position. The place board should be within 15-20 feet of the front door and within viewing distance. That way your dog is more likely to stay on “place” if he/she can see what is happening at the door. You will teach your dog to stay on place despite three factors: 1. Duration of time on place, 2. Distractions, and 3. Distance from you as well as able to go to place from a distance.

Once the dog is desensitized to the sound of the knocking or doorbell and understands the “place” command, you can combine the two so that the sound informs the dog that the cue to go to “place” is forthcoming. To see how this is done, watch the below video in which Gabrielle rings the doorbell which told her puppy to go to place on the stairs. This allowed her to come inside without the puppy running outside past her which is what was happening before learning to go to “place.”

For a friendly highly energized dog, leave your dog on “place” when guests enter the home. At first, have your dog on leash so that he/she can’t catapult onto your guest. The dog understands not to leave “place” but will remain in an excited mood. As your dog calms down, have your guest approach your dog who is on place to receive petting.

If your dog re-energizes or comes off of place, have your guest step back while you resend your dog to “place.” Your dog will soon learn that the quickest way to get petting is to remain on place and calm themselves down. You can release your dog from “place” when he/she is calm.

For a highly energized dog or a fearful aggressive dog, obtain personal instruction by calling us at 734-634-4152 or go to Michigan Dog Training.

May 2017 Canine Good Citizens

 

German Shepherd, American Eskimo, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, Canine Good Citizen, CGC

On May 9, 2017 two dog teams at Michigan Dog Training (MDT) in Plymouth, Michigan successfully passed the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluation after having taken the Intermediate Manners dog training group class. The CGC evaluation tests the dog’s temperament and obedience skills via ten exercises.  Congratulations to:

  1. Angela Wilt and her dog Mac Arthur Silver Strider, an American Eskimo of Westland, Michigan
  2. Andrew Rasky and his dog Titan, a German Shepherd of Canton, Michigan

Michigan Dog Training, German Shepherd, Canine Good Citizen, CGCMichigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan, American Eskimo, Canine Good Citizen, CGC

Emily promoted to Dog Trainer

Emily Justusson, Dog Trainer, Michigan Dog Trainer

 

On April 20, 2017 Emily Justusson was promoted from Assistant Dog Trainer to Dog Trainer with a specialization in E-Collar training.  She has completed Michigan Dog Training’s Dog Trainer program and successfully passed written and practical exams.

Emily joined the MDT team in October 2016 and is near completing studies at Animal Behavior College.  She has a very upbeat attitude when meeting clients and working with their dogs.  Congratulations Emily!!

N.J. promoted to Dog Trainer

 

On April 14, 2017 N.J. was promoted from the position of Assistant Dog Trainer to Dog Trainer with a specialization in E-Collar Training. She earned this prestigious achievement after having completed Michigan Dog Training’s Trainer program and successfully completed comprehensive written and practical exams.

In addition to training dogs in MDT’s Day Training and Board and Train programs, she continously steps up to new responsibilities. Some of these have included, teaching “go home” lessons to clients once their dog completed a residency program, teaching group classes, and being a pivotal contributing member of the MDT team.

Congratulations! Your accomplishment is well earned.

Dash a SDIT earns Urban CGC

Michigan Dog Training, Urban CGC, Urban Canine Good Citizen, Service Dog in Training, Service Dog, Diabetic Alert Dog

On the cold wintery day of January 25, 2017, Dash a Golden Doodle earned the American Kennel Club Urban Canine Good Citizen title. The testing was done by Michael Burkey of Michigan Dog Training in downtown Plymouth. Dash passed with flying colors heeling amongst distractions of people seeking warmth in the Panera Bread restaurant, disregarding walkers and joggers on city streets, sitting beforehand and calmly crossing city streets, loading and unloading from a vehicle under control, disregarding trash left on the sidewalk, transversing open back metal grated stairs and more.

Michigan Dog Training, Urban Canine Good Citizen, CGC, Urban CGC, Service Dog in Training, Service Dog, Diabetic Alert Dog, Michigan Dog Training

Down stay at a restaurant

Dash and her owner Shannon Inglis of Lake Orion, Michigan are participating in MDT’s Train Your Own Service Dog (TYOSD) Diabetic Alert Dog program which consists of 24 private and group lessons to gain public access obedience skills and to be able to alert when Shannon’s blood sugar goes low. They are doing an outstanding job and Dash has already alerted to Shannon’s lows in real world settings.

Congratulations Dash and Shannon!

 

6 New Trick Dogs

Do More With Your Dog, Kyra Sundance

On February 6, 2017  six dog teams earned their Novice Trick Dog Title as part of Kyra Sundance’s “Do More With Your Dog!” program at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan. The teams had to demonstrate 15 points worth of tricks that they learned in the Basic Manners group class. MDT’s Basic Manners group class incorporates both obedience skills and tricks to make learning fun for dogs and their owners.  Congratulations to the following teams:

  1. Michaela Gearin and Tobias Gearin, a Coon/Rott mix of Livonia, Michigan
  2. Barbara Gearin and Owen, an All American Dog of Livonia, Michigan
  3. Sarah Huddas and Rebel, an English Setter of Canton, Michigan
  4. Jillian Miller and Dobby Miller, a Vizsla/Labrador mix of Plymouth, Michigan
  5. Srujana Bolger and Penny Bolger a Rhodesian Ridgeback of Northville, MI
  6. Marvin Asuncion and Leroy, a Shepherd mix of Canton, Michigan

 

Service Dog earns Canine Good Citizen

Service Dog, Diabetic Alert Dog, Michigan Dog Training, Plymouth, Michigan

 

On January 31, 2017, Piper Dashwood Kane and his owners Sheldon and Cheryl Kane of W. Bloomfield, Michigan earned their Canine Good Citizen title.

Piper also successfully completed the Train Your Own Service Dog training program to become a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) at Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan. The training was provided by Dog Behaviorist Michael Burkey and Assistant Dog Trainer Matthew Bryant.

Congratulations to Piper, Sheldon and Cheryl!

Michigan Dog Training, Diabetic Alert Dog, Service Dog, Canine Good Citizen

 

Number One Best Dog Training Tip

Michigan Dog Training, all dog breeds, large dog breeds, small dog breeds

What is the number one or best dog training tip that a dog trainer can offer? That can be a hard question to answer as there are a lot of things that go into training a dog to have the relationship you desire. However, if you pressed me to answer that question, the answer would be hands down – “consistency.”

Dogs are quick visual learners. They are keen observers and remember your routines. They jump for joy when you pick up their leash telegraphing them it’s time for a walk, they become anxious when you pick up your car keys signaling you’re going to work, etc. One of my clever clients told me that their dog got anxious when she washed her morning water glass as she always did that just prior to putting on her coat and leaving for the day. So sometimes it’s not just picking up the keys or coat that can trigger a response. A dog can recognize an earlier part of the chain of events, especially if you’re consistent in your routine.

When you think your dog has learned an obedience cue via a hand signal or a verbal cue, is that the only thing that triggered them to perform or do other subtle cues prompt them to act? Some examples may include; reaching into your treat pouch before giving a command, learning forward into the dog prior to giving a command to lay down, turning away from them as you want them to exit a vehicle instead of waiting for a command to do so, etc.

Michigan Dog Training, Police K9

K9 Simone

Before I worked on the street as a law enforcement officer, I did an internship in the county jail. That experience taught me I never wanted to work in the jail but it was an interesting social observation. Because the inmates have nothing but time on their hands, they are keen observers of the Correctional Officers’ (COs) routines. And, COs just like all humans are creatures of habits despite trying not to be so. Many of the inmates would purposely try to frustrate the COs for entertainment purposes. Some of the COs recognized it was all a game and were able to not take the inmates’ antics personally. Whereas, many others took it personally and sequentially caused themselves a lot of undue stress that would probably result in elevated blood pressures and other medical conditions.

Similarly, I see many dog owners who are stressed out and struggling with the undesired antics of their dogs. It doesn’t have to be that way. Just like one hires a professional to help them with their taxes, legal matters, and health issues; one should seek help from a professional dog trainer or dog behaviorist. The main thing that separates a pet owner from a dog trainer is consistency. Pet owners can learn how to train a dog but their success level will be dependent upon their consistent follow through.

Years ago, my college roommate was studying abnormal psychology. One of his homework assignments was to have his friends take a 500 question survey. When he scored my results, he told me that I was “abnormal”. I asked jokingly, “what do you mean I’m abnormal!?” He said I was considered abnormal because the test measured consistency and I scored a 100%. We had a good laugh about that and I told him I wasn’t surprised because I recognized many of the questions were the same questions with the same results, they were simply asked in a different manner. He said, well it’s not normal to score 100%. As a dog trainer, this analogy shows me how important it is that we be consistent in our physical cues (intended and unintended), verbal cues, and inflections with our dogs. They are keen observers of our behavior.

To be consistent with your dog:

  • Look how you might be giving unintended cues,
  • Understand your dog is always learning (desired or undesired behaviors)
  • Seek out a professional dog trainer/behaviorist to learn how to train your dog
  • Follow through with the instruction with deep practice
  • Realize your dog is a keen observer of your behavior and
  • Understand your dog’s antics are not personal but rather shows you what your dog still needs to learn.

Michigan dog training, teacherA dear client of mine was struggling to get her dog to go to and remain at “place” (a dedicated location such as a dog bed) while she prepared lesson plans on her computer for her school children. Her dog would do the command during a training session but not when she needed it otherwise. Her dog knew what the command meant so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was consistency. While my client was preoccupied, the dog was no longer receiving reinforcement for staying nor a fair correction for leaving the place.

She became increasingly frustrated with her dog leaving the dedicated place and thus gave up, allowing her dog to come off the place during “non-training sessions” (all moments of time are training sessions). So I asked her a question, “would you ask one of your students to do something that they understood but then take no action when the student simply walked away?” Her response with a smile of passionate enlightenment was, “nooo wayyyy!”

My suggestion was to either be mindful of her dog and be able to respond if her dog stepped off the dog bed or not to give the cue in the first place. It seems like a simple solution and it is. However, many times without a coach (dog trainer) to guide us, we can’t see the obvious because we are stuck in the mind.

Bart Bellon, an internationally known dog trainer coaches dog handlers to know what the rewards for doing are and consequences for not doing. Thus,

1. Teach your dog what to do,

2. Reward your dog for doing,

3. Use fair corrections for not doing, and

4. Above all else be consistent in your approach and response.

Please comment below how you will become more consistent with your dog. And, if you need help, contact Michigan Dog Training in Plymouth, Michigan at 734-634-4152. We can help you!