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Brittany asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger Digging

Brittany Noland - Murphy - 2 y/o Great Dane/Greyhound mix My dog has become aggressive seemingly overnight. He has always been a hyper dog but never aggressive. Two days ago I saw him digging in the yard. I went to shoo him away, and he bared his teeth and lunged at me. We usually keep him in a crate when are at work, and it's never been a problem getting him to go in there. Yesterday, though, my husband opened the door to put him in there, and he bared his teeth and tried to snap at my husband. I really want to correct this behavior, but I don't want to get bit in the process. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

G’day Brittany,

When a dog has a sudden onset of aggression, we first need to rule out any medical issues of which we may not be aware. I would encourage you to take Murphy to your veterinarian to ensure he has a clean bill of health. Also, you do not mention if Murphy has been neutered. If he has not been, please consider doing so because intact males can be more aggressive.

After we have ruled out medical issues and Murphy has been neutered, it comes down to a behaviorial issue. There are some things you can do to help him overcome his fear and his feeling that he needs to be aggressive when you ask him to do something.

When you want Murphy to go into his crate, take him there on leash The leash gives you better control and is less confrontational;  you won’t need to grab his collar to put him in the crate. You also want Murphy to associate the crate with a pleasant experience by giving him a treat for the next few weeks every time you put him in the crate.
Because Murphy was digging and showed aggression when he was approached, I also wonder whether he was burying something (or uncovering something previously buried). I would discourage your giving him bones (if that’s what he was burying) to make sure we eliminate that as a possible problem.
Limit Murphy’s access to the yard when you are not able to supervise him to provide you with more control of his digging. Murphy may need some toys that would stimulate his mind and keep him occupied. Buster Cubes and Kongs work well because they provide food and entertainment at the same time.

I strongly recommend training for Murphy so he can become the well-behaved dog you want. Dogs don’t instinctively know what we want, so we must teach them in a way they understand and respect. Often, behavioral issues originate from a breakdown in communication, and your Bark Busters trainer can help you communicate better with Murphy. Please feel free contact your local Bark Busters trainer to speak with him about what he can do to help you.

Ally in Virginia asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger Puppy Management

Ally T. from Virginia writes about Bella, her 12-week-old pit bull/Rottweiler mix

When reprimanding our dog, she will occasionally growl or bark at us. I know this is a sign of her thinking she is dominant. What do we do?

G’day Ally,

You are correct. Growling or barking are typically signs of “answering back” or showing a lack of respect for your leadership. However, we also need to make sure Bella isn’t growling out of fear because she feels threatened by the way she is being corrected.

First, I’d like to establish that the basics are covered and then delve into the correct forms of communication to ensure that Bella not only respects you but also understands what you are trying to communicate.

Dogs have four basic requirements: FOOD, SAFETY, SHELTER and ENTERTAINMENT. Providing nutritionally balanced FOOD and fresh WATER on a regular basis throughout the day is important, especially for a growing pup. (Talk to your veterinarian if you need any advice on what food they recommend for your pup.)

SHELTER describes housing and bedding, and basically means she has a place of her own in which she feels safe and secure. That could be a bed next to yours, a crate or room in the house, or an outdoor kennel.

ENTERTAINMENT covers all areas of enjoyment for Bella including walks, training, play time and socializing.

Now safety. SAFETY means Bella’s protection and well being. Safety is a set of guidelines we put in place to keep everyone safe and happy, just as we would do for our families. In short, safety is leadership. It means consistently following through with the request of a command, showing our dogs we mean business.

It’s also important to remember with Bella to make sure the corrections you give her are (1) commensurate with the mistake she is making, (2) given at the time the mistake occurs (or ideally just before she makes the mistake), and (3) that you show and guide her to the correct behavior.

I would encourage you to allot 15-20 minutes per day to train Bella to follow your directions. Set aside the time when you are able to focus on her with as few distractions as possible. Give your commands in a straightforward way, and make sure you are able to follow through if she doesn’t comply.

It’s important to stay calm during training because this shows her you mean business. Don’t get flustered. By training her when you are ready, you will be showing her you are there to provide all of her basic necessities as well as the leadership she needs and expects.

If you require further assistance, please contact your local Bark Busters trainer.

Gloria in Illinois asks...

This question is about: Other

Gloria V. IL Shelter dog. Griffon mix. Name of dog not provided

My dog is an older dog with some training. How do I get inside her head to figure out what she knows. She's 26 inches at the shoulder, 50 pounds, and very strong. I really like her, and I want to be able to work with her, not against her.

G’day Gloria,

Very good question! I like your thought process here. How do we unlock the secret to see into the mind of your dog? And, yes, to build the relationship, you have to work with her, not against her.

The key to understanding our dogs is to try to view the world in the way they do and communicate with them in a way they instinctually understand. Dogs primarily communicate using voice tones and body language.

This simply means using the correct voice tones to communicate: lighter tones for praise, matter of fact tones for commands, and deeper tones for correction. Timing of our communication  is critical. Praising and correcting as the action is occurring will offer a clearer picture to our dogs.

Our body language also plays an important role in the communication process. For example, when we want our dogs to come to us, we crouch down to make our body language more inviting. Conversely, we stand tall when providing a command to use our natural body height to our advantage.

A clear set of guidelines for our dogs which we calmly and consistently follow will allow for a much quicker transition in the relationship cycle. Once your dog realizes that you are the leader and have nothing but her best interest at heart, you’ll have a more harmonious relationship.

Please contact your local Bark Busters trainer for more information if needed.

Megan asks...

This question is about: Other

Do you use shock collars and pinch collars? The trainer I am using has my baby on a pinch collar and now wants to use a shock collar on him for off-leash training. I have never been comfortable with the pinch collar and definitely am not comfortable with the shock collar. What are your beliefs in these collars? Isn't there another way without hurting or causing pain and anxiety to my baby for him to learn and obey?

G’day Megan,

Bark Busters does not believe in using equipment that forces a dog to respond because of pain, fear of pain or physical punishment. Our philosophy is that your dog should choose to behave in ways that please you out of respect for you and trust in your decisions.

Having a relationship based on mutual trust and respect while demonstrating that you have access to resources the dog considers of value such as food and safety can enhance your relationship and prevent bad choices by the dog.  By being your dog’s leader, your dog should recognize you as the authority figure in the relationship and respond in way that is acceptable to you.

While an argument can be made that the equipment itself is not the problem but only the ineffective use of the equipment, still items like shock collars and prong collars are capable of pain and injury if used improperly. Unfortunately, they are too easily used improperly and are often sold without proper training.

Your ability to remain calm and not become emotionally engaged in a negative way is an important characteristic of good leadership. That is one of the advantages of experienced, holistic, relationship-based trainers such as Bark Busters can provide.

Ruth asks...

This question is about: Aggression to a dog or other animal or where the dog is aggressive to the owner or a stranger

I blame my dog's bad behavior on my own poor training skills. I've had her since she was a puppy, and she's always had fear-based aggression, but I obviously haven't dealt with it properly. I'm afraid it's too late to change her, and I'm also afraid some of her bad qualities are genetic. Are genetic behavioral problems something that can be curbed easily with anti-anxiety meds or something? I'm at a loss here. I love my dog very very much, but I'm beside myself with what to do. I hate to give her up; I'll feel like a failure if I can't help her to be the dog I know she can be.know she can be.

G’day Ruth,

First, let me put your mind at rest and let you know it is not too late to help Moby.

It appears that Moby has a nervous temperament which manifests itself as aggression when she is unsure of what to do. Aggressive behaviors are not genetic but something the dog chooses because it helps the dog keep things it is uncertain of at a distance. Thankfully, behaviors can be changed.

Moby needs a safe place of her own, such as her own crate or kennel. Teach her to go there at times when she is relaxed so that when she is unsettled by loud noises, visitors, dogs or a new experience, she knows she will be safe in her kennel.

When our dog gets scared of something or reacts in a negative manner, our natural reaction as humans is to try to soothe the dog as we would a child. Unfortunately with dogs, this often reinforces the behavior rather than teaching the dog there is nothing to fear. If you redirect Moby and teach her through your own calm manner that there is nothing to be worried about, she will begin to respond in a different way. It will take time and patience, but Moby can learn to behave differently.

If you would like further assistance, I encourage you to speak with your local Bark Busters trainer.

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