Confrontation; Why it is Never the Best Way to Train Your Dog

Thanks Rott Lover for the Photo

I hate confrontation!

I will fight back if you back me into a corner and poke me with a stick a few times but I am not confrontational at all.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I am usually submissive not dominant hahaha.

I was at my friend’s house last year after his 8 year old son lost a football game and was getting a slightly confrontational pep talk.  Now don’t get me wrong, they are great parents and were using phrases like “you were born a winner”.  And, they were right he needed the pep talk and ended up LOVING football (this year they are undefeated)!

But it made me uncomfortable for him… I had to go sit outside for a while.

I am more the positive reinforcement kind of parent I suppose.

Sometimes they like to get me in the car and pretend to fight to watch me get uncomfortable hahaha.

My parents were very domineering and I was raised to be submissive and avoid conflict.  My sister however, was not as submitting and I watched her receive quite a few beatings… which made me even more submissive I think.

So it should come as no surprise to you that confrontational training methods aren’t part of my regiment either!

I cringe when I watch “celebrity” dog trainers (who aren’t even real trainers) get into dog’s faces, use electric collars, and otherwise “dominate” the dogs on their shows.

I think dog training should be as non-confrontational as possible to be the most effective.

With confrontation, comes conflict and conflict makes learning difficult.

The Question

Thanks Photo Net for the photo

Thanks Photo Net for the photo

The question I got recently was from a dog owner who’s dog is deciding he doesn’t want to share the furniture with her.

He has decided that growling at her when she goes to sit on the sofa is appropriate and probably keeps her off of it when he so decides.

So she has two options:

The confrontational option; where she grabs him by the scruff and gets in his face and makes him get on the ground and stay there…

Or the non-confrontational option; where she keeps him on a leash, gently plucks him off of the furniture whenever he gets up there (he is no longer allowed on the furniture for obvious reasons) and teaches him tactics and skills like down stays on his bed on the floor.

Now what if I tell you he is a 5 pound Maltese?  Which option would you choose?

Now what if I tell you he is a 200 pound Rottweiler?  Which option would you choose?

Why Should Size Matter?

A lot of people are quick to say grab that Maltese by the neck and throw him on the ground.  Dominate him, hold him down and make him submit.

However, few would do that with the growling Rottweiler.

And, it is true; if you are going to have a confrontation you’d better be quick enough and tough enough to win because you are likely challenging the dog which may throw him into defense and fight or flight.  And, if that dogs decides he’d rather fight you would need to be ready physically and mentally for such a battle.

Although I know people who train this way… I don’t think it is applicable or even close to appropriate for most people.

I have an 80 pound dog with huge teeth and I can tell you right now, if I get into a conflict with him I am not going to push him to a point where he has to choose.  I’m not certain I would win a physical battle.  But I have also been in a bite suit and I know the kind of damage a dog can do in a short time.

I’ve felt the pressure per pound that those teeth can have on flesh, and I have seen bite wounds and lacerations that sent people to the hospital and have left them scarred for life.

And, as everyone who pushes people into those confrontations says “You’d better win and dominate”.

I Know I am the Smarter Animal

Doesn't Matter What Animal You are Training if you Use Your Mind! Thanks Clicker Training.com for the Photo

Doesn’t Matter What Animal You are Training if you Use Your Mind! Thanks Clicker Training.com for the Photo

I may not be the fastest, I don’t think I am the strongest, but I KNOW I am the smartest.

Don’t get me wrong, dogs are smart but if we put some thought into the training we are the smarter animal.  We live in houses and go to school and hold down jobs and make money; we should be able to figure out how to improve our dogs’ behavior without having to resort to conflict or violence.

Plus I don’t have to worry about the 70 year old 100 pound woman having a fist fight with her Rottweiler if she is using her brain to train her dog.  I don’t think it is truthful and fair to expect people to out strengthen their dogs (plus a HUGE liability)… I do think it is fair to expect most people to out think them.

But It Isn’t As Awe Inspiring

Watching a dog trainer chase a fearful and aggressive dog around a yard, finally, leash him and then dominate him; later placing him in a family where he is never aggressive or fearful (yeah right) makes for exciting TV.  Confrontation is exciting, it sells.

Talking about out thinking the dog isn’t exciting, it’s almost as if it becomes the natural thought process the smarter way; if you think like a dog you can out train him.

If you expect him to act like a human and understand us and our rules, you are starting out behind the 8 ball.

If You Have a Territorial Or Non-Sharing Dog

If you have a dog like this that wants to growl over his things and his space you must think like him.

He doesn’t want to share, he wants to keep his things.. this is pretty natural if you think about it.  I don’t blame him I like food and a warm spot.

But dogs are like children, if they can’t share their toys they shouldn’t get to play with them.

I don’t want to live in an abusive relationship; so if you are going to fight with me over your rawhide… you aren’t going to get a rawhide.  Simple, I am going to avoid that conflict more on possession aggression and working with it safely click here.   And, contact customer service at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com to find out when our next Aggression Course will start.

And, if I have a dog that doesn’t want to share the furniture; he isn’t going to get the privilege of sitting on the furniture.  I don’t let a selfish (dominant although I hate that word sometimes) dog on furniture.

If he has to live life on a leash and learn to do down stays on the floor that is what I am going to do.

But in doing so you must reduce the conflict or you end up with the same basic fight.

So I reward my dog for laying on the floor or going to his bed and learning the “place” command for more on that click here 

Thanks to Dog Spoiling Made Easy for the photo

Thanks to Dog Spoiling Made Easy for the photo

He needs to think that HE WANTS TO LAY ON THE GROUND.  If you make him think this is the better choice then there is no conflict.  Laying on the ground is rewarding.

If he goes back to his old ways of jumping on the furniture, don’t yell, scream or scold him (remember no confrontation), gently grab is leash which he has gotten used to dragging around the house and smoothly pluck him off the furniture by simply taking it and walking away.

Depending on where you are in your training program, you can click him for getting off the furniture or tell him to go to his bed and reward him.  Give him a better place to be and he will think that is where he wants to go.

If you do it right he thinks he is training you and you avoid the ugly conflict of being bitten.

Eventually you remove the leash (it may take a month or several) and he learns to be on his bed and when you say “go to your bed” or “get on your place” instead of him thinking he is losing his warm spot on the sofa he understands he will be rewarded for getting on his bed and being there which is totally what you want and non-confrontational!

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Comments

  1. June Pound says:

    We used to have a very dominant little kelpie, (very good little cattle and sheep dogs), who on one occasion growled at me when lying beside my on my bed. To me, my dogs may share my bed, but it is not a right. It is a privilege. I reacted instantly by removing him from my bed and also from my bedroom. I shut him out in the hall and left him there for all of five minutes before I allowed him to return. I should have photographed the expression on his face when I opened the door again. It was priceless!
    Most dogs are quick learners. He never tried that on me again.
    There was no violence. That is not to say that he would not try it on anyone else in the family. He tried it on my son who did the same thing.
    Ben was an excellent obedience dog and a natural ‘heeler’. However we found him in the park when we were walking our German shepherd and brought him home. He had no identification and had to spend 10 days in the pound before we could rescue him so I really do not know his history. I suspect that he may have tried this with a less experienced dog owner and when he did not come when called I think he was dumped. He had no collar or microchip. June

    [Reply]

  2. Jenny says:

    I understand what you are saying because I don’t like confrontation either, and I’m not strong enough to beat him. He (my dog) basically is obedient – when he wants too- He has a spot in the fence that he will jump, I’ve tried wire making it higher, a tralis, but he jumps over it, scrambling over the the boards, wires etc. It has been suggested that I use an electric fence. I’ve left his lead on with a stick through the end and while the stick is there he won’t jump. I was playing fetch with him after about 5 throws, he stops, looks at me then rans straight for the fence dodges the obstacles and jumps the fence.
    What/how, he has already cost me to get him back from animal control. Please help me. He’s my life and I love him to bits.
    Thanks

    [Reply]

    Marian Hubbard Reply:

    Jenny,
    Just don’t let him offleash!!!!It is as simple as that. If you love him so much, just keep walking him around your yard, and when he seems to get it, just get a longer lead….I
    think they sell all the way up to a 50 foot lead.
    Problem solved.
    Marian

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    When his life is at risk such as this I would use invisible fence, he will learn that it is constantly there and after several months will probably give up.

    [Reply]

  3. Cindy Stacy says:

    I have a 8 month old German Shepard/ Lab mix puppy, We have him house trained since we kennel trained him, but I can’t get him to stop chewing and chasing my cats, and he likes to jump up a lot. What can be done to fix this behavior? I tell him down and he listens sometimes, but I’m afraid he’s going to hurt one of my cats. I love him, but I also love my kitty’s Please give me some advice. Thank you,

    Lost in Westminster

    [Reply]

  4. Jen-Beth says:

    Thank you for a calm, rational, respectful methodology for any conflict.
    Jen-Beth

    [Reply]

  5. Mar Ex says:

    I am with you. I am and experienced dog owner and have successfully trained a couple of small dogs, an adult German Shepherd and an adult Doberman. I inherited a 3 year old 110 Lb male German/Anatolian shepherd. By breed (Anatolian) he has aggressive, protective tendencies. Pretty much what they do not learn as pups is going to be very hard to teach later. Worst with him is other dogs (I will get your program on that), he barks at anyone approaching the house (big bark – we are working on that) and his nails – of course also temp taking.

    He was hurt by a groomer doing his nails and it got worse and worse. To avoid having to pay for anesthetic each time his nails needed cutting, I hired a trainer who assured me he could help. Dog showed some displeasure at my home with the trainer. After several sessions, trainer suggested we go to vet’s office for a little desensitization. It all went horribly wrong. Dog snapped at the trainer. I offered a muzzle – dog was stressed in small room with too many people. I was on the floor soothing him. Trainer said no muzzle. Dog was chewing on a bully stick. Snapped again at trainer when he attempted to cut a nail. Next thing I know trainer picked up the dog (all 110 lbs of him) in the Ceasar MIlan style. This is a big adult dog and he is very strong. Trainer was over 6″2″ and works out. Next thing dog is screaming like he is terrified and in pain and snaps at the trainer again. This time his snap hit home and the trainer almost lost his finger. Now, he is my dog, but this “trainer” also put the dog in a terribly stressed situation without any protection (muzzle). I almost had the dog put down then and there. I do not want to own an unpredictable aggressive dog. At that point, my concern was kids – although he has always been great with kids (grandkids and others with supervision) who visit. Dog now has a criminal record. I took him home and cried for days about it, Finally realizing the “trainer” overstepped his bounds in trying to dominate this dog. I have always respected Dog’s limits and have made an effort to push him slowly. I began by picking up a foot and not letting go even if he snarled. I told him firmly “don’t you dare” and congratulated him when he relaxed and I finally let go. I can now message his pads and nip his nails. Hopefully with more work, I will be able to do his nails and eventually have someone else do them. Gentle is working, although slowly. Control and intimidation is no way to train a dog. Pick your “trainer” carefully. Observe his methods first before you turn your dog over. Incidentally, by chance, after 3 years I found one of the commands the old owner used!! Works like a charm. It was a command installed while he was a pup.

    [Reply]

    chris f. Reply:

    What i did when my dog didn’t like her nails clipped due to a groomer clipping the quick and making my boston jittery every time i triedto clip them rst thing i bought one of those grinder wheel nail trimmer which the motor made it worse, then i would turn it on, as she investigate the grinder i would praise her, click then treat, as she got more n more comfortable with it i put her in my lap speaking quietlyhow she is ok and i’ll make sure nothing happens i would do a couple nails and as she got nervousabout getting hurt, i stop praise her, end the traing n give treat, after couple sessions in a few days was able to do both feet, never hurting her or ever forcing her to do it, never leaving the traing session on a agressive note, if session started to go bad, i would wait for a positive moment end session with praise, worked wonders lla i do now is bring out the dog grinder and she starts sniffing it i know she’s ok with it and it equals a positive training session, now i can do all her nails in 5 minutes, create a positive reeforcementsituation n if she’s like most clicker trained dogs will respond within days to hours. Hope this helps someone

    [Reply]

    Jenny Reply:

    My female dog was like that the vets had to inject her before they did her nails. The vet was a male and she had been badly hurt by a male. So getting her nails clipped was becoming very expensive. I took her to another vets where the vet nurses were female. The dog was in and out in 10 minutes and she was happy and relaxed. She will do anything for food also. Maybe try a female it could make a difference.

    [Reply]

  6. Megan Keyes says:

    I have a 13 year old Shar Pei mix (and maybe some Akita?) who when we first got him was allowed on the furniture. The shedding was too much to handle so we had to train him to stay off the couch. He does stay off the couch, when we are home. When we leave we find traces of him being on the couch (dog hair, pillows on the floor, warm spot on the couch). It’s hard to get him to stay off the couch if we aren’t able to be there to redirect him.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Then find a place where you can keep him when you are gone so he doesn’t have access to your furniture. And, make sure that he has SEVERAL comfortable beds throughout your home, at 13 he deserves a soft place to lay.

    [Reply]

    Megan Keyes Reply:

    Oh he has a very nice bed to lay on. That he doesn’t use lol. He’s just stubborn. We have the living room blocked off where he can’t get to it when we’re gone but there are those random days when he forget and see pillows askew. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    hahaha well, we all like a good break on the sofa 😉 it could be worse he could be eating it 😉

  7. Sandy says:

    I have a golden retriever cross that I rescued from a kennel at 6 weeks. We live on an acerage and have a trucking company that sees a lot of traffic in and out of our yard. When he was little he was very nervous and would hide under the step when people came. Then last fall at about 6 months, he stood his ground and snarled and the hair on his back stood on end and he barked this very low, loud intimidating bark. Now he runs out to the vehicles and barks and growls. He used to calm down as soon as we went outside but I’ve noticed that it is taking him longer to settle down. Once he does, he is very affectionate & licks the people and leans on them until they pet him. He is loose all day and put in the garage at night. I don’t want to tie him up or put him in the garage during the day, but I’m not sure how to stop this behavior. I heard that it may be because he wasn’t socialized enough as a pup, so I have been taking him to town and walking him on trails on a leash so he sees other people & dogs. The walks are getting better, but the fear aggression with people in our yard is not. I’m not sure how to conquer this. I’m hoping you have some suggestions.
    Thanks,
    Sandy

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You need to stop the behavior from happening which means a fence, or a crate, or having him inside (I would not tie him up as this will make the behavior worse http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/create-aggressive-dog/)

    He is feeding his own aggressive behaviors by being allowed to chase vehicles and he needs to be taught an alternative like sitting next to you or laying down. But you also need to prevent him from the chase which means he can’t be outside alone off leash.

    If you aren’t careful and he bites someone you could be sued for your trucking company and all the money that you have. And, although he has not bitten yet, his behaviors are telling you he is going to soon. And, this is a very serious behavior for such a young dog.

    [Reply]

  8. Judith says:

    Plant a Juniper that grows wide and tall, getting a fairly big one to begin with in the area of the jump. What is the draw over the fence? Is the dog being walked? You have one dog, get a second smaller one that cannot go over the top. Not allowing much time for a while in the yard except for nature visits until he forgets the lure. Just my short thoughts for the moment. You did not say the breed, age or size of your dog. Seems if there is something interesting to overcome the lure over the fence the behavior.
    I have two Yorkies and talk to them a lot and they really understand a lot of what I say, and using words that say what I want instead of “no” words seem to get the best results. Instead of the rough puppy playing too rough with the six year old, I tell him “gentle” and he understands, sits and stops being rough.
    Maybe train your dog to jump hurdles as they show on television might be a game to start, and gradually build up and enter the dog in competition.

    [Reply]

  9. chris f. says:

    What i did when my dog didn’t like her nails clipped due to a groomer clipping the quick and making my boston jittery every time i triedto clip them first thing i bought one of those grinder wheel nail trimmer which the motor made it worse, then i would turn it on, as she investigate the grinder i would praise her, click then treat, as she got more n more comfortable with it i put her in my lap speaking quietlyhow she is ok and i’ll make sure nothing happens i would do a couple nails and as she got nervousabout getting hurt, i stop praise her, end the traing n give treat, after couple sessions in a few days was able to do both feet, never hurting her or ever forcing her to do it, never leaving the traing session on a agressive note, if session started to go bad, i would wait for a positive moment end session with praise, worked wonders lla i do now is bring out the dog grinder and she starts sniffing it i know she’s ok with it and it equals a positive training session, now i can do all her nails in 5 minutes, create a positive reeforcementsituation n if she’s like most clicker trained dogs will respond within days to hours. Hope this helps someone

    [Reply]

  10. Darryl says:

    I have tried the carrot and stick routine to get my 15 pound Min Pin to not be aggressive toward others when walking him on a lead. The stick, a rolled up newspaper, did not influence him at all. He would “argue” with me. I went to small treats – I would have him sit, give a stay signal and reward with a treat. After only a few sessions he will now walk with me, stop and sit with a tug on the lead and stay signal when other walk by. The treat is mightier than the stick!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Indeed! They are able to learn the concept of positive reinforcement so much easier than grasping the ideals of punishment 🙂

    [Reply]

  11. I am encouraged to find others who believe confrontation is a lose-lose situation. I am faced with a young yorkie-poo (Bella) that has become very aggressive towards our 3-year-old, pretty well-behaved red poodle (Josie). The 16-month-old, 9-pound Bella attacks 15-pound Josie without warning and at times for no apparent reason. Doorbells, phones ringing, cars pulling into the yard, etc. seem to be at least part of the trigger, but she will also jump out of my husband’s lap early in the morning, race down the hallway growling, jump up on our bed and start a fight with the poodle cuddled beside me with no apparent reason but with clear purpose. (The yorkie-poo also sleeps on our bed but gets up with my husband earlier than I am up.) The dogs rest peacefully together all night with never any problem. At times during the day, they engage in typical tugging with toys that occasionally includes some growling, but it is not the same growl.

    I am not giving up on this beautiful little dog until I have exhausted every possible course of action. However, at 71 I am not enjoying the tense atmosphere at all. Bella has a very short attention span. Usually reasonably successful with teaching my pets the behaviors I want from them,just getting Bella to “look at me” can be a challenge. As hyper and aggressive as she sometimes is, she can also be equally affectionate. It is not at all unusual to find the two dogs curled up together at the end of the sofa or together in one of the two doggie beds on the floor. It’s as if Bella has become a Jeckyl and Hyde project, and I don’t want her to abuse or hurt Josie. I bought Bella because Josie needed a playmate. They seemed fine together for a few months, but I am beginning to think I made a mistake. Trouble is, my family of pet lovers are very attached to both of our fur babies. My grandson will be heartbroken if I have to find Bella a new home– and so will I.

    I signed up for the aggression course, but due to family obligations have not yet had a chance to begin the process. If there are suggestions or insight into this behavior, I will welcome them.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would put the aggressor on leash and teach alternate behaviors by setting her up for training. You say doorbells can trigger her, so put her on a leash and ring the doorbell then make her lay down or go to her bed to lay down and do a down stay. Teach her that her triggers now mean she must do a down stay.

    If she doesn’t already do down stays regularly then you need to start there by teaching her basic obedience at least 3-5 times a day until she understands and complies easily… then add distractions and her triggers.

    But, your other dog does not deserve to be attacked and your other dog needs to be kept from engaging in this behavior.

    [Reply]

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