The poisoning effect of affection
I recently met a client with a dog who has repeatedly bitten his wife, and other strangers plus attacked other dogs. There were less than 5 people in the whole world that this dog could be around without being muzzled. This client had a hard time not petting his dog, and this dog was extremely anxious and seriously lacking confidence. He was not crate trained. If he was put into a crate, he would try to break out (bite the door, scream, bark...). Once the owner walked away, he would have a meltdown in the crate. They could not walk him by other dogs or people. He could not go anywhere except very secluded areas in the middle of no where. The dog was trained by a couple trainers using lots of treats, gentle leader, harness..., who told them to ignore bad behaviour and reward the good moments, who did not believe in correcting the dog. Recently, the dog had become much worse. They were thinking about giving the dog up which would definitely result in the dog being put down. He started to really target at the wife and bite her (with deep puncture wounds) when they came across another dog on the walk. I never saw them try to correct their dogs. When l asked him about correction, he said his dog looked really scared if he so much as raise his voice at the dog. If l got close to the dog, the dog would just lose it and try to bite me. And the owner would pet and sooth the dog. Very fearful dog who really lacked confidence. This dog was the kind who would only do a quick bite and then run away; but if he came across someone weak or small (like a child) or a smaller dog l believed he would act more confident and attack with more conviction. My suspicion was confirmed when they told me their dog was much more aggressive towards smaller dogs, especially female. The owner kept petting his dog in front of me during the whole 2 hour consultation when the dog would bark and lunge at me (muzzled and leashed) repeatedly. He could not keep his eyes and his hand off his dog, even as the dog was very anxious panting and pacing around very nervously. The dog only knew obedience commands when the owner was holding food in his hand and luring the dog with the food. Once they came across another dog on the walk, this dog would flip at the end of the leash like fish at the end of a fishing pole. No control whatsoever. In other words, none of the training the dog had received from his previous training really worked as they had no control of their dog in the real world around any kind of distraction. When l showed them a prong collar, they were very uncomfortable. They wanted to make sure the collar would not creat too much discomfort to the dog. When l told him to stop giving the dog all these excessive affection, l can tell he was having a hard time doing it despite how much he assured me he was committed to do whatever it took. He did not know how to love and lead this dog without constantly soothing and petting him. He was concerned about possibly causing discomfort to his dog with a training tool; but the real problem was the deficiency in his relationship - the irrationality of his behaviour towards his dog had greatly fuelled the dog’s dangerous and inappropriate behaviour. What he did not realize was that the unearned and misplaced affection and freedom he was giving the dog was causing the dog more confusion and anxiety than any collar can ever do. What he did not understand was that the way he has lived with his dog with all the “ignore the bad behaviour and reward the good ones” he was told to do was continuously poisoning and deteriorating the dog’s anxiety level more than any training collar can ever do. And lastly, this is what l like to ask all of you who have a hard time not coddling with your aggressive dog who has repeatedly hurt you and/or your loved ones... If someone is repeatedly beating up your loved one (your children, your wife, your girlfriend...), will you hug and buy this person drinks and dinners and treat him like he is your best buddy? If you are in a relationship where you are being abused repeatedly, will you be afraid to say “no” because you think you may hurt the person’s feeling? If you won’t, then why are you rewarding your dog repeatedly and excessively rather than correcting him timely and firmly when he keeps biting you and your family member?