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KevTheDog

What is an "easy dog"?

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Hi all!

After 6 excellent weeks with Kevin - not much of a worry in sight! so much leash improvement! nothing to complain about! - yesterday he suddenly decided he would absolutely not let us put on his harness and collar and he got super chompy as we tried. Rather than chase him around the apartment, we left without him, came back, tried again (failed); ignored him for a while, played some games, tried again (failed); I got really frustrated and stormed off (grown up!) and while I was walking around the block, my husband took care of it (success!). Kevin kept trying to snap/bite at us as we tried to put on these things that we put on him every day, even multiple times a day! He doesn't seem to be hurt anywhere (we considered this) and he did have a bit of an extreme day the day prior (with an unusual schedule and a lot of new impressions) so perhaps that put him into a mood. But I feel like my trust is a little shaken. Kevin is a very sweet and often quite snuggly, affectionate dog. But while this was happening, I felt kind of afraid of him. He wasn't being wildly aggressive by any means, but he was protective and downright bitey. It made me think: do I have a *difficult* dog!? And what does that mean?

My last bc was a rescue who I got at 10 months and he just came out of the package a dream - user friendly and ready to go! He wasn't a big fan of riding in the car but you could do anything to his body, more or less - trim his fur, towel him off, handle his paws. He was a-okay. Kevin I've had since he was 8 weeks and we have a fantastic bond, for sure, but toweling and paw handling and apparently the occasional harness-application are real struggles for him. He gets protective. We may not have worked on these things Every Single Day Without Fail since he was 8 weeks old, but I do think it's fair to say they've been incorporated not an insignificant amount into his life for the past 13 months - we work on them!  So that leads me to believe that it's a bit of an inherent, naturey thing about him - he's protective of his body. Fair enough.

Have you had a dog like this? How did you overcome it? Is it something you manage rather than totally fix? Does it also shake your feelings on occasion? Like I said: we can go weeks without issue. And then suddenly it's like, agh! How do I even begin to deal with you? If you don't put your harness on, where are you going to poop!? The bathroom?! 

I love Kevin A TON and I'm proud of all the improvements and growth he's achieved in his first year (that we've achieved together, really). But sometimes I'm like "Hmm, would I be comfortable leaving you with friends for the weekend? Maybe not if you suddenly decide you can't wear your harness?"

I would love to hear thoughts and stories on this.

 

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My first border collie hated being touched around the neck, and hated having his head touched. Putting on his collie was a nightmare.

He was fear agressive and was afraid of many things. One day, he randomly decided he was afraid of men. That fear went away after a few weeks. Then he started to be scared of a particular wall in the house, for no apparent reason. I started feeding him near that wall, and he was fine after a month.

He had his problems, but we worked on them. Some of them got better. Some didn't. I tried to fix him, but I managed to live with what I couldn't fix. It wasn't always easy, but it was manageable.

I never thought of him as a problem dog. I thought of him as my dog. He was smart, caring, funny and amazing, and he is the reason I now have my second border collie, who is a puppy and is fearless and EASY. But she has her faults. All my dogs have had imperfections, but that's what made them so perfect. 

Also, the harness. None of my dogs have liked harnesses. Have you tried using a collar?

 

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If this just started up I would be talking to the vet since it sounds like he is protecting himself? Maybe he tore a muscle or strained himself? Or maybe he is just going thru a late stage fear period.

Also have you brought him to a behaviorist or a trainer? That way they can help build your confidence with him so your not afraid? He is able to pick up on your feelings. 

Each dog is their own personality. 

I have had mix reactions to harnesses but my dogs seem to love their current harness.

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An 'easy' dog is,  ultimately, a dog who meets the owner's expectations .  A difficult dog is one who does not.

If you go in expecting and even WANTING those traits, they're not difficult.


If you're surprised by things you don't want, didn't expect? Difficult.

I think in this, and in most your issues, your biggest problem is expecting your dog to be something that he's not, and being frustrated by that.  Work on what needs worked on, yes, but try to stop comparing him to some ideal in your head and meet your dog where he's at, and  accept WHO HE IS.   All the training in the world isn't going to change his personality- just some annoying behaviors.

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3 hours ago, CptJack said:

I think in this, and in most your issues, your biggest problem is expecting your dog to be something that he's not, and being frustrated by that.  Work on what needs worked on, yes, but try to stop comparing him to some ideal in your head and meet your dog where he's at, and  accept WHO HE IS.   All the training in the world isn't going to change his personality- just some annoying behaviors.

Agree with the above. My best advice - Love the dog you're with. Now, I know you love your dog, I don't mean it literally. But acceptance of who he is, all quirks included, is part of that love.

I have learned that lesson, and it makes all of my interactions with all of the animals who come into my life, whether as my own or fosters or client's dogs I am training,  so much easier. I know it sounds hokey, but really your (my, anyone's) attitude has a lot to do with how the dog . Think of a dog as bad or aggressive or difficult or stupid or what have you, and that will be the dog you have. Think of the dog as just fine the way he is, even if a certain behavior needs some work, and things are easier.

Now, having said that, I don't tolerate biting, and you might want to see a behaviorist on that. But first, quit using a harness. Many dogs don't like it. I have a dog who will just sit down and refuse to go for a walk if I put a harness on him. So try a collar, maybe different kinds, find out what is OK with him.

Plus, you can leave the collar on him and then all you have to do is clip on the leash. Maybe that would work for him. I would just experiment.

 

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13 hours ago, CptJack said:

An 'easy' dog is,  ultimately, a dog who meets the owner's expectations .  A difficult dog is one who does not.

If you go in expecting and even WANTING those traits, they're not difficult.

This is really brilliant, CptJack. It really resonates with me to think about it this way. Thanks.

 

10 hours ago, D'Elle said:

Now, having said that, I don't tolerate biting, and you might want to see a behaviorist on that. But first, quit using a harness. Many dogs don't like it. I have a dog who will just sit down and refuse to go for a walk if I put a harness on him. So try a collar, maybe different kinds, find out what is OK with him.

Plus, you can leave the collar on him and then all you have to do is clip on the leash. Maybe that would work for him. I would just experiment.

 

Thank you also for this! I have some follow-up questions!! (Surprised!? ;) ) I have read about the importance of using a harness because dogs' necks are constructed just like ours and a leash to the collar can cause them injury. When he's wearing a harness, I feel comfortable pulling him away from, say, a sandwich dropped on the street (he has a decent "leave it" but not powerful enough to avoid such a tasty street treat). But if his leash were attached to his collar, I would worry about hurting him (he's strong!). I've kind of been under the impression that attaching the leash to the collar is for dogs who never pull or need to be pulled. Am I mistaken?

Question 2: Does any teeth at all mean it's behaviorist time, even though he is not aggressive? Kev has historically been protective (as in: his mouth may get on us to say "stop that, I don't like it" but it isn't hard) with things like brushing and toweling. But this stuff has improved A TON (brushing especially; we're pretty much golden there; toweling is a work in progress). I'm a believer in prevention over treatment, but I don't feel overwhelmed, or like I've done everything in the playbook of things I'm capable of doing for improvements. Then again: I also think it would be kind of fascinating to work with a behaviorist!

Thank you everyone for your responses! We're back to normal this morning. I approached him with the harness for the morning potty outing, and he was a little "meh I don't really love this" and then lifted one paw nicely, then the other and we were off - normal! I don't think he has any physical injuries; I think he was having a bad hair day. Also, to clarify: it was in that brief moment that I felt afraid (the moment of trying to put on the harness, something we had done without issue hundreds of times, when he surprised me with snappiness). I certainly don't feel afraid of him in general - I mean, look at this face!

 

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I don't think that a collar would do him any harm. You need to keep your eyes out for things he might want to pull towards (food dropped on the floor, for example). If you see something like that up ahead, start giving him treats and continue to feed him treats as you walk past it. It will be much better for you to distract his attention instead of pulling him away from something - and it will be easier for you to distract his attention from something if you notice it first. Also, instead of pulling him away from a piece of food on the ground - say 'leave it' and pick the food up. Take it away from him. You could use a poo back to do so. I've always done this if one of my dogs REALLY wanted to eat an old sandwich, I would pick it up, throw it away and then tell the dog to sit or do a little trick, and give them a treat. That distracts their attention and gives me a reason to prasie them for being a good dog. If you really need to pull him away, I don't think it would do him any harm, though.

 

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A  thing you can do if you can't do a harness and don't want all the pressure on his neck, is loop the leash around his waist in a kind of slip knot:  It is not ideal.  It is aversive/makes  pulling aversive..  I still used it with  Kiran when he was killing himself on a collar (wheezing, gagging, digging in nonsense) and would shut down in a harness (so, 2 years ago or so).  He no longer pulls and after some work is cool in a harness, but that get up probably saved his throat and my arms and got us past him turning into a road kill impersonator in a harness (and prevented worse negative associations).

 

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https://images.plurk.com/21g6h8b7RahIUw1yZ3ituA.jpg

 

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Oh he is handsome. I wonder if his fur was being pulled in the harness? The harnesses we use are a little wider and so far everyone loves them. 

i don’t use collars (unless for herding) for all the reasons listed above. 

If they can’t use a harness we use a martingale hope I spelled that correctly.

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13 hours ago, SS Cressa said:

Oh he is handsome. I wonder if his fur was being pulled in the harness? The harnesses we use are a little wider and so far everyone loves them. 

i don’t use collars (unless for herding) for all the reasons listed above. 

If they can’t use a harness we use a martingale hope I spelled that correctly.

 

Look at that team of beautiful pups!!

So, we have a much sportier harness that we've tried transitioning him to - at first he was super freaked out by it, so we named it Trish and made it a toy (all of his toys have names), and eventually we were able to get it on him, but he was still kind of freaked out by it and I figured well, if you're not bothered by the old one then we may as well stick with it. Once the step-in harness is on, he's good as gold. He doesn't shut down or behave out of the ordinary; he gives a little shake and carries on with his life. It's the getting it on part that he doesn't always love, but it's not like he's resistant the way he was on Sunday all the time. What was so striking about that was that it was this sudden switch. Rather, putting on the harness is something that he seems to view it as a 20 second task to get through, but he just kind of holds his nose and does it, and it's fine. He knows to lift his paws nicely. It was only that one day that it was a struggle - it was so random! And now, all is back to normal. I do think the why of it all is something to keep in mind, but because his behavior is normal, it doesn't seem as though it's hurting him in any way. He's not trying to get it off or pawing at it or anything.

That said, perhaps we will give Trish another try :)

Thank you all for the clever collar and walking wisdom!

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On 11/12/2019 at 1:06 AM, KevTheDog said:

Thank you also for this! I have some follow-up questions!! (Surprised!? ;) ) I have read about the importance of using a harness because dogs' necks are constructed just like ours and a leash to the collar can cause them injury. When he's wearing a harness, I feel comfortable pulling him away from, say, a sandwich dropped on the street (he has a decent "leave it" but not powerful enough to avoid such a tasty street treat). But if his leash were attached to his collar, I would worry about hurting him (he's strong!). I've kind of been under the impression that attaching the leash to the collar is for dogs who never pull or need to be pulled. Am I mistaken?

Question 2: Does any teeth at all mean it's behaviorist time, even though he is not aggressive? Kev has historically been protective (as in: his mouth may get on us to say "stop that, I don't like it" but it isn't hard) with things like brushing and toweling. But this stuff has improved A TON (brushing especially; we're pretty much golden there; toweling is a work in progress). I'm a believer in prevention over treatment, but I don't feel overwhelmed, or like I've done everything in the playbook of things I'm capable of doing for improvements. Then again: I also think it would be kind of fascinating to work with a behaviorist!

Thank you everyone for your responses! We're back to normal this morning. I approached him with the harness for the morning potty outing, and he was a little "meh I don't really love this" and then lifted one paw nicely, then the other and we were off - normal! I don't think he has any physical injuries; I think he was having a bad hair day. Also, to clarify: it was in that brief moment that I felt afraid (the moment of trying to put on the harness, something we had done without issue hundreds of times, when he surprised me with snappiness). I certainly don't feel afraid of him in general - I mean, look at this face!

Nice cobblestone street. Where do you live? Such things look downright exotic to someone living in the desert.

 

I wouldn't worry about a collar hurting the dog. I have not known this ever to happen under normal circumstances, using a flat buckle collar. Those gentle leader things (I think that is what they are called) that go around the nose can cause harm by wrenching the dog's neck around suddenly and effectively giving them whiplash.

I would never let it pass if my dog put his mouth on me unless we were playing, or it was very, very gentle and being used to, perhaps, get my attention. I wouldn't let my dog decide whether or not we were going to do something, or to tell me to stop something. I am very kind to my dogs, and am never hard on them for anything, but they do not get to make the decisions, nor to tell me to stop something unless it is a yelp to say I accidentally caused pain. So if this were my dog, the dog would immediately get whatever effective correction was being used (I use a time out for just about everything), if he put his mouth on me to tell me to stop something. 

The problem with allowing that is that the dog them learns that putting his mouth on a person is effective, and if he puts his mouth on someone else, or worse someone else's child, you can find yourself in a variety of worlds of hurt for it and the dog can suffer the most. 

Now, if you feel that what you are doing to curb this is working, keep doing it. You may not need a behaviorist at all, but I would advise working concertedly on this until the behavior is no longer occurring. Best of luck to you and keep us informed. He is a beauty, for sure, with that one blue eye.

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In terms of physics, it seems that pulling a dog in any direction other than straight ahead is safer when pulling lower down on the spinal column, (base of the neck, close to the shoulders) rather than the muzzle. I can't articulate it any more clearly than that. Perhaps someone else can clarify who has more knowledge than I.

 I know that I'd rather be grabbed by the back of the neck and turned than grabbed by the nose and turned. The grip is closer to body mass and seems safer to me. Walking a dog in a harness is the other end of the extreme. You're trying to control the dog by exerting force on the heaviest part of it's body  and the part that has the most mass. I've had to use brute strength when walking a friend's largish dog in a harness. Not easy.

If anybody can help with a clearer description, please do so!

Ruth & Gibbs

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Just a quick word about the looped leash around the dog's waist (CptJack).  This is an effective control tool and it's self-correcting which is very good - BUT - if the dog lunges with a lot of force, it is possible to do damage to internal organs.  A MUCH safer technique is to loop the leash just behind the front legs, around the chest, and slip the free end of the leash through a ring on the dog's collar so the loop stays around the chest and doesn't slip down the waist.  Dogs for the most part dislike the tightening around the chest when they pull and will self-correct without potentially really hurting themselves.

Good luck with your gorgeous guy!

Amy

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On 11/24/2019 at 6:12 PM, D'Elle said:

 

Now, if you feel that what you are doing to curb this is working, keep doing it. You may not need a behaviorist at all, but I would advise working concertedly on this until the behavior is no longer occurring. Best of luck to you and keep us informed. He is a beauty, for sure, with that one blue eye.

We live in Stockholm! (My husband and I are transplants from Seattle, but I'm half Swedish and grew up coming here - Kevin is Swedish-born!)

I really appreciate your insights here. We generally practice the "yelp" sound (a holdover habit from when he was a younger puppy) when his mouth gets on us as a result of something he doesn't like, but I don't really feel like it's effective. There was a period where whenever it happened (again, when he was much, much younger; when teeth were still kind of a routine part of life), we would go close ourselves off in another room - an easier method than trying to physically put him in a different space for a timeout, especially since we live in a fairly small apartment. I'm wondering if perhaps reinstating that version of a timeout would be a good idea, when The Mouth happens. It's hard to know what kind of correction to incorporate as part of a positive reinforcement training practice - especially with a sensitive dog. But I wholeheartedly agree with what you said - I don't think it should be tolerated either! 

Speaking of updates: we are making HUGE towel progress. A rainy November has meant toweling off basically every time we come inside and he's become way more accepting. And I've been working with a clicker and treats on "let me look?" as a cue to hold and examine his paws on pretty much a daily basis. When he focuses, he will indeed "let me look" and if there is any mouth, it turns to licks immediately. And we've had zero issues with putting on his harness since that one funky day a few weeks ago.

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