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Category Archives: Training

Training the Tough Stuff: Part 3

Class has been over for several weeks now. I miss it and Maybelle probably does as well. I admit, I just like dog training. I’m sure part of it is that it’s a good outlet for my inner control freak tendencies. But there’s also something cool about learning how your dog thinks and seeing it respond.

During the second to last class she had a good day with the trainer’s new dog. He’d come to class once before but May wouldn’t let him get close at all without popping off. She was willing to accept him by the second class though, and we parallel walked without much trouble. I thought this was especially interesting because I suspect he is just the kind of dog she tries to bully–a submissive male.

On our last day we were meandering through the park, and the only other dog still left in class was up ahead of us. When class first began this huge mastiff mix wouldn’t get anywhere near the rest of class. She was so dog reactive — and so strong — it took two people to control her. But on the last day she was maybe 30 feet ahead of us, and barely noticed we were there. But at one point she started to strain against the end of her leash, which set Maybelle off into a brief barking fit. Nothing major but she definitely wanted to let the dog know she had her eye on her.

The trainer said, “Out of control dogs are definitely a  trigger for her.”  Read the rest of this entry


Ira Glass’s Dog

Apparently, mild-mannered This American Life host Ira Glass owns an attack dog, and you can hear all about it on this episode.

It’s a humorous story, though one that seems all too familiar. We’re talking about owners who go to great lengths to give their dogs the best care possible — in this case, that means importing kangaroo meat for the dog’s food — but probably causing the dog great anxiety in the meantime.

Piney, the Glass’s adopted pitbull, has a number of health issues as well as behavioral issues. He’s a fear biter and has auto-immune issues, and basically sounds like a neurotic mess. And whenever I hear about a dog like this — an anxious dog — I assume the owners are behind it. In this case, they got Piney as a puppy.  Read the rest of this entry

Training the Tough Stuff: Part 2

Just a cattle dog and h er Cabbage Patch kid.

Maybelle and I have been to six out of eight classes now, and we’ve had some mixed (and interesting results). By the third class or so, May was all but ignoring her pitbull buddy. The other owner and I were able to walk past each other without a problem, and eventually we even stopped, asked the dogs to sit and stay while we shook hands and then continued on.


But then the pitbull graduated, and we had to start from scratch. There are only two other dogs in class at the moment, and they both have dog reactivity issues as well — and aren’t necessarily friendly. So we can’t really practice with them. The trainer brought her dog, but he was new to her, and for whatever reason, Maybelle was not loving him.  Read the rest of this entry

Training the Tough Stuff: Part 1

Is that a treat?

Maybelle does not like it when she can’t go running up to every dog she meets. When I first got her and we encountered a dog walking down the opposite side of the road she’d want to pull me across the street. Trying to teach her to be calm was fruitless. Instead she just got worse. She started barking at dogs, lunging, and generally acting like a lunatic. It’s hard to explain to strangers that she’s not mean, she just a control freak who is frustrated by not being able to go running up to every dog she sees in order to sniff its butt.

So today we finally headed off to a class designed  to tackle the tougher issues many dog owners face. Basic obedience is great for learning the proper way to use positive reinforcement and get the foundations you need, but unless you’re a super-genius you probably don’t come away from it knowing how to deal with a dog that goes ballistic every time it doesn’t get to go running up to a new dog.  And the real problem is, most people don’t have the patience to help you practice, because it takes a long time to patiently reward good, calm behavior. So I started looking for a program that wasn’t just going to teach me more commands, but was going to let me practice the things we really needed to practice…and we seem to have found it. Read the rest of this entry

A Lesson in Listening to Your Dog

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This weekend I took Maybelle along with me to visit some friends who live about an hour away. She’s an ideal doggy-house guest. She’s quiet and mellow, and friendly. We even took her along to some very loud boat races, where she was more or less well-behaved, except for the few times she caught a glimpse of other dogs. Then she went into full on “I wanna sniff ’em, I wanna sniff ’em” mode, which results in jumping and barking and twisting and generally going berserk.

I’ve been working with a trainer on this, but so far we’ve just been doing attention getting exercises that seem to be pretty useless in the face of Level 10 nuttiness. On day two of our day at the races, one of my friends — who at this point was practically in love with Maybelle — intervened. I was sitting in a chair and holding her leash. When she started barking he stuck a leg up in front of her face and gave her a (possibly) patented Dog Whisperer “shhhhhttttt.” She was so caught off guard she sat right down and kept a quiet eye on the dog passing by.

This got me thinking: I have no idea how her former owners went about training her but it was pretty clear someone had. She doesn’t rush out of the door in front of me, and knew most of her basic obedience when I brought her home. I figured it was worth trying  training the Dog Whisperer way. So when I headed out on our walk this afternoon, I took my treats but I was determined not to use them as a distraction. Read the rest of this entry

Talking Sense About “Dangerous” Dogs

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Finally, someone speaking some sense when it comes to dangerous dogs.

“Dogs in the City” Reviewed

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Maybelle and I totally have a crush on the star of CBS’s new show “Dogs in the City.”

Honestly, we’ll watch just about any show with dogs on it — especially when trainers are involved — but most of them are a little annoying. The Dog Whisperer is a combination of adorable and completely insufferable, and Victoria Stilwell is…um…a bit dominatrixy. But Justin Silver is a little different.

First of all, he’s kind of hot. In the world of dog training, he’s practically Brad Pitt. He seems like he’s just as likely to get into a bar fight with someone from the Jersey Shore as he is to train your Schnoodle.  Read the rest of this entry