Civilizing the City Dog: A Guide to Rehabilitating Aggressive Dogs in an Urban Environment: Supplement to How to Right a Dog Gone Wrong


City dwellers who own aggressive dogs will find this book very helpful for integrating their dog into society. The author offers many training situations and solutions for being able to control and enjoy the dog. This book covers safety zones, helpers, training, and suggestions to divert the dog's attention, as well as tips to reprogram the dog to react in a positive and excited manner in stressful situations.
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City dwellers who own aggressive dogs will find this book very helpful for integrating their dog into society. The author offers many training situations and solutions for being able to control and enjoy the dog. This book covers safety zones, helpers, training, and suggestions to divert the dog's attention, as well as tips to reprogram the dog to react in a positive and excited manner in stressful situations.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781577790891
  • Publisher: Alpine Publications, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/2007
  • Pages: 84
  • Sales rank: 1,280,623
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 2 Exercise in the Big City

In the Big Book, I talked about training recalls-mostly off leash in safe areas or on a long line. If you don't have access to an outdoor space you can use safely, start this training indoors, doing the same exercises I described in Chapter Seven of the Big Book. Simon Says, Search and Rejoice, Run-Away Recall and even End of the Rope Recall can all be trained indoors to start. Of course your distraction training will be harder in the Big City, but it can be done.

There are other recall games that you can play inside:
You will need at least two people for this. One person calls your dog and feeds
with a huge jackpot of food and play (if your dog likes play) and then releases. Person Two then calls the dog and also jackpots with food and play. Repeat with everyone in your household. This is also a great way to physically exercise your dog, especially if you have a multiple-level dwelling. You can also add in collar grabs-the person calling the dog grabs the collar and jackpots. This will teach your dog that a collar grab means food is coming, so that he isn't upset if you have to grab his collar when outside. Practice collar grabs in many different contexts: when doing door etiquette, when out for a walk, when racing to a safety zone (practice at times when you don't actually need to escape into a safe place). You should also practice saying your recall word in a panicked voice (this may not be much of a stretch for many of you). That way, when you should be breathing and talking calmly but instead are hyperventilating and screaming in terror, your dog will respond as if it were just anothergame.

Begin Sidebar
One of my students has a human-aggressive dog that would get upset if his owner
used a strong voice to ask people to keep their distance. I had her practice yelling at the TV in my building to "STAY AWAY!" while feeding her dog. A few days later, some teenagers moved to approach her dog although she had asked them politely to stop. Her dog remained completely calm as she screamed, "Sure, come closer, make my dog's day!" They promptly left.
End Sidebar

Even if you never let your dog off leash, you need a recall for emergencies:
leashes or collars can break, your grip may loosen when you're distracted, or the leash may be ripped out of your hand. I have become a real fan of whistle training, and I use the whistle as my really reliable recall signal (see Appendix 2 for Leslie Nelson's Really Reliable Recall DVD). We talk to and around our dogs all day long and that verbal recall can get lost in the shuffle. If your dog is aroused (even in a state of pleasant excitement, not aggressive arousal), there's a good chance that he literally can't hear your voice.
However, 99 percent of the time, the sound of the whistle will get through and the dog will respond instantly. Whistles are never angry, frustrated or upset; they remain neutral and sound the same every time. Plus, whistle training is very easy.

Begin Sidebar
You can get a whistle at any sporting goods store. Choose one with a long throat that you can hold in your teeth. Stay away from plastic whistles-the sound is too soft. A coach's whistle should work well for you.
End Sidebar

1. Week One: Every day, two to three times per day, spend a minute or two pairing the whistle with a treat. You don't need a clicker-just whistle/treat as your dog sits in front of you. I prefer two short toots and one really long blast. If your dog gets out on a cold, windy, rainy, thunder-and-lightning night, the two short/one long blast will carry farther than one or two short toots. At this stage in the training, don't ask your dog to move-you're just teaching him that this new sound is very valuable and pays off every time.
2. Week Two: Play the Run-Away Recall game, but instead of using a verbal recall cue as your dog comes to you, do your two short/one long whistle blast and jackpot the heck out of him when he gets to you. Practice this every day, two to three times per day, for two to four minutes. Practice the same way with the Search and Rejoice game. You can also play the Round Robin game as listed above and give everyone in your household a whistle.
3. Week Three: At this point, you should be able to start using your whistle cue before the behavior takes place. Just hang around and watch your dog. If he gets slightly distracted or is in another room, but you can pretty much guarantee he will come if you call him, give the two short/one long blast and jackpot him when he gets to you. If he fails to come instantly more than two times, go back and practice the previous step again. Set up some easy distractions for your dog, gradually making them a little harder to ignore and always being sure that your reinforcers are better than what he is giving up. As you progress in
whistle training, your dog will get better at coming away from harder distractions.

Begin Sidebar
Your whistle has the added benefit of being able to double as a call for help as you signal your dog, should you find yourself in a genuinely dangerous situation.
End Sidebar

Practice your whistle training when you are out for a walk on a day pedestrian and dog traffic is light or you find yourself with the golden opportunity of being in the country or an empty park with your dog on a long line. Let your dog sniff a little, and then say his name softly. If he responds, give your whistle cue and jackpot him when he returns to you. Release him verbally to go sniff again and then, if he happens to look back at you, whistle. Or if you see his nose lift off the ground, whistle for him. Always jackpot him when he responds.

I am not a big fan of using a stay as part of a systematic desensitization session-especially in the beginning. I prefer to keep the dog busy. I look at stays this way: It is very stressful to remain completely still while scary bad things are around. Even though the dog can adjust his position, you are asking him to remain in the same spot-that is, he can't flee. If you have ever had an MRI, I am sure you can relate to this. It is incredibly hard to remain motionless while in that machine-the awful banging noise, knowing that if you have a muscle spasm the technician has to do the whole thing over, to say nothing of the fact that you may fear the test's result. Deep yoga breathing is not allowed (I tried that myself and was told "don't breathe so deeply"), and so your heart rate goes up and you may start to hyperventilate. These are not the makings of a positive association-and yet we know that nothing about the MRI is going to hurt us.

Now, having said all of that, I do understand that those of you living in a Big City have to make stays a part of your foundation behaviors even during the early parts of your systematic desensitization program. You will need stays for door etiquette and you can also train it in other contexts as well. Many aggressive or reactive dogs lack self-restraint (for stays and other behaviors), but there are many games you can play to develop this much needed skill. It is especially important for reactive dogs to learn to wait calmly while being
leashed and not to charge out an open door. This is a matter of safety of course, but also an important aspect of behavior modification with reactive/aggressive dogs. The dog that jumps around excitedly when you pick up the leash and then rushes through the doorway the instant you open the door is a dog that is aroused before you even start. Not a good situation.

The first time you begin work on door etiquette, plan for your exit to take a long time, depending on how much history your dog has of charging out the door. A good time to start teaching this exercise is not first thing on a weekday morning, when your dog's bladder is full and you need to get to work. Instead, pick an occasion when your dog has been well exercised, doesn't need to eliminate, and when you have enough time to stay calm and patient during the process. A bonus of living in an apartment building is that you can practice door etiquette at your apartment door, at the elevator or stairwell door,
and again at the building door. It doesn't hurt, by the way, to practice sits and waits at the door when you're coming in as well as when you're going out.

*Stay while dinner is being served-an easy one to do with the added benefit of teaching some self-control.
*Stay while a treat or toy is balanced on your dog's front paws (or for bonus points, while it is balanced on his nose)
*Stay while a toy is thrown.
*Stay while you hold a toy or treat off to one side and wait for eye contact before releasing the reinforcer.

When I train a stay, I rarely release the dog to go and get the object I dropped or threw. That will just reinforce the dog for the release and you'll see your stays go down the tube. Go back to your dog to reinforce him and try not to let him get the object you dropped. (You can always reinforce him for the stay, tell him to stay again, and then go pick up the object you dropped.) Be creative and think up your own "stay" ideas.

Insert 02 photo 01
Echo is doing "elevator etiquette."

This is a super game to help your dog rev up and cool down, continuing in our
quest to teach your dog self-control and the ability to calm down quickly. The cool down part is the operative part here.

Begin Sidebar
I also teach "normal" dogs to do this. I just adopted a new Border Collie, Emma.
In the beginning, if I revved her up even just a little, she would bite my arms and rip at my clothing. Because I've systematically played this game with her, she can now, after a few short months, keep her teeth to herself.
End Sidebar
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v i i i
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . x
Chapter One: City Basics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Preparing Yourself Riding Shotgun
Escape Routes and Props Vet Visits Flexibility
Neighbors and Advisors When You Are Being Reasonable and
"They" Are Not Potty Breaks
Chapter Two: Exercise in the Big City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5
Start Indoors Round Robin a Plus Whistle Training
Stays and Self-Control Rev Up and Cool Down Scent Games
Free Shaping Lie Down on a Mat Wipe Your Feet
Nose Targeting and More Staying Motivated
No Time to Train Relaxing
Chapter Three: Prevention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 9
Changing the Meaning of Signals Doorbell and Elevator Cues
Doorbell Ring Elevator Ding! Breaking It Down
Where's the Dog? Get out of Dodge
Chapter Four: Heeling and Loose-Leash Walking in the Big City . .41
Muzzles: Pros and Cons Training Tips The Mechanics
Attention Heeling Loose-Leash Walking
Change of Direction Cue Troubleshooting
Chapter Five: Too Late for Prevention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Damage Control I: When You Can't Escape and Your Dog Goes Over
Threshold Damage Control II: When Real Catastrophe Strikes
Chapter Six: Invention Is the Better Part of Valor . . . . . . . . 63
Improvisation The Spontaneous Parked Car Option
The Spontaneous Neutral Dog on a Leash Option
The Spontaneously Appearing XYZ Option The "Can I Come Over
and Play?" Option Start Your Own E-mail ListChildren
Appendix 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71
List of Suggested Reinforcers List of Foundation Behaviors
List of New Behaviors to Train During a
Training/Desensitization Session Sample Log Sheet
Blank Log Sheet Log Sheet for Your Helper
Breakdown of Dog's Issues
Appendix 2: Additional Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79
Reading List Websites Training Tools
About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 3
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