Tag Archives: behavior management

How To Keep Two Aggressive Dogs In The Same House

By Andrew Ledford 714-827-4058

Keeping dogs that are aggressive toward each other is not a problem most people have. However, it is a problem I encounter enough that I wanted to write about it. Actually what motivated me to write this was working with a couple of dogs who do not get along. You may not own two incompatible dogs but there is a good chance at some point you will have a dog visit that doesn’t get along with yours, or you may go on vacation with dogs who don’t like each other.

I have never trained Long beach police dogs, this photo was taken at one of their events. However I done some work with Long Beach Police.
I have never trained Long beach police dogs, this photo was taken at one of their events. However I have done some work with Long Beach Police.
When I had a Long Beach Cable TV program Officer Stuart and Kon the German Shepherd Dog were frequent guests. At that time I also got to attend and video several of their officer survival courses.
When I had a Long Beach Cable TV program Officer Stuart and Kon the German Shepherd Dog were frequent guests. At that time I also got to attend and video several of the Long Beach Police K9 officer survival courses.

When I was younger I mainly worked with aggressive dogs doing police and security work. Often we had several dogs in the house or kennel that really enjoyed having a go at each other. It seemed quite natural to just keep them apart. I know many of the people I work with think it’s unnatural to keep their pet dogs separated. I just want to point out that this is one option. Even if you only use separation as a temporary option.

I have managed a kennel with over 60 security dogs. These dogs would all be let out at the same time and they were housed two dogs to a run. They had to learn not to fight when let out and when being fed. It took a few weeks but they did learn real fighting, fence fighting, and excessive barking was not allowed.

I remember one day while picking up pans one dog got out and cornered me. I thought I was going to do battle with that dog. Fortunately the owner of the security business/kennel came out gave the dog a stern command and it went right back into its run. This incident emphasized how important one of my rules is. That rule is always secure the latch on kennel runs. This applies to gates too. You will read a bit more about this rule later.

I am going to go over environmental management more than training. While training is important, it may take some time before both dogs are trained. However, you can start managing the dog’s environment right now.

The first and the obvious solution to preventing dog fights is don’t let the dogs get together. This is often easier said than done. It takes cooperation from all the people who have access to the dogs. While teaching everyone to keep the dogs separated is part of a management strategy, we cannot rely on people doing it. At least we can’t rely on everyone in the house successfully managing this behavior without some planning and good environmental design.

Usually one or both dogs are motivated to engage the other. Often they are looking for that window of opportunity. The unlatched door, careless guest, or obliging child. Dogs can move mighty fast and it is never pleasant to break up a dog fight.

We can keep the dogs separated by confinement and restraint. I prefer confinement, but a combination of confinement and restraint may sometimes be useful.

Confinement involves having one or more barriers between the two dogs. Restraint could be keeping one or both dogs on a leash.

As a general rule I use at least two barriers to keep the dogs away from each other. If you are using two dog runs/kennels make sure the dogs cannot do any fence fighting. To discourage fence fighting have the runs away from each other. I used to have a small kennel in the desert and I always had at least one dog run away from the others. The separate kennel was for that problem dog that just didn’t get along with others. Eventually the problem dog would be integrated into the general dog population, but it would start off away from the others.

The snap keeping the latch closed is located behind the plant.
The snap keeping the latch closed is located behind the plant.

You will also want to make sure no one accidentally lets the dogs out. A motivated dog can breach a barrier in several ways. One way they can get past the barrier is learning how to open a gate or door. This is how the security dog that cornered me got out. You need to make sure the dogs can’t let themselves out or in. I usually secure the gate latch with a snap, gate hook, or lock.

Having two gates satisfies one of my rules for dog safety – keep at least two barriers between the dog(s) and the problem.

I once had a very aggressive and somewhat unstable German Shepherd Dog and my rule for him was to have at least three barriers between him and the public. I also took the extra precaution that his dog run/kennel was to always be locked.

The three barrier rule is also good for some households with dogs that are very aggressive toward each other. It gives an extra measure of security when more than one person makes a mistake at the same time. It may seem unlikely that two people would be opening each gate or door at the same time, but the scenario is more common than you would think.

A dog run inside a gated side yard will add the extra barrier to a two dog run setup.

You can also crate one dog and put the other in a dog run or secured side yard. If people keep all the house doors closed you now have three barriers between the two dogs. There can be some negative consequences to this method, so I recommend consulting a dog trainer before you choose using a crate. Especially if you use it more than occasionally.

One of the biggest rules that must be followed is to always close Doors or Gates.

Dog Safety Rule Number One
Close the Door! Close the gate!
The door cannot be left open – not even for a second.

Another option although less reliable, is to use a baby/puppy gate
An Ex Pen is good but another option, although less reliable, is to use a baby/puppy gate

There are some extra safety measures that can be taken for dogs that bolt doors. As a temporary solution I will sometimes put an exercise pen (ex pen) up as a barrier to the door. If the ex pen is not secured a determined dog will crash right through it. Even if it is secured it may only give you a few extra seconds to react. But those few seconds can be a life saver.

Some people will find that a quick closing mechanism on the door is a good investment. This is particularly true if there are a lot of children in the house and it can also assist forgetful gardener/lawn care workers.

It has been my experience that having just a house door separating two or more aggressive dogs is not enough. It is too easy for someone going through the door to let a dog to slip past. What I find happens more frequently is that many people will not completely close the door. This is what happened with the dogs that prompted this post. In breaking up the dogs fighting I injured my hand. It has been over three months and my hand still hurts. For a couple of months it was my whole arm that ached. My use of that arm was limited for at least the first month. If you only have house doors separating the dogs you should invest in at least a couple of ex pens to put up around the inside of the house and the outside as well.

I also suggest installing self closing security doors leading to the yard and have security doors for sliding glass doors as well. These are improvements that will provide additional benefits other than keeping the dogs away from each other.

An alarm system that lets you know when a door is left open would be another good add-on that could be very helpful. It will also assist in teaching the humans to close doors.

This Chow Chow with wearing a Muzzle had a few issues
This Chow Chow wearing a Muzzle had a few issues

Another option and one that I usually classify more with training is getting the dogs used to wearing a muzzle. Teaching a dog to wear a muzzle should be part of regular pet training. There are several scenarios where having a muzzle on the dog may be necessary. If I remember right all sheriff dogs needed to wear a muzzle when being transported in a helicopter. Being comfortable with a muzzle will be useful when transporting and housing dogs in emergencies such as earthquakes and fires. Both of which we have a lot of in California.

Wishing you the best in dogs and in life,

Southern California Dog training

Potty Training In The Rain

Southern California doesn’t get a whole lot of rain. When we do get rain a lot of our dogs don’t like it much. The dog that is staying with me for a homestay board and train program is one of those dogs.

Sometimes the weather can make potty training more difficult.
It seems she doesn’t mind going out in the rain for fun, but she does not like going potty when it’s wet. Her finicky potty behavior means I need to spend a lot more time watching her when it’s wet outside. This is another case of behavior management. If I don’t have any other commitments or if I can reschedule other commitments I’ll wait for her to go. Along with waiting I’ll also offer a little encouragement such as exercise or play and more frequent visits to her potty spot.

If I have other commitments I can’t work around I’ll take this particular dog out for a walk. She will always go on a walk. While the walk is not teaching her to go in the target potty area it is not as much of a setback as an accident in the house.

My Favorite Dog Training Rain Coat
My Favorite Dog Training Rain Coat

The recent rain has been very light. When it’s raining, shall I say, like cats and dogs, it’s best to be prepared before you head out the door. During moderate to heavy rain I will have a rain coat by the door along with my hat.

My hat is always by the door. If you know me you’ll know I think a hat is essential equipment. There are several low overhangs in the yard and it seems if I forget to wear my hat I always hit my head on one of those. Even in a light rain a hat is mighty handy for keeping the mega water drops coming off the trees from running down your neck.

Other helpful rain gear includes rubber boots or rain shoes and an umbrella. I find an umbrella gets in the way of handling the dog so I don’t use one. But for dogs that take a very long time they may have a purpose.

That is gear for getting out into the rain, but how about coming back inside? I recommend at least having a rug or towel down for the dog to step on as it comes in the door. Some people like having a towel by the door to dry the dog as well. It’s better to take a few minutes to dry the dog as opposed to having the dog shake dog smell water on the walls and furniture.

The take away is think about what you will need before you need it. Plan ahead and get everything ready so you’ll have all of your training supplies and equipment ready at the right time.

Wishing you the best in dogs and the best in life,
Andrew Ledford
So Cal Dog training


Helping Scared Dog Overcome Its Fear

Helping a scared dog overcome its fear with board and train dog training

Fearful dog training in public and learning how to cope with stressIn the video we are working in public places to help overcome this dog’s fearfulness. It took many weeks for my little dog friend to begin walking on a leash. Then it took more weeks to get it to accept the noise and activity of new places. It has made slow but steady progress. Being in a new active environment is a huge accomplishment to this little dachshund mix. For this dog every novel experience is a new challenge to overcome. You will see he does nicely with seeing his reflection in the glass as we walk by a store. Reflective glass is just one of the dog training distractions I find useful at retail locations.

If you watch the video you’ll pick up some valuable dog training and handling tips. On the day I did this video we were training at a strip mall with a Japanese supermarket. The dog is from Long Beach but on this day we were training in the San Gabriel Valley. The video was done in the month of August so it’s warm out. Because of the heat you’ll see me checking the ground to make sure it’s not too hot for the dog’s paws.

Taking a dog out into society at this age is considered secondary socialization. A sensitive dog such as this one will need to be on a training and maintenance program for a very long time. If the training is not continued when the dog goes home its behavior will drift back towards where it was before the training started. While it will need long term behavior management it can now go into public and walk on a leash, which it would not do before the training.

Usually I would do very calm touching for a fearful dog. However, considering this dog’s personality and behavior problem I felt it was better to do the petting, ear scratching/rub instead. The type of touching I’m doing in the video is more a taming technique.

While we were training we met some nice people and one of them invited me to a meetup for vegetarian pet owners.

Getting a New Dog

Are you getting a new dog this year? If so you may want to know more about new dog syndrome. Understanding New dog syndrome can help us and our dogs deal more effectively with the stress of bringing a new dog into the household.

I work with many people who tell me how good their dog was when they first got it. By the time people call me in for dog behavior help the dog is proving to be quite disruptive. I hear how the cute little fur baby was perfect. It was quiet and docile when first entering the home. Then a week or so later it was a little monster. Although a cute little monster.

There are some dog behavior problems associated with new dog syndrome I hear about more than others.

One of these problems is that the dog who was just an angle is now getting into everything. It seems that it went from never chewing to chewing anything it can get its mouth on.

Another common problem is the dog that was supposed to be house trained when is first came into the new home. However, now it only potties where it should not go and when no one is looking. I have seen two scenarios with this problem. The first is the dog that developed house training problems when coming into the new home straight away. The second is the dog that seemed to be doing fine with potty training in the beginning and then for some mysterious reason starts having potty problems.

Barking is another common problem for dogs that suffered from new dog syndrome. The dog was quiet when it first came into the home and now it barks at everything. This is quite common since many dogs with new dog syndrome are sensitive and sensitive dogs tend to bark more

A problem that can go along with all the above is extremely active behavior. Overall hyperactive behavior should not be confused with the temporary overactive behavior puppies display in the early evening and sometime in the mornings too. You may also see this temporary overactive behavior in puppies when they’re tired and when under a little stress. The stress can be as simple as frustration when learning a new behavior during food reinforcement training.

With over active behavior we often see the same pattern where the dog was very calm when it first came into the home only to become unruly once it settles in. It seems any stimulation at all makes this kind of dog hyperactive. The extra active behavior leads to all kinds of problems including jumping, chewing, potty problems, digging, and barking among others.

To prevent and overcome these problems requires the proper behavior management.  Early intervention is best, but not always possible. You can help your new dog through the transition period by being consistent and emotionally supportive. Dog training can be very helpful at all stages of the dog’s life. If you can start a training program soon after the dog arrives at its new home you may prevent many of the unwanted effects of new dog syndrome.

Some dogs have a tough time making the connections between the controlling signal and the desired response when under stress. In these situations we just need to be patient and use good behavior management. Sometimes being patient is part of providing an emotionally supportive environment.

Even if your dog has a hard time making the connection between the controlling signal and the behavior you can still use food to counter condition avoidance. When there is a strong avoidance response you will need to be more aware of the environment. I classify awareness as a component of one’s personal rules which make up a strategy for dog training. You can read more about dog training strategies in my book Best Friends Learning Together.

If you need help with your dog you can call me at 714-827-4058

Managing dog behavior and people’s too

Encourage good dog behavior with the appropriate discriminative stimuli

Is managing discriminative stimuli part of philosophy, business management, or dog training? This is what Wikipedia has to say about “Stimulus control and discriminative stimuli: Stimulus control is the phenomenon of a stimulus increasing the probability of a behavior (operant response) because of a history of that behavior being differentially reinforced in the presence of the stimulus. In other words, stimulus control is basically learning to pay attention to things that we identify in the environment (discriminative stimuli) that give us information about the effectiveness of our behavior.” Discriminative stimuli help us determine what rules apply to achieve reinforcement.

At a social media group I belong to I was talking with a philosopher about how we have certain rules that help us do the right thing. More importantly we have rules that keep us from doing what society considered immoral. This part of the conversation revolved around how a man of good moral character would not go to an attractive married woman’s room where they are alone and drink alcohol while at a conference.

Why is it that alcohol is a major factor or variable to this scenario? It could be that alcohol reduces the inhibition we associate with moral behavior. By reducing inhibitions our more animal like nature shines through. The nature of animals is probably driven more by lower level needs than the higher level needs we like to associate with being human. At this point my post diverged into two different lines of thought. I will post my more whimsical thoughts about the possibilities of animals experiencing altered states of consciousness on my new dog website.

Getting back to dog training and behavior management. If we can’t expect other humans, not to mention ourselves, to behave properly under certain conditions, how can we expect our dogs to do any better?  For the most part dogs don’t have the ability to manage discriminative stimuli that control behavior.

The inability of dogs to control this aspect of their environment places the responsibility of discriminative stimuli management squarely on the shoulders of us humans.

We need to live by rules that help arrange the environment in ways where dogs have an easy time being good. Dogs can’t decide I’m going to spend more time inside so I won’t be so tempted to go visit my neighbor when she smells sooo good because it would lead to a show dog with less than desirable children. But people can arrange the environment so our dogs are not hated by society.

Some interesting strategies for self control were used by children in an experiment that required waiting 15 minutes to have 2 sweets verses having 1 sweet right away. It was found that children with good self control employed a strategy of not thinking about the sweet. This was often done by thinking about something else. They were managing the internal discriminative stimuli. These children were managing the signals that controlled their behavior. I like calling internal discriminative stimuli the controlling signal(s). It may not be scientific but it makes sense for normal conversations.

Managing discriminative stimuli or the controlling signal(s) is often one of my first objectives when doing an in home dog training program. Discriminative stimuli management is especially critical where the owner is so frustrated with the dog’s behavior they are thinking about getting rid of the dog.  Usually we can at least make the dog’s behavior good enough so the owner can keep the dog. This give us time to do the needed training to change the offending behavior. Now even if the behavior can’t be completely changed, it usually can be managed. Efficient management of the dog’s behavior can make cohabitation with humans possible.

There are established social rules for managing the attractive woman + Alcohol + opportunity syndrome.  There are also individuals who have personal rules for managing these scenarios. With dogs you need to be your dog’s social authority. It’s important to know that you can direct and manage your dog’s behavior without being overbearing. Sometimes this involves teaching a new response. At other times you may need to make some physical changes to the environment. It is up to you, the dog’s owner, to manage the signals that control your dog’s behavior.

I can be reached at 714-827-4058