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We have a 2 year old Malamute and a 6 year old Sheltie. The Malamute is a certified therapy dog, so he has all the traits that go along with that. The Sheltie is a great dog aside from several issues that make me want to crane kick him into orbit. We've run out of ideas on how to train him out of these things, so maybe you guys can give us some new ideas (I'm not a fan of the hippy positive-only/treat training) Here are the issues:

1) Genital licking. The first thing he does when he sees a dog is run up to it and start licking. You pull him away and tell him no, he waits until you are not looking and goes back at it. It's like he's a magnet to it, and will even find areas where dogs have peed in the grass and lick and lick and lick.

The vet has never seen anything like it before, and prescribed some really strong anti-depressent (I think) medication to even out his brain functions. This worked for a couple of months but it adds up to around $500 a year, so we had to stop.


2) Growling and barking at other dogs. A lot of dogs walk by our house and all you hear is constant growling and running around. Tried positive/negative reinforcement, telling him to lay down, go lay in a bed, nothing is working.

When we are outside he will growl and bark and run up to a dog, then proceeds with Issue #1. He's never bitten at a dog his entire life.


3) Getting on the couch and extra bed. He knows not to do this, and has never gone on the couch when we were awake and in the house. He knows when he can get away with it, and does it all the time. I'm so sick of cleaning up fur and watching our furniture turn into a bunch of scratch marks.

I even have stern "reminder sessions" before we leave or go to bed, yet he still does it. He gets stern treatment when I find his marks on the furniture. I bought him a bed and he lays in it all day.

One thing that did work is putting tape on the furniture like you do with a cat. It worked great at first but it's a huge pain in the ass. Also, he now checks for tape, so while it keeps him off the furniture it only works when we remember to put it on.


Aside from that he's the perfect dog. That is why I'm so frustrated with these things. Any ideas?
 

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The reason why a lot of people would recommend the "hippy positive-only/treat training" is because it works (if done consistently). Other forms of training are more likely to produce worse, unwanted behaviors in the long run (even if they seem to work in the short-run). Negative reenforcement simply teaches the dog to not do specific behavior when you're around, because then bad things happen. It doesn't teach the dog to stop the behavior altogether.

The couch sitting, for example--your dog isn't acting stubborn. He does not understand that he's never supposed to sit on the couch. He only knows that he's not supposed to sit on the couch when you're around. Admittedly, it's difficult to teach a dog to stay off furniture at all times (regardless of what training method you use). However, if you make being on the ground more rewarding than being on the couch, he'll eventually learn to stay off even if you aren't there. Is your dog fond of toys? Perhaps you could find a way to tie his favorite toy to a spot such that he has some room to move them, but he can't move them up to the couch. I'm sure others have suggestions as to training techniques that have worked for them.

One step in teaching is to get him to stop practicing the behavior--literally. Make it such that he can't get on the couch. You can either gate off the couch, or gate off the dog away from the couch. Maybe limit the dog to another room. The dog can't sit on the couch if he can't get to the couch.

I don't know much about dog aggression, but I can recommend a book on barking: Barking: The Sound of Language by Turid Rugaas. Your dog is trying to tell you something. If you understand what that is, you can work to curb some of the barking. The best prevention for barking, however, is limiting your dog's view of other dogs or people passing by. Some dogs will bark because of sound, but limiting sight should help somewhat.

Can't tell you much about the genital licking. If your vet prescribed an anti-depressent, it sounds like your vet thought your dog had an obsessive compulsive disorder. A dog behaviorist might help with those issues without the use of medication, but it will be difficult to simply train it out of your dog without special help if your dog really does have OCD.
 

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We've run out of ideas on how to train him out of these things, so maybe you guys can give us some new ideas (I'm not a fan of the hippy positive-only/treat training)
I don't know why people expect a dog to learn simply by yelling at it. As if somehow the dog has an obligation to follow the human's commands. If you want a dog to listen, you need to give it something in return. This is especially true for shelties. A sheltie does not respond well at all to punishment. They require a gentle hand when training. They are very put off by frustration as well. And I do hope you've never struck him. If so then odds are he does not have much trust in you anymore.

1) The genital licking is weird and does indeed sound like an OCD unique to your dog. The vet gave you medication and it worked so clearly something's not right. I think you may need a professional trainer to help you with this one.

2) The barking and growling at other dogs is fairly common in shelties. We used to live in an apartment complex when our sheltie was younger. Anytime someone would walk by the door, especially with a dog, he would go nuts barking his head off. And if we took him outside for a walk, he was perfectly normal around people and dogs. What we did was started using the cue "Enough!" when he would bark. So someone walks past the door with their dog, he goes off barking, we respond with "Isaac! Enough!" once we have his attention we praise and treat. Do not yell angrily at him though, you just want his attention.

3) He does not know he's not allowed on the couch. He just knows you will yell at him and get angry when you're around. You need to teach him "off" for when you're around. The problem is he's already afraid to do it when you're around so it will be harder to teach. If it's that much of a problem when you're gone, then crate him.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I strongly disagree with the positive-only/treat training approach, but I only mentioned that to highlight the form of training I do not want to use to snap him out of this. And for the record I use pack training, which isn't necessarily a "negative" approach.

There is also some more information I should add about how we know the dog knows the couch and bed is bad, and that is his behavior after doing it. We walk in the front door the same way every single time. The days he did not go on the couch, he wags his tail and greets us. The days he was on the couch, he hangs his head low and walks in circles in front of the couch. I can train him all I want that the couch is bad and floor is good, but I know he goes up there for comfort and nothing on the floor is going to match that.

He actually can never see any of the dogs walking by, but the dog tags jingling gets him going.

And I'm sure this is going to drive some people nuts here, but the days I put a shock-collar on, he's perfect and I never use it. Never barks, growls, licks, or jumps on furniture. Because of that I know he is smart enough to be good only in-the-moment for treats if we tried that.


edit (just saw HerdersfForMe's post):

-I learned later that Shelties were bred to bark, and if it's common I guess we'll just have to deal with it (but carefully, because we do not want the malamute to learn that).

-Hopefully someone else has dealt with the licking, if not, I guess he's special and we'll have to deal with it or find cheaper pills.

So it looks like it's just the furniture issue that can be worked out (HerdersfForMe you should read the above paragraphs about his guilt of jumping on the furniture)
 

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I strongly disagree with the positive-only/treat training approach, but I only mentioned that to highlight the form of training I do not want to use to snap him out of this. And for the record I use pack training, which isn't necessarily a "negative" approach.
I've never heard of that method of training. Could you describe it?
 

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I've never heard of that method of training. Could you describe it?
We were actually referred to this method by the malamute's breeders for sled dogs, however we do our own "house-hold" version. We have a book on it, but this website talks about it, even though I do not agree with all points: http://www.wikihow.com/Control-Your-Dog's-Behavior-by-Becoming-Pack-Leader

Pretty much the dogs do tricks and are obedient not to get treats, but because they are part of the pack and are required to listen. Disciplining the dogs isn't screaming and hitting, it's grabbing their hackles and pushing them to the ground, all while saying "bad dog" in a very controlled way. It's the exact same way dogs handle each other in the wild, except they grab hackles with teeth and draw blood.
 

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I strongly disagree with the positive-only/treat training approach, but I only mentioned that to highlight the form of training I do not want to use to snap him out of this. And for the record I use pack training, which isn't necessarily a "negative" approach.

There is also some more information I should add about how we know the dog knows the couch and bed is bad, and that is his behavior after doing it. We walk in the front door the same way every single time. The days he did not go on the couch, he wags his tail and greets us. The days he was on the couch, he hangs his head low and walks in circles in front of the couch. I can train him all I want that the couch is bad and floor is good, but I know he goes up there for comfort and nothing on the floor is going to match that.

He actually can never see any of the dogs walking by, but the dog tags jingling gets him going.

And I'm sure this is going to drive some people nuts here, but the days I put a shock-collar on, he's perfect and I never use it. Never barks, growls, licks, or jumps on furniture. Because of that I know he is smart enough to be good only in-the-moment for treats if we tried that.


edit (just saw HerdersfForMe's post):

-I learned later that Shelties were bred to bark, and if it's common I guess we'll just have to deal with it (but carefully, because we do not want the malamute to learn that).

-Hopefully someone else has dealt with the licking, if not, I guess he's special and we'll have to deal with it or find cheaper pills.

So it looks like it's just the furniture issue that can be worked out (HerdersfForMe you should read the above paragraphs about his guilt of jumping on the furniture)
Noooooooo, not the "he knows he's done wrong, he shows guilty behaviors!" argument again! I wrote a bit about this in reply to someone else's post a few weeks ago... here's the text from it:

CricketLoops said:
Up until a few years ago, I believed this, too! It's uncanny how much it looks that way, isn't it? Recent studies have been done, however, that indicate that this sort of behavior (called "appeasement behaviors" or "calming signals") isn't actually connected with any knowledge of wrongdoing or of even committing the act they're being scolded for in the first place.

First, read this article for an easy explanation of the phenomenon and study: http://www.registerstar.com/articles/2011/06/25/columnists/calling_all_dogs/doc4daf3339bd081942671129.txt

These two links describe it in a lot more detail: http://dogspies.blogspot.com/2011/03/is-denver-dog-really-guilty.html and http://dogspies.blogspot.com/2011/04/guilt-part-2-she-greeted-me-showing.html . Firehawk, that second link explains why your dog would greet you with guilty behavior.

Then look at these videos for some visual proof, if you're the kind of "i'll believe it when I see it" person (I am!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVQNc0zonzw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60B6xqsA9-w

If you're still in doubt, I challenge you to try the test on your own dog: Spill a little water on your floor and then scold your dog the same way you have been when you find a puddle in your house. See how his reaction compares to the same one he gives you when he looks like he understands he's done a bad thing.
The second link to the blog deals with why a dog might greet an owner with guilty behaviors before an owner has even discovered that the dog has done anything wrong. It has been scientifically proven that that doesn't correlate with a dog understanding that the behavior is "wrong" or even with a dog actually being responsible for doing something -- it's a reaction to YOU and to how you've reacted in the past. He's pre-empting a scolding and throwing off all kinds of calming signals to mitigate your behavior.

I've never heard of that method of training. Could you describe it?
I am also very curious to know what you mean by this.
 

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We were actually referred to this method by the malamute's breeders for sled dogs, however we do our own "house-hold" version. We have a book on it, but this website talks about it, even though I do not agree with all points: http://www.wikihow.com/Control-Your-Dog's-Behavior-by-Becoming-Pack-Leader

Pretty much the dogs do tricks and are obedient not to get treats, but because they are part of the pack and are required to listen. Disciplining the dogs isn't screaming and hitting, it's grabbing their hackles and pushing them to the ground, all while saying "bad dog" in a very controlled way. It's the exact same way dogs handle each other in the wild, except they grab hackles with teeth and draw blood.
I would love to see an example of where feral, "wild" dogs (what is a "wild" dog? what study of dogs in the wild has been done that proves this?) or wolves grab each other's hackles with teeth and draw blood to solve conflicts. I think you've been misled about how socially-skilled dogs and wolves prefer to solve problems.
 

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We were actually referred to this method by the malamute's breeders for sled dogs, however we do our own "house-hold" version. We have a book on it, but this website talks about it, even though I do not agree with all points: http://www.wikihow.com/Control-Your-Dog's-Behavior-by-Becoming-Pack-Leader

Pretty much the dogs do tricks and are obedient not to get treats, but because they are part of the pack and are required to listen. Disciplining the dogs isn't screaming and hitting, it's grabbing their hackles and pushing them to the ground, all while saying "bad dog" in a very controlled way. It's the exact same way dogs handle each other in the wild, except they grab hackles with teeth and draw blood.
Oy vey. No wonder its not working working out.
 

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First of all, a random blog, youtube video, and that said youtube video being featured on Good Morning America is not scientific!!!! Not even close! Plus the description I gave completely disproves these "scientific findings" because he is 100% accurate on when he looks guilty and did something wrong, and when he does not look guilty and did nothing wrong.

I would love to see an example of where feral, "wild" dogs (what is a "wild" dog? what study of dogs in the wild has been done that proves this?) or wolves grab each other's hackles with teeth and draw blood to solve conflicts. I think you've been misled about how socially-skilled dogs and wolves prefer to solve problems.
The first result: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bt7W-j7yDs

I can name off numerous times I've seen this as well, where one dog was acting misbehaved and another bit (or in most cases puts their mouth around and tackles) another dog. Dogs are socially skilled, they just don't discuss their issues over a cup of tea.
 

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skyer2000 said:
Pretty much the dogs do tricks and are obedient not to get treats, but because they are part of the pack and are required to listen. Disciplining the dogs isn't screaming and hitting, it's grabbing their hackles and pushing them to the ground, all while saying "bad dog" in a very controlled way. It's the exact same way dogs handle each other in the wild, except they grab hackles with teeth and draw blood.
There is no such thing as a "wild dog" in the sense of a domesticated dog living in the wild (and all dogs we think of as pets are domesticated through their evolution, making them completely different than "wild" animals). Anything named "wild dog" really isn't a domesticated dog or even close (i.e., the African wild dog). Since the African Wild Dog and the domesticated dog are two different species, you really can't take much about one behavior and attribute it to another. If you mean wolves, you should check out the latest studies in wild wolf behavior. Try the book Dog Sense by John Bradshaw. It explains the most recent studies in wolf vs. dog behavior in the context of training.

skyer2000 said:
The first result: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bt7W-j7yDs

I can name off numerous times I've seen this as well, where one dog was acting misbehaved and another bit (or in most cases puts their mouth around and tackles) another dog. Dogs are socially skilled, they just don't discuss their issues over a cup of tea.
That is a LOT different than a human grabbing a dog by his hackles and pushing him to the ground. I'm not even sure they aren't playing. A bit of a puppy tumble over a toy. If you see an adult dog grabbing a puppy by the hackles and pushing it down to the ground, drawing blood, you are looking at a very unsocialized, damaged adult dog. Dogs get into tiny disagreements--even well-socialized, happy ones. Usually its over toys or one dog is annoying the other, etc. But that's not dominance. That's two dogs having a disagreement. The dog that "wins" is generally the one that is being annoyed, or the one that values the toy/treat/etc. more than the other. If the dogs are well-socialized, the encounter should be very brief (a second or less) and one will back off. It's just a warning; no injuries; no prolonged barking or growling and no aggressiveness. Such is not the case with a human pushing a dog down and yelling at the dog. That is aggressiveness. It doesn't teach anything to the dog except that the dog should be scared of the human.
 

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We were actually referred to this method by the malamute's breeders for sled dogs, however we do our own "house-hold" version. We have a book on it, but this website talks about it, even though I do not agree with all points: http://www.wikihow.com/Control-Your-Dog's-Behavior-by-Becoming-Pack-Leader

Pretty much the dogs do tricks and are obedient not to get treats, but because they are part of the pack and are required to listen. Disciplining the dogs isn't screaming and hitting, it's grabbing their hackles and pushing them to the ground, all while saying "bad dog" in a very controlled way. It's the exact same way dogs handle each other in the wild, except they grab hackles with teeth and draw blood.
I'm not trying to sound snarky but I really don't like it when people claim they know how dogs think and act in the wild. Our dogs are not wild dogs. You are not an "alpha dog". Your dog wants someone it can look up to and respect and trust. Shelties want nothing more than to please their owners, trust me. But if you are rough with them you will lose that trust and it can be hard to gain back.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
I'm so confused here. The dogs are obedient, happy, travel with us everywhere, can walk without leashes, not caged, one is a therapy dog, both are perfect with children, not food aggressive, tricks on command, healthy, and we get compliments from other dog owners all the time. They have toys everywhere, good food, their own beds, run next to our bikes, and have never run away.

No one here has any right to say how I trained the dogs is incorrect. This shouldn't even be a point of discussion.

Here's what this is about:

-He has OCD, I have to look into medication again
-He's a Sheltie, so he barks
-He jumps on furniture

So the only issue I have with the 2 dogs I've trained this way is that one of them jumps on furniture. That's the only thing I need help with.



That is a LOT different than a human grabbing a dog by his hackles and pushing him to the ground. Also, those dogs aren't wild and, honestly, I'm not even sure they aren't playing. A bit of a puppy tumble over a toy. If you see an adult dog grabbing a puppy by the hackles and pushing it down to the ground, drawing blood, you are looking at a very unsocilaized, damaged adult dog. Dogs get into scuffles--even well-socialized, happy ones. Usually its over toys or one dog is annoying the other, etc. But that's not dominance. That's two dogs having a disagreement. The dog that "wins" is generally the one that is being annoyed, or the one that values the toy/treat/etc. more than the other. If the dogs are well-socialized, the encounter should be very brief (a second or less) and one will back off. It's just a warning; no injuries; no prolonged barking or growling and no aggressiveness. Such is not the case with a human pushing a dog down and yelling at the dog. That is aggressiveness. It doesn't teach anything to the dog except that the dog should be scared of the human.
There is no difference between a dog and human doing it. If it actually teaches them to be scared of me then I would expect them to be scared of me, which they are not. Instead they respect me. I think you are just going to disagree with anything I have to say.
 

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I think you'd benefit to take a look at www.dogstardaily.com. Specifically this article: http://dogstardaily.com/training/food-critics and this one: http://dogstardaily.com/training/alpha-fallacy

You have a lot of misconceptions about food and positive reinforcement training that are preventing you from trying something that may help solve your dog's behavior problems.

I used positive reinforcement to train my reactive dog not to cry, bark, and lunge at other passing dogs. Slight leash corrections and negative punishment weren't working. A few weeks of utilizing treats in my training led to my dog being able to walk by other dogs, off leash, in the heel position without one reminder.

I'd also recommend you look into reading up on ACTUAL dog behaviorism and cognition... Not "wolf pack theory". It's an outdated and disproven theory that was actually corrected by its original author, who came out and said he made a mistake. Your way of training might have worked for you... up until now. It's not working--try something different.

Also, if he's perfect when you put his shock-collar on and not when it's off, you used the collar incorrectly. The dog should not associate the training with the collar and the collar should only need to be used for a short period of time. If you still need the collar to get the dog to comply with your rules, you did not train with the collar correctly.
 

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The pack theory/dominence method isn't ineffective in all cases... it just can produce unwanted side effects and can harm the relationship between the human and the dog.

You listed a bunch of behaviors that you can't seem to train out of one of your dogs. It just may be possible that your training method isn't working for this dog and, hence, your training method may be wrong for this dog. Indeed, the couch sitting when you aren't around and the dog aggression are two types of behaviors that are far more easily managed using positive reenforcement rather than pack theory/negative reenforcement.
 

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First of all, a random blog, youtube video, and that said youtube video being featured on Good Morning America is not scientific!!!! Not even close! Plus the description I gave completely disproves these "scientific findings" because he is 100% accurate on when he looks guilty and did something wrong, and when he does not look guilty and did nothing wrong.
It is clear to me that you did not actually take the time to read and understand those links I gave you. If you're looking for the specific research article, which, of course, requires subscription to a journal or affiliation with an institution that has a subscription to the journal, it is located here: http://www.mendeley.com/research/disambiguating-the-guilty-look-salient-prompts-to-a-familiar-dog-behaviour/ . I provided those links because they are very accurate interpretations of the article, which I have read, and readily accessible to the public. It is unfortunate that you feel as though what you are witnessing "disproves" Horowitz's work, though it is clear that you do not understand it.

The first result: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bt7W-j7yDs

I can name off numerous times I've seen this as well, where one dog was acting misbehaved and another bit (or in most cases puts their mouth around and tackles) another dog. Dogs are socially skilled, they just don't discuss their issues over a cup of tea.
Dogs prefer to solve things without physical conflict. I encourage you to pick up a book on dog behavior or dog body language, such as Turid Ruugas' Calming Signals, to learn more about the lengths a socially skilled dog would go to in order to avoid conflict. A lot of dogs have lost the ability to interpret the body language of other dogs. Some dogs need to be taught to understand body language. I would argue that a dog who is putting their mouth around another dog and tackling it is not exhibiting a "wolf-like correction", but instead a lack of socialization to other dogs and the inability to solve problems correctly.

Wolf puppies are not adults. They do not have fully formed social skills. What they're doing in this video, which is actually playing (not drawing blood or exhibiting real aggression) is how they develop those skills. They're babies, learning how the world works. Adult wolves and socially skilled dogs would have handled the situation much different, likely without growling and definitely without physical aggression. It probably would have ended with a stare, a freeze, and maybe a lip lift from the more dominant animal. I strongly encourage you to do more research about dog and wolf behavior, and especially about the differences between the two subspecies. I would recommend Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash as a starting point.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I'll try some of those techniques for just the barking and furniture issue, but I will not change how I train my good dogs!

Thanks for your time.
 

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There is no difference between a dog and human doing it. If it actually teaches them to be scared of me then I would expect them to be scared of me, which they are not. Instead they respect me. I think you are just going to disagree with anything I have to say.
I wouldn't disagree with you if you said something I agreed with. lol. But yes, I do disagree that what was on that video is the same as a human pushing a dog to the ground and yelling at him. I can't see a similarity at all. Your dogs may not be scared of you... all the time. In fact, they may not be scared of you a lot of the time. But have they ever cowered before you, ears back? That's fear. They are expecting something unpleasant to happen.
 

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The pack/dominance theory was originally put forth after studying wolves, and as others have said, it has been proven to be erroneous. Even if it DID have any validity, it would not transfer over to dogs, because, also, as others have said, dogs are not wild. Dogs have been domesticated for so long that any traces of behaviors that were similar to wild wolves disappeared long, long ago.

I will say, you holding your dog down is not the same as another dog correcting it. Most dogs flop down on their OWN to show submission. They aren't forced down, except usually in rough play, or if a dog is damaged, or has issues. Plus, doing things that dogs do to correct dogs, or teach dogs doesn't always hold water. As Dr. Patricia McConnell says in "The Other End of the Leash", our dogs know that WE are not dogs, and they don't learn from us the same as they learn from other dogs.

I'm glad you were open minded enough to say you just might try a few of the suggestions for the problems you're having. But, maybe you'll be open minded enough to give this some thought: your dogs may seem to have not been harmed from your training methods, and maybe that's true. As a teacher, I know some even some harsh treatment can be accepted by kids once they've developed a thick enough skin. And, they can probably learn a bit from it. But, it doesn't mean that that's the right/best/most humane way to deal with them.
 
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