Hi Corgi Lovers & Experts! I have 2 cardigans, siblings that will be 2 in January. The male, Kirby tends to get excited very easily and if I don't catch it quick enough to correct him, he then becomes aggressive (i.e-gets excited at the front door, his sister Kota happens to be next to him so he turns his attention to her, and nips at her.) This morning, I was in the kitchen, the 2 cardis & my golden retriever were in the living room, less than 15 feet away from me. I do not remember hearing any noises that would indicate that they were playing (if they are playing, I watch closely to avoid escalation). All of a sudden a fight broke out--not sure if the golden went after the cardi & he was defending himself, or if the cardi instigated. I could not get them to separate. By the time I got to them, Kirby was latched on to the golden's ear and WOULD NOT let go. My husband finally had to pull his jaw open to get him to release. There was a lot of noise and carrying on, but neither dog drew blood. Of course now I will keep a closer eye on them, but any tips from the trainers/experts out there on how to quickly and safely get them apart if this should happen again would be greatly appreciated! We do have the pet corrector (we call it the shush-moster), but I was afraid to use it this morning because they were so focused/involved that I was afraid it would not have the desired impact and I didn't want to lessen it's effectiveness in other situations. Please help!
Hmmm. I wish the trainer would have showed you how to move from the aversive to a more positive command. For instance, I briefly used a squirt bottle with water to distract Maddie when she was chasing the cat (then a kitten). But I only sprayed her twice. As soon as she looked at me in response to the squirt, I called her name in a happy voice and then said "YES!, good girl!' and we ran and got a treat. The next time, I said her name in a happy voice. She didn't look, she got sprayed, then she looked and again with the praise and treat. After those two times, she learned to look at me when I said her name and we gradually desensitized her to the cat by controlling her reactions and praising her for looking at me and/or backing away when the cat would run. I don't have a problem with something like the pet-corrector, but it ideally should be used in the early stages and then faded. Had you done so, you might have a more reliable voice-control on the dogs. It might not work when they escalate that quickly, but it might help you keep the situation from escalating.
I would do two thing: first I would control the situation so they are not all loose in the same area when high-excitement activitites might take place. And then I would work more intensely one-on-one with the dog who is the biggest problem, doing basic obedience at a higher level. I would use NILF and practice LOTS of self-control exercises (like making the dog "wait" before getting food, exiting the door). I would try to build to the point that you can put the dog on a sit/stay, throw a high-value toy or treat after giving a "wait" or "stay" command, and not release the dog til you say "ok." It sounds to me like one or two of the dogs have low frustration thresholds and that can be worked on for improvement (but not total elimination).
Relying on the aversive forever means that instead of the dog learning to think and make choices ("Hey, I WAS going to bark/ jump, charge the door; but IF I sit politely I get a treat instead, so I choose to control myself") the dog learns that "When I do this, I get corrected." The dog is not making a choice to be calm so much as avoiding behavior that gets a correction. I am not against aversives and have used them myself but they should nearly always be used to transition to a positive command followed by a reward.
I would also greatly increase exercise for the male Corgi, with a mix of running to burn off energy followed by a long walk at heel (no sniffing, no stopping) to get him to a more relaxed mental state.
There is some good info on line about how to break up fights.
Hi Beth, the trainer we used is very good, and yes, he did teach us to praise them when they are doing what we want them to. He has worked with the Queen of England's dogs (not that that makes him an expert, but I thought it was cool), but he trains police dogs, etc. I have also gone to his group classes and I like that he doesn't use food rewards, not that I am oppossed to it, as I use food for training, but it's nice to be able to do it without. And, I have the pet corrector handy (although not always), but hardly use it any more, because under normal circumstances, they will listen, and when they do listen, they get praised. I kind of practice the NILF: we practice waiting at doors (which has stopped them from running out), at dinner time--they get fed in their crates in my bedroom-I make them wait (sometimes in a sit) at the open door while I walk past them, shaking the food and stand at their crates. Sometimes I will try to distract them by moving quickly, but will make them back up if they move before they are released. Once in their crates, I put the food in their bowls and make them look at me for however long, until they are released to eat (while the drool is pouring!!) I think I will do some more one-on-one training on getting Kirby to watch me more consistently. Both Kirby and my golden seem to have low frustration threshholds, but it's probably worse with the golden. She has always made me nervous around strange dogs, and people she doesn't know, because she gives very little warning when she gets nervous (around people that is--around dogs she gets excited and I never know if it's happy or aggressive). She doesn't growl, she goes straight for the attack. I really have to watch her, and as soon as her head or tail drops, I get her away from whoever she is standing near. (We think her original owners were abusive, so she is a little distrustful). I have to wonder if my nervousness has contributed, but I worry about her biting, so I get nervous. Since this last episode, I have been more vigilant with them. I do keep the corgis crated when we are not home to avoid a fight while we are gone (and to keep them from harming themselves, as they love to chew on anything). I do think it is time to up Kirby's exercise, as he has been a bouncing ball of energy lately, more than normal, which tends to ramp up to bossiness/aggressiveness. I promise to be more vigilant in taking steps to try to avoid the situation (keep closer eye on them), working with Kirby for more consistent voice control, but I want to make sure that if they happen toget into a scuffle again that I can get them separated quickly and without needing to take a trip to the vet. So far, I have been lucky.
I would not take it as much of a recommendation that he has worked with the Queen's dogs. Here in the UK, not many people would even consider a corgi due to the bad press they have had here regarding the corgi's at the Palace. They are notoriously nippy, they are not house trained, some highly aggressive and from what I can understand, most of her dogs are interbred. She has a large pack of at least 10-12 corgi's and dorgi daschaund/corgi mix). They have the life of riley and run loose and free where ever they choose. Rumour has it that most of the staff carry around a pooper scopper and soda water to clean up after these little darlings xx
Hi Denise, I don't know how much training he has done with them or how long ago, and he does have more credentials than just that. Our experience with him has been very positive. We have had exposure to other trainers as well, so I have some others to compare his techniques to, and again, he has helped us correct issues we were having in about an hour. I just haven't had an opportunity to pick his brain on this issue. I have to say, your description of an unruly pack sure does go against any images I have of the Royal Family...it makes me giggle!
Do be open to exploring other methods. Police dog trainers usually use a lot of old-school methods and not a lot of the positive methods used now. There is a difference between praising a dog after it behaves due to punishment-based methods, compared to using positive methods to shape a dogs training. It's a personal decision but I would run from any trainer who did not use food rewards. Think about it: would YOU go to work every day if you did not get a reward (money) for it? You might go sometimes (volunteer) for something you really loved and felt good about, but for every day work we ALL work for rewards.
My mind was totally changed when I saw my first full-length dolphin show. Many, those dolphins are thrilled to perform (circle around in the waiting tank in anticipation), do anything happily, teach each other how to perform, and they get fish tossed at them all the time.
Reward-based methods tend to result in more relaxed dogs, which equals less tension between the dogs themselves. Your description tells me your trainer may reward after the fact, but relies on punishment (loud noise, air--- aversives) to shape behavior.
That teaches the dogs what NOT to do (jump up, charge the door) but does not teach them what they SHOULD do instead (sit politely, in both cases).
Dogs that are sitting politely won't be getting into a fight because they are sitting. Dogs who are not charging the door, for instance, might still charge each other in the excitement.
I like to suggest Patricia McConnell's "The Other End of the Leash" for a nice overview of dog psychology and its interaction with human psychology.
Hi Beth, I am open to any training techniques that help me. We did do puppy classes at the local dog club, which were very food/positive oriented.
The training that the trainer helped us with at the house was to help us specifically correct issues we were having, and I am not the best at explaining what we learned (I have a terrible memory as well as a total lack of attention to detail), but he did show us the positive reward-type stuff with us too, and talked a lot about pack leader stuff, pack leader attitude, etc. He even showed us a game to play with their food at dinner time where we "hide" small portions of their dinner while they are watching us, and then we let them go sniff it out. (Just as an example of how to get them to use their minds, etc.) And in his group classes, we don't use the pet corrector, he uses the verbal/physical rewards.
I think the pet corrector for me has been less about using punishment, but getting them to divert their attention away from whatever. I don't know if I am explaining myself totally, but the pet corrector gave me a chance to stop them from rushing the door, and now we focus on sitting nicely at the carpet line at the foyer, etc. and they get rewarded for that. Sometimes with food, sometimes with a belly rub. When we are practicing this, I don't even use the pet corrector.
But, I don't want you to think I am not listening to what you say. I appreciate your input, as I have found your posts to be very helpful, and if we have an opportunity to go back to his classes (we got busy and haven't been in awhile), I will pay closer attention to what he's doing and see if it is more corrective than positive. Although we have had the 2 older dogs for 14 and 11 years, it didn't really dawn on me until too late with them that good dogs don't just happen that they need to be trained (Yes, I am a SLOW learner!) So, I am fairly new to the training mind set, and it has been a slow road for me to retrain my brain! And, I think in addition to the right attitude/mind set, I find that dog training takes a certain level of eye/hand coordination, and I am a bit of a klutz, so it takes me a little longer to figure it out!
I have partially read "Dog Perfect" by Sarah Hodgson, and I bought a copy because I liked her techniques. I probably need to dust it off and review it. I will also check out your recommendation as well. Thanks Beth!
Hi Sandy. Sounds like you have worked hard with your dogs and I hope I didn't sound harsh, because I didn't mean to! The written word doesn't always convey intent/emotion well. Most owners would not have worked so hard to make sure their dogs can all co-exist.
No, I didn't take it as harsh. I think you are direct and to the point, and I know that you have a lot of dog experience, so I welcome your feedback! And I understand what you are saying about positive training making for more relaxed dogs. I have thought about what you have said regarding having them under better voice control (I think it was you), so I tested Kirby at dinner--I gave him his dinner & let him start eating, and then I told him to leave it--just to see what he would do. He stopped eating and looked at me until I released him. I was pleasantly surprised that he listened! :) I think in addition to continuing to get them under more consistent voice control with more practice & training, I also need to pay closer attention to the cues.
Hi Amy, thanks for your feedback. He has been fairly good about running off his excess energy in the house (he is constantly frapping), but I think I may have to step up my efforts to wear him out a little bit more, so we may just have to up his walk time.