Well today I had my first bossy corgi incident. I was out walking with baxter, letting him romp around. He stumbled upon a pile of dried horse poo in the backyard. Not sure why exactly it was there...but I digress. So he grabbed a piece, I told him no, removed it from his mouth, and picked him up. He immediately started showing attitude, growled and nipped me in the face, it wasn't a hard bite but a nip all the same. I tapped his nose lightly and gave him a firm No. I brought him back into the house and he immediately went over and lay down in the living room. I think he knew he had gotten in trouble. He usually listens well, and I've never had any problems before, he has growled before when petting him when he was in play mode which I wasn't sure whether to take as playing or slight aggression. He is definitely a strong willed puppy, he isn't afraid of anything. I've been working with him though and usually he minds well and is well behaved. I know he will require much more training but I dont really understand these little sudden outbursts of his when he is playful and excited. Does anyone have any advice? I am not sure what to take as puppy play and what to take as aggressive bossiness.

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Comment by Heather on March 26, 2008 at 7:27pm
I get what you are saying Charlie, I need to clarify that when my corgi snapped at me that one time, I flipped him over and held him down. But it wasn't very forceful. He was only a pup after all. Most of his objections were verbal. The down position is submissive, and therefore I was using the psychology so that he would know not to do it again.

At my dog school, we have many levels of correction. A simple "no", or a jerk and release of the leash, etc. Sometimes people don't want to correct their corgis because they are so cute. But we shouldn't let their cuteness prevent us from disciplining our dogs when they need discipline.

I have always had and trained dogs from as far back as I can remember. My parents bought a german shepherd the same year I was born. We grew up together. And we've always had dogs, mostly german shepherds, but I also had an akita/lab mix, and a shepherd/collie mix.

I just feel that each dog is different, and what works with one may not work with another. I try to balance the positive and the compulsion training methods to get the best result.
Comment by JW on March 26, 2008 at 1:29pm
"What I do not agree with is the use of old school coersive methods or use of physical force to overpower the dog into submission. There may be some very rare and extreme circumstances which require that, but I have yet to see it."

I had to do this once when a 120 lb. Neapolitan Mastiff went to attack Griff because she wanted his bone. I grabbed her by her dewlap and pulled her to the ground, she immediately obeyed me and rolled onto her back. She left Griff's bones alone after that but had major issues with other dogs even being around. She tried to attack a family member's dog and we had to do the same thing by pulling her to the ground. There was no other way to stop such a powerful, determined guard dog. (But she was also a little off her rocker and later went to a home with no other dogs and no kids.)
Comment by Charlie on March 26, 2008 at 11:35am
I also do not agree with the use of a treat to redirect bad behavior. It does reward and reinforce the behavior, rather than redirect. Redirection can be very useful in puppy training when used to stop a negative behavior before it happens. I also agree with using lures only to teach the dog what behavior is desired, then removing the treats.

What I do not agree with is the use of old school coersive methods or use of physical force to overpower the dog into submission. There may be some very rare and extreme circumstances which require that, but I have yet to see it. The current positive training methods are very effective in my experience.

The still heavily ingrained coersive, forced training methods of 20-30 years ago are based on observations of wolf pack behavior in a captive setting. The evolution to today's positive training methods is the result of studying wolf packs in the wild, a natural setting. The behavior of wild wolves is markedly different from that which was observed in captive wolves. Coersive training methods are more and more often considered obsolete as a result. Positive training is not a matter of treating dogs like humans...though (again I agree) a lot of new dog owners do make that mistake. The dog is a dog (not a human...or a wolf). The new methods, used correctly and consistently, do teach a dog to be obedient to the owner, to behave as a dog should behave.

How many obedience champion Corgis do I own? None. My last dog was a rottweiler with a hard, dominant personality and a mild genetic temperament problem. I took him through his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificate and advanced obedience training. We certainly lived every day of his 10 year life on the NILIF program. He was a very good worker and an exceptionally obedient companion. I never used any coersive training methods...he would very likely have turned into a dangerous red dog without the positive methods we did use.

I also served for several years as a volunteer with the local animal shelter and worked with hundreds of dogs, many of which came from poor environments and exhibited a huge range of behavior problems, from shyness to aggression.
Comment by Cindi on March 26, 2008 at 10:45am
Hi Heather! Excellent input. Thank you!

Maybe I should clarify some of what I use in class. Lures (or bribes, as you state) are only used to illicit immediate response and then removed from the equation. For example, if I gie the command "sit" I use the lure to position the dog and then give both treat and praise. Once the command is relatively in place, I remove the treat and rely solely on praise. This is one of the things in the PetSmart curriculum that I disagree with and change in my classes. The curriculum we use doesn't remove treats until week 5 (of 8). By that time, the dog is so treat motivated, they are simply doing tricks for food. Removal of food reward is essential - and timing is everything.

I do subscribe to the "say it once, make it happen" school. It drives me nuts to hear owners repeat commands; "sit sit sit sit sit." Ugh! If you have to continuously repeat it, the dog has not learned the command! If I have to repeat the command, I will place the dog in position. However, I'm careful to do it properly so that I don't encourage "oppositional resistance" in the dog, i.e. pushing a rear down to get "sit" encourages the dog to push back against the hand.

Also, I don't use treats to change focus. I use physical touch, such as a slight push of the hand or of the foot against the hind quarters (for walking). Using treats for negative behaviors only increases the negative behavior. Whatever you pay attention to gets repeated. And the only time I change focus is if I'm dealing with a difficult dog.

For example, I have a shih-tzu in private lessons right now that's a great dog, but is so wholely focused on other dogs that she growls and barks when approached. When we walk the dog in-store, I've taught the owner to use her foot to gently tap on the dog and break the focus. Once the focus is broken, the dog just trots right along. With practice, she is now to the point where she can be around other dogs without being hypervigilant.

So, I think we're talking some of the same language but with different terms and understanding. Most owners I work with really do see their dogs as their kids. The trick in our classes is to get them to relate to them more as dogs and less as humans. It takes some persuasion with them, but when they start to see the difference in their dog's behavior, they start to make changes in how they treat the dogs.

That's really my goal as an obedience trainer for PetSmart: help the owners learn to relate better to their dogs so the dogs will have better manners and the owners have a better experience as a dog owner. Were I training for show or obedience, I'd be a lot more disciplined with the owners. And I do have a few of those! But for the most part, these folks just want the their dogs to sit and shake hands and then come when they call them. :-)
Comment by Heather on March 26, 2008 at 3:56am
And Charlie, how many obedience champion corgis do you own?
Comment by Heather on March 26, 2008 at 3:53am
I noticed a lot of comments are talking about positive reinforcement, and although it sounds nice, it rarely solves the problem on a permanent basis. I don't believe that "distracting" a dog who is biting or snapping with a "treat" is a good idea. What you are really doing is rewarding the bad behavior. And if you think that giving treats to "distract" a dog is a way to get the dog to respect you, it won't. Dogs should obey whether or not they get something back in return. In the wild, the alpha wolf male and female (from which all dogs come from) do not give food to the other subordinate wolves to keep them in line when they are behaving badly. What you are doing is really "BRIBING" the dog to do what you want. Your dog should obey every command whether or not you have a treat in your hand. When you dog accidently gets out and runs into the street, do you think he will come back when you call him when he knows you don't have a treat? What are you going to do? Run in the house and get a treat? Meanwhile your dog will get hit by a car and possibly die. My dogs obey me without getting treats. They do it out of respect for my authority. And the only thing they get is praise in return. I don't hit them or treat them cruelly. I just balance discipline and affection. Sometimes I give treats, but the dogs never know when, and they always have to do something extra special to get it. Like sitting, then going into the down position, then going into a stand, and then backing up and sitting (all on my command).

I use positive methods to teach commands, but I also use compulsion methods to reinforce them. So, that means if I know that my dog knows the command and chooses to ignore it, I make him do it. I don't repeat commands (that only teaches them that they don't have to do it the first time you say it). But then again, I train seriously and compete in trials, which most of the other people on this site probably don't do.

I find it funny that so many people treat their dogs like human children, except when it comes to discipline. Nobody would ever give a toddler who just bit another child a cookie to "distract" them from the biting.
Comment by JW on March 25, 2008 at 5:49pm
Griff was 10 months when we adopted him. He bit me once on the hand when I tried to take away his bone, and there was a nose tap from a family member (probably harder than necessary, but I was so shocked that I couldn't respond) and lots of time out after the bite. He hasn't had a single issue after that event.

Corgis are scarily smart little critters. I'm sure Baxter will learn very quickly that growling and nipping at you is absolutely not tolerated. Griff still has the occasional "warning look" if he's trying to protect his bones, but we're firm in taking it away for a couple of seconds, praising him, and then giving it back. This way they learn that letting you take what's theirs is a positive experience.
Comment by Charlie on March 25, 2008 at 5:32pm
Myth: An alpha dog or mother will physically force another dog or puppy over on its back to show leadership position.

Fact: A surbordinate dog will willingly roll over on its back to express that it is not wanting to challenge for leadership. A dog will never physically force another dog over unless it is willing to kill the weaker dog. If the dog being forced down truly has a dominant personality, a serious fight will ensue.

Myth: All dogs want to be dominant if you let them.

Fact: Very few dogs are true Alpha, dominant dogs. Most are submissive, especially to humans, and just need proper rules, expectations, and love. If the human doesn't show leadership, then a submissive dog will "try" to take leadership. Someone has to be in charge.

Myth: Alpha dogs are aggressive. The most physically strong dog is the leader.

Fact: Alpha dog are very patient, kind and generous. They have the ability to obtain, control, and share resources, not physically control other pack members. They are almost never aggressive or vicious. Aggression is based on fear, not dominance.

Dogs do understand "time out". What a mother and littermates will do to correct a puppy is give a warning growl. If the unruly one does not willingly roll over to show submission, he is nudged or pushed out of the social circle and ignored for a short amount of time. Being cut off from resources and socially ostricized is something the dog will understand.
Comment by Sam & Maximus on March 25, 2008 at 4:57pm
Max did the same thing, still does some times. We got him at 8 wks, he's now 5 months. He was the alpha male of his litter and used to getting everything he wanted, when he wanted. The breeder said he was always beeting up his siblings. Add in the natural Corgi attitude and ge was quite the little booger. He would bite very hard, when we yiped like a litter mate he would get even more aggresive like he was going to get us while we were down, he even drew blood on more than a few occassions. We had to ignore his behavior by folding our hands and/or walking away, only giving him attention again on our terms. It was hard because he was so little and so cute, but we stuck to it. I didn't think he was ever going to be a sweet dog, infact, we nicknamed him "devil dog" ha. He is getting much better and is now very sweet, although he still likes to bite at our hands, it's a more gentle bite and we still work on "no bite". He hasn't nipped at our face in a while if he does we'll still use a firm no and discontiue play or attention. I was told to be persistent and patient with the training for biting and nipping and it will pay off. Still waiting but it's getting better. One thing I believe really helped with Max is the obedience training. He went to puppy pre-school for 7 weeks starting at age 12 wks, and is now in puppy kidnergarden. One of the trainers rules is to "ignore the bad behavior (after quick discipline or distraction) and reward the good behavior" even if it's that the puppy is just playing on his own. Hang in there and good luck with your little baxter.
Comment by Heather on March 25, 2008 at 4:02pm
You should never use the crate as punishment. My Charlie snapped at me when he was a puppy when I was putting toys away. I immediatley turned him over on his back and held him in that position while he whined and struggled. When he gave up and stopped I let him up. It's not mean or cruel to establish yourself as the dominant leader. Since then he has never snapped at me. Everyone needs to remember that corgis are DOGS and not humans. They don't know what a time out is. If you ever watch a mother dog with puppies, you'll see that the mother will reprimand the pups the same way when they get too rough.

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