Reading CLICK TO CALM: Healing the Aggressive Dog

December 1, 2009 at 1:31 am 4 comments

I finished Ali Brown’s “Scaredy Dog”. I was going to continue with my book summary on this blog  but to be honest, I found the information in the later chapters too complex to take notes for . There are lots of detailed exercises that require the repetitive and patient participation of other people and their balanced dogs – which would be a LOT of work to set up. Also, these are scenarios that Boogie and I are way NOT ready for.

Just this morning, Boogie was calmly sniffing the grass outside. The minute that he looked up and saw an old man pass by in front of us,  he LUNGED up at the man. It was so fast and so extreme. It was a good thing that I had him on a short leash as I always do and he couldn’t reach the man (who didn’t even notice).

I corrected Boogie. It was instinctual. Made him sit. Stay. When he was calm and looking at me, I said “Good Boy” and gave him a treat.  This was probably not what I should have done according to the book,  but the thing is… everything happened so fast. I did not have time to think nor had I predicted that he would lunge at THIS man… or I would’ve led him away before the man came close.

There is no predicting WHO Boogie will lunge at, and this is pretty stressful when we walk in areas where there are lots of people.

Old people who walk slowly, hunched over (same gait as most homeless people) are a common target. The lunges are more extreme when they happen from a standing or sitting position. Which is why I do my best to keep Boogie walking, in HEEL position, focused on me.

According to most dog training literature including Cesar Millan, dogs pick up on our tension. So if we are tense or uncertain, dogs pick up on this energy and act accordingly. If I tighten the leash, I am transferring MY stress to my dog. Check out this awesome slo-mo video with leash-tightening –

Cesar Millan and dog trainers say that we should remain CALM at all times. Or act HAPPY, as this book advises. Cesar Millan also said that if we pretend to be calm or happy on the surface, our dog would know that we are pretending… and that we are not really calm on the inside.

All this makes sense in theory but in reality, we can’t all be calm all the time. And certainly NOT when our dog is behaving like a sociopath. I don’t meditate everyday, I don’t “zen out” in the instant that a strange person or dog appears. On the contrary, I go into “Alert and Control” mode.

I have started reading Emma Parson’s “Click To Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog”.

I am only just into chapter one and already I feel that this is going to be a goodie because I like the way she writes. Very down-to-earth. Already I sense more realistic and practical information in this book than in all the others that I have read so far on Dog Behavior and Training. Like Karen Pryor and Ali Brown, Emma Parsons belongs to the “Positive/Clicker-training” camp…

Clicker Training puts the focus on what the animal is doing right instead of what the animal is doing wrong…

You can mark or capture behavior that will be gone in an instant. Only the clicker gives you the ability to pinpoint a millisecond of calm behavior in a stream of aggressive behavior….

The clicker’s clarity soon comes to signify confidence to a dog, regardless of whether the handler feels confident or not. Clicker-Training your dog tells him that you are in total control of the situation, even when you don’t feel in control at all.

Like other Positive/Clicker Trainers, she is anti-punishment.

The most serious danger with punishment, however, is that it very often feels good to the punisher. Punishment is reinforcing to the punisher. It mistakenly leads us to believe that we have “fixed” the behavior. The next time we will be tempted to punish harder and faster.

I don’t like the Sprenger collar, but until I can learn new methods of working with Boogie to prevent leash-pulling and aggressive behavior,  this is our “quick fix”.

Will continue reading this book and report back with further thoughts!

Entry filed under: Books & DVDs, Reads, Social stuff, Training.

Boogie’s Birthday Wishlist A video: leash-tightening

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. BazzeyBB  |  January 15, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Great post. I was going to write something similar. Will check this blog more often I think.

  • 2. lili  |  February 16, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    BazzeyB, if you do write something similar, let me know! Would be interested to read it. Thanks for commenting.

  • 3. Lilly  |  December 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Hi there, I am a dog trainer, and the issue using Sprenger collar, and then trying to use Positive reinforcement is you are sending mix ideas to your dog. You are also telling your dog whenever he sees someone and they go for that person they are being hurt by that collar which believe me even light pressure from that collar causes black and blues. The collar then reinfoces the fact that new people = pain which reinfoces to the dog that he or she should be aggressive to new people on the road…

    I would aim more for an easy walk harnesses, with one leash on the easy walk body harness( this will also cause less damage to the dog because the body weight is even out through out the body and not on the neck), and if you want extra safty another on the flat buckle collar.

    The Sprenger collar, is “ment” to place pressure/froce like a mother dog would however, that has been proven wrong, mother dogs first do not have teeth that go around the full neck of the dog and second, when the mother dog places (Lightly at that) her mouth on a pup or another pack member that member is the one who lowers his or her body to the ground without any force from the mother dog.
    Not only can the Sprenger collar cause more aggression in the long run it can also cause health issues such as blood clots, and nerve damage. Also just as the e- collar causes the Sprenger collar will cause cortisol lvs (stress hormos) within the very first use of these type of collars.. Stress dogs will lash out, and will keep lashing out until the point he or she starts to lose their claming signles. Which seems to be the case in your dog, he has been punished to the point the dog has turned off all of his language and is not just going for the kill.

    To help you out with the new book you have you may want to look into

    Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas- She is a long time dog trainer who not only has a book for it to explain in simple details but also a DVD that you can get with the book so you can see first hand what you need to be looking for and getting your pup back to using his language. Key thing to remember is dogs don’t just do calming signals to stop other dogs but themselves when they are stressed.

    • 4. lili  |  December 4, 2010 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Lilly
      This blog entry is months old. I no longer use the sprenger collar. I am also familiar with Turid Rugaas book and DVD (which I have written about on this blog) and I have learned a lot from our current trainer who uses only Positive Reinforcement/No punishment methods.


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