Jackal | Belgian Malinois | Arcadia, CA | In Training
Jackal is a 17 month old Malinois from Arcadia, California who has joined OffLeash SoCal's Two-Week Board and Train Program to address his reactivity to other dogs as well as to create a rock solid obedience to make Jackal reliable and responsible. Jackal is a strong young dog and a good example of a Malinois. He needs a lot of stimulation both mental and physical in order to feel satisfaction and be able to relax. It is our goal to create a routine of obedience and exercise to help Jackal find consistency and build healthy habits. We will expose him to various reactivity triggers and teach him to pay attention and focus around these high value distractions. Stay tuned for Jackal's two week transformation!
Today was about diagnosing and understanding Jackal's particular unique issues and forming a training plan to help him get the most of his time with me. Jackal is a strong young dog without any focus for the handler. He is persistent and driven enough to explore the world around him that he needs a strong sense of obedience before he will be reliable around distractions. We have to show Jackal that he is "in control" of the entire situation and he can produce rewards for himself far more satisfying than a distraction simply by following through with my commands. I will begin introducing the e collar as well as shaping his behaviors tomorrow. Keep in mind that the e collar is a tool for communicating and we are showing Jackal how to interpret and respond to the stimulation. We want to use 1 percent more reinforcement than however much their resistance is--the goal is to interrupt negative behavior and be able to redirect to a positive behavior we can reward and praise. For Jackal the primary trigger of his reactivity is dogs, so we will expose him to dogs in a controlled manner using our obedience as a baseline to return to whenever there is reactivity. We want to create an island of calm and rewards in our presence and show the dog that his best bet is paying attention to us and not anything else.
Today Jackal and I met with some other trainers and their dogs to work on his reacticity in a structured way. I asked him for various behaviors in the presence of other dogs and when he would get fixated I would use stimulation to reinforce my commands. Jackal is naturally sensitive to the stimulation and does react with frustration and trying to bite the leash etc. This response while undesirable will continue to be modified with more practice and familiarity with the stimulation. As of now the main thing to focus in as illustrated in the video is Jackal's ability to return back to his obedience after having an upset moment over the stimulation/leash pressure. When Jackal is reactive we must show him that this tantrum doesn't produce desired results and isn't worth his effort. The goal isn't to force the dog into a behavior but rather put them in positions where they need to be personally responsible and not allowing them to make the wrong choice. By taking the options away and still giving the dog an illusion of choices (no tension in the leash, no physical restraint) the dog has to use its own impulse control to remain in the position. We praise when the dog maintains this good mind state and encourage their relaxation by offering rewards while in the position. If the dog fixates or attempts to otherwise break a behavior in reactivity we simply attempt to interrupt the bad behavior with e collar stimulation and offering a new command to redirect the dog's focus and relax their mind back to the moment before they broke. Jackal is not a particularly argumentative dog although when he is willing to argue it can be intense. The main technique to employ with Jackal is being calm and emotionless when commanding or reinforcing commands. Jackal thrives from strong leadership and his tendency to redirect means that if he percieves the handler as being unfair he will lash out. Being calm and quiet and careful in our demeanor help Jackal to keep in mind we are on his side and to remain calm and comply rather than to argue. When Jackal is able to work through his own frustration without interference he decides to behave more often than not but he has to have these opportunities to be presented with desirable distractions so he can exercise this self control. Going forward when he returns home working in proximity to other dogs will be a must to continue his good progress. The goal isn't to punish the dog for looking at or being distracted by other dogs but rather to teach him how to pay attention to other tasks in their presence and to maintain his composure. When we reinforce with stimulation the goal is to interrupt the potentially negative thoughts and actions and then we offer a new alternative via a command for the dog to follow instead. At this point if Jackal is frustrated and wants to redirect up the leash we simply restrain him with leash pressure and don't allow him to "win" with bad behavior. We then continue to ask with stimulation until he complies. This process varies in time for every instance but the constant factor is how excited Jackal is. By maintaining his calm with our own demeanor we can give him extra help to return to an obedient state. Jackal had a low appetite today so I left his food in the crate overnight. It is totally normal for a dog to experience low appetite in training and if it persists I will potentially add healthy options to entice him like coconut oil or organic peanut butter. Any food additions will be noted in the daily log.
Today Jackal and I continued to work on layering the e collar stimulation over the leash pressure to give him a complete picture of what Im asking for. He does a sit, down and place very well so far but still needs work with "come to sit". It's ok that it takes a little time because otherwise he is motivated and becoming more compliant as time goes on. Today while walking we passed by other dogs and people including a small chihuahua that Jackal did look at but he didn't pull to approach or react to. The goal right now is to get the obedience even more solid so I can keep deliberately exposing Jackal to greater levels of distractions. I am currently adding duration to all of the behaviors as well. When Jackal returns home you will want to experiment with the 3 Ds of Distance, Duration and Distractions. Add increasing distance away from the dog that we give commands or expect them to hold behaviors, increase the duration they hold these behaviors and with greater amounts of distraction. Consider 1 percent of improvement per day the ideal and simply add as much distance, duration and distraction as you can without the dog breaking the behavior while praising and rewarding when they do. The recipe is simple but the execution does require consistency so just make sure to work through the obedience during daily walks twice a day and the dog will be on a good track. Aim for 10 minutes of good obedience sprinkled into a 30 minute walk. We want the dog to perceive the obedience "game" as being fun and desirable so keep the energy light and exciting and you will notice they are always willing to work for us. He still has a lower appetite so I will add coconut oil to his food and see if that makes a difference. Good luck!
Today Jackal and I worked on heeling on a loose leash. Every time we use the stimulation to reinforce a command we want to see a response from the dog that indicates they have received our stimulation. The ideal is for the dog to lift their head in our direction or acknowledge us by adjusting their focus as well as adjusting themselves to be in a better position. For example if I ask for a "down" but the dog ignores me, I will reinforce with stimulation. When the dog feels this stimulation he fixes himself by moving into the down rather than running around confused. Jackal has a good concept of the behaviors I expect from him so for his routine I am already adding duration and distance incrementally. The goal will be that we can move to the end of our long line and the dog will remain in position until called. Consider walking as a new way to enhance the focus on the handler by stopping for a sit and alternatively a down at odd intervals. The goal is to catch the dog off guard enough times that he learns to expect it. The added benefit is he will naturally be drawn closer to us in his anticipation. For heeling he already understands that the stimulation means he needs to readjust and move at my side once more. His eating was improved today! I didn't need to add anything yet and will update as soon as I do.
Today Jackal and I worked on his obedience around new distractions at the Santa Monica Pier. He did very well! Something to keep in mind with Jackal but also Malinois in general: they need strong handlers who won't hesitate to show them the difference between right and wrong but the actual reinforcement of commands needs to be subtle and non-confrontational. This is a nuanced and careful negotiation between consistently marking negative behaviors in a manner the dog is receptive to without inspiring new conflict in the process. When we have to control the dog around potential triggers (for Jackal's specific case that means dogs generally) the procedure needs to be calm and in anticipation of the dog's behavior. We cannot wait to react to a dog reacting to us...we have to know and predict that the dog will react in a certain way and be already prepared to respond. Removing the fear or anxiety in the moment by having a strategy also affects the dog's perception of our behavior. Instead of adding conflict to conflict by struggling with the dog and being nervous about his behavior (which only agitates him further) we need to expect it and use it to our advantage.
For example when the dog is hard staring at another dog and we command "off", if in the moment the dog ignores the command and doesn't stop staring we can reinforce with stimulation. Jackal has a tendency when fixated to redirect his bad intentions up the leash toward the handler when we catch him off guard or by surprise. When this happens and he wants to lash out at his perceived aggressor we have already predicted his reaction before applying the stim, thus removing any surprise that might make us hesitate and in that moment we use our leash to calmly but firmly apply pressure to the slip lead around the dog's neck until he relaxes and goes back into a "sit" position. Whenever we have to reinforce a command it is imperative to find common ground and preserve the good relationship with the dog by immediately finding a reason to praise them. The cycle should look like infraction-reinforcement-issue new command-praise. We are looking to create opportunities to praise and give the dog affection when we have to interrupt bad behavior. The goal is to be able to cut across the dog's bad focus and redirect their energy into something good and if we associate our interruption with positive outcomes ultimately the dog is more biddable and willing to work with us because they don't assume there will be any negative outcomes to cooperation. Jackal does have a tendency to shy away from and react to hands coming over his head in particular if we have had to reinforce any commands so when we are using affection or touching the dog be sure to move in a manner that doesn't look like potential aggression or "hitting" from the dog's perspective. I am doing my best to associate hands and affection rather than potential conflict but he will need continued practice when he returns home.
Remember to use the tools available to us when training and reinforcing commands as well as being careful about the way we touch the dog and the energy and emotion we are working in as they are able to perceive that we are upset or frustrated and it only hurts our results in the end. In particular for Jackal's unique personality traits but also Malinois in general have a hard time with any handling they deem as "unfair" so we need to stick to the methods we are establishing with the dog as "fair" and he will be able to be consistent going forward. Remember that this dog and others like him are not easy dogs to handle or live with. They were bred for a very specific purpose and as such many qualities and traits in their personality have been allowed to flourish where most other dogs do not. Specifically they can be highly independent and willing to argue with any treatment they don't agree with. The real "secret" to handling and owning a Malinois is mutual respect and that is based on leadership and support, not force. We have to know and be able to predict our dog's behavior so we can serve as their conscience out in the world until they are able to make the connections necessary to have a working sense of personal responsibility. While Malinois can be quite challenging for pet homes they are profoundly intelligent and motivated. Jackal is no different. He needs the kind of leadership and support that understands his motivations and is able to work with them rather than struggle against them. The tools we are providing with this obedience are certainly on the right track but he will only continue to have success if the practice of his obedience is incorporated as a lifestyle change and not an additional chore. With a new means to communicate efficiently Jackal will better know his place in the family but to give him the best chance possible everyone who lives with him needs to be calm, confident and proactive as a leader. Give him the understanding that you are addressing any and all new information and he not only isn't allowed to make decisions on his own but doesn't have to. Giving him this understanding allows him the much desired relaxation amongst enticing distractions as well as his family peace of mind. Good luck and keep trying! 1 percent improvement every day is enough to stay on track. His eating has improved today as well.
Today with Jackal I added more distance and duration to the behaviors he knows already. Going forward into the second week of training the main goal is to develop Jackal's sense of personal responsibility. He will currently respond to the stimulation from the e collar by adjusting himself to be more cooperative and that is precisely what we want him to do. For the handlers sake when a dog is showing us he has a competent understanding of the material we are covering we can begin adding layers of challenge in the areas of distance, duration and distraction. Jackal's history of reactivity was important information for the sake of forming a strategy of training and management but now he is at a point in his transformation that to be fair to him we need to expose him to more time in close proximity of other dogs while also practicing our trust in him. The end result doesn't need to be Jackal having a stronger desire to be social but rather a better grasp of discipline and an intrinsic motivation to help avoid making mistakes. So long as we are present to ensure that Jackal is making good decisions and staying a good citizen, he will be reliable and trustworthy. We do need to keep in mind that dogs are not robots and despite being able to respect our wants and needs very well, when given sufficient opportunity they will make selfish choices. Stay aware that Jackal can make mistakes and anticipate them with redirection and obedience aimed to reduce conflict and change the dog's focus away from something negative into something positive. His obedience will be able to keep building in a positive direction so long as we ask him for attainable tasks and also push ourselves to remain calm and expose him to environments that maybe make it nerve racking to take the dog out. Handler and dog need to both practice being relaxed in environments that have been troubling previously. Jackal needs leadership and we need to be confident or he will take opportunities to make bad decisions.
Today Jackal and I worked on being calmer in the house and his manners around the door. Obedience should be worked in any area the dog is expected to behave. What that means is going home Jackal should rehearse his good listening skills in the common areas and in the yard as well as out on walks and in the world. Polite behavior is not exclusive to exploring the larger world and so he needs plenty of practice working at a slower pace than when he is exercising.
Having to self regulate is a great way to expend mental energy and ultimately builds a stronger temperament than if the dog is constantly running around. We want to build a reliable "off switch" because Jackal is always "on". This will come as a result of working the various behaviors we have already taught in training in all facets of his life. Jackal needs structure and exercise both. By fulfilling him with structure appropriately in the home the exercise expent on walks can be an outlet for his good behavior. Where he started was always being "on" and there not being any structure. His extreme pulling and dog reactivity are moreso about not knowing what to do at a given moment than they are about him being aggressive. He absolutely can and will bite and shouldn't be expected to be totally safe around other dogs but when he has a job he is held accountable for and that predictably produces rewards he appreciates he will opt to engage with the handler and ignore even intrusive and rude dogs we encounter on the street.
He needs consistent and motivated handling that identifies potential triggers ahead of him and proactively works to redirect and engage his focus as well as reinforces commands with stimulation as needed to create a dynamic sense of right and wrong. He needs fair and conscientious handling that isn't afraid of him or unwilling to enforce discipline so he can continue to be a good citizen. His eating has been better but he wasn't very hungry today. I am leaving the food in the crate to give him more time to eat.
Today Jackal and I worked on obedience around other dogs as well as Easter celebrations. Jackal needs the reps around things he is reacting to, and while I am doing my best he is almost certain to react eventually in the future. The answer is simply to ask for obedience and help him work beyond these distractions by giving him a task. Jackal is goal oriented and when presented with opportunities to work he will take them. He has so far for me been very willing to work and modify his behavior but I have been consistent since the moment he arrived. Remember that Jackal is looking for rewards without having to work and if we create opportunities for him to succeed he will choose to perform rather than ignore us if he knows the rewards are worth his time. Jackal's reactivity is moreso about creating chances to do something new and exciting so if we ensure that we are sufficient fun he will instead be persistent in his efforts to instigate rewards that we provide rather than looking to the environment. When Jackal goes home make sure to practice engagement by giving him a low kevel of stim and rewarding him whenever he gives you his attention. In this way we can habituate his paying attention with the stimulation from the collar so when he does have to experience reinforcement he can immediately associate the stim with his behavior. While he can react to the world around him Jackal has been a hard worker when given a sufficiently challenging task that he knows has worthwhile rewards.
Today Jackal and I worked on continuing to refine his skills that he has mastered so far. The best way to occupy a dog like Jackal is by making him think in challenging ways. We want the dog to fall in love with interacting with us via the game of obedience so that he uses the obedience skills in order to solicit affection and access to other rewards. The dog has to think he is pushing our buttons and for a dog like Jackal who loves to be out front if we make sure to hold him accountable when he strays, as well as make sure we use clear, calm and supportive energy when we give him praise then he will seek that good heeling position on his own. So far Jackal does need reminders but he is only a week into his new lifestyle and when he returns home he will continue to improve. The benefit of consistent and clear communication is a dog who doesn't lash out in anger or fear or frustration when things don't go their way. Jackal has been argumentative in his life but if he knows that we are happy with him he is willing to be more flexible. Remember to use a friendly and encouraging tone with the dog and especially when he is making poor choices don't scold him if you are reinforcing with the e collar at all.
We want the e collar to be emotionally neutral all the way up to exciting and a reminder of going for a fun walk but if it is frequently used out of frustration the dog will feel conflicted by these sensations emotionally and it will be harder for him to remember the best way to respond to commands. Of course hold him accountable but be sure to remain positive and redirect into a new obedience command immediately as he has complied with the stimulation. We want Jackal to consider the stim a reminder to move his feet and not have any emotional attachments as well as associate our voice with positive outcomes (and this becomes particularly important around distractions or when a dog runs off--the better the reason to return the more likely they'll be to do so).
Today Jackal and I worked on our obedience around the neighborhood while practicing ignoring other dogs. I walked him by houses where I know dogs bark, waited at corners while other dog walkers passed by and lingered at the edge of a park while other dogs played. Jackal was able to stay focused on me and readjust his focus when he would get distracted. I think with consistent effort Jackal will get even more calm and refined than he is already but that his current level of calm and neutrality is something to be proud of. Jackal has been very accepting of reinforcement and doesn't argue hardly as much as he did initially because I have taken the time to find the range of levels I know he will work with. The level on the e collar is going to fluctuate depending on distractions but generally dogs will have a lowest level they will work from and I work on trying to get that lower and lower so the dog can be compliant with even less conflict or stress. As a side note I have tried playing with Jackal but I think he misses home and isn't in a fun loving enough mood to play with toys for me. I do still think after a good set of obedience repetitions saying "break" and releasing the dog into a game of fetch will be very valuable for him so please experiment with including games into his reward experience and note the improvement in his self motivation.
Today with Jackal I wanted to spend some time cleaning up his extended place command. Jackal has been doing very well with his obedience and now that his understanding is so fluent the best thing to push him forward is slowly but surely extending the duration of his behaviors. When he is maintaining his obedience at a distance I will approach the dog and tell him "good" without touching him and then return to the end of my line. I repeat this process a few times with increasing intervals of time between my approach and as the dog is relaxing I begin touching them when I say good. I want the dog to understand that these rewards are conditional to their relaxed state and good obedience. So if the dog is getting too excited and may come out of position or actually does break I will go back to only using my voice until they build back up my trust in them. We want the dog to associate praise with staying focused and motivated whereas when we say "break" the dog is released into a jackpot of play (potentially with toys) to reward their hard work before they are allowed to then go explore the area and go to the bathroom as necessary. This ritual of work before play builds trust and helps the dog to tolerate when they do need reinforcement for poor decisions because they associate the return to obedience with rewarding outcomes rather than punishment. They may protest in the moment but their mood and willingness to work won't diminish if we balance our rewards and our reinforcement for any given command. Ideally 90 percent of the time we are praising good behavior and only 10 percent reinforcement to return to good behavior. If the dog is making more mistakes than that we need to create reasons to praise them and that means we need to break the behavior into smaller easier to complete steps we can reward and build into the total picture we desire.
Today Jackal and I filmed his Final Video at the Santa Monica Pier. He did very well! Keep in mind if we are helping the dog to succeed by watching out for his triggers and asking him for obedience in advance of them, then we can avoid his outburts in the future. The idea is to provide him with a specific goal to avoid getting too stimulated by other dogs or people. When he does overreact we have to use the command "off" to redirect his attention. We always want to reward the dog for looking at us when we command "off" so he is eager and willing to give us his attention when it is important to us. The point of obedience is to be strong even when the dog doesn't want to do it so we must always reward good effort even if it was an effort to refocus after breaking and barking or hard staring and etc. Give the dog a chance to find his wins and he will seek them out again and again. Good luck!
Today with Jackal I spent some time adding value to the "break" command. Remember to utilize all of the tools the dog is coming home with. When we want the dog to maintain good behavior without leaving their obedience we tell them "good". When we want to release the dog to a major jackpot we say "break" and give them a lot of love. I use this at the end of a particularly long duration for a behavior or when they snap into a position very quickly I will immediately tell them "break" and play. After playing they are allowed to sniff around and go potty as needed. For Jackal experiment with play during the break experience to get more excitement and enthusiasm for the work.
Today with Jackal we worked on all of the things he has learned thus far and spent some time enjoying the neighborhood on a walk. Remember that he is still a dog and not a perfect machine so he will need help and consistent practice to maintain the good change of behavior he has achieved. For a dog like Jackal who is brimming with energy, we as handlers need to remind ourselves they need guidance and support in the form of strict boundaries as much as they need affection and love. He of course is tough and has a history of ignoring or reacting when commands are being reinforced but he has done a good job of learning to calmly adjust his behavior rather than argue and he deserves opportunities to capitalize and build on his success. Take some calming breaths and take Jackal out into the world where you all can practice responsible handling and enjoyment of the world without fear. He is certain to react and to want to react so it is our job to help him and remind him we have a better goal to focus on and then following through on our promise to build trust. Good luck with Jackal going forward!