Krueger | Tibetan Mastiff | Azusa, CA | In Training
Krueger is a 4 month old Tibetan Mastiff puppy from Azusa, CA who has come to OffLeash SoCal's 3 Week Puppy Board and Train Program to work on his play biting as well as establish a strong foundation of obedience to help him grow into a responsible dog. For a dog like Krueger, we want to be considerate of his young age as well as his "big dog" qualities. Large breeds like Tibetan Mastiffs are known for maturing slowly and while we can absolutely train him we must keep in mind he is still very much a baby and needs to work with the smallest steps before we ask for more complex tasks. Stay tuned for Krueger's 3 week transformation as we use a balanced approach to show him that work is fun and easy!
Krueger and I worked on diagnosing his individual character and unique set of traits so I could formulate his training plan. Krueger is a very young puppy who is lacking in structure and prefers to play with his brother rather than listen to a handler. He needs consistent structure over a long period of time while he matures and over the next 3 weeks with our Puppy Program we will help shape the behaviors and positions that we will use throughout the dog's life in order to maintain his good state of mind.
Obedience isn't about making a dog a robot but instead it is a form of communication and instilling discipline by teaching a dog that it's best interest is in mutual benefit and cooperation. A stubborn young pup like Krueger can certainly learn to police his own behavior but the first steps are building a relationship with him as I show him the language of leash pressure. By using a leash to guide the dog I can show him where he is right and wrong and praise him accordingly. The goal is to create a good citizen who doesn't need constant supervision but initially we must show the dog the ideal place to be to get rewards. When Krueger goes home remember the leash is a tool for subtle communication and it cannot be effective if you have tension or the dog is pulling. I will introduce the prong collar and explain its use tomorrow and we will begin the process of shaping the behaviors.
Today with Krueger we worked on introducing the prong collar as well as showing him the basics of leash pressure. Krueger is still very much a baby but he reacts with a great deal of resistance when he is asked to follow the leash. We had discussed his play biting at pick up but his use of his mouth goes beyond just enthusiasm. It is important to keep in mind that Tibetan Mastiffs are known for their strong personalities and defensive instincts so anything that the dog percieves as "unfair" he will resist. We want to make sure that obedience is fun and enjoyable but it is also important to show a growing pup what the boundaries are. The ultimate goal is to be consistent in our efforts so the dog isn't confused about why they are sometimes but not always allowed to get away with certain things. Krueger did have a tough time making sense or leash pressure at first and wanted to have a temper tantrum rather than walk nicely with me but after a short session of him being defiant and me showing him he can't get out of listening by throwing his weight around, he was able to make sense of what I was asking from him and walk together. The first step to learning is accepting guidance so my main goal is to build our relationship and be good friends initially while he figures out the new rules.
What does it look like when a dog is having a tantrum? It can be rolling around like an alligator, laying down and refusing to move, biting or chewing at the leash, pulling or walking backwards, crying and carrying on barking even after we examine them for any injuries and make sure they are healthy and clear...
The idea is to endure their poor behavior long enough that they understand they cannot get what they want acting that way, then we reward with praise when they behave. For a large breed puppy like Krueger it is important we lay a foundation for success that we can consistently refer back to when we need direction. For example, the dog is overstimulated on walks so you use the obedience to create moments to praise for a calm and relaxed demeanor. We don't need perfect on the first day and it is understandable that Krueger wasn't happy about having to follow leash pressure initially. I let him rest and took him out again and he was night and day different. We are seeking to create moments where the dog learns to seek his own advantage by cooperation with us and that becomes clearer and easier for Krueger with repetition.
Krueger's ears are somewhat dirty and I would like to make a note of their current condition.
Today I took time with Krueger to show him I am a friend and he can trust me. He has been making a lot of resistance to the leash pressure so I want to offer food as an initial reward to help encourage his motivation but he is too stressed out to take it on walks. This exercise I show in the video is about encouraging a dog to enter my space voluntarily and then rewarding that spontaneous decision with food. Dogs wont accept food rewards if they're under enough stress so it's also a good way to gage how much a fearful dog is struggling. Krueger is very much overwhelmed by his experience so far but I am hopeful he will come out of his shell with the right help and patience.
Today with Krueger we worked on using the pressure of the leash in conjunction with reverse psychology in order to help him understand it is fun and desirable to walk together with me rather than put the brakes on. Dogs want to resist pressure in an opposite way, so the normal forward pull of a leash triggers him to pull back. If we do the opposite enough times--pulling him gently AWAY from where I want him to walk, he resists by getting closer-- and show him rewards are waiting when he does get closer, the dog can then go back to that gentle forward pressure he was resisting in the first place and walk nicely on the leash. Dogs are resistant to change and up until this point Kreuger has had no structure, so the change feels drastic for him but with gentle pressure, guidance and patience we can help him through his worries and reward his best efforts.
Krueger tore his paw pad wanting to stop walking but he doesn't seem bothered. I am keeping a cone on him in the crate so he doesnt lick it while it heals. We are also limiting Krueger's food intake outside of training. I offer him all of his meals during training to build his desire to work and I am providing him with anything left over in his crate.
Today I met up with my fellow trainer Jose and Krueger's brother Wesson. We worked on the two dogs being able to coexist without playing or being needy with one another. Do you remember how much they like to rough house and interact with each other? Today we were able to walk the dogs near one another but maintain a steady pace and make progress. They both enjoy contact with each other to the extent that they will ignore the world around them so they need consistent work on obedience separately so they have a strong enough understanding to ignore each other and pay attention to the commands. We will meet up tomorrow to work again at the same park!
Today Kreuger and I met up with fellow trainer Jose again to work the two brothers around one another and separately. You will likely notice similarities and differences in their behavior and ultimately the rate that they learn and it is important to judge them as individuals. They are both very young and still brand new to the world. Kreuger initially had a strongly adverse reaction to leash pressure so the goal was to make him soft and comfortable with the leash before shaping his behaviors. Today we were able to work on his Come to Sit, his Sit and his Down commands as well as continued work on the Heel command.
Today with Krueger I spent time making the obedience fun and exciting. When a young pup thinks of obedience as a game that he "wins" by participating in what we ask of him, he desires to work for us. We have to keep obedience short and sweet. Kreuger is young and also a large breed so he is growing right now and we need to he considerate of his energy. Today I have switched him back to eating at his meal times instead of using food during training. We want to praise our dog with a nice tone of voice and happiness so he associates being obedient with our positive attitude rather than with pressure or force. That being said we don't allow dog to pull us all over the place, but what contextualizes the pressure we use to guide him is our positive attitude and kindness.His rear pads are wearing a bit from the exercise but they have also healed and are toughening up so I walked him on pavement today to see how he tolerates it. He did well! But I will continue to monitor the progress.
Today with Kreuger I was able to use obedience as a game to keep him focused around brand new distractions. He experienced bicycles passing, children playing and people celebrating for Mother's Day-- Happy Mother's Day! Kreuger is able to trust the leash pressure enough now to be guided through the various positions reliably. His resistance still shows up when he is feeling tired but remember he is a baby and his attention span is still growing. We want to keep training short and sweet. If we leave him wanting more he will be more motivated to work the next time we take him out. I was able to practice the Sit, Come to Sit, the Down and his Heel. Remember not to overwhelm the dog but keep in mind if we are getting good progress within a short time frame it is ok to move on to another exercise/behavior to train. Meaning if I ask for Sit and he does a perfect job, I don't need to practice sit for 30 minutes, I can ask for a down or work on my heeling etc. Keep it fun and reward his effort!
Today with Krueger I worked on the initial steps for greeting people. Krueger generally doesn't mind people being present but today he was showing me some hesitation and nervousness so I thought it might help him to show that strangers can be nice sometimes. For the final picture we expect the dog to maintain obedience during greetings but for now I wanted Krueger to make the choice to approach all on his own. Before I ask him to hold a position in a difficult or potentially stressful situation I want to practice him choosing to overcome his hesitation in lower risk settings with less distractions. Do you recall how Krueger was mainly interested in playing with his brother before? Now that he knows the handler and even sometimes strangers have rewards Krueger is growing to be as excited about learning and exploring the world as he is about playing with his brother.
Today Krueger and I added duration and distance to his sit and down commands. Krueger did very well! Remember that little pups like this are still very much babies and don't have a good attention span so it is important to keep the addition of duration and distance to baby sized steps. Consider adding only 5 or even 10 seconds at a time to the duration the dog maintains his behavior. When we "break" the dog to reward we want to make big deal praise them for their hard work. We want them to feel like the wait is worth it!
Today Kreuger and I worked on building his enthusiasm toward work. He has the intellectual understanding of all of his various commands at least to a basic level so I took time to enhance his desire for the behaviors by associating them with a more powerful reward. The way we praise our dogs matters! If they do a good job during the work and we want them to continue maintaining their good obedience we praise in a soothing tone of voice. When we are releasing the dog to play and go potty we say "break". Break is a big jackpot so use it when the dog is making a good effort like waiting in an extended sit or down for longer than normal. You will notice that by associating work and play Krueger is much more willing to put in the effort.
Today with Krueger we went to the Santa Monica Pier and worked on exposing him to more distractions. He is still a young puppy so he was understandably overwhelmed at moments but for the most part he was able to remain composed. When he is overwhelmed he wants to lay back and avoid moving forward but with gentle encouragement and thanks to the practice we have had at the park and other lower stress environments we were able to overcome this anxiety by being encouraging and showing Krueger we have nothing to worry about. Often times a dog needs reassuring in the form of good leadership and we can end up fixating on the problem behavior rather than finding a solution. For example when Krueger felt overwhelmed in the crowd instead of stopping and paying attention to his worry I kept moving at an even pace while using my voice to praise Krueger for moving forward when he did. When we have a consistent practice the dog has an easier time finding a solution. Krueger was able to maintain an extended sit around many new distractions and I am very proud of him.
Today with Krueger I spent time raising the criteria for reward. Now that Krueger is motivated and has a strong grasp of what Im asking him to do for the most part, I am requiring him to perform behaviors to a higher level of excellence in order to keep him progressing. The concept is that the dog will have to spend more of his energy paying attention to the commands and thus enhance his focus and become more resilient to distractions. For Krueger the outside world of distractions is ultimately less influential than his own impulses and so if we can influence his impulses we can for a certainty enhance his ability to resist distractions as they are lower priority to him. There are moments where Krueger attempts to perform obedience in search of the game of play and while he can sometimes become sloppy in his execution if we encourage this too much, there is a nice balance to be found by rewarding the dog for his positive mindset. When he is enthusiastic and bouncing around we can praise him saying good, but it isn't until he completes the behavior in a nice picture of obedience that we fully release with "break" into the game of play he is seeking.
Today with Krueger we spent time working on his impulse control around the front door of my apartment. With any doorways, gates or entrances it is important to ask the dog for a sit before we cross the border of the new space we are entering. The safety precaution is to avoid potentially running into traffic or approaching people/dogs etc without permission. If we make it automatic for the dog to behave as we enter a new place we can use that window of time to better assess the risks in our environment. If the dog does more thinking automatically we can pay attention to more variables as the handler and avoid conflict with our dog.
Today with Krueger I reintroduced the prong collar. He has been doing very well with listening to gentle leash pressure on a slip lead but he is still trying to throw his weight around from time to time. The idea of the prong is not to "force" the dog to follow through but instead to create a boundary to hold him accountable. For example when asking the dog to heel and walk nicely at my side I don't try to drag him into position, I offer encouragement with my voice and body language. However if the dog tries to run ahead or lag behind the prong is used to discourage his pulling in either direction. If we hold the leash comfortable at a length that restricts only when the dog is out of position, we can praise them when they are in the correct position and use the previous skills we have practiced to "turn off" the pressure. We want to reward every good effort that is made by Krueger and when he is actively resisting making progress by putting on the brakes or refusing to move, we can simply take another step forwad and the pressure created by the prong becomes tolerable. When the dog understands why he is experiencing mild discomfort he is easily able to "solve his problem by peforming obedience behaviors we ask him for.
Today Kreuger and I worked on the place command. It is important for Kreuger to practice every day in a natural way, so keep in mind elements if the routine that can be enhanced by the use of a place command. When I place my dogs I am usually occupied doing something that requires my full attention, so I treat the place command as a way to keep my dogs busy while I am busy. In the video of today's session I am using a place cot but anything easily discernible from the surroundings is acceptable to place the dog on. Think about a beach towel at the beach, a bench, a patch of grass in an otherwise dirt lot. We want the area we are limiting the dog to be obvious and understandable.
Krueger is losing his baby teeth right now and he doesn't seem as interested in food. I will offer him softer options if he persists in the coming days.
Today Kreuger and I worked with other trainers and their dogs at a local park. There were loud noises coming from landscaping equipment as well as the desire to go play to distract Kreuger but he did a good job ignoring those things and behaving. He is still very young but he understands what we are asking for and what matters most right now is making sure he continues to enjoy the time spent together. With the right motivation the dog chooses to work with us because it feels satisfying to them. When we put pressure on the dog to conform to what we want they will often seek to avoid giving it to us. This hesitation is avoided if we ensure we are paying the dog appropriately. Remember how I have talked about the importance of praise? The key to success is showing the dog it has all the tools already to elicit the rewards it desires. Think of obedience as a kind of game you play where the reward is interaction and everyone wins!
Today Krueger and I worked on adding more duration to his behaviors. For young pups their attention span isn't the greatest so we want to be considerate of the amount we increase in training. For example, ten seconds longer is a good amount of time to ask the dog for every repetition. We are aiming for baby steps that prepare the dog over time rather than asking for too much and hoping the dog doesn't fail. When we are patient we can avoid mistakes that are time consuming to fix. Taking our time now saves us time in the long run! Remember to ask for one percent improvement every session and you will be staying on track.
Today Krueger and I worked at a Home Depot. There were new sights and smells and sounds but Krueger did a great job of focusing on the task at hand. Consider obedience the tool kit for overcoming stressful situations. The dog will in time adapt and use the coping skills we show them when exposed to new stressors. As they have learned through practice with us, every time they maintain obedience and ignore these things that bother them, they are greatly rewarded. As always consistent practice is the name of the game!
Today Krueger and I filmed his Final video at the Del Amo Fashion Mall. He encountered crowds and slippery floors but he did well. While we were there we had the chance to work on his greeting manners with a number of different people. It is important to practice greeting people in a deliberate and calm way. Dogs feel rewarded by excitement and if they always associate saying hello with a big commotion, the likelihood for accidents in the doorway, knocking people over, excited nipping and etc increases. Remember how Krueger would nip at children? If he rehearses interacting in a calm way he will police his behavior on his own. Rewarding with pets only when he is maintaining his obedience.
While grooming/brushing Krueger I found a matt of hair that was crusty and stuck together. Sometimes when knots/hair matts form they can irritate the skin underneath. I am cleaning the area and removing any debris before treating with over the counter topical wound spray to promote healing. Krueger isn't scratching excessively and he doesn't seem to be in any pain.
Today with Krueger I spent some time showing him new place objects he can climb onto. Krueger is still growing and not very coordinated just yet but given some careful guidance he is able to overcome his trepidation and gain new confidence. He will put on the brakes as has been his pattern but if we offer him that same consistent leadership he finds he is able to do more than his initial fear makes him believe. We have to be there to hold the dog accountable so he doesn't learn to listen to fear and form a bad habit. The idea isn't to force a dog into an insecure position but instead to keep them from running away from their fears long enough that they find the courage to overcome them.
After cleaning the matted hair and scabs away the skin underneath is pink but otherwise healthy and will recover quickly now that the area can breathe.