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Dog Training Techniques

I know I said I wasn't going to waste any more time talking about Kozies Shepherds, but I feel I should clarify a few things.

In researching obedience classes after I got Zada, I wanted to be sure I found someone who was somewhat "Cesar-ish" - meaning a calm, firm leader. I ended up finding a friend in my dog obedience trainer, Linda, but also someone who taught me the wonderful results I could achieve using positive reinforcement and behavior modification.

It was a learning curve for me, as I'd never used these methods before - but they really work! Marking the behavior - at the INSTANT it occurs - lets the dog know exactly what they did right (or wrong). You never use any other mode of positive punishment ("adding an offensive or adverse stimulus"), i.e., striking the dog, or using a shock collar.

Why? Because the very BASIS of behavior modification strives to teach the dog what they're doing correctly, and in telling them they're displaying the behavior you want - and subsequently rewarding it - teaches the dog to try more often and harder to recreate the behavior, because it's a pleasing experience.

You might wonder why positive punishment wouldn't do the same thing - if the dog's being bad, and you strike it, that'll tell that darn dog not do do THAT again. BUT, you didn't tell the dog what he SHOULD be doing; you're worrying about what he should NOT be doing. Since dogs are always doing something, and we want them to be confident, we can't expect them to head out and try new things, since they won't know when the next fist is going to strike them or when the next shock will come.

The reason I'm outlining all of this is for those people who keep finding my blog when they're searching for Kozies Shepherds and find it necessary to tell me I don't know what I'm doing with my own dog. Recently I received a comment from one of them stating, "Mark Kozitza is very knowledgable in raising dogs and you probably should have taken his advice about how to handle it."*

Since I'm being called out on this, I'll tell everyone, I DID call Mark after Zada stalked, pounced upon and bit that girl last September. I called him after I got done crying for about 3 hours, not knowing if I was going to have to put her down for aggression. I asked him how to handle this situation, stating it had started - and I'd been working on it at dog parks - with other dogs. Keep in mind, this is a very dominant dog (I've seen her lift a leg like a male when she's marking), and it's a constant struggle with other dogs, but of course I had NO idea she was capable of transmitting this behavior to kids.

Mark's solution? Put a pinch collar on her, with a long rope, and give it a "quick jerk" when she reaches the other dog. OR, he also said to put a shock collar on her if that didn't work. Okay. Let me tell you what's wrong with THAT: even the most novice of dog trainers will tell you a dog won't learn not to stalk, rush, and pounce on things if you punish it for the instant it's already leaping.

The behavior starts long before the actual leap - with Zada, I can tell: her eyes get focused, her ears prick, the tail goes up, and then she charges. The INSTANT she "hones in" on another dog is the time to correct the behavior; not when she's already honed in, rushed, and started barking.

What I do is catch her the INSTANT I see her perk up - I distract her, and she gets rewarded (her extreme ball drive helps here) for paying attention to me and not the other dog. Does it always work? No, because MY timing isn't always consistent - it's hard to constantly watch her at the dog park, or when we're camping...she's caused some squabbles because I've looked away or didn't see the signs (again, my fault) and she's charged another dog who's willing to stand their ground to her.

She's had a fear/dominance issue with new dogs since the day I brought her home. I've often wondered, why??? The only explanation I can come up with is Kozitza had her segregated from all the other dogs (she was 4 months old) and when new dogs would come in for training, he'd let them rush her pen and he said she'd "started barking at strange dogs" and I witnessed it - at 4 months of age, she was displaying fear aggression with new dogs. He did nothing to correct this at the onset, and I've been dealing with it ever since. That's a lesson to me - never get an older puppy who wasn't properly socialized its entire life (not just the first 8 weeks of life).

It's a constant struggle on my part nowadays - I'm ALWAYS watching her, because I just don't quite trust her...neither does anyone who knows about her "incident" last fall. I'm entitled to my opinion, and I'll never purchase from Kozies Shepherds or recommend them.

* PS: For those of you who have an issue with me and like to name-call, I don't post comments from people I don't know. I find it sad that you feel the need to conduct yourself in an inappropriate manner.