Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dog Training Update

We are a week-plus into the training with Rico, so I thought I would give an update. Things are much improved. Since Rico is not an aggressive dog, but is smart, training has been relatively easy, and thankfully Matt can take some time to devote to him during the day when there are less distractions. However, the training we do during distractions is definitely the most helpful to see how Rico's behavior has progressed.

Rico now has to work for treats. And, work he does... happily.  As the trainer put it, as humans we do very little for free, and dogs are the same way. He is starting to understand what we want of him and will sometimes run through his list of "tricks" when he knows we have a treat ready.

Rico is also wearing a DAP collar. "DAP" stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. Essentially, the collar's scent is activated by heat, and the scent is designed to mimic the smell of his mother. Sounds kooky, I know, but it has been shown to be very helpful in dogs that were removed from their mothers too early. Matt calls it his "Mommy collar". If you have issues with your own dog(s) - from submissive urination to aggressiveness - you should actually look into this collar.  Rico is a completely different dog than he was when he and Ian got into their scuffle... and it is possible the collar has contributed to his calmness.

We have actually had a couple situations where neighborhood kids have run through our yard or come up to him in the yard without us knowing (frustrating from a pet owner's perspective, let me tell you) and Rico has responded almost perfectly. Honestly, Rico has not shown any aggression since we started the training. And, Ian has greatly improved on his interactions with Rico, too. 

Rico sometimes doesn't listen because the temptation in front of him is too great (like the sweet new Dalmation he met this morning - "Pongo" - that he just wants to play with!), but when led away from those temptations, he hasn't shown aggression.

Because I know there are some of you reading this that likely are saying/thinking, it is a dog and if it was MY child was ever in danger because it was near this dog... blah... blah... blah... a dog should listen to humans... period... blah... blah... blah... that dog should be given to a family without kids or put down... blah...blah...blah.... let me say this, Rico is not Cujo. He is a sweet, smart dog who wasn't being trained as a dog. We were doing somethings right, but many things wrong with him. And there were likely many things that contributed to the incident with Ian a few weeks ago... that we have been working to successfully fix.

In the meantime, parents, please teach your children (and remind them often), that no dog is "safe". A child should never approach a dog unless it is their own, and a child should never ever pet a dog that is not theirs unless invited to do so by the pet owner. A dog is a dog, and a dog will act like a dog even if you don't want it to.

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