Achieving Balance and Harmony


A Hyperactive Fire House Dalmatian and and Over-Aggressive English Bulldog

Season 3 | Episode 4 | Wilshire & Butch

Wilshire, a hyperactive Dalmatian in Los Angeles, runs amuck in Firehouse 29 and the city attorney threatens to take him away if he doesn't shape up. Cesar tries to clear Wilshire's spotty past and make him a role model for fire dogs everywhere.

Next, Cesar travels to the Lone Star state, where he meets Butch, an overly aggressive English bulldog and tries to rein in his out-of-control behavior.


Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Contrary to popular belief, it's not always necessary to use physical corrections with a territorial dog in order for him to see you as the pack leader. And, although dogs are naturally prone to protect their space, you will see that an aggressively territorial dog like Butch does not respect his pack leader. However, you can win a dog's respect by "outlasting" him psychologically. In other words, it's often just a contest of wills.

A dog sees things in terms of cause and effect, so when you move away from a place or object he is guarding, the more it reinforces his belief that he "owns" it. By not backing away from the situation, you can actually begin to recondition him to realize that he doesn't have that power. Dogs are familiar with this strategy. For example, cattle dogs don't physically touch cattle when they're herding, but they make the animals think they're going to.

One thing to always keep in mind is that this doesn't happen overnight. Like every aspect of training, you must have patience!

Four Alarm Fire Dog

By now, you know my mantra: Exercise, discipline, THEN affection. And, when raising a puppy, it's important to keep in mind that everyone in the human "pack" needs to be on the same page when it comes to a training strategy. In the case of Wilshire, some pack members didn't seem to understand that while he was receiving those three components, by mixing up the order, they were in fact reinforcing his bad behavior. I see this happen a lot with my clients. It's called "intermittent reinforcement," and it is a sure way to get a dog not to respect your authority.

With wild dogs, the entire pack pitches in to raise the pups, which quickly learn to submit to and take direction from the adults. It can be the same with domestic dogs if we learn not to stray from the natural principle. By following the exercise, discipline, affection formula, the dog gets the same behavioral cues from everyone he interacts with, just as he would in nature. He'll then begin to accept all human beings as the pack leaders.

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