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Is this a method, or a mistake - calming a dog

1312 Views 5 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  SusanLynn
A friend with a new dog did something the other day that left me feeling uncomfortable. What are your thoughts on this situation?

They were trying to introduce a friend's dog to their new dog (their first dog). This felt too early to me. The dog, just five days out of the shelter, reacted very strongly, with aggression both in the house, then in the yard separated by a gate. (Both dogs were leashed and never had contact.)

Next, they tried the new dog in her "dog yard" with her owner, and the new dog and owner just leisurely walking around the yard, at a distance. When the new dog reacted, the new owner clamped the dog between his legs, and held her muzzle shut so she wouldn't bark. He was gentle and spoke to her kindly and stroked her. His intent was to 1)calm her down, 2)make her feel safe 3)impress upon her that the behavior wasn't allowed.

This went on for like 20 minutes. At which point the dog, which had calmed somewhat (but would erupt at any change, even movement from the new dog), was now squirming, but that was treated just like she was agitated and... all in all I felt really uncomfortable. He had only the best of intentions, I'm sure. But I didn't think that was the right or good thing to do... but I'm not a dog trainer. With my dogs, I've always respected that they have a personality and experience of their own, and I have to work with them to reward and build the desired behaviors. To me this felt so forceful and restrictive. But maybe I'm over anthropomorphizing.

Is this a "method?"
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It's a terrible method that will cause much worse emotional reactions to other dogs. He is reinforcing the thought in her head that other dogs around her make terrible, scary, uncomfortable things happen. The prompt way to do this would be to give her extra special treats when she sees another dog to make her build a positive association. Punishing or 'controlling' a dog like this is bad. She wasn't 'calm' she was shutting down.
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It's a method, but not a very effective one and one that could backfire badly and make the situation worse. This sticky has good information about dealing with reactivity: Reactivity, On Leash Aggression, and Barrier Frustration

This explains why punishment isn't a good option in the vast majority of situations: Suppression, Modification, Shutdown, and Fallout.

And, yes, five days in a new home is too soon to start introducing other dogs. This is a good article: Three Ways to Confuse a New Dog
That is a bit early but...

I have no problems with people bringing their dogs to my place. However, if it's a dog that he's never met, they are both taken to neutral ground. Dogs meet at a local park, do their thing, they get to know each other a bit and it takes out any possible territorial issues.
I feel a little better -- I felt very strongly that this was WRONG WRONG WRONG but I have been known to be wrong before.

Thanks for the great information, I'll be sharing that. We are of course going to work together to create a nice big family pack! :)
I'm guessing that the new owner has been watching a lot of Cesar Milan and trying to imitate his techniques. After all, that's the name that most frequently comes up in popular culture. The general consensus of this forum is that Cesar is as useful as a dog trainer as the Kardashians are at giving relationship advice.

I might suggest introducing your friend to other trainers. Some popular force-free trainers with on-line videos are Zac George and Kikopup:

CBS has a show called "Lucky Dog," which focuses on the rehabilitation and adoption of shelter dogs. Here's an article introducing it:

Shelter Dogs Star in CBS' New Show "Lucky Dog"

Good luck!
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