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We just rescued a 3yo Border Collie/Aussie. We were warned he has "resource aggression" and was given up because he bit a child very severely. We have some experience with dog training and hoped we could teach him manners and give him a loving home.
He is a moderately energetic dog but we have five acres of yard for him to exercise in. He has apparently not been taught to heal on leash; he pulls like crazy but we have ordered a harness and are working on that. He knows sit, but not wait or stay. He knows come, although he picks and chooses when to listen. He does not know down. We are working on teaching him the same commands we taught our other dogs. We slowly introduced him to our two other dogs, a 3 yo Rottie/Husky and a 10 yo Corgi. The rescue plays well with our Rottie/Husky. When he was too rough with our old Corgi, the Corgi told him off and the rescue was very submissive. We have to watch the rescue around our cat because he seems to have an inappropriate stalking behavior. We are working on desensitizing him around the cat and with the "leave it" command.
At first we didn't see any sort of aggressive behavior from the rescue, but now that he has settled in and become more comfortable, the bad behavior is more obvious. Notably there have been two situations today where he showed unacceptable behavior.
This evening after the feeding, we were putting out the dogs to spend time in the yard and the rescue didn't go outside when I called. Instead, he ran over to his dog bed and laid down. I walked towards him and he growled at me. I leashed him and brought him outside, had a good walk and came back in.
We are crate training him right now because we don't want him roaming the house unsupervised just yet. He is still getting used to the crate, but obviously doesn't like it. Tonight, the rescue was in the living room and we were telling him to go to bed. He didn't listen so I reached down to get his attention and he growled and then bit at me. I think it was a halfhearted bite because he didn't get me, but the behavior is concerning.
We knew what we were getting into when we adopted him. We would still like advice on how to stop this behavior. The rescue obviously believes he is in control, not me. When he doesn't want to do something like go outside or go to bed, he won't listen and when forced he will resort to aggression like growling and then biting. It's not due to fear or guarding food, it's definitely because the rescue doesn't want to do what he's told.
I've previously used the alpha roll, but recently learned this technique is outdated. What are alternatives to break this behavior? Any tips are appreciated!
 

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Yes, physically alpha rolling and other similar manhandling methods are very outdated.

This could be a long reply so get a coffee.

So first - a brief description of the 4 quadrants of operant conditioning (Skinner) - the way we get people and animals to ”do stuff”.

In dog training, positive and negative have specific meanings. Positive means add something and negative means take something away like in maths. We can reinforce behaviours that we want, or suppress behaviours we don't want. In behavioural science terms the word ”punish” is used, but it has the specific meaning here of reducing, suppressing or stopping behaviours we don't want. We do these things by using either positive or negative methids. Some examples.

Positive reinforcement - your dog does something you want like getting off the sofa so you add a reward. Or you go go to work and get paid.

Negative reinforcement - your child studies hard for a test, you take away the duty of household chores for a week. It's just easier to explain with children - a dog example is using a particular type of harness that causes discomfort if the dog pulls - by him not pulling and walking nicely, the discomfort is taken away.

Positive punishment (suppression) - your dog does something you dislike so you add an unpleasant thing like alpha rolling, or nipping his ear. We don't recommend this as it is often only a temporary fix, it damages your relationship and it doesn't teach the dog what you do want from him.

Negative punishment (suppression) your puppy nips/ mouths you so you take away the object of his fun by removing yourself and leaving the room for a few moments.

Ok, so now looking at why we use positive reinforcement rather than positive punishment. It's pretty simple - it's because it works far more reliably.

There is a saying in dog training that if you want a dog to sit in only one corner of a room, you can reward him (positive reinforcement) when he does, or you can beat him up (positive punishment) when he goes to any of the three wrong corners. The end result will be the same but you will have two very different dogs.

If you want the science behind that, look up
Brian Iwata's Functional Analysis of problem behaviour studies with children. He shows that instead of punishing them when they get something wrong, undesirable behaviour markedly decreases when it is ignored or when desired behaviour is rewarded. The same applies to behaviours in dogs.

A reward based approach also has the benefit of not setting them up for failure; punishment by definition has to allow the dog (or child) to make an error first. And, you could even argue that punishing a bad behaviour could make it worse - because it gets your attention, the dog/child might even repeat it for that alone!

By encouraging and rewarding good behaviour we mould a better behaved dog who will be more confident in making good behavioural choices.

Now let's look at why dogs bite. It is almost always rooted in fear or anxiety. The fact that your dog inhibited his bite with you is good, really good. If he had meant to bite you, be assured you wouldn't be here looking for advice, you would be having your wounds stitched and your dog would be on a one way trip to the vet.

Dogs give a series of signals that they are unhappy, but unfortunately most people don't recognise them because they can be quite subtle. To begin with there is often wide eyes, lip licking and yawning. There is also muscular tension in the body. Then the ones we sometimes do see - growl, snarl, nip then bite. If the early signals are not seen (or, in the dog's view, ignored) he won't bother with them because us stupid humans pay no attention anyway; so he may go straight to the bite. So it's important never to ignore the early signals or reprimand the dog for giving them; stopping the dog from giving them would be like taking the battery out of a smoke alarm.

Instead, listen to what he is saying - stopping what you are doing doesn't mean you are ”giving in” to him, it means that together you can find a better way of doing whatever it is you are trying to do - like luring him out of his bed with a treat. No fuss, no drama, everybody wins (more on this later).

You said you think your dog thinks he is in control - that's an old theory that unfortunately won't go way. It's the flat earth theory of dog training.

The dominance, pack leadership theory has been thoroughly disproven and widely discredited, even by the person who developed it. It was based on flawed conclusions drawn from poorly observed evidence. The wolf pack was not a real pack, it was a group of individuals thrown together and the situation (captivity rather than wild) skewed the data as their behaviour was not natural. And dogs are not wolves anyway, any more than we are chimpanzees - in both cases there was a shared ancestor but the species evolved in different directions. That's why we have humans AND apes, wolves AND dogs.

This article explains it quite well. Debunking the "Alpha Dog" Theory - Whole Dog Journal

Nobody disagrees with boundaries and good manners, but the these can be established through training, building a mutually respectful relationship and without forcing submission from your dog. We certainly do not advocate aversive tools and behaviours.

If you think about leadership in your own life, the leaders (teachers , co-workers) that you respect earn that respect and inspire followership, they don't command or force it through wielding power 'just because they can'.

So in conclusion, I don't see an aggressive dog, I see a nervous dog. You don't say how long you have had him, it may he is still settling in or finding his feet - it would be helpful to know. Collies are quite sensitive dogs who often don't do well with harsh handling anyway. He sees you as scary person who puts him in a crate he dislikes, and forces him to do things - he doesn't know you are lashing him to go out, he may have been leashed to go somewhere scary in the past.

First build a bond with him. Be the person he wants to come to when he is a bit scared. Drop pieces of chicken for him as you pass. Make every single interaction with him a really good one, so he learns to trust you. If you want to move him, lure him with sausage or chicken - it won't be forever, you can fade rewards once he is more trusting and responsive.

Ask here for any specific training questions you have, we will try to help.

Look on YouTube for Kikopup who has some excellent short training videos.

In fact, I'll post one below as you mentioned pulling, and I am also going to attach a guide to crate training written by Emma Judson who is a behaviourist who specialises in separation anxiety.

Sorry for the long read but I thought it was important to explain why the old fashioned methods have been superceded.



 

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I can see why you are worried but at the same time Im seeing it from his side..

Hes a BC aussie mix, they live to herd, to work and they do stalk, watch any BC work they drop and crawl like a navy seal.. So what your saying is you dont want natural BC behaviour?
You said he doesnt like the crate, ok... so how is he supposed to tell you that he doesnt like it? By refusing to go into it , by backing up, but you pushed the issue and made a move toward him all he did was escalate that and tell you firmly NO. I notice you didnt have a problem when your corgi told the rescue NO when play got too rough.. Surely he was just doing the same, telling you no..

The not wanting to go out I get that too, Im guessing your routine is feeding , playing in the yard and then in to get ready for the night ie going into the crate.... He just reasoned if he didnt go out he could break the chain of events.

You need to forget this whole dominance Im the boss BS and start working on a loving close relationship where you are buddies BFF's who trust each other because at the moment youre just a stranger who is pushing him around and he doesnt like it.

Youve been offered some great training tips from others but think about things from his side if you were taken to a strange place by forgien speaking people and told to do things you didnt understand then shoved in a box after meals you would soon resist too.
A cage is a cage no matter how golden the bars, make that crate his safe place not the place he gets put and left alone.
 

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Yes, physically alpha rolling and other similar manhandling methods are very outdated.

This could be a long reply so get a coffee.

So first - a brief description of the 4 quadrants of operant conditioning (Skinner) - the way we get people and animals to ”do stuff”.

In dog training, positive and negative have specific meanings. Positive means add something and negative means take something away like in maths. We can reinforce behaviours that we want, or suppress behaviours we don't want. In behavioural science terms the word ”punish” is used, but it has the specific meaning here of reducing, suppressing or stopping behaviours we don't want. We do these things by using either positive or negative methids. Some examples.

Positive reinforcement - your dog does something you want like getting off the sofa so you add a reward. Or you go go to work and get paid.

Negative reinforcement - your child studies hard for a test, you take away the duty of household chores for a week. It's just easier to explain with children - a dog example is using a particular type of harness that causes discomfort if the dog pulls - by him not pulling and walking nicely, the discomfort is taken away.

Positive punishment (suppression) - your dog does something you dislike so you add an unpleasant thing like alpha rolling, or nipping his ear. We don't recommend this as it is often only a temporary fix, it damages your relationship and it doesn't teach the dog what you do want from him.

Negative punishment (suppression) your puppy nips/ mouths you so you take away the object of his fun by removing yourself and leaving the room for a few moments.

Ok, so now looking at why we use positive reinforcement rather than positive punishment. It's pretty simple - it's because it works far more reliably.

There is a saying in dog training that if you want a dog to sit in only one corner of a room, you can reward him (positive reinforcement) when he does, or you can beat him up (positive punishment) when he goes to any of the three wrong corners. The end result will be the same but you will have two very different dogs.

If you want the science behind that, look up
Brian Iwata's Functional Analysis of problem behaviour studies with children. He shows that instead of punishing them when they get something wrong, undesirable behaviour markedly decreases when it is ignored or when desired behaviour is rewarded. The same applies to behaviours in dogs.

A reward based approach also has the benefit of not setting them up for failure; punishment by definition has to allow the dog (or child) to make an error first. And, you could even argue that punishing a bad behaviour could make it worse - because it gets your attention, the dog/child might even repeat it for that alone!

By encouraging and rewarding good behaviour we mould a better behaved dog who will be more confident in making good behavioural choices.

Now let's look at why dogs bite. It is almost always rooted in fear or anxiety. The fact that your dog inhibited his bite with you is good, really good. If he had meant to bite you, be assured you wouldn't be here looking for advice, you would be having your wounds stitched and your dog would be on a one way trip to the vet.

Dogs give a series of signals that they are unhappy, but unfortunately most people don't recognise them because they can be quite subtle. To begin with there is often wide eyes, lip licking and yawning. There is also muscular tension in the body. Then the ones we sometimes do see - growl, snarl, nip then bite. If the early signals are not seen (or, in the dog's view, ignored) he won't bother with them because us stupid humans pay no attention anyway; so he may go straight to the bite. So it's important never to ignore the early signals or reprimand the dog for giving them; stopping the dog from giving them would be like taking the battery out of a smoke alarm.

Instead, listen to what he is saying - stopping what you are doing doesn't mean you are ”giving in” to him, it means that together you can find a better way of doing whatever it is you are trying to do - like luring him out of his bed with a treat. No fuss, no drama, everybody wins (more on this later).

You said you think your dog thinks he is in control - that's an old theory that unfortunately won't go way. It's the flat earth theory of dog training.

The dominance, pack leadership theory has been thoroughly disproven and widely discredited, even by the person who developed it. It was based on flawed conclusions drawn from poorly observed evidence. The wolf pack was not a real pack, it was a group of individuals thrown together and the situation (captivity rather than wild) skewed the data as their behaviour was not natural. And dogs are not wolves anyway, any more than we are chimpanzees - in both cases there was a shared ancestor but the species evolved in different directions. That's why we have humans AND apes, wolves AND dogs.

This article explains it quite well. Debunking the "Alpha Dog" Theory - Whole Dog Journal

Nobody disagrees with boundaries and good manners, but the these can be established through training, building a mutually respectful relationship and without forcing submission from your dog. We certainly do not advocate aversive tools and behaviours.

If you think about leadership in your own life, the leaders (teachers , co-workers) that you respect earn that respect and inspire followership, they don't command or force it through wielding power 'just because they can'.

So in conclusion, I don't see an aggressive dog, I see a nervous dog. You don't say how long you have had him, it may he is still settling in or finding his feet - it would be helpful to know. Collies are quite sensitive dogs who often don't do well with harsh handling anyway. He sees you as scary person who puts him in a crate he dislikes, and forces him to do things - he doesn't know you are lashing him to go out, he may have been leashed to go somewhere scary in the past.

First build a bond with him. Be the person he wants to come to when he is a bit scared. Drop pieces of chicken for him as you pass. Make every single interaction with him a really good one, so he learns to trust you. If you want to move him, lure him with sausage or chicken - it won't be forever, you can fade rewards once he is more trusting and responsive.

Ask here for any specific training questions you have, we will try to help.

Look on YouTube for Kikopup who has some excellent short training videos.

In fact, I'll post one below as you mentioned pulling, and I am also going to attach a guide to crate training written by Emma Judson who is a behaviourist who specialises in separation anxiety.

Sorry for the long read but I thought it was important to explain why the old fashioned methods have been superceded.



Thank you for the very polite response. I really appreciate the time.
Please don't see this as argumentative, I'm just wondering what is making the rescue nervous? He is quite settled in. He has his favorite spots in the house, leans into us for pets, is excited and runs up to us when we get home, and was sitting at my feet comfortably when I then got up and told him to go bed, which led to him trying to bite.
Using the example of a child, it seems like what happened with our rescue is similar to when a kid is comfortably lounging and you tell them to go to bed and they respond in an aggressive fashion because they aren't ready yet. My point here is that it doesn't seem like nervous aggression at all, unless I'm misunderstanding in which case I am very open to correction!
And to clarify, under this new (to me) dog training philosophy, instead of correcting behavior with what you described as positive punishment I should lure him to do what I want using treats as positive reinforcement. So in the next case of him not wanting to go outside after eating or go to bed when it's time, I need to always offer him treats when he doesn't come when I call? And eventually he won't need the treats?
It's great to know I need to erase dominance form my vocabulary. In a dog-human relationship though I am the parent and he does need to listen to me when I say it's time to go outside or time to go to bed. Which, to explain myself, is why I at first operated under the positive punishment technique. What do you suggest I do if the positive reinforcement doesn't work and he still refuses to go outside etc? Or would that not happen?
We really want to give this rescue a loving forever home and have fallen in love with him but we want to also teach him the rules of the house and to have good manners.
(also I wanted to note that he will only be in the kennel at night for maybe a week more or until we're certain he is desensitized to our cat and really understands the leave it command. Obviously a working dog is going to exhibit herding tendencies, but it is considered inappropriate when it's not what we want. A true working dog is also taught leave it commands on the ranch so I see nothing wrong with pointing out that we were working on that behavior. But again, I am open to correction.)
I truly appreciate all the help on this forum!! You sound like a great dog owner.
 

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Hi Heather - I'll try to take your points in order.

I'm just wondering what is making the rescue nervous?
Who knows. The reason is hard to say without seeing it first hand (and even then we can't be sure, we don't not know his background). Both times, I think he was lying down and you went towards him - he growled the first time then snapped the second time when you got further into his space by reaching for him. So I'd take a guess he has been physically moved before and doesn't like it. I wonder if that is how the child was bitten.

I think I'd train him to come to a whistle or something he has no bad associations with. More of that in a moment.

instead of correcting behavior with what you described as positive punishment I should lure him to do what I want using treats as positive reinforcement.
Yes, but you want the treat to be a reward not a bribe.
I need to always offer him treats when he doesn't come when I call?
That would be a bribe. He needs to come to you first - does that make sense?

In my experience there are three main reasons why a dog doesn't do as you ask.

First, he doesn't understand. That's where training comes in, you need to teach him what you want, and reward when he gets it right so he knows he has done the right thing. Second, the motivation or reward of doing what he is already doing is higher than the motivation or reward of doing what you are asking. This is why some dogs won't, for example, recall when they are playing or chasing squirrels. So make sure what you offer is of far higher value - or, if you can't beat something like a squirrel chase, don't allow the opportunity for it to happen (i.e. don't set him up to fail). Use a leash or a long line to keep control. Third, you are working against a deeply rooted breed trait that the dog has been selectively bred for over centuries. There is a reason why we don't use terriers to herd sheep - it can be done but it is a lot harder.

So supposing you want him to come to you - first the training, coupled with the reward. I'd start working with the whistle, and I'd do it like this.

To train a whistle, first you have to teach the dog that it is an awesome thing, then by default coming to you is an awesome thing. So first, charge the whistle (I recommend an acme whistle, easy to replace with the same tone if it gets lost). Simultaneously - that's important - pip the whistle and feed a piece of roast chicken or frankfurter sausage. Do that five times in succession. Repeat that five times in the day (so 5 x 5). Now your dog knows whistle = sausage.

Do that over several days. Then take the whistle to another room. When you whistle, your dog should be running for his reward. If not go back to the previous step - which is always what you do if a training response fails. Practice in the house for a couple of days and then take it to the garden. Once he is solid in the garden, you can use it in a low distraction environment outside.

What do you suggest I do if the positive reinforcement doesn't work and he still refuses to go outside etc?
It's a good question. Over time you will start to 'fade' your rewards. Sometimes the reward will be sausage, sometimes a piece of normal food, sometimes a ”good boy” and an ear rub. The ”what will it be” seems to keep dogs more engaged, it's the same reason why people play slot machines. But always have good stuff around so that you have something that he really wants, and that he might get if he complies. If he stops responding, go back to that thing about the three reasons. His reward or motivation to comply is not as high as the reward or motivation to do what he is already doing - so make the good rewards come more often, make it really worthwhile. I don't know what you do for a living but if you know that the value of your work is $100 per day, but you were told you were only going to be paid $50, you probably wouldn't give it your best effort. So keep the rewards high if he is wobbling. Does that make sense?

On that note, I mentioned food but it could be a special toy, your dog always decides what is the best.

I don't have experience of dogs with cats. I have a terrier cross who is hard wired to chase moving furry things so I could never have a cat safely (the third reason, the breed trait). Training leave shouldn't be a problem, but for safety please make sure your cat always has somewhere high to escape to.

In a dog-human relationship though I am the parent
I think this is a great analogy. By teaching him, supporting him to make good choices and preventing rather than punishing mistakes, I think you have the potential for a great dog.
 
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