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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I just got off the phone with a friend that's a couple of thousand miles away, it's a conversation that brought frustration and tears - and I'm a 45 year old man. She has a papered APBT that is reactive, agressive, can be plain mean - but she won't listen to any reason at all. This dog is growing up in a loving home, never experienced abuse or neglect - but yet is not a good dog. How the flip is that possible when you consider what other dogs go through?

The pitbull is special, I have a passion for these dogs. I just wish more people would stop and think about the breed, to ask questions - not just follow what is out there online. These dogs can be born and raised in the worst possible situations - and many of these dogs are used as bait dogs due to their fantastic temperament. I can't wrap my head around the abuse that some of these dogs suffer - starvation, neglect, being torn apart by other dogs, being beaten into submission, many are near death - but yet when facing a rescuer, it's all tail wags and licks. They are so happy to experience a loving hand for the first time in their lives - they are scared, but are capable of trust at the snap of a finger. These dogs have earned the right to be afraid/aggressive/reactive - but they aren't. These dogs can go to foster homes and within weeks become loving family pets - and many can still trust other dogs - there is no other breed that turn around that fast.

So how the hell is it possible that a pitbull raised in a loving home can be polar opposite of the abused pit?


And it's not just pit bulls, one can spend hours and hours on youtube watching rescue videos of homeless and abused dogs - spend a few minutes to earn a bit of trust and magic happens.

Case in point, fast forward to one minute. This poor poodle, God knows what it went through to get to that point, sick, injured, homeless. It's got every right to be scared and untrusting and reactive - but it ends up on the ladies lap licking her face!?! I'd be bawling too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4Jjum2lZEQ


Why do we have so many dogs, raised in a loving home - having never experienced abuse - end up fearful, reactive or aggressive? I can't wrap my head around that.
 

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You may have a passion for them (as do I) but you know very little about them. Your post here (and previous post responding to mine regarding dog agression) proves that. Pit Bulls can be the most amazing dogs. I have 2. But they ARE more likely to be dog aggressive (NOT HUMAN AGRESSIVE) than many other breeds. Just like retrievers are more likely to genetically know how to retrieve. Hounds...track by smell. Sight dogs...track by sight. Denying that fact is a disservice to the breed and can create dangerous situations. Please get on some of the pit bull specific forums and read and learn.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
You may have a passion for them (as do I) but you know very little about them. Your post here (and previous post responding to mine regarding dog agression) proves that. Pit Bulls can be the most amazing dogs. I have 2. But they ARE more likely to be dog aggressive (NOT HUMAN AGRESSIVE) than many other breeds. Just like retrievers are more likely to genetically know how to retrieve. Hounds...track by smell. Sight dogs...track by sight. Denying that fact is a disservice to the breed and can create dangerous situations. Please get on some of the pit bull specific forums and read and learn.
I know very little about them... hrmmm.

Give us an honest history of your 2 pitbulls.
 

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I have had several friends/colleagues with similar stories, different breeds. One raised a very nice (in lineage) Rottweiler from a pup, who wound up with some serious reactivity issues. Another had her wire-haired fox terrier puppy display some major resource guarding literally as she was taking him home from the breeder, at 8 weeks (she managed to work through it, but she is an extremely experienced trainer and admits that it was no small feat for her). Another friend had two unlucky purchases: A dane from champ lines that competed in agility, who suffered from reactivity to a number of things. Not even medication made a measurable impact. Her next dog was an Aussie from awesome sporting lines, who again developed reactivity and aggression problems. The Aussie and most of his littermates died from seizures between ages 1 and 2.

Bottom line... I think that behavioral problems can absolutely be the full or partial result of poor genes.

Bottom line #2... Behavior is seriously overlooked even by many quality breeders. Either they are on property and don't ever see how their dogs cope in suburban settings, or the dogs earn titles and are already producing litters by the time the severity of the issues is realized.

It sucks. It's frustrating to see someone go through. Frankly, for knowing all of these people and their dogs, I was compelled to get a rescue. She definitely has her issues, but I took great pains to find a dog that didn't have the behavioral problems I was not willing to manage (resource-guarding, separation anxiety, and reactivity).
 

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One of the best sites I have ever read explaining the Pitbull and it's personality and behavior is at: www.realpitbull.com very informative to those of us who have little experience with them!
So much of behavior is in the genes of every breed, and so many people ignore that fact when they fall in love with that cute little puppy....................:^(
 

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Discussion Starter #6
So just an example - whenever a serious attack occurs - walks like a duck mentality kicks in and it's like a scene out of Shrek. Grab your torches and pitchforks - ban the pitbull. Alberta cities seem to track bite stats pretty well - pit type dogs are not number one in bite stats.

There were 2 cases here in Canada in the last couple of months where "pitbulls" attacked - one woman was killed in Montreal, another injured when a man ordered his dog to attack the wife. Both were immediately declared "pitbulls", both resulted in the renewed "ban the breed" - which is still going on. Thankfully the SPCA can step in and tell people that these aren't pitbulls. The fatal attack was a boxer - which speaks volumes about breed identification. DNA testing on the other attack showed mix of rottweiler, mastiff and golden retriever.



So when breed legislation and opinion is based on walks like a duck mentality...

Enter sites like dogsbite.org - absolutely zero knowledge of dogs, the owner is actually a web designer who claims she was attacked by a pitbull - no evidence ever appeared to confirm or deny. So these stories have ended up on the site - pitbull kills woman - do you think she's going to print a retraction? It's not to her benefit to tell the truth - she doesn't want the truth - she wants elimination of the breeds because she tangled with a breed years ago. Do you think people are actually going to research and find the truth? No. So many news stories have already been debunked - found not to be a pitbull.

Cities in Province of Quebec Move to Adopt Breed-Specific Bylaws After Pit Bull Horrifically Kills Woman - DogsBite.org
 

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But they ARE more likely to be dog aggressive (NOT HUMAN AGRESSIVE) than many other breeds. Just like retrievers are more likely to genetically know how to retrieve. Hounds...track by smell. Sight dogs...track by sight. Denying that fact is a disservice to the breed and can create dangerous situations. Please get on some of the pit bull specific forums and read and learn.
I saw no where in the original post where Jagger supports or denies anything having to do with pit bulls and them being "dog aggressive" or not. He does not mention anything about the dog's interaction with other dogs.

Anyway, pit bull owner here as well (pit mix or whatever. She's a pound puppy and I don't care to "label" her).

Yes - dogbites.org supports BSL. I don't think they are a reliable source in reporting dog bites.

This is a great documentary for anyone who has 90 minutes to watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S4-oOR_J-0
 

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Why do we have so many dogs, raised in a loving home - having never experienced abuse - end up fearful, reactive or aggressive? I can't wrap my head around that.

I have my opinions of course and most of my opinions are based on the evolution of the human and their impact on the dog. Superficiality has replaced function as breeding practices have followed the "wants" of the public in a nutshell. It would seem this evolution has brought about an ornamental dog with a plethora of genetic failings in the temperament department besides other characteristics but they are good looking dogs I guess????

Humans can certainly muck up things as we inject our "brilliance", for it certainly isn't the dog's fault.
 

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It's a case of nature (genetics) vs nurture (how they are raised). Nurture cannot always top nature. No mater how well the dog was raised, or how poorly, a lot of the time the genes come to the front, and that is what the dog displays, so sometimes well raised dogs are anxious, fearful, and reactive; and sometimes ones that have the worst upbringing imaginable are friendly, loving, and non reactive. It's why a person can get 2 puppies from the same litter and have one be a stable dog with no issues and the other be neurotic with many issues, even though the dogs were raised the same.

Don't get me started on dogsbite.org, that has to be the most hateful, breed biased, site on the internet. The hate that site has for Pit Bulls, and the horrible misinformation it spews about them, is stomach turning.
 

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What sort of aggression is her dog showing? If it is aggressive to people, that is not correct breed temperament, but can occasionally occur (as in other breeds) due to indiscriminate breeding (by individuals who either don't recognize that their dogs have sketchy temperaments, or don't care), and in some cases, breeders even selecting specifically for human aggression in their dogs (people seeking the stereotypical "guard dog" pit bull). Historically, human aggressive APBTs were usually culled, which has resulted in a breed that generally has a high tolerance and affinity for humans, even when they do horrible things to them. Luckily for us, most still retain that temperament, which is why there are still so many who retain a loving temperament even when they're been treated badly in the past.

If your friend's dog is human aggressive, that puts them in a very difficult situation, and hopefully they are either able to manage their dog appropriately through training, management, and confinement, or realize not if that is the case and have the dog put down.

If the dog is showing aggression only to other dogs, that is not only considered acceptable for the breed, but expected in that at some point or other the majority of APBTs will show some degree of intolerance toward other dogs. Management is key here to prevent the dog from getting in trouble, and training can help the dog learn to behave appropriately (ignore other dogs) when in proximity to other dogs on leash. Some of these dogs can still have select "dog friends", or may be fine with their housemates, but others are not ok with any dog. They may be fine with another dog most of the time, but if challenged (or otherwise provoked- over resources, etc) will fight, and they will likely fight longer and more effectively than other dogs due to the breed's history of having been selectively bred for fighting ability.

Some dog aggressive dogs may also be reactive (barking, screaming, lunging, usually on leash or behind a barrier), which in some cases can be rooted in fear, while in other cases is due to frustration of not being able to get to the dog- and the latter split into (at least) two groups, dogs which desperately want to get to the other dog because they intend to fight, and dogs which are overstimulated and desperately want to get check the other dog out. The latter dogs may be ok with select dogs if introduced properly, but are often inappropriate greeters as well, and when the other dog gets offended and corrects them, they might fight back. This is an instance where a trainer can often help sort things out and teach more appropriate leash behavior, though that usually still results in dogs that should not be "meeting" other dogs and will fight given the right situation/opportunity. Not all are reactive, some are perfectly content to merely watch another dog until they are close enough to fight (or may briefly engage in greeting behavior before before picking a fight).

Historically, there weren't "bait dogs", as beating up defenseless dogs wouldn't do a thing to prepare a dog for an actual fight. The dogs from which that "myth" stemmed were probably losers, or dogs that had been tested and were "cold"- not interested in fighting. Now? There are certainly dogs that people render helpless and let other dogs chew up, but it was by way of following the media's "instruction" as to how people "train" fighting dogs. Granted, I think many of the dogs that people assume were used as "bait dogs" are just dogs that aren't interested in fighting (and in the back of my mind, I always add, "Yet!"), and either were tested, then put out when they proved cold, or dogs that just ended up in a scuffle somehow (some have been strays), and have a scattering of bite wounds from that. People these days assume that any sweet dog with bite wounds must have been a "bait dog", and IMO the designation doesn't help the dogs any. My most recent APBT was incredibly sweet to people, had 1 leg amputated, and several linear surgical scars due to having growths removed- NO bite scars! People regularly commented to me as to how she, "must've been a bait dog, poor thing." The first time I heard that I had to scrape my jaw up off the ground, and perhaps inappropriately chuckled and said, "Oh gosh no, she'd have been a willing participant if anything, she's always looking for a chance to brawl. These (pointing to surgical scars) are from where she had tumors removed, and her leg had to be amputated after her previous owner let her somehow lacerate her leg through her radial nerve, then taped the dead leg up like a hockey stick with electrical tape so it could fester and put her out on the street". After the lady picked her jaw up off the ground, I explained that while she was not remotely animal friendly (increasingly so starting at 10 months or so old), she was a rather lazy opportunist with some manners and not going to go out of her way to go after other dogs (we were at a crowded dog event). It does the breed no favors to illustrate only "nonwilling" fight participants as "good dogs" or "victims", as with good management, there is no difference between the dog who wants to fight vs the dog who had its mouth taped shut and got beat up or who wouldn't fight.

Around christmas time, I was heated because there were a bunch of humane organization commercials on trying to garner donations, one of which featured a bunch of dogs from what looked like a fighting dog bust. Dogs going wild with happiness to see people, dogs being carried, licking peoples' faces, dogs terrified but still wagging their tail and making soft eye contact- yet the humane org it was for still supports the euthanasia of fight bust dogs without bothering to asses and try to place any. I pointed that fact out to everyone who was watching- they'll take your dollars to "support" those dogs, but they'll probably be dead before the criminal case is even over. :( Granted, I realize that the logistics of housing and liability of placing such dogs is ridiculous, but it's been done in the past by determined people (michael vick dogs? And they "saved" a bunch of dogs that IMO probably should have been put down, rather than placed in "sanctuary" situations).

One of my coworkers is always commenting when we get a dog in with serious bite injuries from another dog that she "wouldn't have a dog that would do something like that", and I always would point out that my dog, who she liked, would do that if inappropriately managed. The key is owner awareness and responsibility, which, given the current population of APBT owners (people who are ignorant/in denial of what they have, people who don't care if their dog causes a problem, people who want to prove others wrong at any cost), I would say is the biggest issue the breed faces.
 

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I think people underestimate the effect genetics play on temperament and behavior.
Especially these days when so many people are defending pit bulls and saying "it's all in how you raise them." Honestly, that hurts the breed more than helps them. So dogs that were abused, neglected, or just not trained properly are going to be bad? That's not the case at all! And if a dog is fearful, anxious, aggressive, or nervy, the current owner gets blamed for it sometimes, even if it's not the owner's fault. The dog might have had an abusive past, or it might just be genetics. I HATE when people say it's all how you raise them.

I took some dog behavior classes in college and one of the professors had a presenter come in with some dogs. She brought in two German Shepherds- one was from a breeder and raised by a loving family since puppyhood, and he was anxious and fearful of strangers. The other was a rescue found on the highway. She had been hit by a car while pregnant, which induced early labor. All of the puppies were killed by cars. Finally, a few days later, the person who had initially hit her brought her to the rescue, saying she just wouldn't die. She was the sweetest, most loving dog you could meet, despite having endured that trauma and whatever else could have happened in her past. Obviously, there was something more than environmental factors playing a part in these dogs' personalities.

The presenter also brought in two pit bull x dachshund mixes that had been rescued from a dog hoarder. They were related as the hoarder had been breeding those crosses and they had lived in the same environment their entire lives. Again, their temperaments were night and day. One was friendly and confident, the other was incredibly fearful and wouldn't come out of his crate.

The presenter's point was that nature (genetics, brain chemistry, biology) can be just as influential as nurture (experience and environmental influence), and sometimes even more so.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I think people underestimate the effect genetics play on temperament and behavior.
I'm of the ideal that people overestimate genetics and such.

Yes, there's medical conditions at play as well - if people put some research into it - many of these conditions stem come from early spay and neuter. It's pushed by the vast majority of the population and is a must for spca and rescues - and I get the reasoning why. Yes, some people will be irresponsible with their pets - but from my standpoint, I'm an intact male - no kids - I've never had an accident. I will never neuter or spay another dog - dealing with the issues first hand in the minpin, seeing the effects, knowing that he's likely heading for cushings or other because he was cut at 8 weeks. But try finding a vet that's willing to perform a tubal ligation or vasectomy on a dog - most times you get laughed at.

Removing sex organs at an early age is creating an abundance of adrenal and endocrine issues as the body tries to compensate. That can create issues such as hypothyroidism and such - which can cause a dog to be aggressive. Look at the effects of castrating a young male human before puberty or performing a hysterectomy to a female child - the biology and research is there in humans.

Read up on adrenal diseases in ferrets - and the reasons for it.

Human/dog relations are another matter.
 

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I'm of the ideal that people overestimate genetics and such.
Maybe that is why you can't "wrap your head around" this:

So how the hell is it possible that a pitbull raised in a loving home can be polar opposite of the abused pit?

Why do we have so many dogs, raised in a loving home - having never experienced abuse - end up fearful, reactive or aggressive? I can't wrap my head around that.
I was just trying to answer your own questions with some very similar things I've seen in dogs due to genetics.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I was just trying to answer your own questions with some very similar things I've seen in dogs due to genetics.
Things you've seen due to genetics? Do you know the dog genome? I have to say, you're the first one I've read that can look at a dog and claim it's genetic.
 

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Things you've seen due to genetics? Do you know the dog genome? I have to say, you're the first one I've read that can look at a dog and claim it's genetic.
Sometimes fear is genetic, I had 8 pups, all from the same litter, and 2 of them were highly timid, and they had been since they began developing their personality at around 4 or 5 weeks old. I'm sure that if I had bred them to other timid, fearful dogs I could have developed myself a line of dogs that were predisposed to fear, just like a group of scientist did with a line of Pointers.

Effects of genetics on canine fear

Here's the study on the Poiners http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4612-3524-8_5#page-1
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Sometimes fear is genetic, I had 8 pups, all from the same litter, and 2 of them were highly timid, and they had been since they began developing their personality at around 4 or 5 weeks old. I'm sure that if I had bred them to other timid, fearful dogs I could have developed myself a line of dogs that were predisposed to fear, just like a group of scientist did with a line of Pointers.

Effects of genetics on canine fear

Here's the study on the Poiners Genetically Nervous and Normal Pointer Dogs: Relation Between Hearing and Behavioral Abnormalities - Springer
Interesting article - but you can't claim it IS genetic just by looking at a dog. There's a myriad of medical issues that can create behavioral issues.

Do you think the young life of the puppy had anything to do with it's behavior as a puppy? Where did the puppy sit in the pecking order of the pack - were they the pup that got chewed on? Did the puppy get injured at some point? There are so many unknowns with dogs.

The article I found more interesting from Greta - Sometime, it's really the people.
Owners' role in dog behavior problems
 

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There are so many unknowns with dogs.
Exactly. Of course you can't just look at a dog and determine whether or not issues are genetic. Just like you can't try one method, then turn around and try something different to see if it really is nurture. Life just doesn't work that way.

I believe that a lot of behaviors are genetic, both in people and dogs. Some are just wired to be prone to certain ways of thinking or reacting. It's harder to 'accept' with humans because we think ourselves to be better thinkers and can utilize therapy like CBT to consciously deal with our fears. Of course behavioral mod is available for dogs but it's more difficult to teach CBT to a dog...you have to be more creative and rewire on a more basic level.

The article you linked to seemed to describe really extreme, annoying people who aren't willing to change. Very few people who come to this forum are unwilling to change or try something new, they're just looking for advice as to what that "new" thing is to try. Besides which, that trainer in the article seems to be +R and clicker based, and I thought you didn't care for/believe in that type of training.

Based on my personal experience I believe genetics play a huge role. As I've said before, I've had "farm dogs" that weren't especially well socialized but were rock solid in social situations because they were just stable dogs. And I really don't think that a severely reactive 8 week old puppy DOESN'T have something going on genetically, especially when related dogs ALL had fear issues (again, based on my own dog).
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Ok - based on my experience as well...

Back to the original post I made... Her dog is frustrated, not able or allowed to think for itself - she's so concentrated on train, train, train - obedience, obedience, obedience. She's trying to get the dog to think like her, forcing the dog to conform to her life.

Can you imagine going through life being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it? Would you get frustrated? I sure would - I need to be able to think for myself. I look at dogs in the same light - at some point the dog has to be allowed to be "dog".

I want my dogs to think, I want my dogs to figure stuff out, I don't want them to have to look to me for a decision every time - just when they are unsure. I learned that from an oldtimer at a young age, the dog has got to want to do it, but I want it done my way. Once the dog figures out how I expect him to act - then he gets praise - the reward. Dogs are pleasers, you can either give a treat or be the treat. Dogs if given a chance to think can adjust their own behaviors for the better.

I can train dogs to sit, roll over and play dead - and yes, this is where treats become effective. I don't want to train a dog to behave. Dogs are pleasers that seek out reward - what would you do for a klondike bar. And when they are put in a situation where they are confused, have to think - they have to figure out how to get that reward? When a dog is sitting looking at you with head tilted, they are thinking. A confused dog is a thinking dog.


This is another dog - forget about the idea of being pit - that's going to end up in a controlled environment - because she figured she could create the perfect dog in her own image...

Just my 2 cents worth.
 

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Sometimes its hard to get people to change or in some cases open their eyes when their hitting a wall. When you have a dog with issues it can make it even more frustrating. As we cant see into the possible outcomes in life, we will never know if had he been raised/trained like what you said Jagger from the begining if he would have ended up more stable.
Just curious, what do you mean by train train train, obedience obedience obediace in the context of what your friend does?

Just a note on the nature vrs. nuture thing. No matter how you look at it, both of them have a effect on the dog. But in the nature case, its more how the dog is able to cope with certain situations and its more base personality. Did your friend get the dog from a shelter? That could be a factor of why even though raised in a good home he is reactive. There's always going to be the more braver stable ones, and the more nervous ones in any animal. Of coarse that's not %100 of it, but it plays a factor.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
@Sabina88, This is a registered and papered APBT, gene theory shouldn't take effect.

I find the train, train, train is trying to get the dog to see things my way. That doesn't always work - so I tend to look at things a different way. Let the dog make a consious choice.

I look at the sociodynamics of people on facebook - positive vs negative reward. Any reward is good, and that's the part that fascinates me about human nature. Someone posts a picture on their profile, it's generally followed up with "oh my god, you're so beautiful" - even tho, and I'm sorry to say they are ugly as sin. That's negative reward, but that negative reward boosts a persons confidence and they keep posting more seeking that reward. I find that very interesting, and that's one very small example.

Dogs I find do the same thing - negative or positive - there's reward in everything. If a dog barks at me, I react and back off - the increase of distance can be considered the reward - that's a negative reward and the dog will do it every time to get that reward. I don't give out negative rewards, I make them work for a different positive reward. The dog is not looking at the positive or negative, it's rewarding to do this, in a warped sense. Dog needs to learn that he only gets the negative reward in his own controlled little world - the reward could just be the owner taking the dog back in the house, a reaction to a bad behavior.

I'll put the dog in a situation where he is forced to learn that reward in the uncontrolled environment doesn't exist.

I've taken aggressive dogs to the dog park - but they don't leave the car. This is step one, the assessment, I want to see first of all if the dog is capable of thinking - and how long it takes for the dog to think. I park the car, crack the windows a bit, I leave the car and read a book somewhere close so I can observe the dog. It's not an adverse thing to do, it's what the dog does in it's home environment. The dog is now defaulting to it's barking - trying to garner a reaction, trying to get that reward. I'm telling people around me that the dog is in training, please ignore it - sorry about the noise. Dogs coming by may give a glance - but they don't want to attempt to deal with this negative energy barking in the car - they move on.

So the dog is barking away in the car - and not getting the reward. You can see the moment when something changes in the dog, they come to the realization that my default isn't working - why aren't they paying attention to me, I want them to pay attention to me. Now the dog is starting to think, the dog will now try different things to garner that attention - to get the reward - the dog is now learning, the dog is now thinking. When the dog starts whimpering, I get back in the car and drive off, dog needs a chance to cool off and chew on what just happened. That's only step one - the recognition that reward doesn't always exist.

That's what I mean by train, train, train - yes your dog will get it eventually - but when they come to the realization themselves, that's when the magic happens.
 
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