Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dominant Boomer

Today I had the opportunity to work with Boomer for almost two hours. The whole time was spent either walking or running. Much progress was made however because the whole time he was required to take on the role of follower in my pack and also every time he exhibited any unwanted behavior he was immediately corrected.
From the beginning to then end of the walk he went from lashing out at an approaching dog to tolerating a dog's nose between his legs (for this to work Boomer had to be restrained).
At about half way through the walk I took Boomer to a good sized park, probably about the size of 4 or 5 football fields. There I ran him next to me doing speed changes, quick stops, and figure eights. For this to work it was imperative that he follow me unconditionally and look to me to guide and direct him. The run/workout at the park helped to drain some of his excess energy as well as further establish the bond between him and me. This helped to cement the idea into his head that I am his leader and he follows me.
By no means is he now the perfect dog who loves everyone and is fun for everyone to be around. He still has a great deal of aggression toward other dogs and even other humans. The other volunteers are good with him but it takes him a little while to accept new people.
Lastly he showed great improvement over his obsession with moving vehicles from the beginning of his walk to the end. When we started he was constantly lunging at anything that moved but by the end of the walk he barely turned his head. Through the course of the walk I made consistent, quick corrections the moment he turned his head or shifted his ears. Because of the timing he was able to associate the correction with his action and he stopped going after vehicles.

Chelsey 2

Chelsey is still a very good dog. She does not need any work as long as she continues to have a calm, consistent leader. As long as she has this type of leader she will always be looking to her leader for guidance. The only downfall that Chelsey has is that at this point she cannot be with other animals. The biggest improvement area we are working on right now is her socialization. We try to give her some supervised interaction with other dogs but this usually ends rather quickly. It is as if she forgets that you are her leader when another dog is in the room with her and she wants to be the boss. I think that with good consistency and firm leadership she will be able to get along with other dogs but this will take a great deal of time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Walking, chain

I use one of four tools when I walk the different dogs. These four tools are a chain, a halter type collar, a regular collar/leash combo, or a leash clipped onto the collar with the other end looped around the dogs neck much like a chain.
Each of these tools can be very affective if used correctly. From my experiences I have found that different tools can work better with different dogs. With Boomer, a dominant boxer mix who tends to hold his head high, I usually use a chain. Because he already holds his head high he makes it easy to keep the chain at the base of his head and right behind his ears. In this position I am able to maintain the most control over his behavior on the walk. I also require him to keep his parallel with me or behind me, never in front of me.
At this point Boomer is far too dominant to be let to roam in front of me. As soon as I allow him to do this his tail goes straight up in the air as he tells me through his body language that he has taken the role of pack leader away from me.
The combination of the chain kept high on Boomer's neck and his body position next to, or behind me gives me the opportunity to give quick, gentle corrections whenever he tries to take over the leader role or when he starts to become aggressive toward other animals, people or cars.
The longer the walk the better the leader follower relationship can develop. This only works when the walk is done with a definite structure and consistent boundaries and corrections.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boomer Progress

Today Boomer started to show some improvement with his dominance and was becoming a little more submissive. One of the other men that volunteers at the Brown County Humane Society worked with Boomer this morning on his food aggression. He used techniques like holding the bowl of food while Boomer ate to show Boomer the whole time that the only way he can have his food is through the human who is caring for him. This makes it the human's food and not Boomer's and allows the human ownership rather than Boomer. If Boomer does not see the food as his he won't become possessive over it.
I was also able to work with Boomer this morning in the area of dominance on the walk. I keep him on a very short leash and I use a chain. This way he is only allowed to have his head next to me and the rest of his body behind me. This makes me the leader and him the follower. The chain helps make corrections. When he starts to go too far forward or if he shows excessive interest in cars, people, or other animals a short quick tug on the chain corrects and refocuses his action and mind.
Another very good way to achieve dominance over a dog is to show the dog that you own the house, door, and everything else, specifically in dealing with going through doors, for example on your way out for a walk. In this area it is important, especially with a dominant dog like Boomer to own the door by going through it first. The only way for this to work is to make sure that the dog, in my case Boomer, is calm and submissive before he is allowed to follow you through the door. This may take some time but the results of being strong, assertive, and consistent are far better than giving up to avoid the initial struggle.

These techniques are all techniques that Cesar Millan uses.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Boomer is a dominant boxer mix. The challenge with Boomer is that at a volunteer shelter with a limited number of volunteers we do not have the time or manpower to work with him as much as we would like. I have talked with some of the others and we have set up a plan so that his walks will be structured and long. This way, just as Cesar Millan has said many times, Boomer will start to establish his position in the pack as a follower. He will not be allowed to take charge and lead.
The first step in working on his dominance is to establish him as a follower to his human caregivers. Once he sees his human caregivers as his leaders we will hopefully be able to start introducing him to other dogs. The hope is that if he sees humans as over him and the other dogs he will be more likely to obey the humans than to be aggressive with the other dogs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Pack

Late last week we got a lab mix in and today she was introduced to another lab named Walker. Between the two dogs, Millie and Walker, Walker is definitely the leader. I walked the two of them together and Millie was looking to Walker the entire time for guidance and permission to go ahead of him as I wanted her to.
Later as the two were allowed to play together Walker asserted his dominance very clearly but without aggression. He used eye contact and body position to communicate with Millie and tell her what he wanted her to do.
While I only got to observe these two interact with each other for about an hour I saw some of Cesar Millan's theories in a real life situation. Energy^1 and body language^1 were exactly how Walker and Millie communicated with each other. Walker was clearly the dominant dog in the pair and he showed it through his body language as he nudged, pushed, corrected, and herded Millie to make her do what he wanted.
On the other hand, Millie showed her submission to Walker in her posture. She kept her tail low but moving to show her calm-submissiveness. She kept her ears back as she was intent on what Walker wanted from her.

The most important part of this observation is the application to the life of dog owners and dog trainers. As humans striving to make their dogs well behaved to make humane society dogs more adoptable it is important to understand how dogs think and interact with each other to keep the pack stable and productive. Humans hoping to control their dogs and fulfill their dogs need to take the role of the pack leader just like Walker has done in his relationship with Millie.

More will come as I continue to work with these dogs in the days to come.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Chelsey is a pit bull mix. She is actually one of the dogs that does not need very much work. She is an excellent walker who understands a calm-assertive leader^1 when she sees one. Since she has pretty well mastered the calm-submissive energy^1 of a follower I am hoping to be able to introduce her to some of the other dogs, quite possibly Walker. If we succeed in this introduction we will be able to start building a good core into which we can introduce other dogs.
The way to do this will be to take an approach that Cesar Millan uses quite often. First we will use his philosophy of exercise discipline affection^1. I plan to have both dogs be taken on long, fast-paced walks to drain energy and put them into calm-submissive^1 follower mindsets. After the exercise will come the introduction where the two dogs will be closely monitored for any inappropriate behavior. If any should arise it will be corrected immediately before it has a chance to escalate.
If this introduction between these two dogs is successful it will be one more positive quality to an already adoptable dog.

1. All of these terms or philosophies can be found in Cesar Millan's books Cesar's Way and Be the Pack Leader. Both books were published by Random House, Inc. in New York City in 2006 and 2007 respectfully.

The Dogs

The Humane Society I volunteer with is the Brown County Humane Society in New Ulm, MN. This is a link to their website where you can find some of the dogs I that I will be talking about.

At this time there are only two dogs listed. There are more but not all have been updated on the website.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I recently started volunteering with "problem" dogs at the Humane Society. In this blog I will be updating you on different approaches I try and my success with them in making the dogs more adoptable. I have started by using some techniques that Cesar Millan promotes. I have read both of his books and am working on reading some more about dog psychology.

I will give you information about each of the dogs that I work with and their progress to becoming more adoptable.