Monday, October 26, 2009

Dane learns respect and discipline

Australian Shepherd looks up to her pal Princeton

My Great Dane Princeton is learning respect and discipline now that he’s 18 months old.

He saw his first horse when he was on a walk in a park with horse trails. Boy, was he scared to meet somebody bigger than he is! He flattened out on the ground and wouldn’t get up until the horse was almost out of sight. Then he was more obedient for several days!

Lately I’ve had to get really TOUGH with Princeton. We went through a crisis, but now I finally feel like Princeton is living in MY world most of the time, whereas before I felt like I was living in Princeton’s world.

It all started last week when my partner surprised us at the dog park and he went crazy jumping on her and mouthing her, just like he did 6 months ago. We’ve worked so HARD on training him not to do that! I felt very discouraged, like a failure.

I got advice from our trainer and the “Danes gone wild meet-up message board.” I also thought back to the tough-love training tactics of the obedience class we took, and all the episodes of the “Dog Whisperer,” which is almost like a Bible to me.

Here is one of the most helpful comments I got, from a Dane rescue place:
“There is always hope as long as you are willing to reach out, take advise and use it consistently. Be persistent and always follow thru with a command and if you need to manhandle your Dane, then do it. He needs to know who is in control and who will kick his butt when he doesn't listen.”

In the last few days I have been determined that Princeton will obey me. I started taking him on an extra walk, and I stopped avoiding potential distractions (other dogs, kids, bikes, etc.) My new method is to yank his choke chain really hard as soon as he started to get distracted. If it’s too late and he goes wild, I make him lay down and calm down. I wasn’t strong enough to do this before, but Princeton has made me stronger. I started holding a broom horizontally to block him when he rushes our front door and window, barking at people walking by. (He has bitten my arms twice when I tried to stop him.)

My partner and I are newly united in resisting all his efforts at what the trainer calls “passive dominance” -- coming to us for attention. No, all attention must be given on OUR terms, when WE initiate it. I used to shower him with affection for no reason, just because I enjoyed it. But on the trainer’s recommendation I am treating him more like a ghost. Most of the time it’s no touch, no talk, no eye contact for Princeton these days.

Withholding affection is the hardest part. (I’m surviving this by petting our cat a lot more!) I’m able to keep going because it’s really working! There is a dramatic difference in Princeton’s attitude. He is much, much more respectful, watches me a lot more, etc. Until now, every single day he got into trouble by grabbing forbidden items (shoes, pillows, soap, etc) and running around with the house with them, trying to start a game. Now he has gone for a few days without doing that at all. He did grab my partner’s shoe last night, but he dropped it immediately when she walked in the room. He hardly even protests anymore when I clip his nails.

I used to have a special name for the hour before, during and after dinner: Bad boy time. That’s when Princeton would go wild. Now he lays patiently waiting for his food while we eat, then he settles down right away after I feed him. There is no more bad boy time!

We still have a lot of work ahead. But I do feel there’s hope.


MurphyDog said...

Woof! I think we must be from the same line of Danes. I'm quite the trouble maker too. When Mom isn't paying enough attention to me, or if I haven't been exercised enough in a day or so, I like to find things to get into as well. Mom's going to check out the meetup group you typed about. Sounds like it has some good suggestions about "danes gone wild!"

wags, wiggles & slobbers

Honey the Great Dane said...

Yay! SOunds like you're really making progress! I remember your previous posts about Princeton's behaviour and how stressed you were so I'm so pleased to hear that things are getting better.

You wouldn't believe it looking at Honey now but we've been there too! Yup - Honey was a real monster in her teens. But tough love really works and actually, making your dog WORK for affection results in them actually respecting & loving you more (you never appreciate anything you get for free!). I don't think you have to "withhold" affection as such - but just make him earn it - even if it's by something as simple as lying quietly for 5mins...that's our golden rule for Honey - she always has to earn everything, not just treats but attention, affection, daily "life rewards" (eg, walks, access to places, etc) - this keeps her on her toes and us firmly in the pack leader position but in a firm but gentle, consistent way.

PPl think I'm v strict with Honey but she is actually far more secure, stable & happy than many dogs who are spoilt rotten and out of control. She also gets to do more and go to more places because I can control her and trust her. I definitely don't believe in avoiding problems - never solves anything - I believe in confronting issues (although obviously set them up to practise 1st) so that your dog & you learn to deal with them in a positive way and your dog learns appropriate ways to behave. This way your dog will gradually become "proofed" to many things - rather than you always looking over your shoulder and getting nervous about what you might encounter!

Keep up the good work!

brooke said...

Thanks for the good advice! I know we shower Darwin with affection all the time, and now I'm wondering if we should stop that.
I think for us the most difficult thing with Darwin is just walking nicely on a leash consistently. When she's tired she's totally fine. When she's excited and hyper she's uncontrollable.
I'd love to be able to take her out to more places if we could get her to obey us more... maybe this is what we need to do!

Abbey@Pink Daisy Designs said...

Chels has settled now but Shy has her moments.. Its the same with kids, reward the good punish the bad. The door thing is still a major hassle but Ive got them where I point to my door and say room (its near the front door) and they will go there. Its actually our Maltese who sets them off.

Shy was hitting me on the shoulder with a paw for attention and one day it damn hurt. My reaction (a loud yelp) stopped her doing it again it wasnt intentional but it worked.

My main problem iis consistency, my own and that between my daughter and I.. its so important...

I like you write the good and the 'bad' as so many of us go through the same things at one time or another.. will check the site you talked of.. do you have a link?

KC said...

Thanks for all the support! Here's the link to the Great Dane meet-up group:

I think that you have to register and be approved as a member in order to read the message board for Great Danes Gone Wild, which is based in Riverside, California.

Princeton is continuing to be a much better boy now that I'm enforcing more discipline. He seems to like having somebody else in charge.

I'm glad that you like hearing the "bad" with the "good." Sometimes I feel like Princeton is the worst of all the dogs who get blogged about. But I need places to write about the intense highs and lows of raising a Dane. I'm glad you're all out there listening and commenting.

Cindy Gordon, CPDT, Member APDT said...

Wow, you break my heart. Apparently positive dog training hasn't made it to your part of the country, but good old "yank and jerk" still abounds. Thank goodness most of the world has learned to partner with their dogs rather than beating them down. What a shame you can't have this with your dog. If you ever feel like being a better dog parent, look up the APDT website, or Google Positive Dog Training. It's worth your time....and your dog's mind.

KC said...

Cindy, you're breakingCindy, you’re breaking my heart, too. Princeton and I are finally bonding, and here you are judging us from the outside. I TRIED those “positive” methods from several different trainers over many months, and all that happened was I got injured over and over. Princeton did not respect me for handing out treats endlessly and ignoring his attacks. I’m not very strong and I weigh less than my Great Dane, so even when I use ALLl my muscle it doesn’t seem to hurt him.

The good news: Princeton and I are a real team now and we are getting along better than ever.