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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys!

Since getting Cooper I have done a lot of research (reading, advice from breeders and vets) on correct ways to interact with your dog, understanding doggy body language and correct ways to train. Almost everything I found talked about how humans NEED to dominate and be the 'pack leader' by doing things like walking through doors first, walking ahead of the dog, eating before the dog, getting the dog to allow you to touch his food etc. It seemed reasonable and these sources claimed that if you don't, the dog gets upset as there is no 'leader' and this is distressing for the dog and may 'force him to become the leader' which can be dangerous.

What I am noticing however is that Cooper just seems terrified when he thinks I will be upset (Say if he runs through a door first and I tell him 'Cooper no'. He just gets extremely submissive (flops onto his back etc) and looks really scared which BREAKS my heart. I do NOT want him to be scared of me!
I also notice he does this when I do something he doesn't want to do (for example when I open the living room door and he runs to the couch and jumps on and I walk over to pick him up off it. He will just flop on to his back like he is scared of me and do that 'whale eye' thing that dogs do when they aren't happy/about to bite/scared/unsure.

I have never hit him (nor would I) or do anything to make him so scared other than tell him off when I see him doing something naughty, such as in pee in the house, chewing the walls etc. To which he gets a "no!". It is beginning to make me think all this 'dominance' thing is just crap. And then I came across an article saying as much.

Using 'Dominance' To Explain Dog Behavior Is Old Hat

The thing that makes me the most sad is that Cooper has always been super submissive to people (always flopping onto his back, showing his belly, avoiding prolonged eye contact, getting down lower etc). Even in the morning when I walk out to greet him he gets super excited but goes to 'flop onto his back' which I try to get down low and avoid eye contact so that he 'trusts' me more and realises he doesn't have to do that. (Which works! I see him go to do the flop and and soon as I get low etc he then comes towards me and starts cuddles/kisses etc)

My question is I feel fearful now that we may have practised these dominance things too much that Cooper may be fearful/scared of us.
Remembering he was always like this - what are some things I can do now to reverse this and build the trust? I feel so bad :( :(

Thanks everyone :) xx
 

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I believe, like with kids, dogs are all different. Not one type of training for all.

It sounds like Cooper will respond to positive training, instead of telling him no, really praise him when he does something he is supposed. Also, what about clicker training! Have you check it out? I don't have much luck with it. I am not coordinated enough. I have inadvertently come to use "good boy" as a clicker substitute.
 

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I have had dogs for 30 years in groups of 3 and never had any problems. I believe in tough love, training tailored to the individual dog is the key. Just like children, they are not generic and neither are animals.

When I say tough love. I mean being kind but firm. Dogs are dogs and they are happier if they are taught boundaries and are allowed to be dogs first and foremost. xx
 

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Just last night I had to be "tough" with Angel. He wouldn't stay away from the sink and stove area in my tiny kitchen. So I put him in his crate for a few minutes, 2 or 3 times, only for about 1 minute. All night long he trailed me and stayed in my lap! He is usually in hubby's lap. hehehe. And he is by no means, submissive! It took quite a while for him to learn that he is not the leader! In fact, I am still working on some issues with him.

So, I agree with Rubbianne. You have to be firm, but it can also be kind, sort of! ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yes I totally agree! I still think Cooper needs to be told 'no' when he does something very wrong, praise him like no tomorrow when he does something (even little) right and have clear boundaries, but I mean the general 'dominance' that these things teach seems to be too excessive for him. (Us eating first, going through doors first etc) It seems to have made him scared of us at times. I don't want him to always feel like he has to do 'submissive gestures' as he is doing now when we just walk over to him for example.

Although maybe that's my fault, thinking back, every time he does flop on to his back I try to 'reassure' him by ignoring that behaviour and just petting etc but that's probably just led him to think he is being praised for being submissive!

However what I wanted to know is if anyone had any exercises or techniques to teach Cooper he doesn't have to be submissive ALL the time and to trust us more/relax more etc.
 

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I am not big on the whole pack theory thing but I certainly do expect manners.

I was all worried about who was the alpha dog and have now been told by 2 trainer/behaviorists groups that my dogs work really well as a unit and I need to get over which of them is the alpha so I have.

Treats are only given for a reason. They are very limited and given when they do things I want and need them to do. They do not get them because they expect them or because I want to "spoil" them. There is no mistaking that I am who they listen to and follow. You will never read a post here from me saying that my dogs "rule the roost" or how they get to do what they want because they are cute. Operating like that would be a HUGE disservice to them. Just like with my human kids, they have learned to mind.

I use the words, "manners" and "pleasant" when they are getting annoyed with each other and I promise that even without yelling, they all know and do not like the word, "naughty".

They sit before receiving a treat and they wait for their name to be spoken to begin eating from their dish. I feed all on one placemat and we have zero issues with anyone eating from anyone else's dish. They also have no issue if I shift their dish while they are eating or reach in to add or take away food.

As a result, everyone knows the rules and it has made them happy and relaxed.

A motto of our in-home trainers I think says it best-LEAD: So they follow. TRAIN: So they win. EDUCATE: So they understand.
 

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I am not big on the whole pack theory thing but I certainly do expect manners.

I was all worried about who was the alpha dog and have now been told by 2 trainer/behaviorists groups that my dogs work really well as a unit and I need to get over which of them is the alpha so I have.

Treats are only given for a reason. They are very limited and given when they do things I want and need them to do. They do not get them because they expect them or because I want to "spoil" them. There is no mistaking that I am who they listen to and follow. You will never read a post here from me saying that my dogs "rule the roost" or how they get to do what they want because they are cute. Operating like that would be a HUGE disservice to them. Just like with my human kids, they have learned to mind.

I use the words, "manners" and "pleasant" when they are getting annoyed with each other and I promise that even without yelling, they all know and do not like the word, "naughty".

They sit before receiving a treat and they wait for their name to be spoken to begin eating from their dish. I feed all on one placemat and we have zero issues with anyone eating from anyone else's dish. They also have no issue if I shift their dish while they are eating or reach in to add or take away food.

As a result, everyone knows the rules and it has made them happy and relaxed.

A motto of our in-home trainers I think says it best-LEAD: So they follow. TRAIN: So they win. EDUCATE: So they understand.
This is excellent advice. I've followed much of Karen's advice with Toby and he is better for it. I've benefited from the money she's put into training, that's for sure!

I tend to shy away from the idea of "alpha". Toby knows I am in charge. He listens when I calmly and assertively give him a command. He certainly knows that I am the boss- he doesn't question it. When he is scared or nervous, he comes to me. I give him confidence and strength. I think that is how you can tell a good leader.


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Discussion Starter #8
Saving treats for a very good reason is a great point you have Jesuschick, and definitely something i need to work on (sometimes I feel guilty I am leaving the house and give him a treat to distract him) but it sounds like I will need to stop that!
You have a lot of greats tips/knowlege and experience there!

The only thing is discipline/training/manners etc isn't really a problem. He is very well aware of boundaries and that we are in charge and he needs to follow rules. / The problem is Coopers reaction to a lot of things that he doesn't need to be submissive over- If I just take him off the couch he acts submissively, If I just walk over to him to say hello etc. So I was hoping for things I can do to more build trust and so that he learns to not be scared of things like that and that he doesn't have to be submissive over those things.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think this topic has totally gotten off track from what I was actually asking :( I don't think I have been articulate enough :( hehehe
 

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Pretty much every trainer knows that "dominance theory" is junk. It looks cool on TV, but it's not based on valid scientific research and it's not supported by current work in dog behaviour either (if you're interested I have a whole bunch of book recommendations!).

I think maybe, Cooper is just very sensitive, and the approach you're taking is overwhelming him. Some dogs are like that, some people are too. Sensitive dogs respond much better to positive reinforcement than positive "correction". Being shouted at and corrected, even without physical pain, can make some dogs very stressed, and once the stress hormones start to build up, the dog can end up becoming fearful.

First thing you should do is give Cooper a "cortisol holiday" of at least a week, to let the stress hormones break down. For the next week, stop doing all the manners and "pack leader" stuff you've been doing. As much as possible, keep Cooper away from anything that scares him. Gentle relaxation is the key. Get some treats, sit with him and tell him he's a good boy as you feed him little tidbits. It's a bonding thing, it'll help him to associate you with nice things.

After that, have a think about how you'd actually want Cooper to behave in an ideal situation. Do you really want him to do all the things you're making him do? Do you care whether he waits for you to go through the door, really? Make a list of the manners you'd like him to learn so he can live happily in your house, and just teach him those. The Internet is great and all, but it is full of (excuse the pun) dogma. People telling you dogs NEED this and you MUST do that - a lot of it has no basis in reality and isn't useful for most people.

Not only is dominance theory unsupported at best and damaging at worst, it's also a whole lot of stupid rules that undermine owners' confidence in themselves and their dogs. You should train your dog to be the dog you want him to be, not the dog the TV or the Internet says he should be!
 

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Saving treats for a very good reason is a great point you have Jesuschick, and definitely something i need to work on (sometimes I feel guilty I am leaving the house and give him a treat to distract him) but it sounds like I will need to stop that!
You have a lot of greats tips/knowlege and experience there!

The only thing is discipline/training/manners etc isn't really a problem. He is very well aware of boundaries and that we are in charge and he needs to follow rules. / The problem is Coopers reaction to a lot of things that he doesn't need to be submissive over- If I just take him off the couch he acts submissively, If I just walk over to him to say hello etc. So I was hoping for things I can do to more build trust and so that he learns to not be scared of things like that and that he doesn't have to be submissive over those things.
I thinks it's all tied together though. Training and response. It sounds like he is a gentle soul. Try doing NO negative reinforcement. If he does something wrong, just redirect him and clean it up. If he does something good, praise him. All positive reinforcement may help him gain confidence, which it seems like he needs.


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I only treat mine when teaching them something new. I don't want teletubbies on my hands, treating is just that, a treat, a reward for learning something and compliance.

I never gave my kids sweeties for obeying me, same applies for my furkids. I have a neighbour who has killed all her dogs with mis guided kindness. All had rotten teeth and obesity. Tried to tell her but she thought she knew better. All the dogs I've ever had, all lived to a ripe old age of 16 years. Ok, I know accidents and illness happens but you owe it to your dog to look after him/her to the best of your ability. Don't you ?xx
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Quill that was amazing thank you. And thanks so much guys I will be trying everything you said and I agree Cooper must just be more sensitive than other dogs.
What should I do though if something Cooper does warrants a negative command ie he grabs something he shouldn't like a tissue and me usually telling him "no" or "drop it"? Should I just take the tissue/object and then reward him when he has let go rather than saying "no/drop it" or should I still use those commands in this sort of situation?
 

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If Cooper drops the tissue when you ask him then give him lots of praise, if he does'nt, take it from him , saying No, then ignore the little renegade for a few mins lol
 

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I agree that it is all tied together! I understood your post. Sort of. I guess I could not ascertain if he is submissive for no reason (hard-wired, how he is) and you need to work on that or if you feared that you have made him that way with your training methods.

I have one that is overly sensitive. She is better with lots of training (at facility and in-home) and lots of work. She will NEVER be like my other two. Ever.

The best advice we were given is to continue with our training and increase repetition and routine. At least with ours who is shy/fearful/reactive, she remains calm and relaxed when things happen just as she expects that they will. Food dish always in the same place, fed in the same order, treats given in a certain manner, same words used to mean the same things, etc. She thrives on order.

That is the point I was trying to make.
 

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First, I'd be sure to carry treats all the time. When Cooper does something he shouldn't, get his attention by calling his name or making a noise (don't clap though, most people clap when they call their dogs so you want to keep clapping all positive!). When you've got his attention, give him something else to do like a command or a toy, or a chew. When he chooses to take the offered alternative, play with him or give him a treat. Lots of praise too!

There's research suggesting dogs learn what they're NOT supposed to do much more quickly when presented with an alternative choice that IS rewarding.
 

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I use leadership with Douglas but he is a pretty in-charge dog. He is learning to walk with his head at my foot (making me lead) and to never eat without my say so. It has been successful but I am not a bully with him. I just make it known what I expect and he is rewarded for doing it.
 
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