The Dogcharmer: Monty’s follow-through

One size never fits all when it comes to training.


Dear Tom:

First, we want to thank you for your help with Monty and your first visit with us. We feel confident you can help us with Monty … ah … I mean owner training. We purchased the Easy Walk Collar, as you suggested.

Today, I had “people food” — chicken pieces — ready on our walk. A poodle (well managed) came from behind us, and Monty was unaware until it was next to us. Monty went berserk. When I saw the dog, I was happy and tried NOT to tighten the lead, and used the happiest BFF voice I could muster, but Monty was out of control. I stood in front of him and treated as fast as I could, to no avail. His right foot got out of the collar, and I am lucky he did not pull the snap off his collar, as he would have gotten away from me.

Please advise how to manage on the street with the new collar. We’re looking for reassurance that our little 12-pound dog cannot get away from us. There are lots more dogs in our neighborhood now that it is summer.


Most sincerely,

Kristi, Alan, and Montalban (our Monty)


Dear Kristi and Alan,

The biggest problem I’ve had over the decades of training has not been large, aggressive dogs trying to eat me, but rather the lack of follow-through of the owners practicing what I suggested. If I work with a dog once a week for an hour or two, and the owners do nothing to follow through with consistency, results suffer. So Kristi and Alan, I very much appreciate your efforts to follow through with my instructions, I really do. However, what I gleaned from your letter is that the timing was off, and there was no “correction” for Monty’s berserk behavior. Dogs basically live in the moment, and training a dog is letting the dog know you like the behavior, or you don’t, as the behavior is happening. Your letter states that you were treating him while he was out of control, which was unfortunately rewarding Monty’s berserk response. Plus, there was no “negative consequence” for his unacceptable conduct (letting the dog know you don’t like the behavior).

I have always called myself a “depends” trainer, because “one size never fits all,” and therefore my training methodology always varies with circumstances, such as the size, age, and health of the dog, the duration and intensity of the behavior that needs to be mitigated, and the capability of the owners to follow through. My handling of the 16-week-old toy poodle barking at the visitor entering the house is likely to be very different from the 90-pound dog trying to seriously bite the visitor. It always depends, and that’s why we’re going to take a walk together with Monty and teach him that he doesn’t have to be a social butterfly, but he does have to be civil — as opposed to berserk — when seeing other dogs. What I will do will totally depend on his sensitivity, and the intensity of his aggression. Keep the faith; I’ve met plenty of dogs who needed to learn that Planet Earth was large enough to accommodate more than one dog.


The Dogcharmer


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