• Michael D'Abruzzo

    April 10, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Thanks for posting our email conversation – that was a good idea. Your case is a good one to learn from because of the difficulty level.

    I’m going to write some troubleshooting and I’m sorry if anything comes off as blunt – it is just hard to not come off that way when in troubleshooting mode. As I always say this style is Extremely technical – it has to be that way for troubleshooting purposes. I’ll start by answering your questions:

    Why after 3 years has there been a shift?

    There are a few things to consider here, but the thing that most likely would cause a shift in an aggressive target is either an increase in subtle stubborness to comply to warnings from Milo to Stitch or an increase in social insecurity from Stitch about Milo. This is probably exactly what was going on with Sadie and Stitch.

    Now, it is important to keep perspective of a few facts about Stitch. His level of aggression for subtle challenges is very extreme for the situations – this is most definitely genetic. Considering that he most likely has fighting line pitbull ancestry there are certain things that must be accepted. Some (not all) of pitbulls that come from a fighting line background do these kinds of things that Stitch does. It stems from the fact that fighting pitbulls do not live to breed if they growl, warn, and do the minimum amount when it comes to fighting. Striking first and hard is what would keep them alive. This is something that I do not sugar coat. I love pitbulls and think they are great breeds – but they do have to be respected for what they can do during a dog on dog fight and must be managed accordingly.

    The things that Stitch has fought over have been what would be considered mild triggers and highly abnormal even for pitbull standards. Sadie was an opposite sex member of the pack that basically did no more than be in his way in the yard.

    One of the overkill fights with Milo you describe was over a piece of tomato, not a leg of lamb, but a tomato…

    I’m not doing anything different now than what I’ve been doing for the last 8 months.

    The last eight months have not been following any set system. You say mostly or 99%. The training is not meant to be like that. I have about 10 aggression cases at the kennel right now. I let many of them play and interact with each other in a structured matter. But, it is 100%. I do not 1 out every 100 days leave all their food bowls out together in the yard or leave two dogs, one with a history of quick trigger fighting, unsupervised 1 % of the time.

    There are many reasons why the training shouldn’t be hybridized. I like to refer to the greatest movie of all time “the karate kid” for reference often in this training style. In the movie, mr. Miagi says, ” Walk on the left side of the road…OK, walk on the right side of the road…OK, walk in the middle of the road…sooner or later SQUASH just like grape!” what that means to us is that there are a lot of ways to manage dogs that may work, but it is good to pick one and make a decision to go with it 100%.

    Lets consider the way we manage food, we do it that way so we can prevent fights between dogs, communicate our intentions to be in control, and also to be better able to motivate the dog with food rewards, and more. It is basically the same story with the toys. It gives us tools to work with in advanced training while giving solutions to lower level problems.

    Now, here is another way other trainers do things. They may leave many heaping bowls of food out at all times and lots of toys for the dogs on the floor at all times. They do this to make them not limited resources so the dogs are less likely to fight over them. Does it work…it can. The draw backs are it may be harder to deal with upper level training since we are not able to communicate ourselves as in control as easy – and it becomes much harder to motivate a dog in training with things they always have access to, and harder to give the dog something to enjoy when left alone to help enxiety problems when they already have everything when you are present, etc I can go on and on.

    Here is the “squash just like grape” part…

    Depending on your needs and desires either way may suit your purpose, but what happens when we do mostly one way and a little of the other?

    Once you start with foundation style- the things you control naturally become more motivational to the dog. Things are going great – you are preventing fights, the dogs are working for their needs during training, but when we decide to go back and feed the dogs together without any control in place like they may have done in the past – there greater motivation and appreciation for the food may more easily trigger a fight.

    I have also seen this training drug or bomb detection dogs. Where they could have cared less for a ball until I controlled it and made them work for it – after a few months of training you would not want to throw that ball in the presence of two detection trained dogs, because it became worth fighting for.

    Thats why it must always be followed technically to make advances. The sky is the limit when we stay technical and you will be amazed at what haveing true off-leash control around distractions will do for the total picture.

    I guess that’s where I get stuck. Mike, you said in your email “it will help if you become an expert on how to manage them by really understanding the WHY behind it.” The two incidents surrounding the bone and food are clear but the one in the garage isn’t. What am I missing?

    Yes, the bone and food should be clear. The garage I couldnt tell you what you are missing – no one can no matter what training you do. Based on Stitch’s history it could have been a very mild thing such as walking over him while he was resting, being in his way when he was moving toward the door, trying to make him play when he’s not in the mood, a crumb of food…
    But, he had the potential for this 3 years ago and now. Therefore there is a place to deal with this and it has nothing to do with the level 5 stuff, it a level 11 “management” issue. If you look at the chart on that page in the self help section you will see that many things may trickle into that level during early training and as you make advances less things have to enter the management section. For instance, you may have to use a muzzle when introducing him to a new guest, but after much socialization it may become something that is phased off – but leaving him unsupervised with another dog may be a forever thing within the management layer – since you can not guide him against his natural instincts when you are not present. Sometimes medical intervention (via the health layer) can help in this last layer such as thyroid testing, anti-anxiety drugs, etc..

    I thought we were managing them – they weren’t fighting. So what changed? Were we just lucky that something didn’t happen sooner?

    I think this is explained through the whole “squash like grape thing”.

    We want Milo to feel less anxious and we want Stitch and Kaila to be less dominant.

    Remember dominant can mean different things depending on who is saying it. If what you mean is their personality type that can not be changed – you can not make a dog have a “less dominant personality”

    But, what you can do is play the dominant role in the relationship. Dominance generally will mean who has control of limited resources and important decisions. That should be you. I usually refer to “dominant personalities” as assertive or type A personalities now to keep people from getting confused.

    As long as you play the dominant role you will be in a position to guide any dog of any personality type or problem to improvement.

    We know that will happen if we continue to stay in the roll of Pack Leader and continue to manage them CONSISTENTLY. I just hope God will continue to give us the insight we need.

    If God doesn’t give you the insight look toward your Dogs. Dog is God spelled backwards you know:).

    I think you are doing a great job for a difficult situation. Most people in the world can’t handle one tricky dog – you have multiple and one that would give even the best a run for their money.

    I honor you for your devotion.