Our Shikoku corrects other dogs, but also us.
  • SekoyaSekoya
    Posts: 10
    It's me again, seeking the community's help with our boy Koya. He just finished his first obedience training and we're pleased to say he performed extremely well with all the exercises. The only issue we had during training has been with his reaction during high-stress situations--two situations in particular come to mind.

    But first, relevant information is that Koya is a little over 7 months old and was fixed at a little over 6 months. He was raised on a property with a 10 year old friendly black lab and he gets along very well with this dog. Apart from a few regretful trips to dog parks, his only other doggy socialization has been through obedience training and frequent walks along popular dog-walking trails.

    One issue is what many of you I'm sure are familiar with--the reactionary nature towards other dogs. In the obedience class there were about a dozen dogs all in a circle, and at the start of every class Koya became very excited, which was understandable. He was forced to sit or lie down for basically an hour, which was a struggle because if he wasn't actively working on a command he hated to sit still for the instructions or watching other dogs perform. However, apart from whining he handled it fine. The issue came on the final lesson when we had to walk our dogs weaving around the other dogs. This brought him within very close proximity to other dogs and on the first pass, he lunged at just about every dog in what seemed like a hostile manner. On the second pass I was able to get his attention more and he watched me about 50% of the time, but he still seemed agitated as he got near the other dogs. In most cases he wasn't 'correcting' anything because the other dogs were all (in theory) watching their handlers, so there was very little reciprocal eye contact or movement that he could have been correcting. This is a concern to me because we want to sign up for the 'level 2' lessons which require much more off-leash work, and close proximity/potential interaction with other dogs. This is scheduled to start in January and I am doubtful he'll be allowed to remain in the class if his behaviour towards other dogs continues. I have asked for tips on dealing with aggression before and we are working our butts off to address it, but I do understand that to a degree it's part of the Shikoku breed and is not something I can expect perfect compliance on. Has anyone here taken their Shikoku through obedience training with other dog breeds, and did you have a similar experience?

    The second issue is that he reacts angrily towards us sometimes--he snaps (it's not really a bite, but he lashes his teeth at you and does the Shiba-esque scream) in some situations. A couple examples: 1. We attempted to put a new collar on him that the trainer provided shortly after entering the class one day, while all the other dogs were filing in. Koya didn't like us crowding around him trying to put the collar on, and in reaction he yelled and snapped at my wife (and actually drew a bit of blood). That's okay, the situation was high-stress. But at the last class we experienced example 2. Koya was very restless and was growing extremely impatient, endlessly whining and stress-yawning. He refused to sit longer than a couple seconds. Then he stopped responding to the sit command, so I pushed his butt down, and he lashed out at me. A little later, he began whining even louder and the trainer told me to put my hand around his muzzle and tell him to be quiet--as soon as my hands approached his mouth he snapped again. Is the reaction toward us making him do something he really doesn't want to do considered typical Shikoku behaviour for a 7 month old boy? What is the best way for us to react to a Shikoku when he 'gives us the finger' as our trainer calls it?

    Interestingly, at one point during the lessons I corrected him with a leash tug and said 'quiet!' and he looked up at me, and I locked eyes with him. Even though we have a 'watch me' command where he intentionally looks at us, this was not a command and I kept staring at him. He eventually looked away and made no more fusses for about 10 minutes. The next time he fussed I gave the same correction and looked at him, and this time he stared at me and began to cry. After about 30 seconds he gave up, and we had perfect obedience the remainder of the night. Am I reading into this? Because it does seem like I corrected his correction so to speak, but maybe he just got tired of putting up a fight.

    Anyway, we've got a couple months of hard work ahead of us to gear him up to the second set of classes, so any of your amazing suggestions or stories of your own experience and successes would be appreciated.


    Kyle & Stacy.

  • KajaKaja
    Posts: 216
    Awwwwe. Poor Koya. I think there are some people on these forums who will have a more experienced say than me on this matter, I just wanted to say I'm sorry you and your boy are going through this! My question is... are these training methods focused solely on correction or are they laden with treats and praise? Because the Shikoku loves to be praised, doesn't so much love harsh correction. In fact I'm worried he might be being overly stimulated and then corrected and doing everything wrong (in his eyes), and the poor boy is just having a terrible time. Maybe he is even losing trust in you, which is why the snaps? Are you using his most absolute favoritist thing ever when doing the training and rewarding him with it? You have to associate AMAZING things with training. It should be the best time ever, not the worst.

    My shikoku will still make a dash for other dogs/people if I am walking her on leash, but she's soft enough on the leash that a little tug will bring her back. If not, that's when her harness comes in (it has a handle like suitcase so I can remove her from the situation really easily ahhahaa). She wants to go play with them/nibble their butts, but of course when we're walking that's not going to happen. xD

    But yes. When your shikoku boy is sitting down/laying down watching all the dogs... are you constantly giving him treats (not just any treats but the REALLY good stuff -- cheese, chicken, etc)? Rewarding him with a toy? Calmly scratching his ear? Make it a really great time. Don't overly anxiously pet him either because your dog will sense YOUR feeling and it will make him even more agitated.
    Post edited by Kaja at 2017-11-15 06:59:01
  • zandramezandrame
    Posts: 529
    Honestly, this sounds like an inappropriate class. They aren't teaching you how to set your dog up for success, how to enjoy learning, how to ignore the presence of other dogs, how to relax. Reward him for doing the "right" thing, rather than punishing the "wrong."

    1. The weaving around other sitting dogs is a bit of an advanced exercise. It's doable, but hard to expect even a non-reactive young dog to have the composure to ignore such excitement. (What is the age of the rest of the students?) It should only be done with a distance wide enough that the dog CAN succeed. If Koya is freaking out, you need more space. Forcing him teaches him that his requests for space don't matter. This in turn teaches him not to trust you.

    2. Does he ever do these snaps at you outside of class? Within this context, it seems that this class environment puts him way over threshold. Not a good thing for learning. The whining and stress yawning? You need to listen to him and find a less stressful class!

    3. Staring him down is a challenge. It's not a constructive way to communicate with him. He might back down now, but he also might snap given that he's lashed out at you before.

    Where are you located?
  • SixSix
    Posts: 96
    I don't own a Shikoku, so take what I say with a liberal pinch of salt...but all of the incidences have happened at this training class. If he is seeing the training class as a high-stress environment to the point where he is acting in this manner then it's likely he's not enjoying it. If he's not enjoying it and it is causing his behaviour to devolve to feeling like he has to physically react rather than showing you signs he is uncomfortable, then is it for his benefit to carry on with it?

    Owned by 3 Northern Inuits, 1 GSDx and 1 Hokkaido.
  • SoloSolo
    Posts: 13
    I'm a big fan of the non-confrontational rank reduction program, which fixes issues like this quickly and doesn't involve a lot of corrections or a battle of wills. In my experience, primitive and Asian breeds tend to think for themselves, and need some "rewiring" to look to humans for guidance. They also tend to be indifferent to corrections, or even resent them--and rank-reduction restructures the relationship in a way that builds responsiveness to you & gives you the "right" to issue occasional, fair corrections.

    The program I've developed for the dogs I work with (wolfdog, coydog, dingo, huskies, shepherds, primitive breeds in general) is kept here: http://wolfdogproject.com/followers.html
    Maybe you'll find some of it helpful. :-)
  • SekoyaSekoya
    Posts: 10
    Thanks for the comments everyone. I do fear I gave the wrong impression of the class--it is not a class of harsh correction. We don't use pinch collars, but we do use a haltie, and all good behaviour is rewarded with toys, praise or treats. Bad behaviour is corrected with verbal commands or a leash tug, but again not with a painful collar. That said, we knew in advance that Shikokus learn best through positive reinforcement, but we haven't been able to find any training classes here (British Columbia) that focus solely on that method of training or specialize in Japanese breeds. We figured this class would still be to the dog's overall benefit and in terms of his performance and being among the best dogs in class as far as the homework assignments go, it seemed to be working out in that respect. Some of the exercises I wasn't entirely comfortable with given the knowledge that our research and you fine people of this forum already provided me with (I have been told before to remove him from stressful situations, not try to push him through it) but the 'weaving through dogs' was the very first and only time Koya had to get close to other dogs, which the trainer was using in the last class as an example of the kinds of activities the advanced class will focus on. Based on the comments here I think I will just abandon obedience classes unless we can find one geared to his breed.

    To answer some of the other questions in here--when our Shikoku is laying down or sitting and behaving well, for half of the training classes I didn't praise him because the trainer would only wanted us to reward him for DOING the command (i.e. 'sit') then correct if he STOPPED doing it. It was unfortunately only in the last two classes that I felt sure this tactic was backfiring and opted to go against the trainer's wishes. I began to kneel down beside him when he was sitting and gave him pets and kept telling him he's a good boy. That did work extremely well because his stress levels plummeted, but the trainer would call that giving him 'freebies', and I admit it did distract him--rather than just sitting, he would lean in to me as if to say 'I LOVE YOU SO MUCH' and start trying to lick me to death, which is heartwarming but not necessarily good behaviour given that he's just supposed to just sit beside me.

    Solo, I haven't read your entire link yet as I just woke up and read these responses and wanted to reply, but we will read it over breakfast right now. Thanks so much everyone!
  • GrayJJGrayJJ
    Posts: 281
    the trainer would only wanted us to reward him for DOING the command (i.e. 'sit') then correct if he STOPPED doing it.

    To clarify, leash corrections = negative punishment
    In my experience, leash corrections in general only add to your dog's agitation. If he's already wound up/impatient/upset it doesn't help. This honestly doesn't sound like the right class or trainer. -- Have you considered something more positive like clicker training?? It worked really well for my Shikoku bcuz he's quite impatient, so the quick rewards really kept his attention.

    I've had a bad class experience like that...and i opted to switch classes (trainer/day) and it made a huge difference!
    Sometimes it's the trainer plus all the dogs in the class. Doesn't matter if they look well behaved, it's the energy in the room, anything that adds to your dog's stress.

    If you could see him stress-yawning or other signs, he's already reached his threshold. So the snap would be his final warning, IMO. I think it's good you are reading good body language, so it's time to figure out what is asking too much vs. what's a challenging situation to work through. You'll learn it over time with observation + learn when he needs more space. Sometimes it's knowing it's not the right exercise or setup, and either giving your dog more space in challenging exercises (setting up for success) or even leaving the room if it's too much. The right trainer for you will be understanding and accommodating!

  • @GrayJJ Leash corrections are positive punishment. Positive = addition of stimulus, negative = removal of stimulus. Reinforcement = increases a behavior, punishment = reduces a behavior. An example of negative punishment is ignoring your dog (taking away attention/affection) when it jumps up on you (a behavior you want to reduce).

    Either way, though, punishing failure to do a command is ineffective. Not doing a command is not a specific behavior. There's many things a dog may be doing at the time (standing, looking at another dog, sniffing the floor, breathing, wagging its tail, regulating its heartbeat, etc) and the dog has no way of knowing that its being punished for something its NOT doing (sitting, algebra, whatever).

    If you use punishments at all, it must be for a SPECIFIC behavior and you must catch the dog doing it. Otherwise you're just confusing and scaring your dog, and eroding its trust in you.
    「怪獣荘秋田犬」Kaiju Kennels Japanese Akita and Hokkaido, Claire Matthews
    Post edited by PoetikDragon at 2017-11-15 23:37:06
  • zandramezandrame
    Posts: 529
    when our Shikoku is laying down or sitting and behaving well, for half of the training classes I didn't praise him because the trainer would only wanted us to reward him for DOING the command (i.e. 'sit') then correct if he STOPPED doing it.
    rather than just sitting, he would lean in to me as if to say 'I LOVE YOU SO MUCH' and start trying to lick me to death, which is heartwarming but not necessarily good behaviour given that he's just supposed to just sit beside me.
    You should look into exercises called "relax on a mat" and "capturing calm" which is a method to teach your dog to settle and wait during inactivity. It's great for classes, or going to cafes, or even to keep a busy dog from milling. The basics are to reward for laying down and chilling, but not for staring at you or expecting constant instructions. Some quick videos - vid 1, vid 2.

    If there aren't many resources in person near you, you can still find a lot of help online!

    I also searched for reactive dog training in BC. This is one trainer I would be comfortable asking for referrals to peers closer to you.
  • GrayJJGrayJJ
    Posts: 281
    Thanks @PoetikDragon!

    (Edit: my entire post just deleted!)
    I just feel any leash correction only adds to stress if dog is already agitated. You also mentioned using a Halti so I'm not sure how corrections are being done.

    Are the lessons 1 hour long? Takeo used to lose patience around the 40 minute mark. No attention span and also too stressed to focus any more from trying to behave for the first 40 mins! I find typical class format is a lot of smaller lessons, stop+listen (which puppy is expected to wait patiently through) before bigger group activities and by then they're tired! It's like a toddler, they only have so much focus to sit still ;)

    Also may want to try an outdoor class -- I find it much more refreshing (for dog +myself) not being cooped up in one room with so much mixed dog energy! Just some food for thought
    Post edited by GrayJJ at 2017-11-16 22:33:35
  • Once upon a time, a decade ago, I was that owner with the Bad Dog in class. And it took me some time - maybe because I am a first born and a Yankee ;) - to get past the compulsion to follow directions and making sure I got all the class I signed up for. I was also proud. I wanted to be Really Good. I love my dog and I wanted other people to see him favorably and not think he was a psycho.

    But what I learned to act upon, in advocating for my dog, is that you don't have to follow directions, and you can leave class early while your dog is still doing well and hasn;t hit his limits yet. The trainer (Should!) want your dog to succeed - not at the class, but at life in his relationship with you. If Koya can do 30 minutes before he starts to hit the wall, then just do 30 minutes. If he can usually do 30 minutes of a 45 min class but today he can only happily do 10- you do 10 and go home while he is still feeling good and communicating softly that he's about done here. If you know an exercise is going to be too close to other dogs for him- you really can take charge and say "We're going to go to the side and do some tricks he likes instead of this one" and its okay! You can also ask the trainer to set up a short wall or gate so you and he can work behind it as needed with controlled exposure to the stimulation of the entire class. You can ask to be last in line, or first- whatever works best for Koya.

    You may talk with the instructor outside of the actual class time to ask for these things rather than feel you have to explain in front of everyone. And even though you have aspirations for him in obedience, relax those cause you won't get there if you try to push him through discomfort or expect him to be like the traditional competition breeds ( who come from competition parents and were prepped in early life by competition breeders and so forth...). He is a shikoku, and he is wonderfully everything that that means. and he CAN do obedience, but it will not be as crisp and snappy a journey to get there as it is for other dogs. You and he will work smarter, more creatively and more carefully to get there.

    You might feel embarrassed to request 'special treatment' or to be the ones behind the gate or off to the side, or not-doing an exercise that all the retrievers and australian shepherds seem to be doing easily and being praised by the trainer- but remind yourself this is all about Koya and meeting his needs where he is right now, and giving him the best chance to try this sport and enjoy it with you. It doesn't mean that he sucks, or that you suck, or that shikoku suck- by contrast, it means you know your own dog well, you are listening to your dog and being his best owner you can be. Real dog people recognize and admire that, and will not shame.

    When I took Sage to beginner agility, he could only take so much of the sitting and waiting his turn. He hated being stared at by herding breeds with oblivious owners who paid rapt attention to the trainer but had no idea that behind their knee their dog was pulling faces at other dogs. He stressed and barked and acted aggressively toward the other dogs. The trainer suggested I bring things for Sage to do (Kongs and toys- which actually just made the other dogs MORE interested in what he was getting that they didn't have) and said we could sit apart from the other dogs till it was his turn to run. Sometimes I put him in the car till it was his turn. Eventually we quit group class and took a few weeks of private lessons (30 minutes) and then when i recognized this was not really a sport we had any future in due to the social nature of dog events, just rented the ring for 20 minutes to practice with him every couple weeks and tunnels and contact obstacles. Alone, we had a blast and I wasn't resentful of his behavior anymore. I loved playing with him there.

    Sage was (IS) a reactive dog, and one of the things that is really familiar to me about your story with Koya is how in the early going our dogs tell us subtly that they are uncomfortable and to get them out of here, and we tell them to suck it up, stop doing that nipping, stay still and pay attention- because its till small. We are working on the behavior (the bite) but not getting the message (I NEED to go home)- you might 'correct' away the behavior, but the message needs to be heard and the dog will find another way to be heard. When this communication of discomfort is not honored, things get worse and the dog tries adding more exclamation points to his effort to tell you "this isn't working for me!!!!!!"

    In Sage's case, I used to take him and my other dog to a 30 acre field to run off leash with our friends and their dogs. Sage's way of telling me that this was to much pressure and could we please leave? was to jump up on me, wearing a Crazy Face that I incorrectly interpreted as "This is SO MUCH FUN!" I'd push him off and laugh and say Go play with the DOGs! Eventually, he'd hang around me more, jump and bite my mittens and shake them. "Just kick him in the chest" people would say "then he won't jump on you" of course I didn't do that. "He has to learn"- NO- *I* had to learn. I had to listen to him.

    I wanted to walk for 2 hours, I wasn't done being with my friends and enjoying the outdoors, Reilly my older dog was still having fun, I wasn;t listening to Sage. He was not having fun, but I wouldn't take him home even when he tried to tell me - the pressure increased I didn't help and he began to have a very short fuse with other dogs, and release it on them, then preemptively react to them. Don't let it get to the level I let it get to before you learn to listen and help him.

    We quit the field and all classes in time. His reactivity has been a lifelong high maintenance feature of my life in dogs. He is almost 12 now and never did any dog sports, never became a good hiking dog either, but was really happy to play football and frisbee in the yard, is great with children and guests, and little puppies, is a superlative scarecrow dog and the best movie dog to cuddle on the couch and eat popcorn with.
    I wish I had listened to him right off the bat, but I was inexperienced then (he was only the second dog I ever had full responsibility for, and my first- Reilly- was so easy I felt like I knew a lot about dogs, LOL ) and didn't know what I was seeing.

    He was always going to be a reactive dog, so I didn't create this mess, BUT I could have prevented him from getting too bad along the way and spared him some distressful experiences if I had recognized things sooner and had the tools to smooth life out for him. We got there in the end, but if I can spare anyone else and their dog the worst of that journey, I am happy to share my mistakes.
  • TheWalrusTheWalrus
    Posts: 1624
    I was waiting for @WrylyBrindle to reply to this thread haha
    There is a lot of dog ownership that involves working with what our dogs are comfortable with, at their pace, without pushing them into such uncomfortable territory that stresses you and your dog (which can make matters worse).
  • jigzzorjigzzor
    Posts: 125
    WrylyBrindle should write a book called. "Your roomate the Shikoku"
    I think everything You wrote though was spot on and first time Shikoku owners should read this. 20/10!
    Post edited by jigzzor at 2017-11-20 09:38:37
  • SekoyaSekoya
    Posts: 10
    To everyone who has replied to this thread, again I just wanted to say thanks. WrylyBrindle and a number of other have underlined a key take-away which is about being more aware of Koya's comfort zone, and about not trying to make Koya into a dog that he is not. We are 100% okay with this and we absolutely adore him the way he is, except for the biting of strangers' hands (which we are working on, but ultimately if it means he just can't meet strangers for a while, or he has to wear a muzzle just in case, then so be it). He loves to hike with us on a leash and sticks to trails really well, he loves to cuddle, and he loves to be a guard dog around the property which we're happy about living out in a rural area. He's perfect for us. We also know that once he's been around someone a few times, he becomes perfectly okay with them, so anyone in our lives regularly won't be a problem.

    Per a comment above from Zandrame, we will see about doing some 1:1 training with the trainer you linked us too, her program looks very promising. The trainer we've been working up to now had a very one-way approach to training that worked for her dogs (primarily German Shepherds), and we don't fault her for it--it has worked for her and for most breeds that come through. But the Shikoku is certainly a different beast.

    Anyway, the bottom line is we will be more attentive to his needs. There's this stigma the other dog trainer kind of put in our head, that we have to maintain control over the dog at all times and that letting it have its way is giving up. I have a feeling that if we tried to leave the class early because 'Koya wants to go home', it wouldn't go over well, as she would suggest we are teaching the wrong lesson and letting the dog win. At the same time, the real lesson should have been "wow, you did great for those 15 minutes, let's go do something fun and try again next week'. This makes so much more sense, and I am feeling pretty regretful about the times I tried to quiet him or push his butt down to sit when he was plainly telling me this wasn't okay.

    I'm so thankful for this community. I'll update everyone in the coming months.
    Post edited by Sekoya at 2017-11-21 02:08:43
  • SekoyaSekoya
    Posts: 10
    Hey everyone, I just wanted to update to say that we've made a lot of progress, especially after an experience meeting another dog. We ran into a Jack Russell terrier named Eddie, and we knew the owner. We could tell right away that Koya was on high alert and we warned him that he may lash out at Eddie. Sure enough he initially went straight for Eddie and snarled, but we took him in a circle and remained calm, and because we knew the owner we remained there and talked for a few minutes. It only took about a minutes before Koya became curious instead of agitated, and he went and sniffed Eddie. Then playtime was on.

    Later the same day we went over to our neighbour's house, where they have a large retriever/lab cross who is very dominant and aggressive. We had the same experience where Koya went ape #$@% initially, then we walked him away, stood around a bit and my wife pet their dog, then he approached and sniffed and away they went. Best of friends.

    So clearly he's very guarded initially and has to be certain there's no threat. We're going to build off this with friends that don't know the dog well and see if this translates to people as well as it does with dogs.

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

In this Discussion