Amateur Shock Collar Use Starts Dog Fight

German Shepherd DogIf you want to control your pet dog’s involuntary aggressive responses via force and intimidation, you are entering a spiral of blackness and doom.

One day, your chosen method or equipment will fail; injuries and sadness will emerge. I’ve seen it many times.

Point being, punishing the growl with a quick burst of energy via an e-collar, leash jerk, Caesar Milan hiss, alpha roll, spank on the butt, or verbal reprimand, does nothing to change underlying, emotional reasons for the growl. In many cases, the aggression increases, because the naughty dog associates other dogs or strangers with the discomfort.

You may very well stop your dog from growling with one of many punishment techniques, that I do not deny. (Success via corrections really depends on the underlying causes, but that is a topic for another day.)

But, you just signed a life long commitment to supervise every interaction your dog has with strangers or other dogs. You will constantly have to prove to your dog that you are a superior warrior.  And you have made your task of supervision much more difficult.

If you zap your dog every time he or she growls or gives another animal the “eye”, you will negate your observation skills, because your dog will skip the body posturing and growling (the obvious, observable behaviors that indicate a problem), and go straight to the bite.

If you are using a training collar, e collar, shock collar, or any other special equipment, your dog must always be fitted with the equipment, and you must always be ready to use the equipment.

All you’ve done is remove the warning, the very warning that lets you know something is wrong, the very warning that tells you to take action to avoid an incident.

It’s like placing a black tape mask over a check engine warning lamp on your car’s dashboard. Great, now you don’t see the warning, therefore the problem is resolved?!

I’m not one of those “never ever use a shock collar or leash jerk” kind of people. I realize there are times when corrections are helpful. Shock collars, leash jerks, or verbal reprimands may be useful tools within a behavior modification program designed by a canine behavior counselor.

If your behavior modification plan includes rewards, obedience training, classical conditioning, and changing the dog’s perception, you can change the underlying reason your dog is aggressive.

If your only solution to stop your dog from attacking other dogs or strangers is the use of corrections, truth is, you would benefit from a bit of help. You should contact a canine reactive behavior specialist.

None of this comes to anyone in a dream. I was ignorant until I began my studies about animal learning, behavior, and canine behavior modification. I made all the same “logical” assumptions about controlling dogs via corrections and intimidation. If you are not familiar with basic concepts of instrumental conditioning, you should never use a shock collar to stop your dog from behaving aggressively. Your ignorance will bite you.

Real Life Example:

In my neighborhood there is a large breed dog who has been naughty towards other dogs. (I’ll omit the breed, because it has no relevance to this story). The owner uses a shock collar to punish Naughty Dog’s aggressive behaviors. The owner’s mom was walking Naughty Dog, without the shock collar, and has been doing so for months, with no incidents of aggression. A few days ago, the honeymoon ended. The lady who was walking Naughty Dog was passing another leashed dog on the street. Naughty Dog did not growl or send any signals that he was about to attack. The lady was caught off guard when Naughty Dog suddenly attacked the passing adult male dog. The lady was bitten in the face when she tried to break up the dog fight.

If the owner had not used a shock collar to punish the aggression, the Naughty Dog would have postured or growled, and the lady could have seen what was about to happen. She could have avoided the situation. But Naughty Dog “attacked without warning”, which ironically, perplexed the owner. The owner has no idea that he was directly responsible for Naughty Dog’s lack of warning signals.

P.S. The German Shepherd Dog in the picture, Samantha, is not Naughty Dog! 

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner How’s Bentley Memhis TN

Reactive Dog Specialist

Goals of Off Leash Obedience or Guard Dog Performances by the Family Dog

p_480_320_1E6B3BD9-8F00-48B9-BC22-54B4AE73B475.jpegOkay, so you want your puppy to stay in the yard, when off leash. You want your puppy to ignore that sandwich your toddler is dangling at her nose level.

You want your puppy to sit calmly while you vacuum. You want your dog to protect and guard your home and family.

You want your puppy to grow into a combination of Lassie, a Guide Dog for the Blind, or a canine Police Officer.

Good for You!
Lofty goals are great, for without them man would not have accomplished space travel or the Internet!

But, before your puppy can get a PhD in pet performance, she must learn basic obedience commands. She should graduate from Kindergarten, attend Grade School, pass Middle School, excel at High School level behaviors, and then attend College and Graduate School. And, your puppy will need an expert teacher.

You get the idea. All these goals may be within your reach. But, you’ll never know unless you learn a bit about communication, motivation, and how dogs learn. You’ll never know unless you form a training plan, apply your knowledge during every interaction with your canine companion, and you practice every single day, with increasingly higher levels of distractions.

You will be your dog’s Kindergarten mom, Grade School principle, Middle School counseler, High School mentor, and College Professor.

You, my newly appointed animal training intern, are on a steep learning curve. You, my enthusiastic new puppy owner, have much to learn, and much to do, if you want to reach those goals.

Don’t fret.

Dog training is not quantum physics! Anyone can learn how to succeed. Here are your first steps.

Meet your dog’s physical, social and emotional needs.

Kindly prevent your puppy from practicing unwanted behaviors.

Establish a meaningful method to communicate. Condition a reward marker.

Enact the Rewards Awareness Program.

Establish a Reward System.

This dogand site is filled with instructions and tips about raising and training a dog.

Look around and begin your adventure!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner
How’s Bentley – Memphis
21st Century Canine Relationship Specialist

Canine Behavior Modification for Reactive, Unwanted, Behaviors, including Fear and Aggression


LilyOkay, so your dog is fearful, barking, lunging and otherwise distressed when he or she sees people, trucks, cars, or dogs. Depending on who you are talking to, those behaviors may be classified as territory or protective aggression, possession aggression, inter-dog aggression, fear aggression, or leash aggression.

I’ll refer to the other people, other dogs, trucks, cars, as “triggers”, because they trigger the fear or aggression in your dog.

There are volumes of articles and books on how to modify fearful and aggressive behaviors in dogs. Some of the information may be helpful and other information is outdated and less helpful.

A canine modification plan is fluid. It changes as you progress. Because of all the variables, and the constant adjustments when treating fear and aggression in dogs, it’s not feasible for me to post all the methods and solutions I would use in a private consultation.

But I can give you this overview and some instructions that might work with your dog.

This article is about visual triggers. If your dog reacts to noises, the same concepts apply.

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First you need to change your dog’s perception of the triggers. Then you will use rewards to pay your dog for desirable, non reactive behaviors, when the trigger is in sight.

Before you actually do exercises with your dog in the field, please review this checklist.

Meet your dog’s physical, social and emotional needs.

Kindly prevent your dog from practicing unwanted reactive behaviors.

Establish a method to communicate precisely. Condition a reward marker.

Enact the Rewards Awareness Program.

Establish a Reward System.

Teach your dog “attention on cue” or “look”.

Practice “look” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive, behaviors).

Teach your dog to sit on command.

Practice “sit” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive, behaviors).

Teach your dog to bump your two-finger target to the cue, “here”.

Practice “here” in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not be people or dogs or whatever triggers the unwanted, reactive behaviors).

Teach your dog to walk nicely on a loose lead or to heel.

Practice walking nicely in various places with increasing levels of distractions (distractions should not include the triggers).

Optional: Obtain a Gentle Leader head collar or a Canny Collar. Introduce your dog to the head collar and practice with the head collar, so that your dog is not distracted by wearing the head collar. Head collars make it possible to safely move or control your dog’s pulling behaviors.

Optional: If your dog is “crazy excited” for squeaky toys or balls, get a couple of new ones and save them for these exercises. You can use the toys as rewards, or as distractions to get your dog’s attention when the triggers are too close.

Now you can begin the real work!

Identify the Threshold

Find the distance where your dog can see the trigger but not react with “out of control” barking, lunging, et cetera. I’ll refer to this distance as the threshold for reactivity. It may be 400 yards or 20 feet. It will change depending on the environment, your dog’s current emotional or physical state, or any number of factors.

The threshold is fluid, not static. You’ll need to find the threshold every time you start a practice session. Whatever it is right now, this distance or threshold will become shorter and shorter as you practice. You’ll always start each session outside the threshold.

Set up the Practice Session

For this step you’ll need the help of others. Their jobs will be to present the trigger outside the threshold, move a few steps closer and then move back outside the threshold.

If you don’t have any helpers, you can still set up the session. Go to a place where you are likely to see the triggers, such as a walking path at the park or a parking lot of a pet supply store. Get several feet off the path or away from the traffic, outside the threshold.

It helps if your dog is hungry. Do this before feeding time or withhold dinner and feed during these sessions.

Change your Dog’s Perception

Before you start with the triggers, ask your dog to perform a few simple commands such as “here’ or “sit”. This will engage your dog to pay attention to you!

Stand outside the threshold of a trigger. The instant you see the dog or person or car approaching, announce the trigger. Tell your dog something like “that’s a friend or that’s a truck” and immediately feed your dog several treats. Keep feeding until the trigger has retreated and is no longer nearby.

(If your starts barking or lunging, you are too close the the trigger, move away. If your dog starts to stare or looks like he or she might be ready to bark and lunge, command “here” and present your two finger target, or ask your dog to “look”. Either one of these commands gets the dog to look away from the trigger and focus on you.)

This sequence is called a cycle. You will hold many cycles during a session.

Between each cycle, give your dog a tension rest to absorb the recent events. The tension rest should be as as long as it took to perform the cycle. So, if the trigger is in sight for 10 seconds before it moves outside the threshold, the duration of the tension rest immediately after the cycle will be at least 10 seconds.

Repeat this process for at least 30 minutes per session. Perform another cycle followed by a tension rest. The idea is to change your dog’s immediate, involuntary responses to the trigger.

Instead of “oh no, there’s another dog, which is immediately followed by involuntary barking, fleeing, freezing or lunging (fight, flight, freeze behaviors), you want your dog’s initial involuntary response to the sight of the triggers to be anticipation of food. You are using classical conditioning to associate the trigger with the delivery of food. Your dog cannot be aggressive or fearful and salivate in anticipation of food at the same instant!

As you progress through the session, you will notice your dog will begin to ignore the trigger and focus on you and the food as soon as you announce the trigger. Perfect. Now you can move a bit closer to the trigger and continue. The threshold is getting shorter!

Repeat these sessions until your dog automatically looks towards you whenever a trigger is in sight. Continue to announce the triggers on routine walks, and anytime you are interacting with your dog, be it during a practice session, or not.

Real LIfe Ambush

If you get “ambushed” by a trigger during an outing, and you are not ready with several treats, kindly ask your dog to sit facing you, or to bump your two finger target. If she is too excited, move her away from the trigger and ask again. Repeat this sequence until your dog is far enough away that she will listen to your commands.

This basic method will work with most dogs, and most reactive behaviors, however it is not as efficient as perception modification via Syn Alia Training System.


Keep in mind, there are many factors about your relationship and your daily interactions with your dog that influence behaviors. In addition, your dog may be influenced by other dogs in the household, medical conditions, diet, nutrition, genetic and or neurological factors. If your dog constantly barks at triggers from inside the house, or fence fights with the dogs next door, the prognosis is poor.

You’ll need to prevent your dog from practicing fear and aggression if you want to succeed!

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner

How’s Bentley

Canine Behavior Modification for Fear, Aggression in Dogs – Memphis TN

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Untrained Dog Misbehaving? Attach a Leash. You are a Zookeeper.


German Shepherd DogIf you have a new puppy or dog, you need to manage the environment so your puppy does not practice rude behaviors. Use baby gates, crates, leashes, tethers to control your pup’s access to territory.

Many people overlook the most basic tool for controlling a dog inside the house, the leash. It’s a neat device that has a coupler on one end that attaches to your dog’s collar.

Several times a week, I hear people say, “my dog jumps up on guests or runs out the door at every opportunity”?   I suspect these people do not have a leash attached!

Off leash obedience is an advanced skill. No one would take their untrained dog for a walk, next to Poplar avenue, without attaching a leash. Why? Because they know their dogs are likely to go into the street, or chase a car ,or otherwise get into trouble.  They realize their dog is not trained, does not respond to voice commands, and they manage the environment by attaching a leash. With a leash attached, the dog is safely connected and unable to make stupid choices. GREAT!

Off leash obedience is an advanced skill, regardless if the location is inside or outside. Instead of waiting for your puppy to make mistakes, and attempting to teach via corrections, help your puppy make the right choices and reinforce good behaviors with rewards. You can kindly prevent your utrained dog from jumping up on guests, counter surfing, getting into the trash, or other wise destroying your home by attaching a leash or tether.

The long term solution for naughty behaviors is simple. Learn how to train your dog and then do it!

Here is an outline of your tasks:

Dog Training Success

  • Meet your dog’s social, emotional and physical needs.
  • Kindly prevent your pet from practicing unwanted behaviors. Attach a leash.
  • Learn how to tell your dog exactly what you want.
  • Learn how to motivate your dog to want the same things as you.
  • Change your behaviors in order to change your dog’s behaviors.
  • Form a global training plan.
  • Teach your dog coping skills.
  • Teach your dog basic commands.
  • Practice with your dog every day.
  • Practice with your dog in many different locations.
  • Practice with your dog while increasing the level of distractions.
  • Practice with your dog on a short leash, and then on a long line – before you go off leash.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner

Certified Companion Animal Behavior Counselor & Trainer – Canine Specialization

Pet Dogs for Protection Dogs?

OdenGSDOn How’s Bentley Private Services Enrollment Form, the box labeled “For Protection” is often selected as one of the reasons my clients acquire their pet dogs. I understand why people select a pet dog for a protection role.

I have worked with more German Shepherd Dogs in the past year than the previous 3 years. I believe the current political and social cultures are responsible for people choosing dogs like German Shepherd Dogs, Doberman Pinchers, and other guarding dogs with “vicious” labeling. We are more fearful as a country than we were 15 years ago. That is reflected by the breeds of dogs that we choose. OOPs, this is off topic. I’ll talk about dog breed selection trends in the suburbs of Tennessee at another time.

Many people expect their dogs to be natural protectors and body guards. Too bad it’s not that simple.

It’s not that dogs won’t protect. Some dogs will naturally growl, snarl, bark, snap and bite when anyone approaches.

That’s the problem. Some dogs protect us from everyone. Dogs growl, snarl, snap and bite family members, house mates, friends, children, neighbors, cable guys, even pizza delivery couriers. That’s just rude. I need my pizza. Please Killer, spare the Domino Pizza guy.

Our pet dogs are not any better at determining who is a threat than the average Joe. We have these opposable thumbs and large brains, yet very few of us can determine which people in a busy suburban mall parking lot are about to attack us. Our untrained dogs have a solution. Bite them all and let the alpha dog sort them out!?

YIKES! The point is, you must take time to obedience train your dog before you can have a dependable protection dog. The last thing you want is a dog that decides every stranger is a threat and acts without your input!

True personal protection dogs are very well trained in all aspects of basic and advanced obedience and many participate in Schutzhund, a dog sport that originated in Germany. True protection dogs will stop attacking when their handlers command them to disengage.

Before you select a breed of dog genetically bred for natural, protective tendencies, talk with a trainer who can help you teach the dog basic obedience. For if you have a pet dog that is aggressive towards everyone, and will not stop when you call, you do not have a protection dog. You have a liability.

Happy Training!

Alan J Turner
Companion Animal Behavior Counselor and Trainer
Private Sessions to Help Aggressive and Fearful Dogs
How’s Bentley- Memphis, Collierville, Germantown, TN

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