Fear Issues From COVID Lockdowns

We were expecting to see more fear related issues when the lockdowns happened with COVID and we did see a very large increase in fear cases as suspected.

Pups go through a socialization period from roughly 5 to 12 weeks of age. Whatever they see during that period and have a good experience with they tend to like later on. Whatever they have a bad experience or just no experience with, they tend to not like later on. This is why I can’t even count how many times I have had clients tell me they think their dog is racist because they only bark at black people or elderly people with walkers, etc. It largely has to do with what types of people the puppy saw during that socialization period. I have even had clients tell me their dog was racist towards white people because they lived in a neighbourhood that had virtually no white people living there.

During COVID when people were social distancing and just not going out to do as many activities the dogs didn’t see as many different things and people. Interestingly we even saw a number of pups that had been socialized as a puppy prior to lockdowns and as they got a bit older and there was more social distancing they still developed fear issues.

The 5 to 12 week mark is approximate and there are still a lot of variables at play. Some pups go through that socialization phase faster and some are slower. We see a number of Lab puppies and if we show them a horse at 8 weeks of age they sit there like a potato and don’t care at all. At 10 weeks they will be a little bit cautious. At 12 weeks even more cautious. At 16 to 20 weeks you are likely to see fear barking if they haven’t seen a big animal like a horse before.

What happens if a pup is fearful? Some will get scared and hide. Others will become reactive with barking and growling and can escalate to aggression where they attack things they are fearful of.

The biggest predictor of which way the pup will go is how quick they are at pattern recognition. If they are slow at pattern recognition in training they are more likely to be the type to run and hide. If they are very fast at pattern recognition then they are more likely to become reactive and aggressive.

The Aggression Issue – Many trainers these days advocate for reward only. Every technique has its own set of pros and cons. The problem with reward only training is that rewards are good at rewarding behaviour. Many of our clients who have dogs with fear issues have gone that route and made the fear reactivity worse because they are unknowingly rewarding reactive behaviour. We tell clients that it is like trying to drive your car everywhere with only the gas pedal. You are going to have a wreck.

There are a lot more variables at play to solve these issues. If you or anyone you know has this issue you can contact us to help you solve this problem. We teach clients how to understand the variables and modify their dogs behaviour for the better. It is common to have 2 fear related issues that get solved differently. So what works for one dog may not work for the other. As you see hundreds of these cases you start to see where the dogs group. As we put the dogs through some training scenarios we can quickly see where they are going to group and how quickly they will overcome the issue.

Contact us: Tyson@DogSquad.ca

Website: www.DogSquad.ca

The Most Important Dog Training Tool – Thinking

There are a lot of variables when it comes to training dogs. How quick a dog catches on. How much desire they have to please. What motivates them. What they dislike. The list goes on.

The point being, dogs differ. You will come across all different kinds of problems and you have to think your way through those problems.

The other part of thinking is taking all of the information you hear out there about how to train a dog and think, does this make sense? What are the pros and cons to this method, tool or ideology?

Training a dog is all about communicating effectively to your dog what you want them to do and also what they should not do for various reasons including their own safety.

One of the more recent things to enter dog training ideology is to not say “no” to your dog. That one has me baffled as to how anyone could think that is a good idea. That takes away about 50% of your ability to communicate. There are really 2 key things when you are training a dog:

  1. Positive – Tell them what you like them doing. Praise and reward that.
  2. Negative – Tell them what you don’t want them doing and add a consequence, only if needed.

I can give you a number of examples off the top of my head with just our own dog where it is necessary to tell him no. Don’t do that. He is a working line German Shepherd with very high prey drive. Here are the things I have told him not to do:

  1. Don’t eat the chickens – Our chickens get to roam the yard and have a great life. They have to coexist with the dog. He thought they were very fun to chase. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  2. Don’t chase the horses – We have 2 horses and they are not fond of being chased. They do silly things like run through fences and cause severe cuts or worse injuries. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  3. Don’t chase the barn cats – We have a number of barn cats to keep the mouse population down. They have to be free to roam and do their job. He thought they were fun to chase. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now they live peacefully together.
  4. Don’t chase the neighbours cows – If you want to end your life quickly as a farm dog, go and chase the neighbours livestock. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. Now the cows come over and hang their head over the fence on our property to say hi every now and then.
  5. Don’t go crazy and try to destroy a clients dog – Clients come here with dogs that are reactive or aggressive and do so towards our chickens, horses and cats. Our dog thought that wasn’t right and really looked like he was going to take a round out of those dogs. I told him no. He said ok, I won’t. He is allowed to protect our yard when we are not working with client dogs in case a coyote or stray dog comes into our yard.

I have worked with a number of clients whose dogs were aggressive or reactive to a various number of things. When you communicate not to do that some will stop immediately and not do it again. They had no idea we didn’t want them to do that. Once you let them know they are happy to comply. Lots will still persist and we have further methods to help better explain to them not to do that and then that solves the problem.

The clients I work with are often very good at thinking through problems on their own. Many of them have worked with previous trainers for certain problem behaviours and have often been told to do strange things like not say no. Then they will seek out other answers and this is where I end up working with many people in this same situation. We teach them how to effectively communicate with their dog which can include telling the dog not to do certain things.

So if you have someone tell you don’t say no to your dog you can determine if this is a good idea for your situation. Think about when you should say no and when you shouldn’t or when you might need to break things down for your dog. So far my brain has found “no” to be an invaluable tool that can greatly increase a dog’s freedom, happiness, and lifespan.


Are You Rewarding Bad Behaviour Without Realizing?

Dogs vary in their abilities to recognize patterns and as a result it can cause different problems to occur when applying the same method of training to different dogs.

Reward Training – The idea behind reward training is to reward good behaviour. You make it so much fun that they just want to do the good behaviour. As a result the idea is they just won’t have time to do bad behaviours and just choose good behaviours.

Bad Behaviours – What happens when a dog does an undesired behaviour? One of the main techniques with Reward Training is to redirect the dog to a good behaviour.

Problem – The better a dog’s pattern recognition often the more problems you see with redirection. It is more likely this dog realizes that whenever they do a bad behaviour (according to us) there is always some kind of a reward to follow.

Which dogs fare the best with Reward Training? – The less pattern recognition a dog has, then the less likely it is that if they did something bad and you redirected that they would figure this pattern out. Also for reasons that would take me far too long to explain here, dogs with less pattern recognition also tend to challenge less so there is less need to redirect in the first place.

Funny examples – Some of my favorite examples over the years:

  1. Client with a Cocker spaniel – One family member was convinced he was the dumbest dog in the world. When I got to the house, the Dad was a smoker. The dog would steal his cigarette lighter and run off with it. If the Dad didn’t notice, the dog would drop the lighter, bark and pick the lighter back up. The Dad would walk to the cookie jar, the dog would bring the lighter back. The dog would drop the lighter, take the cookie and run off with it. I told them he seems pretty smart to me.
  2. Bell at the door – Had a client come that said one day she was eating supper, the dog rang the bell at the door to be let out. She went to let him out, he ran to the table, jumped up and ate her steak. This isn’t really a redirection issue, just a funny example of a dog really understanding patterns.
  3. Clicker Training – A client came with a 7 month old Brittany Spaniel. Told me he took a clicker class and hated it. I asked him why as I have never heard anyone say they hate a clicker class. It is really about reward training, clicking good behaviour and giving treats, not something most people would complain about. He said his dog was doing a bit of jumping. The trainer told him to tell the dog “Off”, then click and treat. He said the jumping is now way worse than it ever was. I told him, that is because you are rewarding jumping. He said, “That’s what I told the trainer!” But the trainer said, “No, this will work.” I told him, not for his dog, his dog was a little too smart for that. If his dog wasn’t as smart he might have thought just sitting paid really well and done more of that. But his dog was smart enough to recognize the pattern, I jump, you say off, I sit, then I get a treat.

Human example – I had a friend come to visit once, had a 2 year old boy. Ahead of time she went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of presents and wrapped them all up. Whenever he would throw a temper tantrum she would tell him, “If you are good, I will give you a present.” I thought, “Oh no.” I have never seen so many temper tantrums out of a 2 year old in my life. A couple days in, he decided he wanted 2 presents, she said, “No, you only get one.” I thought, good, she is making a stand. Then there was a full blow meltdown. “Ok, if you calm down I will give you 2 presents.” He was excellent at pattern recognition 😉 .

We specialize in these dogs – We love working with dogs that have high pattern recognition. You definitely need to understand a lot more about dog training with these dogs. If you or a friend you know of has a dog that you suspect is very good at pattern recognition and causing issues, we can help. Especially if the dog has been through one or more other dog trainers.

One saying we have written on our training board is, “Is the dog training me or am I training the dog?” It can switch quickly and we train people on what to look for.

Distraction Training

For the first time this Great Dane sees an animal that is seemingly closer in size to him than all of the dogs he passes on a walk.

One of the top requests we get with dog training is overcoming distractions. A dog can listen great in the house but as soon as you go outside and distractions present themselves, it can look like utter chaos.

People often make things difficult on themselves by attempting to heel a dog that doesn’t know heel, when they are hyper, in their own neighbourhood, past high level distractions. You almost couldn’t make that harder if you tried.

In my lifetime I have already seen quite the change with dogs and how they are trained. As a kid I wanted a dog. We lived in a small farm town and at that time it was just thought of that if you live in town you don’t have a dog. You only have a dog if you live on a farm. So I wanted to move to a farm so we could get a dog. Now when I travel back home I see a lot of dogs in town.

When dogs lived on a farm the distractions pretty well stayed the same. You might get the odd deer going through, or a coyote passing close by. The dogs would bark and chase it off. The farm was their territory and they had that imaginary line in their minds as to what it was, and they protected that line. Pretty simple.

Now with dogs living in urban settings, you are walking through all kinds of territories, and all kinds of dogs and people are passing through their territory as well. The stimulus has increased greatly over what it once was.

With any new thing a dog sees they will often wonder if it is predator or prey; friend or foe. As a human it would be as if you felt you had to greet every person on a walk and were unsure if they were friendly or not. Would they just want to shake hands and say hi, or would they want to hurt you? With rabbits and squirrels it would be as if you saw toy RC cars with a thousand dollars in cash strapped to it driving around. If you chase it and caught it, you just might be able to keep that thousand dollars for yourself. The odd new distraction a dog had never seen before would be as if you saw the odd rhinoceros in a backyard. Then what you thought was the most venomous snake crossing your path. Maybe a killer robot.

Things where you just couldn’t help but stare and concentrate on. If someone you were with was talking to you, you wouldn’t hear them because you were concentrating so much on these distractions.

We ask a lot of our dogs these days. We want them to walk nicely (which is one of the hardest behaviours to master) while they are hyper, walking through a bunch of other territories, with all kinds of distractions. When you understand how dogs think it is no wonder so many dogs struggle with this.

With clients we go over how to properly increase distractions, what things to start with, and how to troubleshoot problems as you progress. No two dogs are the same. We have worked with thousands of dogs at our location near the same distractions and you can get wildly different results. What works for one will not work at all for another. The key is understanding the different types of dogs, how they think, and the tools and techniques available to overcome those issues.

We especially seem to help a lot of clients whose dogs are not food motivated, or maybe they come snatch a treat and run off again.

Some of the more memorable requests of clients we helped:

One of our clients had their dog get hit by a car, rolled underneath the car, but didn’t hurt him. Then he thought he was invincible and could really take on any car. We taught him to stay on the acreage and not chase cars anymore.

Had a client whose dog chased a grizzly bear. Did not come back when called. Luckily in that case the dog didn’t come running back with bear in tow.

Another lived on a property southwest of Calgary. 2pm in the afternoon was out for a quad ride with his dogs. One stopped to poo so he waited for that dog. The other ran ahead. Heard a yelp. Cougar killed his dog. Incredibly sad. Had to teach the dogs to all stay very close when out and not wander ahead or behind.

Had a client from BC who spent a lot of time in the bush. He said his dogs learned the “come” command meant that dad has spotted a deer and doesn’t want us to chase, but instead of not chasing it let’s run off like maniacs looking for it! We retrained what the word “come” meant 🙂 .

Lastly was a client who lived on an acreage and his dog liked to chase his horses. The neighbour was moving his cows back in a month and told him if the dog chased his cows he would shoot the dog. Taught the dog to leave the horses and cows alone.

Point being, sometimes getting a dog to listen or overcome distractions can mean the difference between life and death.

If your dog is struggling with distractions send us an e-mail at Tyson@DogSquad.ca or give us a call 1-403-224-2224. It is one of my favorite things to help clients overcome. Give your dog the gift of having an amazing life because you trust them to listen and take them to all kinds of cool places.

Do You Have to Say Commands Loud?

It is common to hear you need to say a command loud or with authority to your dog to get them to listen. The assumption being that when you say it loud the dog views you as an authoritative figure and will listen to you.

So if you say it quietly or with a softer voice does that mean you are seen as weak and not a position of authority?

We have found an alternate theory that appears to be the correct theory. Let me explain.

There is a Core Rule we follow called the A to B Rule. This means you want to get your dog to do your goal (B) and your starting point (A) is the easiest version you can get your dog to do.

Dogs won’t do what you want automatically in most cases, they need to be taught through a process.

When you do increase a level of difficulty moving from A to B, since there are often multiple steps to get towards B, a dog will make mistakes. For example a dog can learn to do sit or down in the house no problem but as soon as you go outside they won’t do it at all. Outside they are distracted. It can take a bit before they will focus and listen. Next thing you know the dog is doing great outside.

Then you go to practice sit or down near other dogs or people and your dog is no longer listening. Again the distractions have increased. With practice the dog can start listening around dogs or people. There are many tips to help with that but that would require several different articles to cover that.

Here is where we find saying commands loud or with force comes in. A dog is often trained to do their commands at home with no distractions and once they understand we expect that they should do them anywhere.

So now when you go outside and give a sit or down command and your dog doesn’t listen we think they are being stubborn. This is often where saying the command loudly comes into effect. By saying it loud you will increase the amount the dog listens and to start with they will definitely comply better by saying it loud.

But is it necessary?

The way we set it up: We practice commands in low distraction just like mentioned above. However when we increase distractions we know a dog will make mistakes so we keep saying it in a regular tone of voice and use the other tricks of the trade to get the dog to focus on us. Once they are listening well we then increase distractions again. Same thing, dog stops listening and you go through the same process.

We teach the dog that even if we say the command in a regular voice we will still make them follow through. This teaches them to listen with a regular tone of voice.

To make this even better we use a Super Proofing technique which is a part of the A to B Rule. For this we will start saying the commands in a whisper. Start in low distractions first and work you way up A to B like we did with regular commands. Once a dog listens to whisper commands a regular tone of voice command will seem like a piece of cake.

Where Raising Voice Goes Wrong

By raising your voice when distractions are first increased we start teaching a dog that we will only make them follow through once we raise our voice. To start with they don’t understand what we want anyway. But by raising your voice they get into the habit of only listening when your voice is raised.

This would be similar to the parent you see that always yells at their child and the child eventually tunes them out and the yelling isn’t all that effective.

We were working with a client that we explained this theory to and he laughed and said he raised his kids the same. He said he only raised his voice about 3 times with them when they were younger and he said any time he did they started crying because they knew he really meant business.

We had an incident a few summers back where we had 3 dogs outside and a badger came to the corner of our house. The dogs went running over, badger bit a dog, dog bit the badger back, badger let go. When I saw this I came running outside and yelled “Leave it!” The dogs immediately ran away from the badger. My wife called the dogs in the house and I chased the badger away.

I never raise my voice but when I do the dogs really know to listen. This helps out with safety. Had I always raised my voice the dogs would have thought it was just like any regular day. But since I never do they really know to pay attention.

So there you have my theory on saying commands loud. I have trained numerous dogs to listen in a regular voice or whisper commands with high level distractions. No need to raise a voice.


When distractions are raised a dog will always make mistakes. This means they don’t understand what you want anyway. This is where most people start raising their voice, some start even before this. The dog then gets into the habit of only listening when your voice is raised.

Tip: Only give a command if you can make the dog follow through on the command. The most common place to start yelling commands is when a dog is off-leash and not listening. There are some easy fixes to completely prevent that or fix it if it has become a problem. We cover this in recall training with clients.