Logan – part 4 – lots of progress


I’ll get back to some of the history of my time with Logan over the next few blogs but today I thought I’d share some of the good stuff we have been working on.

If you have been following the videos I have been putting up on both Facebook and YouTube you will have an idea of some of the things we have been learning together. (search Glasgow Dog Trainer on both platforms to find them).

His over enthusiasm for the rubber toy/kong gets in the way with him thinking. I need a thinking dog rather than a reacting dog (I know everyting he does is reacting to stimuli but I think you know what I mean), in order for him to have the best life he can. If I can get him into the thinking part of his brain, his stress levels will come down (cortisol, adrenaline, heart rate, blood pressure) which live lead to a longer, healthier life.

With that in mind here is what we have been working on, in no specific order

  1. Chasing the kong
  2. Catching the kong
  3. Letting me take it from him
  4. Dropping it
  5. Giving it up
  6. Letting me throw it while he remains stationary
  7. Searching for it while the kong is stationary
  8. Allowing me to through out multiple kongs while stationary
  9. Searching and retrieving multiple kongs one after another (we can get 7 in a row)
  10. Dropping one kong while retrieving in order to chase another
  11. Breaking off the chase of one kong to get another (this one is difficult but we are having some progress with it.
  12. Taking other reinforcement (food) in the presence of kongs (also a difficult one for him)

Without knowledge, this may look as if we are just playing with kongs in different ways but I am teaching him the rules of cuing, reinforcement, self control, body awareness and movement, reinforcement (immediate and delayed, which rolls into self control), building resilience and recovery and I’m sure some other stuff which I haven’t yet identified.

Today we had some good success with number 11. I tossed out one kong, and released him to get it, then immediately called him and threw out another one which he went for instead.

To give you an idea, this has taken tonnes of short sessions, at most 20 minutes, which I do a few times a week. I will talk about what happens of you try to teach him too many new things in too short a period over the coming articles.

Thanks for reading as ever, we had a good day today.

Too cute to teenwolf; what happened to my dog?!

In this series of blogs, Gillian, who is one of the Glasgow Dog Trainer Team, will share with you her experience of raising and dealing with a large, intact male dog through adolescence.q

Dan Coyle wrote “struggle is not an option, it is a biological requirement” and I read it at the time sagely nodding along. How odd for it to fall completely out of my head the minute my dog’s adolescence struck.

Strike it did. One minute we were off lead together on the beaches, in woodland, mountains and dells, every creature in the world his friend and me the centre of it. Days later the following text exchange with my Trainer took place.

Me: “Quillan ran off and attacked another dog. Sat by the River Kelvin and can’t stop crying”

John: “why is he crying?” (not a trace of irony from the man)

Whilst no harm occurred in either animal (the whole thing bluster), that day marked the beginning of a period that has really challenged, saddened, frustrated, and isolated us both at times.

It didn’t get better quickly either. Despite reassurance that all of my prep work in puppyhood was making this much easier than it could’ve been, and having the support of an excellent, experienced trainer on top of his game, it has been so tough. It’s helped me hugely with empathising when looking at clients with troubled/reactive/adolescent dogs, and gives me the confidence to know they will get through it.

Here is what it looked like – in the following installments I’ll detail what I did to address each issue, and what I think we did in puppyhood that helped prep for the success we are finally enjoying together.

So – Bye bye to that lovely connection and recall…heellloo selective hearing and disappearing.

The testosterone surges and dear lord, the humping.

His little husky sing song changed to back chat and barking. LOUDLY, and everywhere.

His puppy license expired – his high school jock behaviour with other dogs was no longer tolerated, which led to conflict with most other dogs – he didn’t seem to learn from this.

He forgot many of his previous skills – settling, various behaviours he usually offered generously, tricks, loose lead walking; all gone.

He became much more socially selective and less tolerant of people and dogs.

He aggressed towards most dogs on lead, even at distance, lunging, growling, barking.

His preferred play style changed and he also became physically rougher with me in play.

The most valuable sentence I heard during this period, which I repeat like a mantra on the bad days we sometimes still have is “Your dog is not giving you a hard time. Your dog is having a hard time”. Keep it and use it. It’s authentic and it grounded me each time.

There’s so much we can do with empathy and gentleness that will yield the results you want at the end, whilst crucially; not making it worse, breaking your trust in each other or damaging your relationship. Kindness will win. Thanks for reading.


Logan – part 3 – tugging insanity

John & Logan Lo Res-25

Tugging and swapping toys (the picture is fairly recent, we have a our tug games going well). This was one of the first things I worked on with him. The usual strategies of swapping one toy for another weren’t working initially; he wanted them both, got them both and wouldn’t give either of them back as I’ve mentioned in part 2. However, we are slaves to our our reinforcement history and this has always worked in the past so I persevered (this is a set of behaviours we label as stubborn; we must look at both sides of the human-dog relationship). As a result, he would either have both toys or he would have one while dragging me about trying to get the other one. Johhny, covered in sweat and grass stains, Logan worked up to 50,000 feet again.

Next strategy, which was suggested by a very experienced trainer; the theory – put the tug on a long line, let him have it and then tug on the line to give him his game. He would then start to bring it back to me if I gave him slack. The reality – Logan is on two leads (harness and collar, see part 1), now I have the toy on a line to handle too. The result – in his giant terrier head shaking madness, both leads, the line and the toy are all wrapped round his head, my legs and his mouth. I also discovered during this event that he also likes to chew through ropes (yes, I know, this is information he could have given me prior to these genius human ideas – the dog knows best).

You may be asking why I didn’t just stop playing tug with him. The answer has a few layers. Firstly, he’s a bulldog and it’s in his genetics, he needs to tug. Not allwoing him to tug would be the equivalent of not giving hearding dogs an outlet for hearding or a sighthound the opportunity to run. He needs it. Secondly, he was still in boarding kennels and needed some outlet for his energy which I was doing my best to provide. Thirdly, I was trying to build some sort of bond with him based on shared, mutually enjoyable behaviours.

Now, I’d like you to imagine what this all looks like. The humour in it doesn’t escape me and I did my best to keep a sense of humour about this but the reality was the boy is really struggling to cope and in distress. So, again, back to the drawing board!

Logan – part 2


The first time I took him to a public park, he was as far removed from the big relaxed dope in this picture. His face and head was engorged with blood, his breathing was really heavy, his coat was waxy, dander coming off his skin, pupils dilated. He was basically a big stressed out mess. Part of the issue was that he was in kennels and kennels can be extremely stressful for dogs (can be, not always)

He was a master and backing out of his harness and collar ( I had leads attached to both) pulled like a train, dug in and trashed if you tried to move him a way he didn’t want to go.

I thought I good way to get rid of or tap off some of his energy would be to play tug with him. I had two new pullers (hard, purple plastic rings). I offered him one which he pulled out of my hand immediately (I am relatively well versed in tug games with big dogs, or so I thought) and trashed it around his head like a terrier doing a kill shake. I offered him the other one to see if he would let go of the first. He did but as soon as I went to pick the first one up, he grabbed that back too and now was in a big frantic mess to possess both of them.

Fortunately, although he is possessive of toys, he only want to hold them in his mouth or under his body. He willaccpet you touching his face and body, but her turn and moves away if you try to touch the toy.

After much energy and sweat from both of us, I finally managed to get both the toys from him. This took about 40 minutes. Back to the car and back to the drawing board!

Logan, the new boy

John & Logan Lo Res-18

I first saw this dog early last summer. He was being cared for by a small animal rescue which I occassionally do work for. Anthony who works at the kennels, brought him out for me to have a look at, as there were several issues he had which was going to make him difficult to rehome, one of which was his fixation on pieces of wood and branches which were lying on the ground. As soon as I saw him I realised he was going to be challenging, all 28 kilo American Bulldog sinew and muscle. I took him around the grounds and tried everything I know in order to get some level of focus, calmess and engagement from him. It did not go well. I knew at that moment that he was going to be a long term project and that I needed to  make some arrangements in order to bring him home, at least temporarily.

What I found when working with this dog is that everything I would ordinarily do either would not work, or there was a reason I needed to rule it out. The last 6 months have been a huge learning curve for both of us and I have made loads of mistakes in the process.

Over the next while, I will do my best to share aspects of training Logan and what I have learned in the process.

I hope you will enjoy reading abiut him as much as I am enjoying training him.

Clicker Training – Reinforcement Strategies

Clicker training – Reinforcement strategies

In the first clip, Nero the Rottweiler at 17 weeks, is working with Pamela on being with her in the presence of things which would ordinarily compete for his attention i.e. other dogs, people, squirrels etc. We are looking to develop engagement and connection between Nero and Pamela. In this environment, we limit his options of what behaviour to offer next, once the reinforcement is delivered. The food reinforce is delivered to him in front of Pamela; this way, he has a limited number of options, he is more likely to be successful at re-connection earning him his click and treat – very reinforcing.

In the second clip, we are working with Stanley, the 1 year old Dachshund. We are working with Stanley to build confidence and have started by reinforcing the decision to connect and come towards Yvonne. Clicker training is very effective for dogs that lack confidence.

We are looking to reinforce the decision, and as such we want to adjust our reinforcement strategy to allow some more variety in his behaviour. To this end, we place the reinforcement (food treat) away from Stanley after each click. Stanley then has more options. He can sniff around, go for a wander, come back to mum etc. If Stanley chooses not to reconnect, this gives us valuable information. Perhaps there is something in the environment he needs to pay attention too or maybe we need to change our behaviour e.g reinforcement strategy, body position

Different reinforcement strategies for different dogs, in different situations, teaching different skills and behaviours with different goals in mind.

Follow us and we will do our best to keep you up to date with Nero and Stanley’s progress and for more information on this style of training.

We have an introduction to clicker training workshop coming up this weekend


We’d love to see you there.

Some advice for dog trainers from Steve Mann – part 3 – group classes

Steve is the founder of the Institue of Modern Dog Trainers which I am honoured to be a member of. I joined the IMDT 4 years ago and am now in the very fortunate position for help with training the new trainers who attned courses and assist with assessing prospective new members. It’s one of the highlights of my year working with the IMDT team.


Start of the Group Class

…On arrival, each owner/dog gets a 7-10 metre long line and goes for a ‘mooch’
A Mooch.
It makes no sense to try and ‘hit the ground running’ as soon as the dogs/owners come into the class environment. It’s not fair, it’s unnecessary pressure, and it’s just plain silly!
Regardless of standard, I’ll normally start a class with a good 5-10 minute mooch.
Long line on the dog, have a wander, say nothing to the dog.
If your dog needs to sniff, cool, let ‘em.
If they need to look around so they can settle into the environment, good for them, it’s what they need to do, don’t get in the way. (comfort beats obedience, every time)
We tell the owners to say nothing to the dog for a minute or two. Too many classes start with opposing motivations as:-
 a) the dog has to acclimatise to the environment but
 b) the Trainer tells the owner to try and get the dog’s attention.
This can only result in:-
a)    Conflict
b)    Frustration ( for all 3 parties; dog, owner, Trainer)
c)     A lesser standard being reinforced because the owner just becomes grateful for ‘anything’ from the dog.
d)    The dog learning to ignore the constant repetition of her name or cues.
Imagine walking into a buzzing nightclub with lasers, dancers, jugglers, the opposite sex, THE OPPOSITE SEX!….and the second you walk through the doors your friend Ryan is immediately asking you the same questions you’ve already answered in the car, or trying to get you to do ‘that-funky-new-handshake-you’ve-previously-been-working-on-together-at-home”, don’t let your owners in class be like Ryan. He’s weird.
Chill out.
We ask the owners to say nothing to the dog for the first 2 -3 minutes, then when they DO say something out of the blue eg: “COME!” they immediately feed the dog then say ‘off you go’ and continue to say nothing to the dog.
Then we have:-
a)    No frustration for any of the 3 parties
b)    Success to build upon
c)     No conflict for the dog. It’s a win/win. Allowed to investigate the environment AND get food from the monkey!
d)    The dog is learning that 100% of the time a cue comes from the owner’s mouth, it’s 100% good news (not 99% Charlie Brown’s Teacher yadda yada )
After a few reps of – nothing —–“come!”= food —– nothing —– “come!’= food—–nothing…
We find the dog’s are not so interested in wandering away from mum/dad, (they’ve settled into the environment now) but tend to hang around their owners, looking up at them as if to say “go on, go on, ask me to do something, go on..!” NOW you’re ready to crack on, your instruments are tuned up and ready to go.
A mooch is similar to hearing the orchestra pit tuning up, it often doesn’t start pretty, but is essential if you’re planning to deliver the best product you can.
A mooch is also a nice way to start as it gives you a chance to wander around and catch up with each individual owner, if only to say “Hi” or “You’ve brought your cat by mistake” that kinda thing.
If you’re a control freak (and you are, you’re a Dog Trainer!), you can have a few ‘mooch rules’ but my advice is to try and not make it too prescriptive as then you’re in danger of setting the owner (and therefore the dog) for a success/fail, good/bad start to the class, no need.
Potential mooch rules:-
-Keep a nice slack lead
-As long as it’s safe, follow the dog (unless you’ve just said ‘come!’)
-only stop/stand still if the dog starts to run or you’ve got to the end of your long line (slow the dog by ‘padding’ the lead, no need for abrupt halts)
-only say ‘come!’ every 2-3 minutes, nothing else.
Once you’ve done a few reps of ‘come!’/feed,  and you can see the dog’s voluntarily ‘checking-in’ with their owners, now you can change it up…
Suggest to the owners, “carry on with your mooch, but rather then saying ‘come!’ wait, see if your dog checks- in with you. If they do, say “good!” jog backwards a little and treat the dog when they get to you. (you’re ‘jogging backwards’ to add a little animation and therefore focus to the exercise. Another layer of interest can be rather than putting the food into the dog’s mouth, as the dog runs towards the owner, have the owner toss the food behind them* (or between their own legs (funky!) to keep the dog’s acceleration nice and high )
*be careful though, we once had a guy tied up with the long line like a rodeo calf by his exuberant Dogue De Bordeaux and as far as we know, he’s still there now
Now everyone’s in, everyone’s settled, everyone’s mooched and everyone’s happy.
We can begin ……