October 23, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
42°F

Leader of the Pack

Mel McGrath of Paramount Dog Behavior and Chuck Stella of Elite K-911 share a passion for rehabilitating aggressive dogs. Working from McGrath’s training and rehabilitation facility in Liverpool Township, they’ve rescued about 30 dogs from death row at shelters and turned them into well-adjusted, adoptable pets. Using positive methods of training, they work with owners or offer Doggie Boot Camp for people who love their out-of-control dog but don’t have time to spend on intensive training.

“In Boot Camp, we train and restructure the dog, but the owner must carry through with it,” said Stella.

Aggression issues often arise from lack of exercise, lack of pack structure and too much affection given at the wrong time. Discipline isn’t beating or hitting your dog. It doesn’t understand the human language, but it understands pack structure, they said.

When people get a puppy, it’s so cute they don’t discipline it. In the dog world, as soon as puppies are whelped, mom immediately starts giving them correction, guidance and structure. If the owner doesn’t pick up where mom left off, the pampered puppy soon establishes rank over the owner.

A dog that is play-biting can be compared to a teenager talking back, said McGrath. The dog is following his instinct, and if left uncorrected, it escalates. As soon as puppies can walk, they begin to role-play, bite, wrestle, fight and show a dominance for who gets to eat first. These are rituals that let the pups know where each of them stands in pack rank.

A mother dog keeps her puppies in an area without them wandering off by setting limitations and boundaries, McGrath said. Their life is simple. They follow pack rule. Many dogs are euthanized because of things owners have allowed them to do. Dogs adapt to their environment and will do as much or as little as they’re required to do.

Dogs attending Boot Camp begin with a quarantine period to be sure they have no communicable diseases and to give them time to detox. It’s quiet time for them away from other dogs and stress, especially if they’ve come from a noisy shelter. It’s also time for the trainers to spend time with the dog and evaluate its issues.

Toxic energy that has built up in the dog, can be both physical and psychological, McGrath explained. Physically, it’s usually from lack of exercise, but psychologically it can be negative feelings directed to the dog.

They exercise them, work on obedience training and set the rank, then slowly integrate them into McGrath’s pack of three — bull mastiffs Turbo and Blaze, and Torq, a Doberman. The integration begins with the dog watching interaction between McGrath and his dogs through windows in the training area. While allowed to eat with the pack, he’s given his food after them to establish his lower standing in the pack. In time, he’s walked in the yard on leash, which offers physical and psychological control.

“Nobody trains a dog like another dog,” said McGrath. Putting a dog into a pack with a balanced core brings a dog back to center. It teaches them rank advantage issues just as a mother dog would teach a pup. They are not allowed to run freely with the pack until they have earned the right to do so and know their place within the pack. All the dogs — McGrath’s and the dogs in training — recognize McGrath as the pack leader and respect Turbo, the alpha dog in the pack in his absence.

When a dog or puppy is brought home, the family is its new pack, and the owners must establish themselves as leader of the pack, asserting a firm, calm, energy. Of course we can love and play with our dogs, but they must be treated like children who look to the adults as the leader. Daily exercise and obedience training are extremely important to having a well adjusted dog.

For owners to establish themselves as leader of the pack, the dog must earn everything it desires. Before a pat on the head, going for a walk or a meal, the dog should perform a command, such as sitting. Who goes out the door first may not be important in our world, but in the dog world it shows who the leader is. It’s as simple as establishing pack structure. Owners need to just follow the example of the wild, McGrath advises. “If you lead, they will follow. If you follow, they will lead.”

For more information call:
Chuck Stella — Elite K-911 dog training 440-666-0749
Mel McGrath — Paramount Dog Behavior 330-483-3230
The next Paramount Dog Behavior training seminar on problem solving and pack behavior will be held Nov. 17. Call 440-773-1707 for more information.

Barnosky can be reached via e-mail at petlady@roadrunner.com or by writing The Gazette, 885 W. Liberty St., Medina, 44256.