Chili’s training

Chili trying to make new (female) “friends”

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Let’s talk about my weird choice for the title. First of all I put information about the gender of Chili’s new social contacts. For a while I was in a camp that believes that it’s silly to pay attention to gender of the dogs. Now even as I type this I think it’s a ridiculous statement. How could gender not play a role? Of course I’m not saying now that female dogs hate other females same goes for the males (I encountered this view). But I am saying that a gender of a dog plays a role in interspecies interactions. And in Chili’s case she doesn’t have female friend yet. She can have proper interactions with other females but I haven’t seen something that I would call friendship or sympathy. It’s more in terms of either Chili being afraid of other female (and she is often picked on by them) or being neutral. Salma on the other hand likes female dogs most of her dear friends were medium sized females. She is not to keen on uncastrated males on the other hand (and Chili loves them!).

So, let’s move to the other part of the title, I put word friends in these “”. I did that because it’s difficult for me to describe what Chili did today in one word. Simply said I think she was trying to have a social interaction with two other dogs but was not going about it too succesfully (whats new? 😉 ).

We’ve met two female dogs, one golden retriever 1,5 years old and a village dog from Greece, 4,5 years old. Chili tried activating the retriever, doing her most annoying high pitched bark. I stopped her when she tried that. Why? Because, retriever female was a very soft and low in aggressiveness, and in my opinion she did send enough signals to Chili telling her she doesn’t want this kind of interaction. I used a word first (“ee”) and when it didn’t worked I took Chili on leash. Every time, I also verbally rewarded her whenever she passed by retriever or looked at her but didn’t bark. She was getting the message, but it took few times.

On the other hand when there was a moment when Chili and the other dog got excited by one of the owners and it turned into a disagreement between them I didn’t interfere. I didn’t even though it was loud and full of growling and showing teeth, but I was confident the other female will not get hurt by Chili, she was stronger and more stable than my monster. And also she responded only as strong as necessary, she didn’t escalate the situation but was stopping Chili.

There were also a lot of calm moments between them, just waling together, getting into the water, drinking, sniffing.

I know there is still a long road ahead of me and Chili, and I can only hope that her social skills will get better and she will get more secure without getting aggressive or becoming a bully.





Why do I always carry treats with me

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I always carry treats with me because a) life is unpredictable and b) you never know when a great training opportunity might happen.

I don’t think it is necessary or smart to be always dependent on food during walks but I think it’s good to be prepared to reward a dog for good behavior.

Unpredictable situations:
Just in last few days we had few if those. We had a close encounter with a fox and Chili didn’t even noticed him because I immediately called her to me and asked her to sit, I was rewarding her a lot, I wanted to make sure to keep her full attention as u don’t think it would be safe for her to have a meeting with a fox. And this gave the fox a possibility to walk away without being bothered.
We run into a dog that absolutely hates Chili and I had to quickly put her on the other side of the fence. And while the owner of the other dog tried to call her I was asking Chili to do simple commands to keep her occupied.
Yesterday night we were passing by a huge red cat, and Dutch cats can be very dog aggressive so again I got Chili’s attention and asked her to heal. And again she didn’t even noticed the cat.

Training opportunities:
I think everyday life is filled with them and it’s up to us to incorporate training into daily routine. I like to use parts of walks for simple training. Now additionally I want to work on Chili’s recall which is already pretty good but I want it to be faster and more reliable because in her case it can be very useful around other dogs.

I hate being a stupid owner

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I made a mistake today. I wish I never made stupid mistakes when it comes to dogs, but I’m only human. But man this one was really stupid. I cant even understand why I would do something like it. Chili has been a bit restless lately, I’m not exactly sure why but I have been feeding her more lately (as she lost more weight) and we did go to holiday where she had more exercise. She is also urinating more, marking after other dogs more. Something is definitely up (and yes we are checking if it is not medical). Because she has been restless I decided to take her for a bike ride in the morning. Nothing really crazy, just an of leash run through the park. And that’s where my mistakes takes place. As we were going downhill I saw two dogs in front of us. We’ve met them once before and they rushed at Chili barking and growling. But as we were walking away Chili gained confidence and chased the bigger dog back to its owner, doing a wide bow at the end. Knowing this alone I should turn at all costs. But no, I decided to just past them by, which put Chili in a very bad situation. I forced her to approach them, and they did go for her again (they are a small pinscher and a medium pinscher). And she first got a bit scared but then she got angry, and she run them back to their owner, barked at them and did wide bows in front of them. I had to call her away. She didn’t behave wrong in this situation, but she did behave intensely because she doesn’t have skill do deal with this. And I should never put her in this situation, I set her up to fail, and man it will take time to fix.

Soon enough I realised what will be the immediate consequences. We were walking past by a medium female dog, and Chili stayed next to me and ignored the other dog. But as I turned and got on my back Chili rushed at that dog (that was on the other side of a path) and barked at her. I called her back, immediately. I don’t rise my voice at my dogs but I did use a low tone of voice. She was next to me in a second so I asked her to sit, so I can gather my thoughts. Ok, so walking by dogs is ok but when I’m biking it’s not. My conclusion? Because of the situation with the pinschers earlier she associated me biking and her meeting dogs with a conflict situation or a situation where she is not able to NOT interact with dogs. And I spend months to teach her that she can be safe around other dogs. First of all I made sure I was not on the bike when we saw any dogs, and yes it worked, Chili behaved normally. There was one moment when she saw a dog below a hill and her shoulder blades tensed so I called her to me and asked her to heel. 

We did have another incident but not so negative, surprisingly. As we were heading home, I saw a woman with a young puppy on a path below the hill, but we were moving fast and we were on top so I though we wont meet them. But seconds later puppy was running at us. I managed to get Chili on the leash, she is not very good with puppies, she doesn’t know how to stop them. For a moment I thought the puppy will follow it’s owner and we will be ok, but he was more interested in us them his owner. So I let Chili off leash. Why? Because I don’t think it’s fair to keep her on a leash while another dog is jumping all over her body and her face. And I literally mean jumping. I did say to the owner that they are not playing and that Chili is not good with puppies. But she didn’t walk away. So I sad down. Of course I wouldn’t do this if I thought that Chili can actually hurt the puppy or really scare him. She was displacing him, and trying to get him back to the owner. And she also would stop whenever he stopped. She did get him back to the owner and the owner put him on leash so I called her back. And we waited a bit so the puppy can walk away. But as we continued on our way home I saw that the woman with the puppy is walking back, straight at us. She saw us, and she didn’t put the puppy on leash. I had Chili walking next to me but the puppy run straight at us. And again we Chili went into displacing him, growling (a growl I see often adults dogs do towards puppies), trying to get him back to his owner. She again would stop when he did, and wouldn’t start chasing him. She only replied whenever he jumped at her. And I think that she did very well. As soon as the puppy went to the owner and didn’t chase Chili she walked away. And as we were walking away I saw the puppy running up to other dogs and being growled at some more.

I wish I didn’t make that mistake with the bike today, and many many others. But I will do my best to stay positive, and focus on ways to work on it. Chili is still work in progress and I’m still learning who she is, and she is learning too. Trying out different strategies, testing her environment. I feel like we are getting into yet another phase, a phase where she is more confident and more independent. Fair enough she haven’t really gone through a typical puberty so I guess I deserve this now 😉


On a journey to adulthood

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I see rising a dog as a journey, a long one. Salma was around 2 years old when she started to behave like a mature dog but it still took a year for her behaviour (especially towards other dogs to settle), and she did become a lot more confident in a past year. Now I feel that we know each other well, I know what I can expect from her. But the most importantly I trust her fully when it comes to interactions with other dogs. I know she is very skilled, and confident so she knows when to participate in interactions. She prefers to avoid conflict and uses running as a way of getting rid of some dogs, especially adolescent and puppies, at the same time she is not afraid of confrontation with dogs that are pushy or bully other dogs. She will displace the, and she will not let them displace her. Salma was really scared of dogs when she was young, she was separated from her mom at 4 weeks and didn’t have a good dog role model while growing up. I worked on her as well as I could, but put too much pressure for her to have contact with dogs, and for a while she was obsessed with meeting other dogs. From the beginning she was more interested in her environment than working with people, so when dogs came into play I was probably the least interesting thing on the menu. Back then I was really into clicker training, and training in general and I was missing the knowledge to see our relationship as something more complex than positive reinforcement. And don’t get me wrong I really loved her and I think she loved me, and we did have fun together I was just too focused on training my dog and not focused enough on helping her become a well adjusted adult. Slowly, my attitude changed and I become more interested in dog communication, and focused more on just being a unit with Salma. I remember the switch, how I felt that now we are a group going together for a walk and not just dog and a owner. And Salma is just a wonderful dog. Yes she has issue with chasing trains (which she doesn’t do but would love to) and rabbits and she is a bit emotional when she gets excited. But she is so cool and sweet. I was very lucky to find her. And she must have good genes as her sister is also very skilled in interactions with dogs.

Funny enough this post was supposed to be about Chili. But I guess most posts are, as she is still work in progress and I’m still trying to figure her out. 

She is a year and 10 months old now and far from being an adult. I see changes in her behaviour after we came back from Communication Classes, she is more confident and more interested in other dogs. I let her explore her personality and learn how to interact. Because she is a bit more outgoing those last two weeks, I interfere and protect her less. I see it this way if she is hiding behind me when a dog comes by that dog is not getting to her, because I need her to feel safe with me. On the other hand if she approaches a dog herself and that dog chases her away or scares her I don’t interfere. I want her to learn that her behaviour has consequences and to pay attention to the body language of other dogs. On the other hand I don’t think she is ready to deal with unstable dogs so I do make sure (as much as possible) that we avoid those. 

Salma during the communication classes

Proactive dog owner- working on a problem that didn’t occur yet

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Two or three days ago I’ve noticed that Chili started to pay attention to people approaching us in the park. Not, all people and not every time but on several occasions when she noticed someone she stopped and looked. Her mouth was closed and she her body was stiff. It didn’t last long but it made me concerned. She is fearful of strangers but in a manageable way. Which means she ignores most people and if someone tries to make contact with her she walks away. She is good with joggers and people biking which I reinforced by rewarding her every time someone was passing by. She didn’t have any unpleasant situation involving humans for a very long time (and the ones she had were not very traumatic, by which I mean that for example someone tried to pet her). We did have a bit of a stressful weekend because we went to a seminar after which we had a bit of car accident (nothing serious but definitely scary for Chili). Though I think that I noticed change in her behaviour towards strangers before the seminar.

Regardless of what caused this change which might seem tiny right now I need to take actions in order to prevent bigger change for the worse in the future. As a dog owner you always have to anticipate things, but especially if you have a fearful or aggressive dog. 

So far whenever it happened (and by “it” I mean Chili staring at people) I tried to distract her and reward her for looking at me. I don’t like the fact that I wrote “tried to distract” because normally Chili reacts with a speed of light, which can mean that she was really trying to figure out if those people are a treat or not. Additionally she does seem more skittish on the walks those last few days.

I found a very nice article about counter conditioning and desensitisation on Kyren Pryor’s Clicker Training page ( It gave me a nice inspiration to work with Chili, I will use “open bar/ closed bar” technique which in Chili’s case will mean that I will start rewarding her as soon as she sees a person approaching and I will stop (bar will close) when the person has passed.  





Little (huge) annoying bitch ;)

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I’ve been sick for over a week now and maybe Chili just doesn’t have enough exercise but I think she is going through another puberty phase.
Two weeks ago or so Jochem told me that he is worried about their bond, whether it’s actually there or is she being with him just for food. It has been two weeks since I was on a proper walk with her and it is difficult for me to say if her behavior in changing.
I do see changes at home. She is bagging Salma again. She is standing over her, trying to activate her while they are walking next to each other in the apartment. Also I think there is an element of control there and I do my best to stop it. For example I don’t let Chili stand over Salma when I’m petting Salma because that would make her leave and I think this might be what Chili wants. She started grabbing my hands again but that might be because I did hold her by her collar when she was trying to go to Salma. Ideally she should let us grab her collar and hold but that’s something to train her to do and with all other problems with Chili we didn’t do it. Which actually should have been one of the first things.
I also saw a bit of decrease in her motivation for training which might be also caused by many repetitions of the same exercise or by my physical state.
I do feel that she is more rebellious in recent days. She is almost 13 months now and can be going into yet another stage of puberty. A lot of dogs get given up to shelters around that time. People think that dog which is over year old should be an adult already but it’s not the case, especially with big dogs.
In this difficult time we need to stay strong and consistent making sure we reinforce rules Chili was taught earlier. She will be tasting us and Salma now and it’s our job to show her that she might be moody and annoyed but certain rules always apply.
Additionally we need to start working on a new behavior. Jochem had an unpleasant situation this morning. As he said hi to a Muslim girl on a street Chili jumped in her direction. She didn’t reach the girl bit caused her a lot of fear non the less. Based on her previous behavior I think she reacted to the greeting and wanted to come in contact with the girl (she is used to people petting her on the street and do far she liked it). However her intentions don’t really matter as much as the fact that any dog (and especially dog this size) should come up to people by itself. We will train Chili to always sit if we are talking to someone and come into contact with a person only after looking at us and hearing a right command for greeting. The same will be done with other dogs. If she is on a leash she will firs have to sit, look and us and wait for command before she can greet a dog. We will do the same with Salma in order to make walking with them together more orderly.
First I have to get better cause I can’t train that from the couch 😦


Chili goes to school

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It seems that we finally have a good dog school in our neighborhood so we decided to check it out and sign our girls for courses. Of course before making any decisions we went to see a class at this school. I wanted to see how they train and how is the atmosphere. Of course I would have few comments (such as allowing puppies to hang on collars in order to reach other puppies but it’s easy to see it while watching from a side) but overall I was very happy with what I saw and a conversation with the owner of the school made me even more confident. We immediately signed up Salma for recall class which starts this Saturday. With Chili decision was a bit more complicated as she never went to actual obedience course but she knows few commands. As it happens they are pretty much exactly what dogs are taught in the basic course. On the other hand trainer (and we) wanted to see if she will be able to work in a presence of other dogs.
We went for a try out class last week. She was definitely very excited and there were few moments when she payed more attention to the environment that to me and Jochem (for her it is very unusual for Salma it was standard behavior when we started training). First we were asked to show if she can heel, and do it using a clicker. I was a bit clumsy as it has been long since I was teaching something with a clicker. Chili was jumping at me and biting her leash every time she didn’t understand what I want from her. On the other hand she was awesome with the trainer. She aced sit and stay and lay down and stay. We got a green light to go for a more advanced class: obedience 1. I’m confident Chili has skills to learn pretty much anything that is physically possible for her as long as there is food involved. But at the same time I am a bit concerned about her emotions. I will have to watch her carefully during our classes to see if it’s not too much for her. She was also jumping at the trainers when we were talking as she never jumps at strangers I’m even more inclined to put it down on stress.