"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume II - Issue 5:  February 6, 2004
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...

=>  Just Visiting? Please Subscribe Here.  ->
=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  The Alpha Role in the Family Pack - Part 2
=>  Breed of the Week - Basset Hound
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  The Vet Bill

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Christopher's Drool

Hi Folks!

Well I am finally over the cold and sleeping normal! Thank goodness. I don't think I could have dealt with another week of it. I know, poor baby. I'll quit my whining now.

There is a disturbing trend that has developed recently in many cities around the States and in a couple of other countries as well. Many municipalities are banning certain breeds from their city limits and/or requiring the existing ones be sterilized. Of course, at the top of the list are the Pit Bull and Rottweiler.

The problem with this is these breeds aren't on the top of the list as far as number of bites that actually occur annually. They have bitten people, there's no dispute about that. People have died as a result of their bite. Can't dispute that either. Here are some other dogs that have bitten people resulting in death since 1975:

Golden Retriever
Labrador Retriever
Australian Shepherd
Chesapeke Bay Retriever
Cocker Spaniel
Lhasa Apso

Kind of surprising, isn't it? There are several other breeds on the list. Will they then too be banned in our cities and towns for something that, more often than not, was the result of improper breeding and lack of owner responsibility?

You know whose fault it is, though? Ours. First, by voting for ignorant politicians that don't do their homework before the try to pass ordinances or legislation. Then sitting back idly while they do it. They are there to serve us, and we need to make sure they know this and are informed when they attempt to pass prejudice-based legislation into law.

Second: accountability. We are quick to blame the breed rather than the owner. When we buy dogs, we take on the responsibility to raise and train them in a manner that makes them loving family members and good citizens within the community. When we get a dog we must follow through and do our homework. We must select breeds that are appropriate for us, and get any assistance necessary to ensure the dog lives up to it's potential.

Any dog is capable of causing extreme injury to human beings. There is no "safe" breed. We must not punish the breed and attempt to "exterminate" one simply because some of the owners of these breeds are idiots. Through proper and appropriate legislation and owner responsibility we can protect the public and limit the number of dog bites that occur. If we get in the habit of killing off and banning breeds we will be setting a frightening trend.

Just my two cents worth.

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Okay folks, I'm out of here. Have a great week and keep the questions and comments coming. They are all appreciated.



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(Letter repeated for Part 2)

Mr. Aust,

We have been experiencing a problem with our dog recently regarding his aggression. He has been formally trained and does well with his commands and basic obedience. The problem is he has become aggressive towards all the other family members when they come home, or, at least, for the first twenty minutes or so.

We have two children that the dog absolutely loves to play wit,h and he even becomes stand-offish with them when they first get home from school. He doesn't seem to mind if he wakes and everyone is home in the morning, only when they come home during the day. My husband is the Alpha and I am the Provider. The kids are his buddies and playmates. I do tend to let him get away with more than the rest and sneak him little treats now and then.

We have followed all the instructions of our trainer regarding the pack and our roles. We have also reinforced his training consistently. He has never been spanked and the worst he ever gets is a loud “halt” when he is doing something wrong. Why is our beloved dog turning into a demon?

Atlanta GA.

The Alpha Role in the Family Pack - Part 2

Last week we talked about the roles of a dog in the pack and how and why they progress through the different positions of the pack. I'm not going to repeat everything we talked about last week, but instead would like to show how some of the actions we take as loving dog owners can act against the natural instincts of a dog, and make them believe they hold a higher position than they should.

The Games We Play

When I got my new cordless drill, I was "possessed" with the strong desire and internal need to use it on every surface I could find that was in desperate need of a hole. A few weeks later, as I was repairing all of these aesthetic necessities, I wondered at my thought process when I was creating all of this "decorative art." I finally came to the conclusion it was nothing more than I loved my drill and wanted to use it NOW, without regard for the long-term consequences of my actions.

Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, this is the same mindset many have with the arrival of a new dog in our house. We allow certain behaviors to occur because we are either afraid to direct the dogs behavior too quickly, or maybe, because it simply gives us pleasure. Some of these things we do will have no long-term effects, but some can lead to truly detrimental behavior that will makes us nuts later.

Biting and Chewing

This behavior is more common in puppies than it is in adult dogs. I am talking about when a dog chews on our hands and feet and not furniture. The act of chewing on us has a very different meaning to a dog than chewing on furniture means to the dog. In the wild, puppies are allowed to chew on and "attack" their elders as this is a survival necessary skill. It teaches the puppies to hunt for food and protect themselves.

When a dog enters a family pack, the responsibility and need for them to learn to hunt and protect is taken over by the family members. By allowing this behavior to continue, we are teaching the dog it is acceptable behavior and the dog, if it is allowed to continue, will believe he is dominate to the human as he knows instinctively this would never be allowed in the wild.

A puppy's desire to bite and chew is necessary and should be allowed on chew toys. It builds strength in their jaw and helps promote the growth and strength of adult teeth. Let them dominate the toy, but not the human family members.

Feeding "Human" Food

Feeding our dogs from the table, or our own plate, is a great way to make our dog believe they are dominant over us. Dogs instinctively know there is an order in which the pack is allowed to eat. In the wild, the Alpha's eat first, then mothers and then the lower ranking members are allowed to eat. Allowing your dog to eat with you, or eat your food, elevates their pack position to that of an equal. This is, of course, unacceptable.

For this reason, I never allow dogs to eat my food, and I regulate the amount and type of food my dogs are given. I also control the time they get fed and length of time they are allowed to eat. I do this from day one to establish a feeding pattern and schedule the dog is never allowed to deviate from. This doesn't mean the dog always has to eat after you do. It does mean they need to be fed at the same time each day and their food source is consistent from day to day.

By controlling the food, you maintain the Alpha role in a way the dog knows is instinctively correct. They may not like it, but they will know it is correct and will respect your position. It's kind of like not letting your kid eat a bunch of candy just before bed. They may not like it but ...

The Chase and Tag "Games"

Tag is a game that's usually played by the children of the family pack with the dog. This is where the person runs from the dog and the dog pursues and attempts to bite and hold onto the individual they are pursuing. Often, the dog is then pursued by the child which, if you have ever chased a dog know, can be a futile task.

Either game gives the dog a dominant role over the human. If the dog chases the person and catches them, the dog has become dominant over the person and has won the game. If the person chases the dog and the dog gets away, the dog has again won the game and thus, in the dogs mind, become dominant or assumed an Alpha role. You are better off to play fetch and love him up vigorously when they return with the ball.

Sharing Your Bed

In wild dog packs there is structure in everything, including who sleeps where. In almost all instances the Alphas of the pack will sleep in separate areas from the rest of the pack. When a dog is allowed to sleep with the Alphas, it gives them monumental status with the rest of the pack they will not readily give up. It is a position of "royalty" so to speak.

When we allow our dogs to sleep in our bed, we are elevating their status enormously and it really shouldn't be allowed. It can cause aggression and dominance over others that share our bed as the dog is not going to readily give up or share this status. It's fine for them to sleep in our room, but the bed should be off limits to the dog.

Often people tell me their dogs that sleep in the bedroom, attempt to join in during "relations" or even become aggressive towards their partner. First off, gross. Second, if you love your dog like a child and allow them in the room during times of intimacy, are you then going to allow your human children in as spectators? I think not, so please spare me the, "I can't kick them," out speech.

For dogs, sex is a matter of survival and only occurs when conception with their mate is possible. Therefore, when they see you "breeding," they are merely attempting to help the pack survive. Then again, maybe what they are really trying to say is, "COULD YOU TWO GET A ROOM!"


This is so important and is one of the keys to shaping our dogs behavior. Any time we allow our dog to ignore the rules or don't make them follow our commands, they are exhibiting dominance over us. For this reason, we must always follow through with the rules and commands we make. If we don't enforce the rules, they gain more with each occurrence, and we lose our own status and position within the family pack.

Have you ever been to the house of a friend, who has kids - where the kid is misbehaving? The parent tells them, "Johnny if you do that again, I'm sending you to your room." Little Johnny does the same thing again and the parent says "Johnny, do it again and you are going to your room." Johnny again repeats the same action and the parent goes, "I mean it!"

If you set a rule or teach a command, it must be followed the first time the dog is told. If we give it over and over before we intercede, then we are conditioning the dog to believe they don't have to listen to us until we say something the third or forth time. When we allow the dog to decide when and where they respond to our commands, we are relinquishing a portion of our Alpha role.

Redirecting the Behavior and Habits

Remember, they are DOGS!

You've all heard me say this. They are dogs; treat them like it. The biggest disservice we can do to our dogs is treating them like they are human beings. This doesn't mean you don't love them; in fact, it is quite the contrary. If you truly love your dog you will treat him like what he is.

If you are already doing the things mentioned above, simply stop. Don't feed them from the table, let them sleep in your bed, chase your dog or allow them to sit on the furniture. If they don't like it, that's tough. You are the Alpha and you make the rules. Your dog is there to contribute to the pack and will be happy to do so once he understands the rules.

Will the dog like it? Probably not at first, but he'll get over it. In wild dog packs, some dogs lose their position for one reason or another. They know they must adapt in order to serve the greater good and do just that. If sleeping in your bed is the problem, then put the dog in another room for the night, where they can't gain access to your bed. If they whine and cry - too bad. It's for the greater good.

Don't allow the puppy eyes and cries to affect you. Remember, they are crying because they aren't getting what they want. It's just a little tough love that is necessary to maintain proper pack order and protocol. The dog will get over it and settle into his position. They won't harbor resentments, and hate you. In fact, they will appreciate and respect you more as a result. Their confidence will increase and they will be more responsive and obedient to your commands.

The option is to live with a dog that rules the house and creates turmoil. You will have to learn to deal with snapping and growling, chewed furniture, having your food stolen and a total lack of control. In the words of Dr. Phil, "How's that working for ya?"

This article may be republished using the following attribution box:
Copyright ©2004 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
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You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, "My God your RIGHT! I NEVER would have thought of that!"

~ Dave Barry ~


Basset Hound: Sarah

This is one of my favorite breeds. The Bassets' lazy looks are contradictory to their actual personalities. While they do love a good snooze in the afternoon sun, they are also high-energy working dogs, able to stay focused on a task and work for hours on end.

The Basset is a direct descendent of the Bloodhound and was first presented at the Paris Dog Show in 1863. While this is where they were first presented, they have been around for a couple hundred years before this event. The name comes from the French word for "low." There is no definitive record of how the dog was "shortened" to present it's current configuration. Shakespeare described the Basset Hound with the following poetic image: "Ears which sweep away the morning dew."

Its popularity spread to England where a lively dispute arose between two factions of breeders: those who wanted to keep the Basset Hound a hunting dog, and those who wanted to transform it into a companion dog. Situated between these two factions were the American breeders who proceeded to develop an extremely pleasing companion dog without sacrificing any of the qualities of the hunter.

The Basset has a large head and prominent snout leading to a well-defined nose at the end. The muzzle should be parallel to the skull and not upturned. The ears should be long, loose, extremely soft and reach to the end of the nose as a minimum. They should easily fold and not appear rigid.

The teeth should be large, well defined, meet in a scissor bite and not be seen when the dog's mouth is closed. The upper "lips" should hang loosely covering the teeth and lower section of the jowls. The eyelids should sag slightly, however, the pink inner lid should not be visible or prominent. The eye color can vary from a golden to dark brown in color and should be free from drainage.

Their deep and powerful chest should be pronounced and well defined. Their chest should be barrel shaped and extend well into the body. This is necessary for them to be able to support their shape and weight. The paws are big and the hindquarters are round. Dewclaws may be removed. The dogs gait should be almost graceful with deliberate placement of their steps, despite the way their looks may make one assume.

Their coat should be short and slightly course in its texture. They are minor shedders and require minimal brushing and bathed only when necessary. The coat comes in variations of white with brown, red, chestnut lemon and black. There are not any hard fast rules regarding color, however, tri-colored dogs seem to be the preference.

The Basset is sweet, gentle, devoted, and peaceful, however, they can become a dominant dog despite what many breeders will tell you. While it is not a character attribute for the Basset, they can become aggressive if they are cornered or feel they or their family, are in danger. They make wonderful dogs for families as they are tolerant of children and adapt to the arrival of new families readily.

As a result of their calm nature and dedication to their owner, they are very easy to train as a companion or as a working dog. Love and affection should be their only reward for good behavior and proper responses during training for a couple of reasons. First, they are affection mongers. They enjoy being loved on and petted more than just about anything. They also have a tendency to become over weight, so food should never be used as a reward.

The dog ranges in height from 11-16 inches (28-39cm) and weigh from 60-80 pounds (27-33kg). Due to their tendency to be overweight, they should be kept a little skinnier than other breeds. If they become over weight it may become more than their legs and spine can handle because of their physical make-up. This can lead to lameness, paralysis and extreme back problems.

As a result of their zest for food, they should be given two smaller meals a day rather than one big one. Basset Hounds will do okay in an apartment but really do need a yard where they can run and get lots of exercise. If they are not given the required exercise, they can become destructive and bored easily. They also need a plentitude of exercise due to their naturally slow metabolism.

The breed has few genetic defects when bred properly. They are prone to eye infections, ear infections and hip and back problems, however, these issues can be avoided with simple preventative steps. They have a life expectancy of eleven to fourteen years.

The Basset Hound is one of my top ten favorites. They are wonderful family dogs that are small without seeming so. They are easy to care for, gentle in nature and amusing little clowns. Monitor their diet and exercise and this breed will give you years of dedicated love and companionship.

Have a breed you would like to see featured in the newsletter? Give me a holler and we'll get it featured as soon as possible.


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Joke of the Week

(This is corny, but always cracks me UP!)

The Vet Bill

A man runs into the vet's office carrying his dog, screaming for help. The vet rushes him back to an examination room and has him put his dog down on the examination table.

The vet examines the still, limp body and after a few moments tells the man that his dog, regrettably, is dead. The man, clearly agitated and not willing to accept this, demands a second opinion.

The vet goes into the back room and comes out with a cat and puts the cat down next to the dog's body. The cat sniffs the body, walks from head to tail poking and sniffing the dog's body and finally looks at the vet and meows.

The vet looks at the man and says, "I'm sorry, but the cat thinks that your dog is dead, too."

The man is still unwilling to accept that his dog is dead so the vet brings in a black Labrador Retriever. The Lab sniffs the body, walks from head to tail, and finally looks at the vet and barks.

The vet looks at the man and says, "I'm sorry, but the Lab thinks your dog is dead, too."

The man, finally resigned to the diagnosis, thanks the vet and asks how much he owes. The vet answers, "$650."

"$650 to tell me my dog is dead?" exclaimed the man ...

"Well," the vet replies, "I would only have charged you $50 for my initial diagnosis. The additional $600 was for the cat scan and lab test.

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Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2004 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies

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