Socialization, Training and Subordination Exercises

I believe that the single most important aspect to the success of living with a Livestock Guardian Dog is for the dogs to understand that the humans are ultimately in charge. It is also quite important that would be Akbash Dog owners have a better than average degree of understanding of canine behavior when communicating with their dog. Not only is it important that you understand the subtleties of body language in the canine, but you must raise that puppy in a way that the dog understands that the humans in this dog- human group or "pack" are making the major decisions. This must be presented to the puppy right from the start in a clear, firm, fair and consistent manner.

Akbash Dogs have been bred for centuries to evaluate a situation, and make decisions concerning their flocks safety.

And so it is their nature for them to take charge of their environment. When this is allowed to expand to also taking charge when interacting with their humans, problems develop. They don’t mind knowing they are number three behind the Mister and Misses, but when mister and misses send inconsistent signals the dogs naturally see the humans as wishy washy and the dog tries to take control. 

It’s consistency the dog wants to see.Every time you interact with your dog you should be training or reinforcing some aspect of training. Subordination exercises should be part of this daily routine.Subordination exercises are interactions all family members practice with their puppy which ,with out force or drama, show our puppy who is the pack leader. The basic idea is nothing in life is free, you will do something for me and then I will do something for you. You want to be petted, then sit first and I will pet you. You want to eat, then sit and wait for an Ok and I will then feed you. These are subtle ways of letting the dog know that you are the one in charge.

A dog who has confidence in the stability of his leader will want to please, obey your commands and happily allow your leadership. If the clearly knows his position, he will be happy there and you will never have to fear confrontation.The following are some training suggestions and subordination exercises that I feel are critical to the success of raising a happy and well adjusted Akbash Dog.

Every dog needs to be able to interact with people at times, and so some good basic training is an important start. Every time that new puppy sees you it will likely start coming towards you in greeting. It’s a great time to start training.

Always say the pups name first to get its attention, then the command.

Say " Puppy ,come!" in a happy voice as the pup sees you and starts coming. When he gets to you say "sit" and either push his tail down or Raise his muzzle up by luring it with a kibble and repeat "sit." When the pups bottom goes down tell him" good dog" and then you may pet him or give him a treat. Give him an "OK go play" release and then play with him. Practice Sit, Down, Come Wait, Back, Off, start by luring him or physically putting him into the desired position with the command and then praising him. Be firm and consistent.

"No "does not fit into a puppies vocabulary until it is shown the correct behavior frequently enough that he knows right from wrong. Your best puppy correction is a startle correction. A good sharp and gruff "Ehh buzzer sound "(and not a "NO’) should be your reaction when you are not approving of a particular behavior, followed by praise a few seconds after the undesired behavior stops.

Dogs do want to please us. We just need to be adept in communicating to them in a clear and well timed manner that they clearly understand.

Dogs learn when you to reinforce good behaviors with praise and correct inappropriate behaviors. A good startle correction needs to be given while the pup is in the act of doing the behavior or within 5 seconds of the behavior. A correction given a minuet after the fact does not clearly tell the pup what he did to displease you.

The most important time in a pups training is during the first 16 weeks when they learn at an incredibly fast rate.A puppy obedience and socialization class is the best and most efficient way to socialize and do general training, You can also train and socialization on your own if you have the experience and will make the effort to get the pup out to town or to a park to do that training and socializing.

The puppy should meet at least a few new people of different ages every week and should be exposed to just about everything in the first 16 weeks that you will expect the pup to deal with in its life. So lots of animals, People places, car rides etc. The wider the exposure and education the pup gets, the more appropriately he will be likely respond to the various things he will get exposed to in his life. The wider the range of experiences, the better chance he will make good decisions when he needs to make decisions.

Ok back to subordination exercises.

Once the puppy knows come and sit , then every day or two, make that pup sit an make it sit quietly allowing you to look in its mouth, its ears, play with its feet, trim nails ,and roll it over on its back for a few seconds. If the puppy fusses or struggles, you need to get firmer and insist that the puppy allow inspection before releasing it with a "OK" command. Go slowly if necessary and in small increments. At first you may only be able to lift its lip for a second, but if you get that second, then" good dog" him and release him, and try to get a few more seconds next time.

Remember if you let him go while he is struggling then you just taught him if he struggles long enough he will get his way! This puts you on the course for disaster so always end on a good note, and with you winning.

Next ask your pup to sit for his food, Make him sit until you place the food bowl on the ground and give him and "Ok" release word, and allow him to start eating. At least once a week, after putting the food bowl down, walk away from the bowl for a moment and then walk back to the bowl, put one hand on the pups shoulder and the other into the food bowl. If that puppy ever thinks of growling take a handful of scruff & jerk the pup hard away from you and down with a roaring "ehh". The pup will usually submit and then you must let up with an immediate release. Don’t say anything and go about your business with out further fuss for a moment, letting the pup think about things and then try the exercise again.

If you are trying to do subordination exercises with an adolescent or larger dog, forget about setting the food bowl down or trying to jerk it to the ground with a correction, there is no way you can take a large dog down effectively, or safely with a jerk, so if your older dog has been showing disrespect then show him where the food comes from by holding the food bowl in one hand and feeding him with the other hand.

Another time to reinforce your control is when going through a gate. Most dogs want to rush through first. Once in a while make the dog wait at the gate, open the gate and you go first, then give him the ok to follow.

Same thing if you dog solicits attention. I often sit on the edge of the stock tank and observe the sheep, dogs and scenery. Often a dog will come up and paw my leg or nudge my elbow for attention. I’m not saying your dog can never do this, but when they are continually pestering you on their terms, they are being rude. The golden rule is to ignore the dog until it moves away and lays down. Only then call it to you, have it sit in greeting and then give him some affection. This tells the dog you are controlling the situation not him. Pet the dog for a few minutes if but when you say ok, enough, go lay down , the dog needs to listen and go. These are all subtle things and most people don’t even realize that the dog is manipulating them, and it may not seem a big deal to you but in the dogs mind it can be a very big deal.

And finally by all means, if your puppy or dog insists on walking ahead of you or if he pulls on the leash, in his mind he is leading the pack. Plant your feet & stop stone still. Then take a step back bringing the dog back to your side and start off again with a loose lead, if he pulls forward again repeat and repeat until he figures out if he pulls or goes ahead of you, you stop. He will soon figure it out that you only go forward if he is at your side!

So the basic principle is that you initiate activity, and the dog needs to "earn" any attention, by doing "something", usually as simple as a sit.If you have a dog that sits in greeting, will sit and wait for an ok to eat, allows you to take prized possession from its mouth, waits for you to pass through a gate and allows you to handle the dog in any fair way, then you have done a good job and your dog will be very happy to have you as a leader. A dog that clearly knows his position will be a happier, more obedient and certainly a more trusted dog.

A great number of the dogs we get in rescue would not be in rescue with serious behavior and respect issues if their owners had been given buyer support on how to train, socialize, and practice subordination with their pups.

There are a number of excellent, easy read and informative canine behavior books. I will reference a couple of good books for further reading below:

At the Other End of the Leash by Patricia B. MCConnell Ph.D.
The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell

How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar

On Talking Terms with Dogs and Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas