Object guarding is a delicate issue and resolution depends on a number of factors. We have a number of products to help but there are a few things to keep in mind. If you kennel or crate your dog or provide him with a place that is "his", we'd suggest feeding the dog in a neutral area. An immediate resolution is to feed the dog by hand for basic tricks, obedience or games. If the dog object guards routinely, we recommend the following titles and the assistance of a behaviorist that is in your area.
Separation anxiety of stress can lead to a variety of behaviors that can become problematic. Of course we want the dog to be comfortable, stress free and occupied positively when you're not around. A few suggestions include playing some music, providing an item with your scent and an interactive toy such as a Kong toy or Busy Buddy can keep a dog mentally occupied and stimulated during alone time. We also recommend Stress in Dogs by Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt.
We feed our dogs a combination diet depending on season, schedules and travel. Most of the year our dogs eat a raw diet and we believe the benefits are well worth it. Digestion, dental health, coat, energy and even smell can be improved with a raw diet. There are many premium kibble diets as well and for many owners they are a great solution depending on schedule and availability of raw ingredients etc.
Housebreaking is about schedules and consistency. We recommend utilizing a crate for housebreaking and establishing a schedule for feeding, potty breaks outdoors and play time. We have used the techniques in and now offer, How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days by Shirley Kalstone. This is a fantastic little book with sample schedules and great information and considerations for housebreaking.
A common issue with nail trimming is using tools that are dull and ineffective. A dull trimmer will often pull at the nail and in some cases fracture the nail rather than cut it. We recommend a sturdy, sharp clipper with durable cutting surfaces such as our Safari Professional Nail Trimmers. Often, difficulty with grooming in general is due to a low threshold to minor discomfort, lack of trust or confidence. Sometimes it's quite the opposite- an invasion of a 'dominant' or 'sharp' dog's personal space. Move the dog to a quiet area that is 'neutral'. Patience is the key, remain calm and make steady progress. Gradually desensitize to handling the feet by simply touching the feet and rewarding the dog. Don't rush getting the nails trimmed the first few sessions. You can easily handle the feet and activate the trimmers without actually trimming the nails and praising the dog and offering a food reward for good, calm behavior. Allow the dog to smell the clippers and make time in the area positive. You can eventually trim a nail gently but don't worry about doing all the nails in one sitting. Understand it will take time and patience. We recommend shortening nails gradually over a period of time until it becomes less of an issue.
Trim the tip only being careful not to cut the quick. You can try a Dremel tool as well to take the edges down without the clipping motion of traditional clipers. Some dogs mind the Dremel less although some habituation to the mechanical sound may be necessary. Don't be rough or scare him, take time to make the dog comfortable. Invest in good clippers, sharp clippers are better and result in less pull on the nail.
In general, most dogs like the attention of grooming. Consider adding routine brushing and body management to your training or exercise schedule so that handling feet and nails is a normal activity associated with positive time with you. For extreme cases see a vet or pro groomer.
This is not an easy problem to correct. Dogs that put their heads down during motion are usually pulling very hard on the collar and are not really looking for the owner. They are frantically trying to move forward as if they knew they are going somewhere and must get there fast and at all cost. They have a lot of energy and feel compelled to pull and run. Sometimes they smell the ground because of the smells left behind by other dogs or in an attempt to pick up the scent of the owner. It is very hard to determine what he is really doing without seeing him in person but here are some possible corrections.
1) If the dog pulls hard to get to the owner who is in full view of the dog. Try conditioning the dog to a whistle or specific noise that he associates exclusively with the owner. You can do this by sounding the device as the dog eats every day. During training the owner hides far enough away for the dog to have to lift his head to try to look out to find him. Placing another "decoy owner" at the opposite side with an identical device will get the dog's attention at both ends of the ring.
2) Handler training is also crucial. The handler should not reward the dog with forward motion when the head is down. He should stop and have owner get his attention from afar and then take a few more steps with the head up. Anytime the dog's head goes down the motion should stop.
3) If smells are what is distracting the dog (males who are very territorial tend to smell a lot) you may use some some "vicks" ointment and do a quick, light swipe of the mint formula on the dog's nose. He will be unable to smell anything for a while.
4) Sometimes the issue is not one of behavior but one of structure. Dogs who are "loaded in front" tend to move with the head down. The term applies to a variety of issues. Restricted front reach and a very ample, sweeping rear tends to make the dog fall forward. Low withers does the same thing. Sometimes a steep croups causes the energy to be delivered to the front quarters in a downward curve. Heavy fronts such as dogs with deep chests can also add to the problem. Structural issues are even harder to correct.
I am guessing that you have more of a training, than structural problem. You must go slow, in short sessions, demanding good performance and rewarding the correct posture every time.
Canine Training Systems has many series of videos dealing with dog training. Although it is not directed specifically to correcting "show problems" the concept of canine psychology and how to mold and change behaviors can be applied with some creativity. Particularly the obedience sessions taught by Ivan Balabanov can shed great light as to how to shape the posture in small increments.
This is not an uncommon problem and one often seen from dogs being retrained from another system, dogs being cross-trained or high energy/drive breeds. There are quite a few reasons why this happens typically. Here are just a few...
1) Dogs that have extensive work with prey items become easily stimulated when frustrated and the emotions of active play become present when the dog is faced with a problem that is unclear. I always use food for the teaching of the indication and add the toy much later after many, many repetitions of the ideal indication are conditioned. Starting with or moving to prey reward too soon compounds this problem. Moving to a lower value reward item can be really, really helpful.
2) Some dogs are very physical and have a very natural response to objects whether biting, chewing, scratching or pushing objects. This is, of course, not ideal behavior for a passive response but the emotion behind it can be useful for vigilant searching and working to source later. The very movement of objects can provide self-reward to the dog and a venting of drive and frustration.
3) The timing of the mark is not precise enough. Many people prefer to use a verbal marker over a clicker. A verbal marker can carry a tremendous amount of emotion with it depending on how it's conditioned and this can stimulate the dog. Training the indication requires information, not emotion. As the handler institutes a "search cue", emotion can be adjusted to stimulate searching or calm the dog and wait for calm, intense, contained emotion prior to releasing to search.
It's possible to resolve the issue in a number of ways depending on how far you are with your indication. It's usually fixed using a combination of exercises.
1) Anchor the box so that the dog can't move it may provide you with enough repetitions to solve a pushing problem. Placing a brick inside cardboard or plastic tubs can deter this as well.
2) Return to the shaping phase and flood calm indications with your hand outside the box, only returning when the dog maintains his indication can be helpful.
3) Wait the dog out. As with distractions, if you feel the dog has a clear understanding of the indication, waiting for the dog to return to a calm indication and marking may be enough to isolate a the desired behavior. The dog must learn to be "still" and avoiding the problem may be the problem.
4) Adjust your intervals of variable reinforcement. Some dogs become more still and intense when they are asked to hold the indication momentarily.
5) Introduce an incompatible behavior now. I teach a sit and down with the stare (nose at point of odor) which is useful. This forces a pair of behaviors which requires focus from the dog, particularly when adding variables. It also helps gauge the dog's mood and forces it to control it's body. Add the down at the box in combination with solution 2 above. If you're following along with the DVD, doing repetitions of down in a session immediately prior to working the indication will help settle the dog.
Regarding searching, we have to remember that dogs are scavengers and hunters. These behaviors are natural, we just have to create a situation that requires it. What I prefer to do first is to give the dog the answer to the question, "What do I do when I encounter odor?". This resolves nearly all of the problems in other systems that teach searching first. Many people learn Nose Work in classes because it's a civilian sport and is taught in group classes in each person's locale. To keep people feeling as though the dogs are progressing, searching is taught first. This is usually done with odor/reward pairing which makes the dogs active and gives the illusion of progress. There is a reason why the most successful detection trainers don't do this anymore!
What you don't want is a low energy/drive dog that will locate odor and not know what to do. This is a byproduct of pairing/searching at the start. My system begins with targeting which is moving away from reward to a place or position in order to achieve reward. This first starts on the "table" and then moves to the target box. This is, at a basic level, IS a search. Initially, this movement toward the target box is just a series of indications and reward but eventually evolves, through very high repetition and modification of the "operant chamber", into a habit of searching for target odor. This is the basis for searching but it's under parameters we can control and shape. Once the dog is routinely moving away from us and indicating, we can adjust the intensity using a physical and verbal cue. We can adjust our emotion to benefit the dog, whether stimulating the dog or asking it to calm down prior to release. We can also adjust the reinforcer to our advantage too, adding a more valuable prey item etc.
Searching first, without an indication, brings a host of challenges, the least of which is trying to shape a behavior after a search, which is typically very frustrating for both dog and handler. It's not the ideal time for teaching or conditioning behaviors. Generally what happens is that the dog encounters odor with a reward and produces behaviors consistent with normal temperament and interaction with those rewards such as biting, pushing, pawing and barking. These are byproducts of frustration and are completely natural, they are how dogs learn within the environment. Trying to get rid of them is now part of that training system because it produces them by it's very methodology. I prefer to never take the dog there and like to isolate behaviors at a level of stimulation that allows the dog to problem solve with well timed communication from me through the use of a clicker.
I think my method is a very logical, clear one which builds basic behaviors into more advanced ones. We can create an intense, clear, durable indication and then neutralize distractions, extend searching and broaden the classroom at each stage as the dog gains experience. Searching is the easy part when the indication is solid because the dog can focus strictly on locating. The fewer questions the dog has when encountering odor, the faster he can reach reward and the more quickly he can progress!
Hard dogs and strong nerves are two different things. The first thing to understand is the term "hard" while referring to dogs is a man made term. It normally, but not always refers to the "toughness" of a dog or that a dog has a high resilance to corrections or "positive punishment". Some people refer to a hard dog as being handler aggressive. Regardless, in laymans terms it's basically referring to the "toughness" of a dog. Unfortunately it is in the eye of the beholder as one trainer may see a dog as hard while another trainer does not.
As far as "strong nerves", this typically refers to the genetic nerve strength ie; how it deals with environmental stress. Examples of environment would be loud noises, slick surfaces, strange places, confined spaces, unstable surfaces, and any other stresses in the environment one could conjure up. A dog that cowers when it hears a car backfire has typically has "weak nerves". Or, a dog that tucks his tail when it walks on slick floors has weaker nerves. Obviously there can be many different levels and variables of nerve strength. There are many different practical tests that are available on the Internet that will test a dogs nerve strength. But the person doing the test with a dog must be a aware of animal body language and behavior to get a relatively accurate test result.