My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: A Rescue dog story

Sticky

Black as a moonless night and rippling with muscles, the dog approached me.  I was sitting down on the couch in the living room of a client’s home as a guest.  I was there to give her an evaluation on this black beast’s demeanor and behavior.  It was her new rescue dog from Texas.  The dog gave me a serious look and a few huffs as he trotted towards me.  His ears were cropped short and tightly towards his head which only served to emphasize his eyes and the strength of his neck, head, and jaws.  His muscled shoulders were rounded and spoke, I knew, of an explosive power.  He was oily black all over extending from the tip of his nose to the thick docked tail and on down to each claw.  The lighting inside the home at the precise time of day I was there wasn’t affording me the greatest visibility.  It was hard to read his face.  Was he calm or concerned?  Would I be friend or foe?  I did what I thought best in the moment and what I often advise when folks ask me how to meet a dog  –  I ignored him and continued chatting with the owner.

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Here he is the first day we took charge of him at the Ruston Way waterfront in Tacoma. We went on a long explore as we bonded/traveled together

Cato, that was his new name she said – chosen, I supposed, from the Cane Corso/Italian Mastiff heritage –  he continued to smell me.  “Cato” was a famous Roman, philosopher poet.  A follower and teacher of Stoicism.  Perhaps this dog possessed such a spirit?  Then again, maybe he was named Cato after Bruce Lee’s black-masked, kung fu dynamo in the 1970s TV show, The Green Hornet.  The dog certainly appeared athletic.  Or possibly his moniker came from the Peter Seller’s Pink Panther character that was always lying in wait to attack him!  I hoped it was not the latter.

He wasn’t as large as a standard male Cane Corso or as jowly, so my guess was that one of his parents (possibly both) were jet-black Pitbull terriers.  Either way he was a beautiful animal.  His movements catlike.  His eyes were an alluring and friendly amber color and his face could only be described as cute and powerful.

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Here’s Cato at our home during the first critical week of the “Honeymoon phase.” My third book (upcoming in 2019) on dog behavior will be all about Rescue/Shelter dogs and those vital, first few weeks in a new home!  Rambo, our twelve year old boxer, is asleep next to him.

Ignoring Cato was working like a charm and as we shared more time, more moments together, I steadily began to explore a relationship with this strong, dark dog through our mutual senses of touch and space.  I began to perform what I have coined in my business years ago as the “Touch and Go” maneuver.  This “move” or maneuver doesn’t seem like much at first glance to us as human beings but I use it in every single dog training and behavioral rehab session I’ve ever done (at the time of writing this) in the last fourteen years!  Why?  It works and works wonders.  Are treats required?  Heck no – no part of the Garrett Stevens Method requires food or treats or any training tool outside of one’s own body.  (Isn’t that great news for all you nudists following us out there?  I know you’re out there) Is it based in dog obedience training?  No way – most obedience training is honestly a waste of time in 2019 because every method of dog obedience training is excitement-based so that the dog gets pumped up in its energy and then works harder for you – Why do that though when most every dog owner with a house dog desires a calmer, more trustworthy dog?!  Most of us are NOT shepherds any more, most aren’t heading for Afghanistan on active duty with our dogs.  We aren’t as rural in general and certainly we aren’t spending all day afield on a hunt like we used to in days long past.  We have changed and we should be open to letting our dogs change with us!  Being adaptable is what has given our dogs their success since their beginning.  For more info about this and about achieving better dog behavior without the use of positive or punitive reinforcement – read my first book, Dog Myths (available on Amazon and everywhere).

The Touch and Go move is so easy that everyone I’ve ever met concerning dog behavior or training, be they professional or lay person, simply misses it…and therein lies the power, beauty, and art of the thing.

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My black panther!

Want to learn it?  Follow/Subscribe to this fine blog of ours and in the next exciting episode I’ll describe in unabashed detail the Touch and Go maneuver (which helps btw with any dog or pup and with any behavioral issue!) and we will continue our story of how Cato the Corso travelled from a rescue down in Texas to Washington state and from a client’s home into our crazy abode!

-G

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Cato and some clown spending his life in attempts at deciphering the dog language

Separation Anxiety or Hostage Situation!

Sticky

Have you ever been taken hostage?  Masses of kind and caring dog owners are literally living out each day in a horrific real life hostage situation because their pet suffers with terrible Separation Anxiety!  When our dogs are anxious we, in turn, can eventually become anxious too.

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Treating separation anxiety in dogs USED TO BE a difficult path to navigate for both industry professional and lay person alike but that, Friends, is about to change!  Some dog trainers and behaviorists would suggest food treats (peanut butter or bully sticks) be given in order to “occupy the anxious dog’s mind” while the owner is away.  Many vets would sadly just suggest drugging the anxious dog.

Why is it that we seldom if ever hear of a calming, natural, spatial solution for successfully treating separation anxiety?  

Why don’t we hear more about the spatial movements that all dogs employ when speaking their own specific canine language?

Why is separation anxiety prevalent in households across the globe today IF the majority of vets’ and dog trainers’ methods are truly sound and beneficial to/for our dogs?

Could it be possible that we (those of us involved in the dog behavioral and training industry) need to reevaluate our method of treatment for separation anxiety?

Shouldn’t we take a closer look at dog language and canine energy levels in order to find the answers and solutions that so many desperately seek?

Shouldn’t you and your dog be able to live anxiety free?

Are you sick of being a hostage to your dog’s separation anxiety?

If you answered those last few questions with a resounding, “YES!” then my new book, So Long Separation Anxiety will be just right for you and your anxious furry friend!

(So Long Separation Anxiety will only be an e-book so we are sorry but no paperback this time.  For paperbacks be sure and read my groundbreaking book on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!)

From destructive chewing to whining and barking, from nervous drooling to anxious urination or defecation, from breaking out of the kennel to rudely jumping all over you when you arrive home, separation anxiety is a major problem for masses of dog owners!

This book is here to help you and your dog discover relaxation and balance through a healthier relationship and through practical proper spatial maneuvering!  Contained in this exciting new book are beneficial, real world techniques and methods that anyone can put to use!  Step by step we examine how dog’s interact and move with us, how separation anxiety subtly takes root, and how we can begin to smoothly reverse it.  So Long Separation Anxiety is chock full of real life, practical, hands-on, calming solutions!  And the best part…you will NOT need a bunch of peanut butter or food treats or bizarre contraptions, you will NOT need harsh or severe handling, and you will NOT need to repeatedly fill a prescription in order to drug your furry family member!!!

The successful treatment of separation anxiety in our dogs is possible if we can learn from the dogs themselves.  So Long Separation Anxiety is now available on Apple iBooks/iTunes or on Amazon kindle or most other platforms!

Let’s begin making our future better today!

-G

The many problems of treat training and positive reinforcement – Part 2

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The motivation level found within food treats is always subjective.  Meaning each individual dog (the subject) determines whether they are motivated by the food or not.  This is a huge problem in the dog training industry and amongst trainers and behaviorists and for any dog owners that cling to this fragile form of external motivation!

Example:  Let’s look at 3 dogs and let’s say we only use food just positive reinforcement as it’s taught by a vast majority of professionals today to motivate them – The first dog is highly motivated by food (he gets very excited and will perform obedience in a hasty manner- many behaviorists and trainers adore these types of dogs because any layman with even rudimentary skill can easily make them perform tricks).  The second dog is only somewhat motivated by food (she will only perform obedience if you offer what trainers call “high value” or incredibly smelly dog treats or human food).  And the third dog is totally unmotivated by food (usually because this 3rd dog is living at a level of fear, anxiety, or aggression wherein he is NOT smelling and tasting the world the way he, and all healthy, socially normal dogs, naturally should be…instead this dog lives his life through his secondary senses – vision and hearing.  Vision and hearing, when overused, always lead to behavioral problems.  Too much vision and hearing lead to fight or flight behaviors and not to eating.  (If you have ever been in a physical altercation or fight you know that eating is the farthest thing from your mind and body at that moment)

So what does the unskilled trainer or behaviorist that only clings to one rigid method of training do for the second and third dogs in our example?  First, when normal treats fail, they come up with excuses and explain to the dog owner how they must find a “higher value” food motivator for their pet.  Then the shoddy pro trainer will typically talk about adding more and more motivation/excitement to the dog (which is really insane when the ultimate goal of the caring dog owner is to have a wonderfully adept, socially normal dog that is fit for the modern world in which we live – which is incidentally a world that is much calmer in many cities and towns than it used to be throughout ancient times and even a couple hundred years ago when dogs were actively employed as our workers.  All dog owners want trust but the way the majority of trainers and dog owners go about getting that trust doesn’t work well for them because they assume adding food and tricks means you can trust the animal).  The trainer who espouses the extremely rigid “positive only” method typically doesn’t know much about parenting in the human family or among the canine family group.  This is why they often have incredibly over emotionalized responses (just read the internet for proof) to anything and everything excepting their one rigid method.

(I will also note here that I’ve observed locally that a majority of these professional “treat-only” trainers are single people or are people without their own human children.  These folks don’t have kids.  (I have four terrific kids – fyi – and I don’t build my relationship with them based on paying them or treating them non-stop) I think that is interesting to consider because everyone knows it would be extremely poor parenting to shove candy down an already bratty child’s throat in place of the proper time, energy, conversation, exercise, discipline, socialization, and loving affection that goes into raising a socially healthy child.  It is a cliche when we think of the dead beat father or mother who tries to make up for a lacking relationship with their own children by way of extra “high value” presents given to the kids at Christmas and birthdays.  Tragically, this is what passes as “scientific” and “modern” dog training today and has over the past several decades.

(I don’t know how these trainers managed to persuade people into thinking these techniques are “scientific” or even “modern” because all external motivation, be it positive or punitive, was proven by teams of scientists in the 1970s (not modern) and then by different teams again in the 1980s (not modern) to be shallow external motivation with results that fade in the long term!  Please re-read.  I mean to say that if you rely on external positive reinforcement (food) or on external aversive/punitive reinforcement (pain) the subject/dog may alter their behavior in the short term (dogs 1 and 2 from our example) but the dog will quickly go back into their old ways in the long term which then elicits the unyielding and overemotional dog trainer or unwitting dog owner to have to consistently give their dog a “raise,” and go to a higher value food treat or, on the opposite end go with a rougher more painful technique as time keeps passing!

And this endless poor parenting (and poor training) procedure has been neatly packaged and sold to the masses, to you and I, by giant conglomerates that just so happen to sell a buttload of treats and bad training!  Isn’t that wild?  Follow the money, people.  I guess we have our answer as to how it became common vernacular to say that dropping a ton of treats on the floor to stop a dog from jumping up on a person is somehow “scientific” and “modern” instead of simply telling the truth and saying it’s “ridiculous” and “wasteful” (those are words I’d use for that specific training technique).  These massive conglomerates spent billions to get those key words (modern and science) into their fragile and unnatural system of failing/fading motivation (because business-wise their system is NOT failing for the massive companies bottom line financially…just like all drug dealers know…once a potential client gets a taste of their stuff it becomes difficult to detox the patient – many dogs, after being treated with tasty food excessively, will soon attempt to totally ignore their owners and not do anything unless you have a treat!  In many cases the dog owner devalues the natural relationship and ends up bribing the dog and they are completely void of trust and respect and instead have a fake relationship they assume is normal because it is status quo.

And we still have not addressed the third dog from our example…the dog that is too aggressive for treats, too fearful for food, too anxious to switch from hyper staring and hyper listening into relaxed smelling and tasting.  This is the dog only some owners and trainers interact with, meaning it is possible for a person to live a long and healthy life and to raise and adopt a few different dogs over their lifespan and still never experience what it’s like to live with or handle and train a dog that is like the third dog.  These folks may never understand unless and until they end up getting a dog like the third dog, a dog that in many instances food treats will simply be ignored because the adrenals functioning within this animal tell it to continually fight or flight and not relax and eat in the presence of their triggering stimuli.  Examine ANY creature on the planet and you’ll discover in the midst of high energy fight/flight excitement the last thing on the creature’s mind is eating!  This third dog is the shoddy dog trainer’s worst nightmare.  This is the unknowledgeable behaviorist’s greatest dilemma.  For all their rhetoric on science and modernity, for all their extreme emotions openly and often violently displayed ad nauseam on the internet towards other types of trainers, they have zero answers for their clients when it comes to helping the third dog because the dog is blatantly ignoring high value food treats!  Unethical, money-grubbing behaviorists may just tell their clients “Oh, your dog is over-threshold and we need to back up further away from the dog’s triggering stimuli (another dog, person, etc) until your dog is relaxed enough to actually take and eat the food treats in order to make a positive association with the trigger.”  Or they may take you into their facility and behind a partition or have your dog-aggressive dog work with a stuffed animal instead of a real dog (the methods get truly ridiculous the more we examine them).  I mentioned unethical and money-grubbing because this technique of theirs may take you, the paying client, a year or three for any sort of decent results to kick in!  (Special note: it is extremely common for us to hear from our clients that what we were able to do in our very first session with their dog and our calming, natural methods, they were NOT able to accomplish in 10 or 15 or 20 sessions with another company that was using this alleged modern positive approach!)

In Part 3 will we turn the corner and go over real world answers towards genuinely helping not only the third dog but greatly aid the human-dog bond with all three dogs in our example.  I’m hoping to end the series in Part 4.

Then, after I am finished with this series I will do one on The Many Problems of harsh dog handling and Punitive/Aversive reinforcement…………Stay tuned all you rabid dog lovers!

 

For more info simply read my Hot-Listed book on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and grab a copy of my super practical and hands-on, second book, So Long Separation Anxiety to help you achieve the finest of relationships possible with your dog or pup.

-G

 

 

6.5 unique Tips for the New Rescue dog owner

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  1. Do NOT comfort the weak (you will have to fight your human nurturing instincts here and act like an older “example” dog or mother dog (the mother dog has many fast-growing offspring – it’s her job to make sure they’re respectful and learning to mature behaviorally speaking)…be sure and keep your human mouth shut too so you don’t inadvertently praise misbehavior or enable the testing behavior that naturally occurs during the honeymoon phase/first two to three weeks of ownership with your rescue!  Let the dog grow mentally and emotionally stronger in calmness and, even better, in silence because this will prevent all-too-common psychotic co-dependancy).
  2. Exercise often.  (work the dog’s amazing cardiovascular system and make sure the dog really pants) (also teach the dog how to heel/walk beside you nicely without pulling on leash).
  3. Socialize often.  (expose your new dog to as many differing situations and people and animals as possible – especially during the honeymoon phase – be responsible).
  4. Remember obedience training is secondary to healthy relationship and clear understanding between owner and dog.  (Learn the dog language – read my books)
  5. Claim your space, your furniture, and your new dog.  (the dog is yours not the other way round.  Don’t be one of the people who pretends otherwise because that is a losing philosophy for both owner and dog and it often backfires months later when the dog has claimed everything and now acts like Al Capone).
  6. Touching is like talking in dog language.  (is your dog speaking politely to you and your guests?  Make sure to guide touch interactions – play hard to get and do NOT give the dog every little thing it desires)             6.5  Read and reread Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety (these books are very different from the masses of dog behavioral books in the market place.  They will help anyone with an open and curious mind).

Thanks so much for reading and please tell a friend about our blog!

FYI:  Stevens Family Kennels now has a YOUTUBE account so check that out and subscribe if you desire to continue your canine education!  Thanks everybody.

-G

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Building a healthy relationship the way all balanced, example dogs do can be incredibly rewarding.  Here’s a pro tip for ya:  Ignore the status quo and think a bit more like an animal while blending in all the calmness and sociability required for a skilled and highly social dog living in your household in the modern world!

The many problems of treat training and “positive reinforcement”

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“When the tiger bit at Horn’s sleeve, Lawrence made a move to intervene, tempting him with raw meat.  The trainer grabbed Mantecore’s leash and the tiger managed to knock both men down.”  USA TODAY

“A grizzly bear that appeared in a recent Will Ferrell film killed a 39-year old trainer with a bite to his neck…Randy Miller has 25 years experience training animals and his facility has had a perfect safety record, according to the website.”  INDEPENDENT  

“Swedish wolves kill zookeeper who raised them…Even after discovering the zookeeper’s body officials had trouble removing her remains.”  TIME

“Tilikum grabbed Brancheau by the ponytail and pulled her into the pool, then began violently swinging her around…died from a combination of blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and torso, plus drowning.  The attack happened during a performance.  It wasn’t the first time Tilikum killed someone either.  In 1991 he was one of the three whales responsible for the death of trainer Keltie Lee Byrne.”  GRUNGE

“Tyke entered the ring…kicking around what looked to audience members like a dummy. ‘We thought it was part of the show,’ one witness told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  They soon realized the supposed dummy was a severely injured (elephant) groomer.  Panicked, audience members fled for the exits.  Tyke went on to fatally crush her trainer – who was trying to intervene – before fleeing the arena herself….Honolulu police eventually shot her 87 times before she succumbed to nerve damage and brain hemorrhages.”  HUFFPOST

“Utterback’s girlfriend heard something fall, police said.  She got up to see what the noise was and found Utterback on the floor with the dog biting his neck…by the time EMS arrived Utterback was dead.  Utterback’s girlfriend told officers the dog was their pet for a decade and was Utterback’s ‘best friend.'”  DOGSBITE

“Ashton McGhee, 1 year old, was mauled to death by a family pitbull-mix.  The child had ‘deep abrasions to the head, chest, and neck.’  The child’s grandmother and great grandmother suffered injuries while trying to pull the dog off the toddler.  The baby had been playing with a ball on the floor when the dog came in from the outdoors.  The dog attacked the baby, causing deep lacerations to the head and chest and a broken jaw.”  WHOP

“66-year-old dog trainer found dead in her backyard with multiple dog bites on her face and arms.  Elaine Richman was discovered dead with multiple dog bites…Richman had not been seen at her dog training classes for two days.  Police found Richman dead in her backyard with dog bites on her face, arms, and hands.  Two doberman pinschers were located inside the home.  The victims brother…said she had trained and showed dobermans for decades.”  MEAWW and DOGSBITE

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Friends, when you or any other person – be they “professional” or not – reinforce a dog (or a wild animal) with FOOD in order to get them to perform obedience or tricks we must all realize that this in NO way means that genuine RESPECT is present in the relationship!  

Friends, if you lack real Respect then you must NOT give TRUST to the animal no matter how fancy the obedience, behavior modification, tricks, or alleged “training!”  

What everyone in the world labels as “dog obedience,” and “dog training,” “work,” and “canine behavior modification” in truth often has little or nothing to do with canine social skills and dog language!   

If people truly grasped dog language and The Four Pillars (and they clearly do not) horrific tragedies like some of those listed above would be preventable.

This is part one in a series I’m going to do for you.  In the second installment we will get to the heart of the issue.  Stay tuned!

(Also, don’t fret because I’ll do one on the many problems of correcting a dog and harsh handling)

-G

 

Smell the butt

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Smell my butt.  This is one of the single most important things in all of Dogdom.  In the dog world butt smelling is vital.

Forget the slogan, “Have you hugged your kids today?”  I say, “Has your dog smelled a butt today?”  And has your dog been smelled from another dog in return?  This is crucial when rehabbing aggressive dogs and fearful dogs and any dog that has dog-dog reactivity.  They need to gather information through the use of their primary three senses.

One of a pup’s first and most important sense as it is born into this world is the olfactory…the nose.  (This is the part everyone knows) A puppy or dog ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS smells the world before it sees it or hears it.  Think about this.  Look at your dog’s face.  It is triangular shaped because the nose comes first.  The first couple weeks of a puppy’s life are spent blind and deaf – Helen Keller style!  (Now think of the extreme growth occurring physically and mentally within the fast-growing pup during those early stages of life)

This leads us to the question,  What kind of learner is your dog?  If you went to school and they tested you they would then find out whether you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.  This means your brain prefers to learn and experience the world either through the eyes, the ears, or with a more hands-on approach.  And if we, as good teachers and dog trainers, customize our teaching to help accomodate the pupil’s brain’s preference learning should then naturally  increase because we are now “speaking the same language.”  We are working with the brain and playing to its strengths.  If a teacher can peak the interest or natural way the brain works, well, then their material is fantastic and the learning comes readily to the pupil.  At Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center we view dog training and behavioral rehab the same way.  Dogs are touchers, smellers, and tasters first.  Later they become seers and hearers.

The canine language is based in “cut-off” or “calming” signals (because these signals allow for peaceful coexistence) without which there would be no pack.  There would be Zero ability to live together and survive together if there weren’t calming signals and pressure relief valves within our dog’s language.  The language of a dog is astounding.  All canines can use these signals and this language to release tension and get along socially tragically – many do not.  Their need for boundaries in order to be able to calm down enough to live and function in a group is basically what defines a canine.  Dogs that are skilled in their own linguistics use tension and the release of tension (displayed in their body language and in their energy levels) to communicate their intentions clearly to those around them.  These skilled dog linguists use proper movement and pressure spatially in order to calm/claim/correct the individuals in their social circle that may need help.  They seldom if ever overdo it and they seldom if ever under do it.  It is fascinating and freeing.  In canine culture there is more freedom than in any human government on the planet.  Smelling instead of staring leads any dog into a more calm state of mind.

Make sure your dog is smelling other dogs and people and being smelled by other dogs…if you think it is “too late” and the dog is too much of a danger than increase exercise and increase the rules within your home environment AND then still attempt to socialize by way of spinning your dog around (controlling the head and eyes and teeth) and getting your dog’s butt smelled by a calm, friendly “example” dog.

Need help – leave us a quick voicemail and we’ll answer your questions as soon as is humanly possible (calls and vms are handled on a first come – first serve basis!)

-G

Wing Chun Kung Fu and dog training

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I am a Wing Chun practitioner.  What does this form of Chinese Kung Fu have to do with my dogs and their training and behavior?  Plenty.  (Stay with me)  Wing Chun is a form of Kung Fu that employs close combative methods.  Legend has it that a Shaolin nun, one of the five original Kung Fu masters from Shaolin Temple, created the Wing Chun system based on movements she observed as a snake fought with a crane.  The good Wing Chun practitioner utilizes touch, space, balance, and speed to their advantage and looks to exploit the opponent’s mistakes and movements by way of trapping, and direct striking and blocking simultaneously.

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“Trapping” in Wing Chun is whenever one person arrests the movements, usually the forearms, of another.  In Wing Chun we always seek to move forward and to control the center line of the opponent’s body.  Once center line is gained the Wing Chun man has a direct line of attack.  The fastest distance between two points is a straight line.  Wing Chun teaches straight line punching to foment speed and accuracy.  In order to gain the center line of the opponent – touching (seek the bridge) inevitably takes place.

Over the years I’ve noticed how direct and effective dog movement and touching is.  As predatory animals they don’t beat around the bush.  Dogs, like the good Wing Chun disciple, move forward with determined intentionality.  Dogs are extremely sensitive to touching as is the good Wing Chun student.  Dogs, if left unchecked, will build strong habits of over-touching and out-maneuvering those people that are around them.  Those touch habits then lead the dog to assume command of the household.  Once a dog assumes command there’s no reason in their mind why they can’t discipline a guest, neighbor, or even a family member with a bite because sometimes that’s actually acceptable behavior in the world of canines.  The higher ranking family member is supposed to guide and discipline the lower ranking/younger or less balanced individuals within the group/pack to aid them in the fine art of canine social skills and language and in order to claim what is what and whose is whose.  The animal doesn’t know that we humans tend to frown upon a dog if it bites one of our children – the dog only knows it’s been given totally unhampered reign in the areas of touch and space, movement, and in primal grooming rituals within its home environment!  In other words, the dog owner has really dropped the ball and so the dog naturally takes charge filling the leadership void.  This “taking charge” often appears friendly at first until…months or years later…it doesn’t!  (This friendly familiarity breed rudeness quite quickly within the relationship between dog and human)

To begin to reverse poor behavior in ANY dog or pup you must consider and then employ The Four Pillars of dog language.  (for more on the Four Pillars please see my other posts by that name and keep an eye out for the upcoming book I am writing about them!)  I want anyone reading this to act like a Wing Chun expert and first of all  – be very aware of touching.  Most people are greatly lacking in sensitivity when it comes to The Four Pillars of dog language.  (People know to be sensitive with a horse, or with a bird, or when swimming with sharks but with dogs everyone’s been taught the wrong things – they’ve been taught many behavioral myths – hence my first book, Dog Myths)

Secondly, if and when your dog attempts to jump up on you, or nose you, or lick you, or mouth you, or elicit petting from you by way of barging into your personal space – move forward, take up space, and intercept the dog’s touch with a touch of your own if necessary.  Use your hands and move your body forward into the dog.  Be aware of your center line!  In this case though, because your dog is not your enemy or opponent, it’s necessary to also keep your dog in center line with you to attain the clearest form of communication possible – you both meet in the center line.  Make sure you are looking right at the dog and the dog is looking right at you.  (Do NOT pay the dog with food for this attention or it reduces the relationship to that of a wild animal and you do NOT have respect and therefore cannot offer trust – also, and this is rather important – no other dog on the planet needs food or treats or baby talk to enter into a healthy relationship with another member of their species).  Aline both centers.  In this way a clear understanding on the part of the dog is gained.  If the dog is looking away or leaving the space or just blowing you off – then your center line is weak and/or your energy was not firm enough.  It is also possible that your energy was very strong but not calm enough.

We need both firmness and calmness; respect and trust; control and freedom within the relationship.  This can be hard because many people are lacking in one or the other.  Some are firm enough but not calm (they are frustrated, or angry, or over-emotional).  Others are really calm with their dogs but have no fight in them at all and so they lack any sort of firm or strong energy and, thus, the dog persists in misbehavior.  Learn both firmness and calmness and you’ll work wonders with any dog or any animal for that matter.

Wing Chun blends internal (soft and calm energy) martial arts with external (hard and strong energy) martial arts techniques.  It can be quite effective in a real fight depending, of course, on the individual using it.  As dog lovers we should all strive to be as well rounded as the ancient Kung Fu masters as we work to better ourselves and our dogs and their behaviors.  Good luck!

-G

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Dogs: to drug or not to drug

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That is the question.

Drugs.  Exactly when did we stop saying “No!” to them?  In truth, those of us in the Western world understand that we’ve all been slowly programmed by television “programming” that we’ve steadily yet heavily been consuming over the long years.  You, Dear Reader, know precisely the annoying commercials I speak of.

If you’re experiencing an erection for over four hours, if you have upset stomach, if you have delusions of grandeur, if you have hot dog fingers, “if you’re feeling sad and lonely, there’s a service I can render,” if you have thoughts of suicide, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam (and at this time please insert any other Latin phrases you’d like to into this poor excuse for a run on sentence).  My point, drugs are more mainstream than ever and if you don’t want to run the risk of acquiring them on a shady street corner in the ghetto with cash you can easily get them instead from your tidy, little, lab-coated, local, neighborhood, MD or your DVM (vet)Image result for drugging a dog images

 

As for me, I grew up hearing drugs were bad.  Now, in the age of ultra convenience and instant gratification, they are often presented to us as a solution!  And because dogs and people are inextricably linked together, our poor decisions and cultural practices often have a way of pulling dogs down the exact same road.  Drugging dogs has never been more widespread than it is today.

I work daily to get dogs off of Prozac and other similar drugs.  My concern is the vets that readily deal these drugs often do NOT have an active plan in place of getting them back off of the stuff!  In several cases I have seen they just want to keep increasing the dosage.  That is a problem.  Frankly, my friends, at what point does someone say, What the hell is going on?  Is my dog supposed to be so neurotic in the first place that drugs are even on the table as a legitimate option for treatment?  Is this a natural and healthy existence for my dog?  Have you, Dear Reader, thoughtfully considered the financial aspects of paying to drug your dog every day of the week throughout its existence?  Have you thought about what a quality life really entails for man or beast?

Please understand I can only speak from my professional training experience (I work with, on average, six or more dogs and families usually six days a week) and I’m surrounded by seriously problematic dogs.  We have a great reputation for handling the monsters.  This isn’t your normal puppy class stuff.  It’s not the classic stuff where the “certified” trainer bribes their way through the miserable hour of training by stuffing hundreds of treats in the pup’s mouth in order to elicit the animal to “sit” for the hundredth time and, as the weeks progress the “group” class soon dwindles down to one or two faithful yet lonesome and disheartened souls.  No, no.  I handle all the dramatic, lunging, totally imbalanced dogs on the daily – be they fearful, anxious, hyper, dominant, skittish, and particularly aggressive.  Many of the dogs I deal with want to (and have) put a hurting on people or on other dogs.  In all my years dealing with these types of dogs we’ve discovered that exactly three were helped slightly by drugs!  And I’ve been doing this for a decade and a half!!!  The rest of these canine junkies were either unaffected by it, made worse from it, or given so much they acted like half-dead zombies!  (Again, this is just my experience with thousands and thousands of dogs, I’m sure there have been others that we haven’t seen that have, in fact, been helped by drugs but my point is why not natural solution first?)

Let me be clear.  I am NOT a vet.  I would never pretend to be and don’t desire to be one in the least.  While the vets deal with the dog body I specialize and work with the dog mind and the behaviors that flow from both the body and brain – resulting in energy and movements, and behavior.  (Again, I am just sharing what I’ve personally seen and worked with and what I’ve heard from all our clients over the many years.)   I’m writing this not to go against your local veterinarian but to try and get to you first to get the gears of your mind turning!  It’s okay to ask questions.

Why not seek out a more natural solution first?  Why on earth would someone who allegedly cares for their pet rush right out and get them drugs?  What happened to just saying No?  Or at least starting that way…?

My prescription:

If you have an aggressive or anxious dog I’d highly suggest employing extra exercise as a first, natural step.  Exercise mixed with heavy socialization (this means exercising out and about not just “exercise” done alone and in your stupid, boring backyard) can work wonders on behavior.  If exercised well (with definitive rules and with socialization) most dogs achieve a lower level of aggression and certainly a lower level of anxiety.

“But, but, but my dog cannot be taken out precisely because he is aggressive or she is so anxious that it makes her worse.”  Please understand, in many cases coddling of the dog is actively contributing to making the entire situation worse.  Also – and this may just be me thinking this way but – if something “cannot be done” doesn’t that make you want to rise to the challenge of proving that it can, in fact, be done!  Doesn’t that entice or tempt you to try?  If your dog or pup is so bad you “cannot” exercise it in a social environment (a local park, the waterfront, a busy neighborhood etc) look into some pro training options.  You might even start with Youtube videos on heeling and leash work.  You know why I’m suggesting that you don’t go running to your vet for advice right off the bat…because their expertise is in treating illness of the dog body and performing routine spay and neuter surgeries, is it not?  Look to Ma Nature, and to common sense, and to this professional dog linguist’s advice because I’ve actually helped thousands and thousands of aggressive and anxious dogs and their households and done it all.Without.DRUGS!

Drugs should be the Last option when it comes to dog behavior modification. 

Add exercise and work on developing a great “Heel” command (where your dog can walk and remain calmly beside you – not in front of you).  Training the “heel” teaches respect fairly quickly.  It also rapidly decreases a dog’s natural energy reserve so that’s an added bonus.  (We’ve made a video on Heeling and Leash Manners available for purchase at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com And if you’re local we offer an incredible behavioral board and train option at Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center that provides the massive pattern interrupt many aggressive, anxious, fear-riddled dogs desperately need – check us out at http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com)

Our dogs should adapt to our human way of life, sure, but not in the ignoble or darker side of humanity and society.  They should join us in the finer, elevated things.  Example: being neighborly and saying hello to people while on our walk.  Do this sort of stuff even and especially if it is very ugly due to aggression.  Every aggressive and or anxious or skittish dog needs more exposure to the wide world and not just to your home and property.  Work your heel and be at a safe distance, obviously, but get your aggressive dog on way more social outings.  And as you do that distance should naturally be able to decrease for the better.

I always tell clients, “All you have to do is keep control of your dog’s head.  In particular, the eye contact and the teeth!”  Once you do that you typically no longer have to fight the dog’s body for control (this ranges based on the size of the dog’s body).

By the way, if you cannot control your aggressive dog’s head and eye contact you MUST, MUST, MUST order one of my custom-fit, hand-made, training collars because they work miracles for people!  Incredibly strong, light weight, smooth-flowing and unobtrusive, our collars will out perform any harness, martingale, flat buckle collar, choker, halti, gentle leader, or prong collar on the market!  Check them out at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com (search the Custom Products page)

Aggression in our dogs is so mishandled by mainstream dog trainers, behaviorists, and vets.  They don’t seem to know the dog language, they don’t actually “speak dog” although they all claim to, they only do what’s already been done and yet they expect different or good results and that, Friends, is the definition of insanity.

We must all re-examine our dogs and their behavior.  We must all re-examine why we are acting how we’re acting and what we are doing with our dogs.  We must all confront the tempting trap of convenience as we move into the future.  We must reserve drugging the dog as one of the very last options of treatment especially if we truly care for our dogs like everyone claims to.

Thanks for reading and considering this.  This was another honest post for you and your dogs.

-G

The Four Pillars of dog language

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Dog language and the adjustment of behavior need not be complicated.  After a decade and a half of examining and questioning the dog training industry and observing other pet professionals and after learning and studying the Way of the Dog directly from thousands and thousands of dogs themselves I have broken down dog language into what I have coined The Four Pillars of Dog Language.  These relatively unknown pillars of canine communication and language are the essence of dog behavior and social interaction.  They are incredibly important to all canids on the planet!  The Four Pillars have nothing to do with positive reinforcement or punitive reinforcement – they go far deeper than shallow motivation.  Once you recognize and utilize The Four Pillars you will see rapid improvement in even the most difficult of dogs.

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The Four Pillars of dog language I’ve discovered and am sharing with you now are tried and true.  They stand the test of time.  Every single dog I’ve ever worked with knows and responds whenever I tap into these pillars.  It doesn’t matter what breed you have, what age the dog is, or the dog’s sordid past history – every canine on this planet, be they wild or domestic, use and clearly understand these pillars of communicative interaction!  The Four Pillars are instinctual and, thus, primal and powerful.

If more dog behaviorists focused on first learning these Four Pillars and then teaching dog language instead of settling for and being perpetually enthralled by frivolous trick training and dog obedience the world and dog ownership as a whole would rapidly improve!  If veterinarians knew the four pillars of dog language they’d be much better equipped to handle the large, fearful, and aggressive dogs that come for exams without accidentally adding more negative stress to the visit and the dog (this frequently occurs)!  If animal shelters and dog rescue groups knew the four pillars their adoption rates would skyrocket because dogs would settle down peacefully and adapt much faster to modern households and society!  But let’s not hold our breath.  In the meantime at least you and I, Dear Reader, can begin at once a deeper relationship with our dog as we, the curious, the questioning, the nature-loving, and the open-minded, embrace these Four proven Pillars of dog language.  Here they are for the very first time…

THE FOUR PILLARS OF DOG LANGUAGE

Touch

Space

Movement

Energy

 

The Four Pillars are what every mother and father dog concern themselves with when raising their young.  They are what all older social dogs rely on to remain socially skilled.  These Four Pillars are what either goes right or goes wrong when two dogs meet for the first time.  These Four Pillars determine whether a puppy will be a joy to live with and easily get along socially or if they will become a nightmare.

In the next installment (Part 2) we will examine each one and look at practically applying them with our dogs!

Thanks so much for following our blog.  Please tell your dog-loving friends about our blog or share our articles!

-G

http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com

http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com