My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: A Rescue dog story

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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

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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

Your dog wants you to read these books!

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The information contained within these books is incredibly different from what most dog trainers, dog behaviorists, dog whisperers, and vets are espousing…the methods actually work!  Order your copies TODAY (your dog will thank you!) on Amazon, Apple, or at Barnes and Noble.

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#gotcalm ?  #getgarrett #experiencethedifference

-G

In praise of tangled leashes – Why dogs SHOULD meet ON LEASH: Part 1

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Are you one of those dog owners that typically avoids the meet and greet with other dogs on leash whenever you’re out and about?  If you are then your dog probably has or soon might have behavioral problems!

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This image shows why people have trouble on leash…the owners seldom go slack! They don’t give the dogs enough freedom on leash so that the dogs can get to the rear end of the other dog in order to properly finish a typical, normal, social canine greeting! Do NOT be the type of owner that is so afraid that you do not let the leash become loose enough to be tangled with the other dog owner’s leash. Seek out the tangle!  (More on this in Part 2)

Dogs are one of the most, if not the most, social species across the globe.   A canine’s very survival depends on teaming up and working together, whether it’s wolves forming a pack in order to take down larger prey in Yellowstone or a Chihuahua living with an eighty year old woman on the 49th floor of a Seattle skyscraper – teamwork makes the dreamwork.  And even though we know that all dogs are highly, highly social (it’s instinctual) there are thousands and thousands of well-meaning dog owners that will not allow their dog to meet another random dog walking by them on leash.  And these days there is bad info out there even suggesting such.  What gives?  Why won’t more and more dog owners simply relax enough to let their dog meet another dog?

  1.  Because they follow bad, status quo advice that sounds good but, upon further investigation or deeper thought, proves to be ridiculous.  Want an example?  (I was hoping you did!)  Below is a perfect example of the “well-meaning yet stupid” advice that comes right from the mediocre, mainstream, status quo dog “lovers” and “trainers” direct to your phone or computer via Facebook, Instagram, et cetera.  The below memes, while initially seeming to make sense, IF followed, would literally make thousands and eventually millions of dogs (and their owners) less and less social and more and more psychologically fragile and problematic!  Which, if we’re being honest, is already happening at an alarming rate without the idiotic advice of skipping all on leash meetings!  Please SAY NO to these memes and help your dog achieve greater levels of sociability.

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    Although I agree with all the listed reasons in this meme -the advice here is still asinine and should NOT be followed! Instead teach your dog to heel and then, when you’re close enough to the other dog owner, after asking to meet, make sure the leash is loose enough for your dog to move in and get to the back part of the other dog to smell it’s rear end!  Leashes should usually get mixed up and tangled as evidence of a good, social smelling session between dogs!

  2. Reason numero dos why more and more dog owner’s will not relax and let their dog meet another dog…Because more and more people these days are fearful.  We have been slowly conditioned over generations to think “Safety first.”  We have been taught to helicopter parent.  People are so afraid and have insane amounts of info telling us to continue to be afraid.  We have been given so much information so fast due to the digital revolution that most of us are addicted to it.  Many folks watch the “news” or receive updates moment by agonizing moment on the latest tragedy that happens anywhere and everywhere in the world.  People, this is bad for your brain and bad for your body!  Stop being wooed by the internet.  Say NO to a high information diet!  Say NO to letting the “news” consistently trigger your adrenals and your fight/flight responses because, as I’ve explained before, chances are high that you’re Not going to fly over to Timbuktu to actually aid in fixing the most recent famine, or pitch in for hurricane relief, or take up arms in some civil war effort half a world away.  And because you’re Not going over and DOING anything about it then it is a sort of folly (a foolish mental gymnastic) to simply bog down your mind and emotions with this alarming info consistently throughout your day.  Let it go.  Safety, My Friends, is way, way over-rated.  In fact, in the name of “safety” we in the USA, are watching as our rights and freedoms steadily erode and disappear as a Nanny State grows but that is perhaps a subject for a different post or blog altogether.
  3. The third reason we SHOULD let our dogs meet on leash – No Risk = No reward.  Successful people in every walk of life know that if there’s No Risk then there’s little to No Reward.  We should take it to heart for ourselves, for our children, and for our dogs.  “Risking” your dog meeting another dog on leash is necessary in our society to keep dogs from going further off the deep end towards fear and aggression!  How do you think dog daycares or dog parks even work?  They rely on the inherently peaceful and social nature of our dogs and on their excellent language skills.  The “risk” of having dogs meet on leash is so minor when compared to the upside and when compared to plenty of other risky things in the wide world I believe that it is only in pathetic 2019 dog owners that a meme like the one above and immediately below would ever be taken seriously.  Is this how far we’ve fallen as a society and as dog owners – we can’t even talk to a neighbor/fellow dog owner on the sidewalk and ask if the dogs can meet?  If so then we are truly Pathetic with a capital P.

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    Please DO NOT spread the word about this bad advice! The folks that designed these foolish memes must have never heard the truth that being uncomfortable often can lead to success. Pressure builds muscles and discomfort creates pearls and high tension transforms coal into diamonds…et cetera…et cetera. Dogs NEED to socialize any which way they can. They should be able to intelligently greet one another ON leash!  Instead of skipping the greetings altogether (like a coward) WHY not learn to lead your dog or pup into a proper canine greeting?!  JUST SAY YES TO ON LEASH GREETINGS IF YOU WANT A SOCIALLY “NORMAL” DOG!  Stop and talk to your neighbor.  “Risk” some real life sociability!

 

We really struck dog intelligence and sociability a nasty blow when random bureaucrats instituted leash laws in cities and towns across the country several years back.  Am I against leash laws currently?  No, because we can’t go back due to the fact that our dogs have now lost so much common sense, language skills, and because of the rampant rise of fear and aggression among dogs.  When we forced the leash on them, stifling their freedom and natural movements, we took away two key factors in our relationship with dogs.  We lost RESPECT for their natural intelligence and their ability to navigate the world around them, and we obviously didn’t TRUST them, thus the institution of leash laws, and, sadly, that was the final nail in the coffin of TRUST.  Dogs lost real world wisdom and experience and we now see and experience the fallout daily in society.  (Example: Dogs that escape the front door, dogs that escape the yard, dogs that go crazy with territorial guarding, dogs that are hit by cars when they’re running loose, dogs that run up and just attack another dog unprovoked…these things didn’t happen as often when they were free to run the neighborhoods many years past.)

Think for a moment of cats.  Many outdoor cats still have real world wisdom and do NOT get hit by cars even though they are loose out of doors.  Many outdoor cats do not randomly attack each other.  Many outdoor cats are savvy.  These cats know when it’s proper to slip away quietly and when it’s proper to stand their ground and fight (yes, sometimes, in rare cases, fighting IS the best option).

Instead of taking the unsocial approach by not letting your pooch meet other dogs on leash (which causes horrific psychological damage and more fear and aggression) I would highly, highly suggest cultivating a great heel.  Get those heeling and leash manners going so that you aren’t being dragged down the sidewalk and so that you can contain some of your dog’s energy levels as you approach another dog and owner.  Have the on-leash skills and get the know how in order to efficiently move and guide and direct your dog’s head and eye contact.  We have a great intro to Heeling and Leash Manners video available for anyone interested  – go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com to order it!

Before just obeying some gormless meme offering facile solutions on the internet concerning dog behavior even if it’s from a dog training company, I encourage you, Dog Owners, to listen and follow instead what lines up with Mother Nature and what advice agrees with more peaceable, relaxed, playful socialization among all dogs and all canines. Does your dog need to meet all other dogs on leash – of course not.  Should you keep your dog in a rigid heel and pass by every dog you see – of course not.  Flexibility that leads to greater levels of Sociability is the name of the game!  If you want a better dog then socializing is always, always, always the answer (and within that answer you must learn the hows and whats of doing that smoothly through proper movement and leash handling – Not just avoiding every dog on leash because your dog (or their dog) may be nervous).

Practically speaking:

When dogs meet each other they will attempt to rush forward.  This is very normal because dogs are a fast species and their primary senses (first senses of touch, smell, and taste) should be itching to engage with the other dog.  This, Friends, is where hosts of dog owners typically blow it.

In the next and final installment of this little series In Praise of Tangled Leashes we will go into the practical, physical specifics and how to make it go smoothly for both your dog, the other dog, yourself, and the other dog owner during your meet and greet.  I will also touch on why the fearful or aggressive dog desperately needs to learn how to meet on leash and how to get that started efficiently through proper handling!

Stay tuned and while you do please Follow/Subscribe to this fine blog and sample my books on Amazon, Apple iBooks, or at Barnes and Noble.  Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety will greatly aid you in your quest to develop your dog into all he/she can be and so that you can prevent, reverse, or eliminate any and all behavioral issues instead of run from them like the above memes suggested!  Don’t believe me?  Read some of the marvelous reviews from other readers then try the samples of the books.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

Rex the Hero dog…the rest of the story

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Rex the hero dog, a German Shepherd from Des Moines, WA, was shot three times and attacked by home invaders!  The burglars had smashed the home’s rear sliding glass door possibly unaware that a teenage boy was upstairs with his dog.  Rex was rapidly on the scene and, protecting home and hearth, went after the invaders, biting at least one of them!  Rex was then fired upon and sustained three bullet wounds.  He was shot in the neck and hind legs!  The criminals fled the scene after hearing police sirens.

Naturally, the family and Rex’s story gained much media attention.  They were able to raise many times what they were asking for in regards to Rex’s medical bills.  (In just two days they were gifted $52,000.00 on their gofundme to go toward his surgery!)

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Javier giving Rex some love while he recuperates.

However, what the news folk all failed to go into was the rest of the story…how Rex became people aggressive to everyone and anyone aside from his immediate family and how the normal behavior training they initially attempted did NOT work!  The truth of the story, of course, is that this is Not just another touchy, feel-good dog story – there’s more to it than that.  Some segments of Rex’s news story even featured some dog trainer talking about PTSD and giving the dog food treats but the media’s story stopped there and failed to go into how that did NOT work for the family or for Rex or for society at large!  Classic.  The fact that Rex was now psychologically messed up and that the “positive” training they tried failed was NOT included in any of the media’s follow up reporting on Rex and the family.  I’m not exactly sure why.  It probably has to do with the fact that people these days are only familiar with telling one half of the story when it comes to our dogs.  Only the good half.  We tend to shy from what’s ugly even if it’s the God’s honest truth.  But, if you’ve been a reader of this fine blog you know I do Not do that.  I strive to be honest and direct and open like all dogs are with me.  I know Abe Lincoln was on to something.

When a large dog is aggressive towards people it is an issue that must be taken seriously.  The sad fact is that we as people, no matter how desperately we desire it, don’t always see our dogs for what they really are or how insane they may be becoming.  People are often misreading, mishandling, and mistaking our dog’s language and their training (for more on this – much more – read my first book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!).  In Rex’s case it is a totally understandable reason to become aggressive and untrusting of other people, he was shot three times for crying out loud, but how do we move on?  How does a person successfully lead their dog back into sociability?  How do we lead the dog properly in order to vanquish fear and embrace living in the moment?  Will keeping him as a “victim” truly help?  Will stuffing his face with food treats truly help remove severe psychological damage?  Will oodles of human comfort aid him mentally and emotionally?  Will adding more training and rigid obedience help solve the problem?

Many pet owners and many pro trainers would suggest giving Rex food.  Food treats, when the dog is at a distance from a person in order to develop a “positive association,” is NOT the best way forward in a case like this and often will NOT work with dogs at higher  levels of aggression BECAUSE dog’s can turn down their sense of smelling and tasting in order to turn up their fight/flight senses of vision and hearing leading them to ignore the food and continue escalating their energy by way of extreme, instinctual, predatory concentration directed right at the stimuli/person.  Also, for many dogs, food is exciting – why add that to an already excited dog?  Fighting is also exciting.  (I know because I loved sparring in my martial arts classes and adored tossing boxing gloves on to do some backyard brawling with a buddy).  Lastly – if one looks at literally every single dog on the planet, we see that they do NOT need to utilize food treats when interacting and relating with other dogs!  Dogs simply converse with one another.  The father and mother dog do NOT rely on a food treat in order to “condition” or “modify” their pup’s behaviors…instead they simply communicate using dog language.  (By the way, the parent dogs don’t use brutal or harsh tactics either in order to effectively raise their young).

Other people might suggest taking him to a former police or military dog handler turned private trainer because, well, they have worked with a lot of shepherds (German, Dutch, Belgian Mal.).  The problem that we often hear about after this sort of training fails is that they’ll teach the dog to stand on a log for a long time, to work a bite sleeve efficiently, to jump a fence, and perform rigid sits, downs, and stays and will train them using German or Czech commands but…they barely ever consider what it takes to RELAX the dog.  They seldom if ever consider what is important to all older dogs and dog “society” in general because the emphasis is always on working obedience and not on calming down and getting along.  (FYI: we are very thankful for those serving in our military and for the military working dogs – both dog and handler do a great job serving and protecting our nation).  Some times taking your Shepherd to a former LEO or military dog handler is overkill on working obedience when what most dog owners desire and desperately need is trust and the ability for the dog to get along with others at the local barbecue.  One of the biggest myths in the dog training and behavioral modification industry is that the addition of obedience removes behavioral issues!  Please reread that last sentence.  The addition of obedience does NOT necessarily mean the subtraction of poor behaviors!  If you fixate on obedience (which all mainstream dog training does) you’ve just added some juggling to your dog’s bag of tricks.  Keep in mind the mother dog doesn’t care whether or not her pup’s can perform a “sit” command.  Please think about what she cares about. Think about what dogs care about and need.  I’ll let you puzzle that out.

Back to Rex…the good news…

Thank goodness Rex’s family made a wise choice and did some well thought out research because they ended up eventually finding and working with us, Garrett Stevens’ Alpha and Omega Dog Training, on Rex’s behavioral rehab after trying all the other stuff.  They drive a long ways to see us and the natural, spatial techniques we’ve gone over are working to help calm him down and get him closer and closer to how a normal, healthy, social dog acts and interacts with the world.  Great job, Julia and Javier!

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Time to socialize. Socialization is always the answer for a house dog no matter what the question is. Living with constant fear is no life at all! If you have to begin on muzzle then begin on muzzle but socialize always!

When I first met Rex he was intensely barking, lunging, jumping, and snapping at me while on leash.  I instructed Julia and Javier on dog language and Rex’s need for leadership and for natural calming and proper positioning and leash manners.  For weeks now I’ve been able to calmly lead him on walks, pet him, and help guide him back into what is acceptable behavior and energy within his family and within society at large as I try my very best to impart to him that not everyone is a bad guy looking to do harm to him or looking to hurt his family.  I am realigning the dog’s senses so he can once again navigate his world.

Trust is so important.  We cannot get to trust though unless we have real respect too.  Respect and trust don’t come from food (even if your local trainer is forcing the food down your pup’s throat).  It doesn’t come from a certain rigid training method.  Respect and trust do not come from raw obedience either.  Respect and Trust are something altogether deeper.  Remember, reinforcement in dog training and behavioral modification is tremendously overrated.  Relationship has almost unlimited potential!  Forget “positive only” methods and forget punitive mostly – focus on how dog’s relate and your dog will thank you!

It has been a privilege helping Rex the hero dog and teaching his family the ins and outs of efficient dog handling and relaxation techniques directly from the Garrett Stevens Method and Mother Nature.

Rex has come a long way.  He, like all of us, has more to learn but we are glad he’s learning to self soothe and to truly calm down and follow Julia and Javier’s lead.  Here’s to a bright future for Rex and the family.

-G

 

My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: a Rescue dog story – Part 2

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The powerful black dog trotted my way after a quick visit with his owner on the chair across from me.  His docked tail vigorously wagging this time.  I began putting my hand over his head and stroking his face, eyes, and muzzle.  I do this as a sort of touching and quick temperament test with every dog I work with.  I do NOT suggest you do this unless you have a good grasp of the dog language, which, in my professional opinion, most folks do NOT even though they assume they do!  Please don’t take it personally because I know for a fact many dog professionals (vets, behaviorists, trainers, daycare owners) don’t have a solid grasp on dog language either!  If they did behavioral issues wouldn’t be skyrocketing like they currently are.

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Cato our Pitbull/Cane Corso mix. He will be featured in my upcoming third book on rescue dogs!

 

As I spoke with Cato’s owner I applied my classic “Touch and Go” move like I mentioned in the first part of this series.  I’ll explain it to you now, Dear Reader, so you too can begin a better life with your own dog and with any dog you happen across in the fine future.  Are you ready?  Please pay attention.  Basically it goes like this…

1.  Touch the dog.

2. Stop touching the dog.

That’s it.  That’s what I call a wonderful beginning.  While I’m telling you this slightly with tongue in cheek that really is the whole maneuver.  The magic is that you, the toucher, stop giving touch before the dog, the touchee, leaves your space, or grows tired of your touching, or threatens you, or before he/she demands more touching from you.  You pet the dog then, if you’re sitting, you purposefully stop and lean back and look away from the dog.  If you’re standing and petting the dog then you stop and stand up to your full height and, looking away, you ignore the dog.

This ridiculously simplistic maneuver is so undervalued and underdone among dog owners and dog lovers.  This is astounding to me in my daily dog and human observational studies.  Most people keep petting until the dog determines when it’s over.  Most people are left bent over and the dog has exited their space whenever it wanted.  Most dogs dictate (over time) who touches who and how and when that touch is applied and the human just follows along like a clueless goon.  Then, years and many behavioral issues later, “The dog just snapped,” or “The dog just turned, no warning at all!” I call BS on that, Friends.  For many a dog has spent its entire life telling the person they live with precisely how they will or won’t receive touch!  This is no bueno.

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Touch is a dog’s first sense and the most important sense by far when determining sociability, respect, trust, clear and polite communication, obedience, and every other stinking thing you can think of that happens between human and dog!  PAY STRICT ATTENTION TO HOW TOUCH IS HAPPENING TO YOU AND YOUR HUMAN BODY AND TO HOW YOUR DOG TAKES TOUCHING ON HIS/HER DOG BODY.  My “touch and go” move lets the dog clearly know that I’ll touch when I want, how I want, and then stop when and how I want also just like the mother or father dog would on their young.  It paves the way for healthy relationship between owner and dog as opposed to the classic blunder of – dog dictates touch whenever and however and forever until something awful happens! This is what many families suffer through.

Does the “Touch and Go” work for nervous or aggressive dogs?  YES and YES!  The point is to touch them and then stop before they aggressively warn you off of their body or space or bed or food, or before they run away or slip your touch.  In extreme cases it looks like this – You touched them.  They barely registered it.  They began to get uncomfortable but before they could escalate you already have stopped and you’re ignoring them.  It’s the smooth way to begin to handle a dangerous dog and to begin to lay claim to what you should lay claim to – namely – your dog’s body and the space and items around it.

The owner proceeded to tell me Cato played a bit rough for her older female pit.  That he was afraid of loud noises too.  Fear.  Fear is rampant among dogs these days.  I noticed his flat buckle collar was on his neck pretty tightly.  I guessed he was prone to slipping his head loose by way of backing out of the collar.  All those things mattered little to me though as he took my touching so well.

You see, Dear Reader, when I touch a dog I am communicating to them on a primal, instinctual level that is familiar to all canines (and to the majority of creatures on the planet).  This is so much more important than training and behavior modification!  Touch is the heart of dog language, it goes into energy, space, and how all dogs interact and build relationships.

Cato was a sweetheart.  A heavily muscled, cropped-eared, strong-jawed pushover.  Because he received touching so well from me, a stranger, I knew he could get over those fears and I knew he would make for a great family dog.  Jokingly, I mentioned how cool I thought he was and “If you ever get rid of him just let me know.”  I finished my eval/training session and merrily went off to my next appointments.  (Special note: if a dog training company has time to offer Free evaluations typically that clues us into the fact that they’re services are Not in demand, or they’re planning to pull a big upsell on you, or they do their alleged “training” only part time = I’d typically steer clear of these companies/people when searching for a quality behaviorist/trainer but bear in mind there are always exceptions to the rule)

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Shoulders for days

Well, life has a way of handing us what you put out into the atmosphere and within a couple weeks we got a call about the possibility of us taking Cato or at least fostering him until a suitable home could be found for him.  His owner had hurt her hip (apparently unrelated to Cato or the dogs) and the doc was telling her it would take a while to heal up  and since I had mentioned to her to let me know if she ever got rid of him…

The bride and I had a fitful night of back and forth and other low-minded indecisiveness.  I did not enjoy it.  I liked Cato but weeks later I was purposefully and intelligently thinking of things that would potentially disqualify him from entering our home.  You see, Dear Reader, we should all use our heads as well as our hearts when it comes to rescue and shelter dogs.  We must consider our lives, and our children, and our schedules wisely.  In this way we can foment growth both in our home and family and in the new dog.  I was thinking of all the potentially terrible happenings that could occur if/when we took in a two year old, powerful breed, shelter dog and things went sideways because my first responsibility is as a husband to my wife and a father of four young children and then as a dog owner of my older boxer, Rambo.  If more people thought this way instead of rushing out with emotions blazing perhaps dogs in the rescue world wouldn’t have such a bad return rate, or bite rate, or as many behavior issues.  Maybe shelters and rescues (very well meaning) should stop lying or at least hiding the truth about certain dogs’ temperaments just to up their monthly and yearly adopted dog numbers!  Many rescues do this.  It’s a sad truth.  Many dogs should not have gone out.  They were unready for a home.  I see the rest of the story.  I see the bites on children.  I see the bites on other dogs.  I hear the stories direct from our clients of the bites on unwitting and unequipped dog trainers and behaviorists they hired prior to using our unique services.  I see neurotic dog after dog after dog.  It’s time to stop listening to sappy commercials that purposefully manipulate your heartstrings and utilize both your heart AND YOUR HEAD when contemplating bringing another dog into your home.  By all means love the dog.  Love it fully which includes leading it.

Tune in next time for the conclusion of Cato’s story and for more tips about dog language and about rescue dogs and their proper care and handling.

For more reading in the meantime please sample my books on Amazon.  Simply search Garrett Stevens or search Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety

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I know, I know, we need to clean our floors. They are especially messy because the new home we moved into had giant holes in the back yard from the previous owner’s dogs digging like mad. This spring there will be much grass planting going on.

-G

Dog Harnesses: a terrible idea!

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Are you tired of your dog pulling on the leash?  Are you sick of being dragged down the sidewalk?  Are you embarrassed by being walked by your dog and being asked, “Who’s walking who?” by the more annoying of your neighbors?  Does your dog lung and bark at passersby?  Has your dog ever nipped or jumped up and snapped at anyone or at any other dogs?

 

Friends, dog harnesses are NOT the best way forward out of those behaviors!  NOT even close!

Let’s make this perfectly clear.  Most every dog walking tool on the market today in 2019 sucks.  (Not every tool but the majority)  Dog harnesses are a plague on humanity.  Why you ask.  There are several sound reasons but I’ll just give you a couple.

Reasons Why Dog Harnesses Are A Plague On Humanity:

  1.  Dogs are way too comfortable pulling on them.  Many dogs will pull even on “no-pull” harnesses!  This causes many caring owners to struggle to maintain a decent walk or any form of leadership while outside.  In fact, many folks are getting injured from being pulled over and smashing onto the ground by their beloved dogs who, incidentally, have a much lower center of gravity, four strong legs, external claws permanently extended for running, and who come equipped with a predatory “eye of the tiger” often directed purposefully at prey animals or even at other dogs or people.  Harnesses were invented for pulling!  No one in their right mind would attempt to lead an ornery or dangerous horse or ox around in a harness, would they?  Then why do we try it with ornery, dangerous, or rude dogs?  (“Because we’re a larger species” is a horrible answer to that question)  Dog harnesses make it almost impossible to train a dog to learn to heel properly due to where the leash connects to the dog’s body (it is too far on the back or too low on the chest – both connections are downright awful) and if/when the handler attempts to work with a dog on a harness in the heel position the handler is at a huge disadvantage.
  2. People and dogs frequently get bit by aggressive dogs lunging at them while simultaneously being very comfortably pulling and straining in their harness!  I know several people that assumed that the teenage salesperson making minimum wage at the giant pet conglomerate knew what they were talking about when they told them to, “Get a dog harness.  You won’t hurt your dog’s fragile neck and you’ve got control of their body.”  Friends, why fight the dog body when what you really need is control of the eyes and mouth?  You need the dog’s head.  Its basic physics and basic anatomy.  How ridiculous have we all become when it comes to our dogs and their care and handling?  Someone has a powerful breed dog that is lunging at people and dogs and so they buy a stinking harness in order to fight with the dog’s body???!!!  Give me a break.  Meanwhile, while you’re struggling to control your out  of control dog the dog’s eyes and weapons (teeth) are pointing in whatever the heck direction the dog wants them to point and at whomever they decide to threaten!  Let’s all get beyond this harness foolishness, can we?  When a dog or pup is out of control we need to control the head and eyes  – NOT the body!  THE BODY FOLLOWS THE HEAD.  The eyes are contained in the dog’s head.  If you don’t have control of your dog’s head you don’t have much of anything!
  3. Many dogs can slip backwards out of their harness.  This happens all the time.  As if the first two reasons weren’t reason enough, did you want your dog loose on the street too?
  4. Harnesses can cause irritation around the pits.  Many dogs get chafed around their armpit areas.  Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.

In my opinion (and it is professional) the only time a harness on a dog is ever acceptable… is if the dog is involved in the Iditarod, pulling competitions, skijoring, cart pulling, legit service work, or if the pup is under four or five months old!  Now if the dog has a real, true, actual, verifiable neck injury or medical issue (and, believe me, this is rare), or if the dog is already very friendly, social, obedient, and already adept at heeling and loose leash walking (note I said HEELING and loose leash walking, NOT just loose leash walking) then a harness is fine.  Honestly though, every dog I know could improve on their heeling and leash work, including my own dogs, and they’re excellent.

Because dog harnesses cause so much trouble they are a plague to our dogs too!  They keep the dog mentally and physically locked in a place where they just keep pulling.  They struggle against you and gain an inch of ground and the struggle is rewarded in the mind of the dog through the forward motion!  It can make for a horrible relationship!  A relationship that often amounts to the dog thinking it does whatever the heck it wants as soon as the idiotic harness is in place around its body.  A relationship where the dog totally and unequivocally ignores the owner/handler in order to pull (and pull comfortably) towards whatever person, shrub, fire hydrant, or animal catches its fancy.

Should you use a choke chain then?  NO.  Should you use a prong collar because your dog is so powerful?  NO.  Prong collars (aside from being overkill in many situations) can and do burst apart leaving your dog loose at the most inconvenient of times!  They can also exacerbate an already worked up and aggressive dog.  Also…like with almost every training or walking tool or collar out there…they are too low on the dog’s neck.

Friends, ANY tool that isn’t near the top of your dog’s head or face isn’t that efficient of a tool!  You may say you saw some decent results from a harness, prong, or martingale, or even from your “no pull” harness, to which I would happily respond, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Our handmade, custom calming collars will EASILY out perform the mainstream dog training and walking tools on the market!  They sit high up where they should (safeguarding the trachea and maintaining the dog in a confident posture), are lightweight, are crazy strong, are smooth flowing for little directional adjustments or large ones, are unobtrusive, and best of all…dogs take to them quickly!  (Dogs do NOT choke on them.  Dogs only do that choking sound, by the way, when the tool that the owner’s choose is low on their neck!  People remain amazed whenever they try one of our collars they end up invariably purchasing one or more for their household.)  I implore you – Pick the right tool for the job.  With our custom, calming training collar in almost no time at all pulling and lunging is a thing of the past!

Check them out at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  search under our Custom Products page!  Don’t underestimate the power of a simple and effective approach.  Our handmade, custom calming collars are strong enough for the strongest and largest of dog breeds (200lbs) and everything in between.  We use them daily in our work with incredible results – no harsh handling necessary.

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Skip all the crazy equipment…order one of our custom, hand-made, training collars! Love your dog: Lead your dog!

 

Next post we will focus on… Cato the Corso (pitbull mix) rescue dog and our tale of how he came to join our training team at Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center.   Stay Tuned!

-G

 

Choosing a puppy or dog

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Let’s keep this short.

DON’TS:

Don’t choose a dog when you are feeling bad or sad or even excessively glad.  Basically beware making a highly emotional decision.  (I see these sorts of decisions literally come back to bite people years later with their rescue dogs or with the fearful pup that they wanted so desperately to love on).

Don’t choose the dog in the shelter or the pup at the breeders that just “chooses” you.  I know I’m going to get hate mail for this one but doing this is often a bad move unless you don’t mind dealing with rude and manipulative behavior from a dog that desires to lead or control the interaction between you.  This age old belief that “the dog chose me,” besides being emotionally-based anthropomorphism, often sets up the dog as leader in the relationship right off the bat.  If you truly desire to know more about why this is and/or the dog language and how many dogs truly will take a mile if given an inch I’d highly, highly recommend you read Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!  The book will set you and your canine companion up for amazing success as you walk towards a healthy relationship together in a natural way.  (No food required with training and no harsh handling either!)

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Don’t pick the sickly pup.  I know I’m coming off a bit harsh here but unless you’ve already dealt with several dogs with health issues I’d simply advise steering clear of the weak or sickly puppy.  To be honest with you (as I always am on this fine blog) several dog owners living in these instant gratification days barely maintain the commitment to walk and feed and pick up after their dogs.  Many are not prepared to dole out daily medications and pay costly vet bills throughout the life of their pet.  If you truly are prepared for that then I believe that’s a special calling for a very unique individual but not perhaps the best fit for the majority of us.  This does not mean you care any less it simply means you are using your head as well as your heart – which I think is a marvelous idea to employ towards most situations in life.

Don’t, Don’t, Don’t let the breeder talk you into buying TWO puppies because they’ll “play together!”  This plagues many a household.  What the breeder (who is making a good chunk of change in the exchange) often fails to tell the buyer is that as the litter mates age – particularly if they are the same sex – they can get into serious squabbles and fights over who’s who in the family or what belongs to what in the household!  The breeder also fails to mention what naturally occurs as far as training goes with two pups of the exact same age and litter let me enlighten you here and now…they often ignore you so they can fool around with each other.  They will need to be trained together and also trained apart if you hope to have any form of decent training.  They will also need to be socialized together and socialized apart if you want to make sure they don’t suffer with separation anxiety or other bizarre behavior.

When you finally get one pup to do a down stay guess what happens with the other pup?  He runs over and distracts the one in the down stay and then that one is up and they are both chewing on each other.  Unless you have a farm – I never advise getting two from the same litter.  Double the vet costs, double the crap in the yard, double the trouble of training, double the socialization, double trouble!

(If you want to hear my take on the double puppy issue – get a pup and wait until that dog is either a year or two and already trained and socialized then get another pup.  Over the years I’ve found this a sensible approach that is a win-win for both dogs and the families involved.)

Don’t let your kids pressure you.  As stupid as it sounds this happens.  Be a good parent because, let’s be honest, you’re going to have to take care of the thing when it comes into your home.  Kids often will for the first couple weeks until or unless they are forced to because you made it a daily chore for them.  But don’t make a life changing decision because your kids think puppies are cute.

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Here are the Dos…

Do take your time and make a very informed and thoughtful decision.  Do your research on breed and longevity and temperament.  Do look around at other “good” dogs you know in your neighborhood and ponder what their owners did and why they act accordingly and then ask where they got them.

Do talk to different breeders and ask the right questions and don’t believe everything they tell you!  When picking a puppy Do see and interact with both sire and dam.  If they are aggressive or fearful or injured that’s a clear warning sign waving in your face.  Do heed it.

Do seek out the medium level energy pup or dog.  Energy is so important and folks often get a dog or pup that is terribly wrong for them and their household.  With that being said, all puppies have high energy at several points throughout their day.  Do not assume that because the first couple weeks were calm due to the growing pup’s sleep schedule that a whirling dervish isn’t just a month away from developing.  It is.

Do make doubly and triply and quadruply sure that you can TOUCH the dog or pup EVERYWHERE without a bad reaction from them.  This is critically important and almost always overlooked (of course, because, as mentioned before the dog training industry and vets and other professionals are lightyears behind where we should be on truly interpreting dog language which is incidentally based in touch and spatial movements)!  Do pay close attention to how the dog gives and received touch.  This reveals everything if you know what to look for!!!!

Do your due diligence and understand that any dog or pup is work.  Do the work.  Do.the.WORK!  It pays off in little ways in the present and in big ways in the long term.  Do invest in your future and your dogs and do the work of socialization.  That is probably the most important work one can do with a pup or new dog.  Do the work of training too.  Do the work and you’ll see the results.

Do click to follow this fine blog and do feel free to comment, question or cuss me out.

-G