The aggressive dog – three common mistakes owners initially make

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The aggressive dog is usually overcompensating for fear.  (It is often the same with people)  As discussed, fear in a wild canid is a perfectly normal and totally acceptable part of survival in the wild.  If the wild animal has triggering fear behavior it serves to keep the individual alive longer.  But fear presenting as aggression in our domesticated dogs, dogs that live with families in our modern world, is a serious and often misunderstood problem.  Most dog training tactics NEVER help aggression.  This is why aggression is so serious and why I say it’s almost always misunderstood.

Over the many years I’ve observed two tactics that clients employ when dealing with their dog’s aggression.

1.  They don’t do anything.  Believe it or not this happens quite a bit!  Let me clarify.  Obviously they do something because they’ve sought out our professional help (certainly the right call to make when encountering serious aggression issues).  So great job on that.  But, when they arrive for their first appointment they typically do NOT do anything (physical) during the exact moment that their dog needs it the most!  They don’t take action.  I mean to say that many clients (the first time they arrive at the Dog Language Center and take their dog out of the vehicle to begin the session) do NOT attempt to intercept or cut off the dog’s intense staring, barking, screaming, lunging, or snapping!  I have often observed them holding onto the end of the leash for dear life and that’s about it.  They let the crazy dog lead the way.  The aggressive dog is just doing what it’s been allowed to repeatedly do, and thus, seizes control of the space all around the owner.  The reactive dog hits the end of the leash and keeps the tension there in order to ramp up its energy and achieve even more anti-social behavior (directed right at me or at Jesse, my apprentice)

2.  They do the wrong thing.  Sometimes I’ll watch and see that the aggressive and fearful dog is usually being comforted by the owner (they say, “It’s OK” or “Your fine” repeatedly) and, as discussed many times on this fine blog, the dog is now being verbally reinforced by way of soft human talking for the wrong (fearful and aggressive) state of mind at the completely worst time to do so!  Often the aggressive dog will, with the unwitting aid of their owners, position their rear end (the exact body part that cannot bite or attack) near the centerline of the owner’s body.  The rear end of a dog is the part that is supposed to be available for smelling by other social members of their species. Please pause and reread that last sentence.  It is quite common for us to see the dog sit on or right near the owner’s feet.  The aggressive dog is, in simple terms, hiding it’s butt and simultaneously signaling that it is not at all social because it’s hiding its most social and smelly side – the butt!  A dog’s rear end contains a lot of scent – that is the natural gateway to gaining proper information that leads to greater levels of social relation.  Wise dog owners must Never let their dogs position the backside at the owner’s feet or position their body under the owner’s body by way of sticking the dog’s butt in between the owner’s legs.  In this dreadful position the fearful and aggressive dog can truly fight because they now have their socially open/vulnerable backside fully covered (anti-social position) and seemingly protected and reinforced (by the owner)!  In this position the dog has its weapons out in front of the owner and directed straight at the person or dog they intend to bite!  It is a horrible position to let the dog get into and about half of our clients (initially) allow their dog to get into this fighting position.  Remember, the aggressive dog is masterful at manipulating the touch, space, and movement of their owner.

3.  They attempt training at an improper time.  Most forms of dog training (however advanced the training may be) are excitement-based and externally-based and that’s NOT beneficial for excitable, anxious, aggressive, or fearful dogs!!! When the owner gets their dog to sit, or watch them, or stay right with them instead of allowing their dog to freak out on a stranger (or on a strange dog) or instead of allowing them freedom to sniff and explore and actually be social – the owner seldom realizes that all the obedience commands in the world (all the sits, downs, stays, et cetera) usually amount to niceties that have little or nothing to do with the real social work and experience we need to accomplish within the dog and within the owner’s psyche!  In fact, many caring dog owners rely on “training” as a crutch because they know that their dog is quite unsocial and cannot be trusted.  So, they often pile more obedience training upon more obedience training in hopes that if they just had TOTAL control their dog wouldn’t attack a person or bite another dog.  Friends, total control is and always has been an illusion.  Anyone who thinks total control is possible is living in a dream world.  Good leadership, however, just like good dog ownership, seeks to balance control with freedom.  At Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center we teach people that too much attempted control results in eventual rebellion within the dog.  Just as too much wild freedom without some basic rules and boundaries will most certainly result in chaos.  Good dog owners, like good parents, or good government officials, must be aware of the locus of control/freedom and rebellion/chaos.  Balance is key – as all nature testifies.  Please think about that.

To sum up: do not comfort (with human talking) a fearful or aggressive dog during the exact moment that the dog is freaking out!  And be sure and do somethingdo ANYTHING – to physically change the bad or violent positioning your aggressive dog may be used to assuming in order to save his/her own hide and in order to simultaneously threaten any one who walks up to you!

Need more help?  Read my two books on dog behavior – Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety.  And keep an eye out for my third upcoming book (!!!!!!) that will be all about the 5 incredible senses of a dog and the 4 Pillars of dog language as it pertains to real world behavioral results and proper application of the Garrett Stevens Method!

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Aggressive dog in a harness…world’s WORST IDEA! If this owner only knew about our handmade training collars (they work wonders!)

 

I just wanted to Thank You

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I just wanted to pause for a moment and thank you all for reading my stuff.  I know I probably come off like an arrogant prick occasionally and please understand that’s not my intention it’s probably just who I am (hahaha- little joke – that’s partially true).

I am so blessed though whenever I think of my readers (readers of my books and of this blog) and those that are willing to look boldly and honestly at themselves and to look with a curious and open mind at their dogs as we imagine a brighter future together.  It is a very exciting time to be alive and active.

I also wanted to let you all know that I don’t get online and critique some random electrician’s wiring job on a new home, and I don’t write bad reviews of restaurants, and I don’t criticize how my mechanic could have done a better job.  I leave those professionals, and others like them, space to do their work as genuine professionals in their specific fields.  Unfortunately, this is hardly the case where dog trainers are concerned because every Tom, Dick, and Harry has had a dog of his own.  And the internet crowds obviously do not mind, even as lay people, critiquing (and or lying about) an expert that has bled and sweat for many years to build a successful business that has served thousands of dogs over the years and stimulated authentic and lasting change in both canine and human alike.  It’s strange to me that these lay folk, these non-professionals, these people that have never helped a dog with true human aggression or with severe dog-dog aggression (let alone handled thousands of them), would be so free with their criticisms.  Maybe it’s just the foolish trap of the inter webs?  Perhaps they’ve never read Roosevelt’s classic “Man In The Arena” speech about how “It is not the critic who counts…”  Friends, I have been a man in this specific arena for a long time and wanted to take a moment to thank you all for sticking with me.  Your comments and legitimate questions and shares on this blog cheer me on.

So if, at any time on this blog of mine, I seem a bit assertive it is because the dog training world and many a dog owner we encounter is filled with high emotions and with misinformation concerning nature and dogs.  I am trying daily to calm and clarify a portion of it for all our clients and for all our faithful followers.  If I seem a bit defensive occasionally or on the attack in my writing, it is because I see hosts of damaged dogs and hear stories from clients who tried other training (often with methods filled with ridiculous and unnatural training techniques) before those same clients happened upon our custom behavior mod. and finally began to see a difference within their pet.  I see these dogs and hear these true and sometimes harrowing stories over and over, day after day, month after month, and year after year.  And so, instead of mourning for a lost industry that cranks out neurotic dog after neurotic dog, personally, I get active and assertive and – I get to work.  I am assertive because I actually care!  Thank you for your understanding.

As many of you know, we train and rehab dogs around the clock – we don’t have the time or the luxury to give “free evaluations” like many dog training companies do because all our hours are filled to the brim with private session after private session, and with time spent helping those dogs fortunate enough to grab a spot in our behavioral board and train at Stevens Family Kennels.  A bulk of our life is spent serving dogs and clients and trying to fix problems.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and to share our stories and my behavioral training or “anti-training” advice – each time you do you never really know just what dog owner and dog you could help.  And that’s exciting!  Thank you so much for reading my two books and please keep an eye out for the third – in it I will reveal even more of our instinctual methods.  I promise if you apply our stuff properly (using the 4 Pillars of dog language and the Garrett Stevens method) it truly works to calm dogs down and to help them align their senses, and it works to help you build a healthier relationship with the unique and fascinating species we all simply call…a dog!

Thanks again,

-G

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Is your dog like Muhammad Ali?

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Perhaps your dog “floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee?”

Maybe you are one of the multitude of dog owners that “can’t catch what they can’t see.”

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali had masterful footwork and incredible spatial strike and retreat/retreat and strike techniques on the canvas that won him the heavyweight championship title.  Known today simply as “The Greatest” he was a masterful tactician and a true artist of the sweet science.

I’m here to inform you that your puppy (or dog) also has these same incredible moves at their disposal just like Ali had.  Whenever he/she performs these keep away moves on you it is purposefully rude, manipulative, and a relationship killer which then leads to a host of other dog behavior problems!  Whenever your puppy slips your touch or evades you, the pup then grows steadily worse.

 

All normal canines can perfectly calculate (just like Muhammad Ali could) the length of your arms and hands in relation to where their body happens to be.  They are true masters of fight/flight distancing.  Dogs know and care about space as it concerns their body and the environment they find themselves in.  They can dance away just as skillfully as the champion pugilist did in his prime.  Ali used the “rope a dope” tactic successfully on many an opponent in the ring.  Dogs and puppies also do this to their owners all-the-stinking-time! This allows them to grow steadily ruder and, in their doggy mind, more and more in charge of the household, the yard, the couch, the dog daycare, and the neighborhood!

When a dog attempts to slip your touch and stay out of your personal space bubble when you’re reaching towards them or clearly asking them to come into your space in order to be touched or groomed or pet, or leashed up, we must be able to control that interaction.  When you approach your dog they should not back away.

Beneficial suggestions to stop a dog from slipping your touch:

As detailed in my first book, Dog Myths, you must learn to play while moving backwards – use the tug, rope, or ball to lure the dog into your personal space.  When playing tug of war be sure to add your second hand into the mix in a fun way.  You should be able to touch your dog with your second hand without your dog slipping the touch.  This is how you desensitize and slow the classic Muhammad Ali slip and rope a dope behavior.

Do NOT lunge after the dog or chase it!  (Chasing the dog is a bad game because it reinforces the fact that your dog can run way, way faster than you or any human can)

Have your puppy wear a flat buckle collar around the house so that when he/she decides to slip your touch and give you the rope a dope you can easily reach forward under the neck of the animal and hook the collar and (gently) drag them forward into your space – then perform your originally intended purpose (the reason why you attempted to touch the pup in the first place – petting, grooming, leashing etc) Then be sure and turn away and exit the space first (before your pup runs off).  This little paragraph is important and has the potential to greatly alter misbehavior and bring about healthy relationship!  (If you’re still struggling with this then go to the leash and have your pooch drag one around)

Call your dog less.  Our pets live in a world of human talking and man made noise.  Humans are incredibly loud a majority of the time.  It is not that way in the woods.  Most animals don’t like loud noises.  Many dog owners kill the “come” command by overuse.  They also destroy the dog’s name because of overuse.  Don’t be one of them.  Be creative.  Think like an older dog.  Older dogs do NOT sit there calling the pups to them.  What do they do?  (I’m not giving you the answer because I want you to up your observation skills).

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This is my favorite pair of boxing gloves and my favorite jump rope

Muhammad Ali was fun to watch in the ring – he was one of the best boxers ever – but when a dog or pup slips their owner’s touch that is blatantly disrespectful and will most certainly grow poor behavioral patterns if left unchecked.  It matters not if the dog is nervous or shy.  Please follow my suggestions and then let us know how quickly you saw the changes in behavior occur!  (This stuff works and not only does it work…it works better than many behavior modification methods out there.)  DO it and both you and your dog will certainly reap the benefits!

-G

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