Once the honeymoon is over you may be in for serious trouble…

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Hello.  First off, congrats on your honeymoon.  Really, a full and hearty felicidades from me to you.  BUT…and it’s a big but (think Sir Mix-a-lot) are you ready to move on from the honeymoon and into this new phase of your real life?  Are you ready to get on with your day-to-day?  Are you prepared to get real?  I hate to break this to you but once the honeymoon is over you may be in for trouble…

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I’m writing very specifically about what I call “the honeymoon period” -whenever a new puppy, or a new dog, or rescue dog enters a new home.  So let’s take a quick look at exactly just what transpires between dog and new owner during and after the honeymoon.  Let’s get real.  Let’s be honest.

The honeymoon period is often a fantastic time (or seemingly so) between a dog owner and their new puppy or rescue dog.  The first week or three the dog is basically just feeling things out and exploring the terrain.  Most new dog or puppy owners are so thrilled with their new pets they are showering them with so much human affection and attention that they are blind to what is actually going on with the psyche of the new pup or dog in their family’s home.   So what exactly is going on as the new creature explores new relationships and new home environs?

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I would caption this pic, “Humans are insane”   This poor dog is probably just begging for a little bit of dignity

Many people are under the impression the first couple weeks that the new dog in the house is just going to work out great because everything is going swimmingly on the “honeymoon.”  The dog or pup is following them around.  Often times the dog is still unsure of where it stands and who is leading who, so, it will seem to the unwitting new owner as if it’s the sweetest and dearest creature on the planet.

As the days pass though the dog or puppy starts to (at least in the dog world and in the canine way of communicating) lead by controlling touch and manipulating the space around their own furry body and the space around their human’s body.  They soon can control and manipulate the space and items in and around the home.  (Ask yourself how do dogs naturally build relationships.  Think on that for a bit.)

People will often think their dog is a “real lover” because the animal is establishing a domineering form of over-touching.   Only a human would believe (in our incredible imagination) that our dog’s consistent touching of us is some form of dog love or affection…in reality it is simply a canine way to lead through social grooming.  A large portion of mammals establish relationships and leadership techniques through touching and social grooming rituals.

Do dogs make out with their mouths like people do?  Do dogs kiss?  NO- they don’t.  So please don’t fall victim to the “kiss” myth your own new dog or puppy may be attempting to sell you on!  When a new dog or pup is constantly licking or mouthing you this is most usually a canine way to one-up you and gain control.  Never let your dog or pup consistently lick you.  If left unchecked this will, of course, lead to the animal assuming too much command in most areas of it’s life (even though it should Not be in command of your personal space while living under your roof) and this will then lead to an onslaught of behavioral issues.

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Over the top much?

*Hint*  Be very aware of the honeymoon period and be sure to set clear boundaries about your own personal space and body and your new dog or pup’s body.

*Bigger Hint*  Do NOT let your dog or puppy constantly lick you.  Do NOT let them demand petting or touching.  Do NOT let them always invade or be in your personal space.  There is absolutely Zero reasons for a dog to consistently lick it’s owner unless the dog is seeking to gain social control by controlling touch.  And if you’ve got a fearful dog or pup this applies DOUBLE!!!  Do NOT let the dog live in your spatial bubble!!!

Most folks, while very well meaning, are doing almost Everything completely backwards when compared to how the mother, father, uncle, or aunt dog would behave and treat a new or younger pup in their environment.  Most people are showering the dog with over-attention during the honeymoon period and then wonder why weeks or months or years later they can’t relax because the dog has become an attention hound!

The honeymoon period presents a giant opportunity for the astute observer of nature and her glorious and calming ways.  Please take action during the honeymoon period so that when it comes time to get real it is an easy transition.  Lay the ground rules.  Set a firm but calm foundation.

Let your dog or pup EARN your attention and affection little by little.  You – the human, the one paying the mortgage, the one holding the keys to the house, the person who drives the car, the guy or gal who feeds the dog…YOU need to guide your dog or pup and have the relationship begin with Respect and then let the dog or pup EARN your valuable trust.

If your dog and you are already beyond the honeymoon period and you need help or for more info go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  and #getgarrett

A primer on Persistence: Tortoise style

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“Energy and Persistence conquer all things.”  -Benjamin Franklin

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It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop  -Confucius

Websters defines persistence as the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people; the state of occurring or existing beyond the usual, expected, or normal time.  

Consider persistence and our prime example the tortoise.  Imagine for a moment being born as a tortoise.  The moments passing by as you rip and tear your way through your leathery egg shell.   Using neck muscles, head movement, the egg tooth on top of your snout, and perhaps the most important quality, persistence, you steadily break free to the beckoning light of day.  Is it over then?  Are you rewarded for your Herculean effort?  Naw!  As you blink your round baby tortoise eyes, clearing the slime from them, pupils adjusting to the powerful light, you attempt an awkward step forward.

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You are shocked to discover there is something large and quite cumbersome encompassing the majority of your body!  What strange curse is this?  What is weighing you down?  Whatever it is, it seems an unfortunate and truly besetting plight.  You take a few more steps, half walking-half dragging your rounded shell across the sand.   Maybe the heavy apparatus will fall off if you move around enough?  You keep moving- step by step; quite slowly at first.  What trick of nature is this?  Born with an outrageous and bulbous weight to bear you down to the earth.  You walk on pausing momentairly to sniff the ground.

To the outside observer though there begins to appear a certain cadence, a slow and hampered rhythm to your plodding.  Step by scaled step, claw by claw, one sturdy leg after another, you start putting distance between yourself and the crumpled remains of your egg.  Hunger pangs begin to awaken primal feeding instincts deep inside you and, naturally, you actively start the search for a bite to eat letting your nose guide you.

The astute observer might notice that, as you lumber forward with each and every step, you now appear fairly steady for one so young.  Remarkable.  Inch after inch your persistent plodding continues.  Like a soldier marching with his platoon, your strong legs keep a forward beat.   As you continue on your journey you are happy indeed to find that your shell is now easily held aloft, plastron no more touching the ground.  You sniff and read the wide world around.

Entering a deeper part of the forest you are confronted with bumps from jutting rocks and fallen logs.  Does this slow your forward progress?  Hardly.  Because slow and steady are your credo.  Patience, endurance, and persistence are your bywords.  You simply advance.  Advancing over, under, or around matters not.  But you must advance.  You must eat.  Like a tank you press on.  After smelling and walking, sniffing and tramping around steadily your sharp nostrils finally detect an item good to eat.  After sniffing it several times you tear into the plant heartily, sharp beak snipping chunks off.  As hungry as you are you quickly find that you cannot devour the food as fast as you’d hoped.  Your small beak doesn’t allow for that.  As you attempt to choke down as much as possible it takes quite a while before you have finished with just one leaf.  More time is dedicated to what other creatures do easily.  You endure.

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As the days pass into years your experiences, like your shell, grow much larger.  Your carapace and plastron are hard now and you are thankful for the clever protection and the steady lifestyle your secure, yet mobile home affords you.  You enjoy your daily excursions around the forest floor even though it is inevitably tough going.  Your fears are few because your shell protects you from the larger dangers and your fortitude and patience guide you consistently forward.  You have learned that even when something in your path is difficult there is always, always, always a way through, over, under, or around it.  You are tough.  You are wise.  And you will live much longer than the creatures around you.  You are the embodiment of persistence.

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Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  -Calvin Coolidge

 

Alternative lessons: The Tortoise and the Hare

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I love Aesop and his many fables.  The guy was wise.  He was creative.  As humans we all appreciate stories even if not all of us appreciate learning or applying the lessons.  In today’s exciting blog post we will look at the classic story of the Hare and the Tortoise and hopefully learn something new.  Let’s take an alternative (Garrett Stevens) look at a classic fable…

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Why can’t the Hare get any love?  I’m serious.  Is it the rabbit’s fault he was born for speed?

I get the lesson of the story.  Over the years I’ve learned that slow and steady can win “the race.”  I am a huge fan of patient persistence especially when it’s intelligently directed toward a specific goal.  But what about all the benefits of speed and explosiveness?  How can we ignore the power of quickness and an explosive start?

I say let’s learn from both wonderful creatures and their strengths!

Part One:  THE HARE

Yes, the Hare lost.  He had a fantastic start to “the race.”  The rabbit burst from the starting line like a bullet leaving the tortoise in a massive cloud of earth and dust.  But we all know what happened down the road.  The Hare got distracted.  He got lazy.  He was too comfortable in his abilities.  Some might say the Hare even procrastinated during “the race.”

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The Hare had an amazing start and some strong moments throughout “the race.”  If he had kept his focus victory could have been his.  “Could have been“…morose words.  I pray we personally never have to think or dwell on words like those at the end of our lives.

What if we could combine the strengths of the Hare with the strengths of the Tortoise in our personal lives?  We can!  And we must.  Here is why…

In today’s world of entertainment, online connectivity, and tomorrow’s future virtual reality it is extremely, extremely easy and getting ever easier to settle for a comfortable life and nothing more.  With an almost immeasurable number of TV shows and websites one can quite literally waste half or more of one’s life watching someone else live instead of doing the living oneself!  Think of that for a moment.  Staggering.  My point?  The Hare was a great starter.  He didn’t like to sit still.  He possibly would have been diagnosed with ADHD if he had been a second-grade American boy from today’s era.

All action begins with a single step.  “He who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones.”  For many people the starting line is scary.  So many folks would prefer to simply watch others on TV and, from their couches, they stare ahead like zombies at other people’s starts, middles, and finishes.  It’s so much safer that way.  (Please don’t be condemned – I am as guilty of zombie watching and checking out of my own life as the next bloke).  The hare raced forward with several steps.  He took action.

We all could learn from the Hare.  We only have so much time and if you really want to accomplish anything sometimes we need to throw caution to the wind (don’t hide in your shell) and just take off!  Screw comfort – embrace quickness!  Have confidence in yourself!  Don’t over think everything – “Just DO It!”  The Nike Company must be fans of the Hare…their slogan is total rabbit talk.  Nike must also be tortoise fans as well (just look at their longevity and success thus far.)

I believe some people are more inclined to be Hares while others are more inclined to be Tortoises.  Furthermore identifying this Who’s who could be a great opportunity in one’s personal life, marriage, career, et cetera to compliment and encourage each other and to help lend someone our specific strength where we sense a need.

Can you imagine how much the tortoises of the world would relish the amazing speed, outgoing nature, and carefree actions of the hare if they had them at their disposal?  Can you imagine how much the hares across the planet could learn to appreciate the steady and persistent and reliable finishes of the tortoise?

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I’ve heard of the Jack-a-lope but this is getting ridiculous

 

Now let’s translate imagination into actual ACTION like a good Hare and explode forward with passion and energy.  Beware distractions though and cultivate sharp focus.

(apply this action to your daily dog handling!)

Tune in next time as we examine the terrific and tremendous attributes of the Tortoise…TO BE CONTINUED…

 

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5000 Mastiffs

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In the 13th century the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan owned 5000 Mastiffs.  He used them for hunting and war.

We’ve all heard about the “crazy cat lady” who hoards and “rescues” every cat near and far but Kublai clearly had her beat with his 5000 dogs!

Many believe this was the most dogs ever owned by one person.  That is one giant kennel loaded with giant dogs.

pic is of a Neo Mastiff

 

I can only imagine the poor bloke who had to pick up after the 5000 Mastiffs!  Talk about a crappy job.

 

(keeping my posts brief, folks, because I’m getting close to finishing my BOOK!)  -G

In search of Bigfoot

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We’ve heard the stories.  We’ve seen the footage.  We’ve heard of the legendary Sasquatch.  We’ve watched Harry and the Hendersons.

In a philosophical (or comical) way maybe we are all looking for Bigfoot.  I know many of the masses of good people out there are sure seeking desperately for something to help connect them to something more primal and natural.  Folks are looking to still remain connected to mother nature particularly in today’s digital age.  A digital age in which we are much more “connected” but much less real.  We live currently in an age of information (and mass propaganda and misinformation) and “communication” overload.  An age where actual natural and honest communication and real face-to-face interaction is rapidly shriveling away!  I see the same trouble in the dog behavioral world.

Friends, I can honestly say you’d have an easier time discovering Bigfoot than you would finding a good solution to your dog’s behavioral issues IF you’re attempting to use mainstream, typical obedience training!

Did you know that trainers and behaviorists and vets who encourage typical obedience are the main foe of calmness in most of our dogs and pups? Let me clarify…

If you examine the history of dog training and study it down through the ages you would find most of it doesn’t really apply to today’s house-dogs.  But almost every local company I know of today is still using these same exact cookie-cutter methods!  Almost all “training” and “behavioral modification” is based in excitement and the usual methods would have us raise our energy (and our voices) with or at our dogs.

We’ve all heard and many times even used the all-too-common phrase, “Give the dog a job to do.”  Or, “This breed really needs a job.”  I’ve even used that phraseology and thinking in the past but it is now high time we move on!  It’s high time we realized our house-dogs are retired!  And it’s OUR job to help them understand we want them practicing “retirement level” energy!  Our house-dogs need to learn to sit back, relax and enjoy their lives by keeping their energy under control!

Calmness and Relaxation should be top priorities for Every house-dog! Get rid of “typical obedience” and “training” and develop a relationship where you can control and calm your dog’s energy so they can learn to go with the flow and be calm and social.

Please believe me when I say you can throw all the agility, herding, and other “jobs” you want at your problematic dog and it still will NOT fix or cure aggression, or fear, or anxiety.  Real communication, and a relationship with energy control and spacial control are what matters in preventing or curing behavioral issues.  If you don’t have that type of relationship with your dog you’re just out spending your time and energy looking for Bigfoot!

Don’t forget to click to “Follow” this fine, entertaining, humorous, educational, doggy blog!

-G

Did you know…

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The Turnspit was a working breed of dog with short legs and a long body, so that it would fit inside a wheel by the kitchen fire.  The dog would run inside the wheel (imagine a hamster) which turned the roasting spit over the fire so that meat would cook evenly.  The Turnspit became extinct around the mid-19th century.

Did you know that dogs lack a collarbone?  This allows them a greater stride length when running and increased flexibility.  The structure of their skeleton gives our dogs the ability to run and jump quickly.  Their shoulder bones are not attached to the rest of their skeleton either which aids in greater flexibility and helps when jumping or landing after a jump.

Very small Pekingese dogs – usually less than 6 inches in height – were bred for Chinese Imperial households.  Members of the household would carry the dogs in the sleeves of their robes to use as handwarmers, and hence they became known as “sleeve dogs.”

Have a great day today and keep learning and exploring our amazing universe and the intricate language of our dogs!

-G

Other amazing dog facts found in the book Amazing Dog facts and trivia

Group classes for dogs can make your dog’s behavior WORSE!!!

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Let’s say, for example, you just received a new, cuddly, bundle of furry energy.  Whether it’s an 8-week-old puppy or you welcomed a cute, scruffy-looking, rescue dog into your home the next logical step besides getting all the required vet bills out of the way would be throwing them into a group class, right?  That will stop your dog from become Cujo, correct?  Group sessions around other pups will mold your young pup into a wonderful, social, well-mannered dog, right?  That is what Socialization means, isn’t it?  WRONG!

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

When will we ever get this stupid notion out of our minds?  This notion that Group classes are just standard operating procedure and that if we attend one our puppy will grow up to be happy, healthy, and well trained and social.  We’ll get rid of the notion probably as soon as the giant dog supply chains (who also double as “trainers” and who happen to have all the treats in the world to sell to you in order to “train” your dog or pup) end up going out of business. Which will never happen because many of us (as humans) just may be mindless zombies who, instead of supporting local training, grooming, and local treat companies, have to take a walk into what is the equivalent of Walmart-quality dog training at your local super pet store and then have to sign up for group classes! Please understand me, I shop at Walmart occasionally but whenever I do so I know that there is a pretty high chance I’m not getting the greatest quality or service of whatever I’m shopping for.  And I’d like everyone to know that this analogy is strikingly similar to what is happening in the dog training world with these giant companies.  Please hear me…If you want the cheapest of everything than you’ll get the weakest of results behaviorally speaking.

In this post we will examine the pros and cons of putting your dog or puppy in group class training.

The one pro of dog obedience group classes is that occasionally the dog can learn some “typical” and “regular” training out of the class and get a bit more social at the same time.  You can use the distractions to strengthen your “sit” or “stay” or “down” or “come” or heeling skills.

My question is Can’t you do the same exact thing at a busy park nearby?  Can’t we do the same thing as we walk our pup through Home Depot or Mud Bay?  There are pros to the group class but please be aware there are several cons to the classic group class that the majority of humans never even consider!

Socialization does Not just mean getting your dog or pup into a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than that.  In fact it is one of the most important thing in our dogs behaviorally speaking.  Socialization is the continual process of exposing our dogs to new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds.  Socialization is the active quest to cram in as many different experiences as possible so our dogs learn how to follow our lead and how to handle new or stressful situations without triggering a fight/flight response.   Socialization is more than a small time frame that occurs during the first few weeks of a pup’s life. Socialization is all important.  The more social a dog is the less behavioral issues a dog will suffer.

The more “typical training” a dog has will NOT necessarily prevent or diminish behavioral issues!  Have you ever wondered why you have to take puppy class 1, then if they can sell you, you’ll be taking puppy class 2, then basic 1 or basic 2, then basic 8 then possibly graduate to advanced 1 or 2….et cetera…? It is because it has little or nothing to do with your education as far as canine language is concerned. It has everything to do with just selling you more classes!  Group class trainers usually don’t care that much about getting you the very best for your dog or pup because group training is not and can Never be the best form of training.  And it certainly cannot solve most behavioral issues!  Here is why it cannot be the best for puppy or dog:

1.  Group classes are extremely unnatural. Your dog or pup will be overexcited . And because your dog or pup is overexcited you will need to work extra hard just to get it’s attention. This means you will have to either increase food rewards (which almost always leads to excessive bribery) or, depending on the trainer and the owners, you will have to increase more discipline and corrections in order to gain the dog’s attention. Are you starting to see the problem?  Never mistake excitement for happiness -especially in an animal.  All of the creatures on earth teach their young that calmness and energy control lead to surviving and maintaining unity in the family.

As an intelligent human you shouldn’t actually need anymore reasons than this first one but I’ll give you a couple more…

2.  In a group setting you will have people and dogs at different levels of learning and handling skills.  Many times the group class will advance only as far as the weakest link is advancing.  Group training cannot be custom tailored to fit your specific needs or your dogs specific issues.

3.  Group classes have a set curriculum that always involves more “typical training.”  You go there and will do “sit” exercises for the first hour.  The next week you attend the group and you do the “down” exercise for that hour.  Are you following me? And the week after – if you’re still attending and haven’t died from boredom – you work on loose-leash walking.  Your time could be better spent. Most folks who attend group classes are under the common assumption that if their dog or pup would just listen to them enough to sit or down or go and stay on their bed or come when called their dog would then stop disobeying, stop being hyper, stop being destructive, stop being dominant, stop being over-touchy, and stop being aggressive or fearful.  This is simply not true.  Regular or typical training never prevents or fixes most behavioral issues!  

This is a good depiction of “typical” or “regular” training. Most folks would find this impressive or wish their dog could do this but this is exactly the problem facing our society and our dogs…it’s fake! The dogs are clearly Not relaxed. They are maintaining focus on their handlers. They are doing perfect down stays. But they are not relaxed and that in and of itself is the single most important thing for preventing or fixing ANY behavioral issue! What happens when they are not being told directly what to do by their owner? That is the most important question.

4.  There is an even more unnatural trend occurring in group classes where several companies use partitions/dividers/separations if a dog is too hyper or aggressive or fearful to continue within eye-shot of the other dogs or people in the class.  This is ridiculous and will never work to fix your dog or pup’s escalated energy.  It can, in fact, make it worse.

Another crazy technique that I’ve heard some training company’s are now using is to back tie or tether the dog or pup to a post or the wall so the dog simply can’t reach the trainer or handler or person and cannot jump on them.  This is insane and will definitely make your dog worse!  Any trainer or behaviorist who knows even the first thing about dogs knows that if they are pulling on a leash or tether they are escalating their energy.  Anyone who knows anything about protection dog work or Schutzhund training also knows that back tying a dog is a great way to make them more territorial and protective – not less jumpy and calm!  Please beware horrible trainers!

Pulling creates more pulling! Notice the taught leash. Notice how comfortable the dog is pulling in his harness. Shocking, I know, but harnesses were designed to enable dogs to pull.  Never tether your dog or pup unless you want to increase territorial behaviors and work to develop a great heel to prevent excessive pulling.

5.  Imagine you want to start learning to play the violin.  You have two options.  You can start with a beginner group class where the teacher is instructing a few students and making everyone go at a similar pace or you can hire the best private tutor you can find.  Now imagine the great difference in how you play the violin and how much further you would come in a shorter time period studying from the master musician.  It is the same with private training sessions vs the group class setting.

6.  Dog owners who think “training, training, training” are actually much harder to teach mother nature’s calm, firm, relaxing ways to.  And their dogs are harder to teach also.  The dogs who have had a lot of “training” will keep trying to do sits, downs, shakes, etc instead of just learning to self-soothe and calm down and be social.  They act like robots instead of a calm, social, animal that has good energy control, self control, and is not selfish or dominant.

Private sessions, on the other hand, are totally customized to meet your specific needs in and around your neighborhood with real-life scenarios.  Group classes can never match up.  Never mistake real socialization for a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than any group class could ever be. Seek to duplicate real life situations in your training; that way you have real life results!  

I am not suggesting you don’t attend a group class with your dog or pup.  I am saying group classes are only one very, small part of your quest to socialize your dog and sometimes they are unnecessary and many times they even do more harm than good!  Don’t over do it with “training.”  Do not be fooled – group classes will never fix any serious behavioral or energy issues.

(PS – Sorry to keep breaking down so many major assumptions about dogs and puppies and how we as humans train them…but many training methods are simply not helping the owners and the dogs to achieve a natural calmness and a smooth functioning household. I feel it is my job as a professional to be as honest as possible in order to help as many people and dogs as possible.  Good luck in all your endeavors.)

Questions…?  Comment or Call.

-G