“Who rescued who”…touching sentiment or a losing philosophy doomed to fail?

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We’ve all seen the bumper stickers.  We’ve seen the magnets and touching T-Shirts.  “Who rescued who?”  Some of our clients have these rescue dog stickers on the back of their cars.  I totally see the merit and get the idea behind it…but…the problem (and it is often an ENORMOUS problem which is why I’m mentioning it) occurs when the “rescuer” (the person who got their dog from the pound) either Keeps Their Dog As A VICTIM, not allowing the dog to move on and not allowing the dog to live in the moment, by continually informing anyone and everyone that’ll listen of the old sob story about the dog’s dread past.

I’ve often found that the stories that people make up and imagine are typically much greater in the categories of abuse and maltreatment than what the dog most probably went through!  (Example: most dogs that are afraid of men were NOT abused by a man)

Seneca (a pretty wise individual that took time to ponder things out) said, “We are more often frightened than hurt, we suffer more in imagination than in reality.”  And he was talking about people.  Never before have so many people had their dogs “suffer” in their imaginations!  It is quite unhealthy and a miserable way to begin a relationship.

The other failure that can and often does occur (behaviorally speaking) within the relationship between rescue dog owner and pound puppy is when they fail to give the dog beneficial boundaries and firm follow through when the dog breaks normal societal and individual house rules.  Basically, the rescue dog, gaining oodles of misplaced and unwarranted attention from day 1 within the home, often seizes command of touch, space, movement, and energy (the 4 Pillars – my third book on dog behavior!) and begins to do whatever the heck it wants to even and especially within the owner’s personal space.  Before they know it…little poor behavior patterns are established and the dog is on its way to establishing seriously bad behavioral patterns.

When a dog is termed a “real lover” by a potential client that is calling us to see if they can find a time slot on our training schedule we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their dog is over touching and out touching them.  It doesn’t matter if the dog that is always touching the owner is friendly or not.  Life among all canines and their ranking system is clearly determined by who is touching who and how and when that touch is applied!  “Real lover” type rescue dogs often sneak in way too much touch on their owners and this is the starting point of many horrible future behaviors.

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Well, there you have it.  I’m sure many of you that just happen to read this but that have never been clients may not understand it but these, Friends, are the facts as seen in nature and among all dogs.  Dogs that are allowed to enter your personal space whenever they want to, dogs that demand petting, dogs that lick you, dogs that slip your touch when you go to pet them, dogs that mouth you, dogs that always flop over and direct you to touch their belly are all controlling touch in one way, shape, or form and that is precisely how mother and father dog raise their young – they control touch, space, movement, and energy and, as their young age, they grow up properly with authentic respect, trust, and clear communication which, in turn, leads to maturity and calmness and self control (which means more freedom for the individual).

Don’t get it mixed up.  You got a dog from a pound.  Now please lead the thing the way it deserves to be led!  Let go of the imagined past suffering your rescue dog probably didn’t ever go through.  Understand that dogs can change for the better or for the worse rapidly!

Your relationship should NOT just be an emotionally-pathetic or odd thing wherein you offload tons of your own past wounds onto the unsuspecting dog!  (This happens way too much these days)  These creatures are born for living a life of physical vigor and adventure IN THE MOMENT each day with their owners.  Make it happen for your dog.  I can certainly get behind “Who rescued who” if it implied that both human and dog were working together to improve one another’s lives and to go boldly forward into a better future together but…if it’s an overemotional, overly needy, somewhat lost statement morphing into a translation like, “I don’t know what’s going on but I really need my dog” then I’m not going to be big fan of the slogan.  I am all for needing your dog but as mentioned your pet is NOT the place to dump your past emotional baggage.  We can all do better than that.  How we think and the words we use matter!

P. S.

If you have a nervous dog it will most assuredly manipulate you and your touch and space even more than a more balanced and relaxed dog would – so be careful and be sure to read more of our stuff!  Subscribe to this fine blog because we’ll be honest with you.  Also subscribe to Stevens Family Kennels on YOUTUBE seeing the dogs and people touch and move will help.

Honesty is the best policy because it is a great starting place towards a healthy relationship!

-G

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!)

 

The many problems of treat training and “positive reinforcement”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

 

Dogs: to drug or not to drug

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That is the question.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

My prescription:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

Aggression in dogs: the possessive dog

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The large dog lay resting comfortably on his bed in the family room.  The kid approached quickly to grab a toy soldier figurine that accidentally flew then slid across the room landing near the head of the German Shepherd.  As the boy came closer to the toy and to the dog’s bed a low rumble began.  The family dog was growling at the child.  The German Shepherd tensed – frozen in energetic anticipation of the explosive action that would invariably be coming next in the dog’s primal ritual.  Would be coming next if the boy continued on his toy-retrieving trajectory unabridged.  Fur stood up on the Shepherd’s back.  The animal was stiffened and ready to strike!

Sound familiar?  I hope not but dog aggression is currently and has been on the rise in the USofA.  As the world turns and people grow less connected to nature and more connected to comfort, convenience, consumerism, instant gratification, and all the digital insanity…basically, as we grow more unhinged in our own lives, our dogs will reflect these growing issues back to us and sometimes even on to us or on to the unwary child, family member, friend, or neighbor by way of outright aggression!

Have you ever been bit, snapped at, or purposefully threatened by a large animal equipped with a tremendous amount of bite force and long sharp canines?  For most dog owners it can be pretty intimidating.  For me it’s just another day at work.

In my daily work (averaging five or six private 1 hour training and behavior mod. sessions a day) I am now seeing an increase in resource guarding and/or possession aggression from the dogs.  Resource guarding is exactly like it sounds –  the dog claims whatever it deems a resource!  This is highly problematic and can be and often is downright dangerous.  Possessive dogs bully people (or other dogs) into submission in that they cause them to back away from “their” stuff, or “their” bed, or “their” food, or “their” person or “their” body.

Friends, those “theirs” I just mentioned – they need to go.  They need to go and go quickly from the mind of your dog, otherwise you are just biding your time, waiting for the ticking time bomb to go off.  So many well-meaning dog owners are blissfully unaware of the dangerous creature they keep in their home amongst their children and spouse!  Because so few people know the dog language they cannot identify the INITIAL stages of resource guarding  and/or if and when they eventually do identify it, they take a poor course of action in reversing and preventing it!

At this point we must, if we are being honest (and I’ve heard that’s the best policy) also add that many a dog owner’s philosophy of dog ownership is weak, non existent, or in the least, not beneficial.  Some dog owners’ philosophy of ownership, care, and handling amounts to wishy-washy fluff and not much more – they take the jelly fish approach to dog ownership and care.  They may even expect the dog living in their home currently to act like a prior dog they had, or like a childhood dog that they knew, or like a friend’s dog.  Dear Reader, if this resonates with you please understand this sort of relationship is not living, acting, or working with your dog to your full potential or to the dog’s.  Success always requires intentionality.

Step 1.  Think about your dog and about what kind of leadership (if any) you are providing.

Step 2.  Develop a philosophy of ownership or examine and possibly alter your existing, most probably, sub-par philosophy to include the main theme that NOTHING IS THE DOG’S!  Yes, let’s repeat that.  NOTHING.IS.THE.DOG’S.

Step 3.  Contemplate WHY your dog, your loving, furry family member, should definitively understand that NOTHING in his/her wonderful life with you is really his/her’s.

Step 4.  You must begin right away, today, to claim your dog and not the other way round.  Guys, all older dogs know this stuff (why are we as humans so slow on the uptake?).  All we have to do is watch the mother dog and observe grooming rituals, greeting rituals, and other common interactions among dogs in order to easily identify and learn Who claims Who in order to then apply these techniques and movements by adopting them into our own lives with our dogs.  Begin with your dog’s body because every dog on the planet with behavioral issues (no matter what the issue is btw) is somehow manipulating the owner using their body and using yours!  (This does NOT mean rolling them, or hurting a dog in any way)  We must claim them and we must occasionally deny them free and unhampered touching on OUR body even and sometimes especially if it appears “happy” or “friendly” to you.  (Also, in the case of the skittish dog, your human body should NOT become a comforting pacifier if you desire a healthy relationship and if you desire genuine maturity with and for your dog).

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Imagine if your body was transformed suddenly into a dog’s body (like we see in the werewolf movies) and you were able to enter your home as an older dog…How would your dog greet you?  Rudely?  Politely?  Aggressively?  Fearfully?  How would your dog interact with you and touch your dog body and the space surrounding it when you sat down near or on the couch to relax?  Another question to ask yourself is…Would your dog’s biological birth mother (or any older dog for that matter) put up with your dog’s behavior as it applies to their bodies?

If you desire less possessive behavior from your dog – less resource guarding –  Then you’ve got to control who is touching who, and how the touch is applied, and when it is applied!  Please reread that last sentence like 50 times in a row.  It will help you.  It will help anyone who is open-minded enough to consider it.  Then you can begin all the other steps to continue treating resource guarding.

As you know, I could go on and on but I’ll end here.  For more info please read my books on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!, and So Long Separation Anxiety available wherever books are sold!

-G

 

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

 

Was your dog abused? Are you continuing to abuse it mentally? You probably are due to poor yet commonly accepted dog training methods you’ve taken from the status quo

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Today many dog rescue groups are working tirelessly to help an overwhelming number of dogs that have been physically abused. And although we know several of these same dogs have also been mentally abused once they are taken in, treated physically at the vets, and then placed in the rescue organization it seems we (as a society) are largely clueless about how to help them finally move on to a successful, relaxed, playful, “happy” dog life!   Dog owners can’t seem to get past the dog’s past.  It seems there is a large disconnect when it comes to solving mental abuse.

There is a host of quite common mistakes that are frequently made when we examine how the often fearful or aggressive “rescue” dog is handled.  (I will try and refrain from mentioning that many dog rescues are boldly lying to the potential adopters face about the level of potential dangers inherent in many of the dogs they are attempting to adopt out in order to fudge their “rescue” numbers!  That, perhaps is an issue for another day)

The whole focus after the new rescue dog is checked out and treated by the vet (and, Dear Reader, often if the dog is dangerous to people the vet gives a quick visual inspection…NOT even Touching the dog during the half-hearted exam!) anyway…the focus then shifts to fostering and simply getting the animal a “forever” home.  I’ll tell you now  – it’s too quick!  The dogs aren’t ready.  And they will NEVER be ready if the vets or volunteers aren’t prepared properly or don’t know what they are doing!  So, invariably, many dogs are returned a couple days or weeks or months later for aggression, phobias, anxieties, destructive behaviors, housebreaking issues, and in general because they were adopted out while still needing massive amounts of natural, calming behavior modification and socialization.

There is a giant disconnect and it is 100% behaviorally related between when the rescue dogs arrive at the vet/rescue and how they are handled while in the rescue to prep them for their new homes.  THIS is where many mistakes are happening and this is why so many dogs can’t be adopted out or if they are they come back so quickly or remain in their new home only to attack people or other dogs or cats!   Let’s take a closer look.

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These dogs were (usually) taken out of physically or socially poor situations but then they are placed in very well-meaning but still mentally poor situations!  They are treated physically (somewhat) but then viewed as these poor, pathetic, victims and then typically forced right into a “positive only” -bribery and high excitement-based training philosophy that was doomed to fail from the beginning!  At this point, if they aren’t biting too much or if they are a physically good looking dog they will be adopted out…at least for a few weeks.  And, as discussed above, even if they are a danger to society many shelters/rescues will STILL try and adopt them out!!!

Once in their new home the dogs are most usually babied. (something any older, normal, social canine would never do to a younger pathetic newly placed dog or pup) If we, as people, act like pups and talk in high pitched tones all the time to our rescue dogs they may seem to like it but in reality you are just pumping them up in their energy as you attempt to “Sell” the dog on your friendship and love.  Most folks seldom if ever ask themselves what does this dog need mentally/psychologically from me?  Most rescue owners never honestly observe and learn from how a calm, social, normal dog would handle meeting one of these fearful new rescue dogs.  (Excepting, of course, you fine followers of this blog.  You and I now know better.) If one did consider how calm, socially normal dogs function in their society one would soon discover that dogs start out with a quick smell to identify and meet the dog then the calm, social dog would usually do the right thing and IGNORE the nervous, neurotic rescue dog.  They lead dogs play a little hard to get.  The ignoring is to establish who’s in charge and let the new rescue dog know that it’s the social and friendly way or the highway!  The ignoring also signifies a degree of trust and freedom in the newly blossoming relationship.  Healthy older dogs do NOT rush to sell or force a relationship the way 99% of people do with dogs!  Do we do that when we are introduced to a new dog?  Do we follow the dog way?  Or are we adding to the problem and bumbling through life?

Most people are totally wrong when it comes to rescue work!  They feel bad and present weak energy toward the “victim” dog.  And the dogs, being naturally intelligent creatures that depend on a pack to survive, quickly start manipulating more and more control of their bodies and then their crates and then whatever the hell else they want to manipulate or claim or control!  Their fears then grow and grow until they are biting anyone for touching “them” anywhere or flipping out on people if they go to walk by “their” kennel, or “their” food, or “their” owner.  It is a horrible and slippery slope when fear manipulates more of a foothold in the dog brain.  And it always, always, always does if the training methods are poor and if we, as people, do not follow nature’s wonderful example.

Please understand me.  I am on the side of the rescue groups and all the hard working volunteers and vets that spend their free time in so noble a pursuit as helping those animals that sometimes cannot help themselves.  I am aware that there are thousands upon thousands of dogs that are in the rescue organizations throughout this wide world.  And I am just offering a bit of honest advice as a pro trainer/behaviorist to help rapidly advance the cause of the dog in order to actually help these vets, rescue leaders, and volunteers and that in turn will help the animals both mentally and physically.  Tom Jefferson, writer of the Declaration of Independence and noted brainiac, and our third President said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”  Have we taken a healthy and honest look or is rescue work over-emotionalized to the point of lying to ourselves and others about whether a dog is a danger to our own children and to society at large?

I for one want to save as many dogs as possible but I want to help them physically as well as mentally and emotionally.  We must seek out better solutions than what is happening currently (in 2018).

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I don’t want to rescue dogs to fill some gaping hole in my own life because that is not actually a healthy way forward…that is a mask, my friends.  We all know full well that those commercials they show us are intended to go straight to the heart and then to our wallet.  I don’t want to fawn all over a fearful or skittish dog because I know most fearful dogs can and actively do grow that overboard soft attention into possession and aggression.  I don’t want to live in a neighborhood where the vet is giving dogs a pass physically although the examination was barely conducted or shall we say conducted half-assed due to the vet being terrified of the dog and then…then they have the despicable audacity to lie about the danger level of the dog or its past, pawn it off on to some unwitting yet kind family as the rescue group crosses their fingers and throws up a prayer hoping that the dangerous dog stays in its “forever home!”  (I’m writing about a recent specific case if you couldn’t tell, folks.  But, believe me, this is not an isolated incident!)

I want better.  I want better for my family and our neighborhood.  I want better for my country.  I want better for the dogs.  These rescues need to wake up and focus more on quality as well as quantity.  They need to stop fudging their rescue numbers and look at the truth of 5 MILLION reported bites a year in the USA alone.  (And those are only the reported ones!) They need to look images of the 39 people killed in 2017 by dogs (most were killed by their own rescue dogs).

I wanted to share this with you all because I see and experience and have to do my darndest to avoid getting bit while actively rehabilitating dogs (behaviorally) that were in no way ready to be released to the public yet the rescue group adopted them out!

We need to rescue, sure, but let’s rescue the whole of the dog.  Let’s rescue physically of course but let’s be real sure to rescue them emotionally and mentally too!  (Dogs are dying for proper leadership)

For more insight on dog and human behavior order my hot-listed book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!  Check out the stellar reviews on Amazon and read how our book is changing households and calming and reversing behavioral issues!  Also, you may want to check out my newest book, So Long Separation Anxiety it gives real-world, hands-on, calming spatial solutions to successfully treat anxiety in dogs and prevent it in puppies!

-G