German Shepherd behavior and training

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We handle a buttload of German Shepherds.  Almost every single day we work with at least one or two of them.  As an intelligent and sensitive guarding breed many, many owners screw things up with their GSDs.  (Yes, I’m giving it to you straight like I always do and like a dog would)  In my opinion many professional trainers screw it up too through “over training” (more on that later)!

Here are 4 Great Tips for the German Shepherd dog owner:

  1. Never coddle the weak.  All of nature teaches us this and yet a lot of dog owners refuse to learn it.  If you have a nervous pup or a skittish older Shepherd coddling it and talking softly to it at all the wrong times will only serve to grow the fearful state of mind and misbehavior.  GSDs come with extra nerves so they could potentially be alert watch dogs but way too many owners let this grow to out of control proportions.  Keep in mind the dog’s own birth mother and father would NEVER coddle!  GSDs give birth to too many pups to do it.  And they do not talk as much as humans – instead, they prefer action.  Do you think you’re a better canine communicator and dog leader than the pup’s own natural parents?  Do you have dog instincts?  Can you run 32-45 mph?  Do you have an incredible sense of touch, smell, and taste?  Et Cetera Et Cetera…NO – you don’t – so please don’t presume to know more than mom or dad dog and to then dramatically change how they (and almost all animal parents) would do things with their young.  INSTEAD of coddling place your German Shepherd into confident and peaceful postures familiar to all canines.
  2. Don’t over train.  If you have a GSD then you know a lot of training comes fairly easy when compared to many other breeds.  The GSD is definitely smart and highly observant.  Sometimes they are too observant and too smart!  Do not over train and over ritualize everything.  In fact, the only thing I really want to set a rigid schedule for is feeding and elimination.  Everything else I do with my German Shepherd should be about flexibility and sociability (with the caveat of raising and training a professional working dog – which most folks do not do).  Over training your GSD just leads them into manipulating your training and controlling the same tired, stupid routine that you set.  Maybe you were impressed at first because the dog knew precisely when you were going on your walk but now there’s rudeness involved because the dog is hyping everything up prior to your getting the leash out of the closet, spinning in circles, whining, etc.  He knows where the leash is kept and that initial hyperactivity and rudeness can easily lead to exploding out the front door, and that then leads to dragging you off the porch, which then leads into pulling on the leash while walking, and then maybe even going crazy at every dog or person your dog sees!  And all this trouble actually stems from your training and you having your GSD perform the same thing each day!  Change it up, buttercup. y9W6UhdYSg6AqgpdYoQYEA
  3. Socialize like crazy.  Socialization does not just mean taking a puppy class at the local Petsmart.  Socialization is the gradual desensitization of our dogs’ super senses.  Socialization is any and every new experience, new location, new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds.  Think about the vehicles, the beaches, the mountains, the cities, the country, the children, the old folks, the other dogs, the neighborhood cats, the squirrels, the garbage trucks, the Home Depot, the Costco parking lot, being left behind, or loading up and coming with…genuine socialization is infinitely more important to raising a healthy dog than going to the vet, than attending formal training, than grooming…socialization is and must be King!  If you socialize your GSD enough with calm, firm, and sometimes playful leadership your Shepherd will absolutely have the best life and love you the more for it.  Your GSD should NOT only love your family – that’s great in a literal war zone but everywhere else it sucks.  Don’t let yourself, your family, your dog and all society down…socialize for success. IMG_3047
  4. Learn your dog’s language and use the 4 Pillars for great behavioral results.  All dogs share an authentic and universal language.  I’d highly recommend learning  it from the dogs themselves.  To aid you in this observational quest to learn real dog language my books are always available for purchase.  Dogs can be incredibly manipulative – my books are there to help you identify and then stop those manipulations which then can let the better parts of your German Shepherd’s nature (and none of the nasty) come to fruition and full maturity. IMG_3629  IMG_3515  IMG_3141  Enlight172   (All dogs featured belong to former clients)

“Certified” dog training

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Let’s talk plainly about “Certified” and or “Accredited”dog training.  Over the years I’ve heard of way too many piss-poor, God-awful dog training and behavior modification methods coming directly from genuine “accredited” and “certified” trainers.  The wise dog or puppy owner would NOT let these buzz words fool them because they would understand that all animals don’t give a fig about human organizations and they don’t care whether a person has initials after their name.  The wise person would understand that not all trainers are created equal and that each have differing personalities, differing gifts and talents, differing strengths and weaknesses, and vastly differing levels of experience – which result in different results and experience for their clientele.

If you could glance at my business email inbox you’d see several emails from organizations like the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) or the CPDT (Certified Professional Dog Trainers) and others wherein they desire to “refer potential new clients” my way in exchange for my coming under/into their organization.  They do this so they can put their initials on my website and so they can grow their organization.  I could easily become “certified” under any number of these made-up “institutions.”

My question…who the heck are they?  What gives them, or almost any organization for that matter, any credence as far as proper animal husbandry and, more specifically, dog language and behavior training goes?  Just because a few people came together, did some paperwork, got a website and sent many emails to try and make money off of many people doesn’t mean in the slightest that they can deliver real world results for dogs and for people!  Did you know that Petsmart has “accredited” training?  People, Petsmart and Petco are the some of the lowest levels of dog training that exist on the earth.

The point of this post…Don’t be fooled by random initials when looking for help with your dog’s behavior instead look at family, friends, and neighbors and talk to them about their dog’s behaviorist or trainer.  Word of mouth is and always will be the absolute best.  Next look at the work the trainer has done.  Examine their website and really read the thing.  Check their philosophy.  After that look at the reviews online and read between the lines because not all reviews are the same either!  There is a massive difference between a raving review about an aggressive dog being transformed into a gentle pooch versus a review about how great the local puppy group class was.  The dog trainer or behaviorist should also have reviews from other professionals in the pet industry (dog daycare owners, vets, groomers, etc).  Pay attention to the details, Friends, or you’ll really pay with your money and your time if you end up hiring a bad trainer or another cookie-cutter behaviorist no matter their level of man-made “certification!”

Am I totally against certification?  No.  In fact, if the organization actually does real work (you know that thing that many folks shun these days) and if they have a great, hard-won reputation for success and for professionalism within the industry it may be something to check out but make no mistake…dogs don’t care about any of this.  They care about touch, space, movement, and energy.  And human clients care about results.  That’s it.

(Here at Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center we have actually begun certifying qualified individuals in the Garrett Stevens Method of dog behavior training.  Thus far it’s only been one guy that’s made the cut, my young apprentice, Jesse.  I’m not sending out mass emails and telling people they can become a “certified” or accredited” trainer for just twelve easy payments of $99.00 bucks a month.  Don’t cheapen my art you clowns!

Smiles,

-G

 

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This is a pic of me and my first dog, Bosley, working the bite sleeve many moons ago.

The many problems of treat training and positive reinforcement – Part 3

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In part 1 of this series we looked at many positive reinforcement trainers that were killed by their own animals (wild animals and domestic dogs).  A domesticated animal should not kill the people it lives with but when folks purposely choose to believe there is just one way to work with animals this sort of thing can happen.

In part 2 we brought up the heart of the issue and took a look at 3 different dogs with 3 different reactions motivationally-speaking in regards to food and treats.  We went over how every dog on the planet reacts to food/treats differently – some are very excited about food, others have a so-so attitude about food, and other dogs, when in the presence of their triggering stimuli totally ignore high-value food and blow off positive reinforcement because their adrenals have informed their bodily senses to turn Down smelling and tasting and to turn Down the drive to eat in order to turn Up vision and hearing to prepare to fight or flight!  

(If you haven’t read Part 2 please read it then come back to this part).

So what about the plethora of dogs that ignore high-value treats and positive reinforcement in the presence of their triggering stimuli???  What about all the dogs that are just too fearful or too anxious or too aggressive to take food from the owner or trainer? The truth is, and we have thousands of clients and past clients that will verify this fact, sometimes positive reinforcement and the stuffing of treats down a dog’s throat simply will NOT work on the more serious psychologically-damaged cases.  This then instantly eliminates dog trainers and behaviorists that limit themselves and only teach the positive approach!  Those trainers have ZERO answers for their clients!  Due to their rigid and close-minded approach to canine behavior they are taking themselves and their one method out of the game!  Their positive-only method that has now failed to truly help change the more serious of dog behaviors is now rendered useless when the dog ignores them!  And the dogs do ignore them.  After careful consideration of the above fact (that many dogs ignore allegedly high-value treats when in a stressful situation) it should lead the curious mind to more questions…if soft praise and constant high-value food was NOT working or barely working…How should we handle these dogs?  Isn’t there a better way?  What genuinely helps these damaged dogs that are practicing fight/flight on a daily basis?  What helps these dogs adjust socially and behave normally when soft human affection, human talking/praise, and trying to feed them with “high-value” treats isn’t working?

Answer:  Knowing real dog language and speaking/signalling it back to the dog because this paves the way for a proper relationship.  A proper relationship between dog and human, despite what you may have heard from the propaganda machine we all know as the dog training industry, is not one filled with gobs of overboard affection and food from the owner to the dog.  A healthy relationship is one that must be based on respect and trust the way all dogs build them naturally with other dogs.  It must be based on clear communication and should not rely on weak external motivation.  You do NOT have to be Tony Robbins for your dog because the emphasis should be natural relationship and calm, healthy energy and NOT more motivation for tricks and obedience!!!  Remember…most obedience has little or nothing to do with canine social dynamics and dog language!  Most obedience and “training” has little or nothing to do with what is important to our dogs!  Most obedience training has little or nothing to do with adjusting misbehavior because obedience adds tricks and is not the best way to modify behavior.

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These days were are seeing more and more ABUSE from dog owners by way of continually vomiting anthropomorphic beliefs upon the dog!  There is a massive trend among dog owners that espouse “positive only” training techniques where they not only call their dog their “baby” but they actually mistreat their dog by treating them like a literal human baby.  We are also seeing more obese dogs – another form of modern-day abuse.  We also see more bratty pups – when an owner gives zero boundaries it means they don’t actually care about the pup they claim to adore.  We also see loads and loads of fearful and anxious dogs and some owners even that think that it is okay for their dog to live like that – it’s just “who the dog is” according to the owner.  What an excuse.  That’s completely wrong!  Fear blocks the real personality of the dog and fear and anxiety can and should be addressed in a thoughtful, efficient, calm, and natural way.  (We didn’t have all the problems we have currently in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s…that was before people believed dogs were babies and just respected them as dogs)

We get many reports from clients who tried the positive approach (before finding us) and those reports all seem to mention how many treats were used (insane amounts) and how their pup quickly lost interest due to the outrageous amount of food used!  People tell us how their puppy was literally vomiting the treats up and became physically sick due to the amount of “positive only” training that occurred during the one hour session!  And yet many professional dog trainers and behaviorists keep lying about how this method is “scientific” and “modern” and they claim that anything else is abusive.  What a sinister and manipulative message they send out, and, as discussed, they have billions of dollars in treat sales to continue to send the manipulative message with!

As a father of four human children and as an owner of two dogs I care for them all as best I can and one part of that loving care is discipline.  Discipline is one of the keys to any successful life.  Think of Larry Bird.  Think of thousands of hours of discipline he spent putting the ball through the hoop.  Proper discipline is just one of many parts of an excellent life.  Applying calming discipline with clear communication is just good parenting and should be part of good, normal dog ownership.  Example: If one of my kids is blatantly rude to their mother or myself there will be discipline (they get sent to a time out, or to their room and then we talk later about how that is unacceptable).  If one of my dogs is blatantly rude to any member of the household they also get proper discipline (I apply the Four Pillars and we spatially address the situation like a dog would.  Does this mean I roll the dog on it’s back – NO!  Does this mean I hit the dog?  NO!  Do I yell – NO!  I don’t do most of the things that people would assume I do.  Instead I bring the proper amount of firmness in my energy and I grow larger spatially (in my body) and I let the dog know it was wrong at that moment but can always trust me – the dog is not allowed to run off or dance away from this calming discipline, the dog is not allowed to flop down and show it’s belly, feigning submission, the dog is not allowed to touch the one providing the beneficial discipline, the dog is not allowed to bark back in the face of the one disciplining, the dog is not allowed to come forward with a touch on the person disciplining –  the dog must be respectful of the few rules we have.  End of story.  Then I walk away (we must always walk away first signaling to the dog that the spatial pressure is over and we are trusting them again) and life is very freeing for all parties involved.  No massive emotional reactions.  No anger in proper discipline.  No fear on the part of the child or the dog.  And certainly no modern delusions coming from the dog owner or trainer pretending that the dog is a helpless human baby.

If anyone wants to quickly disabuse him or herself of the foolish notion that dogs are “babies”…if anyone reading this actually desires to know the truth in this world filled with online lies, they need only contact me and come volunteer to work for a day at our Dog Language Center.  At our 4000 square foot kennel you will see quite clearly and experience – dogs attempting to put a bite on people, dogs in the kennels actively chewing up wood, plastic, and even metal with their incredibly strong mouths, dogs attempting to threaten other dogs with violence, dogs attempting to control everything around them, dogs attempting to bark non-stop, dogs crapping themselves due to insane separation anxiety which the owner allowed to develop, and a host of other animal nastiness that occurs and would continue to occur unless we calmly intervene and help stop those behaviors!

(The great news is that we do in fact stop them at our Dog Language Center and in our training sessions and it isn’t through harsh handling or shocking them or abusing them!  We are able to stop these horrific yet common dog behaviors and it isn’t through babying them and constantly giving them an overwhelming amount of attention – attention that their own dog birth mother wouldn’t even give them btw – and it isn’t through stuffing their faces with food.  We do it by utilizing the Four Pillars and the dogs all love it because this method is not our way, or your way, or the positive or negative way, or whatever other stupid human label you want to give things…the Four Pillars is the heart of dog language as it applies to human and canine interaction!)

I am currently working on a book now detailing the Four Pillars of dog language and the Five Senses that will illuminate genuine dog language for the readers and aid in the behavioral rehab ranging from the most difficult and dangerous of dogs on down to the sweet new puppy.  It should be a doozy.  -G

(In the meantime be sure and read my other two books as they each give the reader more and more critical info about dog language and healthy relationship – things that make behavior issues a thing of the past!)

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“I have trained myself to notice what I see”

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Dog behavior and language can, like learning another language, be broken down in its simplest of components.  It can be elementary, my dear Watson, if you have the eye.  The title quote of this article I’ve taken from that most fantastic and fictional of all detectives, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes was a masterful observer.  In The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier we see Sherlock easily identifying where Mr. Dodd has come from, what type of employment he has, what area he is from, and the beginnings of why Mr. Dodd came desperately looking for the super slueth’s help.

MR DODD:  “You see everything.”

SHERLOCK HOLMES:  “I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see.”

In Sherlock’s next sentence calls his legendary skill the “science of observation.”  Whether this incredible observation of Holmes’ is science or art matters little.  What matters is that it is definitely valuable in every form of problem solving.

Problem solving is precisely what we do every day at our dog language center and whenever we are amongst dog loving families in their homes.  If you desire to be a better dog owner – and you should desire it because most people, frankly, are very poor owners when it comes to proper animal husbandry – if you desire improvement in dog behavior you must learn to observe then act!  (This poor animal husbandry is true especially between people and dogs because there are so many foolhardy behavioral myths dog owners cling to.  Can you imagine if I ranked and rated how great dog owners were or how terrible they were like people do with businesses on Google or Yelp or wherever else?  God forbid…because I’d be forced, if I was being honest, to hand out a host of 1 stars left and right due to an extreme disregard for nature’s ways, the value of calmness, and due to the piss poor relationships we consistently see between pet owners and their dogs!  We often observe that the owner adores their dog and the dog accepts that adoration readily and controls everything and acts as if they could care less about the bond with their owner or… on the opposite end the dog may be insanely unsocial towards everyone else in the world due to the extreme obsession allowed in the relational bond by the owner.

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If you want to judge a dog on behavior look at how it touches and interacts with its owner and examine how it accepts touch from a guest or a little child!  Touch is the first of the Four Pillars of Dog Language and the most critical for human-dog interaction.

If you were to work just one day in our kennel you’d see how insane dogs can act because people (their own owners) don’t know much or care much about animals and nature’s way.  Perhaps I should clarify and say that they care about all the wrong things when it comes to their dog and hardly ever care or even notice all the things that lead to problematic behavior!  That’s stating it more succinctly.

Friends, we MUST train ourselves to notice what we see!

Please pay attention to the details.  You have to if you desire any sort of change within your dog or pup behaviorally speaking.

I have loved and been fascinated by all animals and nature since my earliest memories.  Let’s not fail our dogs by believing status quo dog myths concerning their behavior or language.  Let’s all look deeper…let’s ask more questions…let’s notice what we see!

Garrett Stevens is author of the hot-listed book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and the super practical book to reverse or prevent anxiety in puppies or dogs, So Long Separation Anxiety.  Sample them today on/at Amazon, Apple iBooks, at Barnes and Noble, and at several other places and books reading platforms.

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Stop your dog from being Mike Tyson!

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Many a professional pugilist in the 1980s and 90s entered the ring with apprehension (sometimes masked as bravado) because they were facing the living legend “Iron” Mike Tyson.  Sometimes known as “Kid Dynamite” due to his explosive power, Tyson holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the heavyweight title.  Mike was just 20 years old.  His first 19 professional fights were won by knockout.  12 of those fights ended in the very first round!  Mike Tyson was the first heavyweight to win the WBA, the WBC, and the IBF titles simultaneously.  He is the only heavyweight to successfully unify them.

Mike Tyson is well known for his ferocity in the ring.  His classic “peekaboo” style, taught to him by legendary manager and boxing trainer Cus D’Amato, left many opponents punching at the air and wide open for Iron Mike’s monstrous hooks and uppercuts.

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What does all this have to do with your dog or pup?  Everything.  This has everything to do with your dog or pup behaviorally speaking because every dog on the planet (unless they are at a feral level of fear) will get in close to their owner (like Tyson used to approach his opponents in the ring) and, over time, the dog will control who is touching who.  Tyson pressured his opponents, and frankly, he scared many of them.  They knew his reputation for aggression, speed, agility and knockout power was well-earned.

In the case of most dogs the loving pet owner is totally unaware that their dog is controlling touch in the relationship (which can and usually does lead to behavioral problems).  You see, many dog owners assume that if a dog will do some obedience for them or if they yell loud enough at their pet and the dog offers them a quick appeasement gesture (like lowering their head and leaving the area) that they (the dog owner) are in charge.  They assume that if the dog shows them it’s belly that the dog is “submissive.”  These false beliefs then allow the wayward puppy or dog to continue to manipulate touch and space within the relationship and often manipulate any item the dog may desire to claim (food, bed, couch, front door, yard, the leash, the owner’s body, the dog’s body, another dog or person in the home, et cetera).   Want to hear the most sinister thing about this ultra-common canine manipulation?

Most times when dogs are “Mike Tysoning” their owners or a guest they seem to be FRIENDLY about it!  Please pause and consider that last sentence.

When dogs are controlling touch and spatially pressuring a person they could be being friendly but still desire to be in charge of who touches who and where that touch is applied and they seek to control how that creature is moving in the space around the dog’s environment.  This is animal language, people…we’ve got to learn it if we want to see improvements.  Let me clarify with real-world examples.

EXAMPLES of dogs “Mike Tysoning” their owners or others in a friendly manner:

You walk in the door and the dog MUST touch you.

You go to sit down on the couch or chair and the dog quickly beats you there, hops up, and attempts to sit down in the very spot in which you were headed.

You reach to pet the dog and the dog instantly raises it’s energy to a much higher level then they cross the distance between your body and theirs and either jump up on you, paw at you, stick their head between your legs, nudge your private parts, or lean up on your legs in a sideways position.  

You try to stop petting the dog and the dog pushes back into your space to clearly let you know that the petting will NOT stop.

Dogs, of course, also can be a Mike Tyson in a myriad of unfriendly and downright aggressive ways.  Those gestures are usually identified by the general populace though.  In today’s post I’ve identified those more subtle yet equally rude maneuvers that many dogs pull on their owners or on a guest.

My Dear Readers, I hope you all understand that the mother or father dog or any socially skilled dog would NOT NOT NOT NOT tolerate this friendly/excited yet rude and pushy touching from another dog.  Why should we?  Are you no better than a puppy in your dog’s eyes?  Does your dog lack all respect for your physical body and the space around it?  Has the dog been happily claiming everything in sight and you’ve cluelessly sat by assuming it was just affectionate?  Don’t be chump.  Or you could be “knocked out” by the rapidly growing misbehaviors of the dog or pup in your care.  Some dogs take it only so far while others will claim the world and everything in it.  In many cases this is how aggression starts!  In many cases this over-touching by the dog on the human is how fear and skittishness not only continues within the dog but grows steadily worse!

TO DO: physically block your dog from Mike Tysoning you.  You have hands don’t you? Use them to gently but firmly block the animal’s entrance into your personal space!  In fact, move forward into the dog’s space and act like a real parent because you committed to take this animal away from his/her natural life with their birth parents!

Think differently.  Think like a dog.

-G

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These are my favorite boxing gloves and jump rope

 

  For more info on dog language and behavior read Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety by Garrett Stevens

 

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photo courtesy of the internet

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

-G

 

 

Smell the butt

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

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

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

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

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

Smelling instead of staring leads any dog into a more calm state of mind.  Make sure your dog is smelling other dogs and people and being smelled by other dogs…if you think it is “too late” and the dog is too much of a danger than increase exercise and increase the rules within your home environment AND THEN attempt to socialize by way of spinning your dog around (controlling the head and eyes and teeth – you cannot do this on a harness) and getting your dog’s butt smelled by a calm, friendly “example” dog.

Need help??? – Read my books on dog behavior and/or leave us a quick voicemail and we’ll answer your questions as soon as is humanly possible 253-653-4890 (calls and vms are handled on a first come – first serve basis!)  Stevens Family Kennels also has a new Youtube channel you might want to subscribe to.  Thanks

-G

Strong Dog Program

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Is your dog mentally, emotionally, and physically strong?  Many dogs out there are strong bodily and yet if we examine the psychological side of things they are wanting.  My question…what are caring dog owners doing about this?

Some owners do nothing.  Others mask the dog’s psychological issues by way of obedience training and (frivolous) trick training!  Other dog owners use agility, flyball, or herding, or some other canine sport in attempts at correcting the mental or emotional deficiency within their dog.  The truth is many of these things do NOT work well because the methods are all based in excitement and energy escalation.  The dog owner is encouraged by the on site trainer to raise the dog’s energy in order to get a higher level of performance.  And while exercise in any form is better than nothing many times tricks and training and these dog sports condition the dog to get pumped up more and more when they arrive at the field or at the agility facility just like pups do at their daycare.  This doesn’t typically help in balancing the mental and emotional state of the dog in its day to day life.   IMG_3544

But we’ve got great news!  Our Dog Language Center in Puyallup, Washington offers the perfect solution to this common dog and dog owner dilemma.  Our Strong Dog Program is a great option that we offer to our boarding clients.  Depending on the age, health, and size of the dog boarding at Stevens Family Kennels, if they are enrolled in our Strong Dog Program, they get 25 to 30 minutes on our dog treadmill or that time spent in our play field with our two, resident, calm, example dogs (my twelve and a half year old Boxer and my two and a half year old Cane Corso/Pit mix – both dogs are highly skilled communicators, teach other dogs the proper language, and also love to have fun)!

Both options in our Strong Dog Program yield amazing results because they both equip dogs to be physically strong AND yet they help them CALM down emotionally and achieve balance mentally.  Our Dog Language Center is quite unique from most kennels and dog daycares because we offer something very valuable…calmness.  Calmness is highly prized among all animals on the planet.  Calmness and energy control is key to survival.  Calmness is also key to clear thinking and a healthy emotional state of being for our dogs.  While many places have fanciful couches for dogs, loads of food treats, play times and high pitched trick training, and all manner of doggy clothing…we offer something better…dog health, dignity, and relaxation.  We offer maturity to the dogs and they love it!

You know those billionaires and millionaires that shell out gobs of money to go away to spartan-like settings to attend silent retreats in order to practice calm, meditative time?  These people know these quiet, restorative times are excellent for the soul.  At Stevens Family Kennels we offer your dog a chance to get strong and flexible emotionally, mentally, and physically in a similar calm, safe, environment.

If a dog has behavioral problems then a pattern interrupt is necessary in order to give the brain a chance to get out of the old pathway and in order to create new synapsis within the mind so the dog can forge a new, healthy, social, neural habit.  The massive pattern interrupt that occurs during your dogs stay with us simply cannot be achieved by you (the owner).  It cannot be achieved in a high excitement facility.  It cannot be achieved lounging on a comfy couch with seven other dogs.  It cannot be achieved on the agility field or while herding and shepherding sheep or goats.  But…it most definitely can be achieved while boarding with us at the Dog Language Center and taking advantage of our custom Behavioral Board and Train which always automatically includes enrollment into our Strong Dog Program!

Go too http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com for more details

-G

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Training your Boxer – 4 tips

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Boxers are intelligent, playful, stubborn, strong, and highly-trainable.  Our family obviously loves boxers because we’ve raised a couple of them these past fourteen years and they both have had a very active roll in my dog training and behavioral mod. business.  The pics in this post are of Bosley and Rambo, my boxer boys.

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This is Bosley.  Our first dog.  This picture became the logo for Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center!  Go too http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com for more info

Let’s assume you’ve been struck with Boxer Fever and are in search of this unique breed.  Below are a few personal training tips and behavioral hacks I’ve employed while raising and professionally training my own boxers.  They will help any current or wanna be boxer owners out there on the inter webs.

  1.  Touch reveals much.  The heart of all dog language (any and every breed speaks through touch) is based in a dog’s sense of touch and how their body acts and interacts with other bodies in the environment.  This means touch your Boxer pup or dog all over whenever and wherever YOU want to.  (And be sure to deny them touch back on your body IF they demand that you touch/pet them)  Think as the mother or father dog would about their pup’s bodies and be sure to claim your dog as your own through touch.  Beware of your dog reversing this technique on you over the many months you share together (dogs do this to most unwitting dog owners and they do it quite friendly and subtlety at first – until, one day, they no longer decide to control touch in a friendly manner and they may instead choose to growl at, snap toward, or bite you!)  Set the tone in your relationship with your boxer at its earliest outset.  Tacoma.Tampa 2007 146
  2. Jumping up is rude.  Boxers are known for it.  Boxers are known for high energy and muscled thighs so they like to head skyward.  Be sure and stop it.  The easiest way is to identify when your boxer is going to attempt to jump up on you or a guest and, like Bruce Lee often suggested when facing an opponent, intercept the movement!  To recognize this pre-jump phase look for when the dog is wiggling and dancing and squaring up in front of you or a guest (they often square up first and once they receive eye-contact the very next thing is jumping up!)  You don’t need to go Karate Kid on your boxer and be off balance on one leg as you attempt to knee the dog or puppy…instead, a simple and direct stiff arm while moving forward will do in 95% of jumping cases.  The other 5% will need the stiff arm and then usually a follow up collar grab from the owner in order to keep the dog in place and allow it to calm for a few heartbeats, control the head when doing this and don’t let the dog out of it prematurely.  The most important thing in stopping jumping up is to make sure your human body is moving forward into the dog’s body and purposefully taking up the space.  Take a large step forward or two.  Imagine a fencer lunging forward to score a point with his foil.  (Do not stab your dog with a sword 😉  Get your boxer to backpedal awkwardly by stepping into him/her and after a couple of days any and every dog will understand that IF they jump they simply lose ground.  Then, after taking their space go back to ignoring them.  If you only ignore them (as is the shoddy advice of many trainers and behaviorists) and don’t actively address the jumping with a stiff arm and direct forward movement as I’ve instructed then that ignoring of the dog will only work on approximately 40% of dogs and pups.  In my experience the other 60% will simply jump on your back or your sides!

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    Rambo can still jump this high even though he’s now twelve and a half years old! Must be the NuJoint supplements we give him! To order some for your dog use code 14029 or pick up a bottle at Stevens Family Kennels

  3. It’s all about the Energy.  I should know because I just may have the calmest boxer on the planet!  Somebody call the Guinness World Record people.  (Rambo is a fantastic dog)  Boxers are known to be a high-energy breed.  Unlike most pro trainers out there, I do NOT think we should just redirect that energy onto a toy or into a “job to do” by making the boxer perform obedience and tricks (even and especially if the dog excels at the job or obedience!).  I think that is a shallow and short-sighted approach that lacks in genuine maturity and that is why just training a working dog to work or perform obedience often comes back to bite the owners down the road.  Mainstream dog training masks little behavioral problems and poor social skills within a dog until those little problems become catastrophic and overwhelm the owner!  In every mature creature we see, in every good parent in nature we find proper energy control and conservation.  The very premise of dog training fails miserably in this regard because dog training is disappointingly all about performance and seldom concerns itself with proper canine language acquisition, normal canine social skills (like who is grooming or touching who, and how and when that touching and smelling occurs, who is claiming who or what, and a host of other critically important things to your boxer and to all canines) and normal human behaviors that readily occur in 2019.  Boxer owners (and most all dog owners) do NOT want a hyper pet and yet the only place they have to go in search of behavior modification if they have a hyper pup or high energy dog is the dog training industry which is entirely devoid of trainers willing to help the dog reach maturity by way of naturally calming energy control!  Do you see the problem?  (My first book, Dog Myths, goes into this further)  Seek to calm your dog’s energy naturally and spatially (My second book, So Long Separation Anxiety, goes into this further) and do not pacify it or redirect it with obedience or a toy.  Animals have a way to calm, to self soothe, and it is incredibly important that your boxer learns this vital skill and learns it early during his life with you.     edit 23
  4. Play train” and your boxer will love you.  Play training is when we have the dog perform his obedience (sit, down, stay, come, heel, et cetera) in exchange for time with us and a special toy or two.  This is one of those rarest of times when I encourage the dog owners to raise their energy in a playful manner.  This is when we play lots of tug o’ war or wrestle.   This is when the frisbee comes into play.  This is when we move quicker than we normally do as owners and make it fun.  This is when we draw the boxer towards us and play backwards.  And during these short, fun bursts of play training we slip in several quick training classics like sit and down and come.  Strive to move very cleanly as your boxer is watching your movements even more than listening to your voice.  Every dog prefers hand signals to verbal commands.  Does this mean we don’t give verbal commands?  Of course not, we still give them, but remember, every dog on the planet still prefers seeing over hearing as it pertains to communication with the human.  In most cases the better you move the clearer your communication will be.  If you addict or semi-addict your boxer to a tug or a favorite toy you will instantly have much more off-leash control by way of getting your dog’s attention at the park or afield – it can be a great supplement to your training as you work towards real maturity, a healthy relationship based in dog language, and the continued socialization and desensitization of your boxer.  Make sure that special toy is never left out on the floor at home or in the yard.  Your boxer’s special toy should be put away and only used in conjunction with you and with specific, playful concentration and energy.

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    At the Ruston way waterfront in Tacoma

the Never-ending story: When dogs Fence Fight

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For most dog owners with dogs that “fence fight” it is a miserably familiar never-ending story of escalated energy, quick movements, ugly sounds, and foolish dog shenanigans typically played out in a corner or section of the yard whenever the neighbor happens to let their dog out at the same time the other dog is outside.   Fence fighting is a difficult issue to navigate for many owners because it is so unnatural and frustrating for the dogs themselves.  Nowhere amongst the various Yellowstone wolf packs is there a man-made fence wherein these wild canids can lunge and cuss back and forth at opposing, rival wolves with unrelenting abandon.  If a wild wolf has an issue with another wolf in its pack or with a rival pack it can deal with the individual wolf (or the entire pack) directly in wide open woodlands or on the prairie and, if the individual or the pack want to brawl, there is going to be a definitive winner and a clear loser.  Than, and this is important, life moves on.

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With fence fighting nobody ever wins.  With fence fighting everyone loses (dog owners and neighbors included) because the cycle repeats itself over and over as the pumped up and persistent puppy participants doggedly attempt to get at one another behind their protective, man-made enclosures.  So close to gripping and biting and tearing at each other and yet so far away!  (By the way many cities have ordinances stating dogs left in backyards are not allowed to bark for more than 15 minutes straight!  Be a good neighbor and a good dog owner and STOP your dog from territorial fence fighting and from boredom or anxiety-based barking in your yard)

In a real fight there’s real risk.  Risk can be good.  It can also be bad.  Calculating risk is what wise creatures do to survive.  A wolf or coyote only has so much energy/gas in the tank/ammunition per diem in order to survive.   Their choices count for much more than our domesticated dogs’ choices.  The wolf calculates risk.  The wild animal MUST make wise choices.  Their lives depend on it!  High Stakes.

The comfortable and convenient life of the modern domesticated dog (easy access to food, water, shelter 24/7) particularly in 2019 lends itself to more foolish decision making among our pampered pets.  Dog dignity is at an all time low because owners are basically off their rockers as they lavishly gush the softest of affection (and often not much more) onto their animals.  This allows for dog brats to rise up and take over.  Basically, our dogs can totally waste their energy on idiotic fence fighting numerous times a day and think little to nothing of it!  Zero consequences.  Our dogs don’t have to hunt in order to eat.  They don’t have to hike to a water source.  They don’t have to survive brutal winter storms.  Heck, they don’t even have to get along and employ team work and adaptability anymore in order to survive (which is the very thing that helped make them become dogs thousands of years ago)!  Dogs these days can act like morons in perpetuity, blowing their energy at the drop of a hat knowing full well that there’s a comfy dog bed inside and an owner that will hand them another high-caloric treat and loads of affection  if they simply walk back inside the house!  Is it any wonder more and more dogs are becoming insane?  Wild animals could never afford to muster and then employ all the energy that some dogs casually and consistently waste on fence fighting and frivolous barking unless it was for a real fight or during a dangerous flight for their lives.

Well, what’s the answer to this common dilemma?  I’ll start by telling you what the WRONG answer is…recalling your dog back inside.  Do NOT call your dog back inside to curtail fence fighting!  That’s like placing a Band Aid on a bullet wound!  It will not work for very long.  The next time you let your dog outside when the neighbor’s dog happens to be out there – guess who’s fence fighting again?  You’ve got the same problem day after day after day despite you calling your dog back inside.  But I should call the dog back inside the house in order to be a “good neighbor”, right?  Wrong.  Why settle for “good” when you can be a “better neighbor” and an “excellent dog owner” and actually stop the stupid behavior altogether?  Calling your dog back to you, FYI, is never a natural, dog-like solution in a situation like this because parent dogs go towards who they are addressing/correcting and the older dog will intentionally take up some of the problematic pup’s space.  This means you must move and get outside and stop the behavior where it is occurring in your yard.  You need to take away the space in front of your fence fighting dog.  Do you need to be harsh?  Not usually, but you do need to be firm enough to interrupt the dog at the exact moment in time when your dog is displaying high energy because he/she is in the very act of fence fighting.  You need to break your dog’s eye contact.  You need to respond in order to match your dog at the energy level he/she is at at that moment.  I often suggest turning the dog away if body blocking is not working.

  1.  Move with a purpose toward your dog.  You can yell one time if it helps (often yelling does Not help but experimenting is always a good idea when looking for the most efficient way forward).
  2. Upon reaching your dog and the fence you may have to grab the collar in order to break the dog’s eye contact with the neighboring dog.  If you cannot catch your dog because its rudely blasting by you and making a mockery of your discipline and a mockery of your physical prowess (or lack thereof) continuing to fence fight with the other dog then.. next time you attempt this step in the process… be sure to have the dog dragging a line/rope/leash (not attached to anything).  In this way you can step on the line and then pull the dog quickly into the proper posture.  The proper posture is one where your human rear end is facing the fence and the dog is backed away from the fence to make room for your body.  The proper posture is one where the dog is looking at you and not the other dog behind the fence.  (Do not pay the dog to look at you – there’s no respect in that) In some cases the proper posture is when you place the dog in the “heel” position next to you as you both angle looking away from the neighbor dog and the fence which are now (because of your actions) behind you.
  3. Allow a few heartbeats to pass so your dog can achieve a lesser level of energy.
  4. This next step is a rare and wonderful key to this method so please listen up…As you prepare to let the dog go (yes, you are going to let your dog go again and this will show your dog that you’re trying to establish a bit of trust in your relationship – it will also show supremely confident leadership on your part because it’ll look like you aren’t really concerned about the behavior – although you’re expecting it to stop – if you’re letting the dog go).  Begin to disconnect by standing up fully and looking away from your dog.  Your eye contact and denying eye contact is super important.  Then, let your dog go and start to walk back towards your house.  Yes – this may be shocking info to those of you with very reactive fence fighters but listen to me and do it – walk away as if the whole thing never happened.
  5. If it’s your dog’s first time being trusted and first time given this second chance (as opposed to being dragged inside the home or just recalled for some dumb food treat) your dog may turn and go right back into fence fighting. That’s ok.  Anticipate that failure.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Our goal here is that over the next few days your dog can “fail forward” as you intercept and interrupt the poor behavior and soon the behavior begins to greatly lessen in intensity and then the neighbor’s dog, even when barking its head off, begins to be almost boring to your dog.
  6. Day two looks much like day one.  Repetition is needed for both owner and dog.  Practice makes perfect.
  7. By day three when you go to stop your dog there should be a noticeable difference IF you’ve been following my advice to the letter.  When you go to grab your dog or go to grab the line that’s dragging on the ground you may not have to even touch or grab this time – so be ready to scale it back a hair.  Less is becoming more!
  8. Et cetera…et cetera…as the days pass the magic begins to work and you don’t come out the backdoor or off the porch as far into your yard.  Soon you only open the backdoor and yell out a parental warning to your dog and, after a bark or three, your dog stops and looks at you and you respond by instantly turning around and going back inside – teaching your dog that you expect it to be quiet and act properly and not escalate his/her energy in YOUR yard and that you are trying to TRUST your dog to remain outside and relax.  You are denying eye contact on purpose and showing real dog leadership.  If your dog heads away from the fence and comes towards your space just ignore it (do NOT praise or give attention to your dog).  Walk inside leaving your dog OUT because you’ve now achieved both respect for you and for your yard and the fencing, and you’ve cultivated some trust between yourself and your dog.  Nice work.

The technique I’ve described here really works.  If it doesn’t work for you then I would humbly suggest you are performing it improperly and your body and energy needs an adjustment.  Be advised, it is initially a difficult technique for some people spatially speaking.  Also, if your dog won’t listen to you inside your own house or is controlling who is touching who inside your home (and basically manipulating you) then there’s an enormous chance that the technique I’ve described here will NOT work for you outside because you have other relational work to do before you could ever hope to accomplish this type of “next level” spatial work outdoors between you and your dog.  All in all though, if you’re dog respects you and trusts you inside your home, the technique detailed here usually takes a week or two to achieve calmness outside in your yard FOREVER!  And often calmness can be accomplished even sooner!  The question is, are you willing to work hard for a week or two to win calmness for you and your dog FOREVER?  Are you genuinely willing to improve your life, your dog’s understanding, and improve your neighborhood?  I know plenty of people who sadly will NOT do the work.  I hope, Dear Reader, that you are different.

Be sure and subscribe to this fine blog!!!  Share this with a friend in need!

-G

Questions?  Read my books, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety then, if you still have questions, let ’em rip as I’d love to help you if I can!