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.  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 has your dog been smelled from 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 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 fantastic and the learning comes readily to 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 a dog is astounding.  All canines can use these signals and this language to release tension and get along socially tragically – 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 defines a canine.  Dogs that are skilled in their own linguistics use tension and the release of 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 pressure spatially in order to calm/claim/correct the individuals in their social circle that may need help.  They seldom if ever overdo it and they seldom if ever under do it.  It is fascinating and freeing.  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 still attempt to socialize by way of spinning your dog around (controlling the head and eyes and teeth) and getting your dog’s butt smelled by a calm, friendly “example” dog.

Need help – leave us a quick voicemail and we’ll answer your questions as soon as is humanly possible (calls and vms are handled on a first come – first serve basis!)

-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!

 

 

Is your dog Flexible or Fragile?

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Is your dog psychologically flexible or fragile?  Is your method of dog or puppy training and dog handling unbending and, therefore, rigid and fragile?  Is the daily routine you keep with your pet, perhaps, too rigid and too regimented or is it pliable and relaxed?

These questions, I think, are worth EVERYONE’S consideration.  Whether you have a dog or not, the subject matter we will go over today is the real stuff that often makes or breaks one’s quality of life.  It can Make you or, as the fragile tree, the poorly heat-treated sword, the overly-emotional person, or many dogs often experience, it can Break you!

So many dog owners lack flexibility.  Thus, their dogs lack flexibility too.  This is due, in large part, to so many professional dog behaviorists and dog trainers and vets clinging to their unyielding philosophy and close-minded dog training methodology.  If you follow this fine blog you know I’ve been extremely honest about the mainstream dog training industry (much to some trainers’, behaviorists’, and vets’ chagrin and much to many others joy, education, and puppy prosperity) You, Dear Reader, and your dog or pup bear the brunt of this unyielding philosophy and extreme dogmatism that mainstream trainers hold so dear and continuously propagate on an unwitting society.

Real World Example:  Some dog trainers proudly exclaim “We are a “positive only” training company.”  (They even think it’s modern!  That shows even less research on their parts) I hope everyone understands that those that confess and practice this singular and rigid method of dog bribery are immediately eliminating one entire half of possible external motivation for the dog they are working with!  And what’s worse is that they are also starting off the human-dog bond with a bizarre and unnatural set of limitations.  I’ll also mention that good human parents and certainly good dog parents would seldom if ever load up their children, or pups, with gobs of sweets or consistent bribes in exchange for decent behavior.  That builds a relationship devoid of respect and trust.  My question is, When the “positive” approach doesn’t work (which is quite often) because they never calmly address any misbehavior and because they are Not Free to calmly disagree with the dog, are they flexible enough to learn from nature and take a page out of every older dog’s playbook and spatially address the situation to enhance calmness and peacefulness???  OR do they remain stubborn, rigidly clinging to their food bribes, and thus blindly continuing on the fragile and foolish path all the while collecting money from their customers in exchange for weak results?

(Now if you know even the smallest thing about us and our award-winning company or if you’ve read my two books you would know we do NOT cling to or preach either “positive” or “punitive” reinforcement because they are BOTH just shallow External motivators and lack long-term relational staying power – especially when compared with the relatively untapped yet naturally stronger Internal, relational motivation found within ALL dogs and pups on the earth!  Please re-read that sentence.  The ways of the mother and father dog will always trump the ways of the human scientist in the lab or the one-sided, strangely dogmatic behaviorist, vet, or dog trainer!  If we are going to be dogmatic, friends, it should be dogmatically for excellent and humane results for the dogs we work with and dogmatically for daily improvement (a concept the Japanese Samurai called “kaizen”).  We could be dogmatically for doing things the dog way: cultivating techniques that echo and reflect Mother Nature’s way.  Now let’s continue with the other side of the fragile and inflexible example seen readily in most dog training and behavior mod…)

Several other kinds of dog training companies (these sorts often attract GSD owners or Belgian Mal owners) will hyper focus on negative reinforcement and rely on the classic yet foolhardy “rolling” of the dog, hanging, zapping, or choking it, or other too-harsh tactics employed carelessly in order to show the dog “who is boss” or “who is the Alpha” (FYI, when and if a dog rolls over and exposes its belly – this gesture does NOT usually indicate a submissive gesture when it is presented towards humans – even though everyone on the planet has been conditioned by the dog training industry to believe that it is a submissive gesture!  That, My Friends, is a myth!  For more on this clarification of dog language and behavior – much more – read my hot-listed book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!  You’ll get alooooooooooooot out of it if you have an open mind!)

The point of the examples is that Both sides, Both of these unflinching methods generally lack flexibility and cannot truly help bring the relationship between you and your dog into MATURITY because of it!  

The great news is that YOU don’t have to join or cling to either restrictive side!  You can free yourself from the classic dog training debates and seek out, what we have discovered is a third more natural, beneficial, method of training and modification that doesn’t desperately rely on shoddy external motivation and foolish excitement but is based, instead, on internal motivation, the natural world, and specifically how the human body moves with the dog body, how touch is happening between owner and dog, and how peaceful postures enhance relationship in every dog on the planet.  The Garrett Stevens Method utilizes touch, space, energy influence, proper postures, and actual dog language in order to guide dogs into better behavior and relaxed freedom within the relationship.  It far surpasses what counts as dog training and canine behavior modification.  Our dogs are looking for leadership that guides them into maturity.   We should stop being impressed with stupid tricks and often frivolous obedience.  It’s 2019 for crying out loud – YOUR DOG IS SEMI-RETIRED and Does NOT always need a job to do (which would require higher levels of energy to accomplish) because that often just adds more tricks to his/her repertoire and does NOT remove problematic behavior in a natural way familiar to all canines.  Can I get an amen?

Real life example for you:  Ron takes his dog Winston (a French Bulldog) out for a walk.  Winston always gets over-excited when putting the leash on, and Ron always asks him to perform an excitable “wait” command at the door because that’s what Ron has taught him to do from puppyhood.  That’s dog training.  Ron is doing that because that’s his limited concept of training and he’s supposed to do that to gain respect from his dog.  Ron never considered that when we have a dog perform a “stay” or “wait” command at the door when the dog is already presenting escalated energy it can, and usually does, make matters worse internally.  Meaning Winston’s energy goes up because he is now frozen and many predators freeze just before exploding after prey.  So Ron’s little “wait” routine, his training is actually creating more of a problem than he had at the get go!!!

When a dog is locked into a routine – it is NOT flexible.  This is because dogs are intelligent and they know what is going to happen next and thus, often try to speed us up.  They jump the gun.  The truth of the matter is that Winston has learned to wait or stay physically all while ramping up unnecessary energy psychologically!  And, like almost any command performed in typical dog training and “modern” behavioral modification style…the dog remains excited mentally or, even worse, escalates his energy more!  So even when or if the “wait” or “stay” is accomplished… as soon as the release term comes at Winston he is exploding forward again out of the doorway and pulling and straining on the leash.  So little to nothing was actually gained by asking him to “wait” in the first place!  Inadvertently Ron’s “dog training” has made the situation worse!

Friends, the mother and father dog would probably never keep their pups in a frozen position if they knew that the pup’s energy was skyrocketing.  Escalated levels of energy often lead to fight or flight behavior and, in the very least, lead to the rude and manipulative habits in our dogs.  (please ponder that FACT)

Ron, in his search to train and raise his bulldog properly, has inadvertently squashed Winston’s natural autonomy and freedom near the doorway.  Everyday is the same in Winston and Ron’s life.  Every time they go for a walk it is the same.  The direction and route they take on their walk is usually the same.  And Ron is setting Winston, his French bulldog, up for failure if any subtle difference, any slight chaos ever happens to occur in their life or routine.  He’s training his dog to be fragile!  And if there’s one rule that is truly constant in our lives it is that successful folks embrace change while the unsuccessful fear it.

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Every single dog-lover I know that has been interested in training their dogs has over-trained and over-conditioned them at the doorway or, and this example occurs in almost every home I’ve ever been in (at the time of writing in 14 years as a pro behaviorist), before their feeding ritual each morning/evening with this mind-dulling “stay” or “wait” command.  Now, please understand me, I am 100% for teaching a puppy this initially.  My caveat comes into play when it is continuously used and the energy of the animal is seldom if ever considered.  We must consider the ENERGY if we want a wonderful house dog.  End of story.  Tricks and even OBEDIENCE are SECONDARY to cultivating great RELATIONSHIP and HEALTHY ENERGY LEVELS!  Please quote me on that! Tell everyone you know because they need it.  Believe me, I see this played out daily in our successful behavior modification processes while I continuously ad nauseum here over and again real life stories of miserable and rigid failings on the dog training industries part.  Inflexible dog training methods are a genuine nightmare on very well-intentioned dog owners and their families and their neighbors.

One of my heroes, Bruce Lee, has a quote that I love.  I’ll share it with you now.  “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”  That is what I try to do every day when I work with people and dogs.  It is a winning philosophy because it takes in all sides of a story, and then gets rid of the crap, and finally, it encourages creative solutions and actions on our part.  I hope in the future more dog trainers and behaviorists and more vets and dog owners will be open to thinking like Bruce Lee did.  The palm tree survives the hurricane because it bends in the wind.

For flexibility…mix things up.  Shake things up.  Do something novel or different.  If your dog always pees on a certain tree or hydrant during your walk – skip it next time and form a new neural pathway in the moldy, dusty, old mind.  If your dog always performs a “sit – stay” or “wait” for his food in the morning, next time skip that incredibly boring routine and let him simply have the stinking food, or use that minute to train a different and fresh command – for instance – work the “come/here” command or the “catch.”  If your dog always barks at a certain guest put the leash on him and stop him from doing it.

Let’s refresh and renew ourselves and our dogs as we add new experiences into our lives.  Let’s look beyond the shoddy external motivation (positive or punitive reinforcement) and all the fragility that’s continuously shoved upon us all from all the “dog people” in the industry.  Let’s shake up our daily routines.  Routine can truly destroy the mind when it is overdone.

Think Flexibility and your dog or pup will not be psychologically Fragile!  As always, socialize for success.

For more info of this nature read my books, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety  

The books are available almost everywhere.  Thank you so much to those who have left me thoughtful reviews on Amazon or Apple iBooks.  It means quite a lot to me.  And thank you so much to those clients who read and re-read the books on their quest for greater relationship and better behavior with and among their dogs.  I am humbled that you would re-read again and again Dog Myths in order to grasp the principles of dog language.

-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