Rocky the aggressive boxer: one of the first dogs I ever trained professionally

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Rocky was a large male boxer.  Powerful, stubborn, hyper, and completely neurotic.

Rocky’s owners could not take him for a walk.  He was out of control.  He would pull, lunge, bark, leap in the air, snap at all manner of things – up to, and including, people.  He was nervous about everything…wind chimes, people, cars, birds, cats, trees or leaves blowing in the wind, other dogs, and a host of other common, everyday things.

A skilled Rookie

This was my earliest and first official “dog whispering” session at a client’s home.  I say whispering because whenever I deal with problematic dogs and need to help alter behavior naturally (by infusing calmness mixed with normal societal rules that apply to dogs and humans) I would hardly ever choose “training” (no matter how advanced).  Dog training is usually a terrible idea when attempting to prevent, reverse or eliminate poor behavior because dog training in essence is just the addition of obedience and tricks and often in exchange for payment or punishment.  Thus dog training (even done well) does NOT mean it will subtract problematic behavior!!!  (I fully understand this info may be shocking to many of you.  But it’s true nonetheless.  Let’s continue.)

I decided I was going to take Rocky for a walk.  The walk would be an attempt to get him to heel (walk loosely beside or slightly behind me without lunging and attacking anything).   I wanted to get him heeling so he could bond more naturally with me, burn off excess energy, and learn to follow me and then his owners.  The owners wanted to be able to walk him normally without all the insanity and aggression, drama, and without the public embarrassment, the outright danger and liability, and the excessive wasting of the dog’s energy and the frustrated owner’s energy.

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This is not Rocky but he was a big boy

The dance begins

To start I had to somehow get in the door without being bitten as this was also another of Rocky’s many issues.  Rocky was territorial.  He loved his family but was dominating everything he could and doing it out of nervous over-excited energy.  I tried to remain as calm as possible as they greeted me at the door with Rocky right there.  Please keep in mind, Dear Reader, that I did not know nearly as much back then as I do know but was “jumping in the pool” and taking a risk.  As I look back I realize that it was quite a risk I took because this dog was an excitement junkie hooked on fear and aggression.

Learning to Ignore is powerful stuff

He lunged for me as I came in the door but his owner had him on leash and pulled him back.  I went into introductions all the while attempting to ignore the threatening and aggressive body language of the dog.  Ignoring a dog can be a great safety measure when dealing with certain displays of aggression, fear, and escalated energy.  The ignoring is a method learned from watching older dogs and how they handle and raise younger pups.  It is the puppy who acts excited, foolish, and is initially an energy-waster.  That excitable behavior is the total opposite of how a more mature, socially-adept dog would enter a territory or meet another dog or pup.  This statement should instantly bring to your minds the question of how you meet and greet other dogs or puppies that you encounter, and also consider how the trainer you may be considering meets and/or greets your own dog or pup!  This can be quite telling.  Are we acting calmly, like a leader?  Or are we imitating and acting like puppies ourselves?!  Are we pumping up the dog or pups’ energy?!  If so please keep in mind that that is very poor leadership on our part and completely opposite of nature’s way!

Continuing…I was able to come in the door without getting mauled.  We spoke for several minutes on how to calm and lead a dog, mother nature’s way, the differences of dog training and dog whispering (for those readers that don’t know, I can do both methods but dog “whispering” or whatever you want to call naturally communicating calmly through space and energy -if done correctly- is much more natural, calming, and beneficial for the animal and our relationship with it and it always succeeds socially where other forms of training and behavioral mod. do not!) We spoke of other useful info all while Rocky was on leash and close by yet not close enough to bite me.  I was purposefully stalling as I gave all the vital info concerning their dog and this allowed him to calm down and deescalate.

Stepping up to the challenge

Then it was time for me to conquer fear, test my skills, and take the beast outside!  I asked that my clients initially just watch from the porch or stay inside altogether because Rocky was at a high level of aggression.  He would act worse if his owners were around or watching him and he would use them socially as backup for his manipulations and misbehavior against me – basically, he would get more aggressive with me and any others we encountered.  (Dogs are skilled manipulators of their owners and, in particular, their owner’s emotions and eye contact.)

Getting Bloody

I remember when I went to take the leash from the husband, Rocky kept lunging up in the air in a wild attempt to bite my hands and arms!  When I took hold of the leash (and my destiny for the next several years) his claws raked and scratched me as he clutched onto whatever flesh of mine he could find.  He was flailing and attempting to bite me and bite the leash or whatever he could get his teeth or paws on!  This may not sound like much to many of you but I have had scars that have taken close to a year to heal up just from a dog’s gripping claws!

Those babies can do some damage when they’re frantically wrapped around your bare arms!

Today when I look down at my forearms and hands I don’t see any scars from Rocky’s claws.  There is, however, one small scar from his teeth under the fleshy part where my right hand meets the wrist!  I remember my blood was flowing freely on that session.

I continued to let Rocky waste his energy as he attempted to bite, snap, nip, scratch, throw himself on the ground, bite the leash, and twist like a whirling dervish.  Some time later I felt he was calm enough to begin the walk.  This is another point in time where being extremely sensitive to the dog’s body language and energy comes into play.  You have to be super observant and patient yet active and willing to push the envelope.  We need the dog to go beyond the fearful or neurotic comfort zone.  Fortunately for me I’ve been an extreme animal nerd my whole life and have a well developed eye.

Animal nerd 

Growing up I lived in Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, and Maryland. Very different states with different animals.  I was able to catch frogs, toads, mice, lizards, snakes, turtles, and of course we owned several dog breeds over the years, many differing reptiles, some amphibians, a couple cats, and the occasional bird or rabbit.

As a child my first official pet was a box turtle named Speedy.   I got Speedy when I was around five or six years old.   My dad drove me to this run-down home that was converted into a too-cramped pet shop in a small Maine town.   It was jam-packed with creepy crawlies and furry bodies around every tight turn.  I was fascinated.  I remember seeing some python or boa almost bursting the sides of the dirty glass aquarium it was in, a raccoon in a wire cage, a skunk or two, and of course, loads of birds and reptiles.

Looking back, I can now say that Speedy actually had a great effect on the course of my life.  To my curious young mind this animal perhaps was a left over dinosaur that I could handle and study.  I clearly remember feeding him raw hamburger, bananas, strawberries and other salad stuffs.  I picture him walking around our apartment in Maine so many years ago.  I recall misplacing him once and then discovering him later in my clothes closet.  Upon his death we buried him in an empty Girl Scout Cookie box.  I still hold the opinion that his casket was just a bit too small but it was a great memorial service to honor a unique pet.

This imposter will have to suffice. I don’t think I have any pics of the real Speedy.

 

Working for a living

When I got my first job at fourteen it was at a pet store.  Clara’s Tropicals: a small pet shop specializing in tropical creatures in Maryland.  The first thing I ended up bringing home was a juvenile green iguana.  I named him Sam.  A few years later I had acquired another. Sam and Max were kept within a hand-built, custom, six-foot-high cage.  I’d make them a salad everyday.  As the years went by my animal collection and my knowledge grew.  I added a friendly Pac-man frog named Newton.  (Most horned frogs are not friendly.  They are an interesting species of frog that actually bite people and have teeth!  This actually makes them very unique as most amphibians do not.)  Newton was the bane of many a goldfish.

My second job was also at a pet store.  House of pets.  This store was not nearly as nice as Clara’s but I got to mess around with and care for caimans, tegus, monitors, rats, boas and pythons, chameleons, turtles, ferrits, and several other critters.  I was learning a ton about animal husbandry (through self education and intelligent observation) and occasionally handling some serious animals that did not desire to be handled by anyone.  Some of the caimans would snap at you if you weren’t careful and the tegu lizards and the monitors can be down right nasty!  There were some creatures I would only handle with gloves (Tokay gecko and a large green vine snake come readily to mind).

I also had acquired a bearded dragon named Roy.  Roy ate crickets like there was a coming famine.  We supplemented his diet with some salad and the occasional baby mouse.  He was very docile and I will, even to this day, recommend bearded dragons for those of you considering a lizard for a pet.  I know for certain there must be thousands of you out there reading this fine blog and thinking something to the effect of, You know what would really complete my life…if I only had a docile enough lizard sitting on my shoulder right now.  Well, now you know what my pick would be.

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A bearded dragon.

I was going to go further into the other animals and all the differing breeds of dog that my father would bring home for the family (usually free or extremely cheap and found from ads in the newspapers) but several of these pets did not last long in our house.  These intrepid animals would live with us often until they showed a problem or a behavioral issue was discovered and then they soon found themselves back in the paper and or in another home!   We never mistreated them but many certainly didn’t have too long of a stay with us.  Although this is not recommended for the animal  – it did afford me, during my childhood and teenage years, vast exposure to many differing breeds and personalities.  Due to the length of this post let’s just get back to Rocky the aggressive boxer and suffice it to say I was “good with animals” shall we?

A Dangerous Walk

We made quite a pair walking down the street.  After bearing the brunt of Rocky’s claws all over my forearms I was bleeding.  Rocky, after fighting me on leash and twisting like a crocodile going into a death roll, was heavily panting and frothing at the mouth.  I’m pretty sure his tongue had tripled in size.  Somewhere during all his rearing up and flailing, his teeth had snapped forward and cut my wrist.  I determined then and there that I was going to either bleed out or we could strive to have a normal stinking walk.  I would die trying.  We pressed on.

Utilizing good movements to stay away from his snapping maw and scratching claws I would patiently ride out Rocky’s explosive tantrums.  Whenever his energy needed a moment to rebound, we’d be off walking down the sidewalk as if nothing ever happened because I would instantly begin walking again making him heel.  There were several times he threw himself fully on the ground.  That was usually after he launched himself fully into the sky.  (bratty dogs will do this when they are used to controlling  their head and are not getting their way.)  I needed to walk him for his owners and he desperately needed to calm down and learn that the entire world wasn’t in his control and it also wasn’t that scary either.  So whenever he’d have an energy explosion and flop around and struggle like a prize Marlin on a line, I’d make sure he wasn’t able to bite me.  I’d ride out the storm and then, as quick as a jackrabbit on a date, we’d be off once again side by side like old chums out for a casual afternoon constitutional.  (Over the years I zero in on “where the dog is” at the current moment in it’s life and with it’s owners and “where it is” psychologically and then distinguish that from “where it needs to be” to achieve normal or calm balance.  This is necessary in order to achieve great results for both client and dog.  This sort of vision, I believe, is key for leadership in any endeavor or area of life in which one requires real growth.  The ability to move from “where you are” to “where you need to be” must never be undervalued.)

Eventually we were both tired and bleeding and sweaty (dogs do sweat despite what you may have heard.  They sweat from their paw pads).  Rocky had settled down due in large part to an iron will and decent dog-handling and we got through the difficult time all without bribing or beating (no need for positive reinforcement and no need for punitive either)!  He was heeling beautifully when we arrived back to the client’s home.  They were amazed.  I was happy.  Rocky was calm.  He was respectful towards me and now trusted me.  We were able to touch one another much more freely.  I would greatly build on this in future sessions with Rocky.

I then experienced a sort of glow, I suppose.   I’m not sure whether the clients noticed or if this sort of thing even shows from the outside or on my countenance at all, but  I’ve noticed this happens in my life internally whenever I am able to achieve something wonderful.  A burst of renewed energy (maybe joy) wells up within me.  I had done it.  I was a professional trainer, albeit very inexperienced, and had truly helped this dog and the results were plainly there for everyone to see.  It all happened within our first hour together.

Thanks Rocky,

-G

Remember to read my HOT Listed book on dog language and dog and human behaviors, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! by Garrett Stevens

 

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Dog Myths (my training book) is Now available for a Free sampling!

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Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!, is now available on Apple iBooks (and everywhere else too)!  And the best news…for a limited time it is on sale for preorder at a crazy price of just $4.99!  Spread the word.  Tell your friends.  Tell your enemies.  Tell your co-workers.  Tell your neighbors -especially the ones with the terribly behaved dogs.  Tell your 2nd and 3rd cousins.  Spread it on your facebooks and your instagrammys too.  Tell your dog for crying out loud!  Dog Myths is here and already we are seeing people take advantage and snap up this precious preorder pricing.  (UPDATE: it is now fully available and the preorder period is over – so you can snag a paperback or two on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble if you want)

What is Dog Myths about, you may be asking?  It is certainly NOT about whether our dogs can see color or something stupid and overdone thing like that.  It is NOT just more white noise and foolhardy dog or puppy training info that falls into the oversimplified and almost cranium-dulling Sit, Stay, Come, type of training book either.  Those are literally a dime a stinkin’ dozen.  It is also NOT one of these overly-scientific yet largely UNhelpful industry jargon-filled giant tomes of a book, written by some terribly nonathletic behaviorist rotting in a lab somewhere wearing his taped up, coke-bottle glasses, a dozen pens crammed inside the pocket protector within his lab coat shirt pocket while he awkwardly nurses yet another nose bleed.  Those types of books are also all over the dog training book market and boring as all get out.  They don’t equip people well.

So what is my book Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! about then?  My book details in honest, direct, and logical fashion the many, many behavioral and training myths and false beliefs that people have concerning their dogs, their language, their behavior, and their training and handling.  It is super beneficial for adjusting problematic dogs!  As people we act on what we believe.  These beliefs of ours can literally make us or break us, and they certainly are the first key factor in determining whether our dogs or puppies develop behavioral issues.  We believe so many things that simply are untrue in the dog training and pet industry it is almost psychotic!  Examples…you got it…

Did you know that when a dog or pup rolls over and exposes their belly to us that this is often NOT a submissive gesture?  The belief that when a dog shows us it’s belly is one of the myths we bust wide open and then the reasoning why it is displayed and how to naturally and gently adjust for a healthier relationship.  (A healthy relationship by the way leads to amazing things and certainly prevents and reverses behavioral issues much faster and more efficiently than even advanced training and behavior modification does!  -Insert dramatic Gasp here!- Yes – It’s true but you probably didn’t know that because you believe the age old myth that the addition of obedience training means the subtraction of poor behaviors.  NOPE!  I explain so much more in Dog Myths.  Time to preorder!!)  When a dog flops over in front of a human it is NOT necessarily submission.  Often it is a way to manipulate control of the environment or the owner!  Interesting, right?  Get the book – it’ll blow your minds!

Were you aware that when a dog or puppy licks you that this is NOT the human equivalent of Kissing.  That is another common dog myth, a false belief, that plagues society and contributes to many rescue dogs manipulating the dickens out of their new owners.  And later these same dogs bite people or attack dogs and it all stems from the human’s perception and belief system!  “He’s a real lover” – yeah right!  In true dog language that often translates as “I control what I repeatedly touch” or “If I get the first or last touch on you – I’m in charge.”  Who grooms whom is quite important in the canine language.  Do dogs make out?  NO.  Do our dogs get married and kiss at the alter?  Certainly Not.  Kissing and licking are NOT the same thing, folks.

These are just two very small examples of the many false and unnatural beliefs that are pervasive in the Western world and that actually lead to more misbehavior, more fear, more anxiety, more hyperactivity, and more aggression in our dogs!

For five bucks you could change your dog or pup and alter forever, for the better, the way you perceive dogs, their amazing language, and interspecies communication.  This book, I truly hope, can pave the way of our future interactions with our house dogs for the next 1000 years!  The future has never been brighter!

It’s time we STOP giving our dogs a job to do (because the vast majority of dogs are indeed Semi-Retired) (“Giving a dog a job” is another Huge dog training myth discussed and dissected in my book) and instead give them natural relaxation and more freedom as we move forward together as man and beast.  The shocking thing, is that there is little need for obedience training when the relationship is right and there is smooth efficient communication present!  The bad news is that so many lack this.  Time for a big change.

It’s time to look past all the foolish Positive reinforcement and look past the stupid Negative reinforcement and finally, finally, finally examine the more potent and natural relational rehab that is based on Internal Motivation, calm energy, and family dynamics that every dog on the planet uses when interacting with other dogs.  In Dog Myths, you will be shocked, educated (or maybe I should say re-educated properly by the dogs) equipped, and inspired to take action and think, move, and talk like a dog.  Let’s build a better world together, shall we?

Go to Apple iBooks –  Search “Dog Myths by Garrett Stevens” the book comes up first on the list.  Click on the word Preorder.  (I guarantee you you’ll learn something new and it will indeed benefit your dog or pup.)  It’s only 4.99 for a limited time!

Thanks for all your support everybody.  We will announce more about the coming book signings and whether we make the Bestseller list very soon!

 

Dog Myths: What You Believe about Dogs Can Come Back to Bite You!

For those that order from iBooks and print out their receipt and bring it to one of my book signings I will give you a signed paperback version for an additional $5.00!  (Normally the paperback is $25)

Thanks so, so much and please, seriously, spread the word about Dog Myths!

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The dog training industry is split with two extremes…in desperate need of change!

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Dogs are suffering!  Were you aware of the two extremes?  They are exceedingly common!  I see it everyday and am sorely sick of it and you should be too.  Our dogs are suffering because of these two extreme yet tremendously common training techniques.  And families and households across the world are suffering because of this lack of balance in the training world.  I literally work seven days a week (many months out of the year I don’t even take a single day off!) because the need for good balanced training is so high!  But I barely consider what I do “training.”

Let’s look at the two extremes that “Dominate” the dog training world…

1> On one extreme you have the “positive” only folks who are so vehemently concerned that no one ever dare disagree with their own dog or any dog on the entire planet.  This group tends to treat dogs like human babies.  Not like human kids or teens but like hungry human babies.

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“Bribe me and I might do this trick but that doesn’t mean I respect you, or that you can trust me, or that we are communicating like dogs would”

 

They operate as if our dogs are not intelligent enough to understand they should not perform certain rude or other “bad” social behaviors.  They act as if dogs can do no wrong.  We have learned from this fanatical group, and heard the insane true life stories from countless clients (before they found us when they tried other trainers/behaviorists) …in my daily experience of owning and running a very successful dog behavioral rehabilitation and training business we average 6-7 appointments a day…that they (the positive only crowd) seldom get great results because their techniques use bribery and rewards only.  And they bribe very early on with puppies.  They stuff treats down their throats so often that they eventually kill or greatly diminish the motivation altogether!

These trainers which can be found anywhere and everywhere treat their dogs (an ultra-domesticated animal) almost like some wild animal that needs to be bribed to do frivolous tricks.   I always found it strange that Bribery in our human society is a crime but constantly “paying” and bribing our dogs is touted by many of these “positive only” trainers as the end-all-be-all in training.  These folks, instead of bribing, could give our domestic dogs more credit and understanding as the highly intelligent and communicative species they are.  But they don’t.

I find it fascinating and irksome that from the get-go these trainers cut off all flexibility in their methods by declaring to all that they are only using and limiting themselves to one form of training or behavior mod…”Positive only.”

I have to ask why would anyone of sound mind and body would, at the start, limit themselves to one rigid form only?  This takes away all flexibility and adaptability in their methods!

Imagine a mixed martial artist announcing before the fight that he is only going to use Western boxing.  Why limit oneself that way?  The astute opponent could then easily manipulate and drive the fight the way they wanted to with loads of leg kicks and Brazilian Jujitsu or wrestling.  (Our dogs are quite astute when it comes to getting their way in their environments even if it’s against our wishes.)

The “positive-only” crowd lacks the freedom or doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that as a human dog owner one could choose to be “all inclusive!”  This means you can play, you can be serious, you can discipline, you can praise or reward, you can calm and or pump up the energy, you can control the dog or, if the dog is trust worthy, you can turn over control to the dog and give loads of freedom.  But because they are not “all inclusive” like all good parents should be they lack adaptability.

No Balance and flexibility lie in many “positive-only” techniques.  (And I’m not even going to go into all the trouble caused by constantly relying on an external motivator like food and how treats often Raise the excitement levels which can contribute to further behavioral issues!)

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“You keep paying me while I become a form of doggy Al Capone!”

 

 

Let me be clear – There is nothing wrong with rewarding for a good behavior but these “positive only” trainers/behaviorists take such an extreme approach to constant food rewarding, petting, and high pitched praise that it typically results in too much excitement from the dog or puppy which then leads to more behavioral issues in the future!

In the cases of real and serious aggression and, or fear, the treats simply are ignored by the dogs because they have “turned down” their sense of smell in order to “turn up” their predatory vision and hearing!  It’s the sad truth that the results these limited trainers bring are typically mediocre at best and only work for what we would in the industry call normal, social pups and or dogs with very minor behavior issues… and they almost never work for true aggression cases (and if they do eventually work a little it takes a year or more -which is a horribly long timing considering how all our dogs live in the moment and are connected to the present with their super senses.)

 

 

 

2> The other common extreme seen in the dog training industry are on the opposite end of the spectrum…the trainers who have been former military or police dog handlers/K-9 trainers.  These kind are easy to identify because they will typically cling to their tools and techniques with similar vigor as the positive only crew detailed above but the tools these trainers use are usually almost all “corrective” and punitive in nature.  I mean to say the tools will be electronic shock collars, prong or pinch collars, or the classic choke chain.  These trainers usually will get better results initially with the dogs than the “positive only” folk because dogs will respond to a more physical approach, however, the main fault here is that these types of methods can ruin many good dogs because they are using techniques from their police or military background on common house dogs that are usually not as high drive or simply not bred as tough as the dogs they learned on in the police or military all those years ago when the trainer was serving overseas or in the community.

 

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Excitement is great for protection work but not as great for being a housedog

 

(Let me just say we at Alpha and Omega dog training are very, very thankful for all those who have served in our military and those who have served the community as good law enforcement individuals.   And we are equally thankful for their faithful K9s that serve and work so tirelessly to protect us.)

We have some local trainers in the city where we live and train that were former military or police dog trainers and we have had clients that have taken a course from them… initially (before finding us) or done private sessions with them and they all recount tales of hanging, choking, rolling, shocking, and even something akin to water-boarding their puppy if their pup were to dig a hole in the yard!  These methods are Completely overboard and sometimes borderline abusive!  It is one thing to have to occasionally strongly correct with a leash pop or strong tug on the leash an active working (in the police or military) dog that is worked up and on the bite sleeve or a powerful dog that is attempting to bite another dog or person.  It is quite another thing to apply these methods on a puppy or dog that will live out it’s life calmly in a city or suburban neighborhood Never going on tours in Afghanistan or Iraq or to patrol gang-town Chicago or LA!  So again flexibility and adaptation are lacking in these rigid methods.

The thinking with these trainers goes something like this, “You have to show the dog who is Alpha…”  And while I actually agree that an owner should show their dog who is Alpha I disagree in how they and most people define the Alpha!

A true Alpha dog is nothing more than a patient, peace-keeping, parent.  This may be Shocking info – I know!  The Alpha dog is NOT the dog who is at the park trying to knock over other dogs down or trying to fight with many other dogs.  That is a common misconception.  The Alphas are natural peace-keepers who stay calm and attempt to get along with every dog they meet.  They know when to ignore or when to address with a firm but calming canine communication.  We should all strive to study and learn from them.  I have seen several over the years and it is fascinating to watch them in a large group of dogs.  The Alphas actually help the humans keep the peace in a large group!  They are masterful communicators.  Calm, confident, competent.

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This female is automatically alpha to all her little pups. Alpha means parent not bully. She will raise them utilizing ignoring, addressing, and occasionally redirecting through play.

 

A word on correcting or addressing a problematic dog:  The most effective corrections I have personally used over the many years have been the ones where I don’t lay a finger on the dog but where I outmaneuver  them, claim them, calm them, and then smoothly offer them more freedom!  THAT is the way of a true Alpha.  That is what good, loving leadership calls for – boundaries and certain disciplines within the relationship that actually lead to greater FREEDOMS!  We need to lead to greater freedom NOT more rigid obedience for our dogs.  Calmness mixed with efficient movement are keys to a calm and healthy puppy or dog.

 

Anyway the point of this post is WE ALL Need to come together as a dog training community and not have these two ridiculous yet oh so common extremes.  The need for calmness in humans and dogs is at an all time high in society!  People actually need to learn patience more than most of our dogs do!

If you are ever seeking professional help from a trainer, behaviorist, or whisperer…I would highly, highly recommend avoiding these two extreme groups.  Maybe you Free yourself enough to glean the best from both worlds and then find a better balance?  But, as I always say, attempt to learn more from the actual social dogs and less from the professional human trainer/behaviorist!  Look to all of nature for a guideline and watch how the older (SOCIAL) dogs move and act around others that are hyper and young or just unsocial.  Take their techniques and add them to your own bag!  

The wild thing is is that you may not be able to find a great trainer where you are at because Training itself and Behavior modification is now waaaaaay behind the times even the trainers who utilize the word “modern” in their names or methods are typically just positive-only types).  The issue is that both of the above mentioned methods are much to dependent on external motivation and the use of excitement and their tools.  And to go even deeper …The real heart of the issue is that the dog industry is still doing what it’s always done.  Everyone thinks training/behavior mod. is the answer.  My books will clearly explain why it’s not!  It’s time for an exciting new future.  Relationship with clear communication is the answer to preventing or reversing behavioral issues – it is the answer for a great life shared with others!

I’ll admit this one was hastily written but I believe it is loaded with truth and some interesting thoughts or questions for everyone to think about and hopefully act on.

Please keep an eye out for my upcoming book DOG MYTHS!!!!  I think you’ll really love it and it could be a potential game-changer for so many people and dogs in need.  #dogmyths #getgarrett

-G

Kim Kardashian and your dog

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The Kardashians – what can one say…  If there has ever been a prime example of attention hounds or attention gone wrong I believe it is epitomized in this poor family.  Yes, I wrote “poor” for there are many forms of wealth and they are devoid of several of the better kinds.  While they may be wealthy in terms of finances and buttocks I’m afraid this poor family (In my opinion) has been off their rockers for years now.  In this exciting and illuminating blog post we will go over the Kardashian conundrum and the vital importance attention plays in relating with our dogs.

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Whenever we give our attention to something it lends power or often credence to that subject.  The more we give our attention the stronger habit grows.  Besides Kardashians, another prime example to illustrate my point would be how often we stay tuned to the news.  Much of the “news” and “journalism” today is nothing more than a competitive bloodsport.  A vile competition in conditioning the viewer.   The networks seek out the top 5 or 10 most heinous, atrocious, and shocking stories they can find across our world and then plaster it everywhere.  This GRABS our Attention!  They manipulate our fight/flight responses.  The news plays with our fears and does so quite successfully.

My question, Why are we giving so much attention to it?  Most answer, To stay informed.  Really?  Honestly?  Imagine if there was an actual emergency that had something to do with your immediate life, or the life of a neighbor, or neighborhood near yours.  Even if you literally had your head buried in the sand at some point a family member, friend, or nearby neighbor would most probably inform you of the tragedy by word of mouth and then, and this is critical, you could make a decision to act.

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Imagine how unhealthy we, as people, have become just from filling our heads with the “news” and every terrible thing that happens across the planet every moment (even though we aren’t really going to do much about it)!  It is totally different if you take action to change, alter ,or otherwise become involved in the plight.  But do we?  And if so, What is the percentage of complete and negative BS we are giving our attention to over and over, versus, what we actual give our attention to and then DO something about?

 

What we give attention to grows!  “Energy flows where attention goes.”  This is vital for growth in our lives.  Think of some childhood movie stars.  What typically happens to them as the years pass?  They had everything.  They had money, houses, cars, growing power, and FAME.  They had our ATTENTION and it was too much for them!

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Examine what goes on on social media.  It is often less about connecting with loved ones and friends now-a-days and has become more about announcing what you are doing or how you look with duck lips to the world.  We have been conditioned by Facebook “likes” just like Pavlov would condition us.  We want to put out the image of fine vacations and cultivate our own little fame to gain more and more Attention!  I do the same thing on our Facebook business page – we seek attention.

Attention given to your pup or dog can make or break the dog’s future behavior and relationship with you!  The mother and father dog give way, way, way, way, way, LESS attention to their growing pups than almost any human.

Imagine how life starts for a wolf pup, a dingo pup, a feral dog pup, a coyote, or just a normal pup at a breeding facility.  The mother dog doesn’t have near the amount of possessions a human does.  She doesn’t care if the pups chew on the flooring because she doesn’t know how much you paid for your carpet.  She doesn’t mind if her pups chew up the furniture because dogs place little value on your Grandfather’s antique, roll top desk. Because we have possessions and so many of them and work so hard to acquire them we guard them.  And to guard them takes our attention.  When a new puppy or a new rescue dog comes home to live with us we have many more rules and boundaries than the mother and father dog naturally every would.  And that’s okay.  We don’t all have to join the monastery just to have a better relationship and behavior with our dogs.

I’m just saying, attempt to be smooth about what you give your attention to.  I have several nice things in my home that I don’t want chewed, destroyed, or soiled.  But I have learned how and when to ignore (and withhold my attention) when to address and calmly discipline if need be, and when to occasionally redirect with a toy, game, or training command.  If you’ve ever watched an older dog interact with a younger pup the older dog is often attempting to ignore the young pup.  They do this for very good reason.

Use reverse psychology for better success than constant attention with any dog or pup!

Don’t turn your puppy into a Kardashian.  Attention hounds are a very real thing.  And attention hounds are skilled at draining our energy.  We only have so much energy and so much attention to give.  A large part of a successful life is determining how and what and when we give our energy and attention.  Why do we direct it?  Why are we doing what we are doing?  Please think about these things with me, folks.  Beware making a needy dog or pup more and more needy!

And…….ATTENTION, ATTENTION!  Ha ha.  I am getting ever closer to finishing my book!  I know you will love it and get loads out of it!  We are so excited to help so many with this book!

-G

PS.  As to the Kardashians I hold zero ill will and wish them the best.  I just thought this example may resonate with some people who may be dealing with an attention hound or creating a future one!

How to avoid the plague

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There is a plague spreading!  This atrocious affliction is assailing families across the country at a truly alarming rate.  If, and only if, you can identify the symptoms you may have a chance for survival.

Thankfully the symptoms of this torment are fairly easy to recognize.  They are listed below in story form…

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Alice Jones arrives home after an uneventful day of work.   Alice has developed a strong and recent loathing for her boss but that’s a story for a different time.  She walks through the door and is greeted by Jethro.  Jethro jumps up on her and wags his tail; a happy tan furball in the lamplight.  After tossing her work outfit in the hamper and replacing it with a pink sweat suit Miss Jones trots down the stairs and heads towards the bench near the door.  Under the bench her shoe pile awaits.  Jethro is beside himself; the ritual of the evening constitutional almost more than he can bear.  Alice plops down on the bench.  She grabs her favorite jogging sneakers.  The stitching in them just beginning to open up in places.  The sneakers will need to be replaced within a few short weeks.  Jethro, a large brown beast, snorts his excitement and continues his dancing.  Alice grabs the treat pouch affixing it to her sweatpants.  Jethro is finally able to sit after being told six or seven times as she puts the leash on him.  They go out the door and into the cool evening air.

Alice and her dog keep a brisk pace as they pass the first block.  They pause to look both ways before crossing.  Alice’s eyes darting here and there scanning the lonely intersection before continuing onward.  Jethro strains – keeping the leash taut and panting all the while.  Alice increases her speed to attempt to match her four-footed friend’s.

Then it happens.  Alice inadvertently tenses.  It was a bark.  Turning quickly to her left she hears the bark again before she sees the rushing dog’s form through the fencing.  Jethro goes buck wild.

Jethro is dog aggressive.  Alice spits out a curse attempting to restrain seventy pounds of muscle, teeth, and fur.  What was it the behaviorist had taught her?  She reaches into her treat pouch and grasps for the food.  Rifling through the little bag at her hip, she is just able to pull out a small treat.  As Alice struggles to maintain her footing in the dark night, keep her shoulder in it’s socket, and keep Jethro from climbing the neighbor’s fence and biting the barking dog she wonders why her dog has made so little progress.  So little progress even after hiring a professional behaviorist?  Anger, frustration and desperation all begin fighting for the throne of her emotions.

Jethro lunges again and again, straining at the leash; fighting for leverage.  His brown eyes like laser beams of concentrated fury.  The dog’s energy rises with each passing second.  Alice speedily shoves the treat almost into one of his nostril’s and as instructed yells, “Watch me!”  She brings the treat back up toward her own face.  No change.  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  Jethro has now almost reached the fence several times and has almost spilled Alice onto the sidewalk below them.  This exasperating spectacle continues on for another minute.  Alice finally resorts to straining her damnedest and eventually is able to yank Jethro past the end of the neighbor’s fencing.  They escape the barking dog and continue into the night.

Later Alice and Jethro arrive home.  The dog – wagging happily from the walk.  The person – defeated and vexed from the battle.

This phenomenon is happening now and occurs all over the world.  The plague we forewarned you about, good reader, was not the dog-dog aggression. The terrible epidemic we are specifically talking about is the weak and inefficient method commonly used to fix the aggression.   This is the same bad method used in countless situations across the globe.  The same method that brings about little to no change and IS the bane of unsuspecting dog owners…and it is so sinister because it is consistently sold as the cure!  The method described in the story above is constantly sold as the solution!  And caring dog owners buy it hook, line, and sinker.  And what a “sinker” it is.

It causes hope to sink.  It causes confidence to sink.  It causes human emotion to sink down into the mire and muck until the poor dog owner is so beaten down by the continual losses, so very distressed and afflicted by this plague they soon give up.  They give up because they have already tried dog training and it did little to no good.  Maybe they already paid top dollar for a dog behaviorist and the method may have worked on their dog at a far distance from another dog, or it may have worked just slightly when the dog was less distracted, or in a controlled setting, but not in the real world and certainly not for lasting results the owner was anticipating!

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“Bring out your dead!”

 

Folks, this goes far beyond obedience training for dogs.  This sad and pathetic yet all-too-common story is a perfect illustration showcasing the piss-poor methodology of a humongous majority of dog behaviorists and dog trainers.  Attempting to perform a “watch me” command or a “look” command using a food bribe while a dog is beginning to freak out on another dog (or person, or cat, or squirrel, or mail carrier, etc) is the scourge that we fight daily.  This is a Plague!

 

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You would probably not believe how often I hear my new clients recount (like Alice’s dreadful tale) their similar poor experiences with professional dog behaviorists and dog trainers.  My question…When, When, When will we realize that bribing anyone at any time INSTANTLY makes for a less healthy relationship.  

Any and all close relationships have several ingredients included in order to be successful and close.  Respect would be the glaring one in a case like Alice’s.  Jethro had zero respect for her and he showed it in dog speak.  He showed how important he viewed their relationship as he practically abandoned it in an instant to give direct attention to something else.  This was terribly rude to Alice.  And totally unacceptable behavior if Jethro was a human being.  This behavior however is tolerated many times in our relationships with our dogs.

Imagine the human equivalent of the Alice/Jethro relationship with me for a moment.

Let’s say you are having a conversation with someone and you are in mid-sentence and out of nowhere they just totally start ignoring you.  Not only that but they start jumping around, staring at something, and begin screaming out their over-excitement.  Puzzled you turn around to see what they are going on about and see your neighbor casually mowing his lawn.  The person you were just talking to is going bonkers now…dropping F-bombs, needing to be physically restrained while they bodily threaten the neighbor; all the while screaming their head off.  The troubling thing is that this is extremely common because your neighbor is out there typically every couple weeks to trim up his lawn.

Now, as a concerned individual, you ask them to stop.  You are totally ignored; blown off as if you did not even exist.  The sort of extreme ignoring that would impress even the most snobbish of royalty the world over.  The person you used to be talking to, maintaining directed intense eye-contact and the continued onslaught of monstrous insults at the hapless neighbor is becoming quickly uncontrollable.  You take it a step further and decide to step in front of them.  This individual, like a professional athlete, slips left and continues the disgusting yet powerful display of raw energy and physicality-curse words flowing toward the neighbor.  What is a caring person to do with this Tyrannosaurus-type-terror?  Bribe them?  Beat them?  WHAT???

Let’s pause for a moment and then honestly ask ourselves would bribing them at this point be prudent?  Would bribing them at any point over the years of your relationship be prudent?  And does the bribe, if it indeed works, guarantee no future outbreaks of alarmingly aggressive behavior?  (Just to let you know Beating them is NOT the solution either!) 

Should they always look to us for reinforcement?  Should our friends, coworkers, or children (or dog for that matter) as intelligent creatures ALWAYS look to us for reinforcement?

This last question is a critical question because it is where my beliefs on dogs and their training and behavior differ from almost all other dog trainers and dog behaviorists I’ve ever met, read of, seen on TV, or even heard of!

I believe we should NOT always be the answer for our dogs.  Just as our human children grow we should NOT always be the answer for them.  ALL GOOD LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT DUPLICATION, DELEGATION, and DECISION MAKING.  As a father of three great kids one day I may not be there when they have a tough decision to make.  I may not be there when they are pressured to try drugs.  I may not be able to be there holding their hand as they apply for their first job.  But I do my best to be the best leader I can be and equip them as much as possible so that when I am not there they can make an intelligent decision on their own.  

Good leadership is the key on the parent’s part.  Maturity is the goal for the growing child’s part.  For a healthy relationship we need both respect and trust.  How can we trust the child if they don’t respect us?  How can the child trust us if we don’t respect them?  It is a two-way street.

^^^^^^                      It is the same two-way street with dogs.           ^^^^^^

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I find it fascinating that Bribery is a crime in our society but yet highly, highly encouraged by dog behaviorists and trainers when it comes to our close relationship with dogs.

 

Bribery is actually a CRIME in our society!!!  Why is it sold to us as the most “positive” way?  This is amazingly bizarre.  And this is foolish!   Bribery needs to stop if we want calmer, healthier, more social interactions from our dogs and pups.

 

TO BE CONCLUDED…

PS.  Please keep an eye out for the exciting conclusion to this post as we will examine what happens if the food treat/bribe does actually work and the effects on our relations with dun, dun, duuuuu….(exciting musical crescendo here)…..our dogs!

-G

 

 

Alternative lessons: The Tortoise and the Hare

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

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

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

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

Part One:  THE HARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(apply this action to your daily dog handling!)

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

 

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Are you safe?

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Are you safe?

Are you stuck in a self-created, bland, daily routine?  Would you call your life adventurous and free or would you call it safe?   Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

While adventure isn’t the most important thing in life I believe it should hold a place of value and be sometimes specifically sought after.  I am not alone in this belief.  If we follow the fun in life as we travel, reach out, and interact in this our wide world and embrace the fascinating people, places, creatures, and things in it we all can find a richer experience as we journey this life together.

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal.” -Paulo Coelho

If we follow after safety nothing great is accomplished!  Imagine the great heroes in the history of our world.  Since the dawn of time they have been memorialized because they chose the unsafe path!  They placed themselves in harm’s way to help others.  They chose adventure over safety and comfort.  They did the hard thing not the easy thing.

We’ve all heard the expression “No risk – No reward.”  It’s true.  Risk is good!

Dogs are natural explorers.  They are naturally curious and adventuresome.    A dog left loose in a neighborhood will range and rove and follow where his sensitive senses take him…for better and sometimes for worse!  This is nature’s way.  The way of freedom.

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We are facing a crisis in this country currently.  A crisis called fear.  In the name of “safety” and “security” certain rights and freedoms have been taken away.  As the years pass us by and more corrupt politicians enter the game we steadily lose more freedoms as big government continues it’s unhampered growth.  This pervading feeling that “safety” should be foremost in our minds and lives is usually motivated by fear.  The media constantly preys on our fight/flight instincts as the news manipulates the masses.  If you avidly watch the news to “stay informed” you may find you are just “staying programmed” to whatever messages the media may want inside your brain.  (Personally I try my best to limit all forms of “news” media and have found it amazingly beneficial on my mind, and my thinking and actions.)

This crisis of fear and the medias plays on our “safe” thinking isn’t safe..  Sadly this way of thinking isn’t limited to government.

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Many loving parents over-protect and condition their children from a very young age to be fearful and non-adventurous.  The days of “free-range” kids roaming neighborhoods until sundown are tragically diminishing.  In place of kids running around and getting into their own mischief and adventures their mothers set up play-dates.  Play-dates (if you do the research) lead to less self-reliance, less creativity, and less freedom for the child and parent!

We have done this exact thing with our dogs over the years.  And we have done worse. When leash laws started being implemented we actually took away our dogs natural ability to successfully navigate a neighborhood with traffic and people, critters, and distractions.  As we tightened up on the illusion of control and patted law-makers on the back for “dog-safe” leash laws we didn’t consider the possible future rebellion from our dogs!

The results of increased laws in the name of safety have been increased aggression toward people and dogs, dogs without wisdom running into traffic and being killed, increased territorialism, increased fears and phobias, and wildly unsocial dogs!

Please consider this.  Please don’t just brush this off.  Allow the thoughts you have on this subject to begin in the past… about 30-40 years ago when many dogs (like kids) used to romp and adventure through the neighborhood and interact with other dogs and people.  Then bring your mind to present day and consider that although we have more dog training programs, more behaviorists, more dog daycare programs, more vet offices, more pet television programs, more “safety” and more alleged dog info than ever before in all of the history of the world …dog bites (dog aggression and dog fear) are on the rise!  It’s been steadily getting worse over the past 10 years!  

Am I against leash laws in cities and urban areas and towns.  Of course not.  I’m just trying to stimulate some thoughts.  I’m hoping to get some conversations going.  Because we do need a change.  Each year 5 million Americans are getting bit by dogs!  Half of those bitten are our own precious children!  Most training and behavior modification methods are shoddy and inefficient.  So I’m hoping people will start asking questions.

Questions about safety vs. adventure.  Questions about law-making.  Questions about human behavior.  Questions about dog behavior.  Questions about growing government.  Questions about control vs. freedom.  Questions about intelligence.  Questions about sociability.

“I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.”  -Thomas Jefferson

“The secret of happiness is freedom.  The secret of freedom is courage.”  -Thucydides

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”  -Gandhi

The point of this post = To raise critical questions and thinking among the masses.  To remind you, as you work with your dogs and puppies, never over-control, and never micro-manage or a rebellion may result in the future!  To seek out adventure and newness in your relationship with your dogs and those around you and sometimes throw caution to the wind.  Seek to balance freedom with direct communication with your dog.

Questions?  Give us a call.  We are the best in the business.    -G