You can’t Sell confidence to a Skittish dog

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Are you a human?  I assume you answered yes to that first question.

Let’s move on.

Do you have a skittish dog?  Do you have a fearful dog?  Do you have a nervous or anxious dog?  Do you have an aggressive dog?  Most aggression I come across (and I work more than any other person I know so I see a lot of dogs on a daily basis) is based in fear.   The skittish dog or puppy lives with aggression and or phobias that it has grown into outrageously, ridiculous proportions and many times done so right under the loving and watchful eye of their owners!  What can be done?  Well, let’s look at what most people do…………………………………………..

Almost every person I’ve met attempts to “sell” their fearful dog confidence.  THIS DOES NOT WORK.  THIS WILL NEVER WORK.  And the funny and tragic thing is, is that we start by feeling bad for the skittish dog and then giving it even more attention and all while the dog is acting in a fearful manner!  Let’s take a deeper look at an all-too-common interaction.

THIS is YOU! Please don’t attempt to deny it. All people attempt to “sell” their dogs because they come at them from a human viewpoint. We seldom consider things from the dog’s point of view because we are not dogs…but it’s high time we started thinking like them and communicating in ways they understand!

You are walking down the sidewalk in your neighborhood and one of your neighbors approaches you with their new rescue dog.  The dog is clearly skittish, nervous, fearful (however you want to describe it) and displays these phobias right away with poor posture, hiding, barking, sometimes even growling, lunging to snap, or lunging to get away from your touch.  So what do you do?………….you go into human salesman mode and start speaking in a higher tone (like some weird, flighty child) and getting down (actually getting in the nervous dog’s space without giving it a second) directly looking at and giving lots of attention to the nervous animal (something all older calm and social dogs would never do) and sometimes you spread your arms out wide or offer the back of your stupid hand for the nervous dog to smell.  You offer your hand not because it is wise but because that’s exactly what everyone does and that’s what you think works.

I ask you, Is that an accurate description of what you have done or most other folks you come across will attempt with a nervous dog?  If you are honest you should be shouting a resounding, “YES!” at your computer or phone right now.  Let’s continue…

(and before continuing this is a note to the more sensitive readers out there – Please understand it is my job {literally} to smash apart and dismantle many of the all-too-commonly accepted doggy beliefs that exist out there in order to raise awareness and consideration to how dog’s think and communicate.  The dismantling process is bound to be unpleasant or uncomfortable for us as humans particularly because few things in this universe are as sensitive and large as the human ego)  continuing…

Have you taken even one second to consider what an older, calmer dog would do in this situation?…..of course Not!  Have you thought about what the mother or father dog would do if this was one of their puppies?……No way!  You went right into relating to the dog backwards and you are totally wrong!  Yes, I’m sorry to break it to you.  And I know this might be an especially hard truth for you to face seeing as how you’re a “dog lover” but (in many cases) you just contributed to more fear and the further foolish human tradition of relating to the dog backwards and as an enabler of the dog or pup’s fears!  You just added more fear to the situation!  Let’s break this down nice and slow so our human brains can get it……………………………………………..

  1.  You acknowledged fear and tried to comfort a fearful state of mind!  That is something any animal in leadership would never, ever, ever do!  In fact, the only time you should “acknowledge” fear is when the dog is using the fear to manipulate it into aggression.  IF you have the know-how to acknowledge and intercept the dog’s fears then it is actually a direct confrontation you will be bringing in order to honestly, and adamantly disagree (while using expert timing) with the dog’s fearful/aggressive behavior at that exact moment in time…and it is never done to comfort or “sell” confidence to the dog.

2.  By giving the skittish dog a lot of attention and your eye contact you are adding fear to the already fearful dog and you are inadvertently making the nervous animal the leader in the short exchange!  If we look at it simply leaders are leaders because someone is watching them!  This is why the father or mother dog would take the opportunity to ignore a nervous puppy, particularly when there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

3.  In most interactions and meetings with a fearful dog the human salesman barges into it with what they think is a proven sales pitch.  A pitch that is designed to sell confidence, calm nerves, and make quick friends….but it’s a pitch that never, ever lands the sale if it’s pitched to a truly skittish or fearful dog!  You addressed the nervous puppy or dog by speaking.  Speaking addresses the animal’s ears.  And if you know even the first thing about dogs (sadly most people don’t because most trainers and behaviorist are uneducated themselves about the natural world) or how they communicate you would consider how their senses are developed and how the empirical, sensory world of the dog is a totally different experience from our own.  I mean, basically, that hearing is one of the last and least important senses to a dog and to canine communication!  But you just kept on with the attempted “comfort” and “kindness” all while never considering your audience.

4.  For the love of God please don’t put your hand in the dog’s face.  This to me is the epitome of misunderstanding our own dog’s language and a great example of human idiocy.  It also screams of indecision (indecision that is physically displayed with this lame gesture) and Who is going to lead?  I don’t know?  Do I come half way?  Do I go into the dog’s space with my outstretched hand?  Do they come to me?  Do they come halfway?  If you’re asking these questions just forget all you’ve been taught and you may eventually be on the start to a more natural understanding of your dog’s language!  Indecision let’s fear gain a manipulative foothold!  And dog’s read body language better than any human on the planet since dogs have no written and very little “spoken” language.

This image is what NOT to do! Shocking to many, I know, but still a ridiculous gesture and one that can be snapped at! And…like we talked about…way too much attention if the dog is nervous!

If you’re looking for the right answers and what to do always ask yourself what would the mother or father dog do in this situation?  This question will really help guide you through a plethora of different doggy interactions.  Any other questions feel free to ask your own dog…he’ll answer if you are observant enough.  Anything further that may need clarifying… ask me!

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-G

Dog Speak (Hiring a pro trainer or behaviorist)

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In this rapidly growing world of animal communicators, behaviorists, trainers, and whisperers -Please Beware!  Let me tell you that the labels only matter to humans.  Proceed with Caution!  You may be getting royally ripped off – both financially, informationally, educationally, and with the end result being little to no behavioral changes in your dog or pup!

“I need help again. My owner hired another dog behaviorist, and wasted more money.  They tried positive and negative reinforcement and I still act aggressively on leash towards other dogs and jump up on the guests when they come over!”

The dogs can see right through any human salesmanship, circus acts, human certifications and credentials, parlor tricks, or other tomfoolery.  The dogs don’t care whether you’ve trained tigers for Barnum Bailey’s during the past five years or worked with dolphins for over nine decades.  Dogs also don’t give a rip whether you’ve got several initials behind your name and have taken zillions of years of human schooling or have just crawled out from under a  nearby rock.

Dogs care about real communication, real relationships, energy control, and how their amazing senses are functioning in the wide world.

The dogs will know whether a person is calm or pretending to be calm!  The dogs will quickly identify who is a natural leader and who is not!  The dogs don’t care whether a human communicates well with other humans if they cannot communicate what they want clearly to the dogs.  The dogs will know whether a human is afraid of them.  The dogs will know whether a human is being mean or coming at them from a place of frustration.

Rule one when looking to hire a behaviorist, trainer, whisperer, etc…Make sure they excel and are leaders in the field!

Dogs will easily manipulate control of their own bodies, the space around them, and many other items if the trainer, communicator, or behaviorist doesn’t know what they are doing.

My clients are always amazed at how fast the dogs can calm down, or how I’m able to not get bit, and they wonder at the extremely quick changes that occur.  I jokingly bring up the possibility that maybe their dogs read my testimonials and reviews online and knew they better behave!  Dogs will listen and obey or disobey and disrespect depending on our energy and body language…even though they’ve never read the trainer’s website or googled the behaviorist’s testimonials.   Dogs don’t care if the trainer comes and works for free or if they charge $500 an hour.  They only care about real leadership, energy control, and who is controlling what I call the touch and spatial game (which is real canine communication).  THIS is dogspeak.  Real communication.  The ability to really understand and speak dog.

I see and read and know of countless companies who claim they “speak dog” yet their results are poor.  Folks, this is a huge indicator that they actually do NOT speak dog or know dogspeak.

I hear horror stories every single day (and I’m not exaggerating) from my clients concerning their past experiences with other companies.  The stories range from terrible tales of overcharging behaviorists who throw treats at the dog to solve real issues (aggression, fear, anxieties) to laughable yarns about cheaper trainers who throw treats at the dog to solve real issues and the classic sort where the former police or military K-9 handler uses all harsh and overboard corrections to “help” their house dog obey.  They do not get great results and then they keep suggesting further training for the owners or “If you just take this class…”  A majority of my poor clients have been upsold so many times it is ridiculous and makes me quite angry for them.  Many of my clients share with me how their prior trainer/behaviorist then proceeds to blame them (the client) at the end for the dog’s problems when the trainer/behaviorist could not get good results!  The behaviorist and trainer suddenly has millions of excuses why it’s everyone’s fault but their own shoddy methods!  “The pup may outgrow it.”  “It’s just a teenage phase.”  “What have you done to this dog?!”  “You really need to take our leadership class…our growly dog class…our reactive dog class…”  Or…”You need to take private sessions with us.”  Then during the private sessions the trainer/behaviorist treats the dog exactly like they would in group class settings either throwing treats at them non-stop or giving leash-pop hanging corrections non-stop!  What a fiasco.

It’s a horrific cycle.  So many good people are getting burned by people who claim to fix everything and have alleged solutions for dog behavioral issues but in reality are cookie-cutter morons who are robbing unknowing dog owners!  They don’t know dogspeak.  They don’t really speak dog.  And they typically end up mistreating their own clients – which then leads their client to me!  I then spend a good chunk of my time initially convincing them I’m different from the majority because the majority, the status quo, is largely in the wrong when it comes to real answers for real life situations with real life dogs!   How much time, energy, and money could have been saved if the dog owners had known just a bit more about dog psychology and dogspeak and the peaceful canine language?

Looking to hire someone to help your dog or puppy?

Make sure the trainer/behaviorist/whisperer you are considering has fantastic, real reviews.  Compare the reviews and testimonials with other training companies!  See if the reviews are about solving difficult behavioral issues or if they are more simple, group class, puppy-type stuff.  After doing this see how many other pet professionals recommend them!  (And, sadly, even then you cannot fully be sure because anyone can put anything online nowadays)  I then would highly, highly suggest you read as much about them and their personal philosophy as you can.  If it doesn’t line up with common sense and with what you know of mother nature’s ways beware!   If the trainer or behaviorist is imbalanced toward one training extreme or the other (“positive-ONLY” or punitive-mostly due to over-fixation on obedience) beware!  Seek out balance and calmness!  Stay clear of trainers who over-excite dogs and pups!  Stay away from external motivators only!

**Even if you have a puppy and think you just want a typical group class contact the trainer/behaviorist who can actually solve or prevent behavioral issues instead of going with status quo group class (believe me – we are few and far between) It will save you big money in the future!**

Then call the trainers and behaviorists and be ready with your questions.

Don’t be a cheapskate. Many times you get what you pay for. Try to make a good investment in your dog trainer/behaviorist but the key would be to make sure you are getting good, real, measurable results for the money!

Good questions would include, What do you typically do to treat aggression?  Or maybe How would you deal with a fearful dog?  Do you use positive or negative reinforcement?> (This last question is sort of a trick because an excellent trainer or behaviorist or whisperer will know that the relationship, the communication, the respect, the trust, the energy level of the dog and the owner all are much more important than positive and negative reinforcement!)  (“Positive-only” trainers are extremely limited and short-sighted in their approaches and often lack the great results you are looking for.)

The trainer should understand dogspeak.  They should be a fountain overflowing with knowledge about dog body language and what it means.  They should also be skilled in human communication because 95% of what I do on a daily basis is teaching the human how to speak dog.  Dogspeak is complex as any human language but learning the basics (and starting to get great results in your puppy or dog) can be as simple as A, B, C!

Need help?  Call us, we have the best testimonials and reviews of any dog training or behavioral rehab company!!!!!   Don’t believe me?  Go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  for more info