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

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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!

-SUBSCRIBE/FOLLOW us!!!!  Join our pack – you’re gonna love it!  (and please understand this post was purposefully honest and direct to elicit some emotion, some response, and some Change!)

-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