Is your dog psychologically flexible or fragile? Is your method of dog or puppy training and dog handling unbending and, therefore, rigid and fragile? Is the daily routine you keep with your pet, perhaps, too rigid and too regimented or is it pliable and relaxed?
These questions, I think, are worth EVERYONE’S consideration. Whether you have a dog or not, the subject matter we will go over today is the real stuff that often makes or breaks one’s quality of life. It can Make you or, as the fragile tree, the poorly heat-treated sword, the overly-emotional person, or many dogs often experience, it can Break you!
So many dog owners lack flexibility. Thus, their dogs lack flexibility too. This is due, in large part, to so many professional dog behaviorists and dog trainers and vets clinging to their unyielding philosophy and close-minded dog training methodology. If you follow this fine blog you know I’ve been extremely honest about the mainstream dog training industry (much to some trainers’, behaviorists’, and vets’ chagrin and much to many others joy, education, and puppy prosperity) You, Dear Reader, and your dog or pup bear the brunt of this unyielding philosophy and extreme dogmatism that mainstream trainers hold so dear and continuously propagate on an unwitting society.
Real World Example: Some dog trainers proudly exclaim “We are a “positive only” training company.” (They even think it’s modern! That shows even less research on their parts) I hope everyone understands that those that confess and practice this singular and rigid method of dog bribery are immediately eliminating one entire half of possible external motivation for the dog they are working with! And what’s worse is that they are also starting off the human-dog bond with a bizarre and unnatural set of limitations. I’ll also mention that good human parents and certainly good dog parents would seldom if ever load up their children, or pups, with gobs of sweets or consistent bribes in exchange for decent behavior. That builds a relationship devoid of respect and trust. My question is, When the “positive” approach doesn’t work (which is quite often) because they never calmly address any misbehavior and because they are Not Free to calmly disagree with the dog, are they flexible enough to learn from nature and take a page out of every older dog’s playbook and spatially address the situation to enhance calmness and peacefulness??? OR do they remain stubborn, rigidly clinging to their food bribes, and thus blindly continuing on the fragile and foolish path all the while collecting money from their customers in exchange for weak results?
(Now if you know even the smallest thing about us and our award-winning company or if you’ve read my two books you would know we do NOT cling to or preach either “positive” or “punitive” reinforcement because they are BOTH just shallow External motivators and lack long-term relational staying power – especially when compared with the relatively untapped yet naturally stronger Internal, relational motivation found within ALL dogs and pups on the earth! Please re-read that sentence. The ways of the mother and father dog will always trump the ways of the human scientist in the lab or the one-sided, strangely dogmatic behaviorist, vet, or dog trainer! If we are going to be dogmatic, friends, it should be dogmatically for excellent and humane results for the dogs we work with and dogmatically for daily improvement (a concept the Japanese Samurai called “kaizen”). We could be dogmatically for doing things the dog way: cultivating techniques that echo and reflect Mother Nature’s way. Now let’s continue with the other side of the fragile and inflexible example seen readily in most dog training and behavior mod…)
Several other kinds of dog training companies (these sorts often attract GSD owners or Belgian Mal owners) will hyper focus on negative reinforcement and rely on the classic yet foolhardy “rolling” of the dog, hanging, zapping, or choking it, or other too-harsh tactics employed carelessly in order to show the dog “who is boss” or “who is the Alpha” (FYI, when and if a dog rolls over and exposes its belly – this gesture does NOT usually indicate a submissive gesture when it is presented towards humans – even though everyone on the planet has been conditioned by the dog training industry to believe that it is a submissive gesture! That, My Friends, is a myth! For more on this clarification of dog language and behavior – much more – read my hot-listed book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! You’ll get alooooooooooooot out of it if you have an open mind!)
The point of the examples is that Both sides, Both of these unflinching methods generally lack flexibility and cannot truly help bring the relationship between you and your dog into MATURITY because of it!
The great news is that YOU don’t have to join or cling to either restrictive side! You can free yourself from the classic dog training debates and seek out, what we have discovered is a third more natural, beneficial, method of training and modification that doesn’t desperately rely on shoddy external motivation and foolish excitement but is based, instead, on internal motivation, the natural world, and specifically how the human body moves with the dog body, how touch is happening between owner and dog, and how peaceful postures enhance relationship in every dog on the planet. The Garrett Stevens Method utilizes touch, space, energy influence, proper postures, and actual dog language in order to guide dogs into better behavior and relaxed freedom within the relationship. It far surpasses what counts as dog training and canine behavior modification. Our dogs are looking for leadership that guides them into maturity. We should stop being impressed with stupid tricks and often frivolous obedience. It’s 2019 for crying out loud – YOUR DOG IS SEMI-RETIRED and Does NOT always need a job to do (which would require higher levels of energy to accomplish) because that often just adds more tricks to his/her repertoire and does NOT remove problematic behavior in a natural way familiar to all canines. Can I get an amen?
Real life example for you: Ron takes his dog Winston (a French Bulldog) out for a walk. Winston always gets over-excited when putting the leash on, and Ron always asks him to perform an excitable “wait” command at the door because that’s what Ron has taught him to do from puppyhood. That’s dog training. Ron is doing that because that’s his limited concept of training and he’s supposed to do that to gain respect from his dog. Ron never considered that when we have a dog perform a “stay” or “wait” command at the door when the dog is already presenting escalated energy it can, and usually does, make matters worse internally. Meaning Winston’s energy goes up because he is now frozen and many predators freeze just before exploding after prey. So Ron’s little “wait” routine, his training is actually creating more of a problem than he had at the get go!!!
When a dog is locked into a routine – it is NOT flexible. This is because dogs are intelligent and they know what is going to happen next and thus, often try to speed us up. They jump the gun. The truth of the matter is that Winston has learned to wait or stay physically all while ramping up unnecessary energy psychologically! And, like almost any command performed in typical dog training and “modern” behavioral modification style…the dog remains excited mentally or, even worse, escalates his energy more! So even when or if the “wait” or “stay” is accomplished… as soon as the release term comes at Winston he is exploding forward again out of the doorway and pulling and straining on the leash. So little to nothing was actually gained by asking him to “wait” in the first place! Inadvertently Ron’s “dog training” has made the situation worse!
Friends, the mother and father dog would probably never keep their pups in a frozen position if they knew that the pup’s energy was skyrocketing. Escalated levels of energy often lead to fight or flight behavior and, in the very least, lead to the rude and manipulative habits in our dogs. (please ponder that FACT)
Ron, in his search to train and raise his bulldog properly, has inadvertently squashed Winston’s natural autonomy and freedom near the doorway. Everyday is the same in Winston and Ron’s life. Every time they go for a walk it is the same. The direction and route they take on their walk is usually the same. And Ron is setting Winston, his French bulldog, up for failure if any subtle difference, any slight chaos ever happens to occur in their life or routine. He’s training his dog to be fragile! And if there’s one rule that is truly constant in our lives it is that successful folks embrace change while the unsuccessful fear it.
Every single dog-lover I know that has been interested in training their dogs has over-trained and over-conditioned them at the doorway or, and this example occurs in almost every home I’ve ever been in (at the time of writing in 14 years as a pro behaviorist), before their feeding ritual each morning/evening with this mind-dulling “stay” or “wait” command. Now, please understand me, I am 100% for teaching a puppy this initially. My caveat comes into play when it is continuously used and the energy of the animal is seldom if ever considered. We must consider the ENERGY if we want a wonderful house dog. End of story. Tricks and even OBEDIENCE are SECONDARY to cultivating great RELATIONSHIP and HEALTHY ENERGY LEVELS! Please quote me on that! Tell everyone you know because they need it. Believe me, I see this played out daily in our successful behavior modification processes while I continuously ad nauseum here over and again real life stories of miserable and rigid failings on the dog training industries part. Inflexible dog training methods are a genuine nightmare on very well-intentioned dog owners and their families and their neighbors.
One of my heroes, Bruce Lee, has a quote that I love. I’ll share it with you now. “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” That is what I try to do every day when I work with people and dogs. It is a winning philosophy because it takes in all sides of a story, and then gets rid of the crap, and finally, it encourages creative solutions and actions on our part. I hope in the future more dog trainers and behaviorists and more vets and dog owners will be open to thinking like Bruce Lee did. The palm tree survives the hurricane because it bends in the wind.
For flexibility…mix things up. Shake things up. Do something novel or different. If your dog always pees on a certain tree or hydrant during your walk – skip it next time and form a new neural pathway in the moldy, dusty, old mind. If your dog always performs a “sit – stay” or “wait” for his food in the morning, next time skip that incredibly boring routine and let him simply have the stinking food, or use that minute to train a different and fresh command – for instance – work the “come/here” command or the “catch.” If your dog always barks at a certain guest put the leash on him and stop him from doing it.
Let’s refresh and renew ourselves and our dogs as we add new experiences into our lives. Let’s look beyond the shoddy external motivation (positive or punitive reinforcement) and all the fragility that’s continuously shoved upon us all from all the “dog people” in the industry. Let’s shake up our daily routines. Routine can truly destroy the mind when it is overdone.
Think Flexibility and your dog or pup will not be psychologically Fragile! As always, socialize for success.
For more info of this nature read my books, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety
The books are available almost everywhere. Thank you so much to those who have left me thoughtful reviews on Amazon or Apple iBooks. It means quite a lot to me. And thank you so much to those clients who read and re-read the books on their quest for greater relationship and better behavior with and among their dogs. I am humbled that you would re-read again and again Dog Myths in order to grasp the principles of dog language.