Is your dog Flexible or Fragile?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

 

 

Are you playing the wrong way?

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edit 23I know it’s a wild question.  We figure that play is just a “free for all” helluva’ good time with our dogs and pups, right?  WRONG!

Let’s pause for a brief moment and try and think back to any of the educational nature programming you’ve watched on predators (in particular mammals).  Can you recall ever hearing how the wolf pups, or lion cubs, or cheetah cubs (etc) were playing to learn, to reinforce social bonds and positioning within the family group, and playing to practice critical hunting skills they’ll need when they are older?  If you cannot.  I certainly can.  In almost every one of those Nature, Discovery, or Nat Geo programs those lines would be mentioned when considering how the young predators played.  Play, as I’ve mentioned before in this fine blog, is critically important to intelligent creatures.  Let’s take a deeper look and see what we can apply to our dogs to enhance our relationship and their obedience.

Play is structured.  It is NOT a “free for all” where anything goes.  If it even begins to become out of control there will most assuredly be a “foul” called or a “flag” thrown in order to pause the game.  It is the same in wild or domesticated predators!  Your dog is a domesticated predator and not just a furry human toddler.  Dogs are predators even if you earnestly want to believe and buy into the fairy tale of the “fur baby”- it is simply NOT true.  (For healthy relationships honesty is a major key!  Let’s get real please.)

Continuing… Play reinforces social connection, provides exercise, energy escalation and de-escalation, mental stimulation, and can be a huge indicator of just where the relationship is at (I’m talking about the relationship between you and your dog/puppy now).

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Did you know that many dogs and puppies manipulate the heck out of their owners during a simple play session?  It’s true and I observe it everyday in my work with owners and their dogs.  I’ve detailed many dog manipulations that contribute to behavioral problems and that can be prevented or reversed in my HOT Listed book on dog training, language and behavior, DOG MYTHS: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!  (please click on the link, buy it, read it, be shocked by it, be motivated and equipped by it, love it, and then review it so others can find it too!  The reviews have begun to come in about Dog Myths and people are Raving btw!)

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For great play which can help build a great relationship between you and your puppy or dog ……………

  1. Never Chase the dog!  – “But he loves it” you’ll say.  So what?  Drug addicts love their drugs, does that mean they have excellent and successful relationships with those around them?  Does that mean you want them living in your home?  Does that mean you become a drug dealer?  If you chase your puppy or dog ask yourself just what is being reinforced over time?  The average dog can run 32 miles per hour!  And some breeds get up near 40 miles per hour!  Greyhounds can reach 45mph!  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to begin my relationship with a puppy or new rescue dog or any dog teaching them that they can go high speed away from me, away from my space!  I don’t need them in on the fact that they can easily outpace me because rudeness could develop from there.  I say “could” to be gentle on you, Dear Reader, in truth it often does.  I’m guessing that you don’t want to find yourself in a place where you have to catch your dog or pup or have to lunge after them while they showcase their speed and agility in a masterfully manipulative social one-up?  Don’t chase them.

If you’ve read some of my stuff you’ll know that the most important things to our dogs when we are discussing language and communication and relationship are touch and space.  If we chase our dogs and they run and easily take their space away from us it paves the way to more behavioral issues.

2. Always play backwards or run from the dog!  -I have devoted a whole chapter in Dog Myths about playing backwards and drawing the dog or pup to you and to your space because it is vitally important in the relationship.  Our dogs are domesticated predators but they are NOT wild predators.  That means one should never have to catch their dog.  Catching or trapping is what one does with a wild creature and not a domesticated animal that lives in your stinkin’ home, correct?  There must be more respect and trust and clear communication than that.  If you do, in fact, have to catch your pup that is a clear sign that respect and or communication is missing (in most cases it is tragically both!).

Playing backwards helps draw the dog in to your space and it makes it look (physically) like you are the leader.  This is good.  Ask yourself would the mother or father dog have to use high pitched talking to call their pups to their space?  Would the parent dogs have to use a treat to bribe their young to come to them?  Or…would they use reverse psychology and naturally move away from their pups causing the pups to respond by following?  Life can be better than most people believe living with a dog.  Sadly, the majority don’t even know what they are missing.

We’ve gone over some of the spatial parts of play and that’s important but I’m going to continue this article for ya and get another one out probably within a couple weeks.  In that Part 2 we will look at how to touch while playing and when to call a foul or throw a flag as we explore dun-Dun-DUHHHHH…the intricate language of play in the domesticated dog!

To Be Continued…

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There is nothing Zen about bribing a dog with food!

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There is nothing “Zen” or unique, or special, or beneficial, or even remotely interesting about bribing a dog with food.  Any FOOL can make a dog or pup perform a “watch me” command by sticking a food treat near a dog’s nose and then holding it up to their own eye.  This then causes the pup to look up at the person’s face.  This is the most basic and almost unmentionable start of typical training across the land.  This is exactly the method used by big chain store (but usually low-quality) trainers!

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Trainers that talk about “balance” and “zen” and things of this nature cannot be taken seriously if their main methods are based in excitably stuffing food treats down the pup’s throat!

 

Does this mean you should never use food treats?  No, of course not.  You can use food treats to the advantage of your relationship with your dog occasionally.  But we should NEVER start the foundation of obedience and training and behavior modification with food!!!!!!!   Those that do are treating our domesticated dogs just like a wild animal!  

When the mother and father dog build a relationship based on respect and trust and communication with their pups are they using food treats?  Is the pup’s misbehavior ignored or addressed by the parent dogs or is it constantly “redirected” with food or toys like many bad trainers and bad behaviorists would teach you to do with your pup?  Does the mother dog use a clicker and come equipped with treats and high-pitched praise?

When raising my own pups into adult doghood I used treats.  Shocking to some of you, I know.  Let me clarify…I used treats properly.  As TREATS not as CONSTANTS or NONSTOPS and it was only as an OCCASIONAL Supplement and Seldom if ever based upon the behavior.  

Save using treats for behavior for when you want to bribe a wild squirrel at the park to come into your spatial bubble or focus on you.  You can extend your arm and hold out a peanut.  The squirrel will then slowly come over within arm’s reach and take the treat from you.  Congrats!  (Not really – I’m being sarcastic) You just earned a little bit of ill-balanced trust from a wild creature.  I say “ill-balanced” because that is exactly what it is.

Does that squirrel respect you?  Do you really respect and know the language and social cues of the squirrel?  Have you taken the easy way out and just bribed the furry thing to come to you.  Will the squirrel come to you in an emergency?  Will the squirrel only come if there’s food?  Does the squirrel have thousands and thousands and thousands of years of domestication and close partnership living in our homes and working for and with humans?

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Food is a very poor replacement for actual trust and respect and communication!!!!

 

Are you starting to understand why food treats used with dogs and pups can be largely unnecessary except as an occasional supplement  to motivation?

Food treats are an external motivator and have Nothing to do with the internal motivation and intrinsic relationship between you and your dog or pup!  Also if we want calmness and more relaxation in our housedog why are we constantly adding more excitement through treats?!

Beware the over-simplified and extremely dogmatic viewpoint of training and behavior mod. from proponents of “positive only” of “force free” folks…talk about short-sighted imbalanced and unnatural methods that contribute to the terrible rise in dog fear, hyperactivity, and aggression!  (And equally Beware overly harsh, punitive mostly trainers too!)  Wooooohoooooo

We differ from all those status quo trainer and behaviorists because, unlike them, we know our dogs are socially brilliant and unlike them, we know as we go into the future together we don’t actually want to constantly have to be our dog’s focus point and the answer to every question our dog has.  THIS out-dated concept: where the owner is the constant answer to every problem in the dog’s life leads to excessive bribery with treats  in training methods and the unnatural over-focus on the owner in order for the dog to ignore every natural and social thing that happens to occur in the environment.  This is unnatural and tends to backfire often!  Personally I don’t want to be the answer to everything in my dog’s life…it’s too much work!  The mother dog doesn’t want to be the answer for everything either!  That should be a TEMPORARY position we have until the pup reaches maturity and has more self-control.  Our dogs should look to us for many answers…but not all of them.  They need to learn calmness and self-control so we don’t have to forever be “training” them.  They need to be respectful of our shared society and they need to be TRUSTWORTHY.

Believe us, we know, because we are constantly re-training after so many Tacoma and Seattle dog training companies focus on the frivolous tricks and obedience while sacrificing the more important internal issues at hand.

When I teach the Garrett Stevens Method we strive to be balanced with nature and to uphold what the parent dogs would do – we always ask – IS THIS CALMING AND BENEFICIAL TO THE RELATIONSHIP? and this is what yields the tremendous, real results our clients rave about.  

The house dog, the companion dog, of the future should be calm enough to NOT have to perform “watch me” or a “focus” command every two seconds and should be trustworthy enough to be left almost unattended, or at least partially ignored and not have to perform a “down stay” or some other frivolous form of obedience training with us perpetually keeping a sharp eye on them!!!  We must STOP training our puppies as if they all will become professional working dogs!!!  THAT IS SO OUTDATED IT’S RIDICULOUS AND…IT’S NOT CALMING IN THE LEAST!!!

Cultivate a real relationship based on respect and trust and calmness and clear canine communication and you’ll never regret it!   

-G

Questions?  We love comments and questions.  For more info please read my books, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!  or the brand spanking new, So Long Separation Anxiety  These books will alter your entire perspective on dogs, their language, their behavior, and how we interact with them.  If you’ve done other training or behavior mod. you’re gonna Adore these babies!