In praise of tangled leashes – Why dogs SHOULD meet ON LEASH: Part 1

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Are you one of those dog owners that typically avoids the meet and greet with other dogs on leash whenever you’re out and about?  If you are then your dog probably has or soon might have behavioral problems!

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This image shows why people have trouble on leash…the owners seldom go slack! They don’t give the dogs enough freedom on leash so that the dogs can get to the rear end of the other dog in order to properly finish a typical, normal, social canine greeting! Do NOT be the type of owner that is so afraid that you do not let the leash become loose enough to be tangled with the other dog owner’s leash. Seek out the tangle!  (More on this in Part 2)

Dogs are one of the most, if not the most, social species across the globe.   A canine’s very survival depends on teaming up and working together, whether it’s wolves forming a pack in order to take down larger prey in Yellowstone or a Chihuahua living with an eighty year old woman on the 49th floor of a Seattle skyscraper – teamwork makes the dreamwork.  And even though we know that all dogs are highly, highly social (it’s instinctual) there are thousands and thousands of well-meaning dog owners that will not allow their dog to meet another random dog walking by them on leash.  And these days there is bad info out there even suggesting such.  What gives?  Why won’t more and more dog owners simply relax enough to let their dog meet another dog?

  1.  Because they follow bad, status quo advice that sounds good but, upon further investigation or deeper thought, proves to be ridiculous.  Want an example?  (I was hoping you did!)  Below is a perfect example of the “well-meaning yet stupid” advice that comes right from the mediocre, mainstream, status quo dog “lovers” and “trainers” direct to your phone or computer via Facebook, Instagram, et cetera.  The below memes, while initially seeming to make sense, IF followed, would literally make thousands and eventually millions of dogs (and their owners) less and less social and more and more psychologically fragile and problematic!  Which, if we’re being honest, is already happening at an alarming rate without the idiotic advice of skipping all on leash meetings!  Please SAY NO to these memes and help your dog achieve greater levels of sociability.

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    Although I agree with all the listed reasons in this meme -the advice here is still asinine and should NOT be followed! Instead teach your dog to heel and then, when you’re close enough to the other dog owner, after asking to meet, make sure the leash is loose enough for your dog to move in and get to the back part of the other dog to smell it’s rear end!  Leashes should usually get mixed up and tangled as evidence of a good, social smelling session between dogs!

  2. Reason numero dos why more and more dog owner’s will not relax and let their dog meet another dog…Because more and more people these days are fearful.  We have been slowly conditioned over generations to think “Safety first.”  We have been taught to helicopter parent.  People are so afraid and have insane amounts of info telling us to continue to be afraid.  We have been given so much information so fast due to the digital revolution that most of us are addicted to it.  Many folks watch the “news” or receive updates moment by agonizing moment on the latest tragedy that happens anywhere and everywhere in the world.  People, this is bad for your brain and bad for your body!  Stop being wooed by the internet.  Say NO to a high information diet!  Say NO to letting the “news” consistently trigger your adrenals and your fight/flight responses because, as I’ve explained before, chances are high that you’re Not going to fly over to Timbuktu to actually aid in fixing the most recent famine, or pitch in for hurricane relief, or take up arms in some civil war effort half a world away.  And because you’re Not going over and DOING anything about it then it is a sort of folly (a foolish mental gymnastic) to simply bog down your mind and emotions with this alarming info consistently throughout your day.  Let it go.  Safety, My Friends, is way, way over-rated.  In fact, in the name of “safety” we in the USA, are watching as our rights and freedoms steadily erode and disappear as a Nanny State grows but that is perhaps a subject for a different post or blog altogether.
  3. The third reason we SHOULD let our dogs meet on leash – No Risk = No reward.  Successful people in every walk of life know that if there’s No Risk then there’s little to No Reward.  We should take it to heart for ourselves, for our children, and for our dogs.  “Risking” your dog meeting another dog on leash is necessary in our society to keep dogs from going further off the deep end towards fear and aggression!  How do you think dog daycares or dog parks even work?  They rely on the inherently peaceful and social nature of our dogs and on their excellent language skills.  The “risk” of having dogs meet on leash is so minor when compared to the upside and when compared to plenty of other risky things in the wide world I believe that it is only in pathetic 2019 dog owners that a meme like the one above and immediately below would ever be taken seriously.  Is this how far we’ve fallen as a society and as dog owners – we can’t even talk to a neighbor/fellow dog owner on the sidewalk and ask if the dogs can meet?  If so then we are truly Pathetic with a capital P.

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    Please DO NOT spread the word about this bad advice! The folks that designed these foolish memes must have never heard the truth that being uncomfortable often can lead to success. Pressure builds muscles and discomfort creates pearls and high tension transforms coal into diamonds…et cetera…et cetera. Dogs NEED to socialize any which way they can. They should be able to intelligently greet one another ON leash!  Instead of skipping the greetings altogether (like a coward) WHY not learn to lead your dog or pup into a proper canine greeting?!  JUST SAY YES TO ON LEASH GREETINGS IF YOU WANT A SOCIALLY “NORMAL” DOG!  Stop and talk to your neighbor.  “Risk” some real life sociability!

 

We really struck dog intelligence and sociability a nasty blow when random bureaucrats instituted leash laws in cities and towns across the country several years back.  Am I against leash laws currently?  No, because we can’t go back due to the fact that our dogs have now lost so much common sense, language skills, and because of the rampant rise of fear and aggression among dogs.  When we forced the leash on them, stifling their freedom and natural movements, we took away two key factors in our relationship with dogs.  We lost RESPECT for their natural intelligence and their ability to navigate the world around them, and we obviously didn’t TRUST them, thus the institution of leash laws, and, sadly, that was the final nail in the coffin of TRUST.  Dogs lost real world wisdom and experience and we now see and experience the fallout daily in society.  (Example: Dogs that escape the front door, dogs that escape the yard, dogs that go crazy with territorial guarding, dogs that are hit by cars when they’re running loose, dogs that run up and just attack another dog unprovoked…these things didn’t happen as often when they were free to run the neighborhoods many years past.)

Think for a moment of cats.  Many outdoor cats still have real world wisdom and do NOT get hit by cars even though they are loose out of doors.  Many outdoor cats do not randomly attack each other.  Many outdoor cats are savvy.  These cats know when it’s proper to slip away quietly and when it’s proper to stand their ground and fight (yes, sometimes, in rare cases, fighting IS the best option).

Instead of taking the unsocial approach by not letting your pooch meet other dogs on leash (which causes horrific psychological damage and more fear and aggression) I would highly, highly suggest cultivating a great heel.  Get those heeling and leash manners going so that you aren’t being dragged down the sidewalk and so that you can contain some of your dog’s energy levels as you approach another dog and owner.  Have the on-leash skills and get the know how in order to efficiently move and guide and direct your dog’s head and eye contact.  We have a great intro to Heeling and Leash Manners video available for anyone interested  – go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com to order it!

Before just obeying some gormless meme offering facile solutions on the internet concerning dog behavior even if it’s from a dog training company, I encourage you, Dog Owners, to listen and follow instead what lines up with Mother Nature and what advice agrees with more peaceable, relaxed, playful socialization among all dogs and all canines. Does your dog need to meet all other dogs on leash – of course not.  Should you keep your dog in a rigid heel and pass by every dog you see – of course not.  Flexibility that leads to greater levels of Sociability is the name of the game!  If you want a better dog then socializing is always, always, always the answer (and within that answer you must learn the hows and whats of doing that smoothly through proper movement and leash handling – Not just avoiding every dog on leash because your dog (or their dog) may be nervous).

Practically speaking:

When dogs meet each other they will attempt to rush forward.  This is very normal because dogs are a fast species and their primary senses (first senses of touch, smell, and taste) should be itching to engage with the other dog.  This, Friends, is where hosts of dog owners typically blow it.

In the next and final installment of this little series In Praise of Tangled Leashes we will go into the practical, physical specifics and how to make it go smoothly for both your dog, the other dog, yourself, and the other dog owner during your meet and greet.  I will also touch on why the fearful or aggressive dog desperately needs to learn how to meet on leash and how to get that started efficiently through proper handling!

Stay tuned and while you do please Follow/Subscribe to this fine blog and sample my books on Amazon, Apple iBooks, or at Barnes and Noble.  Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety will greatly aid you in your quest to develop your dog into all he/she can be and so that you can prevent, reverse, or eliminate any and all behavioral issues instead of run from them like the above memes suggested!  Don’t believe me?  Read some of the marvelous reviews from other readers then try the samples of the books.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

Choosing a puppy or dog

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Let’s keep this short.

DON’TS:

Don’t choose a dog when you are feeling bad or sad or even excessively glad.  Basically beware making a highly emotional decision.  (I see these sorts of decisions literally come back to bite people years later with their rescue dogs or with the fearful pup that they wanted so desperately to love on).

Don’t choose the dog in the shelter or the pup at the breeders that just “chooses” you.  I know I’m going to get hate mail for this one but doing this is often a bad move unless you don’t mind dealing with rude and manipulative behavior from a dog that desires to lead or control the interaction between you.  This age old belief that “the dog chose me,” besides being emotionally-based anthropomorphism, often sets up the dog as leader in the relationship right off the bat.  If you truly desire to know more about why this is and/or the dog language and how many dogs truly will take a mile if given an inch I’d highly, highly recommend you read Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!  The book will set you and your canine companion up for amazing success as you walk towards a healthy relationship together in a natural way.  (No food required with training and no harsh handling either!)

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Don’t pick the sickly pup.  I know I’m coming off a bit harsh here but unless you’ve already dealt with several dogs with health issues I’d simply advise steering clear of the weak or sickly puppy.  To be honest with you (as I always am on this fine blog) several dog owners living in these instant gratification days barely maintain the commitment to walk and feed and pick up after their dogs.  Many are not prepared to dole out daily medications and pay costly vet bills throughout the life of their pet.  If you truly are prepared for that then I believe that’s a special calling for a very unique individual but not perhaps the best fit for the majority of us.  This does not mean you care any less it simply means you are using your head as well as your heart – which I think is a marvelous idea to employ towards most situations in life.

Don’t, Don’t, Don’t let the breeder talk you into buying TWO puppies because they’ll “play together!”  This plagues many a household.  What the breeder (who is making a good chunk of change in the exchange) often fails to tell the buyer is that as the litter mates age – particularly if they are the same sex – they can get into serious squabbles and fights over who’s who in the family or what belongs to what in the household!  The breeder also fails to mention what naturally occurs as far as training goes with two pups of the exact same age and litter let me enlighten you here and now…they often ignore you so they can fool around with each other.  They will need to be trained together and also trained apart if you hope to have any form of decent training.  They will also need to be socialized together and socialized apart if you want to make sure they don’t suffer with separation anxiety or other bizarre behavior.

When you finally get one pup to do a down stay guess what happens with the other pup?  He runs over and distracts the one in the down stay and then that one is up and they are both chewing on each other.  Unless you have a farm – I never advise getting two from the same litter.  Double the vet costs, double the crap in the yard, double the trouble of training, double the socialization, double trouble!

(If you want to hear my take on the double puppy issue – get a pup and wait until that dog is either a year or two and already trained and socialized then get another pup.  Over the years I’ve found this a sensible approach that is a win-win for both dogs and the families involved.)

Don’t let your kids pressure you.  As stupid as it sounds this happens.  Be a good parent because, let’s be honest, you’re going to have to take care of the thing when it comes into your home.  Kids often will for the first couple weeks until or unless they are forced to because you made it a daily chore for them.  But don’t make a life changing decision because your kids think puppies are cute.

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Here are the Dos…

Do take your time and make a very informed and thoughtful decision.  Do your research on breed and longevity and temperament.  Do look around at other “good” dogs you know in your neighborhood and ponder what their owners did and why they act accordingly and then ask where they got them.

Do talk to different breeders and ask the right questions and don’t believe everything they tell you!  When picking a puppy Do see and interact with both sire and dam.  If they are aggressive or fearful or injured that’s a clear warning sign waving in your face.  Do heed it.

Do seek out the medium level energy pup or dog.  Energy is so important and folks often get a dog or pup that is terribly wrong for them and their household.  With that being said, all puppies have high energy at several points throughout their day.  Do not assume that because the first couple weeks were calm due to the growing pup’s sleep schedule that a whirling dervish isn’t just a month away from developing.  It is.

Do make doubly and triply and quadruply sure that you can TOUCH the dog or pup EVERYWHERE without a bad reaction from them.  This is critically important and almost always overlooked (of course, because, as mentioned before the dog training industry and vets and other professionals are lightyears behind where we should be on truly interpreting dog language which is incidentally based in touch and spatial movements)!  Do pay close attention to how the dog gives and received touch.  This reveals everything if you know what to look for!!!!

Do your due diligence and understand that any dog or pup is work.  Do the work.  Do.the.WORK!  It pays off in little ways in the present and in big ways in the long term.  Do invest in your future and your dogs and do the work of socialization.  That is probably the most important work one can do with a pup or new dog.  Do the work of training too.  Do the work and you’ll see the results.

Do click to follow this fine blog and do feel free to comment, question or cuss me out.

-G

 

The amazingly accelerated growth rate of our dogs (and how it really applies to training!)

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Have you heard the old saying that one human year of life is the equivalent of seven dog years?  Most of us have and have readily believed it but I’ve got some news for you…it’s totally Wrong!  Let me clarify.

 

In case you didn’t know…A human and a dog are totally different biological creatures and should not be compared with each other in terms of longevity.  As humans we tend to over-think things and usually fall into thinking subjectively on most subjects.  That aside let’s just assume for the sake of this article that we did compare the longevity and growth rate of dogs vs. humans.   Let’s take a closer look at how the accelerated growth rate of our pups (in comparison with a human’s growth rate) can really make or break training and behavioral development.

It takes 1 year to raise a good dog but you’ve got 18 years to try and raise a respectable human!  Let me tell you, dogs are easier!  (Personally I have and am raising both dogs and children) In my day-to-day business of successfully training and behaviorally modifying owners’ habits and their dogs I see many dogs that still act much younger than how they could or should be acting at the age they are at.  Is your dog presenting bad or unsocial or rude behaviors that could be or should have been done away with by six months of age?  For many of you out there the answer is sadly, Yes.

Year one:  puppy goes from the human equivalent of newborn to one-year-old to human equivalent of 15-17 years!

In the pups first year they are transformed from newborn to toddler and from toddler right to what would be the human equivalent of an older teenager ready to breed and looking for independence and responsibility!  The growth rate is astronomical!  If you have a small breed dog the transformation happens even faster because they simply do not have as much growing physically to do.  Please, never forget behaviorally speaking that the brain and body of your dog are so much more closely linked and functioning together than our own imagining, time-traveling human brains.  There’s another saying that we as humans think of our bodies as, “a vehicle that brings our brains to meetings.”  All animals know better though.  They go through life richly connected to their senses and are contented and happy with the simple pleasures.  They are always alive to the moment.  If we miss critical training and behavioral lessons as well as the all important socialization factor at early stages we are doing our new pups great harm!

 

Year two: Teenager pup can add another 10 human years of growth!

Take advantage of the time.  Take action today!  Get your dog or pup outside and socialized.  If you can’t due to behavioral issues that are too great to handle and you’ve been doing the, “Let me put the dog away.” when you have guests, or the classic, “I’ll just cross to the other side of the street when I’m out walking my dogs because they go crazy.”  or even worse, “I’ll walk my dog at 3:00 a.m. so we don’t run into any dogs or people!”  You are shrinking your dogs social circle and time is working against you!  (Helpful Suggested Reading:  my blog- thecaninecalmer.wordpress.com  please Subscribe, The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen)  You are literally exacerbating the dog or pup’s issues and you are running out of time!

 

(If you already have a dog older than 2 and they have behavioral issues please understand normal training, group classes, obedience training, agility, schutzhund, herding, et cetera will NOT help your dog get over their anxiety, their aggression, their fear, or whatever other crazy, unsocial or rude behavioral patterns they are presenting…all that training will only add frivolous tricks to the equation and cost you plenty of money.  Instead of going that route seek out real help based in calmness and how dog’s move, think, and act in the environment and space around them.

Contact us if you need assistance.  We are rapidly expanding!  My book is almost complete, (UPDATE:  I’ve completed two fine books and am working on a third!  Check out our reviews on Amazon – search Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and/or search So Long Separation Anxiety by Garrett Stevens) we are working on training and behavioral videos that will be available for purchase, our hand made, custom calming, training collar works amazingly well (better than most tools on the market), and word keeps spreading about the fantastic difference our natural, calming methods provide for our clients.

Go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com for more info

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 (these pervasive and dangerous dog myths) 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)  I have clearly and concisely done so in my HOT Listed book,  Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

I would highly, highly suggest picking up a copy (or two – they make great gifts for the dog-lovers in your life) of my book.  Hundreds have already preordered it and several folks have already reported back how just after reading a few chapters, and applying the unique info they are seeing it work to calm and help their dogs!  But let’s get back to this particular post…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

Group classes for dogs can make your dog’s behavior WORSE!!!

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Let’s say, for example, you just received a new, cuddly, bundle of furry energy.  Whether it’s an 8-week-old puppy or you welcomed a cute, scruffy-looking, rescue dog into your home the next logical step besides getting all the required vet bills out of the way would be throwing them into a group class, right?  That will stop your dog from become Cujo, correct?  Group sessions around other pups will mold your young pup into a wonderful, social, well-mannered dog, right?  That is what Socialization means, isn’t it?  WRONG!

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

When will we ever get this notion out of our minds?  This notion that Group classes are just standard operating procedure and that if we attend one our puppy will grow up to be happy, healthy, well trained and social.  We’ll get rid of the notion probably as soon as the giant dog supply chains (who also double as “trainers” and who happen to have all the treats in the world to sell to you in order to “train” your dog or pup) end up going out of business. Which will never happen because many of us (as humans) just may be mindless zombies who, instead of supporting local training, grooming, and local treat companies, have to take a walk into what is the equivalent of Walmart-quality dog training at your local super pet store and then have to sign up for group classes! Please understand me, I shop at Walmart occasionally but whenever I do so I know that there is a pretty high chance I’m not getting the greatest quality or service of whatever I’m shopping for.  And I’d like everyone to know that this analogy is strikingly similar to what is happening in the dog training world with these giant companies.  And currently it is happening with loads of private start ups too – some kid finds out they can make a quick buck because they can get a puppy to into the sit position while bribing it with a treat and suddenly they’re a “trainer!”  Please hear me…If you want the cheapest of everything than you’ll get the weakest of results behaviorally speaking.

In this post we will examine the pros and cons of putting your dog or puppy in group class training.

The one pro of dog obedience group classes is that occasionally the dog can learn some “typical” and “regular” training out of the class and get a bit more social at the same time.  You can use the distractions to strengthen your “sit” or “stay” or “down” or “come” and leash/heeling skills.

My question is, Can’t you do almost the same exact thing at a busy park nearby?  Can’t we do the same thing as we walk our pup through Home Depot or Mud Bay?  There are pros to the group class but please be aware there are several cons to the classic group class that the majority of people never even consider!

Socialization does NOT just mean getting your dog or pup into a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than that.  In fact it is one of the most important thing in our dogs behaviorally speaking.  Socialization is the continual process of exposing our dogs to new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds.  Socialization is the active quest to cram in as many different experiences as possible so our dogs learn how to follow our lead and how to handle new or stressful situations without triggering a fight/flight response.   Socialization is more than a small time frame that occurs during the first few weeks of a pup’s life. Socialization is all important.  The more social a dog is the less behavioral issues a dog will suffer.

The more “typical training” a dog has will NOT necessarily prevent or diminish behavioral issues!  Have you ever wondered why you have to take puppy class 1, then if they can sell you, you’ll be taking puppy class 2, then basic 1 or basic 2, then basic 8 then possibly graduate to advanced 1 or 2….et cetera…? It is because it has little or nothing to do with your education as far as canine language is concerned. It has everything to do with just selling you more classes!  Group class trainers usually don’t care that much about getting you the very best for your dog or pup because group training is not and can Never be the best form of training.  And it certainly cannot solve most behavioral issues!  Here is why it cannot be the best for puppy or dog:

1.  Group classes are extremely unnatural. Your dog or pup will be overexcited . And because your dog or pup is overexcited you will need to work extra hard just to get it’s attention. This means you will have to either increase food rewards (which almost always leads to excessive bribery) or, depending on the trainer and the owners, you will have to increase more discipline and corrections in order to gain the dog’s attention. Are you starting to see the problem?  Never mistake excitement for happiness -especially in an animal.  All of the creatures on earth teach their young that calmness and energy control lead to surviving and maintaining unity in the family.

As an intelligent human you shouldn’t actually need anymore reasons than this first one but I’ll give you a couple more…

2.  In a group setting you will have people and dogs at different levels of learning and handling skills.  Many times the group class will advance only as far as the weakest link is advancing.  Group training cannot be custom tailored to fit your specific needs or your dogs specific issues.

3.  Group classes have a set curriculum that always involves more “typical training.”  You go there and will do “sit” exercises for the first hour.  The next week you attend the group and you do the “down” exercise for that hour.  Are you following me? And the week after – if you’re still attending and haven’t died from boredom – you work on loose-leash walking.  Your time could be better spent. Most folks who attend group classes are under the common assumption that if their dog or pup would just listen to them enough to sit or down or go and stay on their bed or come when called their dog would then stop disobeying, stop being hyper, stop being destructive, stop being dominant, stop being over-touchy, and stop being aggressive or fearful.  This is simply not true.  Regular or typical training seldom prevents or fixes most behavioral issues!  

This is a good depiction of “typical” or “regular” training. Most folks would find this impressive or wish their dog could do this but this is exactly the problem facing our society and our dogs…it’s fake! The dogs are clearly Not relaxed. They are maintaining focus on their handlers. They are doing perfect down stays. But they are not relaxed and that in and of itself is the single most important thing for preventing or fixing ANY behavioral issue! What happens when they are not being told directly what to do by their owner? That is the most important question.

4.  There is an even more unnatural trend occurring in group classes where several companies use partitions/dividers/separations if a dog is too hyper or aggressive or fearful to continue within eye-shot of the other dogs or people in the class.  This is ridiculous and will never work to fix your dog or pup’s escalated energy.  It can, in fact, make it worse.

Another crazy technique that I’ve heard some training company’s are now using is to back tie or tether the dog or pup to a post or the wall so the dog simply can’t reach the trainer or handler or person and cannot jump on them.  This is insane and will definitely make your dog worse!  Any trainer or behaviorist who knows even the first thing about dogs knows that if they are pulling on a leash or tether they are escalating their energy.  Anyone who knows anything about protection dog work or Schutzhund training also knows that back tying a dog is a great way to make them more territorial and protective – not less jumpy and calm!  Please beware horrible trainers!

Pulling creates more pulling! Notice the taught leash. Notice how comfortable the dog is pulling in his harness. Shocking, I know, but harnesses were designed to enable dogs to pull.  Never tether your dog or pup unless you want to increase territorial behaviors.  Work to develop a great heel to prevent excessive pulling.

5.  Imagine you want to start learning to play the violin.  You have two options.  You can start with a beginner group class where the teacher is instructing a few students and making everyone go at a similar pace or you can hire the best private tutor you can find.  Now imagine the great difference in how you play the violin and how much further you would come in a shorter time period studying from the master musician.  It is the same with private training sessions vs the group class setting.

6.  Dog owners who think “training, training, training” are actually much harder to teach mother nature’s calm, firm, relaxing ways to.  And their dogs are harder to teach also.  The dogs who have had a lot of “training” will keep trying to do sits, downs, shakes, etc instead of just learning to self-soothe and calm down and be social.  They act like robots instead of a calm, social, animal that has good energy control, self control, and is not selfish or dominant.

Private sessions, on the other hand, are totally customized to meet your specific needs in and around your neighborhood with real-life scenarios.  Group classes can never match up.  Never mistake real socialization for a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than any group class could ever be. Seek to duplicate real life situations in your training; that way you have real life results!  

I am not suggesting you don’t attend a group class with your dog or pup.  I am saying group classes are only one very, small part of your quest to socialize your dog and sometimes they are unnecessary and many times they even do more harm than good!  Don’t over do it with “training.”  Do not be fooled – group classes will not usually fix any serious behavioral or energy issues.

One item that can help anyone with any aged dog or pup would be my hot-listed book on dog and human behavior and language.  Hundreds of people are ordering and reporting back to us on the great success they are achieving by applying our very natural (yet shockingly different from the mainstream status quo) methods of behavioral rehabilitation and training.  Here is the link…do your dog and yourself a favor – order this bad boy!  It will definitely shock, then equip and inspire you to a wonderfully beneficial relationship which, in turn results in great social behavior!  Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

(PS – Sorry to keep breaking down so many major assumptions about dogs and puppies and how we as humans train them…but many training methods are simply not helping the owners and the dogs to achieve a natural calmness and a smooth functioning household. I feel it is my job as a professional to be as honest as possible in order to help as many people and dogs as possible.  Good luck in all your endeavors.  Everyday we see older dogs that have done oodles of training and group classes and they are still highly problematic because the classes don’t prep the owners or the pups for real world success!)

Get Dog Myths, or my second book, So Long Separation Anxiety, read it, love it, then tell everyone you know about it!

Thanks,

-G