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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Dealing with Aggession and hiring a Professional!

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Are you dealing with dog aggression?  Whether it’s dog-dog aggression or dog-human aggression have you contemplated the possibility that maybe you should hire a pro?  In this article I am being brutally honest to protect your family, your dog or pup and your finances.  Let’s jump into it, shall we?

 

Many folks hire a professional when their dogs are becoming (or already are) aggressive.  As a professional dog trainer who deals extensively and literally on a daily basis (or almost daily…I recently stopped working seven days a week!  Yay!!) with dog’s manifesting aggression I do recommend hiring a professional to help.  However, and this is a huuuuuuuuuuuge however, big problems occur when good people hire professionals who are more than willing to take their money yet the “professional” only knows how to add more, “sit, down, stay, come, watch me, heel,” etc, etc to the situation!  Please think about this.  Please consider this all-too-common problem!  And, again, let me quote myself here and say that most training and behavior modification is based in Excitement and that is NOT beneficial when dealing with Aggression!

Let me give you a few real life examples/horror stories I’ve heard from my clients who spent thousands of dollars with other companies only to receive little to no help with the real and serious issues of aggression their dog’s were dealing with…

  1.  The professional behaviorist uses fancy talk.  They throw around “science” and “proven scientific methods” like it’s going out of style.  They will convince you that all animals can be trained using “positive reinforcement” (meanwhile they are dogmatically Negative against any and all facts, studies, opinions, contrary to their own dogmatic belief system)!  (I always say that when it comes to working with an animal the only thing a trainer or behaviorist should be dogmatic about is tailoring their custom responses and methods to each individual dog and owner and to be dogmatic about the natural way…ask yourselves What would a balanced mother dog do in the situation!)       While these “scientific,” “positive only” types adamantly disagree with any other methodology; they personally are getting horrible results with the method they keep pushing!!!   I personally agree with them that all animals can be “trained” using “positive only” or “scientific” methods of conditioning.  My point is WHO WANTS TO SETTLE FOR TRAINING when So MUCH MORE IS AVAILABLE!!!!  (Sadly, most professionals are unaware or unwilling to realize that so much more truly IS available to them and their clients!)

2.  The professional will sign clients up for as many sessions or classes as possible!  They want to keep you on the hook.  They want to keep you as a lifetime client.  Great money-making strategy!  Horrible ethics and morals!  I always help equip my clients with the motivation, education, tools and skills needed to work with their dogs themselves!  If more dog professionals were honest and open instead of conniving, thieving, con artists I know they would find greater results both morally, ethically, and monetarily.  In my company we always only start with one session even if clients call and tell me on the phone they want a package deal…I always advise just starting with one!

The goal for the professional trainer or behaviorist should be to sign the client up for the least amount of sessions and do the best job possible in the shortest amount of time (with the caveat of following mother nature’s timing).  Remember if you aren’t more than happy, impressed, and starting to see real results during and after the first session with your professional behaviorists or trainer really consider trying someone else!  (keep in mind, results always start with the owner changing and learning and then, naturally, the results flow to your dogs!)  

I would Never sign my dog up for more than 10 sessions at a time.  After 10 if you need more (some extreme cases may) you can reevaluate.  If someone tried to sell me 6 months worth of classes I’d have to ask why it would take so long…are they really that horrible at training and modifying behaviors?  (Remember, dogs live in the moment and are ready to move on from the past faster than us humans)  If they attempted to sell me a year’s worth of lessons I’d politely just walk away shaking my head!

3.  The professional needs several classes (and more money from you) because they don’t just take action and start disagreeing with the unsocial behaviors while building a healthy relationship and getting to the heart of the issue.  (Example:  Your dog is aggressive with other dogs so instead of equipping you the owners first and then jumping in the pool, so to speak and getting to work on the problem (real life stuff).  Instead they bring you to the edge of a park…I’m talking about the farthest edge possible and when your dog notices another dog a mile away they’re going to try and bribe the dog with food so it has a “positive” experience and begins to associate something pleasant = food with something it usually wants to bite and lunge for = the dog.  Sounds great, right?  Makes sense, right?  Wrong!  The problem is that if you have real aggression your dog will not be smelling once he sees the dog!  He will not be interested in eating a treat because he is not tasting at that exact moment in time.  He is staring and raising his energy and trying to fixate.  He is using his secondary senses (vision and hearing) and ignoring his primary senses to the detriment of his own sociability and to the detriment of your peaceful walk and straining shoulder muscles!  The professional who stays on the edge and bribes will never amount to much.  And, tragically, the client who hires them will think that there isn’t much help for their aggressive dog!  This can lead to the dog being put down unnecessarily!  Or the dog biting another dog or person unnecessarily!  And all due to poor training and behavior mod. methods.)

4.  The professional claims to know about aggression but they seem nervous around your dog.  You would not believe the amount of times I have heard over the years that the clients have seen and sensed that the professional they hired in the past was actual afraid of their dog!  (**note to professionals who are afraid of getting bit…please get another job!**)

5.  The professional enters your home (or you enter their facility) and they start the relationship with your aggressive dog totally the wrong way...either with excitement and bribery with treats and high-pitched human talking (trying to gain trust through the external bribe of food) or by taking an over-board, dominant approach to the point of excessive harshness and smashing the dog down in a roll or lifting a dog they just met up into a hanging.  Both methods are based in excitement and should be super familiar to you but, and here’s the kicker, both are foolish, unnatural, and applied at the wrong time so both are the WRONG way to meet an aggressive dog.  (If I had a penny every time someone greeted a dog the wrong way I’d be a multi-billionaire 10 years ago!)

6.  The professional uses his former military or police experience.  While this, of course, can be beneficial (in protection work, obedience, the sport of Schutzhund, and elsewhere) it can also be a hindrance and backfire, particularly when we are dealing with house dogs!  I see this all the time!!!  The number one requirement for a great house dog is surprisingly NOT obedience!  The number one requirement for a great house dog is calmness!  Again, almost all training and behavior mod. is rooted and based in excitement and over-excitement.  Please don’t confuse a dog performing a “Platz” or a “Sitz” as a calm animal that is learning to self-soothe, lower their own energy and eliminate their aggression.  Police and Military dogs are bred and trained for high intensity work and not as house dogs.  (I am extremely thankful and respectful of our brave veterans and LEOs who have served honorably.  I do feel I  must still warn good folks about the common traps of applying military-style dog handling and training on house dogs.)

7.  The professional makes ridiculous statements like, “Maybe your dog should Not be around people.” Or possibly “Perhaps your dog should Not have other dog friends and you can just be his friend.”  They come up with excuses instead of real solutions.  They should fully understand that a social, pack creature that was once a wolf surviving in a group and then has lived with humans and our other animals for several millenia that sociability is the heart of the matter!  (Remember these are real life stories that my clients have told me about things their previous “pros” have told them!)

Some professionals also quickly turn to the blame game and start to lay guilt trips or threaten the owners into signing up with more classes or sessions, blaming or intimidating the owner all the while.  There is a company out our way with a woman who is infamous for her intimidation and threatening tactics.  Claiming to have a Buddhist-like balance this company is run by a tyrant!  This is a horrible reputation to have.  Almost nothing is worse in business, training and in life!    Other professionals blame the dog, or the owner, or the dog’s past, or whatever else pops into their mind…anything except their own methods!

8.  The professional suggests the use of drugs before attempting natural methods first.  Talk about a current problem, this is it!  As humans many of us are sold Hook, line, and sinker on the quick fix, the new drug, the special technology or formula that can tame the beast.  Instant gratification is a curse.  Proceed with caution when they talk prozac or whatever other drug they are comfortable pumping your dog or pup full of! (Some drugs can and do work, of course, but many do NOT and can be costly in the long run.)  (*I am not a vet – I don’t claim to be)  Many dogs I have behaviorally rehabbed over the years were on drugs and the drugs were not working.  Again, just proceed with caution.

9.  The professional is part of some large, faceless daycare, pet store, grooming, or all inclusive training facility.  These places are very common.  And you may be able to find decent training but remember not all trainers and behaviorists are equipped for aggression (even if they advertise that they are!)  These places founded their business on selling food, treats, pet supplies, grooming, vet visits, dog daycare and then found out they could make more money adding dog training.  They wouldn’t be successful if they only did training and behavior modification. They also will, of course, upsell you and get you to buy all of their supplies (from clickers and treats, to ridiculous potty pads, you’ll have everything you need and many more things you don’t need in your shopping cart before you leave!)

These sort of places will offer to train you as a trainer too and it typically only costs 600-1000 bucks!  Imagine that!  Meanwhile they have training programs for your dog or pup that cost more.  Meaning they must be offering shoddy training methods to you if it cost as much or more for them to train your new puppy than for them to educate, inspire, equip, train and support you in becoming a pro trainer at their facility!   Many of these places push agility training or preparing your pup for the show ring.  The professionals there usually don’t know much of the natural, dog way.  They don’t handle aggression well.

This dog doesn’t need more training.  He doesn’t need to eat more treats or get hanged by the neck!  He does Not need to build a relationship based on anything external.  He Needs To Calm Down!  He Needs Real Leadership!

 

Now where, I wonder, does that leave us?  Who can you hire and trust to provide the best possible services for our own unique dogs and their aggressive issues?  Didn’t I just eliminate almost every form of professional behaviorist and animal trainer?  Do we then seek out some bizarre, incense-sniffing, hippie animal communicator?   (No, we don’t!)

We search around, do our research, make our calls, talk to people, read testimonials and pick through them and look at the types of issues the dog’s faced on the reviews/testimonials (almost any clown posing as a trainer can get some great reviews for a simple group class…but have they fixed aggression in several large and powerful breeds?  Are they recommended by laypeople and several professionals alike?)

My main questions if I was looking to hire someone to help with aggression… Is the professional doing things the natural (dog) way?  Or are they performing some cookie-cutter system?  Do they maintain an excellent reputation with their clients and other pet professionals? (Be careful about the question of reputation, especially in a digital age where any fool can post/snap/tweet/share/review/yelp about almost anything or anyone from the safety and security of their computer or phone…a few bad reviews may not necessarily mean they aren’t a top notch professional.  But the overwhelming majority of reviews and testimonials should be fantastic or great.)  Have they fixed, reversed, or cured aggression before?  Do they have a track record of success?  

Results speak for themselves…“Success requires no apologies; failure permits no alibis.”

Calmness and Sociability are what cure aggression.  The pro has to really have a deep understanding of and be able to apply the dog language.  If the professional you’ve hired isn’t calming you and your dog then your dog won’t be able to go into a social, everyday situation.  If they can’t get your dog to be social you are wasting your time, energy, and money!

Good luck and happy hunting!  I told you I’d be frank and totally honest with ya…remember it’s for YOUR benefit! (These sort of articles don’t usually win us more fans…they are risky to write – especially with today’s victimhood culture but I’ve got to be honest for my clients, my future clients, and of course, the dogs!)

-G

And please keep an eye out for my book!!!!  When this baby comes out we will win a lot of new fans and a lot of new hate mail from trainers and behaviorists who are not open to all nature has to teach.  It will be extremely practical and beneficial to anyone who wants to build a healthy, real relationship with their dogs or pups based on respect, trust, energy control, and actual dog communication through spacial manipulation, touch, and how dogs think and speak.  It will be even more beneficial to those who have a dog suffering with aggression, fear, hyperactivity, separation anxiety, etc etc.

A quote on quality…

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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

 

You’ll never regret getting the best for yourself, your family, or your pets.  I get calls constantly and the first thing people mention is price.  I understand keeping to a budget is important and I understand getting the most bang for your buck is very important.  But if you could hear all the horror stories and count all the wasted money on poor quality trainers and poor quality behaviorists my clients come across before they finally use us you would be shocked!

When looking for a trainer ask about price by all means but be sure to ask about how they plan to fix your dog’s behavioral issues!  Quality is key.  And don’t just go with the cheapest group class available because if you do there is an extremely high chance you’ll be needing more training in the future and you’ll be paying twice instead of just hiring the right company initially!