Once the honeymoon is over you may be in for serious trouble…

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Hello.  First off, congrats on your honeymoon.  Really, a full and hearty felicidades from me to you.  BUT…and it’s a big but (think Sir Mix-a-lot) are you ready to move on from the honeymoon and into this new phase of your real life?  Are you ready to get on with your day-to-day?  Are you prepared to get real?  I hate to break this to you but once the honeymoon is over you may be in for trouble…

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I’m writing very specifically about what I call “the honeymoon period” -whenever a new puppy, or a new dog, or rescue dog enters a new home.  So let’s take a quick look at exactly just what transpires between dog and new owner during and after the honeymoon.  Let’s get real.  Let’s be honest.

The honeymoon period is often a fantastic time (or seemingly so) between a dog owner and their new puppy or rescue dog.  The first week or three the dog is basically just feeling things out and exploring the terrain.  Most new dog or puppy owners are so thrilled with their new pets they are showering them with so much human affection and attention that they are blind to what is actually going on with the psyche of the new pup or dog in their family’s home.   So what exactly is going on as the new creature explores new relationships and new home environs?

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I would caption this pic, “Humans are insane”   This poor dog is probably just begging for a little bit of dignity

Many people are under the impression the first couple weeks that the new dog in the house is just going to work out great because everything is going swimmingly on the “honeymoon.”  The dog or pup is following them around.  Often times the dog is still unsure of where it stands and who is leading who, so, it will seem to the unwitting new owner as if it’s the sweetest and dearest creature on the planet.

As the days pass though the dog or puppy starts to (at least in the dog world and in the canine way of communicating) lead by controlling touch and manipulating the space around their own furry body and the space around their human’s body.  They soon can control and manipulate the space and items in and around the home.  (Ask yourself how do dogs naturally build relationships.  Think on that for a bit.)

People will often think their dog is a “real lover” because the animal is establishing a domineering form of over-touching.   Only a human would believe (in our incredible imagination) that our dog’s consistent touching of us is some form of dog love or affection…in reality it is simply a canine way to lead through social grooming.  A large portion of mammals establish relationships and leadership techniques through touching and social grooming rituals.

Do dogs make out with their mouths like people do?  Do dogs kiss?  NO- they don’t.  So please don’t fall victim to the “kiss” myth your own new dog or puppy may be attempting to sell you on!  When a new dog or pup is constantly licking or mouthing you this is most usually a canine way to one-up you and gain control.  Never let your dog or pup consistently lick you.  If left unchecked this will, of course, lead to the animal assuming too much command in most areas of it’s life (even though it should Not be in command of your personal space while living under your roof) and this will then lead to an onslaught of behavioral issues.

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Over the top much?

*Hint*  Be very aware of the honeymoon period and be sure to set clear boundaries about your own personal space and body and your new dog or pup’s body.

*Bigger Hint*  Do NOT let your dog or puppy constantly lick you.  Do NOT let them demand petting or touching.  Do NOT let them always invade or be in your personal space.  There is absolutely Zero reasons for a dog to consistently lick it’s owner unless the dog is seeking to gain social control by controlling touch.  And if you’ve got a fearful dog or pup this applies DOUBLE!!!  Do NOT let the dog live in your spatial bubble!!!

Most folks, while very well meaning, are doing almost Everything completely backwards when compared to how the mother, father, uncle, or aunt dog would behave and treat a new or younger pup in their environment.  Most people are showering the dog with over-attention during the honeymoon period and then wonder why weeks or months or years later they can’t relax because the dog has become an attention hound!

The honeymoon period presents a giant opportunity for the astute observer of nature and her glorious and calming ways.  Please take action during the honeymoon period so that when it comes time to get real it is an easy transition.  Lay the ground rules.  Set a firm but calm foundation.

Let your dog or pup EARN your attention and affection little by little.  You – the human, the one paying the mortgage, the one holding the keys to the house, the person who drives the car, the guy or gal who feeds the dog…YOU need to guide your dog or pup and have the relationship begin with Respect and then let the dog or pup EARN your valuable trust.

If your dog and you are already beyond the honeymoon period and you need help or for more info go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  and #getgarrett

How to avoid the plague

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There is a plague spreading!  This atrocious affliction is assailing families across the country at a truly alarming rate.  If, and only if, you can identify the symptoms you may have a chance for survival.

Thankfully the symptoms of this torment are fairly easy to recognize.  They are listed below in story form…

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Alice Jones arrives home after an uneventful day of work.   Alice has developed a strong and recent loathing for her boss but that’s a story for a different time.  She walks through the door and is greeted by Jethro.  Jethro jumps up on her and wags his tail; a happy tan furball in the lamplight.  After tossing her work outfit in the hamper and replacing it with a pink sweat suit Miss Jones trots down the stairs and heads towards the bench near the door.  Under the bench her shoe pile awaits.  Jethro is beside himself; the ritual of the evening constitutional almost more than he can bear.  Alice plops down on the bench.  She grabs her favorite jogging sneakers.  The stitching in them just beginning to open up in places.  The sneakers will need to be replaced within a few short weeks.  Jethro, a large brown beast, snorts his excitement and continues his dancing.  Alice grabs the treat pouch affixing it to her sweatpants.  Jethro is finally able to sit after being told six or seven times as she puts the leash on him.  They go out the door and into the cool evening air.

Alice and her dog keep a brisk pace as they pass the first block.  They pause to look both ways before crossing.  Alice’s eyes darting here and there scanning the lonely intersection before continuing onward.  Jethro strains – keeping the leash taut and panting all the while.  Alice increases her speed to attempt to match her four-footed friend’s.

Then it happens.  Alice inadvertently tenses.  It was a bark.  Turning quickly to her left she hears the bark again before she sees the rushing dog’s form through the fencing.  Jethro goes buck wild.

Jethro is dog aggressive.  Alice spits out a curse attempting to restrain seventy pounds of muscle, teeth, and fur.  What was it the behaviorist had taught her?  She reaches into her treat pouch and grasps for the food.  Rifling through the little bag at her hip, she is just able to pull out a small treat.  As Alice struggles to maintain her footing in the dark night, keep her shoulder in it’s socket, and keep Jethro from climbing the neighbor’s fence and biting the barking dog she wonders why her dog has made so little progress.  So little progress even after hiring a professional behaviorist?  Anger, frustration and desperation all begin fighting for the throne of her emotions.

Jethro lunges again and again, straining at the leash; fighting for leverage.  His brown eyes like laser beams of concentrated fury.  The dog’s energy rises with each passing second.  Alice speedily shoves the treat almost into one of his nostril’s and as instructed yells, “Watch me!”  She brings the treat back up toward her own face.  No change.  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  Jethro has now almost reached the fence several times and has almost spilled Alice onto the sidewalk below them.  This exasperating spectacle continues on for another minute.  Alice finally resorts to straining her damnedest and eventually is able to yank Jethro past the end of the neighbor’s fencing.  They escape the barking dog and continue into the night.

Later Alice and Jethro arrive home.  The dog – wagging happily from the walk.  The person – defeated and vexed from the battle.

This phenomenon is happening now and occurs all over the world.  The plague we forewarned you about, good reader, was not the dog-dog aggression. The terrible epidemic we are specifically talking about is the weak and inefficient method commonly used to fix the aggression.   This is the same bad method used in countless situations across the globe.  The same method that brings about little to no change and IS the bane of unsuspecting dog owners…and it is so sinister because it is consistently sold as the cure!  The method described in the story above is constantly sold as the solution!  And caring dog owners buy it hook, line, and sinker.  And what a “sinker” it is.

It causes hope to sink.  It causes confidence to sink.  It causes human emotion to sink down into the mire and muck until the poor dog owner is so beaten down by the continual losses, so very distressed and afflicted by this plague they soon give up.  They give up because they have already tried dog training and it did little to no good.  Maybe they already paid top dollar for a dog behaviorist and the method may have worked on their dog at a far distance from another dog, or it may have worked just slightly when the dog was less distracted, or in a controlled setting, but not in the real world and certainly not for lasting results the owner was anticipating!

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“Bring out your dead!”

 

Folks, this goes far beyond obedience training for dogs.  This sad and pathetic yet all-too-common story is a perfect illustration showcasing the piss-poor methodology of a humongous majority of dog behaviorists and dog trainers.  Attempting to perform a “watch me” command or a “look” command using a food bribe while a dog is beginning to freak out on another dog (or person, or cat, or squirrel, or mail carrier, etc) is the scourge that we fight daily.  This is a Plague!

 

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You would probably not believe how often I hear my new clients recount (like Alice’s dreadful tale) their similar poor experiences with professional dog behaviorists and dog trainers.  My question…When, When, When will we realize that bribing anyone at any time INSTANTLY makes for a less healthy relationship.  

Any and all close relationships have several ingredients included in order to be successful and close.  Respect would be the glaring one in a case like Alice’s.  Jethro had zero respect for her and he showed it in dog speak.  He showed how important he viewed their relationship as he practically abandoned it in an instant to give direct attention to something else.  This was terribly rude to Alice.  And totally unacceptable behavior if Jethro was a human being.  This behavior however is tolerated many times in our relationships with our dogs.

Imagine the human equivalent of the Alice/Jethro relationship with me for a moment.

Let’s say you are having a conversation with someone and you are in mid-sentence and out of nowhere they just totally start ignoring you.  Not only that but they start jumping around, staring at something, and begin screaming out their over-excitement.  Puzzled you turn around to see what they are going on about and see your neighbor casually mowing his lawn.  The person you were just talking to is going bonkers now…dropping F-bombs, needing to be physically restrained while they bodily threaten the neighbor; all the while screaming their head off.  The troubling thing is that this is extremely common because your neighbor is out there typically every couple weeks to trim up his lawn.

Now, as a concerned individual, you ask them to stop.  You are totally ignored; blown off as if you did not even exist.  The sort of extreme ignoring that would impress even the most snobbish of royalty the world over.  The person you used to be talking to, maintaining directed intense eye-contact and the continued onslaught of monstrous insults at the hapless neighbor is becoming quickly uncontrollable.  You take it a step further and decide to step in front of them.  This individual, like a professional athlete, slips left and continues the disgusting yet powerful display of raw energy and physicality-curse words flowing toward the neighbor.  What is a caring person to do with this Tyrannosaurus-type-terror?  Bribe them?  Beat them?  WHAT???

Let’s pause for a moment and then honestly ask ourselves would bribing them at this point be prudent?  Would bribing them at any point over the years of your relationship be prudent?  And does the bribe, if it indeed works, guarantee no future outbreaks of alarmingly aggressive behavior?  (Just to let you know Beating them is NOT the solution either!) 

Should they always look to us for reinforcement?  Should our friends, coworkers, or children (or dog for that matter) as intelligent creatures ALWAYS look to us for reinforcement?

This last question is a critical question because it is where my beliefs on dogs and their training and behavior differ from almost all other dog trainers and dog behaviorists I’ve ever met, read of, seen on TV, or even heard of!

I believe we should NOT always be the answer for our dogs.  Just as our human children grow we should NOT always be the answer for them.  ALL GOOD LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT DUPLICATION, DELEGATION, and DECISION MAKING.  As a father of three great kids one day I may not be there when they have a tough decision to make.  I may not be there when they are pressured to try drugs.  I may not be able to be there holding their hand as they apply for their first job.  But I do my best to be the best leader I can be and equip them as much as possible so that when I am not there they can make an intelligent decision on their own.  

Good leadership is the key on the parent’s part.  Maturity is the goal for the growing child’s part.  For a healthy relationship we need both respect and trust.  How can we trust the child if they don’t respect us?  How can the child trust us if we don’t respect them?  It is a two-way street.

^^^^^^                      It is the same two-way street with dogs.           ^^^^^^

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I find it fascinating that Bribery is a crime in our society but yet highly, highly encouraged by dog behaviorists and trainers when it comes to our close relationship with dogs.

 

Bribery is actually a CRIME in our society!!!  Why is it sold to us as the most “positive” way?  This is amazingly bizarre.  And this is foolish!   Bribery needs to stop if we want calmer, healthier, more social interactions from our dogs and pups.

 

TO BE CONCLUDED…

PS.  Please keep an eye out for the exciting conclusion to this post as we will examine what happens if the food treat/bribe does actually work and the effects on our relations with dun, dun, duuuuu….(exciting musical crescendo here)…..our dogs!

-G

 

 

Garrett Stevens’ Four, FREE, Fantastic Tips to get your dog or puppy to “COME!”

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If your puppy or dog isn’t coming when called you may eventually discover that they won’t do other things you ask!  A dog who does not come is in need of what I call, “respect work.”

If your pup won’t come that means that he is already leading the relationship in his mind.  I hate to break this to you (who am I kidding…I love teaching)  but your dog’s disobedience of the “come” or “here” command is actually a much bigger deal than you originally thought!

And what with the accelerated growth rate of our pups you will probably discover (if you look into it) many accelerated manipulations of the personal space around your pup.  Once a pup has control over his own body and his own personal space there is nothing to stop him from expanding his territory to other things in his environment.

Example from the mind of your puppy:  “Since my owner lets me claim my paws and my tail maaaaaaaaaybe I’ll just start (little by little) to claim my whole back half and not let them pet me there.  And after that maybe I’ll begin to (ever so slightly) manipulate, claim, and control my own toys and how I play with my owners.  I will play only on my terms.  While I manipulate these things to my advantage I will actively be testing and attempting to out-touch, out-mouth, and outmaneuver my owners to see how good they are at communicating in my language (to see if they mean what they say and where the boundary lines are)!”

Do you see where this can lead? (Dominance, Hyperactivity, Fearfulness, Aggression, etc)  For those of you who don’t believe in “dominance” you can feel free to put whatever foolish human word you would prefer using to describe a dog that is out of control, wants to take over, doesn’t want to obey, and is basically rude and running the show!  Let’s continue…

The real answers lie in first identifying all the subtle manipulations that our pups get away with and then knowing how to stop them.  This is where I can help.  (On this note please keep an eye out for our training/whispering videos and my future book!!! I know they will really help many people)

I don’t have time in this short blog post to go into every subtle puppy manipulation that could be happening in your case because it would be like trying to learn an entire language from a simple blog article.  It cannot be done.  However, if you follow my four ways to strengthen your puppies recall this can greatly help stop your loving pup from acting like such a brat and prevent him from growing that bratty behavior into serious future behavioral issues.

  1.  Never call an unreliable dog.                                                     This means avoid the temptation to say, “Come” or, “Here” to your dog or pup!  Don’t do it.  Keep your mouth closed!  [Please read our post entitled Shut your mouth if you want to talk with Mother Nature]  This is an extremely hard rule to follow for us as humans!  Be aware you probably will fail at this from time to time.  That’s OK if it’s only happening a few times…it is totally unacceptable and foolhardy if it becomes a practice.  Sadly, it usually is practiced and it gives our pups the ability to simply, defiantly give us the doggy middle finger by clearly disagreeing with our recall command!

2.  Use the leash.                                                                            The leash should be your best friend if you’ve got a puppy or dog who will not come.  Have them wear it much more often.  Have them drag it around the house for hours at a time.  The leash will slow them down a bit (both mentally and physically).  If your pup is on leash and you want to say, “Come” or give a recall command by all means go ahead because now (on leash) you can easily disagree when he disagrees with you by not coming.

If your pup won’t come after you’ve given the command and he is on leash -Give a quick or short tug and then gesture into the recall position.  Remember, dogs prefer body language to verbal language.  He will begin to come toward you.  As soon as he starts towards you verbally praise a little and upon his finishing a clean “Come” command (meaning the pup’s head is almost touching your knees and he is directly in front of you) verbally praise more and be sure to pet and touch your pup.  You should be raising your energy and the tone of your voice…we are adding excitement and making coming to us worth it in the mind of the pup.  (This is rare because most other commands and just how we live our lives in general we always strive to lower the energy and we are typically looking for the animal to remain stationary -sit, down, stay or just calm depending on whether we are actively training or passively whispering).

3.  Use a toy and develop the pup’s prey drive

Using a toy should be when the dog is at his highest level of energy!  We want the pup really engaged and snapping at the tug or rope!  If you develop your pup’s natural prey drive you can quickly work a very reliable recall and you can get several repetitions in!

Imagine you have a dog who loves to play fetch and chase the ball or stick.  Now imagine how easy it could be if every time your dog (who loves to play fetch) learns that the second half of that game is the same exact body movement as performing the “come” or “here” command.  It can be extremely easy if we don’t allow all the social manipulations to creep in.

My dog Rambo jumps up high to catch the Frisbee. This is good prey drive on display!

The problem is most people aren’t even aware of what they are.  Do you know why?  Because most behaviorists and trainers can’t identify the manipulations either!!!  Shocking, I know, but it is the sad truth.  (Don’t worry though, I’ve got a book coming out that will help identify and prevent or reverse each and every manipulation that your dog or puppy may attempt!)

4.  Use a food treat.

Make sure you don’t bribe your puppy.  Reward.  Never bribe.  There is a difference!  And don’t overdo the treats.  Like the name implies they should be supplemental and occasional.  I always ask my clients, “When’s the last time you had cheesecake?”  Get the point?!  It’s a treat not a constant.

 

PS.  If your pup can’t fetch or doesn’t bring it back because he’s attempting to manipulate control of the game and his personal space then take my advice and start playing a close game of tug of war.  It will give you a chance to actually be a player in the game and it will keep the pup close and in your space.  And then you can teach the dog many other things like how to calm down and energy control, the “drop it” or “give” command and other vital spacial communication.

Me with my dogs Rambo and Bosley.

Questions?  Comments?  Testimonials?  YES, Please do respond we love your feedback.     -G

 

You can’t Sell confidence to a Skittish dog

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Are you a human?  I assume you answered yes to that first question.

Let’s move on.

Do you have a skittish dog?  Do you have a fearful dog?  Do you have a nervous or anxious dog?  Do you have an aggressive dog?  Most aggression I come across (and I work more than any other person I know so I see a lot of dogs on a daily basis) is based in fear.   The skittish dog or puppy lives with aggression and or phobias that it has grown into outrageously, ridiculous proportions and many times done so right under the loving and watchful eye of their owners!  What can be done?  Well, let’s look at what most people do…………………………………………..

Almost every person I’ve met attempts to “sell” their fearful dog confidence.  THIS DOES NOT WORK.  THIS WILL NEVER WORK.  And the funny and tragic thing is, is that we start by feeling bad for the skittish dog and then giving it even more attention and all while the dog is acting in a fearful manner!  Let’s take a deeper look at an all-too-common interaction.

THIS is YOU! Please don’t attempt to deny it. All people attempt to “sell” their dogs because they come at them from a human viewpoint. We seldom consider things from the dog’s point of view because we are not dogs…but it’s high time we started thinking like them and communicating in ways they understand!

You are walking down the sidewalk in your neighborhood and one of your neighbors approaches you with their new rescue dog.  The dog is clearly skittish, nervous, fearful (however you want to describe it) and displays these phobias right away with poor posture, hiding, barking, sometimes even growling, lunging to snap, or lunging to get away from your touch.  So what do you do?………….you go into human salesman mode and start speaking in a higher tone (like some weird, flighty child) and getting down (actually getting in the nervous dog’s space without giving it a second) directly looking at and giving lots of attention to the nervous animal (something all older calm and social dogs would never do) and sometimes you spread your arms out wide or offer the back of your stupid hand for the nervous dog to smell.  You offer your hand not because it is wise but because that’s exactly what everyone does and that’s what you think works.

I ask you, Is that an accurate description of what you have done or most other folks you come across will attempt with a nervous dog?  If you are honest you should be shouting a resounding, “YES!” at your computer or phone right now.  Let’s continue…

(and before continuing this is a note to the more sensitive readers out there – Please understand it is my job {literally} to smash apart and dismantle many of the all-too-commonly accepted doggy beliefs that exist out there in order to raise awareness and consideration to how dog’s think and communicate.  The dismantling process is bound to be unpleasant or uncomfortable for us as humans particularly because few things in this universe are as sensitive and large as the human ego)  continuing…

Have you taken even one second to consider what an older, calmer dog would do in this situation?…..of course Not!  Have you thought about what the mother or father dog would do if this was one of their puppies?……No way!  You went right into relating to the dog backwards and you are totally wrong!  Yes, I’m sorry to break it to you.  And I know this might be an especially hard truth for you to face seeing as how you’re a “dog lover” but (in many cases) you just contributed to more fear and the further foolish human tradition of relating to the dog backwards and as an enabler of the dog or pup’s fears!  You just added more fear to the situation!  Let’s break this down nice and slow so our human brains can get it……………………………………………..

  1.  You acknowledged fear and tried to comfort a fearful state of mind!  That is something any animal in leadership would never, ever, ever do!  In fact, the only time you should “acknowledge” fear is when the dog is using the fear to manipulate it into aggression.  IF you have the know-how to acknowledge and intercept the dog’s fears then it is actually a direct confrontation you will be bringing in order to honestly, and adamantly disagree (while using expert timing) with the dog’s fearful/aggressive behavior at that exact moment in time…and it is never done to comfort or “sell” confidence to the dog.

2.  By giving the skittish dog a lot of attention and your eye contact you are adding fear to the already fearful dog and you are inadvertently making the nervous animal the leader in the short exchange!  If we look at it simply leaders are leaders because someone is watching them!  This is why the father or mother dog would take the opportunity to ignore a nervous puppy, particularly when there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

3.  In most interactions and meetings with a fearful dog the human salesman barges into it with what they think is a proven sales pitch.  A pitch that is designed to sell confidence, calm nerves, and make quick friends….but it’s a pitch that never, ever lands the sale if it’s pitched to a truly skittish or fearful dog!  You addressed the nervous puppy or dog by speaking.  Speaking addresses the animal’s ears.  And if you know even the first thing about dogs (sadly most people don’t because most trainers and behaviorist are uneducated themselves about the natural world) or how they communicate you would consider how their senses are developed and how the empirical, sensory world of the dog is a totally different experience from our own.  I mean, basically, that hearing is one of the last and least important senses to a dog and to canine communication!  But you just kept on with the attempted “comfort” and “kindness” all while never considering your audience.

4.  For the love of God please don’t put your hand in the dog’s face.  This to me is the epitome of misunderstanding our own dog’s language and a great example of human idiocy.  It also screams of indecision (indecision that is physically displayed with this lame gesture) and Who is going to lead?  I don’t know?  Do I come half way?  Do I go into the dog’s space with my outstretched hand?  Do they come to me?  Do they come halfway?  If you’re asking these questions just forget all you’ve been taught and you may eventually be on the start to a more natural understanding of your dog’s language!  Indecision let’s fear gain a manipulative foothold!  And dog’s read body language better than any human on the planet since dogs have no written and very little “spoken” language.

This image is what NOT to do! Shocking to many, I know, but still a ridiculous gesture and one that can be snapped at! And…like we talked about…way too much attention if the dog is nervous!

If you’re looking for the right answers and what to do always ask yourself what would the mother or father dog do in this situation?  This question will really help guide you through a plethora of different doggy interactions.  Any other questions feel free to ask your own dog…he’ll answer if you are observant enough.  Anything further that may need clarifying… ask me!

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

-G

In search of Bigfoot

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We’ve heard the stories.  We’ve seen the footage.  We’ve heard of the legendary Sasquatch.  We’ve watched Harry and the Hendersons.

In a philosophical (or comical) way maybe we are all looking for Bigfoot.  I know many of the masses of good people out there are sure seeking desperately for something to help connect them to something more primal and natural.  Folks are looking to still remain connected to mother nature particularly in today’s digital age.  A digital age in which we are much more “connected” but much less real.  We live currently in an age of information (and mass propaganda and misinformation) and “communication” overload.  An age where actual natural and honest communication and real face-to-face interaction is rapidly shriveling away!  I see the same trouble in the dog behavioral world.

Friends, I can honestly say you’d have an easier time discovering Bigfoot than you would finding a good solution to your dog’s behavioral issues IF you’re attempting to use mainstream, typical obedience training!

Did you know that trainers and behaviorists and vets who encourage typical obedience are the main foe of calmness in most of our dogs and pups? Let me clarify…

If you examine the history of dog training and study it down through the ages you would find most of it doesn’t really apply to today’s house-dogs.  But almost every local company I know of today is still using these same exact cookie-cutter methods!  Almost all “training” and “behavioral modification” is based in excitement and the usual methods would have us raise our energy (and our voices) with or at our dogs.

We’ve all heard and many times even used the all-too-common phrase, “Give the dog a job to do.”  Or, “This breed really needs a job.”  I’ve even used that phraseology and thinking in the past but it is now high time we move on!  It’s high time we realized our house-dogs are retired!  And it’s OUR job to help them understand we want them practicing “retirement level” energy!  Our house-dogs need to learn to sit back, relax and enjoy their lives by keeping their energy under control!

Calmness and Relaxation should be top priorities for Every house-dog! Get rid of “typical obedience” and “training” and develop a relationship where you can control and calm your dog’s energy so they can learn to go with the flow and be calm and social.

Please believe me when I say you can throw all the agility, herding, and other “jobs” you want at your problematic dog and it still will NOT fix or cure aggression, or fear, or anxiety.  Real communication, and a relationship with energy control and spacial control are what matters in preventing or curing behavioral issues.  If you don’t have that type of relationship with your dog you’re just out spending your time and energy looking for Bigfoot!

Don’t forget to click to “Follow” this fine, entertaining, humorous, educational, doggy blog!

-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 stupid 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, and 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.  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” or heeling skills.

My question is Can’t you do 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 humans 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 never 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 and 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 never fix any serious behavioral or energy issues.

(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.)

Questions…?  Comment or Call.

-G

Shut your mouth if you want to “talk” with nature

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When working with an animal, any animal, silence or quietness is key!  In fact, the more silent you are (if you are using silence right) the more serious you will be taken by your dog.  Take a moment and imagine what our dogs go through living in a world of human noise.  From our own constant talk, to our TVs, from TVs to radios, cellphones and land lines, horns and car stereos, airplanes flying overhead, construction sites, and whatever other new technology we have to blast more sound energy into our immediate atmosphere.  We live in a world of sound pollution.  I believe it is bad for the human soul and mind to be subject to all that noise (even though we are now desensitized to it and even conditioned (Pavlov would be proud) to turn the noise on as soon as we are in the home or car.  It is horrible for us… but imagine if we were an animals….Even worse!

When working with your dogs or pups today try and use less talk. Turn off the electronic devices.  Block out the noise!  Did you know that a deaf dog is just a readily trained as a hearing dog (possibly more readily trained due to the fact that it does not have the overwhelming noise and human chatter to deal with constantly)? Dog’s use energy levels and body language to communicate and their verbal (outward sound communication) is only a very small part of their lives.

Above is a pic of Saint Francis of Assisi taming the wolf of Gubbio.  An interesting legend.  Apparently the wolf was ravaging and eating the towns’ livestock and then graduated to devouring the villagers themselves.  It had killed so many people that soon the entire town feared to go outside the gates!  When the wolf sprang at St. Francis he was able to tame it and later led it back into the town of Gubbio, the wolf calmly walking with him.  He promised the wolf that if he stopped terrorizing the people and their livestock then the people, in turn, would feed him daily.  For the rest of the wolf’s years he came into town and was fed. Later, inhabitants of Gubbio even mourned at the wolf’s death.

The point of me sharing this short story with you…Monks are known for their vows of silence and their attempts to live peaceably on this earth.  Calmness and quietness are key!

Use and develop hand signals with your dogs.  The sign language you develop should be simple, easy to use, and actually goes with the motion you want the dog’s body to move into.  Use your own body to communicate to theirs.  Use your own energy to communicate to theirs.  Stay quiet and you’ll find greater results working with your dogs, greater calmness, greater control, greater patience, and greater results in your self and your own energy and body movement.  Have fun experimenting with this stuff!

“A closed mouth gathers no foot.”