German Shepherd behavior and training

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We handle a buttload of German Shepherds.  Almost every single day we work with at least one or two of them.  As an intelligent and sensitive guarding breed many, many owners screw things up with their GSDs.  (Yes, I’m giving it to you straight like I always do and like a dog would)  In my opinion many professional trainers screw it up too through “over training” (more on that later)!

Here are 4 Great Tips for the German Shepherd dog owner:

  1. Never coddle the weak.  All of nature teaches us this and yet a lot of dog owners refuse to learn it.  If you have a nervous pup or a skittish older Shepherd coddling it and talking softly to it at all the wrong times will only serve to grow the fearful state of mind and misbehavior.  GSDs come with extra nerves so they could potentially be alert watch dogs but way too many owners let this grow to out of control proportions.  Keep in mind the dog’s own birth mother and father would NEVER coddle!  GSDs give birth to too many pups to do it.  And they do not talk as much as humans – instead, they prefer action.  Do you think you’re a better canine communicator and dog leader than the pup’s own natural parents?  Do you have dog instincts?  Can you run 32-45 mph?  Do you have an incredible sense of touch, smell, and taste?  Et Cetera Et Cetera…NO – you don’t – so please don’t presume to know more than mom or dad dog and to then dramatically change how they (and almost all animal parents) would do things with their young.  INSTEAD of coddling place your German Shepherd into confident and peaceful postures familiar to all canines.
  2. Don’t over train.  If you have a GSD then you know a lot of training comes fairly easy when compared to many other breeds.  The GSD is definitely smart and highly observant.  Sometimes they are too observant and too smart!  Do not over train and over ritualize everything.  In fact, the only thing I really want to set a rigid schedule for is feeding and elimination.  Everything else I do with my German Shepherd should be about flexibility and sociability (with the caveat of raising and training a professional working dog – which most folks do not do).  Over training your GSD just leads them into manipulating your training and controlling the same tired, stupid routine that you set.  Maybe you were impressed at first because the dog knew precisely when you were going on your walk but now there’s rudeness involved because the dog is hyping everything up prior to your getting the leash out of the closet, spinning in circles, whining, etc.  He knows where the leash is kept and that initial hyperactivity and rudeness can easily lead to exploding out the front door, and that then leads to dragging you off the porch, which then leads into pulling on the leash while walking, and then maybe even going crazy at every dog or person your dog sees!  And all this trouble actually stems from your training and you having your GSD perform the same thing each day!  Change it up, buttercup. y9W6UhdYSg6AqgpdYoQYEA
  3. Socialize like crazy.  Socialization does not just mean taking a puppy class at the local Petsmart.  Socialization is the gradual desensitization of our dogs’ super senses.  Socialization is any and every new experience, new location, new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds.  Think about the vehicles, the beaches, the mountains, the cities, the country, the children, the old folks, the other dogs, the neighborhood cats, the squirrels, the garbage trucks, the Home Depot, the Costco parking lot, being left behind, or loading up and coming with…genuine socialization is infinitely more important to raising a healthy dog than going to the vet, than attending formal training, than grooming…socialization is and must be King!  If you socialize your GSD enough with calm, firm, and sometimes playful leadership your Shepherd will absolutely have the best life and love you the more for it.  Your GSD should NOT only love your family – that’s great in a literal war zone but everywhere else it sucks.  Don’t let yourself, your family, your dog and all society down…socialize for success. IMG_3047
  4. Learn your dog’s language and use the 4 Pillars for great behavioral results.  All dogs share an authentic and universal language.  I’d highly recommend learning  it from the dogs themselves.  To aid you in this observational quest to learn real dog language my books are always available for purchase.  Dogs can be incredibly manipulative – my books are there to help you identify and then stop those manipulations which then can let the better parts of your German Shepherd’s nature (and none of the nasty) come to fruition and full maturity. IMG_3629  IMG_3515  IMG_3141  Enlight172   (All dogs featured belong to former clients)

“Who rescued who”…touching sentiment or a losing philosophy doomed to fail?

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We’ve all seen the bumper stickers.  We’ve seen the magnets and touching T-Shirts.  “Who rescued who?”  Some of our clients have these rescue dog stickers on the back of their cars.  I totally see the merit and get the idea behind it…but…the problem (and it is often an ENORMOUS problem which is why I’m mentioning it) occurs when the “rescuer” (the person who got their dog from the pound) either Keeps Their Dog As A VICTIM, not allowing the dog to move on and not allowing the dog to live in the moment, by continually informing anyone and everyone that’ll listen of the old sob story about the dog’s dread past.

I’ve often found that the stories that people make up and imagine are typically much greater in the categories of abuse and maltreatment than what the dog most probably went through!  (Example: most dogs that are afraid of men were NOT abused by a man)

Seneca (a pretty wise individual that took time to ponder things out) said, “We are more often frightened than hurt, we suffer more in imagination than in reality.”  And he was talking about people.  Never before have so many people had their dogs “suffer” in their imaginations!  It is quite unhealthy and a miserable way to begin a relationship.

The other failure that can and often does occur (behaviorally speaking) within the relationship between rescue dog owner and pound puppy is when they fail to give the dog beneficial boundaries and firm follow through when the dog breaks normal societal and individual house rules.  Basically, the rescue dog, gaining oodles of misplaced and unwarranted attention from day 1 within the home, often seizes command of touch, space, movement, and energy (the 4 Pillars – my third book on dog behavior!) and begins to do whatever the heck it wants to even and especially within the owner’s personal space.  Before they know it…little poor behavior patterns are established and the dog is on its way to establishing seriously bad behavioral patterns.

When a dog is termed a “real lover” by a potential client that is calling us to see if they can find a time slot on our training schedule we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their dog is over touching and out touching them.  It doesn’t matter if the dog that is always touching the owner is friendly or not.  Life among all canines and their ranking system is clearly determined by who is touching who and how and when that touch is applied!  “Real lover” type rescue dogs often sneak in way too much touch on their owners and this is the starting point of many horrible future behaviors.

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Well, there you have it.  I’m sure many of you that just happen to read this but that have never been clients may not understand it but these, Friends, are the facts as seen in nature and among all dogs.  Dogs that are allowed to enter your personal space whenever they want to, dogs that demand petting, dogs that lick you, dogs that slip your touch when you go to pet them, dogs that mouth you, dogs that always flop over and direct you to touch their belly are all controlling touch in one way, shape, or form and that is precisely how mother and father dog raise their young – they control touch, space, movement, and energy and, as their young age, they grow up properly with authentic respect, trust, and clear communication which, in turn, leads to maturity and calmness and self control (which means more freedom for the individual).

Don’t get it mixed up.  You got a dog from a pound.  Now please lead the thing the way it deserves to be led!  Let go of the imagined past suffering your rescue dog probably didn’t ever go through.  Understand that dogs can change for the better or for the worse rapidly!

Your relationship should NOT just be an emotionally-pathetic or odd thing wherein you offload tons of your own past wounds onto the unsuspecting dog!  (This happens way too much these days)  These creatures are born for living a life of physical vigor and adventure IN THE MOMENT each day with their owners.  Make it happen for your dog.  I can certainly get behind “Who rescued who” if it implied that both human and dog were working together to improve one another’s lives and to go boldly forward into a better future together but…if it’s an overemotional, overly needy, somewhat lost statement morphing into a translation like, “I don’t know what’s going on but I really need my dog” then I’m not going to be big fan of the slogan.  I am all for needing your dog but as mentioned your pet is NOT the place to dump your past emotional baggage.  We can all do better than that.  How we think and the words we use matter!

P. S.

If you have a nervous dog it will most assuredly manipulate you and your touch and space even more than a more balanced and relaxed dog would – so be careful and be sure to read more of our stuff!  Subscribe to this fine blog because we’ll be honest with you.  Also subscribe to Stevens Family Kennels on YOUTUBE seeing the dogs and people touch and move will help.

Honesty is the best policy because it is a great starting place towards a healthy relationship!

-G

The aggressive dog – three common mistakes owners initially make

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The aggressive dog is usually overcompensating for fear.  (It is often the same with people)  As discussed, fear in a wild canid is a perfectly normal and totally acceptable part of survival in the wild.  If the wild animal has triggering fear behavior it serves to keep the individual alive longer.  But fear presenting as aggression in our domesticated dogs, dogs that live with families in our modern world, is a serious and often misunderstood problem.  Most dog training tactics NEVER help aggression.  This is why aggression is so serious and why I say it’s almost always misunderstood.

Over the many years I’ve observed two tactics that clients employ when dealing with their dog’s aggression.

1.  They don’t do anything.  Believe it or not this happens quite a bit!  Let me clarify.  Obviously they do something because they’ve sought out our professional help (certainly the right call to make when encountering serious aggression issues).  So great job on that.  But, when they arrive for their first appointment they typically do NOT do anything (physical) during the exact moment that their dog needs it the most!  They don’t take action.  I mean to say that many clients (the first time they arrive at the Dog Language Center and take their dog out of the vehicle to begin the session) do NOT attempt to intercept or cut off the dog’s intense staring, barking, screaming, lunging, or snapping!  I have often observed them holding onto the end of the leash for dear life and that’s about it.  They let the crazy dog lead the way.  The aggressive dog is just doing what it’s been allowed to repeatedly do, and thus, seizes control of the space all around the owner.  The reactive dog hits the end of the leash and keeps the tension there in order to ramp up its energy and achieve even more anti-social behavior (directed right at me or at Jesse, my apprentice)

2.  They do the wrong thing.  Sometimes I’ll watch and see that the aggressive and fearful dog is usually being comforted by the owner (they say, “It’s OK” or “Your fine” repeatedly) and, as discussed many times on this fine blog, the dog is now being verbally reinforced by way of soft human talking for the wrong (fearful and aggressive) state of mind at the completely worst time to do so!  Often the aggressive dog will, with the unwitting aid of their owners, position their rear end (the exact body part that cannot bite or attack) near the centerline of the owner’s body.  The rear end of a dog is the part that is supposed to be available for smelling by other social members of their species. Please pause and reread that last sentence.  It is quite common for us to see the dog sit on or right near the owner’s feet.  The aggressive dog is, in simple terms, hiding it’s butt and simultaneously signaling that it is not at all social because it’s hiding its most social and smelly side – the butt!  A dog’s rear end contains a lot of scent – that is the natural gateway to gaining proper information that leads to greater levels of social relation.  Wise dog owners must Never let their dogs position the backside at the owner’s feet or position their body under the owner’s body by way of sticking the dog’s butt in between the owner’s legs.  In this dreadful position the fearful and aggressive dog can truly fight because they now have their socially open/vulnerable backside fully covered (anti-social position) and seemingly protected and reinforced (by the owner)!  In this position the dog has its weapons out in front of the owner and directed straight at the person or dog they intend to bite!  It is a horrible position to let the dog get into and about half of our clients (initially) allow their dog to get into this fighting position.  Remember, the aggressive dog is masterful at manipulating the touch, space, and movement of their owner.

3.  They attempt training at an improper time.  Most forms of dog training (however advanced the training may be) are excitement-based and externally-based and that’s NOT beneficial for excitable, anxious, aggressive, or fearful dogs!!! When the owner gets their dog to sit, or watch them, or stay right with them instead of allowing their dog to freak out on a stranger (or on a strange dog) or instead of allowing them freedom to sniff and explore and actually be social – the owner seldom realizes that all the obedience commands in the world (all the sits, downs, stays, et cetera) usually amount to niceties that have little or nothing to do with the real social work and experience we need to accomplish within the dog and within the owner’s psyche!  In fact, many caring dog owners rely on “training” as a crutch because they know that their dog is quite unsocial and cannot be trusted.  So, they often pile more obedience training upon more obedience training in hopes that if they just had TOTAL control their dog wouldn’t attack a person or bite another dog.  Friends, total control is and always has been an illusion.  Anyone who thinks total control is possible is living in a dream world.  Good leadership, however, just like good dog ownership, seeks to balance control with freedom.  At Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center we teach people that too much attempted control results in eventual rebellion within the dog.  Just as too much wild freedom without some basic rules and boundaries will most certainly result in chaos.  Good dog owners, like good parents, or good government officials, must be aware of the locus of control/freedom and rebellion/chaos.  Balance is key – as all nature testifies.  Please think about that.

To sum up: do not comfort (with human talking) a fearful or aggressive dog during the exact moment that the dog is freaking out!  And be sure and do somethingdo ANYTHING – to physically change the bad or violent positioning your aggressive dog may be used to assuming in order to save his/her own hide and in order to simultaneously threaten any one who walks up to you!

Need more help?  Read my two books on dog behavior – Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety.  And keep an eye out for my third upcoming book (!!!!!!) that will be all about the 5 incredible senses of a dog and the 4 Pillars of dog language as it pertains to real world behavioral results and proper application of the Garrett Stevens Method!

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Aggressive dog in a harness…world’s WORST IDEA! If this owner only knew about our handmade training collars (they work wonders!)

 

Is your dog like Muhammad Ali?

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Perhaps your dog “floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee?”

Maybe you are one of the multitude of dog owners that “can’t catch what they can’t see.”

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali had masterful footwork and incredible spatial strike and retreat/retreat and strike techniques on the canvas that won him the heavyweight championship title.  Known today simply as “The Greatest” he was a masterful tactician and a true artist of the sweet science.

I’m here to inform you that your puppy (or dog) also has these same incredible moves at their disposal just like Ali had.  Whenever he/she performs these keep away moves on you it is purposefully rude, manipulative, and a relationship killer which then leads to a host of other dog behavior problems!  Whenever your puppy slips your touch or evades you, the pup then grows steadily worse.

 

All normal canines can perfectly calculate (just like Muhammad Ali could) the length of your arms and hands in relation to where their body happens to be.  They are true masters of fight/flight distancing.  Dogs know and care about space as it concerns their body and the environment they find themselves in.  They can dance away just as skillfully as the champion pugilist did in his prime.  Ali used the “rope a dope” tactic successfully on many an opponent in the ring.  Dogs and puppies also do this to their owners all-the-stinking-time! This allows them to grow steadily ruder and, in their doggy mind, more and more in charge of the household, the yard, the couch, the dog daycare, and the neighborhood!

When a dog attempts to slip your touch and stay out of your personal space bubble when you’re reaching towards them or clearly asking them to come into your space in order to be touched or groomed or pet, or leashed up, we must be able to control that interaction.  When you approach your dog they should not back away.

Beneficial suggestions to stop a dog from slipping your touch:

As detailed in my first book, Dog Myths, you must learn to play while moving backwards – use the tug, rope, or ball to lure the dog into your personal space.  When playing tug of war be sure to add your second hand into the mix in a fun way.  You should be able to touch your dog with your second hand without your dog slipping the touch.  This is how you desensitize and slow the classic Muhammad Ali slip and rope a dope behavior.

Do NOT lunge after the dog or chase it!  (Chasing the dog is a bad game because it reinforces the fact that your dog can run way, way faster than you or any human can)

Have your puppy wear a flat buckle collar around the house so that when he/she decides to slip your touch and give you the rope a dope you can easily reach forward under the neck of the animal and hook the collar and (gently) drag them forward into your space – then perform your originally intended purpose (the reason why you attempted to touch the pup in the first place – petting, grooming, leashing etc) Then be sure and turn away and exit the space first (before your pup runs off).  This little paragraph is important and has the potential to greatly alter misbehavior and bring about healthy relationship!  (If you’re still struggling with this then go to the leash and have your pooch drag one around)

Call your dog less.  Our pets live in a world of human talking and man made noise.  Humans are incredibly loud a majority of the time.  It is not that way in the woods.  Most animals don’t like loud noises.  Many dog owners kill the “come” command by overuse.  They also destroy the dog’s name because of overuse.  Don’t be one of them.  Be creative.  Think like an older dog.  Older dogs do NOT sit there calling the pups to them.  What do they do?  (I’m not giving you the answer because I want you to up your observation skills).

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This is my favorite pair of boxing gloves and my favorite jump rope

Muhammad Ali was fun to watch in the ring – he was one of the best boxers ever – but when a dog or pup slips their owner’s touch that is blatantly disrespectful and will most certainly grow poor behavioral patterns if left unchecked.  It matters not if the dog is nervous or shy.  Please follow my suggestions and then let us know how quickly you saw the changes in behavior occur!  (This stuff works and not only does it work…it works better than many behavior modification methods out there.)  DO it and both you and your dog will certainly reap the benefits!

-G

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Rescue Dog Revolution!

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Many dog shelters have an incredible amount of dogs siphon through their facilities each month.  A well-meaning army of volunteers try their best to help the dogs that come through the rescue route.  They do great heart work but many do not do great head work.  I see the other side of rescue in my daily work, the side where the rescue dog bites a neighbor’s dog or the new rescue dog bites their own owner or a child in the home!  Why does this happen?  How can we prevent it?

Let me answer the two questions above here and now.  1. It happens because most folks (even professional dog trainers – as I’ve said ad nauseam on this blog – do NOT know the dog language because they are consumed with trick training and obedience.  Keep in the forefront of your mind, Dear Reader, that what most dog owners consider solid obedience has little to nothing to do with canine social skills, language, and teamwork.  2. I’m going to answer the second question and describe precisely how we can prevent most rescue dog problems and help revolutionize the rescue dog industry with three easy solutions in the next paragraph!

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3 EXCELLENT MUST-HAVE SOLUTIONS THAT WOULD REVOLUTIONIZE DOG RESCUE FOR THE BETTER

  1.  In order to have a non-profit animal shelter or dog rescue the facility must have multiple TREADMILLS.  As new dogs come in they are put on a regular and rigorous exercise routine before being taken for a walk and socialized.  The impact would be incredible.  I know because I work with dangerous dogs every day and there’s an enormous difference working with them before versus working with them AFTER their Treadmill time.
  2. In order to have a non-profit animal shelter or dog rescue the facility or lead workers there would have to have/own incredibly Social “EXAMPLE DOGS.”  It would be ideal if each facility had continual access to two or three (small, medium, and large) wonderful, lead dogs that were highly skilled in dog language and communication to aid other dogs and to drastically help the rescue volunteers and the would be adopters.  I’m talking about dogs that are trustworthy and calm – excellent communicators.  It is so bizarre to me that more rescues and training companies don’t see and identify these dogs as a must have in order to help any and every problematic dog that comes through their doors.  Sociability is always the key when working with highly social animals.  Anything less is bordering on stupidity and/or abuse.  At our Dog Language Center we use my excellent example dogs to help other dogs every, single day with great success.  All dogs learn from other dogs.
  3. In order to have a non-profit animal shelter or dog rescue the facility would be required by law to Tell the TRUTH about the animal’s history (yes, tragically there’s loads of lying in the dog rescue industry…perhaps they never heard the old adage ‘Honesty is the best policy’?) And if we were to make just one more great suggestion, maybe a 3.5 option to revolutionizing the rescue dog industry then I’d suggest every adoption comes with a copy of my first book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! for the future owner in order to dispel the many harmful and often idiotic behavioral myths that reave and ravage the mind of most unwitting dog owners and the masses of inept dog professionals that abound in today’s world.

These 3.5 steps IF applied in dog shelters would do much towards paving the way of one of my grandest goals…to take the yearly American dog bite rate down from about 5 MILLION people each year to just 4 Million!  (And those are only the bites that are reported!)  If that rate could fall by a million that would mean dogs are doing much better and people are doing much better.  That’s a giant win-win!  But I’m not holding my breath.

If you truly care feel free to spread these ideas with your local rescues and shelters!

-G

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There’s nothing cute about a skittish dog

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I’m going to admonish you.  You probably won’t enjoy it.  Think of this post as the scalpel  that cuts away the necrotic tissue in order to save the patient’s life.  Think of this rebuke as the life-saving maggots that eat away the infected flesh from the mountain man’s rotting grizzly bear wound.  For several dog owners are indeed wounded (relationally speaking) and they also wound their dogs on a daily basis!

There is nothing cute about a skittish or nervous dog.  Listen to the truth…Masses of skittish, fearful dogs are being ENABLED towards greater levels of fear and psychosis every day at the hands of their owners!  Aren’t you exaggerating, Garrett?  I mean you’re going to sit here and tell dog owners that some of them are enabling and even encouraging psychosis in their nervous pets!  YES!  Yes, I am.  Let’s look up the definition of psychosis to illuminate the subject.

PSYCHOSIS:  a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.  

The above definition of psychosis lines up perfectly (often identically) with how a majority of skittish dogs act and with how many dog owners choose to keep them!  I was shocked when I read the definition because it’s precisely what I see day in and day out in our behavioral work with dogs and their owners.

The skittish or fearful dog’s thinking and emotions are “greatly impaired” or blocked and so – they act insane.  This insanity, when weighed against the social baseline behavior of a balanced or relaxed dog, is glaringly easy to spot.  And yet in many homes the owners may have become “dog blind” to it.  (If you know what the term “nose blind” means you’ll understand my phrase “dog blind.  Oh look, I’ve just coined another new phrase!  A host of dog owners are dog blind.)  The skittish dog’s decisions are based in unfounded fears and foolhardy, energy-wasting actions.  The main problem is…the owner then allows their dog to continue making those same fear-based, psychotic decisions day after day after day – totally unhampered!  There is little to no growth or change.  This, Friends, simply will not do.

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HOW does a hapless dog owner enable skittishness and fear?  Here are a couple examples:

The dog owner enables the fearful dog by doing what the dog wants when the dog wants it.  The dog owner enables the fearful dog by doing little to nothing when the dog is lunging at a neighbor or screaming at another dog.  The dog owner enables the fearful dog by allowing the dog to bark at (or behave even worse towards) the guest entering their home.

Let’s compare and contrast the skittish mentally and emotionally unstable dog with the socially well-adjusted dog, shall we?

The skittish dog has senses that are misaligned.  (Like the definition says the thoughts and emotions are impaired and they’ve lost contact)  The skittish dog will not smell and come forward to be pet by the friendly human stranger.  But the socially normal dog can easily and happily come forward for smelling, petting, and social interaction.

Another Example:  The skittish dog is overly clingy and insanely needy.  The skittish dog has to remain in the owner’s personal space and continuously follow the owner throughout the entire house.  The socially healthy dog is flexible and can follow the owner out of relaxed interest but does not have severe separation anxiety and can choose on its own to go and lie down without being asked or told to lie down and separate from the owner’s space.

A Clearer Example:  The skittish dog will NOT smell and taste the world as it should (those senses are drastically impaired due to dreadful habits often enabled by the owner) and so it fears interaction with new people or new dogs and that leads to staring, barking, lunging, aggression.  The socially normal and sensually healthy dog has no trouble at all utilizing their incredible olfactory and gustatory systems and in this way they greet new people, places, and things/dogs easily and properly.

There is nothing cute about a skittish dog.  People, there is something wrong!  There is something wrong with an owner that chalks up their dog’s extreme and unhealthy neediness as “love” for them!  You wouldn’t believe how often this happens.  It is truly egregious.  Be mindful of your thinking when it comes to your pooch.  Let me clearly tell you now that skittish/fearful/nervous/psychotic dogs use and manipulate their owners in order to remain fearful.  Fear is their drug of choice and they are slaves to it.

Foolish dog owners will say things like “I’m the dog’s person” when they observe extreme and unhealthy anxiety within their dog as it presents the problem spatially by following them around the house nonstop like a goon.  The Foolish owner keeps the dog in a relationship of abnormal dependency that lacks genuine maturity and health.

Foolish dog owners will say “my dog’s just protecting me” when their dog growls and snaps reactively to a friendly passersby.  In reality, the dog is protecting its own rear end and is manipulating the owner by hiding in the owner’s personal space.  The owner desperately wants to believe they’ve got a real Rin-Tin-Tin or Lassie on their hands but in reality they enable their skittish dog every time they take him out on a walk or open their front door to a visitor.

Foolish dog owners will say things like, “my dog is so happy to see me when I come home” as they greet the dog merrily and (in some cases) knowingly add to the dog’s severe separation anxiety and hyperactivity!   These are the behaviors that foolish dog owners often downgrade in a playful or cutesy way during conversation with others in order to keep enabling the problematic behavior or passing on the common dog myth.  These are the behaviors of a psycho!  (Here I’m talking about both owner and dog!)

There is something wrong when a human claims to “love” their dog but simultaneously enables the dog in a daily pattern of unnecessary fear!  Genuine love doesn’t work that way.  Perhaps these dog owners are the true psychos, the neediest of all, because they keep their dog stuck in a place of perpetual psychosis day in and day out!

If your dog suffers a severe mental disorder (if your dog is perpetually fearful, anxious, skittish, or reactive or aggressive), if your dog is a psycho – Do NOT ENABLE IT!  PLEASE STOP MAKING EXCUSES about the bad behavior too (we hear this stuff every single day.  It goes something to the tune of “We love our dog, Fido – he’s a great dog – but no one can pet him.”  Remember my phrase “dog blind!”  If nobody can pet your dog then the dog is a psycho and not living in reality!  That’s not a “great” dog.  That’s a dog and family that is desperate for help.  Get some.  Lets combat dog blindness together.

And don’t just “train” it with obedience for crying out loud.  Learn to disagree with fear the proper way – calmly and efficiently – like the mother dog.  Don’t try to mask the psychosis with tricks and obedience.  Instead learn the dog language.  Learn the way of the dog.

-G

For anyone seeking greater understanding of dog psychosis and how to reverse the problem my books will help you – do your dog a favor – read them.  GET THE HELP YOU AND THE DOG NEED (So Long Separation Anxiety and Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!) And if you weren’t aware, you can gift my books to a family member or friend in need or gift them to every dog shelter and dog rescue on the planet!  Let’s help these psychos move forward with their life!

Aggression in dogs: the possessive dog

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The large dog lay resting comfortably on his bed in the family room.  The kid approached quickly to grab a toy soldier figurine that accidentally flew then slid across the room landing near the head of the German Shepherd.  As the boy came closer to the toy and to the dog’s bed a low rumble began.  The family dog was growling at the child.  The German Shepherd tensed – frozen in energetic anticipation of the explosive action that would invariably be coming next in the dog’s primal ritual.  Would be coming next if the boy continued on his toy-retrieving trajectory unabridged.  Fur stood up on the Shepherd’s back.  The animal was stiffened and ready to strike!

Sound familiar?  I hope not but dog aggression is currently and has been on the rise in the USofA.  As the world turns and people grow less connected to nature and more connected to comfort, convenience, consumerism, instant gratification, and all the digital insanity…basically, as we grow more unhinged in our own lives, our dogs will reflect these growing issues back to us and sometimes even on to us or on to the unwary child, family member, friend, or neighbor by way of outright aggression!

Have you ever been bit, snapped at, or purposefully threatened by a large animal equipped with a tremendous amount of bite force and long sharp canines?  For most dog owners it can be pretty intimidating.  For me it’s just another day at work.

In my daily work (averaging five or six private 1 hour training and behavior mod. sessions a day) I am now seeing an increase in resource guarding and/or possession aggression from the dogs.  Resource guarding is exactly like it sounds –  the dog claims whatever it deems a resource!  This is highly problematic and can be and often is downright dangerous.  Possessive dogs bully people (or other dogs) into submission in that they cause them to back away from “their” stuff, or “their” bed, or “their” food, or “their” person or “their” body.

Friends, those “theirs” I just mentioned – they need to go.  They need to go and go quickly from the mind of your dog, otherwise you are just biding your time, waiting for the ticking time bomb to go off.  So many well-meaning dog owners are blissfully unaware of the dangerous creature they keep in their home amongst their children and spouse!  Because so few people know the dog language they cannot identify the INITIAL stages of resource guarding  and/or if and when they eventually do identify it, they take a poor course of action in reversing and preventing it!

At this point we must, if we are being honest (and I’ve heard that’s the best policy) also add that many a dog owner’s philosophy of dog ownership is weak, non existent, or in the least, not beneficial.  Some dog owners’ philosophy of ownership, care, and handling amounts to wishy-washy fluff and not much more – they take the jelly fish approach to dog ownership and care.  They may even expect the dog living in their home currently to act like a prior dog they had, or like a childhood dog that they knew, or like a friend’s dog.  Dear Reader, if this resonates with you please understand this sort of relationship is not living, acting, or working with your dog to your full potential or to the dog’s.  Success always requires intentionality.

Step 1.  Think about your dog and about what kind of leadership (if any) you are providing.

Step 2.  Develop a philosophy of ownership or examine and possibly alter your existing, most probably, sub-par philosophy to include the main theme that NOTHING IS THE DOG’S!  Yes, let’s repeat that.  NOTHING.IS.THE.DOG’S.

Step 3.  Contemplate WHY your dog, your loving, furry family member, should definitively understand that NOTHING in his/her wonderful life with you is really his/her’s.

Step 4.  You must begin right away, today, to claim your dog and not the other way round.  Guys, all older dogs know this stuff (why are we as humans so slow on the uptake?).  All we have to do is watch the mother dog and observe grooming rituals, greeting rituals, and other common interactions among dogs in order to easily identify and learn Who claims Who in order to then apply these techniques and movements by adopting them into our own lives with our dogs.  Begin with your dog’s body because every dog on the planet with behavioral issues (no matter what the issue is btw) is somehow manipulating the owner using their body and using yours!  (This does NOT mean rolling them, or hurting a dog in any way)  We must claim them and we must occasionally deny them free and unhampered touching on OUR body even and sometimes especially if it appears “happy” or “friendly” to you.  (Also, in the case of the skittish dog, your human body should NOT become a comforting pacifier if you desire a healthy relationship and if you desire genuine maturity with and for your dog).

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Imagine if your body was transformed suddenly into a dog’s body (like we see in the werewolf movies) and you were able to enter your home as an older dog…How would your dog greet you?  Rudely?  Politely?  Aggressively?  Fearfully?  How would your dog interact with you and touch your dog body and the space surrounding it when you sat down near or on the couch to relax?  Another question to ask yourself is…Would your dog’s biological birth mother (or any older dog for that matter) put up with your dog’s behavior as it applies to their bodies?

If you desire less possessive behavior from your dog – less resource guarding –  Then you’ve got to control who is touching who, and how the touch is applied, and when it is applied!  Please reread that last sentence like 50 times in a row.  It will help you.  It will help anyone who is open-minded enough to consider it.  Then you can begin all the other steps to continue treating resource guarding.

As you know, I could go on and on but I’ll end here.  For more info please read my books on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!, and So Long Separation Anxiety available wherever books are sold!

-G

 

Dog Harnesses: a terrible idea!

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Are you tired of your dog pulling on the leash?  Are you sick of being dragged down the sidewalk?  Are you embarrassed by being walked by your dog and being asked, “Who’s walking who?” by the more annoying of your neighbors?  Does your dog lung and bark at passersby?  Has your dog ever nipped or jumped up and snapped at anyone or at any other dogs?

 

Friends, dog harnesses are NOT the best way forward out of those behaviors!  NOT even close!

Let’s make this perfectly clear.  Most every dog walking tool on the market today in 2019 sucks.  (Not every tool but the majority)  Dog harnesses are a plague on humanity.  Why you ask.  There are several sound reasons but I’ll just give you a couple.

Reasons Why Dog Harnesses Are A Plague On Humanity:

  1.  Dogs are way too comfortable pulling on them.  Many dogs will pull even on “no-pull” harnesses!  This causes many caring owners to struggle to maintain a decent walk or any form of leadership while outside.  In fact, many folks are getting injured from being pulled over and smashing onto the ground by their beloved dogs who, incidentally, have a much lower center of gravity, four strong legs, external claws permanently extended for running, and who come equipped with a predatory “eye of the tiger” often directed purposefully at prey animals or even at other dogs or people.  Harnesses were invented for pulling!  No one in their right mind would attempt to lead an ornery or dangerous horse or ox around in a harness, would they?  Then why do we try it with ornery, dangerous, or rude dogs?  (“Because we’re a larger species” is a horrible answer to that question)  Dog harnesses make it almost impossible to train a dog to learn to heel properly due to where the leash connects to the dog’s body (it is too far on the back or too low on the chest – both connections are downright awful) and if/when the handler attempts to work with a dog on a harness in the heel position the handler is at a huge disadvantage.
  2. People and dogs frequently get bit by aggressive dogs lunging at them while simultaneously being very comfortably pulling and straining in their harness!  I know several people that assumed that the teenage salesperson making minimum wage at the giant pet conglomerate knew what they were talking about when they told them to, “Get a dog harness.  You won’t hurt your dog’s fragile neck and you’ve got control of their body.”  Friends, why fight the dog body when what you really need is control of the eyes and mouth?  You need the dog’s head.  Its basic physics and basic anatomy.  How ridiculous have we all become when it comes to our dogs and their care and handling?  Someone has a powerful breed dog that is lunging at people and dogs and so they buy a stinking harness in order to fight with the dog’s body???!!!  Give me a break.  Meanwhile, while you’re struggling to control your out  of control dog the dog’s eyes and weapons (teeth) are pointing in whatever the heck direction the dog wants them to point and at whomever they decide to threaten!  Let’s all get beyond this harness foolishness, can we?  When a dog or pup is out of control we need to control the head and eyes  – NOT the body!  THE BODY FOLLOWS THE HEAD.  The eyes are contained in the dog’s head.  If you don’t have control of your dog’s head you don’t have much of anything!
  3. Many dogs can slip backwards out of their harness.  This happens all the time.  As if the first two reasons weren’t reason enough, did you want your dog loose on the street too?
  4. Harnesses can cause irritation around the pits.  Many dogs get chafed around their armpit areas.  Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that.

In my opinion (and it is professional) the only time a harness on a dog is ever acceptable… is if the dog is involved in the Iditarod, pulling competitions, skijoring, cart pulling, legit service work, or if the pup is under four or five months old!  Now if the dog has a real, true, actual, verifiable neck injury or medical issue (and, believe me, this is rare), or if the dog is already very friendly, social, obedient, and already adept at heeling and loose leash walking (note I said HEELING and loose leash walking, NOT just loose leash walking) then a harness is fine.  Honestly though, every dog I know could improve on their heeling and leash work, including my own dogs, and they’re excellent.

Because dog harnesses cause so much trouble they are a plague to our dogs too!  They keep the dog mentally and physically locked in a place where they just keep pulling.  They struggle against you and gain an inch of ground and the struggle is rewarded in the mind of the dog through the forward motion!  It can make for a horrible relationship!  A relationship that often amounts to the dog thinking it does whatever the heck it wants as soon as the idiotic harness is in place around its body.  A relationship where the dog totally and unequivocally ignores the owner/handler in order to pull (and pull comfortably) towards whatever person, shrub, fire hydrant, or animal catches its fancy.

Should you use a choke chain then?  NO.  Should you use a prong collar because your dog is so powerful?  NO.  Prong collars (aside from being overkill in many situations) can and do burst apart leaving your dog loose at the most inconvenient of times!  They can also exacerbate an already worked up and aggressive dog.  Also…like with almost every training or walking tool or collar out there…they are too low on the dog’s neck.

Friends, ANY tool that isn’t near the top of your dog’s head or face isn’t that efficient of a tool!  You may say you saw some decent results from a harness, prong, or martingale, or even from your “no pull” harness, to which I would happily respond, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Our handmade, custom calming collars will EASILY out perform the mainstream dog training and walking tools on the market!  They sit high up where they should (safeguarding the trachea and maintaining the dog in a confident posture), are lightweight, are crazy strong, are smooth flowing for little directional adjustments or large ones, are unobtrusive, and best of all…dogs take to them quickly!  (Dogs do NOT choke on them.  Dogs only do that choking sound, by the way, when the tool that the owner’s choose is low on their neck!  People remain amazed whenever they try one of our collars they end up invariably purchasing one or more for their household.)  I implore you – Pick the right tool for the job.  With our custom, calming training collar in almost no time at all pulling and lunging is a thing of the past!

Check them out at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  search under our Custom Products page!  Don’t underestimate the power of a simple and effective approach.  Our handmade, custom calming collars are strong enough for the strongest and largest of dog breeds (200lbs) and everything in between.  We use them daily in our work with incredible results – no harsh handling necessary.

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Skip all the crazy equipment…order one of our custom, hand-made, training collars! Love your dog: Lead your dog!

 

Next post we will focus on… Cato the Corso (pitbull mix) rescue dog and our tale of how he came to join our training team at Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center.   Stay Tuned!

-G

 

My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: A Rescue dog story

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Black as a moonless night and rippling with muscles, the dog approached me.  I was sitting down on the couch in the living room of a client’s home as a guest.  I was there to give her an evaluation on this black beast’s demeanor and behavior.  It was her new rescue dog from Texas.  The dog gave me a serious look and a few huffs as he trotted towards me.  His ears were cropped short and tightly towards his head which only served to emphasize his eyes and the strength of his neck, head, and jaws.  His muscled shoulders were rounded and spoke, I knew, of an explosive power.  He was oily black all over extending from the tip of his nose to the thick docked tail and on down to each claw.  The lighting inside the home at the precise time of day I was there wasn’t affording me the greatest visibility.  It was hard to read his face.  Was he calm or concerned?  Would I be friend or foe?  I did what I thought best in the moment and what I often advise when folks ask me how to meet a dog  –  I ignored him and continued chatting with the owner.

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Here he is the first day we took charge of him at the Ruston Way waterfront in Tacoma. We went on a long explore as we bonded/traveled together

Cato, that was his new name she said – chosen, I supposed, from the Cane Corso/Italian Mastiff heritage –  he continued to smell me.  “Cato” was a famous Roman, philosopher poet.  A follower and teacher of Stoicism.  Perhaps this dog possessed such a spirit?  Then again, maybe he was named Cato after Bruce Lee’s black-masked, kung fu dynamo in the 1970s TV show, The Green Hornet.  The dog certainly appeared athletic.  Or possibly his moniker came from the Peter Seller’s Pink Panther character that was always lying in wait to attack him!  I hoped it was not the latter.

He wasn’t as large as a standard male Cane Corso or as jowly, so my guess was that one of his parents (possibly both) were jet-black Pitbull terriers.  Either way he was a beautiful animal.  His movements catlike.  His eyes were an alluring and friendly amber color and his face could only be described as cute and powerful.

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Here’s Cato at our home during the first critical week of the “Honeymoon phase.” My third book (upcoming in 2019) on dog behavior will be all about Rescue/Shelter dogs and those vital, first few weeks in a new home!  Rambo, our twelve year old boxer, is asleep next to him.

Ignoring Cato was working like a charm and as we shared more time, more moments together, I steadily began to explore a relationship with this strong, dark dog through our mutual senses of touch and space.  I began to perform what I have coined in my business years ago as the “Touch and Go” maneuver.  This “move” or maneuver doesn’t seem like much at first glance to us as human beings but I use it in every single dog training and behavioral rehab session I’ve ever done (at the time of writing this) in the last fourteen years!  Why?  It works and works wonders.  Are treats required?  Heck no – no part of the Garrett Stevens Method requires food or treats or any training tool outside of one’s own body.  (Isn’t that great news for all you nudists following us out there?  I know you’re out there) Is it based in dog obedience training?  No way – most obedience training is honestly a waste of time in 2019 because every method of dog obedience training is excitement-based so that the dog gets pumped up in its energy and then works harder for you – Why do that though when most every dog owner with a house dog desires a calmer, more trustworthy dog?!  Most of us are NOT shepherds any more, most aren’t heading for Afghanistan on active duty with our dogs.  We aren’t as rural in general and certainly we aren’t spending all day afield on a hunt like we used to in days long past.  We have changed and we should be open to letting our dogs change with us!  Being adaptable is what has given our dogs their success since their beginning.  For more info about this and about achieving better dog behavior without the use of positive or punitive reinforcement – read my first book, Dog Myths (available on Amazon and everywhere).

The Touch and Go move is so easy that everyone I’ve ever met concerning dog behavior or training, be they professional or lay person, simply misses it…and therein lies the power, beauty, and art of the thing.

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My black panther!

Want to learn it?  Follow/Subscribe to this fine blog of ours and in the next exciting episode I’ll describe in unabashed detail the Touch and Go maneuver (which helps btw with any dog or pup and with any behavioral issue!) and we will continue our story of how Cato the Corso travelled from a rescue down in Texas to Washington state and from a client’s home into our crazy abode!

-G

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Cato and some clown spending his life in attempts at deciphering the dog language

Separation Anxiety or Hostage Situation!

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Have you ever been taken hostage?  Masses of kind and caring dog owners are literally living out each day in a horrific real life hostage situation because their pet suffers with terrible Separation Anxiety!  When our dogs are anxious we, in turn, can eventually become anxious too.

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Treating separation anxiety in dogs USED TO BE a difficult path to navigate for both industry professional and lay person alike but that, Friends, is about to change!  Some dog trainers and behaviorists would suggest food treats (peanut butter or bully sticks) be given in order to “occupy the anxious dog’s mind” while the owner is away.  Many vets would sadly just suggest drugging the anxious dog.

Why is it that we seldom if ever hear of a calming, natural, spatial solution for successfully treating separation anxiety?  

Why don’t we hear more about the spatial movements that all dogs employ when speaking their own specific canine language?

Why is separation anxiety prevalent in households across the globe today IF the majority of vets’ and dog trainers’ methods are truly sound and beneficial to/for our dogs?

Could it be possible that we (those of us involved in the dog behavioral and training industry) need to reevaluate our method of treatment for separation anxiety?

Shouldn’t we take a closer look at dog language and canine energy levels in order to find the answers and solutions that so many desperately seek?

Shouldn’t you and your dog be able to live anxiety free?

Are you sick of being a hostage to your dog’s separation anxiety?

If you answered those last few questions with a resounding, “YES!” then my new book, So Long Separation Anxiety will be just right for you and your anxious furry friend!

(So Long Separation Anxiety will only be an e-book so we are sorry but no paperback this time.  For paperbacks be sure and read my groundbreaking book on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!)

From destructive chewing to whining and barking, from nervous drooling to anxious urination or defecation, from breaking out of the kennel to rudely jumping all over you when you arrive home, separation anxiety is a major problem for masses of dog owners!

This book is here to help you and your dog discover relaxation and balance through a healthier relationship and through practical proper spatial maneuvering!  Contained in this exciting new book are beneficial, real world techniques and methods that anyone can put to use!  Step by step we examine how dog’s interact and move with us, how separation anxiety subtly takes root, and how we can begin to smoothly reverse it.  So Long Separation Anxiety is chock full of real life, practical, hands-on, calming solutions!  And the best part…you will NOT need a bunch of peanut butter or food treats or bizarre contraptions, you will NOT need harsh or severe handling, and you will NOT need to repeatedly fill a prescription in order to drug your furry family member!!!

The successful treatment of separation anxiety in our dogs is possible if we can learn from the dogs themselves.  So Long Separation Anxiety is now available on Apple iBooks/iTunes or on Amazon kindle or most other platforms!

Let’s begin making our future better today!

-G