The many problems of treat training and positive reinforcement – Part 2

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The motivation level found within food treats is always subjective.  Meaning each individual dog (the subject) determines whether they are motivated by the food or not.  This is a huge problem in the dog training industry and amongst trainers and behaviorists and for any dog owners that cling to this fragile form of external motivation!

Example:  Let’s look at 3 dogs and let’s say we only use food just positive reinforcement as it’s taught by a vast majority of professionals today to motivate them – The first dog is highly motivated by food (he gets very excited and will perform obedience in a hasty manner- many behaviorists and trainers adore these types of dogs because any layman with even rudimentary skill can easily make them perform tricks).  The second dog is only somewhat motivated by food (she will only perform obedience if you offer what trainers call “high value” or incredibly smelly dog treats or human food).  And the third dog is totally unmotivated by food (usually because this 3rd dog is living at a level of fear, anxiety, or aggression wherein he is NOT smelling and tasting the world the way he, and all healthy, socially normal dogs, naturally should be…instead this dog lives his life through his secondary senses – vision and hearing.  Vision and hearing, when overused, always lead to behavioral problems.  Too much vision and hearing lead to fight or flight behaviors and not to eating.  (If you have ever been in a physical altercation or fight you know that eating is the farthest thing from your mind and body at that moment)

So what does the unskilled trainer or behaviorist that only clings to one rigid method of training do for the second and third dogs in our example?  First, when normal treats fail, they come up with excuses and explain to the dog owner how they must find a “higher value” food motivator for their pet.  Then the shoddy pro trainer will typically talk about adding more and more motivation/excitement to the dog (which is really insane when the ultimate goal of the caring dog owner is to have a wonderfully adept, socially normal dog that is fit for the modern world in which we live – which is incidentally a world that is much calmer in many cities and towns than it used to be throughout ancient times and even a couple hundred years ago when dogs were actively employed as our workers.  All dog owners want trust but the way the majority of trainers and dog owners go about getting that trust doesn’t work well for them because they assume adding food and tricks means you can trust the animal).  The trainer who espouses the extremely rigid “positive only” method typically doesn’t know much about parenting in the human family or among the canine family group.  This is why they often have incredibly over emotionalized responses (just read the internet for proof) to anything and everything excepting their one rigid method.

(I will also note here that I’ve observed locally that a majority of these professional “treat-only” trainers are single people or are people without their own human children.  These folks don’t have kids.  (I have four terrific kids – fyi – and I don’t build my relationship with them based on paying them or treating them non-stop) I think that is interesting to consider because everyone knows it would be extremely poor parenting to shove candy down an already bratty child’s throat in place of the proper time, energy, conversation, exercise, discipline, socialization, and loving affection that goes into raising a socially healthy child.  It is a cliche when we think of the dead beat father or mother who tries to make up for a lacking relationship with their own children by way of extra “high value” presents given to the kids at Christmas and birthdays.  Tragically, this is what passes as “scientific” and “modern” dog training today and has over the past several decades.

(I don’t know how these trainers managed to persuade people into thinking these techniques are “scientific” or even “modern” because all external motivation, be it positive or punitive, was proven by teams of scientists in the 1970s (not modern) and then by different teams again in the 1980s (not modern) to be shallow external motivation with results that fade in the long term!  Please re-read.  I mean to say that if you rely on external positive reinforcement (food) or on external aversive/punitive reinforcement (pain) the subject/dog may alter their behavior in the short term (dogs 1 and 2 from our example) but the dog will quickly go back into their old ways in the long term which then elicits the unyielding and overemotional dog trainer or unwitting dog owner to have to consistently give their dog a “raise,” and go to a higher value food treat or, on the opposite end go with a rougher more painful technique as time keeps passing!

And this endless poor parenting (and poor training) procedure has been neatly packaged and sold to the masses, to you and I, by giant conglomerates that just so happen to sell a buttload of treats and bad training!  Isn’t that wild?  Follow the money, people.  I guess we have our answer as to how it became common vernacular to say that dropping a ton of treats on the floor to stop a dog from jumping up on a person is somehow “scientific” and “modern” instead of simply telling the truth and saying it’s “ridiculous” and “wasteful” (those are words I’d use for that specific training technique).  These massive conglomerates spent billions to get those key words (modern and science) into their fragile and unnatural system of failing/fading motivation (because business-wise their system is NOT failing for the massive companies bottom line financially…just like all drug dealers know…once a potential client gets a taste of their stuff it becomes difficult to detox the patient – many dogs, after being treated with tasty food excessively, will soon attempt to totally ignore their owners and not do anything unless you have a treat!  In many cases the dog owner devalues the natural relationship and ends up bribing the dog and they are completely void of trust and respect and instead have a fake relationship they assume is normal because it is status quo.

And we still have not addressed the third dog from our example…the dog that is too aggressive for treats, too fearful for food, too anxious to switch from hyper staring and hyper listening into relaxed smelling and tasting.  This is the dog only some owners and trainers interact with, meaning it is possible for a person to live a long and healthy life and to raise and adopt a few different dogs over their lifespan and still never experience what it’s like to live with or handle and train a dog that is like the third dog.  These folks may never understand unless and until they end up getting a dog like the third dog, a dog that in many instances food treats will simply be ignored because the adrenals functioning within this animal tell it to continually fight or flight and not relax and eat in the presence of their triggering stimuli.  Examine ANY creature on the planet and you’ll discover in the midst of high energy fight/flight excitement the last thing on the creature’s mind is eating!  This third dog is the shoddy dog trainer’s worst nightmare.  This is the unknowledgeable behaviorist’s greatest dilemma.  For all their rhetoric on science and modernity, for all their extreme emotions openly and often violently displayed ad nauseam on the internet towards other types of trainers, they have zero answers for their clients when it comes to helping the third dog because the dog is blatantly ignoring high value food treats!  Unethical, money-grubbing behaviorists may just tell their clients “Oh, your dog is over-threshold and we need to back up further away from the dog’s triggering stimuli (another dog, person, etc) until your dog is relaxed enough to actually take and eat the food treats in order to make a positive association with the trigger.”  Or they may take you into their facility and behind a partition or have your dog-aggressive dog work with a stuffed animal instead of a real dog (the methods get truly ridiculous the more we examine them).  I mentioned unethical and money-grubbing because this technique of theirs may take you, the paying client, a year or three for any sort of decent results to kick in!  (Special note: it is extremely common for us to hear from our clients that what we were able to do in our very first session with their dog and our calming, natural methods, they were NOT able to accomplish in 10 or 15 or 20 sessions with another company that was using this alleged modern positive approach!)

In Part 3 will we turn the corner and go over real world answers towards genuinely helping not only the third dog but greatly aid the human-dog bond with all three dogs in our example.  I’m hoping to end the series in Part 4.

Then, after I am finished with this series I will do one on The Many Problems of harsh dog handling and Punitive/Aversive reinforcement…………Stay tuned all you rabid dog lovers!

 

For more info simply read my Hot-Listed book on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and grab a copy of my super practical and hands-on, second book, So Long Separation Anxiety to help you achieve the finest of relationships possible with your dog or pup.

-G

 

 

The many problems of treat training and “positive reinforcement”

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“When the tiger bit at Horn’s sleeve, Lawrence made a move to intervene, tempting him with raw meat.  The trainer grabbed Mantecore’s leash and the tiger managed to knock both men down.”  USA TODAY

“A grizzly bear that appeared in a recent Will Ferrell film killed a 39-year old trainer with a bite to his neck…Randy Miller has 25 years experience training animals and his facility has had a perfect safety record, according to the website.”  INDEPENDENT  

“Swedish wolves kill zookeeper who raised them…Even after discovering the zookeeper’s body officials had trouble removing her remains.”  TIME

“Tilikum grabbed Brancheau by the ponytail and pulled her into the pool, then began violently swinging her around…died from a combination of blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and torso, plus drowning.  The attack happened during a performance.  It wasn’t the first time Tilikum killed someone either.  In 1991 he was one of the three whales responsible for the death of trainer Keltie Lee Byrne.”  GRUNGE

“Tyke entered the ring…kicking around what looked to audience members like a dummy. ‘We thought it was part of the show,’ one witness told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  They soon realized the supposed dummy was a severely injured (elephant) groomer.  Panicked, audience members fled for the exits.  Tyke went on to fatally crush her trainer – who was trying to intervene – before fleeing the arena herself….Honolulu police eventually shot her 87 times before she succumbed to nerve damage and brain hemorrhages.”  HUFFPOST

“Utterback’s girlfriend heard something fall, police said.  She got up to see what the noise was and found Utterback on the floor with the dog biting his neck…by the time EMS arrived Utterback was dead.  Utterback’s girlfriend told officers the dog was their pet for a decade and was Utterback’s ‘best friend.'”  DOGSBITE

“Ashton McGhee, 1 year old, was mauled to death by a family pitbull-mix.  The child had ‘deep abrasions to the head, chest, and neck.’  The child’s grandmother and great grandmother suffered injuries while trying to pull the dog off the toddler.  The baby had been playing with a ball on the floor when the dog came in from the outdoors.  The dog attacked the baby, causing deep lacerations to the head and chest and a broken jaw.”  WHOP

“66-year-old dog trainer found dead in her backyard with multiple dog bites on her face and arms.  Elaine Richman was discovered dead with multiple dog bites…Richman had not been seen at her dog training classes for two days.  Police found Richman dead in her backyard with dog bites on her face, arms, and hands.  Two doberman pinschers were located inside the home.  The victims brother…said she had trained and showed dobermans for decades.”  MEAWW and DOGSBITE

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Friends, when you or any other person – be they “professional” or not – reinforce a dog (or a wild animal) with FOOD in order to get them to perform obedience or tricks we must all realize that this in NO way means that genuine RESPECT is present in the relationship!  

Friends, if you lack real Respect then you must NOT give TRUST to the animal no matter how fancy the obedience, behavior modification, tricks, or alleged “training!”  

What everyone in the world labels as “dog obedience,” and “dog training,” “work,” and “canine behavior modification” in truth often has little or nothing to do with canine social skills and dog language!   

If people truly grasped dog language and The Four Pillars (and they clearly do not) horrific tragedies like some of those listed above would be preventable.

This is part one in a series I’m going to do for you.  In the second installment we will get to the heart of the issue.  Stay tuned!

(Also, don’t fret because I’ll do one on the many problems of correcting a dog and harsh handling)

-G

 

Smell the butt

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Smell my butt.  This is one of the single most important things in all of Dogdom.  In the dog world butt smelling is vital.

Forget the slogan, “Have you hugged your kids today?”  I say, “Has your dog smelled a butt today?”  And has your dog been smelled from another dog in return?  This is crucial when rehabbing aggressive dogs and fearful dogs and any dog that has dog-dog reactivity.  They need to gather information through the use of their primary three senses.

One of a pup’s first and most important sense as it is born into this world is the olfactory…the nose.  (This is the part everyone knows) A puppy or dog ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS smells the world before it sees it or hears it.  Think about this.  Look at your dog’s face.  It is triangular shaped because the nose comes first.  The first couple weeks of a puppy’s life are spent blind and deaf – Helen Keller style!  (Now think of the extreme growth occurring physically and mentally within the fast-growing pup during those early stages of life)

This leads us to the question,  What kind of learner is your dog?  If you went to school and they tested you they would then find out whether you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner.  This means your brain prefers to learn and experience the world either through the eyes, the ears, or with a more hands-on approach.  And if we, as good teachers and dog trainers, customize our teaching to help accomodate the pupil’s brain’s preference learning should then naturally  increase because we are now “speaking the same language.”  We are working with the brain and playing to its strengths.  If a teacher can peak the interest or natural way the brain works, well, then their material is fantastic and the learning comes readily to the pupil.  At Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center we view dog training and behavioral rehab the same way.  Dogs are touchers, smellers, and tasters first.  Later they become seers and hearers.

The canine language is based in “cut-off” or “calming” signals (because these signals allow for peaceful coexistence) without which there would be no pack.  There would be Zero ability to live together and survive together if there weren’t calming signals and pressure relief valves within our dog’s language.  The language of a dog is astounding.  All canines can use these signals and this language to release tension and get along socially tragically – many do not.  Their need for boundaries in order to be able to calm down enough to live and function in a group is basically what defines a canine.  Dogs that are skilled in their own linguistics use tension and the release of tension (displayed in their body language and in their energy levels) to communicate their intentions clearly to those around them.  These skilled dog linguists use proper movement and pressure spatially in order to calm/claim/correct the individuals in their social circle that may need help.  They seldom if ever overdo it and they seldom if ever under do it.  It is fascinating and freeing.  In canine culture there is more freedom than in any human government on the planet.  Smelling instead of staring leads any dog into a more calm state of mind.

Make sure your dog is smelling other dogs and people and being smelled by other dogs…if you think it is “too late” and the dog is too much of a danger than increase exercise and increase the rules within your home environment AND then still attempt to socialize by way of spinning your dog around (controlling the head and eyes and teeth) and getting your dog’s butt smelled by a calm, friendly “example” dog.

Need help – leave us a quick voicemail and we’ll answer your questions as soon as is humanly possible (calls and vms are handled on a first come – first serve basis!)

-G

Simplicity

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Leonardo Da Vinci

“Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” Bruce Lee

“Simplicity of approach is always best.”  Charlie Chaplin

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Nature is pleased with simplicity.”  Isaac Newton

If you’ve ever juggled a lunging dog on a leash in one hand and a clicker and a treat in the other hand all while being instructed to get the dog’s attention and mark the behavior with good timing if your dog performs… you’d definitely relish the complete and utter simplicity of The Garrett Stevens Method.  You’d fall in love due to the opposite nature of that aforementioned complex yet common clicker training nightmare!  Our natural method, that was learned direct from the dogs themselves, requires no clickers and no treats, it requires no weak and/or complicated external motivators.  Instead it calls for simplicity.

Dog language and canine behavioral rehabilitation is quite simple.  In fact, it is so simple most folks miss it. Some don’t have time for it because they’ve been conditioned to rush about and be busy in their daily lives.  Others think they already know about dogs and dog training and so they come into a session unwilling to learn this simple art of movement, touch, space, and energy – unwilling to learn these 4 pillars of dog language.  Finally, and thankfully, many people come to us ready to simply receive.  They are at wit’s end with their dog and thinking of rehoming the animal but they are prepared to learn and soon they see real results.

My secret weapon in my work with the dogs is simplicity.  My behavioral books are short and simple to read on purpose.  My custom, handmade training collar (that will outperform anything on the market btw) is quite simple, and because it’s simple it’s incredibly effective in helping dogs walk calmly.  The Garrett Stevens Method of dog training and behavior mod. works very simply and yet brings great results.  Stevens Family Kennels is a rather Spartan-type setting but dogs love it and grow more mature when they’re with us.

My advice:  Look to simplify your relationship with your dog.  Get rid of the fluff and the  extraneous stuff in your relationship and in your home life with your dog.  Seek out dog dignity.  Be direct.  Be honest.  Be real.  Seek simplicity.

“If you cannot explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.”  Albert Einstein

(I think of this Einstein quote whenever I see another giant tome about dog behavior or training!)

-G

 

Strong Dog Program

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Is your dog mentally, emotionally, and physically strong?  Many dogs out there are strong bodily and yet if we examine the psychological side of things they are wanting.  My question…what are caring dog owners doing about this?

Some owners do nothing.  Others mask the dog’s psychological issues by way of obedience training and (frivolous) trick training!  Other dog owners use agility, flyball, or herding, or some other canine sport in attempts at correcting the mental or emotional deficiency within their dog.  The truth is many of these things do NOT work well because the methods are all based in excitement and energy escalation.  The dog owner is encouraged by the on site trainer to raise the dog’s energy in order to get a higher level of performance.  And while exercise in any form is better than nothing many times tricks and training and these dog sports condition the dog to get pumped up more and more when they arrive at the field or at the agility facility just like pups do at their daycare.  This doesn’t typically help in balancing the mental and emotional state of the dog in its day to day life.   IMG_3544

But we’ve got great news!  Our Dog Language Center in Puyallup, Washington offers the perfect solution to this common dog and dog owner dilemma.  Our Strong Dog Program is a great option that we offer to our boarding clients.  Depending on the age, health, and size of the dog boarding at Stevens Family Kennels, if they are enrolled in our Strong Dog Program, they get 25 to 30 minutes on our dog treadmill or that time spent in our play field with our two, resident, calm, example dogs (my twelve and a half year old Boxer and my two and a half year old Cane Corso/Pit mix – both dogs are highly skilled communicators, teach other dogs the proper language, and also love to have fun)!

Both options in our Strong Dog Program yield amazing results because they both equip dogs to be physically strong AND yet they help them CALM down emotionally and achieve balance mentally.  Our Dog Language Center is quite unique from most kennels and dog daycares because we offer something very valuable…calmness.  Calmness is highly prized among all animals on the planet.  Calmness and energy control is key to survival.  Calmness is also key to clear thinking and a healthy emotional state of being for our dogs.  While many places have fanciful couches for dogs, loads of food treats, play times and high pitched trick training, and all manner of doggy clothing…we offer something better…dog health, dignity, and relaxation.  We offer maturity to the dogs and they love it!

You know those billionaires and millionaires that shell out gobs of money to go away to spartan-like settings to attend silent retreats in order to practice calm, meditative time?  These people know these quiet, restorative times are excellent for the soul.  At Stevens Family Kennels we offer your dog a chance to get strong and flexible emotionally, mentally, and physically in a similar calm, safe, environment.

If a dog has behavioral problems then a pattern interrupt is necessary in order to give the brain a chance to get out of the old pathway and in order to create new synapsis within the mind so the dog can forge a new, healthy, social, neural habit.  The massive pattern interrupt that occurs during your dogs stay with us simply cannot be achieved by you (the owner).  It cannot be achieved in a high excitement facility.  It cannot be achieved lounging on a comfy couch with seven other dogs.  It cannot be achieved on the agility field or while herding and shepherding sheep or goats.  But…it most definitely can be achieved while boarding with us at the Dog Language Center and taking advantage of our custom Behavioral Board and Train which always automatically includes enrollment into our Strong Dog Program!

Go too http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com for more details

-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!

Training your Boxer – 4 tips

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Boxers are intelligent, playful, stubborn, strong, and highly-trainable.  Our family obviously loves boxers because we’ve raised a couple of them these past fourteen years and they both have had a very active roll in my dog training and behavioral mod. business.  The pics in this post are of Bosley and Rambo, my boxer boys.

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This is Bosley.  Our first dog.  This picture became the logo for Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center!  Go too http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com for more info

Let’s assume you’ve been struck with Boxer Fever and are in search of this unique breed.  Below are a few personal training tips and behavioral hacks I’ve employed while raising and professionally training my own boxers.  They will help any current or wanna be boxer owners out there on the inter webs.

  1.  Touch reveals much.  The heart of all dog language (any and every breed speaks through touch) is based in a dog’s sense of touch and how their body acts and interacts with other bodies in the environment.  This means touch your Boxer pup or dog all over whenever and wherever YOU want to.  (And be sure to deny them touch back on your body IF they demand that you touch/pet them)  Think as the mother or father dog would about their pup’s bodies and be sure to claim your dog as your own through touch.  Beware of your dog reversing this technique on you over the many months you share together (dogs do this to most unwitting dog owners and they do it quite friendly and subtlety at first – until, one day, they no longer decide to control touch in a friendly manner and they may instead choose to growl at, snap toward, or bite you!)  Set the tone in your relationship with your boxer at its earliest outset.  Tacoma.Tampa 2007 146
  2. Jumping up is rude.  Boxers are known for it.  Boxers are known for high energy and muscled thighs so they like to head skyward.  Be sure and stop it.  The easiest way is to identify when your boxer is going to attempt to jump up on you or a guest and, like Bruce Lee often suggested when facing an opponent, intercept the movement!  To recognize this pre-jump phase look for when the dog is wiggling and dancing and squaring up in front of you or a guest (they often square up first and once they receive eye-contact the very next thing is jumping up!)  You don’t need to go Karate Kid on your boxer and be off balance on one leg as you attempt to knee the dog or puppy…instead, a simple and direct stiff arm while moving forward will do in 95% of jumping cases.  The other 5% will need the stiff arm and then usually a follow up collar grab from the owner in order to keep the dog in place and allow it to calm for a few heartbeats, control the head when doing this and don’t let the dog out of it prematurely.  The most important thing in stopping jumping up is to make sure your human body is moving forward into the dog’s body and purposefully taking up the space.  Take a large step forward or two.  Imagine a fencer lunging forward to score a point with his foil.  (Do not stab your dog with a sword 😉  Get your boxer to backpedal awkwardly by stepping into him/her and after a couple of days any and every dog will understand that IF they jump they simply lose ground.  Then, after taking their space go back to ignoring them.  If you only ignore them (as is the shoddy advice of many trainers and behaviorists) and don’t actively address the jumping with a stiff arm and direct forward movement as I’ve instructed then that ignoring of the dog will only work on approximately 40% of dogs and pups.  In my experience the other 60% will simply jump on your back or your sides!

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    Rambo can still jump this high even though he’s now twelve and a half years old! Must be the NuJoint supplements we give him! To order some for your dog use code 14029 or pick up a bottle at Stevens Family Kennels

  3. It’s all about the Energy.  I should know because I just may have the calmest boxer on the planet!  Somebody call the Guinness World Record people.  (Rambo is a fantastic dog)  Boxers are known to be a high-energy breed.  Unlike most pro trainers out there, I do NOT think we should just redirect that energy onto a toy or into a “job to do” by making the boxer perform obedience and tricks (even and especially if the dog excels at the job or obedience!).  I think that is a shallow and short-sighted approach that lacks in genuine maturity and that is why just training a working dog to work or perform obedience often comes back to bite the owners down the road.  Mainstream dog training masks little behavioral problems and poor social skills within a dog until those little problems become catastrophic and overwhelm the owner!  In every mature creature we see, in every good parent in nature we find proper energy control and conservation.  The very premise of dog training fails miserably in this regard because dog training is disappointingly all about performance and seldom concerns itself with proper canine language acquisition, normal canine social skills (like who is grooming or touching who, and how and when that touching and smelling occurs, who is claiming who or what, and a host of other critically important things to your boxer and to all canines) and normal human behaviors that readily occur in 2019.  Boxer owners (and most all dog owners) do NOT want a hyper pet and yet the only place they have to go in search of behavior modification if they have a hyper pup or high energy dog is the dog training industry which is entirely devoid of trainers willing to help the dog reach maturity by way of naturally calming energy control!  Do you see the problem?  (My first book, Dog Myths, goes into this further)  Seek to calm your dog’s energy naturally and spatially (My second book, So Long Separation Anxiety, goes into this further) and do not pacify it or redirect it with obedience or a toy.  Animals have a way to calm, to self soothe, and it is incredibly important that your boxer learns this vital skill and learns it early during his life with you.     edit 23
  4. Play train” and your boxer will love you.  Play training is when we have the dog perform his obedience (sit, down, stay, come, heel, et cetera) in exchange for time with us and a special toy or two.  This is one of those rarest of times when I encourage the dog owners to raise their energy in a playful manner.  This is when we play lots of tug o’ war or wrestle.   This is when the frisbee comes into play.  This is when we move quicker than we normally do as owners and make it fun.  This is when we draw the boxer towards us and play backwards.  And during these short, fun bursts of play training we slip in several quick training classics like sit and down and come.  Strive to move very cleanly as your boxer is watching your movements even more than listening to your voice.  Every dog prefers hand signals to verbal commands.  Does this mean we don’t give verbal commands?  Of course not, we still give them, but remember, every dog on the planet still prefers seeing over hearing as it pertains to communication with the human.  In most cases the better you move the clearer your communication will be.  If you addict or semi-addict your boxer to a tug or a favorite toy you will instantly have much more off-leash control by way of getting your dog’s attention at the park or afield – it can be a great supplement to your training as you work towards real maturity, a healthy relationship based in dog language, and the continued socialization and desensitization of your boxer.  Make sure that special toy is never left out on the floor at home or in the yard.  Your boxer’s special toy should be put away and only used in conjunction with you and with specific, playful concentration and energy.

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    At the Ruston way waterfront in Tacoma