Is your dog Flexible or Fragile?

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Is your dog psychologically flexible or fragile?  Is your method of dog or puppy training and dog handling unbending and, therefore, rigid and fragile?  Is the daily routine you keep with your pet, perhaps, too rigid and too regimented or is it pliable and relaxed?

These questions, I think, are worth EVERYONE’S consideration.  Whether you have a dog or not, the subject matter we will go over today is the real stuff that often makes or breaks one’s quality of life.  It can Make you or, as the fragile tree, the poorly heat-treated sword, the overly-emotional person, or many dogs often experience, it can Break you!

So many dog owners lack flexibility.  Thus, their dogs lack flexibility too.  This is due, in large part, to so many professional dog behaviorists and dog trainers and vets clinging to their unyielding philosophy and close-minded dog training methodology.  If you follow this fine blog you know I’ve been extremely honest about the mainstream dog training industry (much to some trainers’, behaviorists’, and vets’ chagrin and much to many others joy, education, and puppy prosperity) You, Dear Reader, and your dog or pup bear the brunt of this unyielding philosophy and extreme dogmatism that mainstream trainers hold so dear and continuously propagate on an unwitting society.

Real World Example:  Some dog trainers proudly exclaim “We are a “positive only” training company.”  (They even think it’s modern!  That shows even less research on their parts) I hope everyone understands that those that confess and practice this singular and rigid method of dog bribery are immediately eliminating one entire half of possible external motivation for the dog they are working with!  And what’s worse is that they are also starting off the human-dog bond with a bizarre and unnatural set of limitations.  I’ll also mention that good human parents and certainly good dog parents would seldom if ever load up their children, or pups, with gobs of sweets or consistent bribes in exchange for decent behavior.  That builds a relationship devoid of respect and trust.  My question is, When the “positive” approach doesn’t work (which is quite often) because they never calmly address any misbehavior and because they are Not Free to calmly disagree with the dog, are they flexible enough to learn from nature and take a page out of every older dog’s playbook and spatially address the situation to enhance calmness and peacefulness???  OR do they remain stubborn, rigidly clinging to their food bribes, and thus blindly continuing on the fragile and foolish path all the while collecting money from their customers in exchange for weak results?

(Now if you know even the smallest thing about us and our award-winning company or if you’ve read my two books you would know we do NOT cling to or preach either “positive” or “punitive” reinforcement because they are BOTH just shallow External motivators and lack long-term relational staying power – especially when compared with the relatively untapped yet naturally stronger Internal, relational motivation found within ALL dogs and pups on the earth!  Please re-read that sentence.  The ways of the mother and father dog will always trump the ways of the human scientist in the lab or the one-sided, strangely dogmatic behaviorist, vet, or dog trainer!  If we are going to be dogmatic, friends, it should be dogmatically for excellent and humane results for the dogs we work with and dogmatically for daily improvement (a concept the Japanese Samurai called “kaizen”).  We could be dogmatically for doing things the dog way: cultivating techniques that echo and reflect Mother Nature’s way.  Now let’s continue with the other side of the fragile and inflexible example seen readily in most dog training and behavior mod…)

Several other kinds of dog training companies (these sorts often attract GSD owners or Belgian Mal owners) will hyper focus on negative reinforcement and rely on the classic yet foolhardy “rolling” of the dog, hanging, zapping, or choking it, or other too-harsh tactics employed carelessly in order to show the dog “who is boss” or “who is the Alpha” (FYI, when and if a dog rolls over and exposes its belly – this gesture does NOT usually indicate a submissive gesture when it is presented towards humans – even though everyone on the planet has been conditioned by the dog training industry to believe that it is a submissive gesture!  That, My Friends, is a myth!  For more on this clarification of dog language and behavior – much more – read my hot-listed book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!  You’ll get alooooooooooooot out of it if you have an open mind!)

The point of the examples is that Both sides, Both of these unflinching methods generally lack flexibility and cannot truly help bring the relationship between you and your dog into MATURITY because of it!  

The great news is that YOU don’t have to join or cling to either restrictive side!  You can free yourself from the classic dog training debates and seek out, what we have discovered is a third more natural, beneficial, method of training and modification that doesn’t desperately rely on shoddy external motivation and foolish excitement but is based, instead, on internal motivation, the natural world, and specifically how the human body moves with the dog body, how touch is happening between owner and dog, and how peaceful postures enhance relationship in every dog on the planet.  The Garrett Stevens Method utilizes touch, space, energy influence, proper postures, and actual dog language in order to guide dogs into better behavior and relaxed freedom within the relationship.  It far surpasses what counts as dog training and canine behavior modification.  Our dogs are looking for leadership that guides them into maturity.   We should stop being impressed with stupid tricks and often frivolous obedience.  It’s 2019 for crying out loud – YOUR DOG IS SEMI-RETIRED and Does NOT always need a job to do (which would require higher levels of energy to accomplish) because that often just adds more tricks to his/her repertoire and does NOT remove problematic behavior in a natural way familiar to all canines.  Can I get an amen?

Real life example for you:  Ron takes his dog Winston (a French Bulldog) out for a walk.  Winston always gets over-excited when putting the leash on, and Ron always asks him to perform an excitable “wait” command at the door because that’s what Ron has taught him to do from puppyhood.  That’s dog training.  Ron is doing that because that’s his limited concept of training and he’s supposed to do that to gain respect from his dog.  Ron never considered that when we have a dog perform a “stay” or “wait” command at the door when the dog is already presenting escalated energy it can, and usually does, make matters worse internally.  Meaning Winston’s energy goes up because he is now frozen and many predators freeze just before exploding after prey.  So Ron’s little “wait” routine, his training is actually creating more of a problem than he had at the get go!!!

When a dog is locked into a routine – it is NOT flexible.  This is because dogs are intelligent and they know what is going to happen next and thus, often try to speed us up.  They jump the gun.  The truth of the matter is that Winston has learned to wait or stay physically all while ramping up unnecessary energy psychologically!  And, like almost any command performed in typical dog training and “modern” behavioral modification style…the dog remains excited mentally or, even worse, escalates his energy more!  So even when or if the “wait” or “stay” is accomplished… as soon as the release term comes at Winston he is exploding forward again out of the doorway and pulling and straining on the leash.  So little to nothing was actually gained by asking him to “wait” in the first place!  Inadvertently Ron’s “dog training” has made the situation worse!

Friends, the mother and father dog would probably never keep their pups in a frozen position if they knew that the pup’s energy was skyrocketing.  Escalated levels of energy often lead to fight or flight behavior and, in the very least, lead to the rude and manipulative habits in our dogs.  (please ponder that FACT)

Ron, in his search to train and raise his bulldog properly, has inadvertently squashed Winston’s natural autonomy and freedom near the doorway.  Everyday is the same in Winston and Ron’s life.  Every time they go for a walk it is the same.  The direction and route they take on their walk is usually the same.  And Ron is setting Winston, his French bulldog, up for failure if any subtle difference, any slight chaos ever happens to occur in their life or routine.  He’s training his dog to be fragile!  And if there’s one rule that is truly constant in our lives it is that successful folks embrace change while the unsuccessful fear it.

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Every single dog-lover I know that has been interested in training their dogs has over-trained and over-conditioned them at the doorway or, and this example occurs in almost every home I’ve ever been in (at the time of writing in 14 years as a pro behaviorist), before their feeding ritual each morning/evening with this mind-dulling “stay” or “wait” command.  Now, please understand me, I am 100% for teaching a puppy this initially.  My caveat comes into play when it is continuously used and the energy of the animal is seldom if ever considered.  We must consider the ENERGY if we want a wonderful house dog.  End of story.  Tricks and even OBEDIENCE are SECONDARY to cultivating great RELATIONSHIP and HEALTHY ENERGY LEVELS!  Please quote me on that! Tell everyone you know because they need it.  Believe me, I see this played out daily in our successful behavior modification processes while I continuously ad nauseum here over and again real life stories of miserable and rigid failings on the dog training industries part.  Inflexible dog training methods are a genuine nightmare on very well-intentioned dog owners and their families and their neighbors.

One of my heroes, Bruce Lee, has a quote that I love.  I’ll share it with you now.  “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”  That is what I try to do every day when I work with people and dogs.  It is a winning philosophy because it takes in all sides of a story, and then gets rid of the crap, and finally, it encourages creative solutions and actions on our part.  I hope in the future more dog trainers and behaviorists and more vets and dog owners will be open to thinking like Bruce Lee did.  The palm tree survives the hurricane because it bends in the wind.

For flexibility…mix things up.  Shake things up.  Do something novel or different.  If your dog always pees on a certain tree or hydrant during your walk – skip it next time and form a new neural pathway in the moldy, dusty, old mind.  If your dog always performs a “sit – stay” or “wait” for his food in the morning, next time skip that incredibly boring routine and let him simply have the stinking food, or use that minute to train a different and fresh command – for instance – work the “come/here” command or the “catch.”  If your dog always barks at a certain guest put the leash on him and stop him from doing it.

Let’s refresh and renew ourselves and our dogs as we add new experiences into our lives.  Let’s look beyond the shoddy external motivation (positive or punitive reinforcement) and all the fragility that’s continuously shoved upon us all from all the “dog people” in the industry.  Let’s shake up our daily routines.  Routine can truly destroy the mind when it is overdone.

Think Flexibility and your dog or pup will not be psychologically Fragile!  As always, socialize for success.

For more info of this nature read my books, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety  

The books are available almost everywhere.  Thank you so much to those who have left me thoughtful reviews on Amazon or Apple iBooks.  It means quite a lot to me.  And thank you so much to those clients who read and re-read the books on their quest for greater relationship and better behavior with and among their dogs.  I am humbled that you would re-read again and again Dog Myths in order to grasp the principles of dog language.

-G

 

 

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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

 

Maturity is better than Motivation for you and your dog.

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I will unpack this whole thing for you here and now in three short, precise paragraphs (not counting this one).  I hope you all understand that the vast majority of dogs and their owners never move past the first phase (external motivation) due to their unyielding belief in the many dog myths about canine behavior and “science” that are rampant in the pet industry.  But here you are anyway…

EXTERNAL MOTIVATION = positive reinforcement and/or punitive reinforcement.  These are the very lowest levels of relating and, as science reveals over and over, those employing this sort of base motivation see an initial and temporary upward bump in performance and, then, in the long term, the motivation and the individual’s performance takes a steady and serious dive unless consistently given stronger and stronger reinforcement.  (examples of externally motivating your dog – training with food treats or with shock collars)

INTERNAL MOTIVATION = tapping into the individual’s nature, drives, instincts, and personal desires.  This form of motivation is stronger than most forms of external motivation and it stands the test of time due to the individual remaining engaged because of their own inherent interests.  (examples of internally motivating your dog  –  tapping into curiosity, autonomy, freedom of choice, play, and loyalty within a relationship)

TRUE MATURITY or MASTERY = little to no motivation is necessary because the individual has moved beyond the realm of immature reactivity towards stimuli and into the realm of genuine understanding.  A realm wherein liberty and freedom are expressed within a healthy relationship with and among others and is valued above self and selfish drives and natural instincts and responses.  (This should be the goal for both human and dog!  You’ll see examples of it in your dog when they do something to help out instead of help themselves.  However, as I’ve said dozens of times…tragically most people and dogs never move past the lowest level/external motivation!!!)

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For more info on the sort of stuff I’ve just gone over please read my books, Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety – they can be found on Amazon and they will help you and your dog on the path towards mastery.  (Superman is holding onto them in the pic at the top of this article)

-G

Your dog wants you to read these books!

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The information contained within these books is incredibly different from what most dog trainers, dog behaviorists, dog whisperers, and vets are espousing…the methods actually work!  Order your copies TODAY (your dog will thank you!) on Amazon, Apple, or at Barnes and Noble.

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#gotcalm ?  #getgarrett #experiencethedifference

-G

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Practically speaking:

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

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

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

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

Rex the Hero dog…the rest of the story

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Rex the hero dog, a German Shepherd from Des Moines, WA, was shot three times and attacked by home invaders!  The burglars had smashed the home’s rear sliding glass door possibly unaware that a teenage boy was upstairs with his dog.  Rex was rapidly on the scene and, protecting home and hearth, went after the invaders, biting at least one of them!  Rex was then fired upon and sustained three bullet wounds.  He was shot in the neck and hind legs!  The criminals fled the scene after hearing police sirens.

Naturally, the family and Rex’s story gained much media attention.  They were able to raise many times what they were asking for in regards to Rex’s medical bills.  (In just two days they were gifted $52,000.00 on their gofundme to go toward his surgery!)

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Javier giving Rex some love while he recuperates.

However, what the news folk all failed to go into was the rest of the story…how Rex became people aggressive to everyone and anyone aside from his immediate family and how the normal behavior training they initially attempted did NOT work!  The truth of the story, of course, is that this is Not just another touchy, feel-good dog story – there’s more to it than that.  Some segments of Rex’s news story even featured some dog trainer talking about PTSD and giving the dog food treats but the media’s story stopped there and failed to go into how that did NOT work for the family or for Rex or for society at large!  Classic.  The fact that Rex was now psychologically messed up and that the “positive” training they tried failed was NOT included in any of the media’s follow up reporting on Rex and the family.  I’m not exactly sure why.  It probably has to do with the fact that people these days are only familiar with telling one half of the story when it comes to our dogs.  Only the good half.  We tend to shy from what’s ugly even if it’s the God’s honest truth.  But, if you’ve been a reader of this fine blog you know I do Not do that.  I strive to be honest and direct and open like all dogs are with me.  I know Abe Lincoln was on to something.

When a large dog is aggressive towards people it is an issue that must be taken seriously.  The sad fact is that we as people, no matter how desperately we desire it, don’t always see our dogs for what they really are or how insane they may be becoming.  People are often misreading, mishandling, and mistaking our dog’s language and their training (for more on this – much more – read my first book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!).  In Rex’s case it is a totally understandable reason to become aggressive and untrusting of other people, he was shot three times for crying out loud, but how do we move on?  How does a person successfully lead their dog back into sociability?  How do we lead the dog properly in order to vanquish fear and embrace living in the moment?  Will keeping him as a “victim” truly help?  Will stuffing his face with food treats truly help remove severe psychological damage?  Will oodles of human comfort aid him mentally and emotionally?  Will adding more training and rigid obedience help solve the problem?

Many pet owners and many pro trainers would suggest giving Rex food.  Food treats, when the dog is at a distance from a person in order to develop a “positive association,” is NOT the best way forward in a case like this and often will NOT work with dogs at higher  levels of aggression BECAUSE dog’s can turn down their sense of smelling and tasting in order to turn up their fight/flight senses of vision and hearing leading them to ignore the food and continue escalating their energy by way of extreme, instinctual, predatory concentration directed right at the stimuli/person.  Also, for many dogs, food is exciting – why add that to an already excited dog?  Fighting is also exciting.  (I know because I loved sparring in my martial arts classes and adored tossing boxing gloves on to do some backyard brawling with a buddy).  Lastly – if one looks at literally every single dog on the planet, we see that they do NOT need to utilize food treats when interacting and relating with other dogs!  Dogs simply converse with one another.  The father and mother dog do NOT rely on a food treat in order to “condition” or “modify” their pup’s behaviors…instead they simply communicate using dog language.  (By the way, the parent dogs don’t use brutal or harsh tactics either in order to effectively raise their young).

Other people might suggest taking him to a former police or military dog handler turned private trainer because, well, they have worked with a lot of shepherds (German, Dutch, Belgian Mal.).  The problem that we often hear about after this sort of training fails is that they’ll teach the dog to stand on a log for a long time, to work a bite sleeve efficiently, to jump a fence, and perform rigid sits, downs, and stays and will train them using German or Czech commands but…they barely ever consider what it takes to RELAX the dog.  They seldom if ever consider what is important to all older dogs and dog “society” in general because the emphasis is always on working obedience and not on calming down and getting along.  (FYI: we are very thankful for those serving in our military and for the military working dogs – both dog and handler do a great job serving and protecting our nation).  Some times taking your Shepherd to a former LEO or military dog handler is overkill on working obedience when what most dog owners desire and desperately need is trust and the ability for the dog to get along with others at the local barbecue.  One of the biggest myths in the dog training and behavioral modification industry is that the addition of obedience removes behavioral issues!  Please reread that last sentence.  The addition of obedience does NOT necessarily mean the subtraction of poor behaviors!  If you fixate on obedience (which all mainstream dog training does) you’ve just added some juggling to your dog’s bag of tricks.  Keep in mind the mother dog doesn’t care whether or not her pup’s can perform a “sit” command.  Please think about what she cares about. Think about what dogs care about and need.  I’ll let you puzzle that out.

Back to Rex…the good news…

Thank goodness Rex’s family made a wise choice and did some well thought out research because they ended up eventually finding and working with us, Garrett Stevens’ Alpha and Omega Dog Training, on Rex’s behavioral rehab after trying all the other stuff.  They drive a long ways to see us and the natural, spatial techniques we’ve gone over are working to help calm him down and get him closer and closer to how a normal, healthy, social dog acts and interacts with the world.  Great job, Julia and Javier!

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Time to socialize. Socialization is always the answer for a house dog no matter what the question is. Living with constant fear is no life at all! If you have to begin on muzzle then begin on muzzle but socialize always!

When I first met Rex he was intensely barking, lunging, jumping, and snapping at me while on leash.  I instructed Julia and Javier on dog language and Rex’s need for leadership and for natural calming and proper positioning and leash manners.  For weeks now I’ve been able to calmly lead him on walks, pet him, and help guide him back into what is acceptable behavior and energy within his family and within society at large as I try my very best to impart to him that not everyone is a bad guy looking to do harm to him or looking to hurt his family.  I am realigning the dog’s senses so he can once again navigate his world.

Trust is so important.  We cannot get to trust though unless we have real respect too.  Respect and trust don’t come from food (even if your local trainer is forcing the food down your pup’s throat).  It doesn’t come from a certain rigid training method.  Respect and trust do not come from raw obedience either.  Respect and Trust are something altogether deeper.  Remember, reinforcement in dog training and behavioral modification is tremendously overrated.  Relationship has almost unlimited potential!  Forget “positive only” methods and forget punitive mostly – focus on how dog’s relate and your dog will thank you!

It has been a privilege helping Rex the hero dog and teaching his family the ins and outs of efficient dog handling and relaxation techniques directly from the Garrett Stevens Method and Mother Nature.

Rex has come a long way.  He, like all of us, has more to learn but we are glad he’s learning to self soothe and to truly calm down and follow Julia and Javier’s lead.  Here’s to a bright future for Rex and the family.

-G

 

My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: a Rescue dog story – Part 2

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The powerful black dog trotted my way after a quick visit with his owner on the chair across from me.  His docked tail vigorously wagging this time.  I began putting my hand over his head and stroking his face, eyes, and muzzle.  I do this as a sort of touching and quick temperament test with every dog I work with.  I do NOT suggest you do this unless you have a good grasp of the dog language, which, in my professional opinion, most folks do NOT even though they assume they do!  Please don’t take it personally because I know for a fact many dog professionals (vets, behaviorists, trainers, daycare owners) don’t have a solid grasp on dog language either!  If they did behavioral issues wouldn’t be skyrocketing like they currently are.

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Cato our Pitbull/Cane Corso mix. He will be featured in my upcoming third book on rescue dogs!

 

As I spoke with Cato’s owner I applied my classic “Touch and Go” move like I mentioned in the first part of this series.  I’ll explain it to you now, Dear Reader, so you too can begin a better life with your own dog and with any dog you happen across in the fine future.  Are you ready?  Please pay attention.  Basically it goes like this…

1.  Touch the dog.

2. Stop touching the dog.

That’s it.  That’s what I call a wonderful beginning.  While I’m telling you this slightly with tongue in cheek that really is the whole maneuver.  The magic is that you, the toucher, stop giving touch before the dog, the touchee, leaves your space, or grows tired of your touching, or threatens you, or before he/she demands more touching from you.  You pet the dog then, if you’re sitting, you purposefully stop and lean back and look away from the dog.  If you’re standing and petting the dog then you stop and stand up to your full height and, looking away, you ignore the dog.

This ridiculously simplistic maneuver is so undervalued and underdone among dog owners and dog lovers.  This is astounding to me in my daily dog and human observational studies.  Most people keep petting until the dog determines when it’s over.  Most people are left bent over and the dog has exited their space whenever it wanted.  Most dogs dictate (over time) who touches who and how and when that touch is applied and the human just follows along like a clueless goon.  Then, years and many behavioral issues later, “The dog just snapped,” or “The dog just turned, no warning at all!” I call BS on that, Friends.  For many a dog has spent its entire life telling the person they live with precisely how they will or won’t receive touch!  This is no bueno.

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Touch is a dog’s first sense and the most important sense by far when determining sociability, respect, trust, clear and polite communication, obedience, and every other stinking thing you can think of that happens between human and dog!  PAY STRICT ATTENTION TO HOW TOUCH IS HAPPENING TO YOU AND YOUR HUMAN BODY AND TO HOW YOUR DOG TAKES TOUCHING ON HIS/HER DOG BODY.  My “touch and go” move lets the dog clearly know that I’ll touch when I want, how I want, and then stop when and how I want also just like the mother or father dog would on their young.  It paves the way for healthy relationship between owner and dog as opposed to the classic blunder of – dog dictates touch whenever and however and forever until something awful happens! This is what many families suffer through.

Does the “Touch and Go” work for nervous or aggressive dogs?  YES and YES!  The point is to touch them and then stop before they aggressively warn you off of their body or space or bed or food, or before they run away or slip your touch.  In extreme cases it looks like this – You touched them.  They barely registered it.  They began to get uncomfortable but before they could escalate you already have stopped and you’re ignoring them.  It’s the smooth way to begin to handle a dangerous dog and to begin to lay claim to what you should lay claim to – namely – your dog’s body and the space and items around it.

The owner proceeded to tell me Cato played a bit rough for her older female pit.  That he was afraid of loud noises too.  Fear.  Fear is rampant among dogs these days.  I noticed his flat buckle collar was on his neck pretty tightly.  I guessed he was prone to slipping his head loose by way of backing out of the collar.  All those things mattered little to me though as he took my touching so well.

You see, Dear Reader, when I touch a dog I am communicating to them on a primal, instinctual level that is familiar to all canines (and to the majority of creatures on the planet).  This is so much more important than training and behavior modification!  Touch is the heart of dog language, it goes into energy, space, and how all dogs interact and build relationships.

Cato was a sweetheart.  A heavily muscled, cropped-eared, strong-jawed pushover.  Because he received touching so well from me, a stranger, I knew he could get over those fears and I knew he would make for a great family dog.  Jokingly, I mentioned how cool I thought he was and “If you ever get rid of him just let me know.”  I finished my eval/training session and merrily went off to my next appointments.  (Special note: if a dog training company has time to offer Free evaluations typically that clues us into the fact that they’re services are Not in demand, or they’re planning to pull a big upsell on you, or they do their alleged “training” only part time = I’d typically steer clear of these companies/people when searching for a quality behaviorist/trainer but bear in mind there are always exceptions to the rule)

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Shoulders for days

Well, life has a way of handing us what you put out into the atmosphere and within a couple weeks we got a call about the possibility of us taking Cato or at least fostering him until a suitable home could be found for him.  His owner had hurt her hip (apparently unrelated to Cato or the dogs) and the doc was telling her it would take a while to heal up  and since I had mentioned to her to let me know if she ever got rid of him…

The bride and I had a fitful night of back and forth and other low-minded indecisiveness.  I did not enjoy it.  I liked Cato but weeks later I was purposefully and intelligently thinking of things that would potentially disqualify him from entering our home.  You see, Dear Reader, we should all use our heads as well as our hearts when it comes to rescue and shelter dogs.  We must consider our lives, and our children, and our schedules wisely.  In this way we can foment growth both in our home and family and in the new dog.  I was thinking of all the potentially terrible happenings that could occur if/when we took in a two year old, powerful breed, shelter dog and things went sideways because my first responsibility is as a husband to my wife and a father of four young children and then as a dog owner of my older boxer, Rambo.  If more people thought this way instead of rushing out with emotions blazing perhaps dogs in the rescue world wouldn’t have such a bad return rate, or bite rate, or as many behavior issues.  Maybe shelters and rescues (very well meaning) should stop lying or at least hiding the truth about certain dogs’ temperaments just to up their monthly and yearly adopted dog numbers!  Many rescues do this.  It’s a sad truth.  Many dogs should not have gone out.  They were unready for a home.  I see the rest of the story.  I see the bites on children.  I see the bites on other dogs.  I hear the stories direct from our clients of the bites on unwitting and unequipped dog trainers and behaviorists they hired prior to using our unique services.  I see neurotic dog after dog after dog.  It’s time to stop listening to sappy commercials that purposefully manipulate your heartstrings and utilize both your heart AND YOUR HEAD when contemplating bringing another dog into your home.  By all means love the dog.  Love it fully which includes leading it.

Tune in next time for the Part 3 of 4 of Cato’s story and for more tips about dog language and about rescue dogs and their proper care and handling.

For more reading in the meantime please sample my books on Amazon.  Simply search Garrett Stevens or search Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety

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I know, I know, we need to clean our floors. They are especially messy because the new home we moved into had giant holes in the back yard from the previous owner’s dogs digging like mad. This spring there will be much grass planting going on.

-G