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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My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: A Rescue Dog Story – Part 3

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We decided to give Cato the Corso a chance to join our family.  I made absolutely sure to purposely scare my wife and children about this powerful dog with the skittish tendencies before taking him into our home.  I am under no delusions when it comes to what nervous, powerful dogs can do to children, other dogs, neighbors, or their own owners after the honeymoon phase (the first couple of weeks when a dog finds him/herself in a new home) is over.  I wanted this strong dog to understand he would have to adapt and fit in with our tribe – not the other way round.  Cato would have to understand he was last place in our family.  By the way, that is such a good place for a new rescue to be in.  When you’re in last place in a family group/pack all you have to do is fit in and follow.  In this way I knew the cares of the world would soon melt away from Cato’s muscle-bound shoulders and he would have a real chance at a quality life with my family and because he’d be in last place that leaves zero room for classic dog manipulation and one-upmanship to gain a foothold in the relationship.

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You see, as I mentioned in Part 2, every single day in our custom behavioral work to save dogs on their last leg behaviorally speaking (we often bat clean up when shoddy mainstream dog training and behavior mod. methods fail) I see the other side of the shelter and rescue industry…the ugly side of rescue that has no delicate commercials with weepy singing.  Every day I see and experience the side where kids have been bitten in the face, the side where dogs escape their yard and then attack the hapless neighbor or the friendly dog passing by!  That’s why I gave you my Touch and Go technique and also why I gave you a strong admonishment in Part 2 of our story.  Please heed my warnings or the next child that’s bit in the face or the next dog that is attacked might be your own!

My family, pre-Cato, was made up of six humans and one faithful, old boxer.  We had recently lost Bosley, our first boxer, to old age a couple months prior.  We decided to take Cato for a few weeks and see if he’d be a good fit with our family.  We piled all four kids into the minivan and drove over to pick him up from the lady’s house.

Initially Cato would not jump into the back of our minivan.  This well-muscled pantheresque beast was afraid.  His fearful posture kept him so low to the ground he was almost scraping his belly!  So instead of just picking him up and placing him in the van (instead of doing what most people would do) I decided to walk him around for a little while and let him bond more with me and then with my wife while he was on leash.  I purposely chose to take extra moments with the dog instead of just doing what was convenient.  I also kept talking to a minimum.  I believe those two things are important to note for any dog owner living in 2019.  While walking him I would frequently walk us back to the open rear part of our minivan and gently but firmly tug him right up close to the entrance.  He’d attempt to face away from the van and I’d make sure his head was facing the right direction.  This was a step I’d make sure to accomplish because in a couple reps I wanted him to be able to hop into the back of the van without me lifting him in.  So I’d walk him up to the rear of the van and then I’d sit with my butt on the edge of the van and adjust his posture to a somewhat normal/relaxed posture.  I accomplished this by petting his neck and jaw area and as I did so I’d gently push/lift his head upward.  Occasionally I’d slip a hand underneath his chest and belly area and lift his body upward too making him stand comfortably.  Then, before Cato had a chance to go back into fearful postures and a flighty state, I’d take the initiative and we’d walk away leaving the back of the van for a short time only to return a few minutes later and repeat the entire sequence.  Each time I did this Cato made progress.  This was done almost entirely without human talking.  (I highly suggest less human talking when working with a dog.  It is fantastic.)  Cato soon hoped into our van with a slight tug from the leash.

Let’s fast forward to his introduction to our family home.

Before ever stepping foot inside our house we had gone to grab breakfast at a fast food place and as my wife ordered for everyone I worked on Cato’s leash manners and taught him to heel in the parking lot.  After breakfast it was back into the van and on to our house.

I kept him on leash and had him heel around our property.  Heeling drains energy and also puts a dog in a follower role.  (There is a video I’ve made available for purchase all about Heeling and Leash Manners)  Draining energy and putting a dog in a follower role are both great ideas for most dogs – especially any new rescue dog.  Then I let him sniff around the front of our property and then around our large fenced back yard.  At this time we lived in a place I had named Stepping Stone.  It was a great house on an acre and had everything a growing family needed.  It came with some very nice amenities too.

To intro our older dog, Rambo, to Cato I had my wife walk Rambo out on leash and we took a long walk around the neighborhood.  Each dog was made to heel and walk parallel with the other.  Even though I knew Cato would probably do well with Rambo I still took the time to cover all the bases behaviorally speaking. IMG_3684

WHEN TWO DOGS ARE INTRODUCED TO EACH OTHER FOR THE FIRST TIME…they should be walked in the heel position with the owners.  (Ideally they’d be exercised already to take the edge off the energy)  The goal is to go down the street side by side and NOT face to face.  They should NOT typically be given free access to meet and go eye-to-eye and head-to-head initially unless you trust both dogs!   After a few minutes of heeling the calmest dog should be given access to smell the other dog’s rear end and then go immediately back to heeling.  Then, after more walking, the other/new dog (if ready and looking to sniff and NOT stare) should smell the calm dog’s rear end and then be made to heel again the next moment.  After a block or three and a few “rear end repetitions” they should be given access to smell all over (face-to-face too) while the owners are acting in a smooth, calm manner and making sure the leashes are relaxed and NOT taut.  Is that how most folks intro a new dog to their other dog?  NO but it should be!  If every dog owner followed this instruction when introducing a new dog to their home there would be way less dog-dog problems!

I’ll pause here and ask you to stay tuned for the 4th and Final part of Cato’s story…

-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

the Never-ending story: When dogs Fence Fight

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For most dog owners with dogs that “fence fight” it is a miserably familiar never-ending story of escalated energy, quick movements, ugly sounds, and foolish dog shenanigans typically played out in a corner or section of the yard whenever the neighbor happens to let their dog out at the same time the other dog is outside.   Fence fighting is a difficult issue to navigate for many owners because it is so unnatural and frustrating for the dogs themselves.  Nowhere amongst the various Yellowstone wolf packs is there a man-made fence wherein these wild canids can lunge and cuss back and forth at opposing, rival wolves with unrelenting abandon.  If a wild wolf has an issue with another wolf in its pack or with a rival pack it can deal with the individual wolf (or the entire pack) directly in wide open woodlands or on the prairie and, if the individual or the pack want to brawl, there is going to be a definitive winner and a clear loser.  Than, and this is important, life moves on.

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With fence fighting nobody ever wins.  With fence fighting everyone loses (dog owners and neighbors included) because the cycle repeats itself over and over as the pumped up and persistent puppy participants doggedly attempt to get at one another behind their protective, man-made enclosures.  So close to gripping and biting and tearing at each other and yet so far away!  (By the way many cities have ordinances stating dogs left in backyards are not allowed to bark for more than 15 minutes straight!  Be a good neighbor and a good dog owner and STOP your dog from territorial fence fighting and from boredom or anxiety-based barking in your yard)

In a real fight there’s real risk.  Risk can be good.  It can also be bad.  Calculating risk is what wise creatures do to survive.  A wolf or coyote only has so much energy/gas in the tank/ammunition per diem in order to survive.   Their choices count for much more than our domesticated dogs’ choices.  The wolf calculates risk.  The wild animal MUST make wise choices.  Their lives depend on it!  High Stakes.

The comfortable and convenient life of the modern domesticated dog (easy access to food, water, shelter 24/7) particularly in 2019 lends itself to more foolish decision making among our pampered pets.  Dog dignity is at an all time low because owners are basically off their rockers as they lavishly gush the softest of affection (and often not much more) onto their animals.  This allows for dog brats to rise up and take over.  Basically, our dogs can totally waste their energy on idiotic fence fighting numerous times a day and think little to nothing of it!  Zero consequences.  Our dogs don’t have to hunt in order to eat.  They don’t have to hike to a water source.  They don’t have to survive brutal winter storms.  Heck, they don’t even have to get along and employ team work and adaptability anymore in order to survive (which is the very thing that helped make them become dogs thousands of years ago)!  Dogs these days can act like morons in perpetuity, blowing their energy at the drop of a hat knowing full well that there’s a comfy dog bed inside and an owner that will hand them another high-caloric treat and loads of affection  if they simply walk back inside the house!  Is it any wonder more and more dogs are becoming insane?  Wild animals could never afford to muster and then employ all the energy that some dogs casually and consistently waste on fence fighting and frivolous barking unless it was for a real fight or during a dangerous flight for their lives.

Well, what’s the answer to this common dilemma?  I’ll start by telling you what the WRONG answer is…recalling your dog back inside.  Do NOT call your dog back inside to curtail fence fighting!  That’s like placing a Band Aid on a bullet wound!  It will not work for very long.  The next time you let your dog outside when the neighbor’s dog happens to be out there – guess who’s fence fighting again?  You’ve got the same problem day after day after day despite you calling your dog back inside.  But I should call the dog back inside the house in order to be a “good neighbor”, right?  Wrong.  Why settle for “good” when you can be a “better neighbor” and an “excellent dog owner” and actually stop the stupid behavior altogether?  Calling your dog back to you, FYI, is never a natural, dog-like solution in a situation like this because parent dogs go towards who they are addressing/correcting and the older dog will intentionally take up some of the problematic pup’s space.  This means you must move and get outside and stop the behavior where it is occurring in your yard.  You need to take away the space in front of your fence fighting dog.  Do you need to be harsh?  Not usually, but you do need to be firm enough to interrupt the dog at the exact moment in time when your dog is displaying high energy because he/she is in the very act of fence fighting.  You need to break your dog’s eye contact.  You need to respond in order to match your dog at the energy level he/she is at at that moment.  I often suggest turning the dog away if body blocking is not working.

  1.  Move with a purpose toward your dog.  You can yell one time if it helps (often yelling does Not help but experimenting is always a good idea when looking for the most efficient way forward).
  2. Upon reaching your dog and the fence you may have to grab the collar in order to break the dog’s eye contact with the neighboring dog.  If you cannot catch your dog because its rudely blasting by you and making a mockery of your discipline and a mockery of your physical prowess (or lack thereof) continuing to fence fight with the other dog then.. next time you attempt this step in the process… be sure to have the dog dragging a line/rope/leash (not attached to anything).  In this way you can step on the line and then pull the dog quickly into the proper posture.  The proper posture is one where your human rear end is facing the fence and the dog is backed away from the fence to make room for your body.  The proper posture is one where the dog is looking at you and not the other dog behind the fence.  (Do not pay the dog to look at you – there’s no respect in that) In some cases the proper posture is when you place the dog in the “heel” position next to you as you both angle looking away from the neighbor dog and the fence which are now (because of your actions) behind you.
  3. Allow a few heartbeats to pass so your dog can achieve a lesser level of energy.
  4. This next step is a rare and wonderful key to this method so please listen up…As you prepare to let the dog go (yes, you are going to let your dog go again and this will show your dog that you’re trying to establish a bit of trust in your relationship – it will also show supremely confident leadership on your part because it’ll look like you aren’t really concerned about the behavior – although you’re expecting it to stop – if you’re letting the dog go).  Begin to disconnect by standing up fully and looking away from your dog.  Your eye contact and denying eye contact is super important.  Then, let your dog go and start to walk back towards your house.  Yes – this may be shocking info to those of you with very reactive fence fighters but listen to me and do it – walk away as if the whole thing never happened.
  5. If it’s your dog’s first time being trusted and first time given this second chance (as opposed to being dragged inside the home or just recalled for some dumb food treat) your dog may turn and go right back into fence fighting. That’s ok.  Anticipate that failure.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Our goal here is that over the next few days your dog can “fail forward” as you intercept and interrupt the poor behavior and soon the behavior begins to greatly lessen in intensity and then the neighbor’s dog, even when barking its head off, begins to be almost boring to your dog.
  6. Day two looks much like day one.  Repetition is needed for both owner and dog.  Practice makes perfect.
  7. By day three when you go to stop your dog there should be a noticeable difference IF you’ve been following my advice to the letter.  When you go to grab your dog or go to grab the line that’s dragging on the ground you may not have to even touch or grab this time – so be ready to scale it back a hair.  Less is becoming more!
  8. Et cetera…et cetera…as the days pass the magic begins to work and you don’t come out the backdoor or off the porch as far into your yard.  Soon you only open the backdoor and yell out a parental warning to your dog and, after a bark or three, your dog stops and looks at you and you respond by instantly turning around and going back inside – teaching your dog that you expect it to be quiet and act properly and not escalate his/her energy in YOUR yard and that you are trying to TRUST your dog to remain outside and relax.  You are denying eye contact on purpose and showing real dog leadership.  If your dog heads away from the fence and comes towards your space just ignore it (do NOT praise or give attention to your dog).  Walk inside leaving your dog OUT because you’ve now achieved both respect for you and for your yard and the fencing, and you’ve cultivated some trust between yourself and your dog.  Nice work.

The technique I’ve described here really works.  If it doesn’t work for you then I would humbly suggest you are performing it improperly and your body and energy needs an adjustment.  Be advised, it is initially a difficult technique for some people spatially speaking.  Also, if your dog won’t listen to you inside your own house or is controlling who is touching who inside your home (and basically manipulating you) then there’s an enormous chance that the technique I’ve described here will NOT work for you outside because you have other relational work to do before you could ever hope to accomplish this type of “next level” spatial work outdoors between you and your dog.  All in all though, if you’re dog respects you and trusts you inside your home, the technique detailed here usually takes a week or two to achieve calmness outside in your yard FOREVER!  And often calmness can be accomplished even sooner!  The question is, are you willing to work hard for a week or two to win calmness for you and your dog FOREVER?  Are you genuinely willing to improve your life, your dog’s understanding, and improve your neighborhood?  I know plenty of people who sadly will NOT do the work.  I hope, Dear Reader, that you are different.

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-G

Questions?  Read my books, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety then, if you still have questions, let ’em rip as I’d love to help you if I can!