Rocky the aggressive boxer: one of the first dogs I ever trained professionally

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Rocky was a large male boxer.  Powerful, stubborn, hyper, and completely neurotic.

Rocky’s owners could not take him for a walk.  He was out of control.  He would pull, lunge, bark, leap in the air, snap at all manner of things – up to, and including, people.  He was nervous about everything…wind chimes, people, cars, birds, cats, trees or leaves blowing in the wind, other dogs, and a host of other common, everyday things.

A skilled Rookie

This was my earliest and first official “dog whispering” session at a client’s home.  I say whispering because whenever I deal with problematic dogs and need to help alter behavior naturally (by infusing calmness mixed with normal societal rules that apply to dogs and humans) I would hardly ever choose “training” (no matter how advanced).  Dog training is usually a terrible idea when attempting to prevent, reverse or eliminate poor behavior because dog training in essence is just the addition of obedience and tricks and often in exchange for payment or punishment.  Thus dog training (even done well) does NOT mean it will subtract problematic behavior!!!  (I fully understand this info may be shocking to many of you.  But it’s true nonetheless.  Let’s continue.)

I decided I was going to take Rocky for a walk.  The walk would be an attempt to get him to heel (walk loosely beside or slightly behind me without lunging and attacking anything).   I wanted to get him heeling so he could bond more naturally with me, burn off excess energy, and learn to follow me and then his owners.  The owners wanted to be able to walk him normally without all the insanity and aggression, drama, and without the public embarrassment, the outright danger and liability, and the excessive wasting of the dog’s energy and the frustrated owner’s energy.

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This is not Rocky but he was a big boy

The dance begins

To start I had to somehow get in the door without being bitten as this was also another of Rocky’s many issues.  Rocky was territorial.  He loved his family but was dominating everything he could and doing it out of nervous over-excited energy.  I tried to remain as calm as possible as they greeted me at the door with Rocky right there.  Please keep in mind, Dear Reader, that I did not know nearly as much back then as I do know but was “jumping in the pool” and taking a risk.  As I look back I realize that it was quite a risk I took because this dog was an excitement junkie hooked on fear and aggression.

Learning to Ignore is powerful stuff

He lunged for me as I came in the door but his owner had him on leash and pulled him back.  I went into introductions all the while attempting to ignore the threatening and aggressive body language of the dog.  Ignoring a dog can be a great safety measure when dealing with certain displays of aggression, fear, and escalated energy.  The ignoring is a method learned from watching older dogs and how they handle and raise younger pups.  It is the puppy who acts excited, foolish, and is initially an energy-waster.  That excitable behavior is the total opposite of how a more mature, socially-adept dog would enter a territory or meet another dog or pup.  This statement should instantly bring to your minds the question of how you meet and greet other dogs or puppies that you encounter, and also consider how the trainer you may be considering meets and/or greets your own dog or pup!  This can be quite telling.  Are we acting calmly, like a leader?  Or are we imitating and acting like puppies ourselves?!  Are we pumping up the dog or pups’ energy?!  If so please keep in mind that that is very poor leadership on our part and completely opposite of nature’s way!

Continuing…I was able to come in the door without getting mauled.  We spoke for several minutes on how to calm and lead a dog, mother nature’s way, the differences of dog training and dog whispering (for those readers that don’t know, I can do both methods but dog “whispering” or whatever you want to call naturally communicating calmly through space and energy -if done correctly- is much more natural, calming, and beneficial for the animal and our relationship with it and it always succeeds socially where other forms of training and behavioral mod. do not!) We spoke of other useful info all while Rocky was on leash and close by yet not close enough to bite me.  I was purposefully stalling as I gave all the vital info concerning their dog and this allowed him to calm down and deescalate.

Stepping up to the challenge

Then it was time for me to conquer fear, test my skills, and take the beast outside!  I asked that my clients initially just watch from the porch or stay inside altogether because Rocky was at a high level of aggression.  He would act worse if his owners were around or watching him and he would use them socially as backup for his manipulations and misbehavior against me – basically, he would get more aggressive with me and any others we encountered.  (Dogs are skilled manipulators of their owners and, in particular, their owner’s emotions and eye contact.)

Getting Bloody

I remember when I went to take the leash from the husband, Rocky kept lunging up in the air in a wild attempt to bite my hands and arms!  When I took hold of the leash (and my destiny for the next several years) his claws raked and scratched me as he clutched onto whatever flesh of mine he could find.  He was flailing and attempting to bite me and bite the leash or whatever he could get his teeth or paws on!  This may not sound like much to many of you but I have had scars that have taken close to a year to heal up just from a dog’s gripping claws!

Those babies can do some damage when they’re frantically wrapped around your bare arms!

Today when I look down at my forearms and hands I don’t see any scars from Rocky’s claws.  There is, however, one small scar from his teeth under the fleshy part where my right hand meets the wrist!  I remember my blood was flowing freely on that session.

I continued to let Rocky waste his energy as he attempted to bite, snap, nip, scratch, throw himself on the ground, bite the leash, and twist like a whirling dervish.  Some time later I felt he was calm enough to begin the walk.  This is another point in time where being extremely sensitive to the dog’s body language and energy comes into play.  You have to be super observant and patient yet active and willing to push the envelope.  We need the dog to go beyond the fearful or neurotic comfort zone.  Fortunately for me I’ve been an extreme animal nerd my whole life and have a well developed eye.

Animal nerd 

Growing up I lived in Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, and Maryland. Very different states with different animals.  I was able to catch frogs, toads, mice, lizards, snakes, turtles, and of course we owned several dog breeds over the years, many differing reptiles, some amphibians, a couple cats, and the occasional bird or rabbit.

As a child my first official pet was a box turtle named Speedy.   I got Speedy when I was around five or six years old.   My dad drove me to this run-down home that was converted into a too-cramped pet shop in a small Maine town.   It was jam-packed with creepy crawlies and furry bodies around every tight turn.  I was fascinated.  I remember seeing some python or boa almost bursting the sides of the dirty glass aquarium it was in, a raccoon in a wire cage, a skunk or two, and of course, loads of birds and reptiles.

Looking back, I can now say that Speedy actually had a great effect on the course of my life.  To my curious young mind this animal perhaps was a left over dinosaur that I could handle and study.  I clearly remember feeding him raw hamburger, bananas, strawberries and other salad stuffs.  I picture him walking around our apartment in Maine so many years ago.  I recall misplacing him once and then discovering him later in my clothes closet.  Upon his death we buried him in an empty Girl Scout Cookie box.  I still hold the opinion that his casket was just a bit too small but it was a great memorial service to honor a unique pet.

This imposter will have to suffice. I don’t think I have any pics of the real Speedy.

 

Working for a living

When I got my first job at fourteen it was at a pet store.  Clara’s Tropicals: a small pet shop specializing in tropical creatures in Maryland.  The first thing I ended up bringing home was a juvenile green iguana.  I named him Sam.  A few years later I had acquired another. Sam and Max were kept within a hand-built, custom, six-foot-high cage.  I’d make them a salad everyday.  As the years went by my animal collection and my knowledge grew.  I added a friendly Pac-man frog named Newton.  (Most horned frogs are not friendly.  They are an interesting species of frog that actually bite people and have teeth!  This actually makes them very unique as most amphibians do not.)  Newton was the bane of many a goldfish.

My second job was also at a pet store.  House of pets.  This store was not nearly as nice as Clara’s but I got to mess around with and care for caimans, tegus, monitors, rats, boas and pythons, chameleons, turtles, ferrits, and several other critters.  I was learning a ton about animal husbandry (through self education and intelligent observation) and occasionally handling some serious animals that did not desire to be handled by anyone.  Some of the caimans would snap at you if you weren’t careful and the tegu lizards and the monitors can be down right nasty!  There were some creatures I would only handle with gloves (Tokay gecko and a large green vine snake come readily to mind).

I also had acquired a bearded dragon named Roy.  Roy ate crickets like there was a coming famine.  We supplemented his diet with some salad and the occasional baby mouse.  He was very docile and I will, even to this day, recommend bearded dragons for those of you considering a lizard for a pet.  I know for certain there must be thousands of you out there reading this fine blog and thinking something to the effect of, You know what would really complete my life…if I only had a docile enough lizard sitting on my shoulder right now.  Well, now you know what my pick would be.

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A bearded dragon.

I was going to go further into the other animals and all the differing breeds of dog that my father would bring home for the family (usually free or extremely cheap and found from ads in the newspapers) but several of these pets did not last long in our house.  These intrepid animals would live with us often until they showed a problem or a behavioral issue was discovered and then they soon found themselves back in the paper and or in another home!   We never mistreated them but many certainly didn’t have too long of a stay with us.  Although this is not recommended for the animal  – it did afford me, during my childhood and teenage years, vast exposure to many differing breeds and personalities.  Due to the length of this post let’s just get back to Rocky the aggressive boxer and suffice it to say I was “good with animals” shall we?

A Dangerous Walk

We made quite a pair walking down the street.  After bearing the brunt of Rocky’s claws all over my forearms I was bleeding.  Rocky, after fighting me on leash and twisting like a crocodile going into a death roll, was heavily panting and frothing at the mouth.  I’m pretty sure his tongue had tripled in size.  Somewhere during all his rearing up and flailing, his teeth had snapped forward and cut my wrist.  I determined then and there that I was going to either bleed out or we could strive to have a normal stinking walk.  I would die trying.  We pressed on.

Utilizing good movements to stay away from his snapping maw and scratching claws I would patiently ride out Rocky’s explosive tantrums.  Whenever his energy needed a moment to rebound, we’d be off walking down the sidewalk as if nothing ever happened because I would instantly begin walking again making him heel.  There were several times he threw himself fully on the ground.  That was usually after he launched himself fully into the sky.  (bratty dogs will do this when they are used to controlling  their head and are not getting their way.)  I needed to walk him for his owners and he desperately needed to calm down and learn that the entire world wasn’t in his control and it also wasn’t that scary either.  So whenever he’d have an energy explosion and flop around and struggle like a prize Marlin on a line, I’d make sure he wasn’t able to bite me.  I’d ride out the storm and then, as quick as a jackrabbit on a date, we’d be off once again side by side like old chums out for a casual afternoon constitutional.  (Over the years I zero in on “where the dog is” at the current moment in it’s life and with it’s owners and “where it is” psychologically and then distinguish that from “where it needs to be” to achieve normal or calm balance.  This is necessary in order to achieve great results for both client and dog.  This sort of vision, I believe, is key for leadership in any endeavor or area of life in which one requires real growth.  The ability to move from “where you are” to “where you need to be” must never be undervalued.)

Eventually we were both tired and bleeding and sweaty (dogs do sweat despite what you may have heard.  They sweat from their paw pads).  Rocky had settled down due in large part to an iron will and decent dog-handling and we got through the difficult time all without bribing or beating (no need for positive reinforcement and no need for punitive either)!  He was heeling beautifully when we arrived back to the client’s home.  They were amazed.  I was happy.  Rocky was calm.  He was respectful towards me and now trusted me.  We were able to touch one another much more freely.  I would greatly build on this in future sessions with Rocky.

I then experienced a sort of glow, I suppose.   I’m not sure whether the clients noticed or if this sort of thing even shows from the outside or on my countenance at all, but  I’ve noticed this happens in my life internally whenever I am able to achieve something wonderful.  A burst of renewed energy (maybe joy) wells up within me.  I had done it.  I was a professional trainer, albeit very inexperienced, and had truly helped this dog and the results were plainly there for everyone to see.  It all happened within our first hour together.

Thanks Rocky,

-G

Remember to read my HOT Listed book on dog language and dog and human behaviors, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! by Garrett Stevens

 

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Dog Myths, my HOT Listed book

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Dog Myths has made it on the HOT List for six weeks consecutive!  So I have one question for you –HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR OWN COPY? 

Dog Myths (the false beliefs propagated by countless professionals in the pet industry and by billions of dog owners) can and will literally come back to BITE You!  Find the information you need (most of which goes directly against everything that is being taught by professional dog trainers/behaviorists) and discover the truth!  The truth will set you and your problematic dog or brand new puppy Free!

 

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The preorder sale pricing for my dog and human behavioral book will not last forever.  If you have Apple products order Dog Myths by Garrett Stevens on Apple iBooks/iTunes because right now it is on sale for just five measly bucks!  (It is also available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, etc, paperback versionsor online version)

This book is incredibly different from the majority of what folks believe and it is written by someone that people now drive hours and hours to see.  Yes, many of our clients are now skipping all the dog trainers and dog behaviorists in Seattle (you know, that small city) to drive down to Tacoma (the city of destiny) to experience the difference the natural dog language makes in the treatment of and removal of serious behavioral issues.  We have had clients come from Seattle and beyond.  They come up from Olympia.  They’ve even come three hours one way from Forks!  Curious to know why?  It’s because we are the anti-trainers!  Curious as to why it keeps making the HOT List?

Most training goes against Mother Nature’s calming ways.  Mainstream dog training and behavior mod is based in constant (immature) reinforcement.  I teach people that dogs are smarter and much more intelligent than all that.  If you have to constantly reinforce your children or your employees doesn’t that show a lack to maturity somewhere?  I’m hear to tell you it’s no different in dogs!

Most folks don’t know there are MORE than just two ways to work with an animal.  Most folks are also buying into whatever doggy manipulation their dog is rudely selling them.  In, Dog Myths, we detail concise chapter by concise chapter how sneaky our dogs and pups can be and how foolish the generally accepted training and behavioral modification methods are in comparison.  Then we go over honest, real-world solutions.   As I always say, No need to BRIBE the dog with Food, and No need to use harsh handling.  

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Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!, is so different.  Please drop what you are doing and order it.  Your dog or pup will thank you as you build a richer bond based on movement, energy, space, and the wonderful senses we all have access to.  This book contains a full rendering of our proven and super successful training philosophy (and shocking to many people “giving a dog a job” isn’t part of it!) Please do yourself a major favor and order this bad boy!

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Pick up a paperback or two (they make amazing gifts for the dog-lovers in your life) and discover why hundreds of others are discovering the dog language and how our human behavior relates back to our dogs in a brand new way.  Order Dog Myths by Garrett Stevens and welcome to the future!

Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

 

How to avoid the plague

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Bring out your dead!”

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

TO BE CONCLUDED…

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

-G

 

 

Fathom the insanity of a human being who teaches you that you can never disagree with your dog!

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People are nuts.  We are.  If you can’t agree with me that people are nuts please stop reading Now.

For those that can recognize that as humans we are a bit crazy I want to direct your thoughts towards this current crazy time in history.  This interesting time in our lives where we find we have several thousands of professional dog trainers and professional behaviorists that actual teach and want to keep teaching you (as the owner of your dog) that you shouldn’t ever disagree with your dog or pup!  Think about that for a second.

What have we come to?  How has it come to this babying, this coddling, this ridiculously imbalanced and greatly disconnected, poor-excuse for a relationship with our dogs?  How and why do so many pet pros talk dogmatically with 100% absolutism (and quite ferociously toward anyone who might disagree until they are shouted down) about the evil of corrections and that you should never “force” your dog to do anything?  I encourage you to take those questions ponder them honestly and then consider and ask why we also currently have a terrible dog bite record (dogs attacking humans and attacking other dogs) and it’s been steadily increasing for the worse!  I know the two are deeply connected!

 

Don’t just go with the majorities opinion on this topic of disagreeing with your dog vs positive-only and force-free methods.  Please THINK for Yourself and come to your own conclusions.  Examine history, examine the stats, examine the methods of different pro trainers and behaviorists (and especially note and examine their results) and most of all… examine your own dog and the history of dogs and how dogs think and how they experience the world and how dogs communicate and behave.

Then ask yourselves…would the mother dog or father dog constantly bribe their pups with food treats?  Would they constantly attempt to condition them or would they seek to build a healthy relationship based on the dog language and respect and trust and manners (not frivolous tricks and obedience commands)?  Would the parent dogs ever disagree with their young?  Have you as a parent ever had to disagree with your own children?  Was it beneficial in any way?  Did you overdo it or under-do it?

 

What is lacking in our current culture is the balanced approach to disagreeing and so the pathetic “positive-only” dogmatists (who aren’t really that positive in their own lives) scream and shout about how any correction, any disagreement, or forcing your dog or pup to do anything is totally wrong!  Let me tell you outright…this is hogwash and they are wrong!  It’s only wrong to correct or disagree if you are performing it wrong.

Dogs speak through movement, energy, smells, and touching. Most people I meet (and I do this non-stop) are woefully, dreadfully unaware of the intricate and marvelous language of our dogs.  They are woefully unaware because MOST pro behaviorist and trainers are horribly unaware!  The common pro trainer/behaviorist whole premise and approach to training is not beneficial and does NOT prevent behavioral issues from developing!!!

But let’s cut them some slack for a moment.  I don’t want to be too hasty.  Maybe these “professional dog trainers” and “scientific professional behaviorists” haven’t ever see older dogs and how they talk to and deal with younger dogs?  Maybe they haven’t seen the older, balanced dog correct and address the younger imbalanced one?  Maybe these so called “pros” haven’t ever visited a local dog park and observed the dog language?  Maybe they’ve been too long in the library reading about dogs or too long in the laboratory or in the classroom?  Maybe they haven’t had kids of their own or cultivated healthy relationships in their own personal lives?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that anyone who proclaims the “positive-only” approach or acts as a behaviorist and over-charges their clients because they used to work with dolphins is NOT keyed into the amazingly close and wonderfully easy and direct relationship available to us with our domesticated dogs and pups!

They say “Never force a dog to do anything.”  This is horribly bad advice!  I force dogs to do things all the time (and I do it incredibly gently and smoothly) and they end up thanking me for it!  And the owners are also able to soon witness their once terribly behaved aggressive or fearful dogs actually make good decisions.  They see it happen before their very eyes!

One example: I force the nervous dog into social situations and then ask it (in dogspeak) to behave itself (not just do frivolous tricks).  This is the only thing that will change the nervous dog into being social and normal and balanced.

I am a professional because I equip the owners and the dog and get them social extremely quickly all while expanding the dog’s capacity for more and more social situations and all without harsh corrections and without foolishly stuffing food treats down the dog’s throat non-stop and calling it science!  Yes, positive reinforcement is science…it’s OLD science and based on the external motivation of the dog and none of it’s internal drives and motivations!  I’m not even going to bring up the fact that bribing with food is also highly exciting and that over-excitement is the cause of every single behavioral issue any dog faces.  Food treats is not the natural way of parenting.  Bribing with food is how most trainers train WILD animals and that’s fine…but for our domesticated dogs…it’s crap!

Let’s all recognize that many humans are insane and let’s take measured steps to respect their beliefs and opinions, however crazy, but understand it is more than ok to adamantly disagree with their foolishness and to think for ourselves.  Your dogs and pups will thank you!

Seek out the natural ways.  You Can reward your dogs and pups but you Can also disagree with them too and sometimes “force” them into areas of their lives that their fears or aggression would never have taken them before your help!  Stretching the capacity and enlarging the relaxation is the name of the game!  Remember both rewards and corrections should not be the focus…A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP IS THE FOCUS!!!

Questions?  Call us!  And keep an eye out for my coming book…it’s gonna’ be epic!  And balanced with natural techniques and they will, of course, get you the best results you could imagine!  Forget positive or negative reinforcement and focus on being a dog parent.

-G

 

To correct or not to correct, that is the question?

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In today’s world filled with every conceivable type of information speeding to us from any and every source imaginable it is often hard to decipher which methods of dog training are beneficial to our dogs and their behavior.  We have all been inundated with info.  We have fat heads.  Our brains are overweight and in desperate need of an information diet.

Help!!! Information Overload………………………….

 

We need clean, wholesome, healthy information.  That means we must beware overeating any foolish bit of dog training info that is out there.  Remember, if a common dog training method is largely accepted and you are tempted to gulp it down please consider the many people stuffing their faces with fast food because it’s convenient, cheap, abundant, and also largely accepted!

 

Just because the majority believes in something doesn’t mean it is true or the best way.  Always seek the natural answer when dealing with an animal.

One hot button topic many would even consider taboo is whether or not we should “correct” our dogs or pups.  In this article I will give you a few good reasons to correct your dogs or pups.  Reasons that line up 100% with what the dogs teach us.  Reasons that line up with what any astute person can readily observe within a dog park, dog daycare, or group of three or more dogs.  Reasons that come straight from the dogs!  I will show you that corrections, if performed correctly, are extremely BENEFICIAL to your dog or pup!

First let’s cut through some of the crazy extremeness that exists in the dog training and behavioral community at large.  When one is in search of dog training companies or behaviorists or even vets please beware any extreme dogmatism where training is concerned!  Make sure the methods are based very specifically on domesticated dogs (not other random wild animals) and based on mother nature’s calming methods. And, above all, make sure the trainer or behaviorist gets tremendous results!

There should be no crazed high-pitched excitable human talk, constant giving of treats, or other foolish bribery in the dog or puppy training methods.  If you (or your trainer) act that way  – ask yourself, Isn’t that how a puppy acts?  And if a pup acts all hyper and high-pitched and over-excited then, Who is going to take the role of leader in your relationship?

I hate to break it to you but…Dogs correct other dogs constantly.  Mother and Father dog correct their young constantly.  If more people just looked at the dogs honestly they’d see correcting isn’t this horrible, debilitating and negative ordeal but is instead a great tool the older, social canine uses to instruct the younger ones, teach healthy boundaries, and help calm them.  This calming corrective beneficial behavior I’m mentioning can be observed anywhere!

In correcting there should be no expensive shock collars you need to purchase.  There should be no unnatural things you have to throw at your dog.  There should be no spraying them with anything, no tethering them to anything, no hitting them with anything, no yelling.  It’s time we get away from all that human foolishness. Calmness mixed with firmness and proper spatial technique is plenty.

Dogs are NOT wild animals and should not be treated like a bear learning a trick on a movie set or a dolphin doing a flip to earn a fish from a tourist in Hawaii.  Beware of trainers who only teach bribery and excitement as that is the opposite of how the mother and father dog would raise their young.  Mother Nature always teaches energy control and the older socially normal canines always keep a relaxed watch over their pups.  The mother and father dog (and any balanced, older canine for that matter) are not equipped with treat bags on their hips and do not use high pitched, lavish praise, when instructing their pups.  They are usually monitoring the energy (like a referee) in order to keep the peace and the lead dogs always attempt to use as little energy of their own as possible.

Dogs are not Dolphins and should not be treated as such. The bond is much, much deeper between man’s best friend and mankind than some slippery, flippery wild animal could ever dream

Corrections, if done correctly, are very beneficial to puppies and dogs just as they can be beneficial to growing children.  If you want to raise a healthy, well adjusted dog (or child) please don’t be an extremist that only trains with excitement and bribery and treats and don’t, on the opposite end of the spectrum, just dominate with harshness and constant physical “corrections.” Corrections should be calming to the individual being corrected!  Seek out a balance. It’s OK to reward but never to bribe.  It’s OK to correct but never to hurt.  

Here’s a wild concept: Why don’t we look to the dogs for methods on how we should deal with our dogs?  If we honestly observe them we start to see that a correction isn’t so bad when it is performed the way a balanced, older dog would perform it.  In fact, it’s fantastic!  I’ve discovered there is a whole art to it!  It is an art form based in movement, body language, space, and energy control.  A proper dog correction is the art of calmness!  And, shockingly, most times it doesn’t even involve a physical touch but is more outmaneuvering the wayward dog or puppy and then readjusting their body language until the animal is presenting a calm body position (NOT belly up) which then helps them calm their own energy and will always benefit the bond between owner and dog.

Learning to correct can be very simple and is shockingly effective in fixing any and all aggression, fear, dominance, hyperactivity, and many other behavioral dilemmas.  The reason that proper corrections should be learned and adopted by more trainers and behaviorists is that it lines up with exactly what dogs do to each other non-stop when they are surrounded by other dogs in order to keep the peace.  It is nature’s way and it is actual energy conservation.  Another huge reason correcting (when done properly – which it usually Never is) is fantastic is that it actually works and saves times and energy.  The mother dog uses ignoring or extreme focused attention and then right back to ignoring when correcting her young.  She is a remarkable energy saver.

Notice how the mom is walking away and all the pups are following and watching her…NOT the other way round! She walks away first. She ignores and they follow. She leads the way.

The ideal correction is a beautiful thing to behold because it keeps the peace, calms the energy, and seconds later, lets the game or activity continue on almost as if nothing ever happened.  It is never overboard or emotional and yet there is an intense focus to it when applied the right way.  It is always followed by calmness.  I sometimes equate it to getting a foul in basketball.  If you are a b-ball player and you receive a foul you don’t take it and let it get you down, you don’t play the rest of the game on pins and needles out of fear.  Hopefully you learn from it and quickly move on and get your head back in the game.  You don’t totally ignore the foul because you are aware that if you get 5 fouls you are out of the game and of no use to your team/pack.  So when a foul is called – You stop playing the ball game for a second, think it over, and then resume play.  It is exactly the same with a good correction that is perfectly timed.

Do you see what I’m getting at?  Giving a dog or pup a correction isn’t done to intimidate the dog or belittle it or prove you are a macho “Alpha”, it is done to help guide the pup.  A correction is not abusive it is good parenting.  (BTW never hang the dog, or roll it, or beat it, etc.  Most folks get corrections dead wrong!)  A proper correction should always be done to improve the animal’s spirit.  It makes for a better dog.  Like a sculptor chipping away at unnecessary pieces of marble you can chip away at mis-behaviors and unsocial habits in your dog or pup to reveal the true spirit and energy of a socially brilliant and beautiful animal. 

Apparently sculptors don’t need to button their shirts…it’s more artistic that way

Use spatial pressure and tension so that you can then release it and give the dog access to a self soothing calming signal.  If you aren’t correcting the right way your relationship is imbalanced in the respect or trust category and behavioral issues will be the result.  The guitar needs the right tension on the guitar strings to keep it in tune…too much is horrible, it pops the strings.  Not enough tension and you can’t make any music!  Learn to correct and you’ll have real resonance with your dog.

Our dogs desperately need the right corrections filled with just enough tension and pressure and then the right timing to release the tension so it will resonate and just like a guitar make wondrous music

Remember a correction should never create fear or aggression. We don’t want a pathetic, super-submissive dog.  We also don’t want a dominant, hyper brat.  The correction should get the dog’s attention.  When correcting you are attempting to cut off any misbehavior at the earliest identifiable outset.  This makes it much gentler and easier on everyone.  And if you can match their energy level you can communicate what you want or what you don’t want much clearer and more effectively.  This comes with practice, persistence, and patience.

If I  could sit you down and teach you the language of Dog (like French or Italian) the word for correct would be the same exact word for calm and the same exact word for claim.  Correct = Calm.  Correct = Claim.  Claim = Calm.

Your dog will always tell you honestly what it needs.  Let’s build a relationship with our dogs based on respect and trust instead of bribes or brutality.  Let’s make music!

Need help?

Give me a call but do so only after reading my HOT-Listed book on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!  (available wherever books are sold!!)

-G

 

 

 

A primer on the etiquette of butt-smelling

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In today’s complex world many of us forget to stop and smell the roses. However, “rose smelling” to a human, while important, is not nearly as important as butt smelling to a dog.  I’ve written this short primer on the art of smelling a butt.  I hope you enjoy it and that your dog can learn to perform this most vital of respectable, social, canine etiquette.

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Dogs are all born blind and deaf.  The primary senses are touch, smell and taste.  The unsocial dog over-uses vision and hearing and doesn’t enter the world of smell and taste enough!  This results in the unsocial touch or unsocial spatial manipulation.

If your dog has dog aggression or is fearful, skittish, anxious, nervous, or whatever other label you can come up with one of the main areas to focus on would be their butt.  I am dead serious.  The back half of a dog is what I like to call “the more social half,” or “the end without weapons.”  The astute observer of dogs and canine behavior can quickly see how important smelling a butt and getting your own butt smelled is as a greeting ritual in a canine’s social world and body language.

For the aggressive or reactive dog be sure to have already started a great foundation of heeling and leash work before attempting to get your dog’s rear smelled.  This means the dog should be able to walk beside the owner or handler and NOT in front and the dog should be able to keep the leash relatively loose while doing so.  NO tense, tight, or taught leash!!!  If you and your dog cannot accomplish this heeling feat and your walks are terrible please go NOW and order my HEELING and LEASH MANNERS VIDEO!  (That video is everything you’ll need to get you going on a great walk with your dog or pup.)

If your dog already has a decent heel started and can, for the most part, walk beside you and the leash is loose when there are no other dogs around you are then ready to help him/her begin to advance to butt smelling (Even and Especially if they do not want their butt smelled!).

Forcing a nervous or aggressive dog to get their rear end smelled is critical to behaviorally rehabbing the animal into a future of relaxed, and social interaction!  The relaxed and social interaction has to start somewhere.  I start with the heel and quickly progress to getting the dog’s butt smelled…even if it’s forced (meaning I’ll turn the aggressive or fearful dog around exposing his backside to the calmer, social dog who is attempting to greet the unsocial dog by smelling it).  Forcing a nervous or aggressive dog to do something it doesn’t want to do is the name of the game!  This stretches the dog’s capacity for sociability!

 

If it was up to the fearful or aggressive dog they would never choose to interact socially because they are probably quite comfortable with their shrinking social circle that includes manipulating and receiving unhealthy and non-beneficial human comfort or touching from the owner.

At this point many dog lovers would freak out and say something to the tune of “Never force a dog to do anything.”  To that I would say “Rubbish!”  Of course you can lovingly and calmly force a dog to do something.  Example in the human world:  I force my three-year-old to learn the rules of the road, to look both ways before crossing the street, and I may even physically grab him, if necessary, to stop him from running into traffic!  This is done out of love and to teach him how the world works so he can function without me one day.  The great reward for me as a parent will be a future filled with TRUST.  People don’t seem to understand they can have a similar relationship with their dogs if the methods are correct.

The skittish or dog aggressive dog will not go along with getting his/her rear smelled easily…so be prepared to turn your dog’s head away from the approaching social dog they are about to freak out on.  180 degrees is perfect when first starting.  Move as fast as you can to turn your dog’s head away and break the unsocial and aggressive eye contact your dog is giving to the approaching dog.

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Notice how comfortable this dog is in his harness!  Harnesses are terrible for helping a dog walk nicely and certainly don’t work to help control or calm a dog’s eye contact because there is no access to the head.  Don’t be fooled by the salesman trying to sell them.

 

(If this proves impossible for you or very difficult and the dog is still staring and presenting fight or flight at the approaching dog you may want to order our custom fit, strong, hand-made training collars…they work much better than any collar or harness on the market!  I highly recommend them for this sort of socializing and walking-work. To order go to my website below and click on the Custom Products page)

Control your dog’s eye contact – Do NOT let them reengage and stare at the approaching dog.  Control the eyes and you control the animal.  Then KEEP THE DOG THERE in that position.  They are forced to look away from the approaching dog and their butt is behind them where it should be and the owner has their head in the heel position looking away from the coming dog.  The butt is exposed and ready for smelling!

At this point your dog if skittish, or aggressive, hyper, or fearful, rude, or just young will flail about and do everything in his/her power to turn around and stare, lunge, bark or bite at the approaching dog.  They will do anything to get their weapons pointed and protect or hide their butt.  They will do almost anything to remain UNSOCIAL and UNSMELLED!

Stay calm.  Move fast but stay calm. Try not to even enter into what I call “the dance”: when a dog has too much leverage on the leash and is taking advantage of their owner and creating more space and lunging about and barking and snapping and leaping every which way et cetera.

Try your best to control the space in a very firm but very calm and commanding way.  Keep the dog looking away and in the heel position.  If you can do that relaxation and much more freedom is right around the corner for you and your dog.  Sociability is waiting to be found but in many cases will never be found because the fearful, skittish, or aggressive dog, like a drug addict, is addicted to fearful and unsocial habits and they quickly become masters of evading social greetings.  They hide their butt and never “shake hands” in the dog world.

This is why the caring human must take charge.  When we make a dog get it’s rear end smelled by another calmer dog we are in the very least introducing the nervous dog to half a handshake.  We are helping them with their own canine manners and greeting rituals.

Imagine how psychotic a person would be in our society if they refused to shake hands when meeting people!  Imagine if that person wanted to be successful but would run or fight or simply hide anytime a friendly person, coworker, boss, or family member stuck out their hand to say hello.  This is exactly what a huge percentage of dogs and pups do and shockingly the owners do nothing about it!  The dog is certifiably INSANE and cannot even grasp the simplest of social beginnings like a dog handshake/butt smelling and yet there is hardly ever the attempt made at forcing them to have an inkling of manners and just get it over with and get their butt smelled.  This inaction on the part of humanity is just one reason why in America each year 5 million people get bit by dogs!

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The wild part is that after a few repetitions where the nervous or aggressive dog is getting spun around and we are controlling their head and their hip and exposing their backside to smelling from other social dogs… they begin to relax!  They begin to calm down!  We begin to normalize what should have been (and would have been if their hadn’t been any humans involved from birth) normal social canine interaction.  The dog becomes less insane.  The human owner/handler becomes much more confident in their handling abilities and they learn to achieve calmness quicker and quicker with each repetition.  The formerly skittish dog soon only freaks out on other skittish or aggressive dogs and not on the social ones.  A few days or weeks after that if we keep the exposure up they usually don’t freak out on any dogs!

This is critically important information.  Please take a moment and SHARE this article.  If you share this you will most definitely be doing your part in helping an incredibly large amount of dog and puppy owners with nervous, skittish, or aggressive dogs that are in real need.

It’s time we do things the dog’s way and get great results.  It’s time to get those unsocial dogs smelled!  It’s time for owners to have the courage to stay on the same side of the street they were originally walking on (not hide or flee when they see another dog coming) and look at the approaching dog as a learning opportunity for their own crazy dog!  It’s time for action.  It’s time for speed.  It’s time for calmness…..then…..and only then can you finally have trust!

Imagine trusting your dog enough to walk by another dog.  Imagine trusting your dog off leash.  Imagine trusting your dog at the dog park.  You can get there.  I can help.  Start with “Heel” and then jump into the social adventure of getting your dog’s butt smelled!

-G

more info at  gstevensdogtrainer.com

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Introducing a Rescue dog to your home

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When introducing a Rescue dog to your home it is important to remember not to listen to your instincts.  As a human being in today’s society your instincts are probably wrong, greatly dulled, or, from excessive TV watching and or drooling over your phone, just plain non-existent! The common person’s instincts when it comes to dealing with nervous, anxious, aggressive, excitable, hyper, dominant, or an otherwise imbalanced dog are, in the main, dead wrong.

And believe me, you may think your new rescue dog is a, “real lover” (meaning the dog constantly loves to receive attention and be patted or pet and gets up on your lap or stays right by your side, or licks and kisses you often) but to me that’s a clear warning sign…Proceed with caution!

 

Most rescue dogs are on their very best behavior when they are put into a new home.  Keep this in mind and enjoy the short interlude because after three or four weeks (sometimes sooner) of living and getting accustom to the home environment the poor owner is suddenly confounded and befuddled when their, “precious, lovable, new, furry, family member,” decides to growl at someone in order to claim something in the house, or suddenly develops housebreaking issues, or is acting more nervous and fearful by the day, or starts to bark or guard the front door from any and all visitors and loved ones, or starts to act insane on leash, or, perhaps the most sinister of all, just starts to slowly but surely dominate and manipulate any and all things to his/her doggy advantage.  Many dogs do this before the human is even aware of what’s going on!  Soon the dog has out-touched, out-maneuvered, and in general just outdone (dominated) the human being.

You thought you had a, “real lover” on your hands and so you decided to keep up the constant petting, baby talk, and giving of treats to bribe your way into a cozy relationship with your new rescue dog… you didn’t realize you were feeding and reinforcing a state of mind dominated by Fear.  You were unaware how intelligent and manipulative this furry creature could be.  This happens on a daily basis across the world!

The human, after seeing a singing Sarah Mclachlan commercial and feeling awful (weak energy!) goes out and decides to make a difference in at least one animals life.  And then the downward spiral of manipulation begins.  The human didn’t even know the dog was that fearful until something in the environment finally triggers the fear.  Or, if the new owner did recognize the fear they do the one thing to make it infinitely worse and give the fearful mind what it wants…the ability to remain fearful!  They let the dog use them as a comfort blankey 24/7!  The rescue dog then continues and sometimes increases the use of unsocial fight/flight habits mixed with escalated out of control energy levels.

Here are some Don’t and Dos that will really help you…

Don’t label and keep the “rescue dog” as a victim for very long.  Let the dog move on…basically Don’t live in the past and use weak energy with your dog. (See my other post on, “Dealing with a fearful dog.”)

Don’t let the dog smell the whole house.  Why would I give the new rescue dog access to the whole house?  The dog should earn access to more rooms and levels of your home after a number of weeks.

Don’t let the dog constantly use you as a comfort blanket and always touch you or “love” on you.  This is probably the most important on the list.

Don’t let the new rescue sleep in your bed or any humans’ bed.  This can quickly lead to behavioral issues as many dogs may soon start to claim certain spots or the whole bed itself as their own.

Do exercise the hell out of the dog.  This is a great time to show leadership (work the heel position), drain energy, release stress, bond as a pack, and explore and socialize your new companion.

Do make the dog work for praise, affection and it’s breakfast sometimes.

Do make it clear that any and all humans are the owners of everything in the dog’s life including the dog’s own body.  This is a very important “do.”

Do follow my blog for more excellent and enlightening info!

And above all else…DO DO DO DO drop what you’re doing and order my book on dog and human behavior!  It is completely unique to what is being taught by the mainstream dog training industry and because of that – it is wildly successful!  Here is the link

Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! by Garrett Stevens

This book will forever alter the way you look at dogs and pups (in a great way).  It will help anyone with any aged dog with any problems.  Dog Myths is an absolute necessity for someone with a rescue dog.  Order two or three because after you read even the first chapter you’ll want to give it and share it with others in your life!

Feel free to leave questions or comments.  If your rescue is fearful or aggressive read my other post entitled “Dealing with a fearful dog.”  And don’t forget to go to my business website for some great products and other info  www.gstevensdogtrainer.com

Thanks much

-G