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

 

 

In search of Bigfoot

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We’ve heard the stories.  We’ve seen the footage.  We’ve heard of the legendary Sasquatch.  We’ve watched Harry and the Hendersons.

In a philosophical (or comical) way maybe we are all looking for Bigfoot.  I know many of the masses of good people out there are sure seeking desperately for something to help connect them to something more primal and natural.  Folks are looking to still remain connected to mother nature particularly in today’s digital age.  A digital age in which we are much more “connected” but much less real.  We live currently in an age of information (and mass propaganda and misinformation) and “communication” overload.  An age where actual natural and honest communication and real face-to-face interaction is rapidly shriveling away!  I see the same trouble in the dog behavioral world.

Friends, I can honestly say you’d have an easier time discovering Bigfoot than you would finding a good solution to your dog’s behavioral issues IF you’re attempting to use mainstream, typical obedience training!

Did you know that trainers and behaviorists and vets who encourage typical obedience are the main foe of calmness in most of our dogs and pups? Let me clarify…

If you examine the history of dog training and study it down through the ages you would find most of it doesn’t really apply to today’s house-dogs.  But almost every local company I know of today is still using these same exact cookie-cutter methods!  Almost all “training” and “behavioral modification” is based in excitement and the usual methods would have us raise our energy (and our voices) with or at our dogs.

We’ve all heard and many times even used the all-too-common phrase, “Give the dog a job to do.”  Or, “This breed really needs a job.”  I’ve even used that phraseology and thinking in the past but it is now high time we move on!  It’s high time we realized our house-dogs are retired!  And it’s OUR job to help them understand we want them practicing “retirement level” energy!  Our house-dogs need to learn to sit back, relax and enjoy their lives by keeping their energy under control!

Calmness and Relaxation should be top priorities for Every house-dog! Get rid of “typical obedience” and “training” and develop a relationship where you can control and calm your dog’s energy so they can learn to go with the flow and be calm and social.

Please believe me when I say you can throw all the agility, herding, and other “jobs” you want at your problematic dog and it still will NOT fix or cure aggression, or fear, or anxiety.  Real communication, and a relationship with energy control and spacial control are what matters in preventing or curing behavioral issues.  If you don’t have that type of relationship with your dog you’re just out spending your time and energy looking for Bigfoot!

Don’t forget to click to “Follow” this fine, entertaining, humorous, educational, doggy blog!

-G

Group classes for dogs can make your dog’s behavior WORSE!!!

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Let’s say, for example, you just received a new, cuddly, bundle of furry energy.  Whether it’s an 8-week-old puppy or you welcomed a cute, scruffy-looking, rescue dog into your home the next logical step besides getting all the required vet bills out of the way would be throwing them into a group class, right?  That will stop your dog from become Cujo, correct?  Group sessions around other pups will mold your young pup into a wonderful, social, well-mannered dog, right?  That is what Socialization means, isn’t it?  WRONG!

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

When will we ever get this stupid notion out of our minds?  This notion that Group classes are just standard operating procedure and that if we attend one our puppy will grow up to be happy, healthy, and well trained and social.  We’ll get rid of the notion probably as soon as the giant dog supply chains (who also double as “trainers” and who happen to have all the treats in the world to sell to you in order to “train” your dog or pup) end up going out of business. Which will never happen because many of us (as humans) just may be mindless zombies who, instead of supporting local training, grooming, and local treat companies, have to take a walk into what is the equivalent of Walmart-quality dog training at your local super pet store and then have to sign up for group classes! Please understand me, I shop at Walmart occasionally but whenever I do so I know that there is a pretty high chance I’m not getting the greatest quality or service of whatever I’m shopping for.  And I’d like everyone to know that this analogy is strikingly similar to what is happening in the dog training world with these giant companies.  Please hear me…If you want the cheapest of everything than you’ll get the weakest of results behaviorally speaking.

In this post we will examine the pros and cons of putting your dog or puppy in group class training.

The one pro of dog obedience group classes is that occasionally the dog can learn some “typical” and “regular” training out of the class and get a bit more social at the same time.  You can use the distractions to strengthen your “sit” or “stay” or “down” or “come” or heeling skills.

My question is Can’t you do the same exact thing at a busy park nearby?  Can’t we do the same thing as we walk our pup through Home Depot or Mud Bay?  There are pros to the group class but please be aware there are several cons to the classic group class that the majority of humans never even consider!

Socialization does Not just mean getting your dog or pup into a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than that.  In fact it is one of the most important thing in our dogs behaviorally speaking.  Socialization is the continual process of exposing our dogs to new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds.  Socialization is the active quest to cram in as many different experiences as possible so our dogs learn how to follow our lead and how to handle new or stressful situations without triggering a fight/flight response.   Socialization is more than a small time frame that occurs during the first few weeks of a pup’s life. Socialization is all important.  The more social a dog is the less behavioral issues a dog will suffer.

The more “typical training” a dog has will NOT necessarily prevent or diminish behavioral issues!  Have you ever wondered why you have to take puppy class 1, then if they can sell you, you’ll be taking puppy class 2, then basic 1 or basic 2, then basic 8 then possibly graduate to advanced 1 or 2….et cetera…? It is because it has little or nothing to do with your education as far as canine language is concerned. It has everything to do with just selling you more classes!  Group class trainers usually don’t care that much about getting you the very best for your dog or pup because group training is not and can Never be the best form of training.  And it certainly cannot solve most behavioral issues!  Here is why it cannot be the best for puppy or dog:

1.  Group classes are extremely unnatural. Your dog or pup will be overexcited . And because your dog or pup is overexcited you will need to work extra hard just to get it’s attention. This means you will have to either increase food rewards (which almost always leads to excessive bribery) or, depending on the trainer and the owners, you will have to increase more discipline and corrections in order to gain the dog’s attention. Are you starting to see the problem?  Never mistake excitement for happiness -especially in an animal.  All of the creatures on earth teach their young that calmness and energy control lead to surviving and maintaining unity in the family.

As an intelligent human you shouldn’t actually need anymore reasons than this first one but I’ll give you a couple more…

2.  In a group setting you will have people and dogs at different levels of learning and handling skills.  Many times the group class will advance only as far as the weakest link is advancing.  Group training cannot be custom tailored to fit your specific needs or your dogs specific issues.

3.  Group classes have a set curriculum that always involves more “typical training.”  You go there and will do “sit” exercises for the first hour.  The next week you attend the group and you do the “down” exercise for that hour.  Are you following me? And the week after – if you’re still attending and haven’t died from boredom – you work on loose-leash walking.  Your time could be better spent. Most folks who attend group classes are under the common assumption that if their dog or pup would just listen to them enough to sit or down or go and stay on their bed or come when called their dog would then stop disobeying, stop being hyper, stop being destructive, stop being dominant, stop being over-touchy, and stop being aggressive or fearful.  This is simply not true.  Regular or typical training never prevents or fixes most behavioral issues!  

This is a good depiction of “typical” or “regular” training. Most folks would find this impressive or wish their dog could do this but this is exactly the problem facing our society and our dogs…it’s fake! The dogs are clearly Not relaxed. They are maintaining focus on their handlers. They are doing perfect down stays. But they are not relaxed and that in and of itself is the single most important thing for preventing or fixing ANY behavioral issue! What happens when they are not being told directly what to do by their owner? That is the most important question.

4.  There is an even more unnatural trend occurring in group classes where several companies use partitions/dividers/separations if a dog is too hyper or aggressive or fearful to continue within eye-shot of the other dogs or people in the class.  This is ridiculous and will never work to fix your dog or pup’s escalated energy.  It can, in fact, make it worse.

Another crazy technique that I’ve heard some training company’s are now using is to back tie or tether the dog or pup to a post or the wall so the dog simply can’t reach the trainer or handler or person and cannot jump on them.  This is insane and will definitely make your dog worse!  Any trainer or behaviorist who knows even the first thing about dogs knows that if they are pulling on a leash or tether they are escalating their energy.  Anyone who knows anything about protection dog work or Schutzhund training also knows that back tying a dog is a great way to make them more territorial and protective – not less jumpy and calm!  Please beware horrible trainers!

Pulling creates more pulling! Notice the taught leash. Notice how comfortable the dog is pulling in his harness. Shocking, I know, but harnesses were designed to enable dogs to pull.  Never tether your dog or pup unless you want to increase territorial behaviors and work to develop a great heel to prevent excessive pulling.

5.  Imagine you want to start learning to play the violin.  You have two options.  You can start with a beginner group class where the teacher is instructing a few students and making everyone go at a similar pace or you can hire the best private tutor you can find.  Now imagine the great difference in how you play the violin and how much further you would come in a shorter time period studying from the master musician.  It is the same with private training sessions vs the group class setting.

6.  Dog owners who think “training, training, training” are actually much harder to teach mother nature’s calm, firm, relaxing ways to.  And their dogs are harder to teach also.  The dogs who have had a lot of “training” will keep trying to do sits, downs, shakes, etc instead of just learning to self-soothe and calm down and be social.  They act like robots instead of a calm, social, animal that has good energy control, self control, and is not selfish or dominant.

Private sessions, on the other hand, are totally customized to meet your specific needs in and around your neighborhood with real-life scenarios.  Group classes can never match up.  Never mistake real socialization for a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than any group class could ever be. Seek to duplicate real life situations in your training; that way you have real life results!  

I am not suggesting you don’t attend a group class with your dog or pup.  I am saying group classes are only one very, small part of your quest to socialize your dog and sometimes they are unnecessary and many times they even do more harm than good!  Don’t over do it with “training.”  Do not be fooled – group classes will never fix any serious behavioral or energy issues.

(PS – Sorry to keep breaking down so many major assumptions about dogs and puppies and how we as humans train them…but many training methods are simply not helping the owners and the dogs to achieve a natural calmness and a smooth functioning household. I feel it is my job as a professional to be as honest as possible in order to help as many people and dogs as possible.  Good luck in all your endeavors.)

Questions…?  Comment or Call.

-G