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.

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.

Be sure and subscribe to this fine blog!!!  Share this with a friend in need!

-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!

 

 

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Aggression in dogs: the possessive dog

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The large dog lay resting comfortably on his bed in the family room.  The kid approached quickly to grab a toy soldier figurine that accidentally flew then slid across the room landing near the head of the German Shepherd.  As the boy came closer to the toy and to the dog’s bed a low rumble began.  The family dog was growling at the child.  The German Shepherd tensed – frozen in energetic anticipation of the explosive action that would invariably be coming next in the dog’s primal ritual.  Would be coming next if the boy continued on his toy-retrieving trajectory unabridged.  Fur stood up on the Shepherd’s back.  The animal was stiffened and ready to strike!

Sound familiar?  I hope not but dog aggression is currently and has been on the rise in the USofA.  As the world turns and people grow less connected to nature and more connected to comfort, convenience, consumerism, instant gratification, and all the digital insanity…basically, as we grow more unhinged in our own lives, our dogs will reflect these growing issues back to us and sometimes even on to us or on to the unwary child, family member, friend, or neighbor by way of outright aggression!

Have you ever been bit, snapped at, or purposefully threatened by a large animal equipped with a tremendous amount of bite force and long sharp canines?  For most dog owners it can be pretty intimidating.  For me it’s just another day at work.

In my daily work (averaging five or six private 1 hour training and behavior mod. sessions a day) I am now seeing an increase in resource guarding and/or possession aggression from the dogs.  Resource guarding is exactly like it sounds –  the dog claims whatever it deems a resource!  This is highly problematic and can be and often is downright dangerous.  Possessive dogs bully people (or other dogs) into submission in that they cause them to back away from “their” stuff, or “their” bed, or “their” food, or “their” person or “their” body.

Friends, those “theirs” I just mentioned – they need to go.  They need to go and go quickly from the mind of your dog, otherwise you are just biding your time, waiting for the ticking time bomb to go off.  So many well-meaning dog owners are blissfully unaware of the dangerous creature they keep in their home amongst their children and spouse!  Because so few people know the dog language they cannot identify the INITIAL stages of resource guarding  and/or if and when they eventually do identify it, they take a poor course of action in reversing and preventing it!

At this point we must, if we are being honest (and I’ve heard that’s the best policy) also add that many a dog owner’s philosophy of dog ownership is weak, non existent, or in the least, not beneficial.  Some dog owners’ philosophy of ownership, care, and handling amounts to wishy-washy fluff and not much more – they take the jelly fish approach to dog ownership and care.  They may even expect the dog living in their home currently to act like a prior dog they had, or like a childhood dog that they knew, or like a friend’s dog.  Dear Reader, if this resonates with you please understand this sort of relationship is not living, acting, or working with your dog to your full potential or to the dog’s.  Success always requires intentionality.

Step 1.  Think about your dog and about what kind of leadership (if any) you are providing.

Step 2.  Develop a philosophy of ownership or examine and possibly alter your existing, most probably, sub-par philosophy to include the main theme that NOTHING IS THE DOG’S!  Yes, let’s repeat that.  NOTHING.IS.THE.DOG’S.

Step 3.  Contemplate WHY your dog, your loving, furry family member, should definitively understand that NOTHING in his/her wonderful life with you is really his/her’s.

Step 4.  You must begin right away, today, to claim your dog and not the other way round.  Guys, all older dogs know this stuff (why are we as humans so slow on the uptake?).  All we have to do is watch the mother dog and observe grooming rituals, greeting rituals, and other common interactions among dogs in order to easily identify and learn Who claims Who in order to then apply these techniques and movements by adopting them into our own lives with our dogs.  Begin with your dog’s body because every dog on the planet with behavioral issues (no matter what the issue is btw) is somehow manipulating the owner using their body and using yours!  (This does NOT mean rolling them, or hurting a dog in any way)  We must claim them and we must occasionally deny them free and unhampered touching on OUR body even and sometimes especially if it appears “happy” or “friendly” to you.  (Also, in the case of the skittish dog, your human body should NOT become a comforting pacifier if you desire a healthy relationship and if you desire genuine maturity with and for your dog).

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Imagine if your body was transformed suddenly into a dog’s body (like we see in the werewolf movies) and you were able to enter your home as an older dog…How would your dog greet you?  Rudely?  Politely?  Aggressively?  Fearfully?  How would your dog interact with you and touch your dog body and the space surrounding it when you sat down near or on the couch to relax?  Another question to ask yourself is…Would your dog’s biological birth mother (or any older dog for that matter) put up with your dog’s behavior as it applies to their bodies?

If you desire less possessive behavior from your dog – less resource guarding –  Then you’ve got to control who is touching who, and how the touch is applied, and when it is applied!  Please reread that last sentence like 50 times in a row.  It will help you.  It will help anyone who is open-minded enough to consider it.  Then you can begin all the other steps to continue treating resource guarding.

As you know, I could go on and on but I’ll end here.  For more info please read my books on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!, and So Long Separation Anxiety available wherever books are sold!

-G

 

Rex the Hero dog…the rest of the story

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

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

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Javier giving Rex some love while he recuperates.

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

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

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

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

Back to Rex…the good news…

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

 

HOT Listed book, Dog Myths, selling like hotcakes!!

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Stop the wordpresses!  Hundreds are flocking to their computers and hammering away on their keyboards feverishly in search of their own copy of Dog Myths!  Others are dashing madly toward their local bookstores and beating in the doors in hopes of reserving their own copy of this HOT Listed book about dog and human behavior!

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Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!, written by none other than Tacoma’s own dog disciple, Garrett Marcus Aurelius Godwin Geronimo Heathcliffe Nordheimer Danzig Embembay Stevens the VI, is truly in high demand.  Yes, yes, yes, folks, the book has recently been officially released and is on sale NOW!

 

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All joking aside though – hundreds have indeed preordered, Dog Myths, and, after reading just a few chapters and applying the incredible info, are already reporting changes in their problematic dogs’ behaviors! Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

Have you ordered yours?  We highly recommend getting one for yourself and picking up another one or two paperbacks for the other dog-lovers in your life (Dog Myths makes an excellent gift).

We can guarantee you haven’t read this sort of info on the dog-human dynamic.  We can guarantee you will learn more than a few things that could (if applied) greatly enhance the relationship between you and your dog which will help prevent or eliminate poor behavior.  And we can guarantee it is all based in natural communication that all dogs inherently understand (and NOT based in so much shoddy external motivation – such as bribery with food treats or harsh handling and overboard corrections like so many mainstream trainers and behaviorists and vets buy into and then sell you on!)  We can guarantee you’ll never view dogs the same way again after reading Stevens’ shocking behavioral book!  There’s one catch…please read it with an open mind.

Don’t delay.  Act Today.  Order Dog Myths  while it’s on Sale.

Go to Amazon (click the link in blue just above) or go to Barnes and Noble and reserve your paperbacks!

We await seeing your reviews of this fine book.

-G

Has your child been bitten in the face yet?

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Almost 5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year!  Half or more of those bites are on children.  And many of those bites are on the child’s face!  Dog-bite related injuries are highest in kids who are 5-9 years old.

This article will help to safeguard your own children or any child you welcome into your home and around your dog.  Be sure to teach your children how to act correctly around dogs because each dog is different and each is equipped with serious weaponry.  But first you have to know how to act properly…

If you want to allow your kid to manhandle your own dogs that’s your business but be forewarned… dogs don’t usually like hugs and when we wrap our arms around them and put our face in their face it can be taken as a sign of dominance (like when a dog wraps their arms around another dog to hump them) (or when two dogs get too tense for too long at a face to face meeting).  Hugs and kissing can make a nervous dog totally uncomfortable because there is no escape route in sight…which can quickly escalate from flight to fight!

 

A dog is all about it’s body.  I know you may think you are too (especially you gals who try to line up with whichever new Hollywood buffoon is gracing the cover of the magazines near the checkout lines) but however self conscious or self obsessed you may be about your cankles, love handles, crooked nose, chicken wings, mole or other blemishes it is nothing compared to the amazingly body conscious, furry, companion you’ve got lying next to you.

At this age all the pups are blind and deaf so you can imagine the importance the sense of touch plays as they fumble around and find mom, dad, milk, and their siblings. Touch, taste, and smell are a dog’s first senses.

Dogs do not have a spoken language like we do but that in no way means they do not have an amazingly complex language based in movement and energy.  The movements of their body, their energy levels, and who is touching who and when, where, and how on their body a touch may or may not occur- all of these little details are actually words in dog speak or the canine way of communication.

A dogs intelligence is a masterful blend of ancient instincts mixed with empirical activity and social manipulation.  They form habits after discovering what works for them.  If your dog is out-touching you or over-touching you be it a lick, a mouth, a nip, jumping up, a bump, leaning on, stepping on, nosing you or any other touching I’ll tell you clearly you are being manipulated and dominated!  Your dog thinks it is in charge of the routines and habits that run your life.  And your dog is absolutely right in this thinking.  He/she is dominating you even if it appears friendly or if the dog is desperately “in need” of comfort.  (See our blog posts about Dealing with a Fearful dog and Introducing a Rescue dog)

This article should forever change how we view our dogs because, let me tell you, they can be more manipulative and socially brilliant than most people I see.  A dog, through touch and social spacing, can have a human trained within a few short weeks.  I see it every single day!

To safeguard children and yourself from dog bites be sure to truly observe how touch and social spacing are the number one top priority for determining leadership and developing habits of energy control in our dogs.  Think like a dog.  Get out of your distracted, human head and live in the moment for a second or three to see what your dog is doing and how they are talking.   Are they speaking rudely?  Are they dominant?  Are they scared and threatening other people, kids, or dogs?  Are they hyper and taking it out on you and your personal space or your guests?  Are they constantly licking you or on your lap or hiding behind you?  If you answered yes to any of these questions you need help and not just the typically lame sort of help that most behaviorists and trainers suggest because no amount of “sitting, downing, staying, or watch me” is going to help solve real behavioral manipulation and the social one-uping that your dog is exhibiting.

Now ask yourselves if you were so unaware about how important a dog’s sense of feeling and touch is and how important a dog’s physical body is when considering behavioral patterns and sociability how on earth would a child be privy to such information?  Kids are bulls in a dog’s personal China shop because they will get right in a dog’s face.  Kids will pull a dog’s ears.  Kids will often smack a dog with any large item if they see the dog jump back and find that to be humorous.  Kids will attempt to ride a dog or sit on them.  Kids will drag a dog or pup around on leash.  Kids will hug the heck out of a dog whether the dog is their calm and friendly, already desensitized, old, family dog or some new terrified and aggressive rescue dog that the neighbors just brought home…kids will treat almost every dog the same based on their former experiences.

Teach your kids to ask before touching.  Teach your kids simple canine communication.  Teach them silence can be a big warning.  Teach your kids to be gentle and stay out of the dog’s face.  Teach your kids never to corner or trap an animal.

This is an image of what I would call a calm, balanced, and relaxed dog that is not guarding or claiming its backside. Notice the relaxed open mouth. The confident yet calm posture. The dog is not attempting to move away from the touching going on back there or move towards the vet menacingly.  This means some wise dog owner made sure their puppy or dog received ample touching when and where the owner wanted to touch…not just when and where the dog wanted it!

For those adults who believe that dogs just snap one day and go crazy I’ve got news for you.  Unless the dog is rabid nothing is further from the truth.  Dogs never just go wild and give no warnings.  There are always subtle warnings. In fact, usually there are warnings for months!  This does not mean the dog will send you an email, text, or prepare a Power Point presentation to let you know they are feeling uncomfortable and are about to bite.  The dog will not stand up like a human and speak out loud to you.  It means YOU might need to take some time to learn to read and speak your dog’s language better since you were the one who decided to welcome a domesticated predator into your home.

If you currently have a puppy I suggest you start to manhandle and over-touch it how and whenever you want every single day.  Please note, I did not say whenever the pup wanted or wherever they want to be touched on their body.  Half of good, early, dog training is denying them the touch and attention they want when they want it to replace it with a more correct social touch or spacing that teaches calmness but doesn’t let the dog or pup manipulate us.  Social grooming, touching and spacing is everything when communicating with an animal.  This goes far, far beyond treating them for frivolous tricks.  This goes much deeper into a real and social language instead of just “finding what motivates your dog” like the majority of trainers and behaviorists go on and on about.

Handling and touching of your puppy or dog will have several great benefits.  It will prep them for vet and grooming visits.  It will teach them not to claim any part of their body so that in the future they do not guard it.  It will make you look more like the mother or father dog and establish a more real and meaningful relationship as opposed to just having the dog manipulate and use you.  Handling your dog the right way will make the dog much more comfortable socially as it will learn the proper way to receive human attention and touching.  Your learn kids are loud, climb on things, roll on the floor, move fast, and will sometimes get right in their face to give them a hug.  Most importantly the dog will learn there are more options than just fight or flight!  By touching your dog or pup correctly they will learn to access the appropriate social, calming signals.

Protect your kids and desensitize your puppy or dog to touching and you’ll be doing everyone a huge service.  Need help?  Order my HOT Listed book on dog and human behavior (because I can guarantee you’ve never read anything like this book and I can also guarantee you’ll learn a ton about the intricate details where dogs manipulate their owners, their trainers, their vets, and how to calmly reverse those manipulation!) Here’s the link.  You know what to do…

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

 

 

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Dog fight!!! What to do when your dog is in a dog fight…

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What should we do when our dog is attacked? What should we do when our dog attacks another dog? How do we safely intervene? How can we fix the situation?

Dear Reader, here are some guidelines to consider concerning when dogs fight.

1.Stay calm.

2. Please re-read and actually follow rule number 1!  

If everyone involved were to actually follow my first two rules the world would be a better place for people and our furry companions. I bring up calmness because it would imply that you are operating with a clear mind and not one exploding with fight/flight adrenaline and excessive human emotions. If you aren’t calm you aren’t in charge. End of story. If you aren’t calm how do you expect to handle conflict resolution? If you aren’t calm whatever actions you take will just INTENSIFY the situation.

Example: Imagine if you were stabbed or shot and then as you arrived at the hospital the doctors and nurses were shocked, and yelling, and totally flipping out; some crying, some severely angered, others simply stunned or stupified. Would they be of much help to you? Also keep in mind most fights (dog or human) last a very short time (many just seconds) Panic never helps in any situation.

If we back track we would discover that you were the one who thought it was a good idea to bring a domesticated predator into your home.  A domesticated predator whose mighty ancestors still roam the mountains and plains and hunt, kill, and feast on prey animals up to 2000 pounds!A wolf from the Canyon Pack stalks an ailing bison at Otter Creek in Yellowstone National Park. (©Meg Sommers - click to enlarge)

 

3. Be prepared to take action.  Semper Paratus.

Being prepared is great.  Besides serving as the motto for the Boy Scouts and what Simba’s plotting Uncle Scar gave for advice to his minions of hungry hyenas, being prepared is never a bad thing. Attempt to be as aware as you can of your environment.  Our dogs are usually more aware of the environment than we are.  Up your game.

4. Proceed with caution!

All dogs are very quick (certainly quicker than people). All dogs can see movement better than you or I (due to the ratio of rods to cones in the dog’s eye). All dogs come equipped with a host of amazingly powerful jaws and large pointed teeth (you know, their “canine” chompers). Dogs are well known for their bite force and are used around the world by police, military, and private training companies for just this purpose. No need to elaborate on the mouth and teeth. All dogs have sharp claws too. I’ve been bloodied up many times in my day to day just from an aggressive dog attempting to grab me with their paws/claws!  Almost all dogs have fur (armor) that can protect them to a degree.

And the most important part of point number four…they have the inherent nature to survive. They don’t want to get hurt and will often end disagreements quickly if they can.  This means they will fight or flight if necessary but would typically prefer not to.  Dogs are highly intelligent social creatures who will simply and honestly disagree with each other.  Sometimes they use fight to do it.  So do Not take it so personally if there is a fight.  Just because you’re a human living in today’s instant gratification, ultra-convenience and entertainment-based culture does not mean we cannot be understanding in the case of our dogs.  Fighting is a way of communicating.  Because dogs are so social it also means that they have a fantastically peaceful nature and that in most cases means a disagreement will only last a few seconds.  Thank God.

(An exception to this would be dogs that have been conditioned to fight or are constantly pulling on the leash.  Leash pulling will always escalate a dog’s energy levels. In protection work we want a taut leash. In calming a dog we do Not want any pulling.  Learn to develop a great “heel” command where your dog walks loosely at your side.)

 

Now please take a quick look at yourself and see if you are equipped as well naturally to jump on into the fray and break up a dog fight. Do you have an incredible bite force? Do you have claws and fur and powerful sharp pointy teeth? Do you have more rods than cones in your eyes and although you cannot see color as well, because of the muted color scheme, you can detect the slightest movements and zero in on them? Do you have an inherent nature to avoid confrontation and get along with the pack family? Do you see where I’m going with this? Or maybe I should ask… Do you value your fingers? Do you value your hands? Do you value your legs?  How about your face?

5. To yell or not to yell?

If you yell it should only be for a moment and even then it typically won’t really do anything (barring the exception that your dog is somewhat well behaved and is not in too immediate danger/ is already latched onto the other dog) and yelling and emotional screaming or crying could just exacerbate the problem due to your addition of more sound energy!

6. Evaluating the fight…

If your dog is on leash and they are not latched (from biting the other dog) you can pull back. And quickly turn the your dog away.  If they are latched onto each other with a firm bite Do Not pull back as this will only tear the flesh more and could cause real damage.

7. Leave in control of yourself and your dog and don’t inadvertently cause a behavioral problem!  (Pay attention to this one)

If your dog is around a large group of dogs (at the dog park) calmly leave the area – After exchanging personal info at the scene of course – I would assume this goes without saying!  Unless the wounds are so small that they really won’t need any vet assistance.  I mention leaving because you don’t want more dogs jumping in because of the over-excited fight energy in the atmosphere (see rules one and two!).  If it is only your dog and another dog I would NOT suggest you leave the area right away as this can almost instantly cause a behavioral issue in your dog! Your dog could form a new habit and think that it was such a traumatic experience (even if it wasn’t traumatic and most times it is not!) based on your raw and foolhardy emotional responses!  If it indeed was traumatic -meaning a real fight that lasted more than a couple seconds with real puncture wounds (you know the ones, they look like a vampire bit down on your dog and your dog has many lacerations) – you should literally pretend for your dog’s sake that it was no big deal.  This is when you need to be strong for your dog and in control of your thoughts and your emotions.  (They say he who has self control is more powerful than he who controls an entire army)

Let me explain. Dogs live in the moment and can form habits extremely fast. I believe many animals can form habits faster than humans (we typically form then in 21 – 30 days). If you are presenting weak, ineffective, over-excitable, angry, pathetic, or any other imbalanced types of energy you can imagine this will literally be hurting your own dog psychologically. Dogs feed on the energy around them.  Dogs are also watching our lead.  And, honestly, if you’re crying, screaming, swearing, dancing around ineffectively, you certainly won’t help anyone -least of all your own dog.  Take this to heart.  Remember it.

All lead dogs in mother nature are the calm, cool, and collected type.  Dogs will not follow a hysterical, sobbing, out-of-control human even if they’ve had years of the typical “sit, stay, down” et cetera training. Again please see rules 1 and 2.  I’ve handled thousands of dogs over the long years and the owners tell me they “used to be fine with other dogs UNTIL they were attacked or until they got into a fight with another dog.”

8. Develop resilience and a tough skin.

Do your self and your dog a favor and Pretend Everything is Fine and handle the situation like a real dog leader would. Because chances are (and I’ve seen this many times) there is minor or no damages in many cases and the humans are all worked up because their two dogs had a disagreement. This does not mean you cannot honestly disagree with the other human about their dog but this leads into my next point…

9. Be polite to the other dog owner as best you can.

You get more flies with honey than vinegar. This is hard for most people in today’s unnatural, technology-crazed, fast food, instant gratification, selfishly-driven society. Manners are at an all time low. Be upfront and honest but try not to be rude.

Please imagine two somewhat, normal people and now picture their dogs fight for a few moments and now ask yourself this question…Do you think anyone of the people actually wanted a fight to take place? If their dog was the initiator don’t you think the owner would be concerned about the behavior?  Yes, some folks are jackasses but that doesn’t mean you have to be.  Let’s elevate the situation.

10. Don’t be a victim!  (this is a major issue!)

If you are the victim don’t act like it. Acting like a victim has never helped anyone ever in the whole history of the world.  If you are incredibly worked up you have that right but, again, it won’t do you any favors when interacting with the other owner. And what’s more, you may be inadvertently hurting your dog with all the Human Drama. Please check rules 1 and 2 just one more time. Eliminate all Human drama. It is unnecessary and a foolish waste of energy. If you are wasting energy what are you teaching your dog?  Now is the time to Calmly Lead.  Now is the time to show how you handle adversity!

If you have the dog that started the fight – settle your dog down by controlling the eye contact (this means breaking it away from the other dog) and spinning them away if you can safely do so. Some experts suggest grabbing them by the back legs and spinning them in a circle away from the other dog. Others suggest cold water or spraying with a hose.  And others say use a blanket to cover the dog and in order to safely grab it.  (I say good luck with all that.) Make sure to go and see the other dog (if the owner is still there and if you can safely do so). Make sure you see if there is indeed damage and what sort. Offer to pay the vet bills as this is customary and the right thing to do. Unless, of course, the owner doesn’t want to see you or talk to you (some clients tell me this has happened to them and the other party just yelled at them and briskly walked off. This usually means there is little to no injury to their dog and they just want to get out of the situation. Let them.) Don’t cause more human drama. However, if you can stay on the scene a bit this can help most dogs settle down and not go right from Fight into Flight.  Remember, we don’t want any new unsocial habits forming.  Just being around (at a safe distance where they cannot get at each other) even with the dog they just had the disagreement with while the owners correct and calm them can shockingly be beneficial and hammer home that sociability is the only way.

11. Prevention.  Prevention.  Prevention.

The best option is to obviously not let your dog get into a fight in the first place.  You can usually prevent dog fighting drama if you develop an excellent relationship with your dog, socialize the heck out of them but make sure you maintain the lead (remember that “heel” I mentioned earlier?).  And in many cases where the dog already has dog aggression you need to continue to get them out and about (cautiously) but the risk is worth the reward if you know what you are doing because deep down dogs are always ready to learn to be social.  That being said, if it happened to you or ever does please learn from the wisdom of the dogs and shake off stress and care, live in the moment, keep moving forward, forgive and forget, remain in control of your energy and learn to control your dog’s energy through efficient movements and proper spatial manipulation!  

Learn to read their body language. Do not allow your dog to stare at other dogs!  Do not allow your dog to throw it’s head over other dogs shoulders or neck when meeting or playing.  Be a tension calmer.  Many misunderstandings can be prevented if the dog’s language is fluid and the human owner also understands canine communication. Sadly many, many dogs are aggressive, they do pull, lunge, snap on the leash and off the leash and have a horrible dog language and do not know how to get back to a calm, peaceful place! And what’s worse humans trainers and behaviorists mask the real problems with surface level tricks and obedience that gives little to no regard to the cultivation of a healthy and prosperous relationship between owner and dog!  Seek professional help and someone with an excellent reputation for rehabbing aggressive, fearful, or dangerous dogs (remember, while almost all dog training companies and behaviorists advertise that they handle aggression and “speak dog” – the sad truth is that many Mishandle it.

True dog aggression cannot be fixed with treats and “watch me” commands.  It will not usually be fixed from attending a “Growly Class” (think for a moment how foolish the human concept of a “Growly dog class” is.  Dogs are social creatures who learn from other people and from other example dogs so why would I place my dog into a large group of other dogs with the exact same issue?)  Instead, get your dog extra exercise, structure and calming discipline, a great “heel”, proper house manners, don’t let him over-touch you or others, don’t let him escape petting or not come to you, and eventually you have to “jump in the pool” and get your dog more social and around other calm “example” dogs.  Whatever the behavioral question is… the only answer is more sociability!

Need help? Read my first book or give me a call!  I behaviorally rehab fearful and aggressive dogs with great success on a daily basis – and all WITHOUT food treats and WITHOUT harsh handling!  Order my HOT-Listed book, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!  Find out why it made the HOT List for so many weeks consecutive.  Find out why the dog training and behavior modification industry is largely crap, way behind in their methods, and honestly not that helpful when it comes to calmly rehabbing dogs with behavioral issues.  And then, after you are shocked, you will be educated, equipped and inspired in the beneficial ways of natural dog handling and I promise you…you will notice BIG changes once you begin applying even a few of the amazing yet subtle and simple techniques contained within the pages of Dog Myths!  In the very least read the free sampling on Amazon or Apple.

Here is the link.  Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! by Garrett Stevens

Keep it peaceful,

-G

Post Script,

Also be sure to sample my second book too.  So Long Separation Anxiety, can easily prevent anxiety in a pup, new rescue, or help to reverse it (and reverse problematic chewing, drooling, barking, jumping, escaping, etc) in a dog of any age!  Try the free sample!