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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Are you playing the wrong way?

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I know it’s a wild question.  We figure that play is just a “free for all” helluva’ good time with our dogs and pups, right?  WRONG!

Let’s pause for a brief moment and try and think back to any of the educational nature programming you’ve watched on predators (in particular mammals).  Can you recall ever hearing how the wolf pups, or lion cubs, or cheetah cubs (etc) were playing to learn, to reinforce social bonds and positioning within the family group, and playing to practice critical hunting skills they’ll need when they are older?  If you cannot.  I certainly can.  In almost every one of those Nature, Discovery, or Nat Geo programs those lines would be mentioned when considering how the young predators played.  Play, as I’ve mentioned before in this fine blog, is critically important to intelligent creatures.  Let’s take a deeper look and see what we can apply to our dogs to enhance our relationship and their obedience.

Play is structured.  It is NOT a “free for all” where anything goes.  If it even begins to become out of control there will most assuredly be a “foul” called or a “flag” thrown in order to pause the game.  It is the same in wild or domesticated predators!  Your dog is a domesticated predator and not just a furry human toddler.  Dogs are predators even if you earnestly want to believe and buy into the fairy tale of the “fur baby”- it is simply NOT true.  (For healthy relationships honesty is a major key!  Let’s get real please.)

Continuing… Play reinforces social connection, provides exercise, energy escalation and de-escalation, mental stimulation, and can be a huge indicator of just where the relationship is at (I’m talking about the relationship between you and your dog/puppy now).

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Did you know that many dogs and puppies manipulate the heck out of their owners during a simple play session?  It’s true and I observe it everyday in my work with owners and their dogs.  I’ve detailed many dog manipulations that contribute to behavioral problems and that can be prevented or reversed in my HOT Listed book on dog training, language and behavior, DOG MYTHS: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!  (please click on the link, buy it, read it, be shocked by it, be motivated and equipped by it, love it, and then review it so others can find it too!  The reviews have begun to come in about Dog Myths and people are Raving btw!)

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For great play which can help build a great relationship between you and your puppy or dog ……………

  1. Never Chase the dog!  – “But he loves it” you’ll say.  So what?  Drug addicts love their drugs, does that mean they have excellent and successful relationships with those around them?  Does that mean you want them living in your home?  Does that mean you become a drug dealer?  If you chase your puppy or dog ask yourself just what is being reinforced over time?  The average dog can run 32 miles per hour!  And some breeds get up near 40 miles per hour!  Greyhounds can reach 45mph!  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to begin my relationship with a puppy or new rescue dog or any dog teaching them that they can go high speed away from me, away from my space!  I don’t need them in on the fact that they can easily outpace me because rudeness could develop from there.  I say “could” to be gentle on you, Dear Reader, in truth it often does.  I’m guessing that you don’t want to find yourself in a place where you have to catch your dog or pup or have to lunge after them while they showcase their speed and agility in a masterfully manipulative social one-up?  Don’t chase them.

If you’ve read some of my stuff you’ll know that the most important things to our dogs when we are discussing language and communication and relationship are touch and space.  If we chase our dogs and they run and easily take their space away from us it paves the way to more behavioral issues.

2. Always play backwards or run from the dog!  -I have devoted a whole chapter in Dog Myths about playing backwards and drawing the dog or pup to you and to your space because it is vitally important in the relationship.  Our dogs are domesticated predators but they are NOT wild predators.  That means one should never have to catch their dog.  Catching or trapping is what one does with a wild creature and not a domesticated animal that lives in your stinkin’ home, correct?  There must be more respect and trust and clear communication than that.  If you do, in fact, have to catch your pup that is a clear sign that respect and or communication is missing (in most cases it is tragically both!).

Playing backwards helps draw the dog in to your space and it makes it look (physically) like you are the leader.  This is good.  Ask yourself would the mother or father dog have to use high pitched talking to call their pups to their space?  Would the parent dogs have to use a treat to bribe their young to come to them?  Or…would they use reverse psychology and naturally move away from their pups causing the pups to respond by following?  Life can be better than most people believe living with a dog.  Sadly, the majority don’t even know what they are missing.

We’ve gone over some of the spatial parts of play and that’s important but I’m going to continue this article for ya and get another one out probably within a couple weeks.  In that Part 2 we will look at how to touch while playing and when to call a foul or throw a flag as we explore dun-Dun-DUHHHHH…the intricate language of play in the domesticated dog!

To Be Continued…

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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

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!

#dogmyths #gotcalm #getgarrett #tacomaauthor

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!

 

Dog Myths (my training book) is Now available for a Free sampling!

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Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!, is now available on Apple iBooks (and everywhere else too)!  And the best news…for a limited time it is on sale for preorder at a crazy price of just $4.99!  Spread the word.  Tell your friends.  Tell your enemies.  Tell your co-workers.  Tell your neighbors -especially the ones with the terribly behaved dogs.  Tell your 2nd and 3rd cousins.  Spread it on your facebooks and your instagrammys too.  Tell your dog for crying out loud!  Dog Myths is here and already we are seeing people take advantage and snap up this precious preorder pricing.  (UPDATE: it is now fully available and the preorder period is over – so you can snag a paperback or two on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble if you want)

What is Dog Myths about, you may be asking?  It is certainly NOT about whether our dogs can see color or something stupid and overdone thing like that.  It is NOT just more white noise and foolhardy dog or puppy training info that falls into the oversimplified and almost cranium-dulling Sit, Stay, Come, type of training book either.  Those are literally a dime a stinkin’ dozen.  It is also NOT one of these overly-scientific yet largely UNhelpful industry jargon-filled giant tomes of a book, written by some terribly nonathletic behaviorist rotting in a lab somewhere wearing his taped up, coke-bottle glasses, a dozen pens crammed inside the pocket protector within his lab coat shirt pocket while he awkwardly nurses yet another nose bleed.  Those types of books are also all over the dog training book market and boring as all get out.  They don’t equip people well.

So what is my book Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! about then?  My book details in honest, direct, and logical fashion the many, many behavioral and training myths and false beliefs that people have concerning their dogs, their language, their behavior, and their training and handling.  It is super beneficial for adjusting problematic dogs!  As people we act on what we believe.  These beliefs of ours can literally make us or break us, and they certainly are the first key factor in determining whether our dogs or puppies develop behavioral issues.  We believe so many things that simply are untrue in the dog training and pet industry it is almost psychotic!  Examples…you got it…

Did you know that when a dog or pup rolls over and exposes their belly to us that this is often NOT a submissive gesture?  The belief that when a dog shows us it’s belly is one of the myths we bust wide open and then the reasoning why it is displayed and how to naturally and gently adjust for a healthier relationship.  (A healthy relationship by the way leads to amazing things and certainly prevents and reverses behavioral issues much faster and more efficiently than even advanced training and behavior modification does!  -Insert dramatic Gasp here!- Yes – It’s true but you probably didn’t know that because you believe the age old myth that the addition of obedience training means the subtraction of poor behaviors.  NOPE!  I explain so much more in Dog Myths.  Time to preorder!!)  When a dog flops over in front of a human it is NOT necessarily submission.  Often it is a way to manipulate control of the environment or the owner!  Interesting, right?  Get the book – it’ll blow your minds!

Were you aware that when a dog or puppy licks you that this is NOT the human equivalent of Kissing.  That is another common dog myth, a false belief, that plagues society and contributes to many rescue dogs manipulating the dickens out of their new owners.  And later these same dogs bite people or attack dogs and it all stems from the human’s perception and belief system!  “He’s a real lover” – yeah right!  In true dog language that often translates as “I control what I repeatedly touch” or “If I get the first or last touch on you – I’m in charge.”  Who grooms whom is quite important in the canine language.  Do dogs make out?  NO.  Do our dogs get married and kiss at the alter?  Certainly Not.  Kissing and licking are NOT the same thing, folks.

These are just two very small examples of the many false and unnatural beliefs that are pervasive in the Western world and that actually lead to more misbehavior, more fear, more anxiety, more hyperactivity, and more aggression in our dogs!

For five bucks you could change your dog or pup and alter forever, for the better, the way you perceive dogs, their amazing language, and interspecies communication.  This book, I truly hope, can pave the way of our future interactions with our house dogs for the next 1000 years!  The future has never been brighter!

It’s time we STOP giving our dogs a job to do (because the vast majority of dogs are indeed Semi-Retired) (“Giving a dog a job” is another Huge dog training myth discussed and dissected in my book) and instead give them natural relaxation and more freedom as we move forward together as man and beast.  The shocking thing, is that there is little need for obedience training when the relationship is right and there is smooth efficient communication present!  The bad news is that so many lack this.  Time for a big change.

It’s time to look past all the foolish Positive reinforcement and look past the stupid Negative reinforcement and finally, finally, finally examine the more potent and natural relational rehab that is based on Internal Motivation, calm energy, and family dynamics that every dog on the planet uses when interacting with other dogs.  In Dog Myths, you will be shocked, educated (or maybe I should say re-educated properly by the dogs) equipped, and inspired to take action and think, move, and talk like a dog.  Let’s build a better world together, shall we?

Go to Apple iBooks –  Search “Dog Myths by Garrett Stevens” the book comes up first on the list.  Click on the word Preorder.  (I guarantee you you’ll learn something new and it will indeed benefit your dog or pup.)  It’s only 4.99 for a limited time!

Thanks for all your support everybody.  We will announce more about the coming book signings and whether we make the Bestseller list very soon!

 

Dog Myths: What You Believe about Dogs Can Come Back to Bite You!

For those that order from iBooks and print out their receipt and bring it to one of my book signings I will give you a signed paperback version for an additional $5.00!  (Normally the paperback is $25)

Thanks so, so much and please, seriously, spread the word about Dog Myths!

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The dog training industry is split with two extremes…in desperate need of change!

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Dogs are suffering!  Were you aware of the two extremes?  They are exceedingly common!  I see it everyday and am sorely sick of it and you should be too.  Our dogs are suffering because of these two extreme yet tremendously common training techniques.  And families and households across the world are suffering because of this lack of balance in the training world.  I literally work seven days a week (many months out of the year I don’t even take a single day off!) because the need for good balanced training is so high!  But I barely consider what I do “training.”

Let’s look at the two extremes that “Dominate” the dog training world…

1> On one extreme you have the “positive” only folks who are so vehemently concerned that no one ever dare disagree with their own dog or any dog on the entire planet.  This group tends to treat dogs like human babies.  Not like human kids or teens but like hungry human babies.

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“Bribe me and I might do this trick but that doesn’t mean I respect you, or that you can trust me, or that we are communicating like dogs would”

 

They operate as if our dogs are not intelligent enough to understand they should not perform certain rude or other “bad” social behaviors.  They act as if dogs can do no wrong.  We have learned from this fanatical group, and heard the insane true life stories from countless clients (before they found us when they tried other trainers/behaviorists) …in my daily experience of owning and running a very successful dog behavioral rehabilitation and training business we average 6-7 appointments a day…that they (the positive only crowd) seldom get great results because their techniques use bribery and rewards only.  And they bribe very early on with puppies.  They stuff treats down their throats so often that they eventually kill or greatly diminish the motivation altogether!

These trainers which can be found anywhere and everywhere treat their dogs (an ultra-domesticated animal) almost like some wild animal that needs to be bribed to do frivolous tricks.   I always found it strange that Bribery in our human society is a crime but constantly “paying” and bribing our dogs is touted by many of these “positive only” trainers as the end-all-be-all in training.  These folks, instead of bribing, could give our domestic dogs more credit and understanding as the highly intelligent and communicative species they are.  But they don’t.

I find it fascinating and irksome that from the get-go these trainers cut off all flexibility in their methods by declaring to all that they are only using and limiting themselves to one form of training or behavior mod…”Positive only.”

I have to ask why would anyone of sound mind and body would, at the start, limit themselves to one rigid form only?  This takes away all flexibility and adaptability in their methods!

Imagine a mixed martial artist announcing before the fight that he is only going to use Western boxing.  Why limit oneself that way?  The astute opponent could then easily manipulate and drive the fight the way they wanted to with loads of leg kicks and Brazilian Jujitsu or wrestling.  (Our dogs are quite astute when it comes to getting their way in their environments even if it’s against our wishes.)

The “positive-only” crowd lacks the freedom or doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that as a human dog owner one could choose to be “all inclusive!”  This means you can play, you can be serious, you can discipline, you can praise or reward, you can calm and or pump up the energy, you can control the dog or, if the dog is trust worthy, you can turn over control to the dog and give loads of freedom.  But because they are not “all inclusive” like all good parents should be they lack adaptability.

No Balance and flexibility lie in many “positive-only” techniques.  (And I’m not even going to go into all the trouble caused by constantly relying on an external motivator like food and how treats often Raise the excitement levels which can contribute to further behavioral issues!)

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“You keep paying me while I become a form of doggy Al Capone!”

 

 

Let me be clear – There is nothing wrong with rewarding for a good behavior but these “positive only” trainers/behaviorists take such an extreme approach to constant food rewarding, petting, and high pitched praise that it typically results in too much excitement from the dog or puppy which then leads to more behavioral issues in the future!

In the cases of real and serious aggression and, or fear, the treats simply are ignored by the dogs because they have “turned down” their sense of smell in order to “turn up” their predatory vision and hearing!  It’s the sad truth that the results these limited trainers bring are typically mediocre at best and only work for what we would in the industry call normal, social pups and or dogs with very minor behavior issues… and they almost never work for true aggression cases (and if they do eventually work a little it takes a year or more -which is a horribly long timing considering how all our dogs live in the moment and are connected to the present with their super senses.)

 

 

 

2> The other common extreme seen in the dog training industry are on the opposite end of the spectrum…the trainers who have been former military or police dog handlers/K-9 trainers.  These kind are easy to identify because they will typically cling to their tools and techniques with similar vigor as the positive only crew detailed above but the tools these trainers use are usually almost all “corrective” and punitive in nature.  I mean to say the tools will be electronic shock collars, prong or pinch collars, or the classic choke chain.  These trainers usually will get better results initially with the dogs than the “positive only” folk because dogs will respond to a more physical approach, however, the main fault here is that these types of methods can ruin many good dogs because they are using techniques from their police or military background on common house dogs that are usually not as high drive or simply not bred as tough as the dogs they learned on in the police or military all those years ago when the trainer was serving overseas or in the community.

 

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Excitement is great for protection work but not as great for being a housedog

 

(Let me just say we at Alpha and Omega dog training are very, very thankful for all those who have served in our military and those who have served the community as good law enforcement individuals.   And we are equally thankful for their faithful K9s that serve and work so tirelessly to protect us.)

We have some local trainers in the city where we live and train that were former military or police dog trainers and we have had clients that have taken a course from them… initially (before finding us) or done private sessions with them and they all recount tales of hanging, choking, rolling, shocking, and even something akin to water-boarding their puppy if their pup were to dig a hole in the yard!  These methods are Completely overboard and sometimes borderline abusive!  It is one thing to have to occasionally strongly correct with a leash pop or strong tug on the leash an active working (in the police or military) dog that is worked up and on the bite sleeve or a powerful dog that is attempting to bite another dog or person.  It is quite another thing to apply these methods on a puppy or dog that will live out it’s life calmly in a city or suburban neighborhood Never going on tours in Afghanistan or Iraq or to patrol gang-town Chicago or LA!  So again flexibility and adaptation are lacking in these rigid methods.

The thinking with these trainers goes something like this, “You have to show the dog who is Alpha…”  And while I actually agree that an owner should show their dog who is Alpha I disagree in how they and most people define the Alpha!

A true Alpha dog is nothing more than a patient, peace-keeping, parent.  This may be Shocking info – I know!  The Alpha dog is NOT the dog who is at the park trying to knock over other dogs down or trying to fight with many other dogs.  That is a common misconception.  The Alphas are natural peace-keepers who stay calm and attempt to get along with every dog they meet.  They know when to ignore or when to address with a firm but calming canine communication.  We should all strive to study and learn from them.  I have seen several over the years and it is fascinating to watch them in a large group of dogs.  The Alphas actually help the humans keep the peace in a large group!  They are masterful communicators.  Calm, confident, competent.

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This female is automatically alpha to all her little pups. Alpha means parent not bully. She will raise them utilizing ignoring, addressing, and occasionally redirecting through play.

 

A word on correcting or addressing a problematic dog:  The most effective corrections I have personally used over the many years have been the ones where I don’t lay a finger on the dog but where I outmaneuver  them, claim them, calm them, and then smoothly offer them more freedom!  THAT is the way of a true Alpha.  That is what good, loving leadership calls for – boundaries and certain disciplines within the relationship that actually lead to greater FREEDOMS!  We need to lead to greater freedom NOT more rigid obedience for our dogs.  Calmness mixed with efficient movement are keys to a calm and healthy puppy or dog.

 

Anyway the point of this post is WE ALL Need to come together as a dog training community and not have these two ridiculous yet oh so common extremes.  The need for calmness in humans and dogs is at an all time high in society!  People actually need to learn patience more than most of our dogs do!

If you are ever seeking professional help from a trainer, behaviorist, or whisperer…I would highly, highly recommend avoiding these two extreme groups.  Maybe you Free yourself enough to glean the best from both worlds and then find a better balance?  But, as I always say, attempt to learn more from the actual social dogs and less from the professional human trainer/behaviorist!  Look to all of nature for a guideline and watch how the older (SOCIAL) dogs move and act around others that are hyper and young or just unsocial.  Take their techniques and add them to your own bag!  

The wild thing is is that you may not be able to find a great trainer where you are at because Training itself and Behavior modification is now waaaaaay behind the times even the trainers who utilize the word “modern” in their names or methods are typically just positive-only types).  The issue is that both of the above mentioned methods are much to dependent on external motivation and the use of excitement and their tools.  And to go even deeper …The real heart of the issue is that the dog industry is still doing what it’s always done.  Everyone thinks training/behavior mod. is the answer.  My books will clearly explain why it’s not!  It’s time for an exciting new future.  Relationship with clear communication is the answer to preventing or reversing behavioral issues – it is the answer for a great life shared with others!

I’ll admit this one was hastily written but I believe it is loaded with truth and some interesting thoughts or questions for everyone to think about and hopefully act on.

Please keep an eye out for my upcoming book DOG MYTHS!!!!  I think you’ll really love it and it could be a potential game-changer for so many people and dogs in need.  #dogmyths #getgarrett

-G

Dealing with a Fearful Dog

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Fear in a wild canine is a perfectly viable option for survival, and can be used to stay alive in dangerous situations, but fear in our domestic dogs becomes a horribly debilitating habit. Fear can dominate the animal’s outlook and daily experiences in life. The fearful dog’s social circle soon starts to implode, and eventually, the human owner’s social circle does as well. This is an all too common occurrence. Fear in a pup or dog blocks intelligent learning, playfulness, and sociability. Remember, sociability is the real key in an animal whose very life depends on living in a pack.  Once a dog starts to use a habit of fearfulness, he goes right into a fight or flight response instead of investigating the new stimulus (new place, person, dog, or random item) with its nose, you are bound for trouble.

A healthy, normal domesticated dog should be everyone’s friend. This does not mean they will stop their guardian barking if there is someone at the door or in the middle of the night. Dogs are very sensitive and should be able to distinguish between a guest or family member you’ve already invited in to the house from a burglar attempting to break in at night. They should run to meet people, and dogs, and then slow upon their approach as they switch from eye contact into sniffing and smelling with that wonderful nose of theirs. About 65% – 70% of the canine brain is dedicated to the olfactory system. If your puppy or dog isn’t smelling and sniffing it is Not using much of it’s brain! I always recommend people– and dogs– use their brain.

As owners of dogs we can learn to read our dog’s body language, and their body will reveal exactly what is going on in their brain. Dogs are brutally honest. A dog will never lie. If a dog is uncomfortable or nervous it will tell you with its body. This helps us decide what to do to help change the dog’s fearful state of mind. A dog’s movement is key in deciding how we are to move in response to their fear. Leaving a situation when a dog is fearful is seldom the answer. If you let a fearful dog just leave, or go into flight, how will it ever learn to conquer the fear and enter into relaxation?

The most important thing to remember is to never coddle or comfort a fearful dog. And never pick a nervous dog up or allow them to hide behind or under you. So many people think if we just work a bit harder to “win over” the nervous dog with more soft human talking or treats, or praise or petting to comfort the animal, it can help. If you talk softly, praise, treat, pet or coddle fear– it will only grow more fear in your dog and hurt it more psychologically! I see many owners in unhealthy relationships with their dogs where the dog is simply using them as a source of comfort in order to stay fearful and even aggressive!  Fear should be ignored most of the time. Sometimes it needs to be adamantly disagreed with first and then ignored (especially in the case of aggression or extreme flight.) Think of what a mother dog or wolf would do with a fearful pup…Nothing! She would not comfort or protect it more than all the other normal pups. In fact, we know that many times the fearful pup never even survives into adulthood. Fear is totally self consuming. As a pack predator who is supposed to play, run, groom, hunt, learn from, and eventually contribute to help the group, fear is a horribly selfish weight to have on your shoulders. Fear is anti-pack.

If you have a rescue dog, and it is now living with you, it is no longer a rescue dog! Do not keep your rescue dog as a victim! This is one offense most of humanity is guilty of. People also want to tell me the dog’s back story. Do you think the dog actually cares about it’s back story? One dominating part of the dog, wolf, or any other animal’s brain is that they live in the moment. This is how a dog can learn a habit faster than a human being (we’ll talk about habits in the next Pet Connection issue). Because all animals are survivalists, and have a constant need to be aware of their present surroundings and environment, they move on from the past extremely fast. We are not like that. The human brain is constantly imagining things, time traveling between the past, present and future. When we watch TV our brain takes us there. When we read a book our brain takes us on another speedy adventure, et cetera.

There is a huge difference between our traveling brain and the ever present brain of a dog. Here’s an example of how terrible it
is to keep a dog labeled a rescue:  If I introduced you to my wife, and then proceeded to tell you she was a victim, and then described every failure or mistake or weakness she had in the past would that be fair to her? Would she like that? Would that bias your opinion of her and how you decide to treat her? Of course, that would be atrocious. I’m telling you now it is even worse when we do that to an animal that is constantly ready to move on and is living fresh in the moment each day.  A dog is always ready to be rehabilitated back to a normal healthy social state of mind, and to keep it as a “rescue” or victim is doing your dog great harm.

This is also why many people have trouble after just a few weeks of living with their new rescue. The dog has had a chance to check out the environment, and is now deciding he’s no longer weak, and maybe he will start claiming and dominating things or even people in the home! The human keeps viewing the dog as a poor, pitiful rescue, meanwhile, the dog feels strong, is getting regular meals, is gaining weight and is constantly presented with weak human energy… so… it decides to take the lead.

Stop living in the past and take action in the present to help your dog. The fearful dog owner’s attitude should be one of calm assurance. You may have to fake it until you make it! You need to be a source of calmness for a dog who is being fearful, but do not attempt to soothe with human talk, treating or petting. Using treat training for fear will not help unless the fear is very minor. Cut off any unwanted fear behaviors early, before the dog raises its energy too high, and then calmly ignore the dog.

Remember, do what a normal older dog would do…either adamantly disagree with the behavior or totally ignore it, or both, depending on what the situation dictates.

As long as your dog is allowed to continue in fight/flight , and keep the energy escalated, the dog will never get over the fear. Whatever you do, do not let the dog run or leave the situation. I almost always recommend using a leash in the more severe cases, as this lets us stop the erratic and dramatic fight/flight movements. This gives us access to control the dog’s head and manipulate the body to help calm the animal.

Don’t get involved in dog drama! Slow the dog’s movements. Stay calm.

There is no reason for your dog to continue living in fear. If your dog is fearful in any way it can be taught to choose the appropriate calming social signals that are inherently inside every canine. If you work on overcoming the fear, instead of just accepting it, your dog will become more social, playful, intelligent, relaxed and happy.

If you need help I am just a phone call away.
Seize the day

Written by Garrett Stevens, owner/operator of Alpha and Omega Dog Training; this article first appeared in the July/August issue of Pet Connection Magazine.

http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com

If you really want your relationship to grow in a natural, healthy, and beneficial way and if you desire to shrink and eliminate the fear and anxiety in any dog or pup whilst simultaneously increasing confidence and social relaxation and obedience then look no further than my HOT listed book, Dog Myths!  It is the complete opposite of what most professionals are teaching and, because of this, it works so much more efficiently and naturally than the mainstream garbage.  Did you know that you don’t have to Bribe your dog or pup with food to motive it?  Did you know that you don’t have to smack it around and use harsh handling either?  Both of those shoddy methods are clear evidence that most professionals are woefully behind when it comes to the calming natural language of our dogs!  Order Dog Myths and watch the changes happen before your very eyes!

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

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