Stop your dog from being Mike Tyson!

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Many a professional pugilist in the 1980s and 90s entered the ring with apprehension (sometimes masked as bravado) because they were facing the living legend “Iron” Mike Tyson.  Sometimes known as “Kid Dynamite” due to his explosive power, Tyson holds the record as the youngest boxer to win the heavyweight title.  Mike was just 20 years old.  His first 19 professional fights were won by knockout.  12 of those fights ended in the very first round!  Mike Tyson was the first heavyweight to win the WBA, the WBC, and the IBF titles simultaneously.  He is the only heavyweight to successfully unify them.

Mike Tyson is well known for his ferocity in the ring.  His classic “peekaboo” style, taught to him by legendary manager and boxing trainer Cus D’Amato, left many opponents punching at the air and wide open for Iron Mike’s monstrous hooks and uppercuts.

What does all this have to do with your dog or pup?  Everything.  This has everything to do with your dog or pup behaviorally speaking because every dog on the planet (unless they are at a feral level of fear) will get in close to their owner (like Tyson used to approach his opponents in the ring) and, over time, the dog will control who is touching who.  Tyson pressured his opponents, and frankly, he scared many of them.  They knew his reputation for aggression, speed, agility and knockout power was well-earned.

In the case of most dogs the loving pet owner is totally unaware that their dog is controlling touch in the relationship (which can and usually does lead to behavioral problems).  You see, many dog owners assume that if a dog will do some obedience for them or if they yell loud enough at their pet and the dog offers them a quick appeasement gesture (like lowering their head and leaving the area) that they (the dog owner) are in charge.  They assume that if the dog shows them it’s belly that the dog is “submissive.”  These false beliefs then allow the wayward puppy or dog to continue to manipulate touch and space within the relationship and often manipulate any item the dog may desire to claim (food, bed, couch, front door, yard, the leash, the owner’s body, the dog’s body, another dog or person in the home, et cetera).   Want to hear the most sinister thing about this ultra-common canine manipulation?

Most times when dogs are “Mike Tysoning” their owners or a guest they seem to be FRIENDLY about it!  Please pause and consider that last sentence.

When dogs are controlling touch and spatially pressuring a person they could be being friendly but still desire to be in charge of who touches who and where that touch is applied and they seek to control how that creature is moving in the space around the dog’s environment.  This is animal language, people…we’ve got to learn it if we want to see improvements.  Let me clarify with real-world examples.

EXAMPLES of dogs “Mike Tysoning” their owners or others in a friendly manner:

You walk in the door and the dog MUST touch you.

You go to sit down on the couch or chair and the dog quickly beats you there, hops up, and attempts to sit down in the very spot in which you were headed.

You reach to pet the dog and the dog instantly raises it’s energy to a much higher level then they cross the distance between your body and theirs and either jump up on you, paw at you, stick their head between your legs, nudge your private parts, or lean up on your legs in a sideways position.  

You try to stop petting the dog and the dog pushes back into your space to clearly let you know that the petting will NOT stop.

Dogs, of course, also can be a Mike Tyson in a myriad of unfriendly and downright aggressive ways.  Those gestures are usually identified by the general populace though.  In today’s post I’ve identified those more subtle yet equally rude maneuvers that many dogs pull on their owners or on a guest.

My Dear Readers, I hope you all understand that the mother or father dog or any socially skilled dog would NOT NOT NOT NOT tolerate this friendly/excited yet rude and pushy touching from another dog.  Why should we?  Are you no better than a puppy in your dog’s eyes?  Does your dog lack all respect for your physical body and the space around it?  Has the dog been happily claiming everything in sight and you’ve cluelessly sat by assuming it was just affectionate?  Don’t be chump.  Or you could be “knocked out” by the rapidly growing misbehaviors of the dog or pup in your care.  Some dogs take it only so far while others will claim the world and everything in it.  In many cases this is how aggression starts!  In many cases this over-touching by the dog on the human is how fear and skittishness not only continues within the dog but grows steadily worse!

TO DO: physically block your dog from Mike Tysoning you.  You have hands don’t you? Use them to gently but firmly block the animal’s entrance into your personal space!  In fact, move forward into the dog’s space and act like a real parent because you committed to take this animal away from his/her natural life with their birth parents!

Think differently.  Think like a dog.

-G

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These are my favorite boxing gloves and jump rope

 

  For more info on dog language and behavior read Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety by Garrett Stevens

Wing Chun Kung Fu and dog training

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I am a Wing Chun practitioner.  What does this form of Chinese Kung Fu have to do with my dogs and their training and behavior?  Plenty.  (Stay with me)  Wing Chun is a form of Kung Fu that employs close combative methods.  Legend has it that a Shaolin nun, one of the five original Kung Fu masters from Shaolin Temple, created the Wing Chun system based on movements she observed as a snake fought with a crane.  The good Wing Chun practitioner utilizes touch, space, balance, and speed to their advantage and looks to exploit the opponent’s mistakes and movements by way of trapping, and direct striking and blocking simultaneously.

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“Trapping” in Wing Chun is whenever one person arrests the movements, usually the forearms, of another.  In Wing Chun we always seek to move forward and to control the center line of the opponent’s body.  Once center line is gained the Wing Chun man has a direct line of attack.  The fastest distance between two points is a straight line.  Wing Chun teaches straight line punching to foment speed and accuracy.  In order to gain the center line of the opponent – touching (seek the bridge) inevitably takes place.

Over the years I’ve noticed how direct and effective dog movement and touching is.  As predatory animals they don’t beat around the bush.  Dogs, like the good Wing Chun disciple, move forward with determined intentionality.  Dogs are extremely sensitive to touching as is the good Wing Chun student.  Dogs, if left unchecked, will build strong habits of over-touching and out-maneuvering those people that are around them.  Those touch habits then lead the dog to assume command of the household.  Once a dog assumes command there’s no reason in their mind why they can’t discipline a guest, neighbor, or even a family member with a bite because sometimes that’s actually acceptable behavior in the world of canines.  The higher ranking family member is supposed to guide and discipline the lower ranking/younger or less balanced individuals within the group/pack to aid them in the fine art of canine social skills and language and in order to claim what is what and whose is whose.  The animal doesn’t know that we humans tend to frown upon a dog if it bites one of our children – the dog only knows it’s been given totally unhampered reign in the areas of touch and space, movement, and in primal grooming rituals within its home environment!  In other words, the dog owner has really dropped the ball and so the dog naturally takes charge filling the leadership void.  This “taking charge” often appears friendly at first until…months or years later…it doesn’t!  (This friendly familiarity breed rudeness quite quickly within the relationship between dog and human)

To begin to reverse poor behavior in ANY dog or pup you must consider and then employ The Four Pillars of dog language.  (for more on the Four Pillars please see my other posts by that name and keep an eye out for the upcoming book I am writing about them!)  I want anyone reading this to act like a Wing Chun expert and first of all  – be very aware of touching.  Most people are greatly lacking in sensitivity when it comes to The Four Pillars of dog language.  (People know to be sensitive with a horse, or with a bird, or when swimming with sharks but with dogs everyone’s been taught the wrong things – they’ve been taught many behavioral myths – hence my first book, Dog Myths)

Secondly, if and when your dog attempts to jump up on you, or nose you, or lick you, or mouth you, or elicit petting from you by way of barging into your personal space – move forward, take up space, and intercept the dog’s touch with a touch of your own if necessary.  Use your hands and move your body forward into the dog.  Be aware of your center line!  In this case though, because your dog is not your enemy or opponent, it’s necessary to also keep your dog in center line with you to attain the clearest form of communication possible – you both meet in the center line.  Make sure you are looking right at the dog and the dog is looking right at you.  (Do NOT pay the dog with food for this attention or it reduces the relationship to that of a wild animal and you do NOT have respect and therefore cannot offer trust – also, and this is rather important – no other dog on the planet needs food or treats or baby talk to enter into a healthy relationship with another member of their species).  Aline both centers.  In this way a clear understanding on the part of the dog is gained.  If the dog is looking away or leaving the space or just blowing you off – then your center line is weak and/or your energy was not firm enough.  It is also possible that your energy was very strong but not calm enough.

We need both firmness and calmness; respect and trust; control and freedom within the relationship.  This can be hard because many people are lacking in one or the other.  Some are firm enough but not calm (they are frustrated, or angry, or over-emotional).  Others are really calm with their dogs but have no fight in them at all and so they lack any sort of firm or strong energy and, thus, the dog persists in misbehavior.  Learn both firmness and calmness and you’ll work wonders with any dog or any animal for that matter.

Wing Chun blends internal (soft and calm energy) martial arts with external (hard and strong energy) martial arts techniques.  It can be quite effective in a real fight depending, of course, on the individual using it.  As dog lovers we should all strive to be as well rounded as the ancient Kung Fu masters as we work to better ourselves and our dogs and their behaviors.  Good luck!

-G

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Simplicity

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Leonardo Da Vinci

“Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” Bruce Lee

“Simplicity of approach is always best.”  Charlie Chaplin

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Nature is pleased with simplicity.”  Isaac Newton

If you’ve ever juggled a lunging dog on a leash in one hand and a clicker and a treat in the other hand all while being instructed to get the dog’s attention and mark the behavior with good timing if your dog performs… you’d definitely relish the complete and utter simplicity of The Garrett Stevens Method.  You’d fall in love due to the opposite nature of that aforementioned complex yet common clicker training nightmare!  Our natural method, that was learned direct from the dogs themselves, requires no clickers and no treats, it requires no weak and/or complicated external motivators.  Instead it calls for simplicity.

Dog language and canine behavioral rehabilitation is quite simple.  In fact, it is so simple most folks miss it. Some don’t have time for it because they’ve been conditioned to rush about and be busy in their daily lives.  Others think they already know about dogs and dog training and so they come into a session unwilling to learn this simple art of movement, touch, space, and energy – unwilling to learn these 4 pillars of dog language.  Finally, and thankfully, many people come to us ready to simply receive.  They are at wit’s end with their dog and thinking of rehoming the animal but they are prepared to learn and soon they see real results.

My secret weapon in my work with the dogs is simplicity.  My behavioral books are short and simple to read on purpose.  My custom, handmade training collar (that will outperform anything on the market btw) is quite simple, and because it’s simple it’s incredibly effective in helping dogs walk calmly.  The Garrett Stevens Method of dog training and behavior mod. works very simply and yet brings great results.  Stevens Family Kennels is a rather Spartan-type setting but dogs love it and grow more mature when they’re with us.

My advice:  Look to simplify your relationship with your dog.  Get rid of the fluff and the  extraneous stuff in your relationship and in your home life with your dog.  Seek out dog dignity.  Be direct.  Be honest.  Be real.  Seek simplicity.

“If you cannot explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.”  Albert Einstein

(I think of this Einstein quote whenever I see another giant tome about dog behavior or training!)

-G

 

There’s nothing cute about a skittish dog

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I’m going to admonish you.  You probably won’t enjoy it.  Think of this post as the scalpel  that cuts away the necrotic tissue in order to save the patient’s life.  Think of this rebuke as the life-saving maggots that eat away the infected flesh from the mountain man’s rotting grizzly bear wound.  For several dog owners are indeed wounded (relationally speaking) and they also wound their dogs on a daily basis!

There is nothing cute about a skittish or nervous dog.  Listen to the truth…Masses of skittish, fearful dogs are being ENABLED towards greater levels of fear and psychosis every day at the hands of their owners!  Aren’t you exaggerating, Garrett?  I mean you’re going to sit here and tell dog owners that some of them are enabling and even encouraging psychosis in their nervous pets!  YES!  Yes, I am.  Let’s look up the definition of psychosis to illuminate the subject.

PSYCHOSIS:  a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.  

The above definition of psychosis lines up perfectly (often identically) with how a majority of skittish dogs act and with how many dog owners choose to keep them!  I was shocked when I read the definition because it’s precisely what I see day in and day out in our behavioral work with dogs and their owners.

The skittish or fearful dog’s thinking and emotions are “greatly impaired” or blocked and so – they act insane.  This insanity, when weighed against the social baseline behavior of a balanced or relaxed dog, is glaringly easy to spot.  And yet in many homes the owners may have become “dog blind” to it.  (If you know what the term “nose blind” means you’ll understand my phrase “dog blind.  Oh look, I’ve just coined another new phrase!  A host of dog owners are dog blind.)  The skittish dog’s decisions are based in unfounded fears and foolhardy, energy-wasting actions.  The main problem is…the owner then allows their dog to continue making those same fear-based, psychotic decisions day after day after day – totally unhampered!  There is little to no growth or change.  This, Friends, simply will not do.

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HOW does a hapless dog owner enable skittishness and fear?  Here are a couple examples:

The dog owner enables the fearful dog by doing what the dog wants when the dog wants it.  The dog owner enables the fearful dog by doing little to nothing when the dog is lunging at a neighbor or screaming at another dog.  The dog owner enables the fearful dog by allowing the dog to bark at (or behave even worse towards) the guest entering their home.

Let’s compare and contrast the skittish mentally and emotionally unstable dog with the socially well-adjusted dog, shall we?

The skittish dog has senses that are misaligned.  (Like the definition says the thoughts and emotions are impaired and they’ve lost contact)  The skittish dog will not smell and come forward to be pet by the friendly human stranger.  But the socially normal dog can easily and happily come forward for smelling, petting, and social interaction.

Another Example:  The skittish dog is overly clingy and insanely needy.  The skittish dog has to remain in the owner’s personal space and continuously follow the owner throughout the entire house.  The socially healthy dog is flexible and can follow the owner out of relaxed interest but does not have severe separation anxiety and can choose on its own to go and lie down without being asked or told to lie down and separate from the owner’s space.

A Clearer Example:  The skittish dog will NOT smell and taste the world as it should (those senses are drastically impaired due to dreadful habits often enabled by the owner) and so it fears interaction with new people or new dogs and that leads to staring, barking, lunging, aggression.  The socially normal and sensually healthy dog has no trouble at all utilizing their incredible olfactory and gustatory systems and in this way they greet new people, places, and things/dogs easily and properly.

There is nothing cute about a skittish dog.  People, there is something wrong!  There is something wrong with an owner that chalks up their dog’s extreme and unhealthy neediness as “love” for them!  You wouldn’t believe how often this happens.  It is truly egregious.  Be mindful of your thinking when it comes to your pooch.  Let me clearly tell you now that skittish/fearful/nervous/psychotic dogs use and manipulate their owners in order to remain fearful.  Fear is their drug of choice and they are slaves to it.

Foolish dog owners will say things like “I’m the dog’s person” when they observe extreme and unhealthy anxiety within their dog as it presents the problem spatially by following them around the house nonstop like a goon.  The Foolish owner keeps the dog in a relationship of abnormal dependency that lacks genuine maturity and health.

Foolish dog owners will say “my dog’s just protecting me” when their dog growls and snaps reactively to a friendly passersby.  In reality, the dog is protecting its own rear end and is manipulating the owner by hiding in the owner’s personal space.  The owner desperately wants to believe they’ve got a real Rin-Tin-Tin or Lassie on their hands but in reality they enable their skittish dog every time they take him out on a walk or open their front door to a visitor.

Foolish dog owners will say things like, “my dog is so happy to see me when I come home” as they greet the dog merrily and (in some cases) knowingly add to the dog’s severe separation anxiety and hyperactivity!   These are the behaviors that foolish dog owners often downgrade in a playful or cutesy way during conversation with others in order to keep enabling the problematic behavior or passing on the common dog myth.  These are the behaviors of a psycho!  (Here I’m talking about both owner and dog!)

There is something wrong when a human claims to “love” their dog but simultaneously enables the dog in a daily pattern of unnecessary fear!  Genuine love doesn’t work that way.  Perhaps these dog owners are the true psychos, the neediest of all, because they keep their dog stuck in a place of perpetual psychosis day in and day out!

If your dog suffers a severe mental disorder (if your dog is perpetually fearful, anxious, skittish, or reactive or aggressive), if your dog is a psycho – Do NOT ENABLE IT!  PLEASE STOP MAKING EXCUSES about the bad behavior too (we hear this stuff every single day.  It goes something to the tune of “We love our dog, Fido – he’s a great dog – but no one can pet him.”  Remember my phrase “dog blind!”  If nobody can pet your dog then the dog is a psycho and not living in reality!  That’s not a “great” dog.  That’s a dog and family that is desperate for help.  Get some.  Lets combat dog blindness together.

And don’t just “train” it with obedience for crying out loud.  Learn to disagree with fear the proper way – calmly and efficiently – like the mother dog.  Don’t try to mask the psychosis with tricks and obedience.  Instead learn the dog language.  Learn the way of the dog.

-G

For anyone seeking greater understanding of dog psychosis and how to reverse the problem my books will help you – do your dog a favor – read them.  GET THE HELP YOU AND THE DOG NEED (So Long Separation Anxiety and Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You!) And if you weren’t aware, you can gift my books to a family member or friend in need or gift them to every dog shelter and dog rescue on the planet!  Let’s help these psychos move forward with their life!

Training your Boxer – 4 tips

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Boxers are intelligent, playful, stubborn, strong, and highly-trainable.  Our family obviously loves boxers because we’ve raised a couple of them these past fourteen years and they both have had a very active roll in my dog training and behavioral mod. business.  The pics in this post are of Bosley and Rambo, my boxer boys.

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This is Bosley.  Our first dog.  This picture became the logo for Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center!  Go too http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com for more info

Let’s assume you’ve been struck with Boxer Fever and are in search of this unique breed.  Below are a few personal training tips and behavioral hacks I’ve employed while raising and professionally training my own boxers.  They will help any current or wanna be boxer owners out there on the inter webs.

  1.  Touch reveals much.  The heart of all dog language (any and every breed speaks through touch) is based in a dog’s sense of touch and how their body acts and interacts with other bodies in the environment.  This means touch your Boxer pup or dog all over whenever and wherever YOU want to.  (And be sure to deny them touch back on your body IF they demand that you touch/pet them)  Think as the mother or father dog would about their pup’s bodies and be sure to claim your dog as your own through touch.  Beware of your dog reversing this technique on you over the many months you share together (dogs do this to most unwitting dog owners and they do it quite friendly and subtlety at first – until, one day, they no longer decide to control touch in a friendly manner and they may instead choose to growl at, snap toward, or bite you!)  Set the tone in your relationship with your boxer at its earliest outset.  Tacoma.Tampa 2007 146
  2. Jumping up is rude.  Boxers are known for it.  Boxers are known for high energy and muscled thighs so they like to head skyward.  Be sure and stop it.  The easiest way is to identify when your boxer is going to attempt to jump up on you or a guest and, like Bruce Lee often suggested when facing an opponent, intercept the movement!  To recognize this pre-jump phase look for when the dog is wiggling and dancing and squaring up in front of you or a guest (they often square up first and once they receive eye-contact the very next thing is jumping up!)  You don’t need to go Karate Kid on your boxer and be off balance on one leg as you attempt to knee the dog or puppy…instead, a simple and direct stiff arm while moving forward will do in 95% of jumping cases.  The other 5% will need the stiff arm and then usually a follow up collar grab from the owner in order to keep the dog in place and allow it to calm for a few heartbeats, control the head when doing this and don’t let the dog out of it prematurely.  The most important thing in stopping jumping up is to make sure your human body is moving forward into the dog’s body and purposefully taking up the space.  Take a large step forward or two.  Imagine a fencer lunging forward to score a point with his foil.  (Do not stab your dog with a sword 😉  Get your boxer to backpedal awkwardly by stepping into him/her and after a couple of days any and every dog will understand that IF they jump they simply lose ground.  Then, after taking their space go back to ignoring them.  If you only ignore them (as is the shoddy advice of many trainers and behaviorists) and don’t actively address the jumping with a stiff arm and direct forward movement as I’ve instructed then that ignoring of the dog will only work on approximately 40% of dogs and pups.  In my experience the other 60% will simply jump on your back or your sides!

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    Rambo can still jump this high even though he’s now twelve and a half years old! Must be the NuJoint supplements we give him! To order some for your dog use code 14029 or pick up a bottle at Stevens Family Kennels

  3. It’s all about the Energy.  I should know because I just may have the calmest boxer on the planet!  Somebody call the Guinness World Record people.  (Rambo is a fantastic dog)  Boxers are known to be a high-energy breed.  Unlike most pro trainers out there, I do NOT think we should just redirect that energy onto a toy or into a “job to do” by making the boxer perform obedience and tricks (even and especially if the dog excels at the job or obedience!).  I think that is a shallow and short-sighted approach that lacks in genuine maturity and that is why just training a working dog to work or perform obedience often comes back to bite the owners down the road.  Mainstream dog training masks little behavioral problems and poor social skills within a dog until those little problems become catastrophic and overwhelm the owner!  In every mature creature we see, in every good parent in nature we find proper energy control and conservation.  The very premise of dog training fails miserably in this regard because dog training is disappointingly all about performance and seldom concerns itself with proper canine language acquisition, normal canine social skills (like who is grooming or touching who, and how and when that touching and smelling occurs, who is claiming who or what, and a host of other critically important things to your boxer and to all canines) and normal human behaviors that readily occur in 2019.  Boxer owners (and most all dog owners) do NOT want a hyper pet and yet the only place they have to go in search of behavior modification if they have a hyper pup or high energy dog is the dog training industry which is entirely devoid of trainers willing to help the dog reach maturity by way of naturally calming energy control!  Do you see the problem?  (My first book, Dog Myths, goes into this further)  Seek to calm your dog’s energy naturally and spatially (My second book, So Long Separation Anxiety, goes into this further) and do not pacify it or redirect it with obedience or a toy.  Animals have a way to calm, to self soothe, and it is incredibly important that your boxer learns this vital skill and learns it early during his life with you.     edit 23
  4. Play train” and your boxer will love you.  Play training is when we have the dog perform his obedience (sit, down, stay, come, heel, et cetera) in exchange for time with us and a special toy or two.  This is one of those rarest of times when I encourage the dog owners to raise their energy in a playful manner.  This is when we play lots of tug o’ war or wrestle.   This is when the frisbee comes into play.  This is when we move quicker than we normally do as owners and make it fun.  This is when we draw the boxer towards us and play backwards.  And during these short, fun bursts of play training we slip in several quick training classics like sit and down and come.  Strive to move very cleanly as your boxer is watching your movements even more than listening to your voice.  Every dog prefers hand signals to verbal commands.  Does this mean we don’t give verbal commands?  Of course not, we still give them, but remember, every dog on the planet still prefers seeing over hearing as it pertains to communication with the human.  In most cases the better you move the clearer your communication will be.  If you addict or semi-addict your boxer to a tug or a favorite toy you will instantly have much more off-leash control by way of getting your dog’s attention at the park or afield – it can be a great supplement to your training as you work towards real maturity, a healthy relationship based in dog language, and the continued socialization and desensitization of your boxer.  Make sure that special toy is never left out on the floor at home or in the yard.  Your boxer’s special toy should be put away and only used in conjunction with you and with specific, playful concentration and energy.

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    At the Ruston way waterfront in Tacoma

Your dog wants you to read these books!

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The information contained within these books is incredibly different from what most dog trainers, dog behaviorists, dog whisperers, and vets are espousing…the methods actually work!  Order your copies TODAY (your dog will thank you!) on Amazon, Apple, or at Barnes and Noble.

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#gotcalm ?  #getgarrett #experiencethedifference

-G

My Black Cane Corso/Pitbull: a Rescue dog story – Part 2

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The powerful black dog trotted my way after a quick visit with his owner on the chair across from me.  His docked tail vigorously wagging this time.  I began putting my hand over his head and stroking his face, eyes, and muzzle.  I do this as a sort of touching and quick temperament test with every dog I work with.  I do NOT suggest you do this unless you have a good grasp of the dog language, which, in my professional opinion, most folks do NOT even though they assume they do!  Please don’t take it personally because I know for a fact many dog professionals (vets, behaviorists, trainers, daycare owners) don’t have a solid grasp on dog language either!  If they did behavioral issues wouldn’t be skyrocketing like they currently are.

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Cato our Pitbull/Cane Corso mix. He will be featured in my upcoming third book on rescue dogs!

 

As I spoke with Cato’s owner I applied my classic “Touch and Go” move like I mentioned in the first part of this series.  I’ll explain it to you now, Dear Reader, so you too can begin a better life with your own dog and with any dog you happen across in the fine future.  Are you ready?  Please pay attention.  Basically it goes like this…

1.  Touch the dog.

2. Stop touching the dog.

That’s it.  That’s what I call a wonderful beginning.  While I’m telling you this slightly with tongue in cheek that really is the whole maneuver.  The magic is that you, the toucher, stop giving touch before the dog, the touchee, leaves your space, or grows tired of your touching, or threatens you, or before he/she demands more touching from you.  You pet the dog then, if you’re sitting, you purposefully stop and lean back and look away from the dog.  If you’re standing and petting the dog then you stop and stand up to your full height and, looking away, you ignore the dog.

This ridiculously simplistic maneuver is so undervalued and underdone among dog owners and dog lovers.  This is astounding to me in my daily dog and human observational studies.  Most people keep petting until the dog determines when it’s over.  Most people are left bent over and the dog has exited their space whenever it wanted.  Most dogs dictate (over time) who touches who and how and when that touch is applied and the human just follows along like a clueless goon.  Then, years and many behavioral issues later, “The dog just snapped,” or “The dog just turned, no warning at all!” I call BS on that, Friends.  For many a dog has spent its entire life telling the person they live with precisely how they will or won’t receive touch!  This is no bueno.

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Touch is a dog’s first sense and the most important sense by far when determining sociability, respect, trust, clear and polite communication, obedience, and every other stinking thing you can think of that happens between human and dog!  PAY STRICT ATTENTION TO HOW TOUCH IS HAPPENING TO YOU AND YOUR HUMAN BODY AND TO HOW YOUR DOG TAKES TOUCHING ON HIS/HER DOG BODY.  My “touch and go” move lets the dog clearly know that I’ll touch when I want, how I want, and then stop when and how I want also just like the mother or father dog would on their young.  It paves the way for healthy relationship between owner and dog as opposed to the classic blunder of – dog dictates touch whenever and however and forever until something awful happens! This is what many families suffer through.

Does the “Touch and Go” work for nervous or aggressive dogs?  YES and YES!  The point is to touch them and then stop before they aggressively warn you off of their body or space or bed or food, or before they run away or slip your touch.  In extreme cases it looks like this – You touched them.  They barely registered it.  They began to get uncomfortable but before they could escalate you already have stopped and you’re ignoring them.  It’s the smooth way to begin to handle a dangerous dog and to begin to lay claim to what you should lay claim to – namely – your dog’s body and the space and items around it.

The owner proceeded to tell me Cato played a bit rough for her older female pit.  That he was afraid of loud noises too.  Fear.  Fear is rampant among dogs these days.  I noticed his flat buckle collar was on his neck pretty tightly.  I guessed he was prone to slipping his head loose by way of backing out of the collar.  All those things mattered little to me though as he took my touching so well.

You see, Dear Reader, when I touch a dog I am communicating to them on a primal, instinctual level that is familiar to all canines (and to the majority of creatures on the planet).  This is so much more important than training and behavior modification!  Touch is the heart of dog language, it goes into energy, space, and how all dogs interact and build relationships.

Cato was a sweetheart.  A heavily muscled, cropped-eared, strong-jawed pushover.  Because he received touching so well from me, a stranger, I knew he could get over those fears and I knew he would make for a great family dog.  Jokingly, I mentioned how cool I thought he was and “If you ever get rid of him just let me know.”  I finished my eval/training session and merrily went off to my next appointments.  (Special note: if a dog training company has time to offer Free evaluations typically that clues us into the fact that they’re services are Not in demand, or they’re planning to pull a big upsell on you, or they do their alleged “training” only part time = I’d typically steer clear of these companies/people when searching for a quality behaviorist/trainer but bear in mind there are always exceptions to the rule)

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Shoulders for days

Well, life has a way of handing us what you put out into the atmosphere and within a couple weeks we got a call about the possibility of us taking Cato or at least fostering him until a suitable home could be found for him.  His owner had hurt her hip (apparently unrelated to Cato or the dogs) and the doc was telling her it would take a while to heal up  and since I had mentioned to her to let me know if she ever got rid of him…

The bride and I had a fitful night of back and forth and other low-minded indecisiveness.  I did not enjoy it.  I liked Cato but weeks later I was purposefully and intelligently thinking of things that would potentially disqualify him from entering our home.  You see, Dear Reader, we should all use our heads as well as our hearts when it comes to rescue and shelter dogs.  We must consider our lives, and our children, and our schedules wisely.  In this way we can foment growth both in our home and family and in the new dog.  I was thinking of all the potentially terrible happenings that could occur if/when we took in a two year old, powerful breed, shelter dog and things went sideways because my first responsibility is as a husband to my wife and a father of four young children and then as a dog owner of my older boxer, Rambo.  If more people thought this way instead of rushing out with emotions blazing perhaps dogs in the rescue world wouldn’t have such a bad return rate, or bite rate, or as many behavior issues.  Maybe shelters and rescues (very well meaning) should stop lying or at least hiding the truth about certain dogs’ temperaments just to up their monthly and yearly adopted dog numbers!  Many rescues do this.  It’s a sad truth.  Many dogs should not have gone out.  They were unready for a home.  I see the rest of the story.  I see the bites on children.  I see the bites on other dogs.  I hear the stories direct from our clients of the bites on unwitting and unequipped dog trainers and behaviorists they hired prior to using our unique services.  I see neurotic dog after dog after dog.  It’s time to stop listening to sappy commercials that purposefully manipulate your heartstrings and utilize both your heart AND YOUR HEAD when contemplating bringing another dog into your home.  By all means love the dog.  Love it fully which includes leading it.

Tune in next time for the Part 3 of 4 of Cato’s story and for more tips about dog language and about rescue dogs and their proper care and handling.

For more reading in the meantime please sample my books on Amazon.  Simply search Garrett Stevens or search Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety

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I know, I know, we need to clean our floors. They are especially messy because the new home we moved into had giant holes in the back yard from the previous owner’s dogs digging like mad. This spring there will be much grass planting going on.

-G