Garrett Stevens: Dog Detective

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I am a detective.  Observation is the first step to understanding in my field of study.  The more keenly I observe the more success I’ve found. I am constantly unraveling mysteries.  Solving cases.  Each and every person and dog I come into contact with provides me with clues and evidences.  I cultivate my powers of deduction.  Reasoning.  Thinking.  I am cautious never to jump to conclusions and yet I am always puzzling out the possibilities.

Over the years I have learned to follow my hunches.  Gut instinct is something I have learned to rely on.  Still I’m always searching for hard evidence.  Just the facts.

My job is to uncover the truth.  The more adept at finding clues and following them the more clearly the truth unfolds into tangible, solid, images.  This is no mirage.  And the truth is always waiting to be discovered.

“I have trained myself to notice what I see.” -Sherlock Holmes

I pull up to another house on yet another appointment.  It’s drizzly and gray outside.   A continual dropping of cool precipitation falls around me.  Real Tacoma weather.  The weather is but a reflection of many of the bleak situations my clients face.

My clients.  All the same.  All different.  Poor folks who got mixed up dealing with a rough crowd.  Or should I say a “ruff” crowd?  Dogs.

Dogs don’t mind trouble.  Some dogs even look for it.  Some were born and bred for it.

I ring the doorbell.  Then I clear my mind of all the thoughts that can sneak into it and cling there.  Another door means another dog and another owner.  Taking a deep breath I brace myself. Time to focus.  Time to see.

I drink in the little details.

The welcome mat that tells me the client is a “dog lover,”…that a “Spoiled rotten dog lives there.”  I wonder, have they fallen for the dog’s charms and taken an oversimplified view of the dog’s intelligence not recognizing the dog as a manipulative mastermind thus leading to a plethora of behavioral issues?

I am conscious of the amount of time it takes them to come open the door…Are they fully invested in solving the case and getting to the bottom of it or only half-hearted in their attempts to better their own situation?

There are several spider webs in the corners of their porch…When was the last time they cleaned the porch, or their house, for that matter, and are they a painstaking person enough to take the time and action necessary for the pleasant resolution of their case?

I hear them approach.  And, of course, I heard the beast’s rapid approach before them…Did the dog slam into the door while barking ferociously?  Was it out of fearful, territorial behavior?  Was the dog assertively claiming the doorway and warning whoever is behind it?  Me.  I’m there.  Waiting to clap eyes upon the mongrel and his master.

I’ve got to be alert in this line of work.  Danger can rear it’s ugly head in the blink of an eye.  Dogs are fast.  People are not.

“It is my business to know what other people don’t know.” -Sherlock Holmes

Dogs are powerful.  Most dogs have power enough in their jaws to easily break bones.  Fortunately for me they usually choose not to.  Still, I’ve got to be alert and observant and ready for anything.

Dogs come equipped with great weapons.  But I also am armed.  I come armed with an understanding of an ancient and primal language.  I have my observational skills.  And I always carry my trusty bag.

My bag has literally saved my skin more times than I care to remember.  From Pit bulls to Pekingese there’s been so many bites my bag has taken in place of my arm!

There’s this myth that exists…most folks believe it.  It goes something like, “Dogs just want to please.”  Give me a break!  Boy, do we need to wise up. That’s like saying “Kids just want to please.”  It simply isn’t true in most cases.  That’s why I’m here though, to find the truth and see what others cannot.

I’ve got to connect the pieces, find the clues, and solve the case.  It’s what I do as a dog detective.

 

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Can you control your own energy? Can you influence your dog’s energy?

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Energy is hard to define but vitally important.  Websters defines energy as “the ability to be active.  The physical and mental strength that allows you to do things.  Natural enthusiasm and effort.  Usable power that comes from heat, electricity, etc.” Other definitions of energy include “the strength or vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.  The capacity of power to do work.  The power derived from the utilization of physical or chemical resources, especially to provide light and heat,  or to work machines.”

Synonyms of energy include; vitality, vigor, life, animation, vivacity, spirit, enthusiasm, zest, spark, effervescence, exuberance, buoyancy, strength, stamina, power, drive, fire, passion, ardor, zeal, pep, pizzazz, moxie, mojo and go!

Energy is important.  Energy is real.  Energy is often misunderstood and overlooked particularly when we consider how much, or should I say how little, we know about personal energy and the energy of everything around us.

Today I want to encourage you to learn to read/interpret and then control your own energy and learn to read your dog’s energy.  Be a referee of your dog or pup’s energy!  You can accomplish this by taking charge of your own personal energy first.

Have you considered your own personal senses and all the things assaulting your brain?  I would start there.  Let’s slow down for a second and think about this…

Let’s pick one of your five senses and imagine all the energy in the environment that flows into your mind from that one sense.  Let’s start with hearing.  Please picture with me all the sound energy that your ears take in!  From airplanes passing overhead, to TVs and radios, from little children yelling, laughing, and working on their oratory skills, to birds chirping, traffic noises, neighborhood lawn mowers, ringtones, the quick buzzing of insects, garage doors opening and closing, the footfalls of folks in a hallway or on the steps, to the never ending drone of a computer running our two ears are constantly catching noises and sound energy.  Sometimes our brains block out the cacophony of energy and we barely notice the tidal wave of sounds.   At other times all it takes is an inconsiderate neighbor acting like a clown and blasting his music with extra bass to expose our last nerve!

(For a fun exercise close your eyes now for a minute or three and don’t say a word.  Just listen.  Listen and try to identify how many sounds are around you.)

Now think about how this is just one, only one of our many senses!  It’s amazing to think how much energy is constantly flowing around us, into us, and out of us!

A good ref always takes action before the energy rises to uncontrollable levels!  Note the physical expression and interception by the ref.

The mother and father dog instinctively understand that they have to conserve and save their energy.  Pups don’t know this; that’s one big reason they are more hyperactive than adults.  The mother and father dog also know that there is only so much energy allowed in any environment at one time.  This is critically important for you to understand if you want to be able to calm or control your dog or puppy’s energy levels.  There is only so much energy allowed in any one territory or pack at one time.  If it gets too high there will be an “explosion” or some form of fight or flight!

Here is a very human example I use when helping my clients…

Imagine you are at a party.  Things seem to be going swimmingly until you notice someone is going a bit too far.  Before you know it there’s a spilled drink or some sort of outburst coming from the culprit.  All heads turn toward the sound or sight of the extra energy coming from across the room.  Then everyone turns back so as not to be rude or commit a social faux pas.  You might be one of the ones to turn back a bit slower and even add a disapproving shake of your head or raise your eyes wide as you rejoin the conversation circle you were engaged in before the energy burst from the other side of the room interrupted you.  This is classic non-verbal communication we all know so well.  And an example of how too much of the wrong energy causes chaos in the environment.

If you look real closely…and I mean look really close, with a sharp eye you may be able to tell that the dog featured in this picture is exhibiting low energy.

We all move up and down the energy scale throughout our day.  We wake up and get moving and eat breakfast which then gets turned into fuel for our human “fire” and we have more energy.  If we eat too much lunch we then may find we have less energy to output because our insides are too busy converting the giant meal…our gut hasn’t finished converted the food fuel into usable energy yet and we are sluggish.

Our dogs move up and down the energy scale too. As wise dog owners we should seek to learn more about how to calm or intercept our dog’s energy.  Cultivating calm energy is the only thing that prevents behavioral issues!

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” -Aristotle

Remember, any fool can pump a dog up and excite them; only someone with a deep understanding of body language and energy control can calm them down quickly and effectively.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Energy and Persistence conquer all things.”  Isn’t that good?  I can’t get enough!

I leave you with a few great quotes from some notable folks who really influenced the world around them with an understanding and application of energy.  Now go boldly forward and influence your dog’s energy!

Don’t we ALL need to apply this great quote!

“If you want to define the secrets of the language of dogs think in terms of energy, touch, and how the senses experience the environment.” Garrett Stevens

 

PS.

Be on the lookout for our upcoming book!  It will be very applicable and different from what I’ve seen in dog training and behavioral modification books…it will actually work and work well!  -G

The Legend of “Shoebox” Millie and her 17 children

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My grandmother is legend.  My father is one of seventeen children!  This is not an exaggeration.  And they all came from the same man and woman…

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My grandparents: Mildred and Sherman Stevens

 

I call them Grandpa and Grammy.  I come from what any person, people-group or culture on earth would call a “large” family.

This post will be a more personal look into my Stevens family legacy and (of course) beneficial info about dogs and canine behavior.

Dogs also tend to be from large families.  Some people call them packs.  They live in large social groups.  Whenever a dog is having a problem behaviorally they will manifesting a problem socially.  It can always be traced to how they interact with the owners, the other animals in the home, and, of course, the neighboring animals or people in the environment.  Social behavior is always the key.  Is the dog using “cut-off” or “calming signals?”  Or is the dog presenting more fight/flight behaviors and habits of over-excitement?

Personally speaking, I find it humorous and even bordering on the ridiculous when a mom or a dad freaks out because they are having trouble dealing with their couple of kids.  Many parents jokingly, and often seriously, complain or act as if it is so extremely tough dealing with a couple of playful kids (I’ve fallen into this category too, occasionally- I think we all do from time to time)  But if you can imagine what my grandfather and grandmother had to deal with for a moment and then adjust your whining attitude, shut up and take the time to go play with your kid I’m sure you’d have a much better day and I know for certain you’d be a better parent!

Our children are only young and wanting our attention for a little while.  Then they become teens and, like a common criminal, don’t want any measure of attention drawn to their covert activities excepting the attention it takes for us to read the “KEEP OUT” sign on their door.   I’m sure if more of today’s parents could walk in my grandparents shoes for a week or two they would grow leaps and bounds in the masterful parenting category.

On the subject of parenting, canines are highly respected in the world of science.  The family group is very patient but still firm as many contribute to raise the pups into adulthood.  Sociability and calmness are key.  They are taught the rules of social spacing and body language, how to play, how to calm down if the older canine says to calm down, self control of their energy levels, how to hunt and eat, what is and isn’t theirs to claim, how to touch and be touched -smell and be smelled and, of course, many other things but most importantly how to survive by living together peaceably.

When people talk of “Alpha dogs” they usually misrepresent them and talk of domination.  The true alphas are patient yet firm parents who spend their lives raising pups into balanced adults.  They are fantastic peacemakers.

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A couple of true Alphas in this life – they work for the benefit of others and know how to run a successful team!

 

I have always joked that after having seven or eight children I’m sure it’s just as easy to deal with seventeen because you can just delegate more responsibility to the older ones.  Make them your workers so to speak. A good leader always attempts to multiply himself.  This theory of mine would only work though if you did a good job raising the older ones! So don’t start cranking out the kids just yet.

The average litter of a dog is six pups.  Obviously this varies based on health, age, breed (size) but it averages out to around six.  That’s a family of eight.  Not as big as my dad’s family but still not too shabby, especially when you consider that (in the wild) some of the previous years siblings stay with the parents and become “uncles” and “aunts” for the new pups.

My father and his many siblings (and my grandparents) were all very athletic.  They all excelled in sports.  This came from natural talent, of course, but I also believe a couple other factors helped to develop the natural athleticism.  One reason was that they had enough brothers and sisters as there are players in most organized sports!  They could literally play a full court game of basketball (5 on 5) and still have subs left on the bench.  Another factor was that there wasn’t a ton of money to go around and sports generally are cheap (especially when the whole team lives together!)  Combine these reasons with a time when kids weren’t morbidly obese, addicted and indoctrinated all day by TV or computers, or had ridiculous phones glued to their faces but instead spent actual time outside and you can see a recipe for making better athletes.

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My dog Rambo leaps for the Frisbee!  How’s this pic for capturing a canine athlete in action?

Dogs are athletic.  Plenty of dogs can run at the average speed of 32 miles per hour!  Some can run faster, Greyhounds can do 45 mph!  Dogs can leap, spin, and dance with the best of them.  If trained properly and the body type or breed of the dog allows many dogs can learn to rock climb, jump and scale over very high walls, wrestle larger creatures/people to the ground, herd much larger numbers of animals successfully, leap off docks at incredible distances, make amazing, flipping and leaping catches of balls, toys and Frisbees, and, if socialized, dogs even handicap their wrestling or play to be able to play at lower energy levels and with much smaller or weaker individuals. They are excellent athletes and the number one (land) endurance athlete on earth!

All my family loves to joke and fool around.  We are quick-witted and can be brutally honest.  Little to nothing is sacred.  A “tough skin” comes with the territory.  There are little to no brats like you may find in a very small family.  The emphasis was not on “That’s my toy!” or other material things but instead on getting along and playing with each other.

A famous and textbook brat, Veruca, wants things her way all the time.  Typical of an imbalanced dog but naturally (out in the wild) very rare and un-canine like.

I recall my dad laughing as he told us a story when he was little………..

At Christmas time the siblings would sometimes wrap up some of their old items and give them as gifts to their brothers and sisters.  Eventually my Grandparents were forced to call a halt to that method of gift-giving after a few jokers started wrapping up their old, used underwear.  I can just hear Bing Crosby or Andy Williams singing a lovely carol about that!

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My dad is the big lad making the goofy face next to the Christmas tree

Anyway, the point I’m making is that play and teamwork was actually necessary.  The sheer large numbers of beings living that closely together calls for cooperation.  And playing, whether some sport or making fun of each other or someone else, can and does function as a sort of stress reliever.

In canines this method is used often.  It is used by the wolf packs Alphas and by the Omega.  The Omega, instead of being a sniveling weakling like the traditionally propagated beliefs, are in reality, more like the class clowns and are experts at relieving tension.  The idea is – “Chase me, chew me, nip me, just don’t seriously fight and injure or kill one another.”

Wolves and dogs should all be specialists at tension relief and have what are called, “cut-off” or ,”calming signals.”  These signals are used constantly in the dog language and are what allow for pack living.  The Alphas are fantastic teachers and peace keepers who use these signals readily.  These are what set the canine apart from many other solitary predators.

Stevens Family Reunion…

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Stevensfest 2011

Just some of the family (many could not make it)

Just some of the tribe (many could not make it)

We had a Stevens Family Reunion a couple years back.  I think there has only been three or four official reunions over the years due to the large numbers it’s hard getting folks all together in one spot at one time. It was so great to spend time with the family.  We played our instruments, played sports, told stories and jokes, explored New Hampshire and reconnected.  My wife, Amalia, commented to me about how marvelously everyone got a long and how there was no drama.  I think that is an interesting point coming from someone who wasn’t born into the family.  She noticed the difference of how to function in a giant family.  Almost a selflessness that each individual shows to or for the benefit of the group.

My Grandparents, Parents, and Siblings and our spouses and kids (2011)

My grandparents, parents, and siblings and our spouses and kids (2011)  I’m the devilishly handsome bloke on the right (near the gorgeous brunettes: my wife and daughter)

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Impromptu Stevens Jam on the beach 
I’m on the mandolin (near center of pic).  Loved every second of jamming with the pack.

Being part of a team and being playful and athletic is a big part of the Stevens family…possibly even a survival tactic.  Very similar to dogs.  All intelligent animals play and dogs are masters of it (see my post “Slugs Do Not Play. Worms Do Not Play” and check out my Five steps for Perfecting Play in your pooch!)  In order for group play to occur there has to be some level of control.  Human example: If you smack someone in basketball a foul is called.  Canine example:  If a young dog jumps inappropriately on an older dog that older dog will “call a foul” …with a bite if need be.

Living in packs also causes competition and there are few people I’ve met in life more competitive than the members of the Stevens pack.  We want to win.  Dogs also want to win.  Winning means surviving and that was passed down to dogs from their great, great, great, (et cetera), grandparents, the wolves.  This is also one big reason why dogs are master manipulators and it is second nature for many dogs to attempt to one-up their owner to get their own way.  The dog will clearly communicate what it wants and it is up to us to agree with the behavior or to disagree.

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“Shoebox Millie” Stevens in her old seat at the church they used run (my Grandpa Sherm was the pastor) in an extremely small town in New Hampshire.

Anyway…I hope this post gave some of you my clients and followers a look into my family/personal life and sort of answered the commonly asked question of how or why I’m so good at dog behavioral rehab and training…maybe…I just come from a family who are more like dogs?  And coming from me… that’s a high compliment.

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One of my grandmother’s autographed pics from when she used to sing on the radio

 

–This post was dedicated to the passing of a Legend.  My sweet Grammy “Shoebox” Millie, born only 2 pounds, the doctors thought she wouldn’t survive, did she prove them wrong!  When Millie was an infant her mother had to keep her warm in a shoe box in the stove!  She went on to have 17 children and many, many grand-kids and great-grand-kids.  A mother of many, a world traveler and missionary, talented (she used to sing and play on the radio) humorous, and kind, a selfless woman who left an amazing legacy.

My legendary Grandmother “Shoebox Millie” weighed only 2lbs at birth. Her mother kept her warm by placing her inside a shoe box and in their stove!  She went on to live an amazing life and had 17 children (and many, many more grandchildren and great grandchildren!

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

 

Grammy, you left this earth with a legacy of love and humor and now heaven is much richer.  I love you.

And love to all my many Stevens relatives out there and to the best Parents and Grandparents a guy could ever wish for.

Stevens Strong

With Smiles,

Garrett

A primer on the etiquette of butt-smelling

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

more info at  gstevensdogtrainer.com

PLEASE SHARE THIS Article!!!

 

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