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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Once the honeymoon is over you may be in for serious trouble…

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Hello.  First off, congrats on your honeymoon.  Really, a full and hearty felicidades from me to you.  BUT…and it’s a big but (think Sir Mix-a-lot) are you ready to move on from the honeymoon and into this new phase of your real life?  Are you ready to get on with your day-to-day?  Are you prepared to get real?  I hate to break this to you but once the honeymoon is over you may be in for trouble…

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I’m writing very specifically about what I call “the honeymoon period” -whenever a new puppy, or a new dog, or rescue dog enters a new home.  So let’s take a quick look at exactly just what transpires between dog and new owner during and after the honeymoon.  Let’s get real.  Let’s be honest.

The honeymoon period is often a fantastic time (or seemingly so) between a dog owner and their new puppy or rescue dog.  The first week or three the dog is basically just feeling things out and exploring the terrain.  Most new dog or puppy owners are so thrilled with their new pets they are showering them with so much human affection and attention that they are blind to what is actually going on with the psyche of the new pup or dog in their family’s home.   So what exactly is going on as the new creature explores new relationships and new home environs?

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I would caption this pic, “Humans are insane”   This poor dog is probably just begging for a little bit of dignity

Many people are under the impression the first couple weeks that the new dog in the house is just going to work out great because everything is going swimmingly on the “honeymoon.”  The dog or pup is following them around.  Often times the dog is still unsure of where it stands and who is leading who, so, it will seem to the unwitting new owner as if it’s the sweetest and dearest creature on the planet.

As the days pass though the dog or puppy starts to (at least in the dog world and in the canine way of communicating) lead by controlling touch and manipulating the space around their own furry body and the space around their human’s body.  They soon can control and manipulate the space and items in and around the home.  (Ask yourself how do dogs naturally build relationships.  Think on that for a bit.)

People will often think their dog is a “real lover” because the animal is establishing a domineering form of over-touching.   Only a human would believe (in our incredible imagination) that our dog’s consistent touching of us is some form of dog love or affection…in reality it is simply a canine way to lead through social grooming.  A large portion of mammals establish relationships and leadership techniques through touching and social grooming rituals.

Do dogs make out with their mouths like people do?  Do dogs kiss?  NO- they don’t.  So please don’t fall victim to the “kiss” myth your own new dog or puppy may be attempting to sell you on!  When a new dog or pup is constantly licking or mouthing you this is most usually a canine way to one-up you and gain control.  Never let your dog or pup consistently lick you.  If left unchecked this will, of course, lead to the animal assuming too much command in most areas of it’s life (even though it should Not be in command of your personal space while living under your roof) and this will then lead to an onslaught of behavioral issues.

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Over the top much?

*Hint*  Be very aware of the honeymoon period and be sure to set clear boundaries about your own personal space and body and your new dog or pup’s body.

*Bigger Hint*  Do NOT let your dog or puppy constantly lick you.  Do NOT let them demand petting or touching.  Do NOT let them always invade or be in your personal space.  There is absolutely Zero reasons for a dog to consistently lick it’s owner unless the dog is seeking to gain social control by controlling touch.  And if you’ve got a fearful dog or pup this applies DOUBLE!!!  Do NOT let the dog live in your spatial bubble!!!

Most folks, while very well meaning, are doing almost Everything completely backwards when compared to how the mother, father, uncle, or aunt dog would behave and treat a new or younger pup in their environment.  Most people are showering the dog with over-attention during the honeymoon period and then wonder why weeks or months or years later they can’t relax because the dog has become an attention hound!

The honeymoon period presents a giant opportunity for the astute observer of nature and her glorious and calming ways.  Please take action during the honeymoon period so that when it comes time to get real it is an easy transition.  Lay the ground rules.  Set a firm but calm foundation.

Let your dog or pup EARN your attention and affection little by little.  You – the human, the one paying the mortgage, the one holding the keys to the house, the person who drives the car, the guy or gal who feeds the dog…YOU need to guide your dog or pup and have the relationship begin with Respect and then let the dog or pup EARN your valuable trust.

If your dog and you are already beyond the honeymoon period and you need help or for more info go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  and #getgarrett

Alternative lessons: The Tortoise and the Hare

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I love Aesop and his many fables.  The guy was wise.  He was creative.  As humans we all appreciate stories even if not all of us appreciate learning or applying the lessons.  In today’s exciting blog post we will look at the classic story of the Hare and the Tortoise and hopefully learn something new.  Let’s take an alternative (Garrett Stevens) look at a classic fable…

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Why can’t the Hare get any love?  I’m serious.  Is it the rabbit’s fault he was born for speed?

I get the lesson of the story.  Over the years I’ve learned that slow and steady can win “the race.”  I am a huge fan of patient persistence especially when it’s intelligently directed toward a specific goal.  But what about all the benefits of speed and explosiveness?  How can we ignore the power of quickness and an explosive start?

I say let’s learn from both wonderful creatures and their strengths!

Part One:  THE HARE

Yes, the Hare lost.  He had a fantastic start to “the race.”  The rabbit burst from the starting line like a bullet leaving the tortoise in a massive cloud of earth and dust.  But we all know what happened down the road.  The Hare got distracted.  He got lazy.  He was too comfortable in his abilities.  Some might say the Hare even procrastinated during “the race.”

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The Hare had an amazing start and some strong moments throughout “the race.”  If he had kept his focus victory could have been his.  “Could have been“…morose words.  I pray we personally never have to think or dwell on words like those at the end of our lives.

What if we could combine the strengths of the Hare with the strengths of the Tortoise in our personal lives?  We can!  And we must.  Here is why…

In today’s world of entertainment, online connectivity, and tomorrow’s future virtual reality it is extremely, extremely easy and getting ever easier to settle for a comfortable life and nothing more.  With an almost immeasurable number of TV shows and websites one can quite literally waste half or more of one’s life watching someone else live instead of doing the living oneself!  Think of that for a moment.  Staggering.  My point?  The Hare was a great starter.  He didn’t like to sit still.  He possibly would have been diagnosed with ADHD if he had been a second-grade American boy from today’s era.

All action begins with a single step.  “He who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones.”  For many people the starting line is scary.  So many folks would prefer to simply watch others on TV and, from their couches, they stare ahead like zombies at other people’s starts, middles, and finishes.  It’s so much safer that way.  (Please don’t be condemned – I am as guilty of zombie watching and checking out of my own life as the next bloke).  The hare raced forward with several steps.  He took action.

We all could learn from the Hare.  We only have so much time and if you really want to accomplish anything sometimes we need to throw caution to the wind (don’t hide in your shell) and just take off!  Screw comfort – embrace quickness!  Have confidence in yourself!  Don’t over think everything – “Just DO It!”  The Nike Company must be fans of the Hare…their slogan is total rabbit talk.  Nike must also be tortoise fans as well (just look at their longevity and success thus far.)

I believe some people are more inclined to be Hares while others are more inclined to be Tortoises.  Furthermore identifying this Who’s who could be a great opportunity in one’s personal life, marriage, career, et cetera to compliment and encourage each other and to help lend someone our specific strength where we sense a need.

Can you imagine how much the tortoises of the world would relish the amazing speed, outgoing nature, and carefree actions of the hare if they had them at their disposal?  Can you imagine how much the hares across the planet could learn to appreciate the steady and persistent and reliable finishes of the tortoise?

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I’ve heard of the Jack-a-lope but this is getting ridiculous

 

Now let’s translate imagination into actual ACTION like a good Hare and explode forward with passion and energy.  Beware distractions though and cultivate sharp focus.

(apply this action to your daily dog handling!)

Tune in next time as we examine the terrific and tremendous attributes of the Tortoise…TO BE CONTINUED…

 

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Are you safe?

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Are you safe?

Are you stuck in a self-created, bland, daily routine?  Would you call your life adventurous and free or would you call it safe?   Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

While adventure isn’t the most important thing in life I believe it should hold a place of value and be sometimes specifically sought after.  I am not alone in this belief.  If we follow the fun in life as we travel, reach out, and interact in this our wide world and embrace the fascinating people, places, creatures, and things in it we all can find a richer experience as we journey this life together.

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal.” -Paulo Coelho

If we follow after safety nothing great is accomplished!  Imagine the great heroes in the history of our world.  Since the dawn of time they have been memorialized because they chose the unsafe path!  They placed themselves in harm’s way to help others.  They chose adventure over safety and comfort.  They did the hard thing not the easy thing.

We’ve all heard the expression “No risk – No reward.”  It’s true.  Risk is good!

Dogs are natural explorers.  They are naturally curious and adventuresome.    A dog left loose in a neighborhood will range and rove and follow where his sensitive senses take him…for better and sometimes for worse!  This is nature’s way.  The way of freedom.

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We are facing a crisis in this country currently.  A crisis called fear.  In the name of “safety” and “security” certain rights and freedoms have been taken away.  As the years pass us by and more corrupt politicians enter the game we steadily lose more freedoms as big government continues it’s unhampered growth.  This pervading feeling that “safety” should be foremost in our minds and lives is usually motivated by fear.  The media constantly preys on our fight/flight instincts as the news manipulates the masses.  If you avidly watch the news to “stay informed” you may find you are just “staying programmed” to whatever messages the media may want inside your brain.  (Personally I try my best to limit all forms of “news” media and have found it amazingly beneficial on my mind, and my thinking and actions.)

This crisis of fear and the medias plays on our “safe” thinking isn’t safe..  Sadly this way of thinking isn’t limited to government.

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Many loving parents over-protect and condition their children from a very young age to be fearful and non-adventurous.  The days of “free-range” kids roaming neighborhoods until sundown are tragically diminishing.  In place of kids running around and getting into their own mischief and adventures their mothers set up play-dates.  Play-dates (if you do the research) lead to less self-reliance, less creativity, and less freedom for the child and parent!

We have done this exact thing with our dogs over the years.  And we have done worse. When leash laws started being implemented we actually took away our dogs natural ability to successfully navigate a neighborhood with traffic and people, critters, and distractions.  As we tightened up on the illusion of control and patted law-makers on the back for “dog-safe” leash laws we didn’t consider the possible future rebellion from our dogs!

The results of increased laws in the name of safety have been increased aggression toward people and dogs, dogs without wisdom running into traffic and being killed, increased territorialism, increased fears and phobias, and wildly unsocial dogs!

Please consider this.  Please don’t just brush this off.  Allow the thoughts you have on this subject to begin in the past… about 30-40 years ago when many dogs (like kids) used to romp and adventure through the neighborhood and interact with other dogs and people.  Then bring your mind to present day and consider that although we have more dog training programs, more behaviorists, more dog daycare programs, more vet offices, more pet television programs, more “safety” and more alleged dog info than ever before in all of the history of the world …dog bites (dog aggression and dog fear) are on the rise!  It’s been steadily getting worse over the past 10 years!  

Am I against leash laws in cities and urban areas and towns.  Of course not.  I’m just trying to stimulate some thoughts.  I’m hoping to get some conversations going.  Because we do need a change.  Each year 5 million Americans are getting bit by dogs!  Half of those bitten are our own precious children!  Most training and behavior modification methods are shoddy and inefficient.  So I’m hoping people will start asking questions.

Questions about safety vs. adventure.  Questions about law-making.  Questions about human behavior.  Questions about dog behavior.  Questions about growing government.  Questions about control vs. freedom.  Questions about intelligence.  Questions about sociability.

“I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude.”  -Thomas Jefferson

“The secret of happiness is freedom.  The secret of freedom is courage.”  -Thucydides

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”  -Gandhi

The point of this post = To raise critical questions and thinking among the masses.  To remind you, as you work with your dogs and puppies, never over-control, and never micro-manage or a rebellion may result in the future!  To seek out adventure and newness in your relationship with your dogs and those around you and sometimes throw caution to the wind.  Seek to balance freedom with direct communication with your dog.

Questions?  Give us a call.  We are the best in the business.    -G

You can’t Sell confidence to a Skittish dog

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Are you a human?  I assume you answered yes to that first question.

Let’s move on.

Do you have a skittish dog?  Do you have a fearful dog?  Do you have a nervous or anxious dog?  Do you have an aggressive dog?  Most aggression I come across (and I work more than any other person I know so I see a lot of dogs on a daily basis) is based in fear.   The skittish dog or puppy lives with aggression and or phobias that it has grown into outrageously, ridiculous proportions and many times done so right under the loving and watchful eye of their owners!  What can be done?  Well, let’s look at what most people do…………………………………………..

Almost every person I’ve met attempts to “sell” their fearful dog confidence.  THIS DOES NOT WORK.  THIS WILL NEVER WORK.  And the funny and tragic thing is, is that we start by feeling bad for the skittish dog and then giving it even more attention and all while the dog is acting in a fearful manner!  Let’s take a deeper look at an all-too-common interaction.

THIS is YOU! Please don’t attempt to deny it. All people attempt to “sell” their dogs because they come at them from a human viewpoint. We seldom consider things from the dog’s point of view because we are not dogs…but it’s high time we started thinking like them and communicating in ways they understand!

You are walking down the sidewalk in your neighborhood and one of your neighbors approaches you with their new rescue dog.  The dog is clearly skittish, nervous, fearful (however you want to describe it) and displays these phobias right away with poor posture, hiding, barking, sometimes even growling, lunging to snap, or lunging to get away from your touch.  So what do you do?………….you go into human salesman mode and start speaking in a higher tone (like some weird, flighty child) and getting down (actually getting in the nervous dog’s space without giving it a second) directly looking at and giving lots of attention to the nervous animal (something all older calm and social dogs would never do) and sometimes you spread your arms out wide or offer the back of your stupid hand for the nervous dog to smell.  You offer your hand not because it is wise but because that’s exactly what everyone does and that’s what you think works.

I ask you, Is that an accurate description of what you have done or most other folks you come across will attempt with a nervous dog?  If you are honest you should be shouting a resounding, “YES!” at your computer or phone right now.  Let’s continue…

(and before continuing this is a note to the more sensitive readers out there – Please understand it is my job {literally} to smash apart and dismantle many of the all-too-commonly accepted doggy beliefs (these pervasive and dangerous dog myths) that exist out there in order to raise awareness and consideration to how dog’s think and communicate.  The dismantling process is bound to be unpleasant or uncomfortable for us as humans particularly because few things in this universe are as sensitive and large as the human ego)  I have clearly and concisely done so in my HOT Listed book,  Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

I would highly, highly suggest picking up a copy (or two – they make great gifts for the dog-lovers in your life) of my book.  Hundreds have already preordered it and several folks have already reported back how just after reading a few chapters, and applying the unique info they are seeing it work to calm and help their dogs!  But let’s get back to this particular post…continuing…

Have you taken even one second to consider what an older, calmer dog would do in this situation?…..of course Not!  Have you thought about what the mother or father dog would do if this was one of their puppies?……No way!  You went right into relating to the dog backwards and you are totally wrong!  Yes, I’m sorry to break it to you.  And I know this might be an especially hard truth for you to face seeing as how you’re a “dog lover” but (in many cases) you just contributed to more fear and the further foolish human tradition of relating to the dog backwards and as an enabler of the dog or pup’s fears!  You just added more fear to the situation!  Let’s break this down nice and slow so our human brains can get it……………………………………………..

  1.  You acknowledged fear and tried to comfort a fearful state of mind!  That is something any animal in leadership would never, ever, ever do!  In fact, the only time you should “acknowledge” fear is when the dog is using the fear to manipulate it into aggression.  IF you have the know-how to acknowledge and intercept the dog’s fears then it is actually a direct confrontation you will be bringing in order to honestly, and adamantly disagree (while using expert timing) with the dog’s fearful/aggressive behavior at that exact moment in time…and it is never done to comfort or “sell” confidence to the dog.

2.  By giving the skittish dog a lot of attention and your eye contact you are adding fear to the already fearful dog and you are inadvertently making the nervous animal the leader in the short exchange!  If we look at it simply leaders are leaders because someone is watching them!  This is why the father or mother dog would take the opportunity to ignore a nervous puppy, particularly when there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

3.  In most interactions and meetings with a fearful dog the human salesman barges into it with what they think is a proven sales pitch.  A pitch that is designed to sell confidence, calm nerves, and make quick friends….but it’s a pitch that never, ever lands the sale if it’s pitched to a truly skittish or fearful dog!  You addressed the nervous puppy or dog by speaking.  Speaking addresses the animal’s ears.  And if you know even the first thing about dogs (sadly most people don’t because most trainers and behaviorist are uneducated themselves about the natural world) or how they communicate you would consider how their senses are developed and how the empirical, sensory world of the dog is a totally different experience from our own.  I mean, basically, that hearing is one of the last and least important senses to a dog and to canine communication!  But you just kept on with the attempted “comfort” and “kindness” all while never considering your audience.

4.  For the love of God please don’t put your hand in the dog’s face.  This to me is the epitome of misunderstanding our own dog’s language and a great example of human idiocy.  It also screams of indecision (indecision that is physically displayed with this lame gesture) and Who is going to lead?  I don’t know?  Do I come half way?  Do I go into the dog’s space with my outstretched hand?  Do they come to me?  Do they come halfway?  If you’re asking these questions just forget all you’ve been taught and you may eventually be on the start to a more natural understanding of your dog’s language!  Indecision let’s fear gain a manipulative foothold!  And dog’s read body language better than any human on the planet since dogs have no written and very little “spoken” language.

This image is what NOT to do! Shocking to many, I know, but still a ridiculous gesture and one that can be snapped at! And…like we talked about…way too much attention if the dog is nervous!

If you’re looking for the right answers and what to do always ask yourself what would the mother or father dog do in this situation?  This question will really help guide you through a plethora of different doggy interactions.  Any other questions feel free to ask your own dog…he’ll answer if you are observant enough.  Anything further that may need clarifying… ask me!

-SUBSCRIBE/FOLLOW us!!!!  Join our pack – you’re gonna love it!  (and please understand this post was purposefully honest and direct to elicit some emotion, some response, and some Change!)

-G

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

Action, Energy, and Honor in Ancient Rome

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“The whole praise of virtue lies in action.” – Cicero.

Let’s define action…

Action:  the process of doing something; typically to achieve an aim.

What are your actions today?  What is your chief aim?  What are your goals?  I can tell you with certainty that if you responded with a, “Not much” or some answer of that sort you will be bound to a life of “Not much” accomplishment!

Ancient Rome!

Let’s journey into the land of our imaginations for a moment and try and picture what life was like thousands of years ago in the city of Rome.  The ancient Romans were a people and a culture that loved and respected action.  They were always looking for a way to show kinetic energy.  The ancient Roman word for “soul” is directly linked to movement, energy, and action.  The word inertia in ancient Roman culture can be translated as “having no soul!”  What, I wonder, would many ancient Roman citizens think of our culture today?

Are you presenting yourself and your dog to society in the right way?  The question may seem a bit strange but manners, customs, and proper public conduct, or lack thereof, can cause the rise or downfall of great civilizations!  What do you think of your own personal energy?  Have you considered your personal energy and how and what it is spent on before?  Have you considered your energy levels in regard to communication with your dog or pup?  How is your dog’s energy in comparison with your own?  Can you raise or focus your energy or your puppies’ energy at will?  Can you calm and relax your energy and your pup’s energy?

Roman honor and their daily way of life was all about the actions one took.  They were extremely specific about how, when, and where they directed their energies.  In normal public life one went about showing strong energy which would in turn lead to many honorable feats and accomplishments.  Just imagine where the world would be without arches, aqueducts, concrete, battlefield surgery, newspapers, calendars, bound books, and roads and highways!  All were made possible due to Roman innovation through vigorous action!

If a Roman citizen lost their honor or were publicly shamed they had to work extremely hard and bring even more energy to every daily task.  Many even volunteered to be gladiators in an attempt to restore honor and showcase their extreme willingness to take real and tenacious action in gaining it back!

Here’s a little ancient Roman advertising for Alpha and Omega!

Gladiators that lost their match would actual expose their necks to the victor as a final sign of active courage and to show the iron will needed in order to gain back honor through their last action!  Wild stuff!

Are you taking extreme action to help prevent or fix your own dog or pup’s behavioral issues?  Are you feeling shame or public embarrassment when or if your dog freaks out and lunges or barks or snaps at another dog or person when you’re out and about?  Please remember…dogs are much more direct and honest than most humans you will ever meet!  Dogs don’t feel near the level of shame, humiliation, or embarrassment socially that you or I could feel.

If you haven’t seen this classic…please do so. This is a famous film about the story of a gladiator slave (Spartacus) who took Action in order to change his life and the lives of those around him!

Roman society also allowed for failure.  It was expected.  Failure and shame would happen to many and that is why they would work harder to redeem themselves through action and ferocious energy.  The cultural system as a whole was more flexible and honest than today’s careful, and cautious way to live.

We need to allow ourselves and our dogs to fail more often.  As you allow room for your dog or pup to fail you will find that mixing that failure by taking the right, natural, persistent actions to correct, calm or redirect the dogs will learn to be much more trustworthy in the long run.  Never forget that the mother and father dog allow a lot of room for growth and exploration and in this way they preserve their own precious energy.  In the long run you will have a much more relaxed control over your dog instead of the hyper (always be praising) constantly looking to reinforce behavior (typical training) sort of approach.  The typical training (always be praising) approach is waaaaaaaay more work on all involved and doesn’t ever pan out as well because it is not natural and it is wasting our energy!

If you double your rate of failure you will find success faster!  Think of how many times Thomas Edison failed when inventing the light bulb or how many shots Michael Jordan has missed etc etc…Never be afraid to fail.

There was always tension and then relaxation present in the ancient Roman’s life.  A natural cycle.  Like nighttime always comes at dusk tension and then calmness can be a very natural way to experience life.  Tension/pressure and then the calm releasing of said pressures are evident constantly in canine culture, energies, and body language! 

Predatory culture in the animal world focuses intense energy and takes direct action and then (usually after a kill) total relaxation.

Prey culture is different.  As a prey animal can be eaten they have to be constantly on alert in order to survive!

Roman culture was defined by tremendous activity and then relaxed passivity.  A society very much reminiscent of the dog that is sleeping the day away (passively) while you are at work until it is exploding with energy (actively) while sprinting across your yard after a ball!

Take action today.  Focus and direct your energy.  Live a life of honor.

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