Are you playing the wrong way?

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edit 23I know it’s a wild question.  We figure that play is just a “free for all” helluva’ good time with our dogs and pups, right?  WRONG!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

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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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Dog Speak (Hiring a pro trainer or behaviorist)

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In this rapidly growing world of animal communicators, behaviorists, trainers, and whisperers -Please Beware!  Let me tell you that the labels only matter to humans.  Proceed with Caution!  You may be getting royally ripped off – both financially, informationally, educationally, and with the end result being little to no behavioral changes in your dog or pup!

“I need help again. My owner hired another dog behaviorist, and wasted more money.  They tried positive and negative reinforcement and I still act aggressively on leash towards other dogs and jump up on the guests when they come over!”

The dogs can see right through any human salesmanship, circus acts, human certifications and credentials, parlor tricks, or other tomfoolery.  The dogs don’t care whether you’ve trained tigers for Barnum Bailey’s during the past five years or worked with dolphins for over nine decades.  Dogs also don’t give a rip whether you’ve got several initials behind your name and have taken zillions of years of human schooling or have just crawled out from under a  nearby rock.

Dogs care about real communication, real relationships, energy control, and how their amazing senses are functioning in the wide world.

The dogs will know whether a person is calm or pretending to be calm!  The dogs will quickly identify who is a natural leader and who is not!  The dogs don’t care whether a human communicates well with other humans if they cannot communicate what they want clearly to the dogs.  The dogs will know whether a human is afraid of them.  The dogs will know whether a human is being mean or coming at them from a place of frustration.

Rule one when looking to hire a behaviorist, trainer, whisperer, etc…Make sure they excel and are leaders in the field!

Dogs will easily manipulate control of their own bodies, the space around them, and many other items if the trainer, communicator, or behaviorist doesn’t know what they are doing.

My clients are always amazed at how fast the dogs can calm down, or how I’m able to not get bit, and they wonder at the extremely quick changes that occur.  I jokingly bring up the possibility that maybe their dogs read my testimonials and reviews online and knew they better behave!  Dogs will listen and obey or disobey and disrespect depending on our energy and body language…even though they’ve never read the trainer’s website or googled the behaviorist’s testimonials.   Dogs don’t care if the trainer comes and works for free or if they charge $500 an hour.  They only care about real leadership, energy control, and who is controlling what I call the touch and spatial game (which is real canine communication).  THIS is dogspeak.  Real communication.  The ability to really understand and speak dog.

I see and read and know of countless companies who claim they “speak dog” yet their results are poor.  Folks, this is a huge indicator that they actually do NOT speak dog or know dogspeak.

I hear horror stories every single day (and I’m not exaggerating) from my clients concerning their past experiences with other companies.  The stories range from terrible tales of overcharging behaviorists who throw treats at the dog to solve real issues (aggression, fear, anxieties) to laughable yarns about cheaper trainers who throw treats at the dog to solve real issues and the classic sort where the former police or military K-9 handler uses all harsh and overboard corrections to “help” their house dog obey.  They do not get great results and then they keep suggesting further training for the owners or “If you just take this class…”  A majority of my poor clients have been upsold so many times it is ridiculous and makes me quite angry for them.  Many of my clients share with me how their prior trainer/behaviorist then proceeds to blame them (the client) at the end for the dog’s problems when the trainer/behaviorist could not get good results!  The behaviorist and trainer suddenly has millions of excuses why it’s everyone’s fault but their own shoddy methods!  “The pup may outgrow it.”  “It’s just a teenage phase.”  “What have you done to this dog?!”  “You really need to take our leadership class…our growly dog class…our reactive dog class…”  Or…”You need to take private sessions with us.”  Then during the private sessions the trainer/behaviorist treats the dog exactly like they would in group class settings either throwing treats at them non-stop or giving leash-pop hanging corrections non-stop!  What a fiasco.

It’s a horrific cycle.  So many good people are getting burned by people who claim to fix everything and have alleged solutions for dog behavioral issues but in reality are cookie-cutter morons who are robbing unknowing dog owners!  They don’t know dogspeak.  They don’t really speak dog.  And they typically end up mistreating their own clients – which then leads their client to me!  I then spend a good chunk of my time initially convincing them I’m different from the majority because the majority, the status quo, is largely in the wrong when it comes to real answers for real life situations with real life dogs!   How much time, energy, and money could have been saved if the dog owners had known just a bit more about dog psychology and dogspeak and the peaceful canine language?

Looking to hire someone to help your dog or puppy?

Make sure the trainer/behaviorist/whisperer you are considering has fantastic, real reviews.  Compare the reviews and testimonials with other training companies!  See if the reviews are about solving difficult behavioral issues or if they are more simple, group class, puppy-type stuff.  After doing this see how many other pet professionals recommend them!  (And, sadly, even then you cannot fully be sure because anyone can put anything online nowadays)  I then would highly, highly suggest you read as much about them and their personal philosophy as you can.  If it doesn’t line up with common sense and with what you know of mother nature’s ways beware!   If the trainer or behaviorist is imbalanced toward one training extreme or the other (“positive-ONLY” or punitive-mostly due to over-fixation on obedience) beware!  Seek out balance and calmness!  Stay clear of trainers who over-excite dogs and pups!  Stay away from external motivators only!

**Even if you have a puppy and think you just want a typical group class contact the trainer/behaviorist who can actually solve or prevent behavioral issues instead of going with status quo group class (believe me – we are few and far between) It will save you big money in the future!**

Then call the trainers and behaviorists and be ready with your questions.

Don’t be a cheapskate. Many times you get what you pay for. Try to make a good investment in your dog trainer/behaviorist but the key would be to make sure you are getting good, real, measurable results for the money!

Good questions would include, What do you typically do to treat aggression?  Or maybe How would you deal with a fearful dog?  Do you use positive or negative reinforcement?> (This last question is sort of a trick because an excellent trainer or behaviorist or whisperer will know that the relationship, the communication, the respect, the trust, the energy level of the dog and the owner all are much more important than positive and negative reinforcement!)  (“Positive-only” trainers are extremely limited and short-sighted in their approaches and often lack the great results you are looking for.)

The trainer should understand dogspeak.  They should be a fountain overflowing with knowledge about dog body language and what it means.  They should also be skilled in human communication because 95% of what I do on a daily basis is teaching the human how to speak dog.  Dogspeak is complex as any human language but learning the basics (and starting to get great results in your puppy or dog) can be as simple as A, B, C!

Need help?  Call us, we have the best testimonials and reviews of any dog training or behavioral rehab company!!!!!   Don’t believe me?  Go to http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com  for more info

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.  If your dog is not comfortable getting it’s rear smelled that’s a big problem!

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 initially on a great walk with your dog or pup.)  www.gstevensdogtrainer.com 

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!  If this is handled correctly and smoothly with proper timing and reading of the dog’s energy it will most assuredly stretch 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 tiny, shrinking social circle that includes manipulating and receiving unhealthy and non-beneficial human comfort or touching from the owner!  (yes, this is real talk for you)

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 and successfully navigate the world 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 proper.

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 re-engage and stare at the approaching dog.  Control the eyes and you control the animal.  Then KEEP THE DOG THERE in that position (facing away from the other dog).  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.  Now 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.  It’s wild because they will do almost anything to remain UNSOCIAL and UNSMELLED!  This is the nature of fear – it’s a harmful addiction.

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 and 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 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 for your dog.  Sociability is waiting to be had 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.  And the majority of trainers try to bribe them with food.  And the majority of owners just let the dog control the interaction and continue to cater to fear.

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 what is, in dog culture, 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 its own 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 (just get it over with) and helping the dog 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 if 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 no longer has issue with the social dogs.  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.  This is a key part in the Garrett Stevens Method.

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).  Look at the approaching dog as a learning opportunity for your own crazy dog!  It’s time for action.  It’s time for speed.  It’s time for respect, and 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!

If you enjoyed this Read my books, Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety (at least sample them on Amazon)  They’ll forever alter for the better your entire perception of dog language and training!

-G

more info at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com

 

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