How to avoid the plague

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There is a plague spreading!  This atrocious affliction is assailing families across the country at a truly alarming rate.  If, and only if, you can identify the symptoms you may have a chance for survival.

Thankfully the symptoms of this torment are fairly easy to recognize.  They are listed below in story form…

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Alice Jones arrives home after an uneventful day of work.   Alice has developed a strong and recent loathing for her boss but that’s a story for a different time.  She walks through the door and is greeted by Jethro.  Jethro jumps up on her and wags his tail; a happy tan furball in the lamplight.  After tossing her work outfit in the hamper and replacing it with a pink sweat suit Miss Jones trots down the stairs and heads towards the bench near the door.  Under the bench her shoe pile awaits.  Jethro is beside himself; the ritual of the evening constitutional almost more than he can bear.  Alice plops down on the bench.  She grabs her favorite jogging sneakers.  The stitching in them just beginning to open up in places.  The sneakers will need to be replaced within a few short weeks.  Jethro, a large brown beast, snorts his excitement and continues his dancing.  Alice grabs the treat pouch affixing it to her sweatpants.  Jethro is finally able to sit after being told six or seven times as she puts the leash on him.  They go out the door and into the cool evening air.

Alice and her dog keep a brisk pace as they pass the first block.  They pause to look both ways before crossing.  Alice’s eyes darting here and there scanning the lonely intersection before continuing onward.  Jethro strains – keeping the leash taut and panting all the while.  Alice increases her speed to attempt to match her four-footed friend’s.

Then it happens.  Alice inadvertently tenses.  It was a bark.  Turning quickly to her left she hears the bark again before she sees the rushing dog’s form through the fencing.  Jethro goes buck wild.

Jethro is dog aggressive.  Alice spits out a curse attempting to restrain seventy pounds of muscle, teeth, and fur.  What was it the behaviorist had taught her?  She reaches into her treat pouch and grasps for the food.  Rifling through the little bag at her hip, she is just able to pull out a small treat.  As Alice struggles to maintain her footing in the dark night, keep her shoulder in it’s socket, and keep Jethro from climbing the neighbor’s fence and biting the barking dog she wonders why her dog has made so little progress.  So little progress even after hiring a professional behaviorist?  Anger, frustration and desperation all begin fighting for the throne of her emotions.

Jethro lunges again and again, straining at the leash; fighting for leverage.  His brown eyes like laser beams of concentrated fury.  The dog’s energy rises with each passing second.  Alice speedily shoves the treat almost into one of his nostril’s and as instructed yells, “Watch me!”  She brings the treat back up toward her own face.  No change.  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  Jethro has now almost reached the fence several times and has almost spilled Alice onto the sidewalk below them.  This exasperating spectacle continues on for another minute.  Alice finally resorts to straining her damnedest and eventually is able to yank Jethro past the end of the neighbor’s fencing.  They escape the barking dog and continue into the night.

Later Alice and Jethro arrive home.  The dog – wagging happily from the walk.  The person – defeated and vexed from the battle.

This phenomenon is happening now and occurs all over the world.  The plague we forewarned you about, good reader, was not the dog-dog aggression. The terrible epidemic we are specifically talking about is the weak and inefficient method commonly used to fix the aggression.   This is the same bad method used in countless situations across the globe.  The same method that brings about little to no change and IS the bane of unsuspecting dog owners…and it is so sinister because it is consistently sold as the cure!  The method described in the story above is constantly sold as the solution!  And caring dog owners buy it hook, line, and sinker.  And what a “sinker” it is.

It causes hope to sink.  It causes confidence to sink.  It causes human emotion to sink down into the mire and muck until the poor dog owner is so beaten down by the continual losses, so very distressed and afflicted by this plague they soon give up.  They give up because they have already tried dog training and it did little to no good.  Maybe they already paid top dollar for a dog behaviorist and the method may have worked on their dog at a far distance from another dog, or it may have worked just slightly when the dog was less distracted, or in a controlled setting, but not in the real world and certainly not for lasting results the owner was anticipating!

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“Bring out your dead!”

 

Folks, this goes far beyond obedience training for dogs.  This sad and pathetic yet all-too-common story is a perfect illustration showcasing the piss-poor methodology of a humongous majority of dog behaviorists and dog trainers.  Attempting to perform a “watch me” command or a “look” command using a food bribe while a dog is beginning to freak out on another dog (or person, or cat, or squirrel, or mail carrier, etc) is the scourge that we fight daily.  This is a Plague!

 

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You would probably not believe how often I hear my new clients recount (like Alice’s dreadful tale) their similar poor experiences with professional dog behaviorists and dog trainers.  My question…When, When, When will we realize that bribing anyone at any time INSTANTLY makes for a less healthy relationship.  

Any and all close relationships have several ingredients included in order to be successful and close.  Respect would be the glaring one in a case like Alice’s.  Jethro had zero respect for her and he showed it in dog speak.  He showed how important he viewed their relationship as he practically abandoned it in an instant to give direct attention to something else.  This was terribly rude to Alice.  And totally unacceptable behavior if Jethro was a human being.  This behavior however is tolerated many times in our relationships with our dogs.

Imagine the human equivalent of the Alice/Jethro relationship with me for a moment.

Let’s say you are having a conversation with someone and you are in mid-sentence and out of nowhere they just totally start ignoring you.  Not only that but they start jumping around, staring at something, and begin screaming out their over-excitement.  Puzzled you turn around to see what they are going on about and see your neighbor casually mowing his lawn.  The person you were just talking to is going bonkers now…dropping F-bombs, needing to be physically restrained while they bodily threaten the neighbor; all the while screaming their head off.  The troubling thing is that this is extremely common because your neighbor is out there typically every couple weeks to trim up his lawn.

Now, as a concerned individual, you ask them to stop.  You are totally ignored; blown off as if you did not even exist.  The sort of extreme ignoring that would impress even the most snobbish of royalty the world over.  The person you used to be talking to, maintaining directed intense eye-contact and the continued onslaught of monstrous insults at the hapless neighbor is becoming quickly uncontrollable.  You take it a step further and decide to step in front of them.  This individual, like a professional athlete, slips left and continues the disgusting yet powerful display of raw energy and physicality-curse words flowing toward the neighbor.  What is a caring person to do with this Tyrannosaurus-type-terror?  Bribe them?  Beat them?  WHAT???

Let’s pause for a moment and then honestly ask ourselves would bribing them at this point be prudent?  Would bribing them at any point over the years of your relationship be prudent?  And does the bribe, if it indeed works, guarantee no future outbreaks of alarmingly aggressive behavior?  (Just to let you know Beating them is NOT the solution either!) 

Should they always look to us for reinforcement?  Should our friends, coworkers, or children (or dog for that matter) as intelligent creatures ALWAYS look to us for reinforcement?

This last question is a critical question because it is where my beliefs on dogs and their training and behavior differ from almost all other dog trainers and dog behaviorists I’ve ever met, read of, seen on TV, or even heard of!

I believe we should NOT always be the answer for our dogs.  Just as our human children grow we should NOT always be the answer for them.  ALL GOOD LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT DUPLICATION, DELEGATION, and DECISION MAKING.  As a father of three great kids one day I may not be there when they have a tough decision to make.  I may not be there when they are pressured to try drugs.  I may not be able to be there holding their hand as they apply for their first job.  But I do my best to be the best leader I can be and equip them as much as possible so that when I am not there they can make an intelligent decision on their own.  

Good leadership is the key on the parent’s part.  Maturity is the goal for the growing child’s part.  For a healthy relationship we need both respect and trust.  How can we trust the child if they don’t respect us?  How can the child trust us if we don’t respect them?  It is a two-way street.

^^^^^^                      It is the same two-way street with dogs.           ^^^^^^

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I find it fascinating that Bribery is a crime in our society but yet highly, highly encouraged by dog behaviorists and trainers when it comes to our close relationship with dogs.

 

Bribery is actually a CRIME in our society!!!  Why is it sold to us as the most “positive” way?  This is amazingly bizarre.  And this is foolish!   Bribery needs to stop if we want calmer, healthier, more social interactions from our dogs and pups.

 

TO BE CONCLUDED…

PS.  Please keep an eye out for the exciting conclusion to this post as we will examine what happens if the food treat/bribe does actually work and the effects on our relations with dun, dun, duuuuu….(exciting musical crescendo here)…..our dogs!

-G

 

 

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Fathom the insanity of a human being who teaches you that you can never disagree with your dog!

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People are nuts.  We are.  If you can’t agree with me that people are nuts please stop reading Now.

For those that can recognize that as humans we are a bit crazy I want to direct your thoughts towards this current crazy time in history.  This interesting time in our lives where we find we have several thousands of professional dog trainers and professional behaviorists that actual teach and want to keep teaching you (as the owner of your dog) that you shouldn’t ever disagree with your dog or pup!  Think about that for a second.

What have we come to?  How has it come to this babying, this coddling, this ridiculously imbalanced and greatly disconnected, poor-excuse for a relationship with our dogs?  How and why do so many pet pros talk dogmatically with 100% absolutism (and quite ferociously toward anyone who might disagree until they are shouted down) about the evil of corrections and that you should never “force” your dog to do anything?  I encourage you to take those questions ponder them honestly and then consider and ask why we also currently have a terrible dog bite record (dogs attacking humans and attacking other dogs) and it’s been steadily increasing for the worse!  I know the two are deeply connected!

 

Don’t just go with the majorities opinion on this topic of disagreeing with your dog vs positive-only and force-free methods.  Please THINK for Yourself and come to your own conclusions.  Examine history, examine the stats, examine the methods of different pro trainers and behaviorists (and especially note and examine their results) and most of all… examine your own dog and the history of dogs and how dogs think and how they experience the world and how dogs communicate and behave.

Then ask yourselves…would the mother dog or father dog constantly bribe their pups with food treats?  Would they constantly attempt to condition them or would they seek to build a healthy relationship based on the dog language and respect and trust and manners (not frivolous tricks and obedience commands)?  Would the parent dogs ever disagree with their young?  Have you as a parent ever had to disagree with your own children?  Was it beneficial in any way?  Did you overdo it or under-do it?

 

What is lacking in our current culture is the balanced approach to disagreeing and so the pathetic “positive-only” dogmatists (who aren’t really that positive in their own lives) scream and shout about how any correction, any disagreement, or forcing your dog or pup to do anything is totally wrong!  Let me tell you outright…this is hogwash and they are wrong!  It’s only wrong to correct or disagree if you are performing it wrong.

Dogs speak through movement, energy, smells, and touching. Most people I meet (and I do this non-stop) are woefully, dreadfully unaware of the intricate and marvelous language of our dogs.  They are woefully unaware because MOST pro behaviorist and trainers are horribly unaware!  The common pro trainer/behaviorist whole premise and approach to training is not beneficial and does NOT prevent behavioral issues from developing!!!

But let’s cut them some slack for a moment.  I don’t want to be too hasty.  Maybe these “professional dog trainers” and “scientific professional behaviorists” haven’t ever see older dogs and how they talk to and deal with younger dogs?  Maybe they haven’t seen the older, balanced dog correct and address the younger imbalanced one?  Maybe these so called “pros” haven’t ever visited a local dog park and observed the dog language?  Maybe they’ve been too long in the library reading about dogs or too long in the laboratory or in the classroom?  Maybe they haven’t had kids of their own or cultivated healthy relationships in their own personal lives?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that anyone who proclaims the “positive-only” approach or acts as a behaviorist and over-charges their clients because they used to work with dolphins is NOT keyed into the amazingly close and wonderfully easy and direct relationship available to us with our domesticated dogs and pups!

They say “Never force a dog to do anything.”  This is horribly bad advice!  I force dogs to do things all the time (and I do it incredibly gently and smoothly) and they end up thanking me for it!  And the owners are also able to soon witness their once terribly behaved aggressive or fearful dogs actually make good decisions.  They see it happen before their very eyes!

One example: I force the nervous dog into social situations and then ask it (in dogspeak) to behave itself (not just do frivolous tricks).  This is the only thing that will change the nervous dog into being social and normal and balanced.

I am a professional because I equip the owners and the dog and get them social extremely quickly all while expanding the dog’s capacity for more and more social situations and all without harsh corrections and without foolishly stuffing food treats down the dog’s throat non-stop and calling it science!  Yes, positive reinforcement is science…it’s OLD science and based on the external motivation of the dog and none of it’s internal drives and motivations!  I’m not even going to bring up the fact that bribing with food is also highly exciting and that over-excitement is the cause of every single behavioral issue any dog faces.  Food treats is not the natural way of parenting.  Bribing with food is how most trainers train WILD animals and that’s fine…but for our domesticated dogs…it’s crap!

Let’s all recognize that many humans are insane and let’s take measured steps to respect their beliefs and opinions, however crazy, but understand it is more than ok to adamantly disagree with their foolishness and to think for ourselves.  Your dogs and pups will thank you!

Seek out the natural ways.  You Can reward your dogs and pups but you Can also disagree with them too and sometimes “force” them into areas of their lives that their fears or aggression would never have taken them before your help!  Stretching the capacity and enlarging the relaxation is the name of the game!  Remember both rewards and corrections should not be the focus…A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP IS THE FOCUS!!!

Questions?  Call us!  And keep an eye out for my coming book…it’s gonna’ be epic!  And balanced with natural techniques and they will, of course, get you the best results you could imagine!  Forget positive or negative reinforcement and focus on being a dog parent.

-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.

Join the Alpha and Omega pack and “like” us on facebook!

 

Group classes for dogs can make your dog’s behavior WORSE!!!

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Let’s say, for example, you just received a new, cuddly, bundle of furry energy.  Whether it’s an 8-week-old puppy or you welcomed a cute, scruffy-looking, rescue dog into your home the next logical step besides getting all the required vet bills out of the way would be throwing them into a group class, right?  That will stop your dog from become Cujo, correct?  Group sessions around other pups will mold your young pup into a wonderful, social, well-mannered dog, right?  That is what Socialization means, isn’t it?  WRONG!

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”

When will we ever get this stupid notion out of our minds?  This notion that Group classes are just standard operating procedure and that if we attend one our puppy will grow up to be happy, healthy, and well trained and social.  We’ll get rid of the notion probably as soon as the giant dog supply chains (who also double as “trainers” and who happen to have all the treats in the world to sell to you in order to “train” your dog or pup) end up going out of business. Which will never happen because many of us (as humans) just may be mindless zombies who, instead of supporting local training, grooming, and local treat companies, have to take a walk into what is the equivalent of Walmart-quality dog training at your local super pet store and then have to sign up for group classes! Please understand me, I shop at Walmart occasionally but whenever I do so I know that there is a pretty high chance I’m not getting the greatest quality or service of whatever I’m shopping for.  And I’d like everyone to know that this analogy is strikingly similar to what is happening in the dog training world with these giant companies.  Please hear me…If you want the cheapest of everything than you’ll get the weakest of results behaviorally speaking.

In this post we will examine the pros and cons of putting your dog or puppy in group class training.

The one pro of dog obedience group classes is that occasionally the dog can learn some “typical” and “regular” training out of the class and get a bit more social at the same time.  You can use the distractions to strengthen your “sit” or “stay” or “down” or “come” or heeling skills.

My question is Can’t you do the same exact thing at a busy park nearby?  Can’t we do the same thing as we walk our pup through Home Depot or Mud Bay?  There are pros to the group class but please be aware there are several cons to the classic group class that the majority of humans never even consider!

Socialization does Not just mean getting your dog or pup into a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than that.  In fact it is one of the most important thing in our dogs behaviorally speaking.  Socialization is the continual process of exposing our dogs to new touches, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds.  Socialization is the active quest to cram in as many different experiences as possible so our dogs learn how to follow our lead and how to handle new or stressful situations without triggering a fight/flight response.   Socialization is more than a small time frame that occurs during the first few weeks of a pup’s life. Socialization is all important.  The more social a dog is the less behavioral issues a dog will suffer.

The more “typical training” a dog has will NOT necessarily prevent or diminish behavioral issues!  Have you ever wondered why you have to take puppy class 1, then if they can sell you, you’ll be taking puppy class 2, then basic 1 or basic 2, then basic 8 then possibly graduate to advanced 1 or 2….et cetera…? It is because it has little or nothing to do with your education as far as canine language is concerned. It has everything to do with just selling you more classes!  Group class trainers usually don’t care that much about getting you the very best for your dog or pup because group training is not and can Never be the best form of training.  And it certainly cannot solve most behavioral issues!  Here is why it cannot be the best for puppy or dog:

1.  Group classes are extremely unnatural. Your dog or pup will be overexcited . And because your dog or pup is overexcited you will need to work extra hard just to get it’s attention. This means you will have to either increase food rewards (which almost always leads to excessive bribery) or, depending on the trainer and the owners, you will have to increase more discipline and corrections in order to gain the dog’s attention. Are you starting to see the problem?  Never mistake excitement for happiness -especially in an animal.  All of the creatures on earth teach their young that calmness and energy control lead to surviving and maintaining unity in the family.

As an intelligent human you shouldn’t actually need anymore reasons than this first one but I’ll give you a couple more…

2.  In a group setting you will have people and dogs at different levels of learning and handling skills.  Many times the group class will advance only as far as the weakest link is advancing.  Group training cannot be custom tailored to fit your specific needs or your dogs specific issues.

3.  Group classes have a set curriculum that always involves more “typical training.”  You go there and will do “sit” exercises for the first hour.  The next week you attend the group and you do the “down” exercise for that hour.  Are you following me? And the week after – if you’re still attending and haven’t died from boredom – you work on loose-leash walking.  Your time could be better spent. Most folks who attend group classes are under the common assumption that if their dog or pup would just listen to them enough to sit or down or go and stay on their bed or come when called their dog would then stop disobeying, stop being hyper, stop being destructive, stop being dominant, stop being over-touchy, and stop being aggressive or fearful.  This is simply not true.  Regular or typical training never prevents or fixes most behavioral issues!  

This is a good depiction of “typical” or “regular” training. Most folks would find this impressive or wish their dog could do this but this is exactly the problem facing our society and our dogs…it’s fake! The dogs are clearly Not relaxed. They are maintaining focus on their handlers. They are doing perfect down stays. But they are not relaxed and that in and of itself is the single most important thing for preventing or fixing ANY behavioral issue! What happens when they are not being told directly what to do by their owner? That is the most important question.

4.  There is an even more unnatural trend occurring in group classes where several companies use partitions/dividers/separations if a dog is too hyper or aggressive or fearful to continue within eye-shot of the other dogs or people in the class.  This is ridiculous and will never work to fix your dog or pup’s escalated energy.  It can, in fact, make it worse.

Another crazy technique that I’ve heard some training company’s are now using is to back tie or tether the dog or pup to a post or the wall so the dog simply can’t reach the trainer or handler or person and cannot jump on them.  This is insane and will definitely make your dog worse!  Any trainer or behaviorist who knows even the first thing about dogs knows that if they are pulling on a leash or tether they are escalating their energy.  Anyone who knows anything about protection dog work or Schutzhund training also knows that back tying a dog is a great way to make them more territorial and protective – not less jumpy and calm!  Please beware horrible trainers!

Pulling creates more pulling! Notice the taught leash. Notice how comfortable the dog is pulling in his harness. Shocking, I know, but harnesses were designed to enable dogs to pull.  Never tether your dog or pup unless you want to increase territorial behaviors and work to develop a great heel to prevent excessive pulling.

5.  Imagine you want to start learning to play the violin.  You have two options.  You can start with a beginner group class where the teacher is instructing a few students and making everyone go at a similar pace or you can hire the best private tutor you can find.  Now imagine the great difference in how you play the violin and how much further you would come in a shorter time period studying from the master musician.  It is the same with private training sessions vs the group class setting.

6.  Dog owners who think “training, training, training” are actually much harder to teach mother nature’s calm, firm, relaxing ways to.  And their dogs are harder to teach also.  The dogs who have had a lot of “training” will keep trying to do sits, downs, shakes, etc instead of just learning to self-soothe and calm down and be social.  They act like robots instead of a calm, social, animal that has good energy control, self control, and is not selfish or dominant.

Private sessions, on the other hand, are totally customized to meet your specific needs in and around your neighborhood with real-life scenarios.  Group classes can never match up.  Never mistake real socialization for a group class.  Socialization is much more in depth than any group class could ever be. Seek to duplicate real life situations in your training; that way you have real life results!  

I am not suggesting you don’t attend a group class with your dog or pup.  I am saying group classes are only one very, small part of your quest to socialize your dog and sometimes they are unnecessary and many times they even do more harm than good!  Don’t over do it with “training.”  Do not be fooled – group classes will never fix any serious behavioral or energy issues.

(PS – Sorry to keep breaking down so many major assumptions about dogs and puppies and how we as humans train them…but many training methods are simply not helping the owners and the dogs to achieve a natural calmness and a smooth functioning household. I feel it is my job as a professional to be as honest as possible in order to help as many people and dogs as possible.  Good luck in all your endeavors.)

Questions…?  Comment or Call.

-G

Has your child been bitten in the face yet?

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Almost 5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year!  Half or more of those bites are on children.  And many of those bites are on the child’s face!  Dog-bite related injuries are highest in kids who are 5-9 years old.

This article will help to safeguard your own children or any child you welcome into your home and around your dog.  Be sure to teach your children how to act correctly around dogs because each dog is different and each is equipped with serious weaponry.  But first you have to know how to act properly…

If you want to allow your kid to manhandle your own dogs that’s your business but be forewarned… dogs don’t usually like hugs and when we wrap our arms around them and put our face in their face it can be taken as a sign of dominance (like when a dog wraps their arms around another dog to hump them) (or when two dogs get too tense for too long at a face to face meeting).  Hugs and kissing can make a nervous dog totally uncomfortable because there is no escape route in sight…which can quickly escalate from flight to fight!

 

A dog is all about it’s body.  I know you may think you are too (especially you gals who try to line up with whichever new Hollywood buffoon is gracing the cover of the magazines near the checkout lines) but however self conscious or self obsessed you may be about your cankles, love handles, crooked nose, chicken wings, mole or other blemishes it is nothing compared to the amazingly body conscious, furry, companion you’ve got lying next to you.

At this age all the pups are blind and deaf so you can imagine the importance the sense of touch plays as they fumble around and find mom, dad, milk, and their siblings. Touch, taste, and smell are a dog’s first senses.

Dogs do not have a spoken language like we do but that in no way means they do not have an amazingly complex language based in movement and energy.  The movements of their body, their energy levels, and who is touching who and when, where, and how on their body a touch may or may not occur- all of these little details are actually words in dog speak or the canine way of communication.

A dogs intelligence is a masterful blend of ancient instincts mixed with empirical activity and social manipulation.  They form habits after discovering what works for them.  If your dog is out-touching you or over-touching you be it a lick, a mouth, a nip, jumping up, a bump, leaning on, stepping on, nosing you or any other touching I’ll tell you clearly you are being manipulated and dominated!  Your dog thinks it is in charge of the routines and habits that run your life.  And your dog is absolutely right in this thinking.  He/she is dominating you even if it appears friendly or if the dog is desperately “in need” of comfort.  (See our blog posts about Dealing with a Fearful dog and Introducing a Rescue dog)

This article should forever change how we view our dogs because, let me tell you, they can be more manipulative and socially brilliant than most people I see.  A dog, through touch and social spacing, can have a human trained within a few short weeks.  I see it every single day!

To safeguard children and yourself from dog bites be sure to truly observe how touch and social spacing are the number one top priority for determining leadership and developing habits of energy control in our dogs.  Think like a dog.  Get out of your distracted, human head and live in the moment for a second or three to see what your dog is doing and how they are talking.   Are they speaking rudely?  Are they dominant?  Are they scared and threatening other people, kids, or dogs?  Are they hyper and taking it out on you and your personal space or your guests?  Are they constantly licking you or on your lap or hiding behind you?  If you answered yes to any of these questions you need help and not just the typically lame sort of help that most behaviorists and trainers suggest because no amount of “sitting, downing, staying, or watch me” is going to help solve real behavioral manipulation and the social one-uping that your dog is exhibiting.

Now ask yourselves if you were so unaware about how important a dog’s sense of feeling and touch is and how important a dog’s physical body is when considering behavioral patterns and sociability how on earth would a child be privy to such information?  Kids are bulls in a dog’s personal China shop because they will get right in a dog’s face.  Kids will pull a dog’s ears.  Kids will often smack a dog with any large item if they see the dog jump back and find that to be humorous.  Kids will attempt to ride a dog or sit on them.  Kids will drag a dog or pup around on leash.  Kids will hug the heck out of a dog whether the dog is their calm and friendly, already desensitized, old, family dog or some new terrified and aggressive rescue dog that the neighbors just brought home…kids will treat almost every dog the same based on their former experiences.

Teach your kids to ask before touching.  Teach your kids simple canine communication.  Teach them silence can be a big warning.  Teach your kids to be gentle and stay out of the dog’s face.  Teach your kids never to corner or trap an animal.

This is an image of what I would call a calm, balanced, and relaxed dog that is not guarding or claiming its backside. Notice the relaxed open mouth. The confident yet calm posture. The dog is not attempting to move away from the touching going on back there or move towards the vet menacingly.  This means some wise dog owner made sure their puppy or dog received ample touching when and where the owner wanted to touch…not just when and where the dog wanted it!

For those adults who believe that dogs just snap one day and go crazy I’ve got news for you.  Unless the dog is rabid nothing is further from the truth.  Dogs never just go wild and give no warnings.  There are always subtle warnings. In fact, usually there are warnings for months!  This does not mean the dog will send you an email, text, or prepare a Power Point presentation to let you know they are feeling uncomfortable and are about to bite.  The dog will not stand up like a human and speak out loud to you.  It means YOU might need to take some time to learn to read and speak your dog’s language better since you were the one who decided to welcome a domesticated predator into your home.

If you currently have a puppy I suggest you start to manhandle and over-touch it how and whenever you want every single day.  Please note, I did not say whenever the pup wanted or wherever they want to be touched on their body.  Half of good, early, dog training is denying them the touch and attention they want when they want it to replace it with a more correct social touch or spacing that teaches calmness but doesn’t let the dog or pup manipulate us.  Social grooming, touching and spacing is everything when communicating with an animal.  This goes far, far beyond treating them for frivolous tricks.  This goes much deeper into a real and social language instead of just “finding what motivates your dog” like the majority of trainers and behaviorists go on and on about.

Handling and touching of your puppy or dog will have several great benefits.  It will prep them for vet and grooming visits.  It will teach them not to claim any part of their body so that in the future they do not guard it.  It will make you look more like the mother or father dog and establish a more real and meaningful relationship as opposed to just having the dog manipulate and use you.  Handling your dog the right way will make the dog much more comfortable socially as it will learn the proper way to receive human attention and touching.  Your learn kids are loud, climb on things, roll on the floor, move fast, and will sometimes get right in their face to give them a hug.  Most importantly the dog will learn there are more options than just fight or flight!  By touching your dog or pup correctly they will learn to access the appropriate social, calming signals.

Protect your kids and desensitize your puppy or dog to touching and you’ll be doing everyone a huge service.  Need help?  Give us a call!

-G

 

Introducing a Rescue dog to your home

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When introducing a Rescue dog to your home it is important to remember not to listen to your instincts.  As a human being in today’s society your instincts are probably wrong, greatly dulled, or, from excessive TV watching, just plain non-existent! The common person’s instincts when it comes to dealing with nervous, anxious, aggressive, excitable, hyper, dominant, or an otherwise imbalanced dog are, in the main, dead wrong.

And believe me, you may think your new rescue dog is a, “real lover” (meaning the dog constantly loves to receive attention and be patted or pet and gets up on your lap or stays right by your side, or licks and kisses you often) but to me that’s a clear warning sign…Proceed with caution!

 

Most rescue dogs are on their very best behavior when they are put into a new home.  Keep this in mind and enjoy the short interlude because after three or four weeks (sometimes sooner) of living and getting accustom to the home environment the poor owner is suddenly confounded and befuddled when their, “precious, lovable, new, furry, family member,” decides to growl at someone in order to claim something in the house, or suddenly develops housebreaking issues, or is acting more nervous and fearful by the day, or starts to bark or guard the front door from any and all visitors and loved ones, or starts to act insane on leash, or, perhaps the most sinister of all, just starts to slowly but surely dominate and manipulate any and all things to his/her doggy advantage.  Many dogs do this before the human is even aware of what’s going on!  Soon the dog has out-touched, out-maneuvered, and in general just outdone (dominated) the human being.

You thought you had a, “real lover” on your hands and so you decided to keep up the constant petting, baby talk, and giving of treats to bribe your way into a cozy relationship with your new rescue dog… you didn’t realize you were feeding and reinforcing a state of mind dominated by Fear.  You were unaware how intelligent and manipulative this furry creature could be.  This happens on a daily basis across the world!

The human, after seeing a singing Sarah Mclachlan commercial and feeling awful (weak energy!) goes out and decides to make a difference in at least one animals life.  And then the downward spiral of manipulation begins.  The human didn’t even know the dog was that fearful until something in the environment finally triggers the fear.  Or, if the new owner did recognize the fear they do the one thing to make it infinitely worse and give the fearful mind what it wants…the ability to remain fearful!  They let the dog use them as a comfort blankey 24/7!  The rescue dog then continues and sometimes increases the use of unsocial fight/flight habits mixed with escalated out of control energy levels.

Here are some Don’t and Dos that will really help you…

Don’t label and keep the “rescue dog” as a victim for very long.  Let the dog move on…basically Don’t live in the past and use weak energy with your dog. (See my other post on, “Dealing with a fearful dog.”)

Don’t let the dog smell the whole house.  Why would I give the new rescue dog access to the whole house?  The dog should earn access to more rooms and levels of your home after a number of weeks.

Don’t let the dog constantly use you as a comfort blanket and always touch you or “love” on you.  This is probably the most important on the list.

Don’t let the new rescue sleep in your bed or any humans’ bed.  This can quickly lead to behavioral issues as many dogs may soon start to claim certain spots or the whole bed itself as their own.

Do exercise the hell out of the dog.  This is a great time to show leadership (work the heel position), drain energy, release stress, bond as a pack, and explore and socialize your new companion.

Do make the dog work for praise, affection and it’s breakfast sometimes.

Do make it clear that any and all humans are the owners of everything in the dog’s life including the dog’s own body.  This is a very important “do.”

Do follow my blog for more excellent and enlightening info!

Feel free to leave questions or comments.  If your rescue is fearful or aggressive read my other post entitled “Dealing with a fearful dog.”  And don’t forget to go to my business website for some great products and other info  www.gstevensdogtrainer.com

-G

 

If you’re taking your aggressive, fearful or growling dog to a “growly” class or a “reactive” dog class…you are Not getting good training

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“Growly dog classes” are for suckers.

All canines are creatures that survive in a pack.  A family group.  This means they can be influenced by peer pressure.  I am always shocked how foolish dog trainers and dog behaviorists will hold “growly dog” classes!

Why on earth would I want to bring an already unstable, aggressive, fearful, hyper, dominant or otherwise unsocial dog into a group of dogs suffering the same afflictions?  The idea is that we can all work on these issues together, right?  Wrong.  This only sets up your “growly” dog for failure and gives them no good example dogs to learn from.  Yes, socialization is key and one of the only things to really help our aggressive or fearful dogs but it needs to be done in the right way.  Naturally our pups and dogs want and need to learn by watching the older dog (in the wild the older canine is always balanced and a great social communicator).  “Growly dog classes” are a waste of time and money.

Now if you had a group of balanced, calm, social dogs and you brought your unbalanced, out of control, “growly” dog into that group…..Now you are talking!  Now there’s a solution!

Remember folks, all the greatest scientific and medical minds in society many years ago believed that the earth was flat!  Turns out they were dead wrong.  Just because society (or the majority) believes something it in no way means it is true!

Keep exploring and discovering your dog.

-Garrett