A primer on Persistence: Tortoise style

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“Energy and Persistence conquer all things.”  -Benjamin Franklin

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It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop  -Confucius

Websters defines persistence as the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people; the state of occurring or existing beyond the usual, expected, or normal time.  

Consider persistence and our prime example the tortoise.  Imagine for a moment being born as a tortoise.  The moments passing by as you rip and tear your way through your leathery egg shell.   Using neck muscles, head movement, the egg tooth on top of your snout, and perhaps the most important quality, persistence, you steadily break free to the beckoning light of day.  Is it over then?  Are you rewarded for your Herculean effort?  Naw!  As you blink your round baby tortoise eyes, clearing the slime from them, pupils adjusting to the powerful light, you attempt an awkward step forward.

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You are shocked to discover there is something large and quite cumbersome encompassing the majority of your body!  What strange curse is this?  What is weighing you down?  Whatever it is, it seems an unfortunate and truly besetting plight.  You take a few more steps, half walking-half dragging your rounded shell across the sand.   Maybe the heavy apparatus will fall off if you move around enough?  You keep moving- step by step; quite slowly at first.  What trick of nature is this?  Born with an outrageous and bulbous weight to bear you down to the earth.  You walk on pausing momentairly to sniff the ground.

To the outside observer though there begins to appear a certain cadence, a slow and hampered rhythm to your plodding.  Step by scaled step, claw by claw, one sturdy leg after another, you start putting distance between yourself and the crumpled remains of your egg.  Hunger pangs begin to awaken primal feeding instincts deep inside you and, naturally, you actively start the search for a bite to eat letting your nose guide you.

The astute observer might notice that, as you lumber forward with each and every step, you now appear fairly steady for one so young.  Remarkable.  Inch after inch your persistent plodding continues.  Like a soldier marching with his platoon, your strong legs keep a forward beat.   As you continue on your journey you are happy indeed to find that your shell is now easily held aloft, plastron no more touching the ground.  You sniff and read the wide world around.

Entering a deeper part of the forest you are confronted with bumps from jutting rocks and fallen logs.  Does this slow your forward progress?  Hardly.  Because slow and steady are your credo.  Patience, endurance, and persistence are your bywords.  You simply advance.  Advancing over, under, or around matters not.  But you must advance.  You must eat.  Like a tank you press on.  After smelling and walking, sniffing and tramping around steadily your sharp nostrils finally detect an item good to eat.  After sniffing it several times you tear into the plant heartily, sharp beak snipping chunks off.  As hungry as you are you quickly find that you cannot devour the food as fast as you’d hoped.  Your small beak doesn’t allow for that.  As you attempt to choke down as much as possible it takes quite a while before you have finished with just one leaf.  More time is dedicated to what other creatures do easily.  You endure.

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As the days pass into years your experiences, like your shell, grow much larger.  Your carapace and plastron are hard now and you are thankful for the clever protection and the steady lifestyle your secure, yet mobile home affords you.  You enjoy your daily excursions around the forest floor even though it is inevitably tough going.  Your fears are few because your shell protects you from the larger dangers and your fortitude and patience guide you consistently forward.  You have learned that even when something in your path is difficult there is always, always, always a way through, over, under, or around it.  You are tough.  You are wise.  And you will live much longer than the creatures around you.  You are the embodiment of persistence.

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Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  -Calvin Coolidge

 

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

 

 

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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There is nothing “Zen” about bribing a dog with food!

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There is nothing “Zen” or unique, or special, or beneficial, or even remotely interesting about bribing a dog with food.  Any FOOL can make a dog or pup perform a “watch me” command by sticking a food treat near a dog’s nose and then holding it up to their own eye.  This then causes the pup to look up at the person’s face.  This is the most basic and almost unmentionable start of typical training across the land.  This is exactly the method used by big chain store (but usually low-quality) trainers!

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Trainers that talk about “balance” and “zen” and things of this nature cannot be taken seriously if their main methods are based in excitably stuffing food treats down the pup’s throat!

 

Does this mean you should never use food treats?  No, of course not.  You can use food treats to the advantage of your relationship with your dog occasionally.  But we should NEVER start the foundation of obedience and training and behavior modification with food!!!!!!!   Those that do are treating our domesticated dogs just like a wild animal!  

When the mother and father dog build a relationship based on respect and trust and communication with their pups are they using food treats?  Is the pup’s misbehavior ignored or addressed by the parent dogs or is it constantly “redirected” with food or toys like many bad trainers and bad behaviorists would teach you to do with your pup?  Does the mother dog use a clicker and come equipped with treats and high-pitched praise?

When raising my own pups into adult doghood I used treats.  Shocking to some of you, I know.  Let me clarify…I used treats properly.  As TREATS not as CONSTANTS or NONSTOPS and it was only as an OCCASIONAL Supplement and never based on the behavior.  

Save using treats for behavior for when you want to bribe a wild squirrel at the park to come into your spatial bubble or focus on you.  You can extend your arm and hold out a peanut.  The squirrel will then slowly come over within arm’s reach and take the treat from you.  Congrats!  (Not really – I’m being sarcastic) You just earned a little bit of ill-balanced trust from a wild creature.  I say “ill-balanced” because that is exactly what it is.

Does that squirrel respect you?  Do you really respect and know the language and social cues of the squirrel?  Have you taken the easy way out and just bribed the furry thing to come to you.  Will the squirrel come to you in an emergency?  Will the squirrel only come if there’s food?  Does the squirrel have thousands and thousands and thousands of years of domestication and close partnership living in our homes and working for and with humans?

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Food is a very poor replacement for actual trust and respect and communication!!!!

 

Are you starting to understand why food treats used with dogs and pups can be largely unnecessary except as an occasional supplement  to motivation?

Food treats are an external motivator and have Nothing to do with the internal motivation and intrinsic relationship between you and your dog or pup!  Also if we want calmness and more relaxation in our housedog why are we constantly adding more excitement through treats?!

Beware the over-simplified and extremely dogmatic viewpoint of training and behavior mod. from proponents of “positive only” of “force free” folks…talk about short-sighted imbalanced and unnatural methods that contribute to the terrible rise in dog fear, hyperactivity, and aggression!  Wooooohoooooo

We differ from all those status quo trainer and behaviorists because, unlike them, we know our dogs are socially brilliant and unlike them, we know as we go into the future together we don’t actually want to constantly have to be our dog’s focus point and the answer to every question our dog has.  THIS out-dated concept: where the owner is the constant answer to every problem in the dog’s life leads to excessive bribery with treats  in training methods and the unnatural over-focus on the owner in order for the dog to ignore every natural and social thing that happens to occur in the environment.  This is unnatural and tends to backfire often!  Personally I don’t want to be the answer to everything in my dog’s life…it’s too much work!  The mother dog doesn’t want to be the answer for everything either!  That should be a TEMPORARY position we have until the pup reaches maturity and has more self-control.  Our dogs should look to us for many answers…but not all of them.  They need to learn calmness and self-control so we don’t have to forever be “training” them.  They need to be respectful of our shared society and they need to be TRUSTWORTHY.

Believe us, we know, because we are constantly re-training after so many Tacoma and Seattle dog training companies focus on the frivolous tricks and obedience while sacrificing the more important internal issues at hand.

Here at Alpha and Omega Dog Training we strive to be balanced and this is what yields the tremendous, real results our clients rave about.  

The housedog of the future should be calm enough to NOT have to perform “watch me” or a “focus” command every two seconds and should be trustworthy enough to be left almost unattended, or at least partially ignored and not have to perform a “down stay” or some other frivolous form of obedience training with us keeping a sharp eye on them for ever!!!

Cultivate a real relationship based on respect and trust and calmness and communication and you’ll never regret it!   

-G

Questions?  We love comments and questions.  Keep an eye out for my coming book!  We are shopping publishers very soon!!!!

Garrett Stevens: Dog Detective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I drink in the little details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Garrett Stevens’ Four, FREE, Fantastic Tips to get your dog or puppy to “COME!”

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If your puppy or dog isn’t coming when called you may eventually discover that they won’t do other things you ask!  A dog who does not come is in need of what I call, “respect work.”

If your pup won’t come that means that he is already leading the relationship in his mind.  I hate to break this to you (who am I kidding…I love teaching)  but your dog’s disobedience of the “come” or “here” command is actually a much bigger deal than you originally thought!

And what with the accelerated growth rate of our pups you will probably discover (if you look into it) many accelerated manipulations of the personal space around your pup.  Once a pup has control over his own body and his own personal space there is nothing to stop him from expanding his territory to other things in his environment.

Example from the mind of your puppy:  “Since my owner lets me claim my paws and my tail maaaaaaaaaybe I’ll just start (little by little) to claim my whole back half and not let them pet me there.  And after that maybe I’ll begin to (ever so slightly) manipulate, claim, and control my own toys and how I play with my owners.  I will play only on my terms.  While I manipulate these things to my advantage I will actively be testing and attempting to out-touch, out-mouth, and outmaneuver my owners to see how good they are at communicating in my language (to see if they mean what they say and where the boundary lines are)!”

Do you see where this can lead? (Dominance, Hyperactivity, Fearfulness, Aggression, etc)  For those of you who don’t believe in “dominance” you can feel free to put whatever foolish human word you would prefer using to describe a dog that is out of control, wants to take over, doesn’t want to obey, and is basically rude and running the show!  Let’s continue…

The real answers lie in first identifying all the subtle manipulations that our pups get away with and then knowing how to stop them.  This is where I can help.  (On this note please keep an eye out for our training/whispering videos and my future book!!! I know they will really help many people)

I don’t have time in this short blog post to go into every subtle puppy manipulation that could be happening in your case because it would be like trying to learn an entire language from a simple blog article.  It cannot be done.  However, if you follow my four ways to strengthen your puppies recall this can greatly help stop your loving pup from acting like such a brat and prevent him from growing that bratty behavior into serious future behavioral issues.

  1.  Never call an unreliable dog.                                                     This means avoid the temptation to say, “Come” or, “Here” to your dog or pup!  Don’t do it.  Keep your mouth closed!  [Please read our post entitled Shut your mouth if you want to talk with Mother Nature]  This is an extremely hard rule to follow for us as humans!  Be aware you probably will fail at this from time to time.  That’s OK if it’s only happening a few times…it is totally unacceptable and foolhardy if it becomes a practice.  Sadly, it usually is practiced and it gives our pups the ability to simply, defiantly give us the doggy middle finger by clearly disagreeing with our recall command!

2.  Use the leash.                                                                            The leash should be your best friend if you’ve got a puppy or dog who will not come.  Have them wear it much more often.  Have them drag it around the house for hours at a time.  The leash will slow them down a bit (both mentally and physically).  If your pup is on leash and you want to say, “Come” or give a recall command by all means go ahead because now (on leash) you can easily disagree when he disagrees with you by not coming.

If your pup won’t come after you’ve given the command and he is on leash -Give a quick or short tug and then gesture into the recall position.  Remember, dogs prefer body language to verbal language.  He will begin to come toward you.  As soon as he starts towards you verbally praise a little and upon his finishing a clean “Come” command (meaning the pup’s head is almost touching your knees and he is directly in front of you) verbally praise more and be sure to pet and touch your pup.  You should be raising your energy and the tone of your voice…we are adding excitement and making coming to us worth it in the mind of the pup.  (This is rare because most other commands and just how we live our lives in general we always strive to lower the energy and we are typically looking for the animal to remain stationary -sit, down, stay or just calm depending on whether we are actively training or passively whispering).

3.  Use a toy and develop the pup’s prey drive

Using a toy should be when the dog is at his highest level of energy!  We want the pup really engaged and snapping at the tug or rope!  If you develop your pup’s natural prey drive you can quickly work a very reliable recall and you can get several repetitions in!

Imagine you have a dog who loves to play fetch and chase the ball or stick.  Now imagine how easy it could be if every time your dog (who loves to play fetch) learns that the second half of that game is the same exact body movement as performing the “come” or “here” command.  It can be extremely easy if we don’t allow all the social manipulations to creep in.

My dog Rambo jumps up high to catch the Frisbee. This is good prey drive on display!

The problem is most people aren’t even aware of what they are.  Do you know why?  Because most behaviorists and trainers can’t identify the manipulations either!!!  Shocking, I know, but it is the sad truth.  (Don’t worry though, I’ve got a book coming out that will help identify and prevent or reverse each and every manipulation that your dog or puppy may attempt!)

4.  Use a food treat.

Make sure you don’t bribe your puppy.  Reward.  Never bribe.  There is a difference!  And don’t overdo the treats.  Like the name implies they should be supplemental and occasional.  I always ask my clients, “When’s the last time you had cheesecake?”  Get the point?!  It’s a treat not a constant.

 

PS.  If your pup can’t fetch or doesn’t bring it back because he’s attempting to manipulate control of the game and his personal space then take my advice and start playing a close game of tug of war.  It will give you a chance to actually be a player in the game and it will keep the pup close and in your space.  And then you can teach the dog many other things like how to calm down and energy control, the “drop it” or “give” command and other vital spacial communication.

Me with my dogs Rambo and Bosley.

Questions?  Comments?  Testimonials?  YES, Please do respond we love your feedback.     -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 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)  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!

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-G