Rocky the aggressive boxer: one of the first dogs I ever trained professionally

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Rocky was a large male boxer.  Powerful, stubborn, hyper, and completely neurotic.

Rocky’s owners could not take him for a walk.  He was out of control.  He would pull, lunge, bark, leap in the air, snap at all manner of things – up to, and including, people.  He was nervous about everything…wind chimes, people, cars, birds, cats, trees or leaves blowing in the wind, other dogs, and a host of other common, everyday things.

A skilled Rookie

This was my earliest and first official “dog whispering” session at a client’s home.  I say whispering because whenever I deal with problematic dogs and need to help alter behavior naturally (by infusing calmness mixed with normal societal rules that apply to dogs and humans) I would hardly ever choose “training” (no matter how advanced).  Dog training is usually a terrible idea when attempting to prevent, reverse or eliminate poor behavior because dog training in essence is just the addition of obedience and tricks and often in exchange for payment or punishment.  Thus dog training (even done well) does NOT mean it will subtract problematic behavior!!!  (I fully understand this info may be shocking to many of you.  But it’s true nonetheless.  Let’s continue.)

I decided I was going to take Rocky for a walk.  The walk would be an attempt to get him to heel (walk loosely beside or slightly behind me without lunging and attacking anything).   I wanted to get him heeling so he could bond more naturally with me, burn off excess energy, and learn to follow me and then his owners.  The owners wanted to be able to walk him normally without all the insanity and aggression, drama, and without the public embarrassment, the outright danger and liability, and the excessive wasting of the dog’s energy and the frustrated owner’s energy.

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This is not Rocky but he was a big boy

The dance begins

To start I had to somehow get in the door without being bitten as this was also another of Rocky’s many issues.  Rocky was territorial.  He loved his family but was dominating everything he could and doing it out of nervous over-excited energy.  I tried to remain as calm as possible as they greeted me at the door with Rocky right there.  Please keep in mind, Dear Reader, that I did not know nearly as much back then as I do know but was “jumping in the pool” and taking a risk.  As I look back I realize that it was quite a risk I took because this dog was an excitement junkie hooked on fear and aggression.

Learning to Ignore is powerful stuff

He lunged for me as I came in the door but his owner had him on leash and pulled him back.  I went into introductions all the while attempting to ignore the threatening and aggressive body language of the dog.  Ignoring a dog can be a great safety measure when dealing with certain displays of aggression, fear, and escalated energy.  The ignoring is a method learned from watching older dogs and how they handle and raise younger pups.  It is the puppy who acts excited, foolish, and is initially an energy-waster.  That excitable behavior is the total opposite of how a more mature, socially-adept dog would enter a territory or meet another dog or pup.  This statement should instantly bring to your minds the question of how you meet and greet other dogs or puppies that you encounter, and also consider how the trainer you may be considering meets and/or greets your own dog or pup!  This can be quite telling.  Are we acting calmly, like a leader?  Or are we imitating and acting like puppies ourselves?!  Are we pumping up the dog or pups’ energy?!  If so please keep in mind that that is very poor leadership on our part and completely opposite of nature’s way!

Continuing…I was able to come in the door without getting mauled.  We spoke for several minutes on how to calm and lead a dog, mother nature’s way, the differences of dog training and dog whispering (for those readers that don’t know, I can do both methods but dog “whispering” or whatever you want to call naturally communicating calmly through space and energy -if done correctly- is much more natural, calming, and beneficial for the animal and our relationship with it and it always succeeds socially where other forms of training and behavioral mod. do not!) We spoke of other useful info all while Rocky was on leash and close by yet not close enough to bite me.  I was purposefully stalling as I gave all the vital info concerning their dog and this allowed him to calm down and deescalate.

Stepping up to the challenge

Then it was time for me to conquer fear, test my skills, and take the beast outside!  I asked that my clients initially just watch from the porch or stay inside altogether because Rocky was at a high level of aggression.  He would act worse if his owners were around or watching him and he would use them socially as backup for his manipulations and misbehavior against me – basically, he would get more aggressive with me and any others we encountered.  (Dogs are skilled manipulators of their owners and, in particular, their owner’s emotions and eye contact.)

Getting Bloody

I remember when I went to take the leash from the husband, Rocky kept lunging up in the air in a wild attempt to bite my hands and arms!  When I took hold of the leash (and my destiny for the next several years) his claws raked and scratched me as he clutched onto whatever flesh of mine he could find.  He was flailing and attempting to bite me and bite the leash or whatever he could get his teeth or paws on!  This may not sound like much to many of you but I have had scars that have taken close to a year to heal up just from a dog’s gripping claws!

Those babies can do some damage when they’re frantically wrapped around your bare arms!

Today when I look down at my forearms and hands I don’t see any scars from Rocky’s claws.  There is, however, one small scar from his teeth under the fleshy part where my right hand meets the wrist!  I remember my blood was flowing freely on that session.

I continued to let Rocky waste his energy as he attempted to bite, snap, nip, scratch, throw himself on the ground, bite the leash, and twist like a whirling dervish.  Some time later I felt he was calm enough to begin the walk.  This is another point in time where being extremely sensitive to the dog’s body language and energy comes into play.  You have to be super observant and patient yet active and willing to push the envelope.  We need the dog to go beyond the fearful or neurotic comfort zone.  Fortunately for me I’ve been an extreme animal nerd my whole life and have a well developed eye.

Animal nerd 

Growing up I lived in Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, and Maryland. Very different states with different animals.  I was able to catch frogs, toads, mice, lizards, snakes, turtles, and of course we owned several dog breeds over the years, many differing reptiles, some amphibians, a couple cats, and the occasional bird or rabbit.

As a child my first official pet was a box turtle named Speedy.   I got Speedy when I was around five or six years old.   My dad drove me to this run-down home that was converted into a too-cramped pet shop in a small Maine town.   It was jam-packed with creepy crawlies and furry bodies around every tight turn.  I was fascinated.  I remember seeing some python or boa almost bursting the sides of the dirty glass aquarium it was in, a raccoon in a wire cage, a skunk or two, and of course, loads of birds and reptiles.

Looking back, I can now say that Speedy actually had a great effect on the course of my life.  To my curious young mind this animal perhaps was a left over dinosaur that I could handle and study.  I clearly remember feeding him raw hamburger, bananas, strawberries and other salad stuffs.  I picture him walking around our apartment in Maine so many years ago.  I recall misplacing him once and then discovering him later in my clothes closet.  Upon his death we buried him in an empty Girl Scout Cookie box.  I still hold the opinion that his casket was just a bit too small but it was a great memorial service to honor a unique pet.

This imposter will have to suffice. I don’t think I have any pics of the real Speedy.

 

Working for a living

When I got my first job at fourteen it was at a pet store.  Clara’s Tropicals: a small pet shop specializing in tropical creatures in Maryland.  The first thing I ended up bringing home was a juvenile green iguana.  I named him Sam.  A few years later I had acquired another. Sam and Max were kept within a hand-built, custom, six-foot-high cage.  I’d make them a salad everyday.  As the years went by my animal collection and my knowledge grew.  I added a friendly Pac-man frog named Newton.  (Most horned frogs are not friendly.  They are an interesting species of frog that actually bite people and have teeth!  This actually makes them very unique as most amphibians do not.)  Newton was the bane of many a goldfish.

My second job was also at a pet store.  House of pets.  This store was not nearly as nice as Clara’s but I got to mess around with and care for caimans, tegus, monitors, rats, boas and pythons, chameleons, turtles, ferrits, and several other critters.  I was learning a ton about animal husbandry (through self education and intelligent observation) and occasionally handling some serious animals that did not desire to be handled by anyone.  Some of the caimans would snap at you if you weren’t careful and the tegu lizards and the monitors can be down right nasty!  There were some creatures I would only handle with gloves (Tokay gecko and a large green vine snake come readily to mind).

I also had acquired a bearded dragon named Roy.  Roy ate crickets like there was a coming famine.  We supplemented his diet with some salad and the occasional baby mouse.  He was very docile and I will, even to this day, recommend bearded dragons for those of you considering a lizard for a pet.  I know for certain there must be thousands of you out there reading this fine blog and thinking something to the effect of, You know what would really complete my life…if I only had a docile enough lizard sitting on my shoulder right now.  Well, now you know what my pick would be.

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A bearded dragon.

I was going to go further into the other animals and all the differing breeds of dog that my father would bring home for the family (usually free or extremely cheap and found from ads in the newspapers) but several of these pets did not last long in our house.  These intrepid animals would live with us often until they showed a problem or a behavioral issue was discovered and then they soon found themselves back in the paper and or in another home!   We never mistreated them but many certainly didn’t have too long of a stay with us.  Although this is not recommended for the animal  – it did afford me, during my childhood and teenage years, vast exposure to many differing breeds and personalities.  Due to the length of this post let’s just get back to Rocky the aggressive boxer and suffice it to say I was “good with animals” shall we?

A Dangerous Walk

We made quite a pair walking down the street.  After bearing the brunt of Rocky’s claws all over my forearms I was bleeding.  Rocky, after fighting me on leash and twisting like a crocodile going into a death roll, was heavily panting and frothing at the mouth.  I’m pretty sure his tongue had tripled in size.  Somewhere during all his rearing up and flailing, his teeth had snapped forward and cut my wrist.  I determined then and there that I was going to either bleed out or we could strive to have a normal stinking walk.  I would die trying.  We pressed on.

Utilizing good movements to stay away from his snapping maw and scratching claws I would patiently ride out Rocky’s explosive tantrums.  Whenever his energy needed a moment to rebound, we’d be off walking down the sidewalk as if nothing ever happened because I would instantly begin walking again making him heel.  There were several times he threw himself fully on the ground.  That was usually after he launched himself fully into the sky.  (bratty dogs will do this when they are used to controlling  their head and are not getting their way.)  I needed to walk him for his owners and he desperately needed to calm down and learn that the entire world wasn’t in his control and it also wasn’t that scary either.  So whenever he’d have an energy explosion and flop around and struggle like a prize Marlin on a line, I’d make sure he wasn’t able to bite me.  I’d ride out the storm and then, as quick as a jackrabbit on a date, we’d be off once again side by side like old chums out for a casual afternoon constitutional.  (Over the years I zero in on “where the dog is” at the current moment in it’s life and with it’s owners and “where it is” psychologically and then distinguish that from “where it needs to be” to achieve normal or calm balance.  This is necessary in order to achieve great results for both client and dog.  This sort of vision, I believe, is key for leadership in any endeavor or area of life in which one requires real growth.  The ability to move from “where you are” to “where you need to be” must never be undervalued.)

Eventually we were both tired and bleeding and sweaty (dogs do sweat despite what you may have heard.  They sweat from their paw pads).  Rocky had settled down due in large part to an iron will and decent dog-handling and we got through the difficult time all without bribing or beating (no need for positive reinforcement and no need for punitive either)!  He was heeling beautifully when we arrived back to the client’s home.  They were amazed.  I was happy.  Rocky was calm.  He was respectful towards me and now trusted me.  We were able to touch one another much more freely.  I would greatly build on this in future sessions with Rocky.

I then experienced a sort of glow, I suppose.   I’m not sure whether the clients noticed or if this sort of thing even shows from the outside or on my countenance at all, but  I’ve noticed this happens in my life internally whenever I am able to achieve something wonderful.  A burst of renewed energy (maybe joy) wells up within me.  I had done it.  I was a professional trainer, albeit very inexperienced, and had truly helped this dog and the results were plainly there for everyone to see.  It all happened within our first hour together.

Thanks Rocky,

-G

Remember to read my HOT Listed book on dog language and dog and human behaviors, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! by Garrett Stevens

 

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Itchy dog? Check this out…

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Spring has Sprung and Ma earth is changing her outfit again.  One of our boxers used to get quite itchy and eventually lose large patches of hair every spring and early summer.  He’d look bad just in time where we would normally have loved ones over in order to observe that fine summer ritual of cramming our faces full of tasty meats grilled out of doors.  Guests would come over to swim in our in-ground pool and our dog would act like he had fleas from all the itching and scratching.  Appearances aside we were, of course, generally concerned for his health and didn’t want him to suffer with the allergies or whatever it was that was causing the hair loss.

Vet visits and all the ointments in the world weren’t really doing the trick.  (The condition is called seasonal flank allopecia  – fyi)

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After researching I finally found an all-natural health product that helped!  It is great for dogs and pups (and kittens or cats) of all breeds and all ages and it totally natural so there are zero negative side effects!   The company also provides a 60 day money-back guarantee so you can try it for 2 months with no real commitment!  (This is great news for the cheapskates out there!)

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(Light bulb!  Going with nature is always the most efficient way when dealing with nature!)

 

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They don’t cook their product so all the beneficial ingredients are intact and actually helpful to the dog’s immune system and the animal’s flora and fauna found in their guts.  It is cold-processed.  Our dogs devour them like it’s a delicious treat.  That’s a win-win, baby!

After trying the daily health supplement we definitely saw a difference!  The company even has sales (15% off I think) if you choose to Autoship the health supplements to your home.

Anyways, after trying the stuff, I was sold and wanted to let all of you know about NuVet Plus and the great benefits both of our dogs have experienced.  If your dog has an allergy, or runny eyes, or tear staining, or a skin condition, or any health issue for that matter, because NuVet Plus boosts the entire immunity of your pet,  I cannot recommend this company enough.  Try it for two months and put the stuff to the test.  (Remember, no negative side effects, only positive ones!)

You’ll need a code to order NuVet Plus.  You can use ours.  14029.  That will get your dog or pup or cat or kitten started on the excellent road to health.

(*This NuVet product even helped our other boxer stop vomiting up his kibble – which he used to do every couple of months.  Eventually he even had 3 seizures in a row and we thought we were going to lose him, we had to do something…we found NuVet Plus!  After a couple months on NuVet Plus…there was only one more vomit and zero seizures and now, here we are four years later!  He just turned 12 and guests to our home often guess that he’s years younger than he is.  I attribute this to his NuVet Plus supplements and my intentional watching of his weight.*)

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Order some NuVet Plus and watch for changes!  Use order code 14029

You can order it from our website or directly from them.

http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com

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BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!  (to be read in a Billy May’s pitch voice) They also make another excellent product to support healthy hips, joints, elbows, and spine!  It’s called NuJoint Plus!  I’d definitely look into this if I had a puppy with all the massive growing they do during the first two years of life and if I had an active dog and, of course, if you have a large or giant breed or senior dog it is an absolute must!  Check out NuJoint Plus too!)

 

Here’s to a healthier 2018-2019 for you and your pets!

-G

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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 calmly stop them.  This is where I can help dramatically.  Order my Hot Listed book on dog and human behaviors, DOG MYTHS: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

I’ll put a link to my shocking and yet inspiring training book at the bottom of this article.  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.

 

Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You!

There’s the link above so click it and reserve your copy of the book today!

 

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

 

In search of Bigfoot

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We’ve heard the stories.  We’ve seen the footage.  We’ve heard of the legendary Sasquatch.  We’ve watched Harry and the Hendersons.

In a philosophical (or comical) way maybe we are all looking for Bigfoot.  I know many of the masses of good people out there are sure seeking desperately for something to help connect them to something more primal and natural.  Folks are looking to still remain connected to mother nature particularly in today’s digital age.  A digital age in which we are much more “connected” but much less real.  We live currently in an age of information (and mass propaganda and misinformation) and “communication” overload.  An age where actual natural and honest communication and real face-to-face interaction is rapidly shriveling away!  I see the same trouble in the dog behavioral world.

Friends, I can honestly say you’d have an easier time discovering Bigfoot than you would finding a good solution to your dog’s behavioral issues IF you’re attempting to use mainstream, typical obedience training!

Did you know that trainers and behaviorists and vets who encourage typical obedience are the main foe of calmness in most of our dogs and pups? Let me clarify…

If you examine the history of dog training and study it down through the ages you would find most of it doesn’t really apply to today’s house-dogs.  But almost every local company I know of today is still using these same exact cookie-cutter methods!  Almost all “training” and “behavioral modification” is based in excitement and the usual methods would have us raise our energy (and our voices) with or at our dogs.

We’ve all heard and many times even used the all-too-common phrase, “Give the dog a job to do.”  Or, “This breed really needs a job.”  I’ve even used that phraseology and thinking in the past but it is now high time we move on!  It’s high time we realized our house-dogs are retired!  And it’s OUR job to help them understand we want them practicing “retirement level” energy!  Our house-dogs need to learn to sit back, relax and enjoy their lives by keeping their energy under control!

Calmness and Relaxation should be top priorities for Every house-dog! Get rid of “typical obedience” and “training” and develop a relationship where you can control and calm your dog’s energy so they can learn to go with the flow and be calm and social.

Please believe me when I say you can throw all the agility, herding, and other “jobs” you want at your problematic dog and it still will NOT fix or cure aggression, or fear, or anxiety.  Real communication, and a relationship with energy control and spacial control are what matters in preventing or curing behavioral issues.  If you don’t have that type of relationship with your dog you’re just out spending your time and energy looking for Bigfoot!

Don’t forget to click to “Follow” this fine, entertaining, humorous, educational, doggy blog!

-G

How to win friends and influence dogs!

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Good Morning!  Greet everyone you see today like a well- adjusted, social dog would and you’ll be on your way to a great day.  Who is the best friend and networker on the block?  You guessed it!  A social dog is.

keep smiling! photo cred. Huffington post

 

Think and act like a dog today and spread a little joy to others as you go about your day.  You will never regret helping someone else.

Have fun,

-G

Dog fight!!! What to do when your dog is in a dog fight…

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What should we do when our dog is attacked? What should we do when our dog attacks another dog? How do we safely intervene? How can we fix the situation?

Dear Reader, here are some guidelines to consider concerning when dogs fight.

1.Stay calm.

2. Please re-read and actually follow rule number 1!  

If everyone involved were to actually follow my first two rules the world would be a better place for people and our furry companions. I bring up calmness because it would imply that you are operating with a clear mind and not one exploding with fight/flight adrenaline and excessive human emotions. If you aren’t calm you aren’t in charge. End of story. If you aren’t calm how do you expect to handle conflict resolution? If you aren’t calm whatever actions you take will just INTENSIFY the situation.

Example: Imagine if you were stabbed or shot and then as you arrived at the hospital the doctors and nurses were shocked, and yelling, and totally flipping out; some crying, some severely angered, others simply stunned or stupified. Would they be of much help to you? Also keep in mind most fights (dog or human) last a very short time (many just seconds) Panic never helps in any situation.

If we back track we would discover that you were the one who thought it was a good idea to bring a domesticated predator into your home.  A domesticated predator whose mighty ancestors still roam the mountains and plains and hunt, kill, and feast on prey animals up to 2000 pounds!A wolf from the Canyon Pack stalks an ailing bison at Otter Creek in Yellowstone National Park. (©Meg Sommers - click to enlarge)

 

3. Be prepared to take action.  Semper Paratus.

Being prepared is great.  Besides serving as the motto for the Boy Scouts and what Simba’s plotting Uncle Scar gave for advice to his minions of hungry hyenas, being prepared is never a bad thing. Attempt to be as aware as you can of your environment.  Our dogs are usually more aware of the environment than we are.  Up your game.

4. Proceed with caution!

All dogs are very quick (certainly quicker than people). All dogs can see movement better than you or I (due to the ratio of rods to cones in the dog’s eye). All dogs come equipped with a host of amazingly powerful jaws and large pointed teeth (you know, their “canine” chompers). Dogs are well known for their bite force and are used around the world by police, military, and private training companies for just this purpose. No need to elaborate on the mouth and teeth. All dogs have sharp claws too. I’ve been bloodied up many times in my day to day just from an aggressive dog attempting to grab me with their paws/claws!  Almost all dogs have fur (armor) that can protect them to a degree.

And the most important part of point number four…they have the inherent nature to survive. They don’t want to get hurt and will often end disagreements quickly if they can.  This means they will fight or flight if necessary but would typically prefer not to.  Dogs are highly intelligent social creatures who will simply and honestly disagree with each other.  Sometimes they use fight to do it.  So do Not take it so personally if there is a fight.  Just because you’re a human living in today’s instant gratification, ultra-convenience and entertainment-based culture does not mean we cannot be understanding in the case of our dogs.  Fighting is a way of communicating.  Because dogs are so social it also means that they have a fantastically peaceful nature and that in most cases means a disagreement will only last a few seconds.  Thank God.

(An exception to this would be dogs that have been conditioned to fight or are constantly pulling on the leash.  Leash pulling will always escalate a dog’s energy levels. In protection work we want a taut leash. In calming a dog we do Not want any pulling.  Learn to develop a great “heel” command where your dog walks loosely at your side.)

 

Now please take a quick look at yourself and see if you are equipped as well naturally to jump on into the fray and break up a dog fight. Do you have an incredible bite force? Do you have claws and fur and powerful sharp pointy teeth? Do you have more rods than cones in your eyes and although you cannot see color as well, because of the muted color scheme, you can detect the slightest movements and zero in on them? Do you have an inherent nature to avoid confrontation and get along with the pack family? Do you see where I’m going with this? Or maybe I should ask… Do you value your fingers? Do you value your hands? Do you value your legs?  How about your face?

5. To yell or not to yell?

If you yell it should only be for a moment and even then it typically won’t really do anything (barring the exception that your dog is somewhat well behaved and is not in too immediate danger/ is already latched onto the other dog) and yelling and emotional screaming or crying could just exacerbate the problem due to your addition of more sound energy!

6. Evaluating the fight…

If your dog is on leash and they are not latched (from biting the other dog) you can pull back. And quickly turn the your dog away.  If they are latched onto each other with a firm bite Do Not pull back as this will only tear the flesh more and could cause real damage.

7. Leave in control of yourself and your dog and don’t inadvertently cause a behavioral problem!  (Pay attention to this one)

If your dog is around a large group of dogs leave the area right away. After exchanging personal info at the scene of course – I would assume this goes without saying!  Unless the wounds are so small that they really won’t need any vet assistance.  I mention leaving because you don’t want more dogs jumping in because of the over-excited fight energy in the atmosphere (see rules one and two!).  If it is only your dog and another dog I would NOT suggest you leave the area right away as this can almost instantly cause a behavioral issue in your dog! Your dog could form a new habit and think that it was such a traumatic experience (even if it wasn’t traumatic and most times it is not!) based on your raw and foolhardy emotional responses!  If it indeed was traumatic -meaning a real fight that lasted more than a couple seconds with real puncture wounds (you know the ones, they look like a vampire bit down on your dog and your dog has many lacerations) – you should literally pretend for your dog’s sake that it was no big deal.  This is when you need to be strong for your dog and in control of your thoughts and your emotions.  (They say he who has self control is more powerful than he who controls an entire army)

Let me explain. Dogs live in the moment and can form habits extremely fast. I believe many animals can form habits faster than humans (we typically form then in 21 – 30 days). If you are presenting weak, ineffective, over-excitable, angry, pathetic, or any other imbalanced types of energy you can imagine this will literally be hurting your own dog psychologically. Dogs feed on the energy around them.  Dogs are also watching our lead.  And, honestly, if you’re crying, screaming, swearing, dancing around ineffectively, you certainly won’t help anyone -least of all your own dog.  Take this to heart.  Remember it.

All lead dogs in mother nature are the calm, cool, and collected type.  Dogs will not follow a hysterical, sobbing, out-of-control human even if they’ve had years of the typical “sit, stay, down” et cetera training. Again please see rules 1 and 2.  I’ve handled thousands of dogs over the long years and the owners tell me they “used to be fine with other dogs UNTIL they were attacked or until they got into a fight with another dog.”

8. Develop resilience and a tough skin.

Do your self and your dog a favor and Pretend Everything is Fine and handle the situation like a real dog leader would. Because chances are (and I’ve seen this many times) there is minor or no damages in many cases and the humans are all worked up because their two dogs had a disagreement. This does not mean you cannot honestly disagree with the other human about their dog but this leads into my next point…

9. Be polite to the other dog owner as best you can.

You get more flies with honey than vinegar. This is hard for most people in today’s unnatural, technology-crazed, fast food, instant gratification, selfishly-driven society. Manners are at an all time low. Be upfront and honest but try not to be rude.

Please imagine two somewhat, normal people and now picture their dogs fight for a few moments and now ask yourself this question…Do you think anyone of the people actually wanted a fight to take place? If their dog was the initiator don’t you think the owner would be concerned about the behavior?  Yes, some folks are jackasses but that doesn’t mean you have to be.  Let’s elevate the situation.

10. Don’t be a victim!  (this is a major issue!)

If you are the victim don’t act like it. Acting like a victim has never helped anyone ever in the whole history of the world.  If you are incredibly worked up you have that right but, again, it won’t do you any favors when interacting with the other owner. And what’s more, you may be inadvertently hurting your dog with all the Human Drama. Please check rules 1 and 2 just one more time. Eliminate all Human drama. It is unnecessary and a foolish waste of energy. If you are wasting energy what are you teaching your dog?  Now is the time to Calmly Lead.  Now is the time to show how you handle adversity!

If you have the dog that started the fight – settle your dog down by controlling the eye contact (this means breaking it) and spinning them away if you can safely do so. Some experts suggest grabbing them by the back legs and spinning them in a circle away from the other dog. I say good luck with that. Make sure to go and see the other dog (if the owner is still there and if you can safely do so). Make sure you see if there is indeed damage and what sort. Offer to pay the vet bills as this is customary and the right thing to do. Unless, of course, the owner doesn’t want to see you or talk to you (some clients tell me this has happened to them and the other party just yelled at them and briskly walked off. This usually means there is little to no injury to their dog and they just want to get out of the situation. Let them.) Don’t cause more human drama. However, if you can stay on the scene a bit this can help most dogs settle down and not go right from Fight into Flight.  Remember, we don’t want any new unsocial habits forming.  Just being around (at a safe distance where they cannot get at each other) even with the dog they just had the disagreement with while the owners correct and calm them can shockingly be beneficial and hammer home that sociability is the only way.

11. Prevention.  Prevention.  Prevention.

The best option is to obviously not let your dog get into a fight in the first place.  You can usually prevent dog fighting drama if you develop an excellent relationship with your dog, socialize the heck out of them but make sure you maintain the lead (remember that “heel” I mentioned earlier?).  And in many cases where the dog already has dog aggression you need to continue to get them out and about (cautiously) but the risk is worth the reward if you know what you are doing because deep down dogs are always ready to learn to be social.  That being said, if it happened to you or ever does please learn from the wisdom of the dogs and shake off stress and care, live in the moment, keep moving forward, forgive and forget, remain in control of your energy and learn to control your dog’s energy through efficient movements and proper spatial manipulation!  

Learn to read their body language. Do not allow your dog to stare at other dogs!  Do not allow your dog to throw it’s head over other dogs shoulders or neck when meeting or playing.  Be a tension calmer.  Many misunderstandings can be prevented if the dog’s language is fluid and the human owner also understands canine communication. Sadly many, many dogs are aggressive, they do pull, lunge, snap on the leash and off the leash and have a horrible dog language and do not know how to get back to a calm, peaceful place! And what’s worse humans trainers and behaviorists mask the real problems with surface level tricks and obedience that gives little to no regard to the cultivation of a healthy and prosperous relationship between owner and dog!  Seek professional help and someone with an excellent reputation for rehabbing aggressive, fearful, or dangerous dogs (remember, while almost all dog training companies and behaviorists advertise that they handle aggression and “speak dog” – the sad truth is that many Mishandle it.

True dog aggression cannot be fixed with treats and “watch me” commands.  It will not usually be fixed from attending a “Growly Class” (think for a moment how foolish the human concept of a “Growly dog class” is.  Dogs are social creatures who learn from other people and from other example dogs so why would I place my dog into a large group of other dogs with the exact same issue?)  Instead, get your dog extra exercise, structure and calming discipline, a great “heel”, proper house manners, don’t let him over-touch you or others, don’t let him escape petting or not come to you, and eventually you have to “jump in the pool” and get your dog more social and around other calm “example” dogs.  Whatever the behavioral question is… the only answer is more sociability!

Need help? Read my book or Give me a call!  I behaviorally rehab fearful and aggressive dogs with great success on a daily basis – and all WITHOUT food treats and WITHOUT harsh handling!  Order my HOT-Listed book, Dog Myths (hundreds of folks are reserving their copies Now- hopefully thousands soon!)  Find out why it made the HOT List for so many weeks consecutive.  Find out why the dog training and behavior modification industry is largely crap, way behind in their methods, and not that helpful.  And then, after you are shocked, you will be educated, equipped and inspired in the beneficial ways of natural dog handling and I promise you…you will notice BIG changes once you begin applying even a few of the amazing yet subtle and simple techniques contained within the pages of Dog Myths!

Here is the link.  Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to BITE You! by Garrett Stevens

Keep it peaceful,
-G