The dog training industry is split with two extremes…in desperate need of change!

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Dogs are suffering!  Were you aware of the two extremes?  They are exceedingly common!  I see it everyday and am sorely sick of it and you should be too.  Our dogs are suffering because of these two extreme yet tremendously common training techniques.  And families and households across the world are suffering because of this lack of balance in the training world.  I literally work seven days a week (many months out of the year I don’t even take a single day off!) because the need for good balanced training is so high!  But I barely consider what I do “training.”

Let’s look at the two extremes that “Dominate” the dog training world…

1> On one extreme you have the “positive” only folks who are so vehemently concerned that no one ever dare disagree with their own dog or any dog on the entire planet.  This group tends to treat dogs like human babies.  Not like human kids or teens but like hungry human babies.

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“Bribe me and I might do this trick but that doesn’t mean I respect you, or that you can trust me, or that we are communicating like dogs would”

 

They operate as if our dogs are not intelligent enough to understand they should not perform certain rude or other “bad” social behaviors.  They act as if dogs can do no wrong.  We have learned from this fanatical group, and heard the insane true life stories from countless clients (before they found us when they tried other trainers/behaviorists) …in my daily experience of owning and running a very successful dog behavioral rehabilitation and training business we average 6-7 appointments a day…that they (the positive only crowd) seldom get great results because their techniques use bribery and rewards only.  And they bribe very early on with puppies.  They stuff treats down their throats so often that they eventually kill or greatly diminish the motivation altogether!

These trainers which can be found anywhere and everywhere treat their dogs (an ultra-domesticated animal) almost like some wild animal that needs to be bribed to do frivolous tricks.   I always found it strange that Bribery in our human society is a crime but constantly “paying” and bribing our dogs is touted by many of these “positive only” trainers as the end-all-be-all in training.  These folks, instead of bribing, could give our domestic dogs more credit and understanding as the highly intelligent and communicative species they are.  But they don’t.

I find it fascinating and irksome that from the get-go these trainers cut off all flexibility in their methods by declaring to all that they are only using and limiting themselves to one form of training or behavior mod…”Positive only.”

I have to ask why would anyone of sound mind and body would, at the start, limit themselves to one rigid form only?  This takes away all flexibility and adaptability in their methods!

Imagine a mixed martial artist announcing before the fight that he is only going to use Western boxing.  Why limit oneself that way?  The astute opponent could then easily manipulate and drive the fight the way they wanted to with loads of leg kicks and Brazilian Jujitsu or wrestling.  (Our dogs are quite astute when it comes to getting their way in their environments even if it’s against our wishes.)

The “positive-only” crowd lacks the freedom or doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that as a human dog owner one could choose to be “all inclusive!”  This means you can play, you can be serious, you can discipline, you can praise or reward, you can calm and or pump up the energy, you can control the dog or, if the dog is trust worthy, you can turn over control to the dog and give loads of freedom.  But because they are not “all inclusive” like all good parents should be they lack adaptability.

No Balance and flexibility lie in many “positive-only” techniques.  (And I’m not even going to go into all the trouble caused by constantly relying on an external motivator like food and how treats often Raise the excitement levels which can contribute to further behavioral issues!)

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“You keep paying me while I become a form of doggy Al Capone!”

 

 

Let me be clear – There is nothing wrong with rewarding for a good behavior but these “positive only” trainers/behaviorists take such an extreme approach to constant food rewarding, petting, and high pitched praise that it typically results in too much excitement from the dog or puppy which then leads to more behavioral issues in the future!

In the cases of real and serious aggression and, or fear, the treats simply are ignored by the dogs because they have “turned down” their sense of smell in order to “turn up” their predatory vision and hearing!  It’s the sad truth that the results these limited trainers bring are typically mediocre at best and only work for what we would in the industry call normal, social pups and or dogs with very minor behavior issues… and they almost never work for true aggression cases (and if they do eventually work a little it takes a year or more -which is a horribly long timing considering how all our dogs live in the moment and are connected to the present with their super senses.)

 

 

 

2> The other common extreme seen in the dog training industry are on the opposite end of the spectrum…the trainers who have been former military or police dog handlers/K-9 trainers.  These kind are easy to identify because they will typically cling to their tools and techniques with similar vigor as the positive only crew detailed above but the tools these trainers use are usually almost all “corrective” and punitive in nature.  I mean to say the tools will be electronic shock collars, prong or pinch collars, or the classic choke chain.  These trainers usually will get better results initially with the dogs than the “positive only” folk because dogs will respond to a more physical approach, however, the main fault here is that these types of methods can ruin many good dogs because they are using techniques from their police or military background on common house dogs that are usually not as high drive or simply not bred as tough as the dogs they learned on in the police or military all those years ago when the trainer was serving overseas or in the community.

 

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Excitement is great for protection work but not as great for being a housedog

 

(Let me just say we at Alpha and Omega dog training are very, very thankful for all those who have served in our military and those who have served the community as good law enforcement individuals.   And we are equally thankful for their faithful K9s that serve and work so tirelessly to protect us.)

We have some local trainers in the city where we live and train that were former military or police dog trainers and we have had clients that have taken a course from them… initially (before finding us) or done private sessions with them and they all recount tales of hanging, choking, rolling, shocking, and even something akin to water-boarding their puppy if their pup were to dig a hole in the yard!  These methods are Completely overboard and sometimes borderline abusive!  It is one thing to have to occasionally strongly correct with a leash pop or strong tug on the leash an active working (in the police or military) dog that is worked up and on the bite sleeve or a powerful dog that is attempting to bite another dog or person.  It is quite another thing to apply these methods on a puppy or dog that will live out it’s life calmly in a city or suburban neighborhood Never going on tours in Afghanistan or Iraq or to patrol gang-town Chicago or LA!  So again flexibility and adaptation are lacking in these rigid methods.

The thinking with these trainers goes something like this, “You have to show the dog who is Alpha…”  And while I actually agree that an owner should show their dog who is Alpha I disagree in how they and most people define the Alpha!

A true Alpha dog is nothing more than a patient, peace-keeping, parent.  This may be Shocking info – I know!  The Alpha dog is NOT the dog who is at the park trying to knock over other dogs down or trying to fight with many other dogs.  That is a common misconception.  The Alphas are natural peace-keepers who stay calm and attempt to get along with every dog they meet.  They know when to ignore or when to address with a firm but calming canine communication.  We should all strive to study and learn from them.  I have seen several over the years and it is fascinating to watch them in a large group of dogs.  The Alphas actually help the humans keep the peace in a large group!  They are masterful communicators.  Calm, confident, competent.

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This female is automatically alpha to all her little pups. Alpha means parent not bully. She will raise them utilizing ignoring, addressing, and occasionally redirecting through play.

 

A word on correcting or addressing a problematic dog:  The most effective corrections I have personally used over the many years have been the ones where I don’t lay a finger on the dog but where I outmaneuver  them, claim them, calm them, and then smoothly offer them more freedom!  THAT is the way of a true Alpha.  That is what good, loving leadership calls for – boundaries and certain disciplines within the relationship that actually lead to greater FREEDOMS!  We need to lead to greater freedom NOT more rigid obedience for our dogs.  Calmness mixed with efficient movement are keys to a calm and healthy puppy or dog.

 

Anyway the point of this post is WE ALL Need to come together as a dog training community and not have these two ridiculous yet oh so common extremes.  The need for calmness in humans and dogs is at an all time high in society!  People actually need to learn patience more than most of our dogs do!

If you are ever seeking professional help from a trainer, behaviorist, or whisperer…I would highly, highly recommend avoiding these two extreme groups.  Maybe you Free yourself enough to glean the best from both worlds and then find a better balance?  But, as I always say, attempt to learn more from the actual social dogs and less from the professional human trainer/behaviorist!  Look to all of nature for a guideline and watch how the older (SOCIAL) dogs move and act around others that are hyper and young or just unsocial.  Take their techniques and add them to your own bag!  

The wild thing is is that you may not be able to find a great trainer where you are at because Training itself and Behavior modification is now waaaaaay behind the times even the trainers who utilize the word “modern” in their names or methods are typically just positive-only types).  The issue is that both of the above mentioned methods are much to dependent on external motivation and the use of excitement and their tools.  And to go even deeper …The real heart of the issue is that the dog industry is still doing what it’s always done.  Everyone thinks training/behavior mod. is the answer.  My books will clearly explain why it’s not!  It’s time for an exciting new future.  Relationship with clear communication is the answer to preventing or reversing behavioral issues – it is the answer for a great life shared with others!

I’ll admit this one was hastily written but I believe it is loaded with truth and some interesting thoughts or questions for everyone to think about and hopefully act on.

Please keep an eye out for my upcoming book DOG MYTHS!!!!  I think you’ll really love it and it could be a potential game-changer for so many people and dogs in need.  #dogmyths #getgarrett

-G

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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

 

 

Calm your dog’s Energy and behavioral problems disappear!

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One of the main issues I see that is tremendously lacking in thousands of homes, as I behaviorally rehab dogs and instruct their owners, is the simple understanding that dogs communicate constantly through their energy and body language.  Dogs are almost always talking!  Are we accurately reading them and honestly listening?  Dogs are constantly telling us what they need or want and this, in turn, tells us how to help them.  And the amazing thing about that is that dogs don’t lie.  They don’t deceive or fall prey to mankind’s greatest weaknesses, such as inflated ego, criticism, materialism, consumerism, or attempting to live a life that flows against Mother Nature.  When we can take our eyes off ourselves for a moment we can truly see, appreciate, and then help a dog or pup in need.

If you begin to think of a dog as furry energy, you will start to see how you can help calm that animal’s brain in that moment in time.  This is the answer to any dog behavioral issueProblems arise when most typical dog trainers, dog behaviorists, vets, vet techs, dog rescue groups, groomers and other dog professionals do not use enough natural calming techniques.  Many dog professionals seldom consider how dogs need to be calmed down in order to be social, and instead just forge ahead with the same typical training techniques no matter what the dog is communicating with its energy and body.

Typical training uses way too much excitement.  Please re-read that last sentence.  We have been sold the concept that an excited dog is a happy dog.  In many circumstances nothing could be further from the truth.  When we realize that the canine uses differing levels of excitement/energy like a human uses words to communicate, we start to understand that being excited does not always mean the dog is happy.  In fact, many dogs are overexcitement junkies.  They are stuck in horrible habits of overexcitement because they have not been shown how to stop the addiction, or shown they have crossed a social boundary in the household.  Remember, not all excitement is good.  Playing ball or wrestling with your dog is good excitement.  Pulling nonstop on leash or freaking out at another dog or person is not good.  As humans, we get excited to go on vacation and that’s great but we also become excited when in a warzone or if we were running from a dangerous murderer.  Not all excitement means we are happy.

Out of control much?

Most training also seldom considers what the animal may actually need and instead goes right into manipulating the dog, usually using something exciting (treats, toys, praise), into a sit, down or stay.  Behaviorist and trainers alike focus on the External motivation of the animal instead of the more natural and much more beneficial Internal motivation.  They focus too heavily on obedience as the end-all-be-all instead of relationship!

We as a society are hyper fixated for some very odd reason with making our dogs sit.  I see countless people every day making their dogs sit and sit and sit some more.  I ask you this simple question…Why?  Has it solved the dog’s behavioral issue? Has it made them calm their energy enough to change the undesirable behavior into something much better. or do they just end up, literally, placing their bottom on the ground for a moment and only to pop back up into whatever behavior they want?  Or, if the “sit, stay or wait,” works and is fairly strong and the person has practiced that with the dog and done prior training, the dog will then remain in the “sit, stay, wait” yet all the while building more energy and over-excitement.  Then, when the owner releases the dog, the dog ends up still exploding forward into the undesired behavior!  What has the sit (stay, wait) done for you?  What was gained?  In many cases the dogs use it to manipulate and raise their energy which is the OPPOSITE of what the owner wants and what the dog wants deep down inside.

Instinctually, no dog wants to be hyper or out of control.  They are just locked into a habit of raising their energy.  Many dogs I see yearn for more natural rules and boundaries so they can learn how to calm themselves down and exist more comfortably with their families at a more sociable level.  This leads to more pleasant outings and a larger social group.  And, as we know, instinctually for a pack predator (with amazing instincts right from the wolf) getting along in a large social group and operating like a well-oiled-machine is what being a healthy dog is all about.  Being social is the key.  But you have to be calm enough to get along socially!

Consider your dog’s energy levels while patiently existing in the moment with them, read their body language more effectively and then you will have an amazing foundation to prevent or cure any behavioral issue.  Think and then act to intercept rising energy and place your dog or pup into more patient postures.

“The more tranquil a man becomes the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good.  Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”  -James Allen

Hope you all enjoyed this article.

Check out my website at www.gstevensdogtrainer.com Stay tuned for other excellent dogformation from yours truly, thecaninecalmer.  Look for little dogortunities to work with your dogs or pups throughout the day.  Keep a sharp eye out for my up coming book!  And above all, stay persistent yet calm.

-Garrett Stevens

Alpha and Omega Dog Training

Any Breed, Any Age, Any Problem

www.gstevensdogtrainer.com