The many problems of treat training and positive reinforcement – Part 2

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The motivation level found within food treats is always subjective.  Meaning each individual dog (the subject) determines whether they are motivated by the food or not.  This is a huge problem in the dog training industry and amongst trainers and behaviorists and for any dog owners that cling to this fragile form of external motivation!

Example:  Let’s look at 3 dogs and let’s say we only use food just positive reinforcement as it’s taught by a vast majority of professionals today to motivate them – The first dog is highly motivated by food (he gets very excited and will perform obedience in a hasty manner- many behaviorists and trainers adore these types of dogs because any layman with even rudimentary skill can easily make them perform tricks).  The second dog is only somewhat motivated by food (she will only perform obedience if you offer what trainers call “high value” or incredibly smelly dog treats or human food).  And the third dog is totally unmotivated by food (usually because this 3rd dog is living at a level of fear, anxiety, or aggression wherein he is NOT smelling and tasting the world the way he, and all healthy, socially normal dogs, naturally should be…instead this dog lives his life through his secondary senses – vision and hearing.  Vision and hearing, when overused, always lead to behavioral problems.  Too much vision and hearing lead to fight or flight behaviors and not to eating.  (If you have ever been in a physical altercation or fight you know that eating is the farthest thing from your mind and body at that moment)

So what does the unskilled trainer or behaviorist that only clings to one rigid method of training do for the second and third dogs in our example?  First, when normal treats fail, they come up with excuses and explain to the dog owner how they must find a “higher value” food motivator for their pet.  Then the shoddy pro trainer will typically talk about adding more and more motivation/excitement to the dog (which is really insane when the ultimate goal of the caring dog owner is to have a wonderfully adept, socially normal dog that is fit for the modern world in which we live – which is incidentally a world that is much calmer in many cities and towns than it used to be throughout ancient times and even a couple hundred years ago when dogs were actively employed as our workers.  All dog owners want trust but the way the majority of trainers and dog owners go about getting that trust doesn’t work well for them because they assume adding food and tricks means you can trust the animal).  The trainer who espouses the extremely rigid “positive only” method typically doesn’t know much about parenting in the human family or among the canine family group.  This is why they often have incredibly over emotionalized responses (just read the internet for proof) to anything and everything excepting their one rigid method.

(I will also note here that I’ve observed locally that a majority of these professional “treat-only” trainers are single people or are people without their own human children.  These folks don’t have kids.  (I have four terrific kids – fyi – and I don’t build my relationship with them based on paying them or treating them non-stop) I think that is interesting to consider because everyone knows it would be extremely poor parenting to shove candy down an already bratty child’s throat in place of the proper time, energy, conversation, exercise, discipline, socialization, and loving affection that goes into raising a socially healthy child.  It is a cliche when we think of the dead beat father or mother who tries to make up for a lacking relationship with their own children by way of extra “high value” presents given to the kids at Christmas and birthdays.  Tragically, this is what passes as “scientific” and “modern” dog training today and has over the past several decades.

(I don’t know how these trainers managed to persuade people into thinking these techniques are “scientific” or even “modern” because all external motivation, be it positive or punitive, was proven by teams of scientists in the 1970s (not modern) and then by different teams again in the 1980s (not modern) to be shallow external motivation with results that fade in the long term!  Please re-read.  I mean to say that if you rely on external positive reinforcement (food) or on external aversive/punitive reinforcement (pain) the subject/dog may alter their behavior in the short term (dogs 1 and 2 from our example) but the dog will quickly go back into their old ways in the long term which then elicits the unyielding and overemotional dog trainer or unwitting dog owner to have to consistently give their dog a “raise,” and go to a higher value food treat or, on the opposite end go with a rougher more painful technique as time keeps passing!

And this endless poor parenting (and poor training) procedure has been neatly packaged and sold to the masses, to you and I, by giant conglomerates that just so happen to sell a buttload of treats and bad training!  Isn’t that wild?  Follow the money, people.  I guess we have our answer as to how it became common vernacular to say that dropping a ton of treats on the floor to stop a dog from jumping up on a person is somehow “scientific” and “modern” instead of simply telling the truth and saying it’s “ridiculous” and “wasteful” (those are words I’d use for that specific training technique).  These massive conglomerates spent billions to get those key words (modern and science) into their fragile and unnatural system of failing/fading motivation (because business-wise their system is NOT failing for the massive companies bottom line financially…just like all drug dealers know…once a potential client gets a taste of their stuff it becomes difficult to detox the patient – many dogs, after being treated with tasty food excessively, will soon attempt to totally ignore their owners and not do anything unless you have a treat!  In many cases the dog owner devalues the natural relationship and ends up bribing the dog and they are completely void of trust and respect and instead have a fake relationship they assume is normal because it is status quo.

And we still have not addressed the third dog from our example…the dog that is too aggressive for treats, too fearful for food, too anxious to switch from hyper staring and hyper listening into relaxed smelling and tasting.  This is the dog only some owners and trainers interact with, meaning it is possible for a person to live a long and healthy life and to raise and adopt a few different dogs over their lifespan and still never experience what it’s like to live with or handle and train a dog that is like the third dog.  These folks may never understand unless and until they end up getting a dog like the third dog, a dog that in many instances food treats will simply be ignored because the adrenals functioning within this animal tell it to continually fight or flight and not relax and eat in the presence of their triggering stimuli.  Examine ANY creature on the planet and you’ll discover in the midst of high energy fight/flight excitement the last thing on the creature’s mind is eating!  This third dog is the shoddy dog trainer’s worst nightmare.  This is the unknowledgeable behaviorist’s greatest dilemma.  For all their rhetoric on science and modernity, for all their extreme emotions openly and often violently displayed ad nauseam on the internet towards other types of trainers, they have zero answers for their clients when it comes to helping the third dog because the dog is blatantly ignoring high value food treats!  Unethical, money-grubbing behaviorists may just tell their clients “Oh, your dog is over-threshold and we need to back up further away from the dog’s triggering stimuli (another dog, person, etc) until your dog is relaxed enough to actually take and eat the food treats in order to make a positive association with the trigger.”  Or they may take you into their facility and behind a partition or have your dog-aggressive dog work with a stuffed animal instead of a real dog (the methods get truly ridiculous the more we examine them).  I mentioned unethical and money-grubbing because this technique of theirs may take you, the paying client, a year or three for any sort of decent results to kick in!  (Special note: it is extremely common for us to hear from our clients that what we were able to do in our very first session with their dog and our calming, natural methods, they were NOT able to accomplish in 10 or 15 or 20 sessions with another company that was using this alleged modern positive approach!)

In Part 3 will we turn the corner and go over real world answers towards genuinely helping not only the third dog but greatly aid the human-dog bond with all three dogs in our example.  I’m hoping to end the series in Part 4.

Then, after I am finished with this series I will do one on The Many Problems of harsh dog handling and Punitive/Aversive reinforcement…………Stay tuned all you rabid dog lovers!

 

For more info simply read my Hot-Listed book on dog and human behavior, Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and grab a copy of my super practical and hands-on, second book, So Long Separation Anxiety to help you achieve the finest of relationships possible with your dog or pup.

-G

 

 

The many problems of treat training and “positive reinforcement”

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“When the tiger bit at Horn’s sleeve, Lawrence made a move to intervene, tempting him with raw meat.  The trainer grabbed Mantecore’s leash and the tiger managed to knock both men down.”  USA TODAY

“A grizzly bear that appeared in a recent Will Ferrell film killed a 39-year old trainer with a bite to his neck…Randy Miller has 25 years experience training animals and his facility has had a perfect safety record, according to the website.”  INDEPENDENT  

“Swedish wolves kill zookeeper who raised them…Even after discovering the zookeeper’s body officials had trouble removing her remains.”  TIME

“Tilikum grabbed Brancheau by the ponytail and pulled her into the pool, then began violently swinging her around…died from a combination of blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and torso, plus drowning.  The attack happened during a performance.  It wasn’t the first time Tilikum killed someone either.  In 1991 he was one of the three whales responsible for the death of trainer Keltie Lee Byrne.”  GRUNGE

“Tyke entered the ring…kicking around what looked to audience members like a dummy. ‘We thought it was part of the show,’ one witness told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.  They soon realized the supposed dummy was a severely injured (elephant) groomer.  Panicked, audience members fled for the exits.  Tyke went on to fatally crush her trainer – who was trying to intervene – before fleeing the arena herself….Honolulu police eventually shot her 87 times before she succumbed to nerve damage and brain hemorrhages.”  HUFFPOST

“Utterback’s girlfriend heard something fall, police said.  She got up to see what the noise was and found Utterback on the floor with the dog biting his neck…by the time EMS arrived Utterback was dead.  Utterback’s girlfriend told officers the dog was their pet for a decade and was Utterback’s ‘best friend.'”  DOGSBITE

“Ashton McGhee, 1 year old, was mauled to death by a family pitbull-mix.  The child had ‘deep abrasions to the head, chest, and neck.’  The child’s grandmother and great grandmother suffered injuries while trying to pull the dog off the toddler.  The baby had been playing with a ball on the floor when the dog came in from the outdoors.  The dog attacked the baby, causing deep lacerations to the head and chest and a broken jaw.”  WHOP

“66-year-old dog trainer found dead in her backyard with multiple dog bites on her face and arms.  Elaine Richman was discovered dead with multiple dog bites…Richman had not been seen at her dog training classes for two days.  Police found Richman dead in her backyard with dog bites on her face, arms, and hands.  Two doberman pinschers were located inside the home.  The victims brother…said she had trained and showed dobermans for decades.”  MEAWW and DOGSBITE

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Friends, when you or any other person – be they “professional” or not – reinforce a dog (or a wild animal) with FOOD in order to get them to perform obedience or tricks we must all realize that this in NO way means that genuine RESPECT is present in the relationship!  

Friends, if you lack real Respect then you must NOT give TRUST to the animal no matter how fancy the obedience, behavior modification, tricks, or alleged “training!”  

What everyone in the world labels as “dog obedience,” and “dog training,” “work,” and “canine behavior modification” in truth often has little or nothing to do with canine social skills and dog language!   

If people truly grasped dog language and The Four Pillars (and they clearly do not) horrific tragedies like some of those listed above would be preventable.

This is part one in a series I’m going to do for you.  In the second installment we will get to the heart of the issue.  Stay tuned!

(Also, don’t fret because I’ll do one on the many problems of correcting a dog and harsh handling)

-G

 

Maturity is better than Motivation for you and your dog.

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Enlight187

I will unpack this whole thing for you here and now in three short, precise paragraphs (not counting this one).  I hope you all understand that the vast majority of dogs and their owners never move past the first phase (external motivation) due to their unyielding belief in the many dog myths about canine behavior and “science” that are rampant in the pet industry.  But here you are anyway…

EXTERNAL MOTIVATION = positive reinforcement and/or punitive reinforcement.  These are the very lowest levels of relating and, as science reveals over and over, those employing this sort of base motivation see an initial and temporary upward bump in performance and, then, in the long term, the motivation and the individual’s performance takes a steady and serious dive unless consistently given stronger and stronger reinforcement.  (examples of externally motivating your dog – training with food treats or with shock collars)

INTERNAL MOTIVATION = tapping into the individual’s nature, drives, instincts, and personal desires.  This form of motivation is stronger than most forms of external motivation and it stands the test of time due to the individual remaining engaged because of their own inherent interests.  (examples of internally motivating your dog  –  tapping into curiosity, autonomy, freedom of choice, play, and loyalty within a relationship)

TRUE MATURITY or MASTERY = little to no motivation is necessary because the individual has moved beyond the realm of immature reactivity towards stimuli and into the realm of genuine understanding.  A realm wherein liberty and freedom are expressed within a healthy relationship with and among others and is valued above self and selfish drives and natural instincts and responses.  (This should be the goal for both human and dog!  You’ll see examples of it in your dog when they do something to help out instead of help themselves.  However, as I’ve said dozens of times…tragically most people and dogs never move past the lowest level/external motivation!!!)

Enlight188

For more info on the sort of stuff I’ve just gone over please read my books, Dog Myths and So Long Separation Anxiety – they can be found on Amazon and they will help you and your dog on the path towards mastery.  (Superman is holding onto them in the pic at the top of this article)

-G

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-G

 

Star Wars, the Force, and Dog Aggression

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“Do or do not.  There is no try.”

Yoda the Jedi Master

I believe in the force.  You may think I’m joking but if you had the privilege to study, learn from or hang out with any of the world’s most successful people you would find (like Napoleon Hill did- author of Think and Grow Rich) almost all of them use the force and use it often.

One example is George Lucas; net worth around 5 Billion dollars!  Who would have thought a story about space aliens could yield that sort of amazing fortune?  If one of our friends told us they had come up with that exact story we would probably respond with a complacent, “Yeah, that’s a cool story, man.” and leave it at that.

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” -Johnathan Swift

Our thoughts often determine our reality.  Because thoughts are real things.  And thoughts lead to attitudes and words and those in turn lead to actions which then become habits which direct our character and character becomes our destiny.

I think we can all relate to Star Wars because we recognize that there is good and evil in our world.  And that there is always a choice in our lives.  We get to choose what type of person we become.  The Jedi are on the good side – selfless, caring, protecting, patient, peaceful.  The Sith are on the dark side – selfish, jealous, plotting, angry, evil.

When we work with our dogs we should always check our own energy and, “act like a Jedi,” if you will.  Stay calm.  Stay patient.  You can use force (physically) because dogs are very physical but it is always better to “use the force” mentally rather than physically as dogs can easily cue in on that.  Attempt to “be at one” with your pooch and your surroundings.

A warning to the idiots out there: please don’t take this too far.  Don’t hit your dog with any flying Jedi kicks or fashion your own light saber in order to beat your confused puppy over the head.  And for God’s sake don’t video yourself acting like a Jedi or Sith.  I would hate for any of my clients or the followers of this fine blog to have an embarrassing video surface of you attempting to twirl your light saber and attack the invisible minions of the Dark Side like that poor, nerdy kid a few years back (Search on Youtube for “Star Wars kid” if you want to see the videos I’m referencing).

Live in the moment with your dog when training and especially when you need to correct/alter a behavior.  Develop a great heel = your dog walks beside you (not in front).  If you need to correct a behavior attempt block out the whole world and focus on only your dog.  Look at their body.  What is it doing?  Look at their energy level.  Try to match it and then calm it.

Concentrate like only a predator can (your dog is a domesticated predator- remember that)  Use tunnel vision to your advantage as dogs and practitioners of “the force” do.  Breathe.  Use intense focus but be ready to switch back to instant relaxation and the rest of the world around you= switch back to “normal” (this is tough for most people but keep practicing).

Luke Skywalker learned to live in the moment, preserve his energy, be ready but not tense, and out maneuver his opponent. We should follow these steps too when dealing with dog aggression.

Out maneuver your dog (physically).  Any good Jedi knight or Sith lord knows that to win a fight or battle it is always critical to out maneuver or gain the better ground.  This means cutting off any unsocial eye contact with whatever or whoever your dog wants to threaten!   Control the eyes and you control the animal!  Be prepared to switch back to total relaxation instantly when and if you achieve the desired results – usually the dog should make some form of eye contact with you out of respect for what you are telling it and the dog should stop threatening the other dog or person.  Do Not attempt to bribe the dog into the eye contact with a treat or “watch me” command like most training companies teach!

Beware the trainers trap:  over-treating and over-excitement!  Those can (if misused) lead to the Dark Side of the force!  Too much excitement will not really work if the dog is very fearful or truly aggressive and it leads to a dog who acts like a brat and still usually manages to stay aggressive towards people or dogs!  If you are always attempting to bribe and get the dog to “watch” you when the dog is flipping out with escalated energy and wants to attack another dog or person soon your dog won’t even give a rip about your dumb treat or your lame attempted “re-directing.”  You have to calm the energy first!

When I mention the “quick calming and back to normal” that falls into the all important category of Trust.  You need to cultivate a real relationship with your dog (whether they are aggressive or not) and it needs to be based on Respect and Trust.  Without either of those ingredients your efforts are doomed to fail and “the Emperor will have already won.”  Don’t let your dog continue his/her life in fear.  Fear leads to the Dark Side of the force.

Yoda is right. Don’t let your dog continue living a life of fear and suffering. Take Action!!!

I would say 95% of the aggressive dogs I behaviorally rehab are coming from a place of fear.  Their aggression is fear-based.  The only answer then is to conquer such fears.  Action helps conquer fear in our dogs and in our own lives.  Sociability is the only answer.  I can hear Princess Leah saying “Help us Sociability…you’re our only hope!”  She is right!  But your dog has to be Calm enough to be social.

Sound Advice…please take it and use it.

Always ask yourself what would the mother dog do?  WWTMDD?  Nature’s way will ALWAYS trump our foolish human ways when it comes to dealing with an animal.  You should see all the ridiculous ways mankind has come up with to “train” our dogs…from unnatural tethering of a dog inside your home that will allegedly help it not jump on guests (but in reality makes a dog More aggressive and energetic and territorial) to idiotic partitions/cubicle devices that separate dogs and pups in group classes to allegedly help calm them (but in reality raise the dog’s energy because they can still hear don’t understand why they can’t just be near the dogs a few feet away behind the mysterious curtain/partition) these foolish gimmicks will work poorly at best.  The path to the Dark Side is a path most unnatural!

In regards to constant bribery with treats and over-excited methods of typical training Obi- Wan says “These aren’t the methods you’re looking for. You can go about your business.  Move Along!”

Heed Obi-Wan Kenobi’s sage advice and look for different methods than what is sadly standard methodology in the majority of the dog training and behaviorist world.  Over-excitement and escalated energy is the enemy of calmness.  The only answers for fixing dog aggression are calmness and sociability.  Don’t be fooled into mistaking escalated energy or over-excitement for dog happiness.  A calm dog is a happy dog.  It is nature’s way.

Don’t settle for just another clone trainer or training company out there using their same tired methods and getting their same poor results with your dog!

When looking for a training company make sure they aren’t clones!  You don’t want just run-of-the-mill “treat and praise the dog every two-seconds” type-trainers.  This is not a healthy relationship and often the training backfires later as the puppy matures and is now a colossal brat who won’t do a thing unless you have a treat!  Also be sure the trainers are not just “dominate and beat the heck out of your dog” type-trainers.  Both camps are to be avoided as they are too extreme and both unnatural methods!!!!  Both sides will not cure real aggression or fear in your dog.

Work with your dog (or wookie) often. Build a relationship based on respect and trust and you two will be a smooth functioning team in no time.

Be sure to socialize and work with your pup or dog often.  Give them loads of exercise.  And remember, dogs are individuals and should not be treated in a cookie-cutter training manner.  We have a vast galaxy with many diverse and wonderful dogs please give them credit for the amazing social intelligence they possess and build a healthy relationship.  In the future you can ask more from them.

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Remember, the Force will be with you, always…

-G

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