Sifu Hill, my Wing Chun Kung Fu instructor, always tells his students that “Speed hides mistakes.” As a martial artist master with 50 years experience in differing martial arts (40 years studying Wing Chun) my Sifu knows what he’s talking about. He often exhorts the individual that is going too fast to slow down in order to get the technique down properly. Speed may look flashy to the beginner but the master knows that a good Wing Chun practitioner should be able to work the method both slowly and quickly and that doing it slowly and smoothly is the best way forward for the beginner. It is the same with the Garrett Stevens Method of dog behavioral rehab and natural dog handling.
Mainstream dog training techniques also hide many mistakes behaviorally speaking. Many dog trainers go fast because A. They’ve been taught to go fast and to continually motivate. and B. They know (in some cases) they can hide a dog’s mistakes and make themselves and the dog they are working with look better momentarily. They encourage their students to “work the dog” and take fast turns. These turns do a full circle when heeling (which, incidentally, is what overexcited or neurotic dogs do – they circle and pace and stare). The Garrett Stevens Method is different because we also encourage a quick turn to interrupt problematic eye contact when a dog is about to stare at an energy-escalating stimuli BUT (and this is huge) then we have the owner slow down immediately and many times even instruct them to stop moving for a moment. We do NOT have them do a full circle like so many trainers and behaviorists do – instead we have our clients turn 180 degrees then greatly slow down their movement and the dog’s. This way the dog’s body and the dog’s energy is not allowed to complete the turn and hype the dog back up again by way of letting him/her continue to stare and in many cases continue to threaten the stimuli. The Garrett Stevens Method is 180 degrees different from what most trainers are teaching – that is why it works so well! We do NOT attempt to hide mistakes. We point them out and then move on towards success. By tapping into the 4 Pillars of dog language one will find it is much, much easier to influence a dog’s energy and behavior – especially when compared and contrasted with other dog training and behavior mod methods.
Your dog, as the member of a fast living, fast dying, fast moving species, may seek to control the situation through speed and by speeding your movements up. Don’t let that happen! Stay as calm as possible. Don’t talk a lot while attempting to slow the dog down. Take action quickly then take action smoothly and very slowly. Now pause and take action even slower. We desire DE-escalation. We need to keep experiencing the energy drop and guide the dog to do the same. (For more info look for my third book on all things dog and human behavior about the 5 incredible senses of our dogs and the 4 Pillars of dog language!)
Please don’t be one of the millions and millions that are impressed by watching some Belgian or German Shepherd briskly heeling like a robot, doing circles and trotting beside the handler on Youtube. If we could ask more questions of that same exact dog behaviorally in many cases it may be found wanting. Is that same dog that was excitably performing the heel on Youtube trustworthy and calm near human babies? Is that same dog calm around other members of his/her own species? Can they play with other dogs? Can they be off leash and calm at a buddy’s barbecue? Is the dog going to destroy the home when the owner/handler leaves or is it calm enough to manage itself maturely? Speed hides mistakes.
There’s a saying that came to us all from the Military. It goes “Slow is smooth – smooth is fast.” Take it to heart when handling your dog or pup. Take it especially to heart when handling the out of control, or fearful, or aggressive dog. If I had a saying it would be something like “Speed up socialization (because we can never socialize enough) and Slow down the dog or pup’s movement in the midst of that socialization.”
Happy Handling and keep Slowing Down and getting it right,