The Four Pillars of dog language – Part 2

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TOUCH: the most important and first sense of a pup.  Yes, that’s right, touch, NOT smell is the first sense and the most important in our dogs’ lives.  All canines, wild or domestic, are born blind and deaf.  The primary senses are touch, smell, and taste.  The secondary senses are vision (comes on day 15 after birth) and hearing (ears open fully around day 21).  Touch is the first Pillar of dog language (as defined in the Garrett Stevens Method) and it is the first of the five senses.

Now let me ask you, how important is touch for you throughout your day as a human?  Let’s go further and think about how important touch is for a blind person?  And if we go one step further we’ll be getting close…How important was touch for Helen Keller?  She was bereft of vision and hearing just like all our puppies began their lives.

If you want success with your dog’s behavior then forget everything you know or think you know about dog training and behavior.  Instead let me guide your imagination on a bizarre, fascinating, new journey.  Pause with me and really imagine having eyes and ear canals that are tightly closed to the world around you.  It’s hard to comprehend because if you close your eyes for a moment what happens?  Instantly our sense of hearing leaps to the forefront of our mind and we cannot simply shut our ears.  Maybe we need to run and grab the noise-cancelling head phones to fully experience the affect.

Imagining being born blind and deaf, being roughly licked and cleaned as you begin to breath your first breaths.  You stretch your stubby little legs, fight to lift your head, and basically just wiggle until you bump into, climb onto, or clamber under your mother and your many brothers and sisters.  What initially guides you?  What keeps you safe and warm from the start?  How do you first find the life-giving milk from mother dog?  Touch.  Touch is first.  Then, nipping at the heels is the next sense, Smell.  Smell and scent communication and scent memories develop but…touch communication and memories of touch come first.

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The olfactory and the gustatory system are indeed critically important in the language of dogs but why do so many dog trainers and dog owners (people who love their dogs) overlook touch.  Overlooking how dogs or pups touch us (or how they avoid our touch) is the Biggest Mistake in any and all manners concerning dog behavior!

In today’s world we’ve been conditioned to think that anytime a dog touches us if that touch isn’t an aggressive bite or a snap that the touch that is presented is somehow “affectionate.”  I say that’s preposterous!  That belief is literally hurting millions of dog’s and millions of people across the globe.  That belief gets human children and babies bit in the face.  The belief that most times when a dog touches a person that this behavior is just “displaying affection” is harmful and incredibly, and overwhelmingly narrow-minded.  As if dog’s don’t have a real language and clear communication.  As if touch isn’t one of their main ways of communicating.  As if there aren’t a plethora of polite touches and a host of rude ones within the scope of dog language.  As if dogs don’t manipulate their owners on the daily.  They do, Dear Reader, they most certainly do manipulate unwitting or unwilling dog owners or guests to the home and they almost always do it by way of rude touching.

Dogs will, every single one of them, test the physical boundaries of your personal space, or that of your child’s, or that of your guests, or they will watch just who claims their food dish, or the space on their bed, or on the couch! (Et cetera, et cetera)  And to their credit most dogs do not take all the unadulterated touching and unrivaled attention that they receive day in and day out and attempt to take over everything in the home or on the street.  Thank God only some dogs do this.  But the crazy thing is is that many do indeed attempt a full and eventually hostile take over! What typically passes for dog training and behavior modification sets up most dog owners for miserable failure in the long term!  And the hostile and violent take overs are usually brought on by the nervous, anxious, fearful dogs because everyone lets these type of dogs over-touch and out-touch them!  Too many dog owners are clueless about touch which is why there are 5 MILLION reported dog bites each year in the USA alone.  Many more go unreported.

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You must question touch because as you do it will open up more questions.  Did you ever wonder why we get our pups around 8 weeks of age?  Is that really the best time to get a puppy?  Is going to a group class where obedience is the focus the best way to help raise a puppy?  Is obedience training actually teaching your dog to be unsocial?  Why is the “sit” command typically the first thing everyone teaches their pup?  Is it even necessary or beneficial?  Does your style of training line up with how dogs naturally interact with each other?  Should it?  What touches does the mother dog allow on her body?  What touches does the mother dog give to her young?  How do older dogs interact with pups?  Is your rescue dog too needy in the area of touch?  (Hint, hint: the rescue dog is almost always imbalanced in the area of touch)  Do you have any boundaries about your body?  Do dogs have more or less boundaries about their bodies?  Are you building a healthy relationship based on respect, trust, and clear communication or have you downgraded the relationship to that of employer and employee?

-If you enjoyed this post keep an eye out for my upcoming book because it will go further into authentic dog language and how we can help our dogs and pups succeed socially in this modern world.  We will go into touch a good deal more and define just what is rude and what is not, what is going to lead to trouble and what can rapidly reverse trouble.  It should be groundbreaking in the pet industry as we discuss the ideal dog of the future…Stay Tuned!

-G

Wing Chun Kung Fu and dog training

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I am a Wing Chun practitioner.  What does this form of Chinese Kung Fu have to do with my dogs and their training and behavior?  Plenty.  (Stay with me)  Wing Chun is a form of Kung Fu that employs close combative methods.  Legend has it that a Shaolin nun, one of the five original Kung Fu masters from Shaolin Temple, created the Wing Chun system based on movements she observed as a snake fought with a crane.  The good Wing Chun practitioner utilizes touch, space, balance, and speed to their advantage and looks to exploit the opponent’s mistakes and movements by way of trapping, and direct striking and blocking simultaneously.

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“Trapping” in Wing Chun is whenever one person arrests the movements, usually the forearms, of another.  In Wing Chun we always seek to move forward and to control the center line of the opponent’s body.  Once center line is gained the Wing Chun man has a direct line of attack.  The fastest distance between two points is a straight line.  Wing Chun teaches straight line punching to foment speed and accuracy.  In order to gain the center line of the opponent – touching (seek the bridge) inevitably takes place.

Over the years I’ve noticed how direct and effective dog movement and touching is.  As predatory animals they don’t beat around the bush.  Dogs, like the good Wing Chun disciple, move forward with determined intentionality.  Dogs are extremely sensitive to touching as is the good Wing Chun student.  Dogs, if left unchecked, will build strong habits of over-touching and out-maneuvering those people that are around them.  Those touch habits then lead the dog to assume command of the household.  Once a dog assumes command there’s no reason in their mind why they can’t discipline a guest, neighbor, or even a family member with a bite because sometimes that’s actually acceptable behavior in the world of canines.  The higher ranking family member is supposed to guide and discipline the lower ranking/younger or less balanced individuals within the group/pack to aid them in the fine art of canine social skills and language and in order to claim what is what and whose is whose.  The animal doesn’t know that we humans tend to frown upon a dog if it bites one of our children – the dog only knows it’s been given totally unhampered reign in the areas of touch and space, movement, and in primal grooming rituals within its home environment!  In other words, the dog owner has really dropped the ball and so the dog naturally takes charge filling the leadership void.  This “taking charge” often appears friendly at first until…months or years later…it doesn’t!  (This friendly familiarity breed rudeness quite quickly within the relationship between dog and human)

To begin to reverse poor behavior in ANY dog or pup you must consider and then employ The Four Pillars of dog language.  (for more on the Four Pillars please see my other posts by that name and keep an eye out for the upcoming book I am writing about them!)  I want anyone reading this to act like a Wing Chun expert and first of all  – be very aware of touching.  Most people are greatly lacking in sensitivity when it comes to The Four Pillars of dog language.  (People know to be sensitive with a horse, or with a bird, or when swimming with sharks but with dogs everyone’s been taught the wrong things – they’ve been taught many behavioral myths – hence my first book, Dog Myths)

Secondly, if and when your dog attempts to jump up on you, or nose you, or lick you, or mouth you, or elicit petting from you by way of barging into your personal space – move forward, take up space, and intercept the dog’s touch with a touch of your own if necessary.  Use your hands and move your body forward into the dog.  Be aware of your center line!  In this case though, because your dog is not your enemy or opponent, it’s necessary to also keep your dog in center line with you to attain the clearest form of communication possible – you both meet in the center line.  Make sure you are looking right at the dog and the dog is looking right at you.  (Do NOT pay the dog with food for this attention or it reduces the relationship to that of a wild animal and you do NOT have respect and therefore cannot offer trust – also, and this is rather important – no other dog on the planet needs food or treats or baby talk to enter into a healthy relationship with another member of their species).  Aline both centers.  In this way a clear understanding on the part of the dog is gained.  If the dog is looking away or leaving the space or just blowing you off – then your center line is weak and/or your energy was not firm enough.  It is also possible that your energy was very strong but not calm enough.

We need both firmness and calmness; respect and trust; control and freedom within the relationship.  This can be hard because many people are lacking in one or the other.  Some are firm enough but not calm (they are frustrated, or angry, or over-emotional).  Others are really calm with their dogs but have no fight in them at all and so they lack any sort of firm or strong energy and, thus, the dog persists in misbehavior.  Learn both firmness and calmness and you’ll work wonders with any dog or any animal for that matter.

Wing Chun blends internal (soft and calm energy) martial arts with external (hard and strong energy) martial arts techniques.  It can be quite effective in a real fight depending, of course, on the individual using it.  As dog lovers we should all strive to be as well rounded as the ancient Kung Fu masters as we work to better ourselves and our dogs and their behaviors.  Good luck!

-G

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The Four Pillars of dog language

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Dog language and the adjustment of behavior need not be complicated.  After a decade and a half of examining and questioning the dog training industry and observing other pet professionals and after learning and studying the Way of the Dog directly from thousands and thousands of dogs themselves I have broken down dog language into what I have coined The Four Pillars of Dog Language.  These relatively unknown pillars of canine communication and language are the essence of dog behavior and social interaction.  They are incredibly important to all canids on the planet!  The Four Pillars have nothing to do with positive reinforcement or punitive reinforcement – they go far deeper than shallow motivation.  Once you recognize and utilize The Four Pillars you will see rapid improvement in even the most difficult of dogs.

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The Four Pillars of dog language I’ve discovered and am sharing with you now are tried and true.  They stand the test of time.  Every single dog I’ve ever worked with knows and responds whenever I tap into these pillars.  It doesn’t matter what breed you have, what age the dog is, or the dog’s sordid past history – every canine on this planet, be they wild or domestic, use and clearly understand these pillars of communicative interaction!  The Four Pillars are instinctual and, thus, primal and powerful.

If more dog behaviorists focused on first learning these Four Pillars and then teaching dog language instead of settling for and being perpetually enthralled by frivolous trick training and dog obedience the world and dog ownership as a whole would rapidly improve!  If veterinarians knew the four pillars of dog language they’d be much better equipped to handle the large, fearful, and aggressive dogs that come for exams without accidentally adding more negative stress to the visit and the dog (this frequently occurs)!  If animal shelters and dog rescue groups knew the four pillars their adoption rates would skyrocket because dogs would settle down peacefully and adapt much faster to modern households and society!  But let’s not hold our breath.  In the meantime at least you and I, Dear Reader, can begin at once a deeper relationship with our dog as we, the curious, the questioning, the nature-loving, and the open-minded, embrace these Four proven Pillars of dog language.  Here they are for the very first time…

THE FOUR PILLARS OF DOG LANGUAGE

Touch

Space

Movement

Energy

 

The Four Pillars are what every mother and father dog concern themselves with when raising their young.  They are what all older social dogs rely on to remain socially skilled.  These Four Pillars are what either goes right or goes wrong when two dogs meet for the first time.  These Four Pillars determine whether a puppy will be a joy to live with and easily get along socially or if they will become a nightmare.

In the next installment (Part 2) we will examine each one and look at practically applying them with our dogs!

Thanks so much for following our blog.  Please tell your dog-loving friends about our blog or share our articles!

-G

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