Fight and flight behavior in our dogs is tragically becoming more and more common according to the facts and figures. You, Dear Reader, and I are the ones responsible for this. We cannot spell the word responsibility without including the letter I.
Friends, it lies with all of us to plant seeds of success now in the present day in order to prevent, reverse, and eliminate aggression in our dogs as we move towards the future together. In this exciting installment from thecaninecalmer I’m going to give all you handsome and beautiful readers two straightforward techniques to help prevent aggression in your dogs.
- Cultivate a killer Heel. Heeling means the dog walks beside (or slightly behind) the handler. Many dogs are complete freaks and blatantly rude to their owners as soon as they set paw outside. We must not allow our relationship to go out the window the second our dog is on leash. Make your dog mirror you. Be cognizant of your center line (the line running down the middle of your body from your nose to navel). I often encourage clients to play “hard to get” with their center line and their dog when walking in a heel. This means we should utilize turns and sudden movements in odd directions. This should stand out in stark contrast when compared to our boring, ol’ straight sidewalks on human designed streets. Work your dog with turns and quick stops and varying paces. Maintain a little rhythm and then, try to catch your dog or pup and switch it up and use broken rhythm. (Good martial artists and boxers do this when sparring). Keep your dog on it’s toes as you work the heel. Your line influences his line ideally in perfect team work. (For help with your heeling we have a video available for purchase and our amazing custom-fit, handmade, training collar! I highly suggest you take advantage of them because most dog training tools on the market are simply crap. Put our collars to the test, I dare you)
2. Control Eye contact. The majority of owners with aggressive dogs typically fail miserably at this. My suggestion. DON’T. But…if you do then try, try, again. After a week of practicing your heeling and as you steadily progress with the heel work controlling the eye contact whenever your dog wants to fight or bark, lunge, or scream at another dog (or person) it should now be easier to turn your dog. Turning is critically important to your success and the behavioral rehab the dog desperately needs. Do NOT turn too late. Turn early and turn often. Maintain the heel but don’t let your dog face the other dog. Here is where you’ll have the opportunity to glean the ultra-important life lesson we call persistence. I’ve learned my persistence from Pit Bulls! Seize the day and don’t give up.
It is important to note here that when using the Garrett Stevens method or any beneficial naturally calming way of dog handling/training we do NOT pay the dog with food or even with high-pitched praise. Please remember, external motivation (positive or punitive reinforcement) is never as powerful as internal. IF your dog does indeed respond to a treat stuffed into his face right before he’s about to stare down another dog and then explode into a furry fiasco of fury and fangs I still would NOT suggest using a food treat. Please pause and re-read that last sentence. Whenever we pay a dog for a rigid obedience posture or trick…
1. It is Not calming. 2. It has little to no reflection on your relationship. (if the dog performs the command in exchange for payment it doesn’t mean your relationship is good) 3. The mother and father dog would NEVER do it. 4. It can eventually turn your dog into a very bratty Al Capone type creature. 5. For many people it can be difficult juggling an aggressive, lunging dog on a leash and the food treats and proper timing. 6. It has zero to do with a dog’s natural social patterns and canine communication. The main point being that if we have to pay a dog to focus on us instead of another dog even IF it works (and it usually does NOT with a dog with serious aggression or fear because the dog has shut off his smelling/tasting in order to turn up his vision and hearing – precisely because those senses (vision and hearing) are associated and utilized during fight and flight) then you gain an untrustworthy robot that performs “Watch me”s and “Stays” but still may not respect you and certainly cannot be trusted off leash with another dog.
Imagine for a moment, Dear Reader, if you were getting ready for the fight of your life. You’ve paid your dues and have worked hard. You’ve got a shot at the title. Can you picture the moment before your fight? Listen to the thousands of fans roaring in the arena awaiting your arrival. Now let me ask you, Are you in the locker room warming up, stretching, and throwing punches as you shadow box and dance around or……….would you be sitting down to a massive Thanksgiving dinner and loading your fat face full of gravy-drenched turkey, your mother’s mashed potatoes, jellied cranberry sauce, and Stouffer’s stuffing?
When any creature is ready to fight they do NOT take food into consideration. Aggressive dogs “turn down or turn off” their nose. They turn off their smelling and tasting in order to ramp up their vision and then get ready to bite. THIS here, folks. THIS is what many dog behaviorists/trainers/vets CANNOT SEEM TO GRASP. And so, those intelligent few of us that employ the Garrett Stevens method, those of us who are disciples of the way of the dog and have read Dog Myths well, to put it bluntly, we simply get much greater results than the behaviorist or trainer that clings to only one very limited answer to aggression, to fear, to anxiety, to hyperactivity, their answer is unnatural and non-calming, their answer of course, is food. And food ad nauseam. To consistently attempt to bribe a dog with food in order to get it to look at you is, when closely examined, ridiculous. When fight or flight is presenting food is, naturally, the last thing on the aggressive dog’s mind. (Only a horrible teacher would attempt to keep addressing the pupil using a sense that has been shut off)
Does this automatically mean if you’re not using “positive only” that you are now a low-born villain that ax murders old ladies after midnight every Wednesday? Certainly not, although any behaviorist/trainer that limits themselves to the unnatural and non-calming and often ineffective methods of “positive only” (and many do) will readily label you as such. However, all good human parents know that bribing a child is not a sustainable or healthy method for child rearing. It is not good for the amazingly social and intelligent dog by your side either!
Typically people employing the “treats non-stop approach” see a quick and temporary bump in results (and by results I mean surface level obedience only NOT healthy social normalcy and wonderful canine communication and certainly NOT a mature relationship between owner and dog) but then, of course, it is accompanied by the all-too familiar steady, easily predictable frustrating failure in the long run for both owner and dog. It is truly a viscous cycle that 99% of our clients will tell you happened to them before they found us and employed the naturally successful way of the dog. Remember, BOTH positive reinforcement And punitive reinforcement were scientifically proven ( by teams of scientists in the 1970s and different teams again in the 1980s – turns out positive reinforcement isn’t modern at all) to fade in the long run and were BOTH not nearly as powerful and effective as Intrinsic motivation! Remember, we should seldom if ever need to use treats or harsh handling when dealing with our dogs.
The RELATIONSHIP should be the REWARD! Please re-read that and then tell your friends and family. Tell your vet, and groomer, daycare and kennel owners. Tell Everyone. The relationship should be your dogs reward and your reward! Intrinsically motivated dogs that learn to focus on the relationship, based in respect and trust and clear canine communication with healthy energy levels, will always achieve social normalcy before the extrinsically “motivated” food-bribed dog.
So work your heel and work on turning or angling to the right or left so your aggressive dog doesn’t go right into dropping doggy F-bombs (cursing and cussing by staring and mean-mugging every dog or person he sees) with every conceivable step he takes throughout your neighborhood. Control his head and eye contact. It should be nose before eyes because that’s how all canines are born. Olfactory and gustatory must take precedence over the dog’s vision and hearing if one desires a calm and socially adept dog.
For more info please read my HOT-Listed book on dog and human behavior Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and keep a sharp eye out for my next books. (I’ve got two more coming down the pike for ya, hopefully available soon!)
Go here: http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com -For our handmade, custom fit, training collars to help revolutionize your heel, or for our training video on Heeling and Leash Manners or, to schedule an appointment with me.
Have a marvelous day and keep socializing for success. PLEASE SHARE THIS so other dogs can be helped as more of us learn the dog way!!!