Speed hides mistakes. SLOW DOWN and you’ll make less mistakes with your dog.

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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.

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This is my Mook Yan Jong, my “wooden man dummy.” It is a necessity for the serious Wing Chun disciple. I begin by SLOWLY working the forms around the imaginary human arms and legs while simultaneously striking the hard wood of the dummy sometimes causing tiny micro fractures in my arms which toughen the bones upon repair. I am loving it!                                     For more info check out Hill’s Wing Chun

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,

-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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Bruce Lee and the dog

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Bruce Lee is a hero of mine.  He has been since my youth.

The guy was a work horse.  He was a philosopher.  He was a fighting machine.  Determined and focused, Lee was an expert at his craft, a true artist.

When Bruce Lee first began martial arts he was taught Wu Tai Chi Chuan by his father.  After joining a Hong Kong street gang and wanting to improve his fighting technique he studied Wing Chun Kung Fu under legendary grandmaster, Yip Man.  File:The age of 18 Bruce Lee and Ye Wen.jpg

Bruce also became an excellent dancer (a Cha-Cha dancing champ).  He added traditional Western boxing to his martial resume and sent a fair share of boxers home after knocking them out.  Lee also took up fencing; learning from his brother – a champion in the sport.  He went on to study Choy Li Fut, Judo, Praying mantis Kung Fu, Hsing-I, and Jujitsu.  This varied background led Bruce to personally modify his Wing Chun Kung Fu base and when he opened his first martial arts school in Seattle it was under the name Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu.

“Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”

Did he stop there?  Of course not.  This is the point of my post.  Bruce Lee was constantly improving and refining his techniques.   In a quest to become a better martial artist, teacher, philosopher, and human being and to attain a more realistic martial system he got away from certain forms and traditions and added more fluid and beneficial movements.  He created Jeet Kune Do (The way of the Intercepting Fist) a realistic and applicable martial art philosophy.  

Bruce’s emphasis was on, “practicality, flexibility, speed, and efficiency.”

How I wish more dog trainers/behaviorists/vets would have the same emphasis and work the same way with their methods!  Instead, what I often find are “professionals” who use methods based in either way too much excitement (treats, treats, treats) which is not nature’s way or, on the other end of the spectrum, entirely too many leash-pop corrections, allegedly “alpha” rolls, and zapping with shock collars!

The majority of pros sadly do not take into account the individual personality, energy levels, and capacity of the dog or pup at the exact moment of time in training or in social settings!  They seem to seldom consider what is most important to Mother Nature and to dogs and instead just plow forward with what is popular or what has been taught them by another human being or what they claim is their method.  Bruce Lee had to deal with this stuff all the time because the major schools of martial arts in his day all claimed their style was the best.

A simple Google search will reveal the ridiculousness and arguments streaming in from differing trainers about “positive” or “negative” training methods.  BOTH sides have little to no flexibility in their dogmas!  How foolish to waste energy being concerned with either method particularly when our dogs are not concerned in the least about those categories.  Dogs, unlike humans, are not thinking on positive or negative terms.  They are free from that human garbage and are content with basic survival needs.  And, by the way, dogs do, in fact, correct each other but it is always for the benefit of the group AND for the benefit of the individual being corrected or addressed and in order to control the energy levels so fights don’t break out and their adjustment or correction is used only to calm the individual down.  It is parental and if done properly (which is rare among trainers) works wonderfully.

“Don’t waste yourself.” (is a quote from Enter the Dragon – I teach owners and dogs to save their energy not waste it!)

If one examines the dog training books and info we discover these are hardly better (many lacking in practicality, good results, and efficiency).  Most training or dog behavior books are either much too treat/bribery oriented and ultra simplistic or, on the other end, are way too many wasted words and filled with ridiculous mental gymnastics that lose most readers.  The methods and meaning in these mainstream dog training manuals then become lost to the general public and are usually devoid of direct solutions!  Don’t worry, folks, I am have my own books readily available wherever books are sold!  (Dog Myths: What you Believe about dogs can come back to Bite You! and So Long Separation Anxiety will help any reader on the path to healthy relationship and better behavior with their pooch.)

“Simplicity is the last step of art.  Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”  

Today Bruce Lee is considered by many to be the founder of modern mixed martial arts and the greatest martial artist of all time because of his combining of styles and his search to have no style except the one that works best for the individual practitioner and for the situation at hand.  Lee yearned to be free and to teach others to be free of the rigidity and countless parameters of the varying fighting styles.

Bruce Lee has changed the world.  I strive to follow Lee’s freeing footsteps and ideals in the dog whispering, training and behavioral modification world.  Bruce Lee was right.  We should all learn with an open and curious mind – it will sure help your dog!

“If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life.  It’ll spread over into your work, into your mortality, into your entire being.  There are no limits.  There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

Be like water my friends!

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