The Goog Dog Training Tips
Here’s the thing, I really think on many levels that dog training is pretty darn straightforward. Of course there’s a ton of nuance and expertise and art as well – especially if you’re going to deal with heavy dogs and high falutin training – but the actual nuts and bolts of typical training (which is what 90% of dogs actually need to be successful) is really very simple. Most folks, if dedicated can teach it to themselves through videos and books. (I know a lot of trainers might bristle at this assertion, but I mean no disrespect or to undermine the time and effort to become masterful, but just that what most dogs need could be handled by pretty rudimentary training.)
But there’s one place where we dog trainers have an enormous upper hand. It allows us to create change when often owners with the same training understanding would be stuck. It allows us to see what’s actually going on currently, rather than the story about what’s happened in the past.
What is this special advantage we have? Emotional distance. This is … Read More »
If you’re one of the lucky ones, who have one of those rare dogs who is darn close to perfect. Who doesn’t bark at dogs or pull on leash, who always comes when called, who is 100% trustworthy around dogs and people, who you can snuggle 24/7 and doesn’t have any separation anxiety issues, who requires zero boundary reminders, and is all in all just a very sweet and easy dog…rejoice!
You’re one of the very few to have one of these rare dogs. And they are out there. We’ve all heard people talk about that one special dog, the one who never needed to be trained, who seemed to show up already knowing everything he/she was supposed to do, the one that never gave any trouble.
As an adult I’ve had four dogs that have been mine. Of those four, three needed e-collar training to safely be off leash, lots of leadership, some strong conversations during moments of serious boundary pushing, and a well balanced approach between leadership and love/freedom.
And then I found Belle, on the freeway. She was a young … Read More »
So many folks have great intentions. They want to love, nurture, and enjoy their dogs, but somewhere along the line they get off track. They may not even realize that they’re using their dog in place of a child, or an outlet for the love they’re aren’t comfortable sharing with people, or they simply go on “love auto-pilot” because it feels good.
And with some dogs you can get away with this with little fallout. But with the wrong dogs – those that are already prone to insecurity, anxiety, and difficulties dealing with stress, or extremely pushy and entitled dogs – you can hit the wall. Hard.
For these dogs, when given too much affection, love, and freedom, with not enough rules, structure, and guidance, they crash. They become highly anxious (separation anxiety is common), are unable to comfortably deal with stress or pressure (you’ll see lots of reactivity in the house and on walks – barking and reacting to everything), you can get overprotective behaviors (growling at guests and others), you can get resource guarding (of people, space, food, or toys), … Read More »
The problem comes when we are out of balance. It’s not the affection, or the freedom, or the access on its own that is the undoing of most dogs, it’s the absence of believable rules, structure, and accountability. It’s the absence of the other side of the coin. The counterweight needed to keep things in check.
When we’re as believable in our discipline as we are in our affection, we actually get to have more freedom, more fun, and more affection without creating negative fallout.
This is the simple formula that so many miss. If you’ll keep it in balance, and do what’s best for your dog, rather than just what feels good for us, you’ll be on your way to awesomeness.
I see lots of owners, and beginning trainers, who are super nervous about their dog, or training dog making a mistake.
They preempt choices they think are headed into mistake land, they hover over the dog nervously ensuring that only the smallest margin of error is allowed. But what happens is that oftentimes the dog never gets to make the mistake necessary to learn. For the dog to learn that breaking Place isn’t ok, they eventually need to be allowed to actually step off of it. (That doesn’t mean they need to be allowed to run all the way into the other room, just committed to the mistake and stepping off is enough.) For the dog to learn that he can’t come out of the crate until you give permission, you have to give him enough room to actually try the big escape. For the dog to learn he can’t move though the threshold before you, he has to be able to actually do it.
Now that doesn’t mean I’m advocating for allowing lots of messiness and encouraging failure. Far from it. You … Read More »
Hey gang, I was doing some listening to Seth Godin’s new audio book “Leap First”, and it inspired me to write a little something I thought was important.
Putting all of the tools and methods and recommendations out here in public for everyone to view and make their judgements on can be a little challenging for dog trainers. I know I was very concerned early on that it would alienate many people. Now, after several years, lots of blog posts, hundreds of videos, and thousands of Facebook posts and updates, it’s become second nature. It’s also become very rewarding to challenge myself about how I can better help/serve everyone that views/utilizes our work here.
Being a dog owner or dog trainer can be an extremely challenging proposition when it comes to searching out information regarding what methods/tools/approaches would best serve you and your dog or clients. There is SO much incredibly conflicting information out there – I don’t envy anyone attempting to make sense of it all and find their way. But I do applaud all of you who do the work … Read More »
The usual age that we see dogs is typically between 1 and 3. This is the juicy time for issues and attitudes to flare up. This is often referred to as the “teenage years”, the time when the sweet and goofy puppy starts to push boundaries and test limits. It’s also the time we tend to see more serious issues arise. Of course there can be many factors that can cause behavioral changes in your dog, but one that doesn’t get discussed much is early trauma manifesting as behavior issues.
I’ve seen personally, and heard many times from clients, how many dogs that have experienced some kind of traumatic event early on can later have it manifest as problem behaviors. We see it most often with dogs that have been bullied, or attacked by other dogs at dog parks, doggy day care, or even on-leash when young, and then later, as the dog matures we can sometimes find dog aggression issues and/serious reactivity problems. (Of course this can also occur with an adult dog that has a traumatic event.)
What seems to … Read More »
Oftentimes I’ve seen dogs who have been taught sit, down, heel, stay, and some version of recall (lol), and owners can be confused into thinking they have trained their dog. But often these dogs are out of control, hyper-aroused, and misbehaving.
The trick isn’t to focus on commands as an end in themselves, the trick is to USE the commands to cultivate character and state of mind.
If we’ll use these basic commands as a means to challenge arousal, create focus, develop impulse control, and perhaps most importantly cultivate an attitude of being polite and deferential, then we really can get some amazing benefit from training.
To achieve this, you need to look beyond the commands and start to look for state of mind. Place command doesn’t do much until your dog will hold it even if a herd of buffalo (or kids) came tromping by. Sit (you know those lightening fast butt drops and raises?) doesn’t create emotional value and state of mind change until the dog learns to hold the sit even when he’d rather be chasing a squirrel or galloping … Read More »
Dogs, like us, need to learn how to cope with a world that isn’t always easy, perfect, or comfortable. If they (or us) aren’t exposed to stress and given opportunities to learn how to deal with it successfully, they will be unprepared to successfully cope when stress inevitably rears its head.
Children who are coddled and always protected from the realities of the world tend to fall apart at the first real experience of trouble, challenge, unpleasantness.
The same goes for dogs.
By judiciously and incrementally exposing our dogs to stressful situations and experiences, and by giving direction and clear instructions about how they are to proceed through it, we give them the opportunity to develop a resiliency and strength that will serve them as they move through what is often a challenging world.
Duration work, which is essentially a fancy name for your dog doing an exercise like Place or Down for an extended period of time, is kinda like magic. It doesn’t seem like much is going on, or that much benefit could be obtained from it, but just like magic, poof, problem behaviors and state of mind issues begin to fade away though this simple but profound process.
We equate it to dog meditation. I strongly believe it helps reset and re-balance the dog’s nervous system, much like human meditation can for us.
By teaching the dog (or maybe more accurately resetting the dog) to understand that what goes down around him/her is none of their business, and not of their concern, we remove the habit and the burden of constant emotional and physical reaction to the environment.
So many dogs get caught up in the cycle of emotionally and physically reacting to whatever occurs in their environment – a person leaving the room, a knock at the door, a dog barking outside etc – and these triggers can create an emotional response that … Read More »
One of the things I see often is the surprise from owners when they see their dog do something they’ve wanted them to do or have wanted them not to do…forever…and it actually happens.
While I was in New Orleans we had a four-session package with a big ole bloodhound named Warren. Warren had become a disaster on walks, reacting to dogs and other objects and pulling his owners (with his 100+ pound body) all over the place in a dangerous fashion. He also had the habit of some seriously selective hearing when he was off-leash around dogs. In this situation, Warren would do whatever Warren wanted to do.
So I got to work with Mr Warren. I introduced him to e-collar heel, and in no time we had a really nice, relaxing walk going on. He would even walk by dogs and not care at all. He simply retired the reactivity game. 🙂 Then I worked on e-collar sit and recall. Once again, with a little elbow grease and some patience I had Mr Warren recalling to me and sitting nicely once … Read More »
Remember, if you’re soft, affectionate, and permissive 99% of the time, when finally decide to enforce rules and set boundaries, that decision doesn’t erase months or years of perceptions and associations about your relationship and who you are to your dog.
Just because you have a new tool or learned some training concepts, your dog – being the awesomely in-tune and aware creature he is – is going to require proof before he give it all up. Proof in the form of long-term and consistent commitment to new behaviors from you!
That’s the awesome thing about dogs, they don’t give anyone a pass simply because. They expect us to earn it.
So if you’re working on turning around long-standing behavior issues/relationship issues, and even if you’re using the best tools and strategies, just remember you’re saying, “I’m not the same person I was!”, and your dog is saying, “That’s great, prove it to me!” And proving takes time. 🙂