That’s a provocative and challenging question to start out a new post, huh? 

Working as a dog trainer sometimes puts me in the line of fire to questions that I hadn’t always thought I needed to know the answer to.  And I’ve never really thought that there IS one, single, solitary, answer to training a dog.  Each client is a unique individual, with unique requirements, and unique needs.  Every human involved thinks differently, learns differently, responds differently.  So how could I possibly have enough ego to write about a single, solitary, one-size-fits-all “secret”?  Stay with me…

In my practice, I will use whatever methodology the dog requires.  And while I refuse to use methods that would physically or mentally harm a dog, I am a practitioner of so called “Aversive” methods when required.  I use “Positive” methods when possible, carrying a little treat bag on my hip.  I have become masterful with the Electronic collar, by practice and education from my betters.  I’ve made it my purpose to understand and utilize clickers and Prong collars in training, and can do either with surprising results.  It’s taken my entire career to gain the ability to shift gears and change direction when and if it’s needed with a dog, or their human. 

But what prompted this latest post was a question from a client that owns a large, unbalanced German Shepherd named “Odin”.  At the beginning of our now 6 month old relationship, “Odin” tried to kill me.  Literally.

I had been called to evaluate Odin because of what was called “Severe Aggression”.  No one knew why he tried to bite people, but he became of interest to authorities seeking to have him put down.  I was contacted to either give approval for such extreme actions, or commence rehabilitative treatment.  During my evaluation, Odin slipped the lead off his human handler, and he went for my much beloved and precious person.  He completely removed the entire arm of an expensive winter jacket.  Due to my raging paranoia, and fortunate reflex, he missed my arm meat completely.  And my neck.  And my head.  As the dog pulled the sleeve away, leaving a hi-tech cloud of micro-fiber in the air,  I managed to keep my feet, and just stay standing.  I believe it was  pure shock on my part, but the owners interpreted as “Calm, cool, and collected”.  Trust me it wasn’t.  Fortunately, the dog also interpreted that way, and backed away staring at me.  He must have thought,  “Why didn’t that crazy man run away screaming?”   Yes, I had made a couple of mistakes in the encounter, but learning about “Why” a dog becomes of such a mind often calls for taking chances to discover the causitives.  The mistakes have changed my practice for the good.

Well, the deceptive appearance of Calm and Cool paid off for me.  It gave me proof of “The Secret” to working with such dogs, and in truth, every dog, despite temperament.  The question that my clients, now dazed with horror, asked me was simple, yet profound.  We retired to the interior of their comfortable home, where it was safe.  “How are you being so calm???!!!”  Again, fear is a powerful sedative I guess. 

Later, I put a lot of thought into that question.  (By the way, we are now into our 10th week of rehab with Odin, and he and I often walk together on leash, at peace and mutual trust.)

What has been “The Secret” to this success, and other such successes since?  Training method?  Nope.  Specific Tools? Nope.  Genius level understanding of this dog on my part?  Hardly AND Nope.  The answer, I am now certain, was “C A L M”.  Simply being calm.

So, what is “calm”?  Here’s a dictionary definition, and all 3 apply to my supposition:

Definition of calm (Entry 1 of 3) 1a : a period or condition of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water //a sailing ship motionless in the calm b : complete absence of wind or presence of wind having a speed no greater than one mile (1.6 kilometers) per hour — see Beaufort Scale Table 2 : a state of tranquility //At dusk a quiet calm settled over the town.

I Know for certain that if I had fought Odin off my arm, he would have escalated in his excitement and arousal.  I’ve worked enough dogs in Sleeve and Bitesuit to understand how to raise their level by reaction.  Imagine, “Storms:high winds, rough activity…”   Calm was nearly a sedative in this case.  It confused him, and brought an end to his “storm”.  But this is an extreme example.  Why is “Calm” so important to other, less aggressive training? 

We do a LOT of Puppy development in my practice at North Country Canine.  Excitement, Jumping, Play-biting, and Running amuck are everyday activities.  They are also the things new owners want to eliminate as quickly as possible.  Earlier, we always established “training”, (sit, down, stay etc., etc. ) as the first answer to eliminating puppy problems.  Five or six hours was generally enough to accomplish those basics.  To me, the process seemed too slow.  What was the hold up?  It finally dawned on me that I was accepting, AND allowing puppies to be puppies.  Jumpy, feisty, excited, and in play mode.  Constantly.  Sometimes annoyingly.

I then began researching what other trainers and training books said about “Calming” a dog before and during training.  There was very little mention of it.  Lots of talk about training in “drive”, (which IS a legitimate thing) being enthusiastic, and things that allow the dog or puppy to stay in “Idiot” mode.  Finally a book from 1997 by Turid Rugaas, entitled “On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals”. crossed my radar.  Turid is a Norwegian Trainer and Behaviorist, a well-respected observer of canine social interaction.  While not entirely dealing with puppies, it offers a look into the value of being “calm” in all interactions with dogs..A book well worth the reading.  I immediately began to test some of my own fledgling theories with clients.  First, there was “Rosie”, a sleek, beautiful, Weimaraner  puppy, just shy of 1 year old. 

Talk about “lightning in a bottle”.  Rosie ran, jumped, charged, jumped some more, and then started all over again.  Her owners had gotten some rudimentary behavior started, (sit, stay, and No Jump) but they were short term in longevity, and obeyed about half the time they were given. 

Formerly, I used to take the first 10 minutes of every session for what I called “play time”.  “Burn off a little energy” we would say.  A great idea in theory.  But we all know how long it takes to burn off energy in a young dog.  This is where I made a 180 degree turn.  Using Turids’ protocols involving Body Language  (head turning, softening the eyes, turning away, freezing in place, yawning, and slow, deliberate movement) it became apparent that Dog Language exists, and when understood, changes the entire dynamic of our relationship.  Even using a delayed “Play Bow” toward the puppy caused Rosie to look at me as though I had solved the communication problem that has existed since man first met dog! 

It took about 10 minutes to achieve a true “calm” with the little dog.  Without delay, we went into our foundation commands, Sit, Down, Place.  Rosie responded dramatically, and held each command for longer than she ever had before.  Her brain wasn’t spinning like a helicopter blade, looking for “whats next?!!!”   The entire 30 minute session accomplished more that 4 previous sessions had, because Rosie was calm.  Her mind was focused, her attention to the trainer was uninterrupted.  Clearly, I was onto something that no one had ever taught me before.  Although I am certain that some use the approach, whether they know it or not…

My next real trial was with an 18 month old German Shepherd named Max.  The same problems here…Charging the door, jumping on people, running seriously amuck, fear of objects like lawn-mowers…The owner, a young lady, had done quite well with some basic behaviors, but again, commands were only short term suggestions to the dog.  Frustration was heavy on walks, because the dog was never calm, and in the “Now”.  Like a furry, four-legged Luke Skywalker, his brain was “always on the future, always on the horizon…”.  We used to start our sessions will raucous play…Not this time Bubba.

I sat with Max and his girl that first time for about 15 minutes, using body language and calm vocalizations to achieve my goal.  Max had never before offered a calm, Heeled walk to his owner, but that day, he walked impressively around the city block comfortably and in control.  We did it again at our next session.  The owner then started walking Max daily, starting out by calming him.  She began enjoying their walks, and therefore doing it more often.  Max has since graduated to more complicated and interesting walks, thru town meeting strangers, and becoming a grand example of his breed.  His owner walks him proudly, and has improved in her own bearing with him.  I am very proud of both of them.

This first installment on achieving true, productive, calm, will be a spring-board to more “how to” posts.  I’m still learning and processing this protocol myself…But I think I’ve discovered something important.  Perhaps others, unknown to me, have already found the power of Calm in their training.  If you know of someone, please enlighten me!  I’m not getting any younger!

Effective care of Dog Ears…

Posted: October 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

My article on the Effective care of Feet has proven to be the most read item on this blog over the last 4 years. My stats report says that 10,642 individuals have accessed it from Search Engines alone!!! I guess it’s time to move onto other parts of your dog that require daily maintenance!!!

Dogs are blessed with amazing hearing. You may believe that, based on behavior, their hearing isn’t all that great, but there’s a huge difference between “Hearing” and “Listening”!! (I join you in having experienced this first-hand)

The truth is, dogs’ hearing is acute, extreme, and well developed. Dogs hear into frequencies that human ears can’t even begin to fathom, detect, or understand. The sense of hearing is second only to their sense of smell, and far eclipses their eyesight.

The ears of dogs have developed into many types, shapes, and a few problems associated with those ears. Compare photos of various breeds and you will find the huge variety and shapes that have been genetically created. From the long, pendulous, and scent gathering ears of the Bloodhounds or Bassets, to the upright and impressive antennas of the German Shepherd, there is no end to the variety. Some of those shapes require more maintenance than others, especially in the cleaning department. While almost all dog ears are externally covered in hair matching the the coat, some breeds grow far more hair internally, into the actual ear-canal. Cocker Spaniels and Poodles are two good examples of this.

The shape of the ear canal, is nearly vertical until it takes a horizontal turn at the eardrum. This juncture is where many problems begin, as moisture, wax and dirt can collect, and the mess can become infected. It is possible for you to keep your dogs ears clean and healthy before the mess develops, by wiping the visible debris out daily or weekly, with a cotton swab and Hydrogen Peroxide. Don’t penetrate too far, and take care to be gentle!! Many dogs hate this procedure more than anything else we need to do to them. Watch for redness, swelling, or liquid discharge. It is also notable that infected ear canals STINK TO HIGH HEAVEN!!! The bacteria that forms is truly noxious. Truth be told, of all the putrid smells that can come from a dog, the stink of infected ears is the only one that turns my digestive system into a churning mess!! Yuck, yuck, and more yuck!!! When ears reach this point, a Veterinary visit is vital for your dogs health and well-being. Your Vet will use ear washes and anti-bacterials, soft cotton swabs and forceps to safely clean the ear out, fairly deeply into the canal. This can be a two-person job, and may require a practiced hand. Probably you are better off to leave this to your Vet, and his assistants. But the discomfort your dog may experience will be be far outwieghed by the health benefits of clean ears…Dogs that swim frequently can be especially vulnerable to ear problems. Gently drying the ears afterward with a cotton swab or small towel is advised.

Frequently, Dog Groomers will pluck hair from your dogs ears. This is not normally recommended as the pores in the ears will secrete a serum that can allow bacteria to gather, form, and cause problems. Wads of hair with waxy build up or dirt, should be plucked, but removing hair for cosmetic reasons is asking for problems. This is the reason that schnauzers, poodles, and other show quality breeds suffer ear problems more frequently than others.

Ears, ears, ears!!

What sort of ear cleaner should you use? There are various types of ear cleaners, but the most important thing is that you only use a good quality dog ear cleaner. Never put olive oil, vinegar, shampoo or any other substance in a dog’s ear. Also avoid poking around with cotton buds in the ear, you will only work any wax and debris further in and potentially damage the ear drum.  Again, your Vet will have his or her favorite type of ear cleaning solutions, and will probably be happy to supply you with the same.  It’s worth it to have it on hand before problems develop, making a Vet visit necessary.

The key with ear cleaning is to use a large amount of ear cleaner. As the ear canals are quite long, the wiping step is not to get all the ear discharge out. The idea is that when you massage, you will be breaking up the discharge lining the inside of the ear canal, so that it forms a solution with the ear cleaner. Your pet can then shake the liquid out. Remember if you see lots of redness, the ears are particularly smelly or they are painful, see your Vet. Your pet most likely has an ear infection and ear cleaning may be too painful and damaging to perform.

“We need to talk Mom and Dad. I’ll Talk, and you listen!”

Renewal-part 2

Posted: May 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

Another week has passed with Finn. He is growing like the proverbial weed, physically and mentally. His poor little mouth is a constant source of irritation as his teething process goes on. He needs something to chew constantly, besides our limbs. Thank you to the good people at Nyla-bone!!

I have been on an extended schedule of “On-Call” for the clinic this weekend, so my early morning activities have been shorter than normal. This morning, I rose earlier than normal, as my mind recovers from the on-call alertness. I sat on the sun-porch with Holly, enjoying the sunrise, listening to the birds greet the dawn in a raucous symphony…Across the room, on the leash hook, I noticed Hansies black leash still hanging untouched. The brief twinge of loss still in my thoughts…

But, there in the golden rays of dawn, something new shined thru…That leash was giving me permission, asking me to move on from grief, and into new focus. It pushed me to rise quickly, purposefully and take the leash off its hook. I made my way to Finn’s crate, where he was already standing at wait for me…I then unclipped his leash from it’s matching collar, and snapped it onto Hans’ leash with an audible click. Finn responded eagerly and we left the house side by side. The trail was alive with sounds of the world awakening, and everything seemed right. I told Finn stories about Hans, the dog who once owned this leash, the dog that taught me so much, and who had prepared me to take Finn into my life. Finn picked up a stick, and chewed it thoughtfully, oblivious to the meaning of the story.

Today, tears over Hansie’s loss are finished. Memories of the good times are all that remain now, relieving me of a heavy wieght, borne too long. Finn my new friend and partner, you are a source of renewal to my spirit, a reminder that we must always move away from pain and grief, while clinging to the best things. That black leash with Hansie’s teeth prints still fully visible, is yours now. May our years together be longer, but just as happy as those were. May I learn from you as well, and I promise to give you the care that you deserve…

This is an update to a post from about 2 years ago now, right after Hans’ death. The world keeps turning, and it eventually comes back to where it belongs.I

Almost two years ago, the German Shepherd Adventures family was mourning the death of our 9 year old German Shepherd, “Hans”. He went to sleep one night, and never saw another sunrise with me. Medical postulation was some form of cerebral aneurysm. It doesn’t matter, my loyal friend is gone. I hung his collar and leash on the wall, and tried to move on. The leash and collar were never touched for almost a whole year. I put more attention on our female GSD, Holly, but she has always been my wife’s dog. I left my job at a great kennel, and went back to working on an ambulance. It was just too much to deal with on a daily basis. I put more time into Holly, our female German Shepherd, and it went well, and we moved on with other life plans as well. The main change was relocating our lives back to my home in Northern Lower Michigan.

But the curveballs that life pitches us weren’t quite finished yet. We had just gotten moved into our home, and got settled. Everything seemed to be going our way, when one fine morning, my dear wife and partner suffered a brain hemmorhage that nearly took her life. Quick action on the part of many, saved her. We spent the next 31 days in an ICU in Flint, Michigan.

Because of great medical care, and personal strength of soul, she recovered nearly completely. We thank God above for his help and support.

We had to make changes in our lives that were vastly unseen, and unpredictable. Fortunately, in some ways we were prepared, if only by chance. After what seemed a very short search, we found a terrific home in Cheboygan, Michigan. A great, easy to manage house, with a large garage, and away from the bustle of town. Through a series of events unexpected, I left a job that I moved UpNorth to take, at what should have been an answer to a dream. The facility was great, there were some great dogs, but the lack of professional co-workers destroyed the atmosphere. ‘NUFF SAID ABOUT THAT.

I soon discovered that there hadn’t been anyone here practicing effective Dog-training or Behavior management, for quite a long time period, and there was MORE than a customer base. I slowly began to take on a dog and it’s family here and there, and the old enthusiasm started returning. Several of the regions Veterinary hospitals and clinics began to refer clients to me, and successful outcomes began a wonderful “word of mouth” campaign for my new business, “North Country Canine”. Something else happened that has surprised and delighted me endlessly. One of the local Veterinarians offered me a position as an assistant, and I feel very much at home there, and the learning is constant and exciting. I’m also allowed to pursue my own Training practice, while taking on new skills that are enhancing my work. All of this has lead to my “wanting” an additional German Shepherd, a renewed sense of the joy involved in a new puppy. I was aware of a breeder within reasonable distance that had an exceptional family of Czech bred dogs, and I had in fact performed a Volhard evaluation on them at 7 weeks of age prior to new owners taking them home. Two of them in fact would have found an immediate home with us, if we were ready. But Hansies collar and leash remained on the wall for now.

One night, a week and a half later, we had retired to bed and I received a message that the yellow collar male had been released by its Nebraska-based purchaser, as “more than he could handle”. I was stunned by my wife’s enthusiastic “Let’s go get him!” at such a late hour. Well, phone calls were exchanged, and a new visit was arranged for the next day.

To make our long, enjoyable visits’ story short, we brought 10 lbs of squirmy, healthy, puppy home with us that day. We’ve named him “Finn”, a name that fits somehow. The first 48 hours affirmed that my initial Volhard evaluation at 7 weeks was spot on. He’s an independant little jackal, that is going to require daily training and attention. He has no fear of anything, but loves to be with his people, close at hand. (Or foot I should point out). During the wait for his vaccination schedule to be completed, we have worked on leash walking, recall, and other basic commands and behaviors. He is tremendously driven by toys, and rowdy play as a reward, something I am thrilled over. He is a natural retriever, doing anything to keep games of fetch going and going, and going, and going, and going…He’ll be a tremendous Scent work dog.

This morning was his first foray into the big world at my side. I chose to walk him on one of my favorite Up North trails, along the wide, blue expanse of Lake Michigan. We saw every bird imaginable, several deer, and rabbits galore. He splashed into the water as though he’d been there before, barking excitedly at the waves. As we walked, we entered that state where we were just walking together, ignoring everything but each other. A joy that I still can’t describe. Finn was wearing his new puppy collar and it’s matching leash, which I took note of poignantly. I was thinking of a certain hand-worn black leather leash, still hanging on the wall hook at home. Hansie’s leash…still unused since our last day together. At one point, I considered stashing it away permanently as a memory never to have use again. But that thought has now been replaced with possibility and newness…

via the misunderstanding of time

Quote  —  Posted: December 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

“Do you enjoy training with your dog?”

That’s my official first statement of every training session, private or group. It alone sets the tempo, the mood, and the foundation of my training philosophy. It transcends, magnifies, and enhances any and all types of training method. Your dog is your “mirror”, (To borrow a profound phrase) and if you don’t enjoy it, neither will the dog. It’s as plain and simple as that. I don’t care if you are teaching a Schit-zu to “dance”, a Border Collie to run an agility course, or a German Shepherd to earn a Schutzhund title. If you can’t muster up enthusiasm, joy, and make yourself burst with fun, you will fail and your dog’s potential will be horribly diminished.
Be warned, I will sometimes slip into Drill Sergeant mode with this question. If students don’t react with an enthusiastic answer to the positive, I’ll keep asking until I get the loud firm answer I want to hear. Your enthusiasm, or lack thereof, will always and forever affect the way your dog performs, and from the very start, I intend for you to put away any shyness, self-imposed “dignity”, or fear of looking silly. Many first timers to one of my latest seminars start out reserved, nervous. But by the time 30 minutes have gone by, there are no more reservations. You figure out quickly that we are here to “feed” your dog, open up the tap on his energy flow to full force, and have fun!
This chapter was hatched as I watched three separate examples of students that simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) give their four-legged partner praise for a job well done. One was on a cable network show called “Alpha K9”. A student handler was repeatedly cajoled by the instructors to praise his dog, and he simply refused to drop his tough-guy persona, and “feed” his dogs energy level. Finally, the student made a mocking, sarcastic, attempt to comply which fell flat. The student gave up and quit the program, his reasons unspoken. Maybe he had personal issues at home, maybe he just wanted the dog to be another firearm. I don’t know. But the dog would never be a success without his handlers help, and that well had run dry some time ago. Or was never filled.
The other example was a private student, with me for scent-work. The dog knew it’s job and did it well. But the middle-aged lady handling him simply could not see the benefit of an “over-the-top” celebration when the dog performed well. After every sweep, it was simple to see the dog look to her for the payoff in this game, and there was none. It had all the celebratory feel of a prostate exam. After four sweeps, the dog lay down and simply didn’t want to play anymore while she held the leash. “See? She just gives up too quickly and won’t play anymore! What is her problem??” she lamented to me.
I always try to react to such questions gently and professionally. Sometimes I fail. “Why do you pay me to get together with you and Shiloh?” was my less than cordial inquest.
“So she’ll learn to do scent-work, so we can compete…but she won’t work!”
My first reaction was to internally begin singing, ‘Swing loowww, Sweeeeet Chaaarreeee-ottt, a’comin’ for to carry me ho-wwmme!’ ( I tend toward old spirituals when I’m fighting to not slap someone upside their head. Keeps me out of jail.)

“Okay, let’s make things plain and simple.” A very good start for me, considering.
” Shiloh is a great dog that already knows everything there is too know about scent-work. She learned it as a puppy…What she’s missing is “incentive” to sniff out a Birch scented piece of cotton in a drawer. There’s no fun here…May I show you what I mean?”
“If she’ll stand up and work, be my guest. Good Luck!” She answered.
I grabbed my leather tug toy from nearby and teased the German Shepherd into grabbing it firmly, beginning a tugging game that I knew would spark a reaction of enthusiasm. I whooped and laughed with her, making myself the center of her universe. I must have appeared silly to the lady, with my “Good Girl! Get the toy, Get the toy! Good girl!!!” It was Canine-Mardis-gras as far as we were concerned, without the beads. I allowed her to successfully take the toy from me when she pulled hardest, followed by the traditional German Shepherd circle parade with the absconded toy. As quickly as she returned to me, I attached her leash, and walked her to the small “scent-arena” that we use. “Search!” I commanded.
Shiloh’s eyes blazed and she nearly yanked the leash from my hand. She worked a bit more frantically than I prefer, but I was making a point to a non-believer here. When the dog found the birch scent, hidden in a top drawer, she hit the floor immediately in a tight indication. I first made sure that she was “obedient” to the scent by pulling the leash, trying to take her out of the scent, (Yeah, I need to explain this at some point) When I was satisfied, I whooped for joy and yelled “Good Girl Shiloh! Good Girl!” Then I produced the tug-toy and celebrated a bit more with the eager dog. The lady actually laughed at our display at first, but when I repeated the game 5 more times in rapid succession, my point was made. “Why did she work for you? I don’t get it…” The poor woman looked past the obvious.
“She didn’t work for me, technically speaking”, I began to open the door of understanding for her, “…she worked because of the energy between us, because of the enthusiasm pulling her in, and because it’s just plain fun! Shiloh was bouncing on her front feet at my front position by now.
“Understand what I’m saying, “Praising your dog is the foundation of your communication with your dog, and communication is the foundation of successful dog training!”

After that session, the lady began to loosen up, and she began to see the results of simple praise and personal enthusiasm. Further on, I had her visit a local Agility trainer of my acquaintance, for an observational lesson. Just pure observation. Watch and Learn. I did this because I believe that Agility trainers and Handlers are head and shoulders above many other trainers, based solely on the unbridled enthusiasm and energy that they put into training with their dog. Schutzhund trainers tend toward the “tough-guy” mode, but they run a close second to the agility people when they ignore their natural tendency. This type of crazy trainer is highly successful. They are unfettered by feeling self-conscious of their actions in the training ring, and the energy level is palpable during both practices and competition. I’ve learned to watch these trainers and they are teaching a truly effective mode of operation. Praise, Party, and Praise some more. Followed by a brief period of Praise. Food treats aren’t even necessary, as the dog soaks in the energy of praise, and it shoots thru him like Ice Cream thru a lactose intolerant 5-year-old.
Practice your praise. You’ll find that your training becomes more fun, more productive, and you’ll both look forward to it!
Make it a point to find things that your dog loves to play with. A leather tug toy, a squeaky ball, a dish towel, an old plastic coffee can. (My Hans will climb the highest mountain for a blue Hills Brothers plastic coffee can. I have no idea why.) At first, when your dog performs well, give the toy immediately and celebrate. Keep the game going, and gradually increase the interval between success and reward until your dog only expects reward when the game is finished.
You are also the source of your dogs enthusiasm and emotion. Let them see you enjoying the game with them! Be loud, laugh, carry on, smile for the love of Pete! Your dog is supposed to be fun! Isn’t that why you wanted him in the first place?
I mentioned in a previous chapter that the emotionally intelligent dog will often try to manipulate your emotion to something more positive. I’ve proofed this conclusion for myself when it comes to praise and reward with the dog. When going to the training field for a game of retrieve, I naturally give my best enthusiastic performance for the dog. As a test, I will sometimes withhold my playful noise, and remain quiet. Every time, Hans will approach me with the retrieved item and look at me strangely. “What’sa matter Dad? No reward? No fun?”
He wants me to have fun, to share his joy. He also wants the game to go on, and if I’m not enjoying it, it might stop. So he asks for my emotional communication in the game. I can see no other reason for the reaction. If I persist in my underwhelming reactions, he will keep whatever toy that he’s retrieved, and run around me, goading my reaction to something more to his liking. He’s reasoned this out in his emotional mind, and he’s usually spot-on correct.
Take the time to practice living like your dog, searching for fun, having a positive attitude, and finding enjoyment. Time with your dog should be enjoyable, even when your intent is training for serious activity. That attitude will shape and develop your skills at giving praise.

Open Up…to being “dog”.

Posted: October 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

I am an admirer of the contemporary essayist and writer, Edward Hoaglund. Chances are, you’ve never heard of him, but that’s why I’m writing this post. Mr. Hoaglund was born in New York, New York in 1932. During his early twenties, he took a job at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus tending to the large cats that took part in the circus acts. Pretty exciting stuff for a young man looking to find a voice in the world. That’s a side note regarding my admiration for him, as young Edward had a speech impediment, a severe stammer. He is quoted as saying, regarding this problem, “Words are spoken at considerable cost to me, so a great value is placed on each one. That has had some effect on me as a writer. As a child, since I couldn’t talk to people, I became close to animals. I became an observer, and in all my books, even the novels, witnessing things is what counts.”

You see, he and I share a speech impediment. His, a stammer making speech unintelligible at times. My own is a strangulated vocal chord sometimes making my voice too weak to be heard, or hard consonants impossible to form. So we’ve both bonded with the written word, in order to bring to life what we observe, feel, and need to express. We also share a great love of canis familiaris, and we sate our love for them by writing about them. I was ruminating over the first heading of this chapter, “The Bond” we all seek to form with our dogs, and it occurred to me that Edward had written something quite profound. I frantically tried to remember where I had read it, but couldn’t find it for all my searching. Well, I finally found it in my journal, where I recorded it, and it will be central to the rest of this heading. Here’s the quote:

“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The Point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” – E. Hoaglund.

Pretty profound if you’re asking my opinion. And yet, it’s often ignored, or even denied, in the world of dog training today. An examination of specific modals of contemporary “training” show a heavy and misguided reliance on pure “Science”, which ignores that dogs are bound, or even freed, by the emotional capacity that they have. Science and Behavioral Theory ignore the true source of the bond that human and dog can achieve together, namely a relationship that produces positive action between the two living souls. Heavy reliance on clickers and food treats(and the crazy idea of ever increasingly, “high value” treats) to achieve obedience, or tricks, or whatever actually blocks the ideal flow of emotion thru the dog, by interruption. Therefore such methods are more like bandages on sucking chest wounds, unable to stop bleeding because of inadequacy. Training our dogs should more properly focus on the personal trust and bond that we build with our dog from day one together.
The $100,000,000,000.00 question is this: How do I develop my own “dogness”, a state of empathy (as opposed to sympathy) with my dog? And can we achieve that state? Truth be told, I don’t know. But I’m trying anyway.
I’ve noticed a recent proliferation on the internet of sites that focus on “observation” of canine behavior. And I applaud the thinking behind this supposition. The Body language and physical reactions that reveal what’s going on between those fuzzy ears. Facebook has a page that shows photo’s of dogs and page members post their interpretation of different “signals”. I believe that careful observation is an important part of developing “dogness”, but from reading the various posts, it seems to me that “Human Psychological” science is encroaching on the discussion to a crippling degree. Some of the observations turn the dogs into furry humans with human reactions to various situations. It becomes so complicated, burdened with way too much minutiae, that the salient points are shrouded in “What does that mean?” But I do believe that some of it is on track. Most especially those observations that are simple. Those that allow dogs to be dogs. Those that understand that dogs are really very simple, uncomplicated, creatures. It is only human science that turns the mind of a dog into a convoluted labyrinth of difficult to understand behaviors. Becoming aware of your own “dogness” may well be a result of your own willingness to be simple and straightforward in your own thinking. Again, this is a major obstacle to most people who call themselves “Trainers”, or “Behaviorists”. Many of them want canine behavior to be complicated, understood only by people with degrees and formal education. Many want to put dog training into the stratosphere of professions so that those who have only experience are cast aside as “wannabees”. But I’m telling you, dogs are much happier as simple, thinking souls. That’s not to say that dogs are stupid, or mindless. They do have intelligence, that much is rock-solid. But when we understand their inherent simplicity, we can approach what Hoaglund was speaking about… becoming partially “dog”.
The first thing that I’ve attempted in gaining this bond, is to simplify my own approach to training. I took every book on training and understanding dogs that I own, the notes from every seminar I’ve attended, and tried to distill them into one, simple truth. I began with the concept of “Drives”. There are behaviorists and trainers that will assign a different “drive” to every behavior. At first, my own thinking followed current understanding. That they all can be refined into a single motivator, a single “drive”. It’s called “Prey Drive”. The drive to hunt, search, eat, and play for one essential reason. Your dog is a “hunter”. Operating off this conclusion has allowed me to ask simpler questions of why my dog does what he does. “Why would a born-hunter react in this way?” “What would a simple hunter do in this situation?” That was my approach…Not everybody subscribes to what I do, and that’s fine. Now, as you’ve already read, my thinking on the matter of “drives” is evolving. Your own experience may lead you in an entirely different direction, and that’s fine. You find your way. But here are a couple of suggested questions to dwell on. They may help you to consider the subject.
Ask yourself this: How can I see the world in the same way as my dog? How do I suspend the human tendency to judge and analyze everything that comes before me, and react like a dog would? How does my dog communicate with me? Am I trying to see things from his viewpoint, or am I forcing him/her into some wayward, human paradigm like operant conditioning or pure pack behavior? Have I ever tried to duplicate my dog’s way of communicating? For instance, have I ever tried to duplicate a “play-bow” to my dog? What was the reaction? Try not speaking to your dog, and communicate thru body language. Or facial expression. Closely observe how your dog reacts to your mood. If I get frustrated or even angry about something, what does my dog do? Hide? Growl at me? Suspend your adulthood for a few minutes, and pretend to be a dog! Sniff at things, roll over on your back, whatever a dog does during it’s time. (I’d not recommend that you go around humping things like some dogs are wont to do, as this could lead to legal and ethical, not to mention social complications) Find a way to Be Dog. It will open up a whole new understanding of your canine friend!
(P.S.- I’d also not recommend allowing someone to lead you around on a leather collar and leash in public. More complications that you don’t want. I’m just sayin’…)

via To Trainers and Trainees…

Quote  —  Posted: September 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

via A Rose By Any Other Name: Cynopraxis/

Quote  —  Posted: September 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

via Training, or “Educating”?

Quote  —  Posted: September 21, 2018 in Uncategorized