Archive for the ‘Natural Dog Training’ Category

This will be my 200th post of “German Shepherd Adventures.”  A bit more than 4 years worth of reporting, editorializing, opining, teaching, learning, screwing up, eating crow, declaring victory, and growing.  The blog has changed as I’ve learned and changed, and it’s dug in its heels where I have lead it.  I’ve enjoyed it all.  I’ve hated some of it.  Its grown beyond my wildest expectations, and I hope to welcome member # 100,000 this Spring.  There are 168 different countries in the subscriber list, including someone from McMurdo Sound, an Antarctic Research Station!  (That thrills me to no end!)

The Good has far outweighed the Bad parts by a long shot.  I’ve been fortunate to make friends with, and make mentors of a few very talented writers, trainers, and others.  Imagine how thrilling it was for me to exchange thoughts with Mr. Ray Bradbury before his death in 2012…I was a fan of his from boyhood, and when I learned that he had read “GSA” and enjoyed a particular post enough to contact me, I almost fainted. Exactly how he found “German Shepherd Adventures” has never been clearly explained.  He said only that he was,” researching something”, for a short story, and Google spit me out.  I hold no claim to being a “Bradbury” level writer, but he was genuine and encouraging and enthusiastic.  We shared similar views on learning, laughing, and life, and I treasure our brief friendship…Among other notables, I count Carol Lea Benjamin, author, Dog-Trainer, and all around good egg.  Her training methods were at the bedrock of what works best, and she explains it clearly and without ego.  She has a touch of whimsy and laughter about her, and her cartoons rival James Thurber any day of the week.  Carol Lea also managed to get me interested in the Mystery genre.  Her fiction is a “potato chip” type of fare.  You will always look for, “just one more”.

Another luminary among writer/trainers that I’ve been privileged with knowing is Lee Charles Kelley, as well as his mentor Kevin Behan of “Natural Dog Training” fame.  Kevin has developed this way of helping many understand dogs “flow”, but nobody explains it better than Lee Charles Kelley.  Many thanks to both of you and the Natural Dog community.

Among the wonderful trainers, I simply must thank people like Wade and Lori Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Andrew Ramsey, Michael Burkey, Becky MacGregor, Angie Ballman-Winters, Brett McKnight, Kevin and Cheryl Goede, and the group at Balanced Trainers from Dan Audet down the line.

I suppose that I could publish a list of “Low-lites” and “Low-Lifes” as well, but why bother?  They are a much smaller group, and below my notice.

Finally, I must thank Rhonda Sellers, and the Omorrow Pack.  I started “German Shepherd Adventures” with this group of people as my focus, and they have formed a wonderful core of friends.  I had no idea that the blog would eventually grow beyond those confines, and I didn’t care.  Being part of this family of crazy German Shepherd people was enough for me, and I thank each and every Omorrow friend for coming along on the journey so far.  Rhonda, you are a mentor and friend in the truest possible way, and I will always be indebted to you, and as grateful as I can be…

As for the parts of writing this blog that I’ve hated?  Well, most of them involved the cowardice and self-serving interests of people that enjoy hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard.  Dealing with the darker corners of opinion and political-correctness, has been tiring and wearisome.  The rantings and raving of such people are a huge waste of time.  Those who practice militancy are a sad and confused lot, and doing more harm to the dogs and the dog community than is warranted.  I will continue to reveal their ignorance as much as possible.  On the positive side of these people, is the fact that they have often caused my readership to blossom into the eyes of new dog people and those looking for the best way to work with dogs.  I will continue to refer them to trainers that I know will help them determine “Best Practices” in dog training.

This is my way of thanking everyone that takes the time to read “German Shepherd Adventures”.  I hope that you will continue to visit with me here, and I will do my best to keep making it worth your time…

Above all…I want to thank my dearest friends, CarolAnn, Hans, Holly, and Sammy.

Hans, there has never been a better friend than you have been.  No more loyal partner, fellow worker, or goofy buddy.  I promise you a long and happy life.

Holly, my golden girl, you have become much more than what I thought was possible.  Above any other dog, you have taught me the most about Training, and How dogs Think.  You have challenged me, taught me, and given me the opportunity to learn from the masters.

Sammy, my newest buddy, you are something I never expected.  Your loyalty and manner have taught me what dogs are capable of when it comes to nurturing, helping others, and having insight into the human spirit.  You read people like no other living soul I have encountered, and you teach me without hesitation.

Finally, Thank you to my dear wife, CarolAnn.  You put up with this silly collection, and make it your own.  You must be out of your mind, but it seems to work…

Okay, everybody, Go  Take Your dog out and do something!!!

writingmonkey1

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I am not a person that adopts  dogs  from a shelter.  My dogs are acquired from a responsible, knowledgable Breeder.  In some places that confession is comparable to confessing to any number of  heinous crimes involving livestock, Meth labs, or eating kittens.  Don’t know what else to tell you about that…But that doesn’t mean that I’m not supportive of the industry, OR the animals.  I DO volunteer time to keeping the homeward looking dogs happy and exercised.  I’ve worked with behavior problems successfully, and if I do say so myself, made a couple of them adoptable.  It can be satisfying, and fulfilling work, watching a formerly “Reactive” dog walking out with his new family on a loose leash right past 40 people without so much as a sneeze.  But that’s all behind me as of today, until such time that the dog shelter organizations put political correctness and the cult of personality behind it. (Uh Oh…He sounds TICKED!)

Actually, I’m more Saddened than angry…I like helping dogs.  But the cult of the Positive Only trainers has managed to usurp the Shelter industry.  And they mean to make everyone submit to a method that damages dogs more than they will ever admit…

Arriving at my voluntary time for exercising the dogs today at a local county shelter, a sign was posted saying to all that walked in,  “Dogs within this facility are handled in Positive, Reward based Methods Exclusively.  Our clients and volunteers are obliged to follow these methods before, during, and after adoption,  Training is available for anyone interested.”

In the immortal words of one Scooby Doo,  “Ahh-Roooo??  Ruht Roh, Raggy”…  Under my breath I asked  ,” When have I ever been anything but positive with any dog?  Even the crazy mutt that tried to eat my face?”  A week later I walked that dog around the campus here…Others would have killed that dog…

Later in morning, a small meeting was held with the volunteers, conducted by the Director of the facility.  A nice, well meaning lady in her ’50’s, and an enthusiastic dog-lover, she began with the greeting of someone recently indoctrinated into a cult.  “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to all of you volunteers here that work with our dogs!  I want you all to know that we have something special for you all that we want you to embrace!  We have invited a wonderful professional Dog Behaviorist here to give you all training that you NEED!”  Her name is **************, and she’s an expert on Clicker-Training and Non Aversive Training.  All of us will be better able to help our resident dogs prepare well for their going home…”  (I’m not giving her name, as this is not meant to personally bash anyone. ( You’d know of her.)

“I was privileged to hear her speak and teach for 2 full days recently, and I must say, never having any formal dog training education myself, I was very impressed!!  She’s so kind to the dogs, and there’s never any punishment of any type to the dogs.  When they misbehave, you simply IGNORE the behavior until they stop.  When they do something right, they get a nice treat!  By the way, I’ve brought back a nice gift for all of you…She produced a shopping bag filled with small, belt worn treat bags.  She passed them out, sliding one under my lower jaw which was pressed firmly against the table top, resting in a puddle of drool and disappointment.

“Each of us will be trained to help our adopters use this method as well.  I think you will all find this very exciting, as it is the latest in behavioral science…Most all of the better, most qualified facilities around the country will be getting this program over time.  I think that you volunteers with dog-training experience will especially benefit from this new training.   We’ll have no more hanging dogs from a leash here again…You’ll find it unnecessary going forward.”

One of the volunteers raised her hand slowly…When did someone here hang a dog from a leash?” she sounded almost conspiratorial.

The Director answered in a slow, rehearsed voice.  “Well, never to my knowledge, but she showed us a compilation of punishments that different trainers have used.   It was awful….and we won’t have it here in any way shape or form.  The seminar will be next Saturday from 1 until 5 pm.  This is a mandatory meeting.”

As the meeting ended,  most of the volunteers filed out, thinking that something great had just happened.  I, and one other volunteer stayed seated.  The Director looked at us confused, “Is there something more?” she asked, genuinely interested.  That’s her greatest strength by the way.  Wholly Dedicated, but with little knowledge of dogs.

“Well, I guess there is a question or two…” I began. ” Has there been a problem with the way that we’ve been working with the dogs?  Has there been a complaint or a dog that went crazy on somebody?”

“Oh No, No!!!  You’ve both been great with the dogs!  Even ones that we thought were headed for euth services…But this is the future of dog training, the latest science. (She had zero knowledge of how long OC has been around)  I thought you’d jump at the chance to learn from ***************.  She’s written books and made DVD’s…apparently she’s quite well-known.”

“Oh we know about her…and her method.  But we’ve also tried the method, and found that it just doesn’t solve the needs of the dogs.  It’s an incomplete way of training, and doesn’t do anything to solve behavior problems in any dog.  Clickers have a small place in a trainers bag of tricks, but there are also other ways.  You know yourself that every dog is unique and has different needs…What ********** does just doesn’t cover them all.  A more Balanced Approach is the what helps the dogs…not plastic toys.  And the other consideration is this in regard to Clicker training…It can’t be taught over the course of two days!  Once ********** leaves here, you’ll have an entire volunteer group doing it wrong anyway. Confusion will reign, as you have bad science being used by poor performers.  Most of the dogs that pass thru here either arrive with issues, or develop them while here.  Non-Aversive training will only create more issues that will create behavior problems.  You, more than all of us, must know how many shelter dogs are euthanized each year because someone “In the Know” says, ” that dog can’t be helped, so killing it is the only safe option .”

She looked at us like she knew a secret kept from us.  “Well, I think this is the right thing to do for the shelter…Are you aware that in Europe, Wales I think she said, and in a couple of states here in the US, there is already legislation to ban certain training tools and regulate the dog training industry based on training methods?  This is coming, whether anybody likes it or not…You have to keep up with the science.”

The rest of that conversation was short and concise, ending with myself and one other talented dog trainer resigning from volunteering at the Rescue.  Political Correctness has come home to roost in Ohio.  And it’s probably headed for your home as well, under the guidance of the local  political correctness squad.   Over something that “correctness” doesn’t begin to fathom….Our ability to train our dogs in the best methods for them…Balanced, kind, and uniquely suited to each dog, has been, and will be, under fire by these groups until we, as balanced trainers/handlers begin to defend what’s right.

This is why  I’ve begun looking for other trainers/handlers and Dog Writers that truly understand dog learning and training.  balanced trainers that become experts at understanding which method(s) works best for the dog.  Not Non-stop treat dispensers,  like some sort of Human Pez Dispenser filled with kibble. Not brutal in any way, but capable of understanding and utilizing  the power of aversion.  Or before you go there, punishment of a proper degree.  I’m happy to see a few of them out there now beginning to stir the pot and educate about Balanced, natural training.  People like Wade Morrell, Ivan Balabanov, Kevin Kinker, Kevin and Cheryl Goedes, and others I’ll mention in another post.  I don’t mean to leave any other talented trainers off this list, but know that I see and support you on this blog as best I can, and will continue to do…It’s time to stand up and take back the dog training world before legislation DOES suddenly oozes into our local government.  We need to work together against a small but media savvy machine that’s been operating for several years while we were busy training, competing, and correcting bad behaviors,  thinking that we were not in danger from the sources of self-proclaimed experts.  If you train in a balanced way, if you can write or make video of balanced training, get your stuff out there.  Make kind, instructive, comments on Facebook and the chat rooms.  Explain why Natural, Balanced training is the best way in calm, Professional tones and terms.  We have a lot to lose if we don’t get serious and SOON…If it takes a few minutes away from working in the field with the dogs, use your communication time to teach the dogs a good long “Stay”.  YOUR help is needed, along with your skills, talents, and determination to train well!

Other components of the Dog World are also being threatened by similar groups and individuals.  One of them is legislation aimed ostensibly at Puppy Mills.  Don’t get me wrong, puppy mills need to be gotten rid of NOW.  They are a cancer on the dog profession.  But the way current legislation is being written by HSUS, PETA and other groups threatens the Purebred Dogs that are needed to support survival of the breeds in their pure form.  There’s much more detail that needs to be written about regarding this assault, but I’ll save it for another post.  But there’s already a lot of information available out there.  Try Googleing the phrase “Dog Breeders Legislation Pending” and see what “The Devil Is In the Details” really means.  These groups are crafty, and yes, sneaky.  They work behind the scenes until they are full-blown READY to strike, and then they do.  Stay Alert and spread the information that you discover, it can help us save our rights, our livelihood, and ultimately the future of dogs…

footnote*  I will continue to help working dogs that need whatever they need.  I can handle that on my small kennel property, and I won’t lose the good that can be done…

There are infinite Truths about Dogs, just as there are infinite Opinions about Dogs…The opinions spring from the minds of humans, and they tend to be possessed of “viewpoint jaundice” .  Some of the crazier opinions are spouted by individuals that are wholly dependant on (and very self-possessed) of the fact that they are “educated”, and have degrees to hang on a wall to prove it to the rest of mankind.  They never cease being impressed with themselves mostly.

Some of the more profound conclusions have come from grizzled old geezers that depend on a pack of mongrels to guard their junkyards.  “Them dawg’s ‘er in muh brain…he ‘kin do ever’thing here but run the cash register…”

I’ve learned a lot from both…and I won’t ever let that change.  I’ll always listen, even if I’m just being courteous.

One Truth has presented itself however, over and over again, in my Canine enlightenment.  It applies in many situations, but I’m being subjective here, as it fits my purpose.   “If You Want To Know The Truth About Dogs, Ask the Real Expert…Your Dog!!”

The Communicative Approach to Training Theory, (C.A.T.T.)  was born somewhere in it’s middle.  Much of what I learned has developed, in either a backwards direction, or more forward.  And the truth of the matter is this:  I didn’t really understand it until I figured out how to listen to my dog, Hans.  I had to abandon the natural (If egotistical) inclination to approach him in the attitude of, “I’m the superior intellect here, and you shall listen to me and submit to my training.”   If you believe  that approach  works in more than the grossest of manners…You’re absolutely, positively, and utterly wrong.

Most of us need a rethink of the definition between what “Training a Dog” means, and what” Educating a Dog”  means.  Training a Dog can mean anything from choke collars, E-collars, and Food deprivation, to plastic clicker toys, Positive Reinforcement, and many other methods.  It requires a book of instructions, and perhaps a seminar or thirteen. (Depending on the business sense the Instructor or Franchise owner has.  Return customers are Vital to most, and they will do their utmost to make you dependant on them. It’s  A Symphony of Turnstiles!) 

 People that rely wholly on Training their dogs are answering to the shallow end of the pool, the Physical dog.  If the dog sits on command, and has a good recall, these sorts are satisfied.  The problem is this…Many rely on the Physical to carry their dog to the next level.  Such “trainers” begin at the mistaken idea that their dog is inferior to the human aspect, and can only be expected to do so much, as it is just a dumb animal.  A dumb animal waiting to be “Shaped” or “Coerced” into the behavior desired. Such a process is dismissive and often denigrating to the marvelous living, four-legged being beside you…I refer to this as “Dis-honoring the Dog.”    Interestingly, this same sort of behavior takes place with human beings, often in the same Universities that crank out Phd’s everyday.  A young man with extraordinary ability to carry a football or slam-dunk a basketball is treated to the finest “Training Regimen” the school can provide… in the aspects of his sport.  His education academically, though available, is given a much lower priority.  The school then produces an illiterate hero to the masses.  Hopefully, he makes enough cash in the future to pay someone to run his life, because he’s incapable.  That’s Physical Training.

But Educating a Dog is something very different.  The dog is treated as though it is a fellow sentient being, (Not Human, but certainly aware.)  The dog is treated as though his own abilities are not limited because he’s “just a dog.”  Instead of being shaped or broken down into a behavior, the dog is allowed to make use of his own thinking faculties.  Accomplishing this, puts many more demands on the dogs human owner.  YOU must be observant, patient, humble, instinctive, and open to new learning!  I can hear the clicker people out there screaming at me  “If it’s NOT “Purely Positive” training, then I’ll have none of it!!”  Well, relax folks.  Not only is the Communicative Approach, positive for the dog, you’ll also find that this way of thinking will make you a better person.  Because it’s an attitude changer, and the goal is to make the emotion emanating from yourself, more positive! At least that’s what my dogs have told me…

Every time you approach your dog, whether it’s during training, while you’re looking for an affectionate nuzzle, or while you stagger down the hallway in the middle of the night headed for the bathroom, you are putting out a signal of energy to your dog.  Your energy might be telling the dog, “Stay. Wait for my Signal.”  It might be permission to approach for a belly scratch.  Or it might be saying, “Your Dad is half asleep and stumbling toward you in the dark.  Get out of the way or he’ll step on you…”  I like to picture it this way:

EnterpriseFIRE  Our dogs read this energy, and they reciprocate in kind.  That’s what my dogs have been teaching me about training, about communicating with dogs, and about how I behave in everyday life.  “Be Aware that You are Always Putting Out Energy Towards Every Living Thing.  It Affects Every Relationship that You Have.  Make It Positive.  And Keep It That Way.”

  If I arrive at home having been stuck in the infernal turmoil of city traffic, I’m usually not happy. My dark and glowering mood usually walks in the door ten steps ahead of me.   Without exception, I have noticed that my dogs beat a retreat to their safe spots in their kennels.  Without word one from me…Energy.

When I walk out into the yard, anticipating a game of Search or Fetch with my four-legged buds, they anticipate it and greet my appearance with unbridled joy.  No Words, just Energy.

If we’re doing bitework, my calm demeanor will keep the dog at my side.  The decoy could be covered in raw chicken parts and as long as my energy says, “Not Yet”, he stays.  No Words, no movement.  Energy… But the moment that I change to the energy of indicating a threat, I have 100 pounds of flashing lightning bolt.  No words.  No Motion.  Energy…

The Ultimate Clicker is not made of metal or plastic.  It is rather, something far more ephemeral, far less tangible, and certainly cannot be purchased from any website.  You can’t learn to use the Ultimate Clicker at a Seminar.  You certainly can’t learn to use the Ultimate Clicker from a clicker trainer.  The Ultimate Clicker, once found,  and developed, can’t be lost in a training bag.  Because the Ultimate Clicker is in your Energy…The emotion that you project, and that allows the dog to return that flow.

Learning to use this Energy, is much the same as learning to have a Positive Attitude towards everything.  I know you’ve approached a fellow human at work or home, and sensed the presence of negative energy, a snarly attitude, or even outright, unfocused energy.  We avoid that person as fast as we can, don’t we?  The problem is, so many of us respond to negative energy with negative energy.  “Give me a nasty attitude will ya’?  In your face Moron!”  We fall victim to this often.  It’s only human.

Once we master our emotion, our energy output, we can begin to work with our dogs.  We then learn to accept our dogs energy flow, and understand it.  It won’t happen overnight, but that’s okay.  “To Err is Human, To Forgive, Canine”…  Your dog wants you to understand this energy flow, and use it.

Here’s the next exercise for you as a dog trainer, and you don’t even need a dog.  Think about how you react to everything in your day.  A co-worker pulls a bonehead action, and costs you time.  A driver in a Malibu cuts you off in traffic, nearly causing an accident.  You spouse won’t stop talking while you watch television.  Your dog keeps putting a nasty, wet tennis ball on your lap.  HOW DO YOU REACT?  What energy do you put out in reaction?  Think about your reaction, and even catalog it.  Think, “How could I have better energized that reaction?  Do I always get that upset at things?”

  Think about your energy output this week.  In an honest examination, you’ll recognize a new way to approach everything.  It will be better for you, and for your dog.  Everyone around you will react in some way…It’s the Communicative Approach.

The main focus of my canine-training, is, and always has been, scent-detection/Search & Rescue and nose work.  Barely 2% of my time is spent with Protection, bite work, or anything of that type.  Yes, we play some fairly aggressive games with our dogs, answering their need to express their “Prey Drive” emotion adequately.  These games involve lots of Tugging games, Goose-chasing, (I balk at calling this “herding” because Hans likes to go straight ahead and make the buggers fly off in a panic, rather than round them up), and occasionally some sleeve work, to keep his skills sharp.  But when you have a large, black, german shepherd, non dog-people will always assume that he is a Trained Weapon of Mass Destruction.  And even if he is, they will have a completely mis-guided, uninformed idea of what it takes for a dog to do protection work.

There will always be that type of person that observes a working dog performing protection work, that say’s, “I gotta have me one of those…”  Not only do such people completely misunderstand the work, the responsibility, and the sweat-equity involved in such training, but they demonstrate their COMPLETE ignorance of dogs.  (By the way, The National Rant Service is hereby issuing a “Impending Rant Warning” for this blogsite effective immediately)

The question that set this off went this way,  verbatim:  “How do you make your dog mean enough to do Attack Dog stuff?”  If this was a one time only, unique question, I probably would have given a calm answer.  Explained the truth behind what we do…but the question, and the assumption, keeps rearing it’s ugly head.  It’s time that it was addressed…

Yes Virginia, there are Mean dogs.  They might also be called “abused” dogs, not-withstanding physically ill or mentally damaged specimens.  Such dogs are to be found tied-out behind garages, shut in cages, or simply abused by ignorant and evil humans.  This is often how members of the “Innocently ignorant” public feel about dogs trained as protectors, or sport dogs.  They must be “Mean” in order to do protection work…(This is where my aneurysm starts).

Let me be succint.  A Dog that is “Mean”, is an untrained dog and has no right to the title, “Protection Trained.”  An owner that goads, teases, or abuses a dog to the degree that it is “Mean”, reactive, or untrustworthy around other living souls, is an evil person.  They are not “trainers”, “Handlers”, or any other sort of “Expert”.  In fact, if you train dogs by being abusive, you are wholly, morally bankrupt.  And mentally deficient in more ways than I can say…Don’t call yourself a Dog Trainer.  Ever.

Now, back to my calm, professional demeanor…

Most trainers of true “protection” dogs are producing dogs that will fit into the mold you could easily call “family” dogs.  These dogs are calm, obedient, social, and love children.  They are also healthy, mentally and physically.  Yes, when so directed, they will do what must be done to protect and serve their family.  But you will rarely see this displayed, because the dog is “trained”.  Normally, I fall back on my own dogs as examples, but this time I want you to meet a dog and trainer that meets these standards perfectly!  The dog’s name is “Valko”.  He is dark sable German Shepherd.  He was trained by one of the finest trainers on planet earth, Mr. Wade Morrell of Ohio. https://www.facebook.com/Priority1Canine   The dog is sharp and tough, and will fight like a lion under the proper conditions and permission of his handler.  He has earned his “Protection Dog” title.  This same dog, was recently placed into a family, to serve his purpose.  (I’m not using names, because they don’t know I’m using them here.)  The family has young boys, about 5 and 9 years of age.  Too watch this family with this dog, you would be lead to believe that that they’ve owned the dog since it’s birth.  They are, impressively, bonded as a family circle.  No small feat, as this is pretty much the family’s first dog.  The big Shepherd watches over those children with the eye of a Guardian, as well as the parents.  Out in public, the dog is social, even gentle, to new people that are given approval.  “Valko” is obedient to a fault, but retains something that tells you he is still a “Dog”, given to stealing corndogs, and rolling over expecting belly rubs from any available fingers.  Can I give any higher praise to a “Protection Dog”?  I don’t believe it possible…

This short example is just one example of the many finely trained protection dogs out there.  There is no “Mean” about them…Only protective, and very capable of stopping harm to his own.  This is a topic I could write on long, and enthusiastically.  But I’m going to end it on this note:

“Properly trained, a Human Being can be a Dog’s Best Friend”.

"Mean?"  Or well-trained?  Don't jump to conclusions.

“Mean?” Or well-trained? Don’t jump to conclusions.

If you work with, or just walk a large, black, German Shepherd around in public places, you will eventually be asked, “Does your dog bite?”  I guess that’s to be expected.  Owners of Pit Bulls, Malinois, and several other breeds suffer just the same line of questioning.  Time was, I would assure the questioner that my dog was definitely not a Biter, and yes, they could pet him.  Well, hindsight is 20/20, and I may have done my dogs a disservice.  Education has lead me to another path, and my answer to that question is far different today.  Not because Hans nailed some poor unfortunate, thank goodness, but because I’m more tuned into the true nature of the dog.  And you may not like what I’m about to expound on here, but facts are facts, and it will serve us all if we take responsibility for the predator on the “other end of the leash”.

The next time I speak to a group about dogs, or dog bites, or whatever, the response will go exactly this way, especially if it’s a group of children:

“Mr. Vaughan, does your dog bite?”

“Thank you for that excellent question!  Let me answer it this way.  How many of you have a dog at home?”  The audiences always have  more dogs than not.  “My answer is this:  Yes… undeniably, unequivocally, absolutely, and honestly, my dog bites.  And whats more, so does the dog you have at home that licks your face when you get home, and sleeps on your bed.  All dogs can and will bite!”

There will be gasps from the front row, and from school administrators worried about liability of such a beast loose in their school.  First, because Hans will probably be sitting nearby, off-leash, with that German Shepherd look on his face.  Secondly, because very few people believe that their Cocker Spaniel has any notion of biting anyone or anything.

The response I’ll give has a two-fold purpose.  First, I don’t want any child, or any adult to suffer a dog bite.  They are singularly unpleasant, and tend toward scarring and infection.  Please be careful when you approach any strange dog that you don’t know.

Secondarily, but far more interesting and perhaps more controversial, Your Dog Bites Because It’s a Predatory animal, and it enjoys Biting.  It’s the end result of his Predatory Drive.  Chase a ball, bite it.  Chase a rabbit, bite it.  Find a bowl full of kibble, bite it.  Wave little hands in front of a puppies face?  Probably gonna bite it.  And therein lies the problem.

The question before you as your dogs leader is this? ” How do I allow my dog the natural outlet of biting, without the biting being inappropriate at best, and tragic at worst?”

We struggled with this when we first had our German Shepherd, Hans.  He is a working dog and has the instinct to chase and bite.  The interesting thing was this:  Hans never bit me.  Not once.  However, my poor wife carried some bruises and bite marks that would horrify a coroner.  The bites were never delivered in aggression, but always happened when she would attempt her version of play.  Run away from him with the ball,  throw the ball and chase him when he wouldn’t give up the ball.  When he did bite, she would grab the dogs snout and say, “NO!” gently but firmly.  Hans saw that as a challenge.  Our 6 month old German Shepherd got a reputation with my wife.  “Why doesn’t he bite you???” she would cry.

Well, we figured it out eventually and Carol has since become a very fine trainer, but she learned the hard way.  It had to do with how I played with, and responded to his instinctual behavior.  Our play involved allowing him to fulfill the ultimate release of his instinctive behavior to hunt, that is to bite something.  When he was under a year of age, I used a five foot long, flexible fiberglas rod with a string attached to it.  The business end has a chamois cloth tied to it.  We would flip that chamois around around like it was crazed, and Hans’ job was to catch it.  The game finished when Hans was told to release the prize.  When he did, the game could resume, drop the chamois produced another round of catch it.  He picked up the game and the “Out” command very quickly.  This game also built his prey drive into something that could be readily utilized into his training.  As he grew older, I used a 24-inch , two-handed ,leather tug toy.  The idea was to grab the tug, bite it hard, and take it away from me.  I always allowed Hans to win this game after a bit of wrestling, and he became confident, and he knew when and what he was allowed to bite.  As an aside, this game also taught me how not to get bitten during this exercise.  I learned his approach, the look in his eyes, and his timing.  We developed his “out” command during this play consistently.  He will drop anything he has in his teeth upon command, and I do mean anything.  We practice this “out” even with raw turkey drumsticks.  Did the play create an aggressive dog?  Absolutely not.  And we’ve found a way to do what comes naturally to a predatory canine.  Teaching not to bite by teaching when and what to bite.

 

After his first year of life, we moved into bite sleeves and decoy work.  He loves these exercises, and he has tremendous recall off an attack, because we allow him to do what comes naturally in the first place.

Many will give the advice, “When a puppy bites, grab his snout and prevent him.  In my observation, you are retarding his instinct by doing this, and he’ll become frustrated quickly, leading to continuing problems.  You are better off to do what his litter-mates did when they bit each other to hard, give out a blood-curdling “Yip!!” that says, :That’s too hard!! Stop!!!”  The dog will often step back from you, shocked.  This is how you speak dog…Dogs teach each other the limits of biting, very early.

The key to outliving your puppies “biting/nipping” habit, is to teach him that biting is only for certain toys, and certain times.  The way to control it is natural…Find an activity that allows him to use his teeth for the purpose that God gave them to him.  As always, the secret to most dog training, is too spend the time necessary to work with, and understand your dog.  Find help when you have questions.  It will allow your dog to be his best!

 

If you haven’t read Kevin Behan’s reply to my recent post on “Awareness”, I’m going to reprint it here verbatim.  It deserves to be dissected, pared down into easily understood components, and discussed.  Like most of Kevin’s writing, it requires “physically” seeing demonstrated what he is conceptualizing.  I’m breaking this down by applying the title “Behans Law” to it…Hopefully Kevin will forgive the hubris of that accolade, but what he writes seems to be the very core of a much larger whole.  Let’s discuss this after you read it, and think it over.  It’s profoundly simple really, and puts a new lean on canine behavioral theory.  Here’s the reply in whole:

 

Robert, I appreciate the time and thoughtful effort you’re taking to investigate my theory. When I wrestle with the notion of awareness I have come to begin with the body as opposed to the brain. Sensory inputs take shape in the animal mind by crystallizing around the body’s physical center-of-gravity because configuring the body around this point is the essence of locomotion, and being able to move is the essence of animal emotion. Emotional processes piggyback on the systems dedicated to remaining upright and keeping in motion, and thus the animal mind configures around this point as well. So the body serves as an animals’ frame of reference for experience and its awareness of the world. The body formats perception into specific frames of reference well before the brain begins to process an experience. In other words the body is how the brain makes sense of things. The mechanics of this, and I would argue it’s a universal feature of sentient life, is that an animal “projects” its physical center-of-gravity onto relevant objects and thereby feels just as if it is physically connected to it. This actuates a compulsory drive to connect since the individual is trying to reconnect with what it has projected outside its body and which it feels as a part of its self. The external object involuntarily elicits internal emotional effects and these destabilizing influences must be stabilized for the animal to return to “peace of mind.” This is why I believe all behavior is a function of attraction and whether two individuals are able to sustain an interaction so that it can elaborate into a relationship is a function of “emotional capacity.” (In my view human beings and domestic dogs have the highest emotional capacity in the animal kingdom.) I feel that what most commends this model is that a definition of self as a function of the surroundings not only provides for individual integrity, but simultaneously is the vehicle for integration into the whole as well. Also, its very universality so that any two animals can potentially communicate and connect, at the same time factors out to be the source of individual uniqueness as well. In a sustained relationship individuals end up mirroring each other and developing a specialized set of personality traits (they become equal and yet opposites in all things). They don’t differentiate at random, but as complementary feelings to each other. Additionally I think this emotional dynamic serves as a gateway to the other modalities of awareness you’ve mentioned, extraordinary feats of navigation, anticipation of earthquakes, seizures in owners, criminal intent in strangers, etc., etc.. (Hope this isn’t too long or dense.)

 

Simple, Huh?  I’ll let you digest this for yourself  before I make any more attempts to write about it.  As preamble, I’ll say this:  What Kevin is suggesting is not mystical, mysterious, or psycho-babble.  It’s actually the “science” of all Living Things, interconnected, linear, and indivisible.  Back soon…Dogs need a walk.  You do the same!