Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Not long ago I wrote a post discussing the seeming lack of Mentors in the sport called Schutzhund.  (And for future reference, I will not use the politically correct term now in use, “IPO”.  The term lessens the history and intent of what schutzhund meant.  Since I, and others beside me, seek to make the sport answer honestly to its’ heritage, I will use the term “Schutzhund”)  As is our wont, the editorial board of GSA, sat down to commiserate over foamy topped steins of der Materlands finest, and eventually, over what we recently  published.  It seems that there may be more soil to till on this subject, and notes were hastily scribbled on napkins and pizza boxes by all in attendance.  So it was all hands on deck, and hie thee off to the research library in the Research Wing of German Shepherd Adventures.  I’m still sitting here. The information that I’m seeking doesn’t seem to exist in written form.  There’s a positive dirth of source material…almost nothing of worth has been laid to the written page about the Schutzhund “culture” that I imagined to have existed in early 20th century Germany.  My hope was to find something from those formative and heady years that we in 2016 had lost.  Something retrievable, and in turn, beneficial to our sport.  So many have opined that the schutzhund of vom Stephanitz and his cohorts is fading into history, being eroded by society, political correctness, or a generation more drawn to sedentary, electronic, diversions.  I wondered if the past could provide us with solutions, encouragement, or at least, direction.

I was in search of descriptions of crisp, autumn gatherings of families in a common pursuit.   Legendary German Shepherd’s dogs, proving themselves worthy of procreation.  Venerable Bavarian toughguys, training and handling the dogs with skill and single-mindedness.  Younger men, doing all they could to earn their place in the local verein, demonstrating to their elders and betters that they could carry on the traditions and standards being set into place for schutzhund.  The Frau’s and Frauleins gathered together, gossiping, watching over younger ones, and keeping the men from taking in one too many steins of Bier.  There would have been food aplenty, laughter, and probably no small amount of scheming between the dogmen.  The Vereins (or Associations) of all sorts are important in Germany, whether they be for shooting,(Schutzenverein) singing (Sangerverein), or the local Volunteer Fire Fighters (freiwillige Feuerwehr).  Statistics show the German people to be “joiners”, seeking the comradery   (kameradschaft) of their peers in many pastimes.  One source states that 1 in 3 residents belong to some local club.  Those clubs provide activity, socialization, and good food, as well as identity.  My research lead me thru every book on the German Shepherd, and der schutzhund that I have collected over a decade of serious acquisition.  And there are many of them.  Packed with pedigree’s, breeding strategies, and personal backbiting on the part of the schutzhund “powers that were”, there was NO mention of club activities.  Zero.  Zip. Nil.  Clubs and personal allegiances were given some attention, but no idyllic descriptions of summer days at the training field.

And maybe that’s part of schutzhunds problem.  The “culture” never existed, or was taken for granted by those too busy to stay attached to it.  Maybe the culture was poisoned by the addition of people with very different goals and schemes.  Ego and competitive spirits with singular intent tainted something grand, and inclusive.  When money, greed, and exclusivity become the norm, a large portion of the community will be excluded, dismissed, and disenfranchised.

When one observes the current situation of our “national” organizations that administrate our sport, (try the Facebook postings on any of them) there seems to be one fracas after another, many of a personal nature.  People end up calling for the leaders to abdicate for the good of the sport.  Leaders strike back at individuals for negative or subversive posts of personal opinions, and even taking away privileges of their voluntary services.  We just cannot get along in a spirit of cooperation and innovation, and we are chasing away those who could conceivably preserve schutzhund for future generations.  We MUST create a “Culture” around schutzhund that invites new people, encourages more experienced ones to share knowledge, and build a wider interest base.  If we don’t, we can kiss it all goodbye.

Now let me give credit where it is due.  I have been investigating and learning from a unique group of individuals that have produced my feelings of late.  I was first exposed to this line of thought by Meagan Karnes of The Collared-Scholar blog

Karnes is also involved with an organization known as The Sealed Mindset Leaders.  Lots of thought-provoking reading there, and programs for learning Leadership.  There, I noted a quote that really struck intellectual  “oil”.  I’m going to quote it here.

“…the Suffocating of Innovation that occurs in a ‘Control Centric’ environment.  In such settings, ‘Power’ resides with a “Manager”, and the manager does everything he can to protect that power.  As a result, mistakes are frowned upon and punished, fingers are pointed and blame is placed.  As a result, Innovation is suppressed.” –  Sealed Mindset

The organizations controlling and ostensibly guiding schutzhund are headed up by venerable names and imposing dog-world politicians.   It seems an obvious truth that some of them are very concerned about Keeping their positions of power and influence.  Negative comments or perceived slights of opinion are quickly suppressed.  Some of those in disagreement are put out of commission as fast as possible.

On the other hand, there are those of the rank and file members that think nothing of bashing those in positions of responsibility.  Maybe even slandering them.  Those individuals are often desirous of having control themselves.   Wanting to Control is poison to the whole community we seek to preserve.

Schutzhund has been, and  is currently mired in a “Control-centric” environment.    (But let me say up front, that there ARE clubs AND Leaders of those clubs that are already working beyond this crippling mindset.  More about them later…)  Not  to place too fine a point on the blame, but much of the problem seems to focus on the European source of the original discipline.  Men that should have the thinking of their forebears, have allowed, or encouraged a more passive thinking to take over.  The insistence on making earning titles easier for dogs unable to perform up to original standards, has watered down (or even completely flooded) the original intent.  One well-known contemporary observer and editorial author, Jim Engle, has used the word, “Pussification” to describe what has happened in the mother land of schutzhund.  Here’s Mr. Engle’s website at Angels Lair.   My goal here is not to rewrite what others have so well reported on as far as “who’s who” in the debate, or to blame.  My intent with this subject is to encourage a re-building of “Culture”.

Please keep three operative words in mind:  Recovering, Restoring, and Re-building.

The record of how Schutzhund culture existed is nearly lost in history, at least editorially.  Pedigrees and breeding records are the remainders of that time, and while valuable, do not give a full story of how a local club operated.  People were not the important part of the recorded history.  Call it an historical oversight, call it a Germanic culture norm.  It doesn’t matter.  Written records of the personalities and pleasures of der Hundeverein were simply not commonly written.  Maybe the people then couldn’t imagine that the culture would eventually fade away, a way of life forgotten.  Politics would always hold sway.   Politics held great influence in the early days of Germany, when schutzhund was born.  And now, politics continues to hold influence an unbalanced and militant role in our society, during what may well be the demise of schutzhund.  A potent mix indeed.

But lets talk about positive things that will help.

RECOVERING:  Whether it is recorded or not, there was a culture built around schutzhund.  Families gathered, worked dogs, discussed breeding, discussed their lives, played with the children, drank beer, grilled weiner-schnitzel, and formed a collective around something of common interest.  Wise, experienced members taught and teased.  Younger, eager members strove to learn and join the discipline.  Families supported their club in various ways.  Were they perfect?  No, but they managed.  Times were simpler, though the spectre of war was ever present.  But those people found a way to work their way through what life threw at them.  Their Dog Club provided at least something to distract them in difficult times.  Money was scarce, but their association wasn’t built on what members cash flow provided.  Status wasn’t the guiding force either, as everyone could take part, from Haus Frau to Reitmiester…  THIS is what will help us RECOVER the culture of schutzhund.

RESTORING:  This change of attitudes will require leadership.  Restoring schutzhund clubs to something worthy will not be simple, but it can be accomplished.  There are clubs and groups that have the right mix of experience and attitude.  Restore clubs, and we will restore “culture”.  These clubs must want to teach new people, young people, and be willing to create an atmosphere of welcoming.  An elitist attitude must be not be allowed.  Not everyone is going to have a puppy that will be able to reach the high echelons of competition, but if they can try hard, they should be allowed to try.  In such an environment, individuals can be taught the knowledge that will help them save both schutzhund, and the breeds that make it what it is.  Why did the German Shepherd deteriorate to the state it is in today?  Clubs weren’t around to teach what needed to be taught.  The German Shepherd suffers because a culture died.

REBUILDING:  It is clear that the politics of “schutzhund” has torn down what was once an honorable and strong house.  IPO is decidedly NOT schutzhund.  The powers- that- be within the current organizations no longer care to preserve what was.  It’s time to free ourselves of their influence and restore what was.  That will require separating from the organizations that seek only to “evolve” into something “modern”, something “progressive.”  Starting over, free of such influence, will bring back a culture that can encourage, include, and ultimately, save what schutzhund was, and can be.

You will notice that I have avoided specifics in mentioning organizations either International, or National.  I have also avoided mentioning individuals that are either working for, or against, schutzhund “culture”.  Each of us needs to do our research if we want to restore the discipline of schutzhund.  There are notable individuals out there, such as Ivan Balabanov, Jim Alloway, Brian Harvey, Deb Zappia, Meagan Kearnes, and Jim Engle, that are working in the right direction.  They may not always agree totally, but they are at least working at something.  If the rest of us want to save schutzhund, and indeed Dog-Training as an industry, we must find a way to support them.  Find a way…







I’m not sure where I first heard this expression, or if by some miracle, profundity struck me, and I just wrote them. But they got me thinking.
If you visit Facebook dog based pages, the hundreds of canine blogs in the webisphere, the countless chat rooms, or the hundreds of websites from breeders, handlers, competititors, self-appointed experts, behaviorists, academics, and other Know-it-all’s, you only learn one, single, truth. Human Beings love to fight about the most inane topics. It’s Feeding, Training, Methods, Breeding, Spaying/neutering, AKC Standards, veterinary treatment, behavior modification technique, psychological make-up of the dog, intelligence in dogs, cynopraxic methods, clickers, operant conditioning, choke chains, halties, harnesses, and the list grows and pulsates.
So in keeping with that set of variables, I had a conversation with my German Shepherds one Friday night.
Hans, my male German Shepherd, was the first to broach the subject of how to bring all of dogdom (Dogs AND Humans) to harmony and a state of unity. “Take every human that holds any certificate of completion, diploma, certification, or otherwise claims to be a professional “Dog-Trainer”, or Behaviorist, and put them all in 4 or 5 of the giant sports stadiums together.” He was just getting rolling.
“Put those people in the front rows so that they get the full impact of this gathering…Then, put everybody that claims to be a dog expert by experience alone, in the rows behind them. We ought to be pretty well into 85 or 90,000 attendance at this point. Those stadiums will be getting pretty full. Next, invite everybody else that owns a dog, and finish filling the stadiums with them.” Hans had thought this through.
“Then, we’ll invite a single dog, chosen at random from dogs everywhere, to the speakers podium in the center of each stadium. He or she doesn’t need to be highly trained, a special breed, a working dog, a show dog, or a homeless mutt. Know why? Because even the most humble dog knows more about what a dog needs and wants, than any “educated Dog Expert”. Intrigued by this plan, I simply leaned towards my big, black, dog.
Holly, our female, interrupted, “And make sure the concessions have GOOD hot dogs!”
“Thank you, Holly. Good Idea, I’ll make a note…” Hans is a detail oriented administrator. “But we digress…”
“The chosen dog, our spokesdog, will begin a speech that has been in development since man first invited the dog to the comfort of his campfire. It begins this way:

“Humans! Behaviorists! Trainers! Peddlers of psychobabble Canine studies! Clicker-twits! Koehler Creeps! Lend your ear to the dogs!!! Finally, we have transcended the divide between us! Finally we can communicate with YOU!!! Whether or not you listen and learn, is entirely on you, but I ask nonetheless! Leave behind this thing you call “Ego”! It alone has kept us apart for millennia! Never before have you asked the dog what we want! What we need! What we know!”
“You write books upon books about dogs, and our behavior, and yet never has a dog been given the opportunity to speak on our behalf, or even write his own book! That time has now come! In the interest of making sure that our message is unadulterated and clear, the dogs have taken control of your World Wide Web, which is filled with foolishness from every so-called trainer and his third cousin!” Hans was sounding apocalyptic by this time.
“The time has come to announce that from this point on, we of the canine persuasion, will be fitting all of you humans with Shock Collars! We will be Clicking in your faces every 2 minutes!” I interrupted the Black German Shepherd with a question.
“How are you dogs going to use a Clicker? None of you have thumbs!” I reasoned.
“Stop interrupting, I’m rolling. We’ll figure it out as we go…” Hans replied confidently.
“My apologies…” I offered.
“Your name will appear on our list of those with the lowest shock settings for your collar.” Hans looked sympathetically at me, but resigned to what was best for all mankind, and the dogs they had been training.
“In a few short months, most of you will have found a way to truly understand that the dog was given to you for your own good! That dogs were meant to be by your side! You will stop putting your ego ahead of truth, your “learned” opinion behind. From this point on, trainers and behaviorists that support their opinions from the hiding place of a “Phd”, will discover that these letters now stand for, “Piss here doggie”!
“Then will begin the greatest era of history for all canines! A time when humans will stop fighting over things they barely understand. Soon, balance will be restored to the way it was long ago, when dog and man lived in peace!” Hans had worked up a lather by now. He stopped and looked at me, furtively.
“What?” I asked.
“That’s as far as I’m going to go…There’s lots more that we have planned for you…but it’s best kept in reserve for now. You’re not ready…Not ready to return to the past when we worked together. There is much yet for you to forget, unlearn, and transform in your mind. Science holds no sway, and physical tools are of no value in the relationship between Man and Dog.”
“So There…” chimed in Holly.
“When Trained Properly, Humans Will Once Again Earn, from the Dog this time…the title of ‘Best Friends’…We have much to do. The proper way must be restored, and so it shall.”

I finished my Gin & Tonic, and went inside to contemplate what the dogs had said to me.


In the general interest of the Dog Training industry, one of our finest has gently laid the gauntlet down…Should this event take place, it could produce very fine fruitage. Will the Purely Positive movement accept the challenge? They have a history of ignoring such debate, so hopefully Ivan’s invite will stir one of them out of their place of hiding…We at GSA will keep our eyes on this one for sure. Here’s the invitation from Ivan himself on his Facebook page!

“Here is a very typical slogan from the Positive reinforcement movement :
“We need to promote Science based, humane practices, not outdated and cruel methods and equipment ”
Using the right wording goes long way, and it sure touches people’s hearts, after all who wants to hurt and abuse dogs?!
If there will be enough interest, I would like to invite one or two from the best of the best in the R+ movement : Dr Karen Overall, Ken Ramirez, Karen Pryor, Thad Lacinak, Ian Dunbar, Victoria Stilwell, Niki Tudge (not in any order) in a civil open discussion, debate (with an approved from both sides mediator).
We will stream it live. Together we will select the topics and also open for QA at the end.
It might as well be a paid event with all the proceeds going to dog charity organizations.
Let’s have a productive, educational conversation as we treat each other with respect.
I believe it can be done, and it should be done! Imagine if something great comes out of it?”

Here’s the link to Ivan’s page
I hope that if there is enough interest for it – we can make it happen!

I’m putting in our support to help fight legislation in the state of Florida that seeks to eliminate the use of certain humane tools, and training technique in dog training. Don’t fool yourself, these radicals are organized, determined, and well-funded. The following letters are from people at the front of the fight, Sean O’Shea, and Tyler Muto. They need the support of the right-minded majority of the dog training industry, and here’s your opportunity…Take it away, Sean. The Floor is yours.

It’s starting…

As I mentioned in some recent posts, the extremist groups are rallying hard to start the push to regulate the dog training industry. That, in and of itself sounds healthy and beneficial. The truth is, these groups have a very specific agenda – and that is to eliminate your choice of tools and your training options…under the guise of regulation and doing what’s best for dogs. I’ll tell you this, if this passes, you will see euthanasia rates skyrocket, as well as rehoming, returns to shelters, and dogs locked away in yards or back rooms.

Here’s an email from my friend Tyler Muto the president of the IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals) about the current situation and what you all can do about it. I’ll tell you this, if this passes in Florida you can bet it will be coming to your area soon. So now’s the time to do our part and prevent the inevitable suffering of dogs and owners that will come of it. It would mean a lot to me if you would read the email and see if there’s anything you’d be able to help with.


Urgent action needed on Florida legislation!
View this email in your browser

Dear Sean,
I have been informed by an inside source that the Commissioners in Florida have so far received far more letters in favor of the proposed ordinance which would require licensing for dog trainers, and heavily favors a reward-only approach. They will be meeting with the Animal Advisory Board on Friday so we need to act fast. It is crucial that we flex our muscle by sending as many letters as possible expressing opposition to this ordinance.

I have provided a template below that you can use to construct your own letter. Simply copy and paste the opening paragraph, and choose 2-3 of the bullet points to use in your statement. Then you can copy and paste the concluding statement, or use it as a reference to create your own:

Dear Commissioner:

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed ordinance requiring licensing for dog trainers. I am a dog lover and professional and I am extremely passionate about the safety and welfare of dogs.

Dog Training is a diverse field with many differing ideologies. The language in the proposed ordinance suggests that it was influenced by a singular, rather extreme ideology, and as written will lead to more harm to dogs than it prevents.

Section 3.c.3 relates punishment to “dominance training techniques”. This is a very misleading association. Punishment has nothing to do with “dominance”; it is a natural, important, and unavoidable part of learning for all animals and humans alike. This section also prohibits causing “undue physical or mental discomfort”. In theory I agree with this statement, however the word “undue” leaves it open to wide-ranging interpretation. Given the broad range of ideologies in the industry this could mean something as rational as “don’t physically beat a dog” or something as extreme and irrational as “never require a dog to do something it doesn’t want to.” The latter would make virtually all dog ownership and care impossible.

Section 3.c.4 states, “In no way shall a Dog Trainer use or promote any aversive training methods or techniques.” The use of an aversive (Negative reinforcement and Positive Punishment) is an integral component not only of dog training, but also as a part of the universal laws of learning and cognition. You have likely been led to believe that “science says” – negative reinforcement leads to fear, aggression etc. I know that this statement strikes a sensitive chord in anyone who cares for the well being of their dog(s), and leaves reasonable concerns about the possibility of trauma and abuse. The truth is there are only a small handful of studies that suggest this, and they have all been discredited for faulty research methods and clear biases. In fact the vast majority of legitimate science reports the exact opposite. As a part of a balanced training program, negative reinforcement not only adds exponentially to the efficacy of training, but also has been shown to improve the animal’s psychological resilience to stress. In other words, measured usage of negative reinforcement is an essential component to creating happy, well balanced companions that are prepared for the challenges of the real world.

The science is very clear that positive reinforcement methods alone are not sufficiently effective when it comes to managing and resolving problem behaviors. As long as people own dogs, there will be a need for some amount of aversive training or punishment. The way this ordinance may be interpreted could make it very difficult for professional trainers to properly educate dog owners about how to use negative reinforcement and positive punishment in fair, humane, and effective mays. Without proper education, dog owners will be left to improvise which will certainly lead the way to greater harm and abuse. This can be compared to Abstinence-Only sex education. In areas where Abstinence-Only is promoted, there are alarmingly higher rates of teen pregnancy and STD’s due to lack of proper education. Similarly, promoting a positive only training platform will lead to greater abuse and mistreatment of dogs.

Both positive reinforcement and punishment have their advantages and disadvantages: punishment is better for suppressing behavior, positive reinforcement better for generating behavior; avoidance (punishment) schedules tend to produce more persistent behavior than reward schedules, and so on. The effects of positive reinforcement also dissipate when the reinforcement is withdrawn, and there is no positive-reinforcement procedure (including all differential reinforcement procedures) that produces such persistent behavior as a negative reinforcement schedule. Just as any other form of learning, Positive Reinforcement protocols can also provoke aggression and have undesired side effects. There are plenty of arguments on both sides, but the net conclusion is that the scientific evidence is pretty neutral in deciding between reward and punishment. Favoring reward over punishment is inconsistent with science and the basic laws of learning.

The discussion of the “Five Freedoms” is taken from the Farm Animal Welfare council. Key descriptions of what those freedoms are intended to represent/prevent have been omitted in this ordinance, again opening the door for extreme interpretations that could be damaging for companion animals.
Conclusion: Industry regulation such as licensing should not be undertaken without careful thought as to the potential unintended consequences of the licensure requirements. As it is currently worded, this ordinance is wrought with ambiguities that can lead to extreme interpretations that would limit professionals’ abilities to properly do their jobs, and potentially lead to far greater harm for dogs in Hillsborough County. We would suggest at the very least that any attempt to regulate dog training tools, methods etc. be omitted, and all such decisions be left up to the agreement of the professional trainer and the client involved.


Physical address

In addition to writing your own letter, I strongly encourage anyone in Florida to ask your clients to submit a letter as well. Testimonials from average dog owners in the county are very powerful. I encourage statements that express situations where positive only trainers either failed or suggested euthanasia, and balanced training saved the day.

Lastly, if you have a good relationship with any veterinarians, please ask them to submit a very brief statement along the lines of:

“My name is _______, I have been practicing veterinary medicine for ________years. In that time, I have not seen any cases where a dog was harmed by the use of a prong collar or negative reinforcement in general.”

Remember, we need these submitted before Friday!!!!

Address all letters to the following addresses:

Add as cc:

Thank you for your efforts!

In your continued service,

Tyler Muto
International Association of Canine Professionals

Copyright © 2014 RSPNSV, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 928, Lampasas TX 76550
Phone (512) 564-1011 • Fax (512)556-4220islaton ur -training your chance to get involved. Read, Share, and write a letter of your own as per Tylers suggestion.

Holly4   The crowning-achievement of my time in the dog-training field came when I realized that “training” and “educating” were two very different things.  It wasn’t a realization that came in a thunderclap, but more like a slow, radiant, sunrise.  There was no individual human mentor that revealed this truth, but rather, it was a sleek, black, German Shepherd that finally got thru my fog of confusion.  That confusion was, simply, a complete misunderstanding of the difference between Training a dog, and Educating a dog.

  Trained dogs are a dime a dozen.  The right book, a couple of sessions or seminars with the trainer of your choice, a little bit of self-confident bluster, a big ol’ bag of treat morsels, and a method of discipline, and you can produce a “trained” dog.

On the other hand, producing an Educated requires a keen intelligence on the humans part, imagination, a gentle approach both physically and mentally, a calm spirit, a lack of egotism, and the ability to understand what your dog is telling you.  Those things are far more elusive to us, and no where near as fast.  Educating is far more dependant on the humans ability to recognize the emotional and mental make up of the dog.  Today, most “trainers” rely on the physical aspects, as prescribed by various “methods” of training.  If the dog obeys, and carries itself in a flattering manner, they are happy with their work.  The work grows from the negative assumption that the dog is an inferior species, lacking in cognizant intelligence and forethought.  Some methods even rely on the assumption that dogs are dumb creatures of instinct, and base behavior.  They are “just animals”, to be dominated by their human overlords.

For millennia untold, the dogs that humans have employed have been treated thusly, and are products of this mind-set.  More contemporary “science based” methods, have been touted as the ultimate understanding of how dogs think, and behave.  Most of this thinking is intended to make the practitioner look intelligent, educated, and clearly superior to the dog, and fellow non-practicing fellows.  Both mind-sets are belittling to a creature of sentience, spirit, and emotion.  Science has become religion to many modern humans, and the dog-training industry has more than it’s share of those who bow down at every behavioral study that an uninvolved Phd can muster into a published paper.  If Training a dog is our only goal, then we are missing something sublime and noteworthy.  Better behaved and happier dogs, allowed to answer to their own sentience.

Those seeking to Educate their dogs, and the paying customers dog, are doing just the polar opposite.  They focus on the emotional and mental aspects of building a relationship with each dog.  The physical will generally follow the emotional quite nicely with the right approach, and the dog doesn’t have to worry about catch-words like “conflict”, “drive”, or “operant conditioning”.  The dog is treated as a fellow intelligent being with the potential to be capable of any number of behaviors, or “jobs” if you will, quite successfully.  Helping a dog to use his intelligence, his ability to think and solve problems, only enhances what instinct and experience provide him.  Such mental health also has the added advantage of improving the physical appearance of the dog, and his behavior in social experiences with strange people, and strange dogs.

Educating a dog involves a long and sometimes tedious period of observation, experimentation, and response.  Why does the dog respond in such a way to this, or that?  What natural response is the most likely under this particular set of variables?  What factor could change that response in an instant?  How does my presence influence what the dog is doing?  In essence, It’s All About The Dog.

We must always regard that the dog at our feet is a feeling, intelligent, and capable living soul.  He is more than capable of two way communication with his companion human, giving and taking liberally.  Teaching and Learning.  It’s up to humans to sharpen our perception of how dogs learn, work, and live.  Science can’t answer that call anymore than it can teach us to fall in or out of love with someone.  Militant training methods completely ignore the perception of a dog as a thinking being.  We must combine these things for true success.

Dogs are imprisoned by this lack of understanding on our part.  Inside them, are all of the wonderful qualities that we admire, honesty, integrity, cooperation, friendship, teamwork, and unselfish love.  They are curious, humorous, adventurous, and willing.  They want nothing more than to be treated well, and fairly.  They want us to be a part of their lives, and they, ours.  This might very well be difficult for the conventionally-minded to accept, let alone put into practice.  Opinion is widespread and virulent today, and simplicity is often scoffed at by the high-minded.  The belief that we, Man and dog, are “intended” for each other by an intelligent Creator, will produce guffaws from the intellectual purveyors of evolutionary development.  But we are much more than fellow animals on this Earth.  Understanding and utilizing that fact will enable all of us to understand that we can work together with our dogs to benefit both species.

I am not questioning or belittling any method of dog-training,  unless it is actually brutal or painful to the dog..  Most modern methods have success stories to tell.  As combative as they can be, I find most dog people to be engaging, intelligent, and great company.  The numerous seminars available today, most always produce good learning experiences and new friends.  Still, however, the constant battles between the different “quadrants” of training (pun intended) have all proven to fall short in the relationships that improve our dogs lives.  All of us “know”, or at least claim to know our methods well.  But is that enough?  Are we ignoring the dog at our side as a lesser being, lacking in emotion, intelligence, and thought?  That’s a tragedy, and we, and our dogs, are better off with a new way of thinking.



benefits-of-dog-massagedog%20massage         I’m not your “new-agey, touchy-feely, transcendant being”, kind of guy. I like beer, beef jerky, and hunting. I’m happiest in wild places miles from Cable TV, Cell-phone coverage, World News anything, and batteries. I like eating broiled meat off the tip of my belt knife (which I may have scratched my back with only moments ago), and drinking coffee from a pot that has egg shells in it, over an open fire. I love eating bacon from a cast iron skillet that also has trout merrily frying away in it. I like chain saws, and double-bitted axes, and campfires that overlook blue water in deep, boreal forests.
With that manly and testosterone injected disclosure, I approach the subject at hand with an enthusiasm that shocks even me. I have seen the benefits, the connections and the results of massage for my dogs.
Your dog works hard, plays hard, and spends his days burning calories and fulfilling his need for activity. Whether he is practicing agility, schutzhund, trieball, catching bad-guys, playing fetch, or shredding your $2000.00 leather sofa, he gets tired and in need of relaxation. It’s also a great bonding between you and your dog. That’s right, this is not about getting a massage for your dog, but about giving your dog a massage yourself, strengthening the bond between you.
The Internet has a great variety of sites dedicated to Massage Therapy for Dogs. As per usual, some of them are just crazy. Place hot rocks on a dog’s body? Yeah that’ll be real successful. Not that this treatment doesn’t feel great to a human. Dogs just don’t sit still for such goings-on lightly. One other site asks you to help your dog “meditate”. Riiiggghhhhttt. The deepest thought on most dogs mind is, “Hey. I pooped in the middle of the yard. Where’s my food?”
But, in the middle of all the chaff, are a couple of wheat stalks. These are the benefits that I’ve gathered regarding Canine Massage:
Dog massage therapy promotes and improves the physical and mental health of our canine partners. This non-invasive technique of hands-on deep tissue massage can enhance the health and performance of our four-legged friends by:
• relieving tension
• relaxing muscle spasms
• lengthening connective tissue
• improving muscle tone
• improving circulation
• increasing flexibility
• accelerating recovery time of strenuous activity and even injuries.
I have taken much information from experts in the fields of chiropractic, deep tissue massage, and physical therapist. There are those that specialize in equine, feline, and canine therapies. They treat this as a physical treatment for pain, strength building, health, and welfare of the animal. It’s a Doctors practice, not a voodoo hut, or pixie-dust dispensary.
Each of my dogs react differently to massage treatments. My 8-year-old working GSD Hans, becomes a big lump of soft-serve German Shepherd, and often ends up asleep before we finish. On the other hand, it seems to energize our female GSD. We have learned that doing massage before practice or competition, fires her up!
My technique follows no specific rules from the professionals. I just observe what the dog enjoys, and they gladly communicate too me what they enjoy. I have however, made canine anatomy an area of intense study. The muscles, nerves, and bone structure of the dog is important to understand, as attempting to extrapolate knowledge about human own anatomy on to the dog is impossible. In other words, what feels good to you, might not be so good to your dog. My advice is to find a good book on Anatomy, and give it more than a cursory read. Here is one of the good examples that are not crazy expensive, or crazy in approach.
“Dog Anatomy Coloring book” – Robert Kainer
“Canine Massage- Complete Referencebook”
A brief description of how I massage my dogs will be a starting point for you. I highly recommend that you do some research for yourself, and your dog.
First, I make sure that I am calm. This also guides the dog to be in a calm state of mind. I will sit in a straight-backed chair and put the dog in a Sit, facing me. I first begin by gently stroking the dogs snout in small, circular motions with fingers only, above the upper tooth line, externally. Take your time, and work this all the way to the top of his head until you feel a “crest” on the cranium, up the center of the skull. At this point, begin to widen the circles outward, until you are behind the dogs ears. Then, move forward on the skull, following the contour of the ear bases, and then down the jaw line. Work this area, and don’t forget to rub gently around the eye-socket. Facial massage feels good too many dogs, as long as it is slow and gentle. Use this time to lift the jowls of the dog to inspect his teeth as well. While I recommend that you brush your dogs teeth daily, don’t interrupt his massage.
Now begin working backwards towards the dogs upper neck. Work your way in circular motions to the top line just behind the cranium. Work your way down the neck to the upper shoulder. Then begin working your way forward lower on the sides of the dog’s neck to the chest area. By the time I reach this stage, my dogs are trying to lie down. If so, allow the dog to do so. If not, work the dog’s neck and jaw line a bit more, in a firm but very gentle manner. Depending on his level of relaxation, it may seem that your dog wants to collapse. Success!
Now that your furry friend is lying down, either side is acceptable, give the dog long strokes down the dogs side, in the mid-line. Go slowly. The idea is to straighten out the dog’s body and put the muscles in a relaxed position, as well as the skeletal frame. Give this time to happen, say 5 minutes of gentle stroking. Then begin working forward to the dogs front chest region. It’s okay to give the dog a fingertip scratch in this area, because they are unable to reach the area, and it feels wonderful to the dog. Don’t dig in, but do scratch the area for 1 or 2 minutes. Too much time spent here might cause the dog to attempt rising, so if he begins moving, move to the next area.
I now begin moving down the dogs leg structure, starting at the scapula. Small circular motions. Then I will grasp the leg in both hands and begin massaging downward towards the joint. As I reach the joint, I will watch closely as the dog will react to any pain he may feel in the joint. Remember: This is about communicating with the dog. If you detect any pain in the joint, stop immediately. Concentrate on holding the joint between your hands, providing warmth. In older dogs, this is common. Please consult your Veterinarian for chronic joint pain, or that which may come from an injury.
Now we reach my dogs favorite part: His foot rub. Before massaging, I will gently inspect the toes, webs, and pads for anything stuck there, or small lacerations or blisters. Remove anything stuck to the toenails, and watch for what can be considered “nail snags”. I massage the feet with “Tuff-Foot” if the pads appear sensitive, or one of several other creams that treat the pad and keep them supple.
I concentrate on rubbing each toe-pad softly, and then move to the webbing between the toes, taking my time. This usually has my “Hans” stretched out on the floor and doing his best cat impersonation. If he was properly equipped, he’d PURR.
After a few moments of focusing on his feet and ankles, I’ll roll the dog onto his back and give him a brief belly scritching as a break. This puts him into a position where it’s possible to inspect his underside for bug bites, lumps, lacerations, or anything out of the ordinary. It’s very important to look and feel for these sorts of things for the sake of your dogs health. Be observant, and thorough.
I finish the treatment by rubbing down the sides of the dogs spine. Flat handed, circular motions from shoulder to base of the tail, finally checking the hips and knees of his hind quarters. By this time, the dog is usually quite relaxed. It takes less than 15 minutes to carry out this massage, and I have found that it provides a bond with the dog. It also aids your Veterinarian when he or she has to examine your dog, as the dog is accustomed to physical touch, and not fearful.
Before I wrap up this chapter, I want it to be clear that the subject here is specifically about a “relaxing massage”. Before competition, or practice, I do a more aggressive warm up massage, designed to get the blood flowing. That is another subject outside this particular book.
For now, try developing a program of massage with your dog. Do a little homework about where all the parts are, and get started. You will find that this contact will deepen the relationship you have with your dog. Start with whatever the dog will allow you to do. Try focusing on one region at a time, perhaps the head and neck, or the feet and ankles, whatever seems to please the dog most.
Enjoy the time together, speak calmly, and feed your dog calm soothing energy. Try it, and see the benefits for both of you.

Dogs Weep Not…

Posted: February 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

Dogs are the happiest souls on Gods’ shiny blue Earth. They live their all-to-short lives, trying to be positive, happy, and eager to please. Even to those who may not appreciate it. I am determined to never be unappreciative towards my dogs, whatever the situation. I will always strive to understand what my dog is trying to say to me, and return his positive thoughts in kind. Don’t we owe them that kindness?
Learning to communicate with our dogs in their unique language has many important uses beyond simple training. And I believe this communication will prove to be more important in the fullness of time, and the inevitability of life.
This occurred to me during a conversation with a close friend. My friend is a dog-lover, an artist, and an empathetic soul. Her Chocolate Labrador had eclipsed his 15th year of a very happy life, and sadly, the years were showing their inevitable effects. She is faced with that decision we will all eventually confront. This very sensitive lady was looking for something that would make an end-of-life decision less traumatic. For her.
This is not to criticize her. In the end, these decisions affect us emotionally as humans more than they do our dogs. We tend to keep them by our side as long as we can bear the pain in their eyes. And that is another reason that we need to learn to communicate, thru our bond, with our dogs. After all, they will make such a decision for themselves, and we should listen to them. I’m not implying that dogs understand the concept of death. Nor do they believe in some canine concept of an afterlife. Dogs do not practice religion, or possess spirituality. They do, however, bring praise to their Creator. What our dogs do understand is how it feels to be happy, comfortable, loved, and secure. They also know when these qualities are missing.
Your dog has communicated to you throughout its life, that it enjoyed a rousing game of fetch, that it was comforted by your presence, anguished at your separation, distressed by that man in the white lab coat poking him with a needle. Your dog also managed to communicate to you that his tummy was upset, he enjoyed the table scraps you surreptitiously slipped him, he reveled at the belly rubs you gave him. At some point, your dog communicated affection for you, by laying his head on you, secure in the knowledge that you would scratch him. Hopefully, the point that you and your dog have always communicated, is made clear. This connection will not fade at the end. It will, finally, find itself at an all-time deepness.
At the foundation of the Communicative Approach is understanding the language of your dog. I can think of no more profound event than life’s end, for our dogs to speak to us. While none of us look forward to this eventuality, it will happen. Dogs pass away from us. If we listen to our own thoughts, we are apt to prolong the process to sooth our own needs and fear of loss. But your dog has a very different viewpoint.
As a dog, his understanding of death is non-existent. He thinks not of an afterlife, nor does he wonder what lies beyond. He does understand Right Now. He may not be able to see clearly, he may not be able to walk more than a few steps, or pain may be filling his thoughts. He may feel gnawing hunger, because eating is not possible. All of these things are revealed in your dogs eyes, which still long for you to throw his ball.
Throw his ball? you say? Yes indeed. Even in their lowest state, what your dog remembers are the good, pleasurable moments you and he shared together. Ball games, running thru the forest putting his nose into any interesting nook that he came upon. Swimming in the lake, jumping off a dock, chasing the other dogs in silly games of rough- and -tumble tag. The dog remembers belly-rubs on your bed, the bully sticks that he devoured with gusto. Your dog remembers the joy he felt when you returned home to him from a work-day. The eyes of your dog are truly “windows into his soul”. Our four-legged friends have the very non-human ability to see and remember the very best of a life lived in earnest. Humans tend to jump from one misery to another. We remember in landmarks of pain, sorrow and anguish, with interspersed moments of joy. Perhaps that is a failing of too much thought. Too much focus on the negative aspects of life. It’s all too human, and canines are not possessed of such burdens.
Beyond getting too wordy or philosophical, this is how I will deal with the end of life decisions for my friend. When his eyes no longer show the desire to run, play, and enjoy living, I will allow his last thoughts to be of those things he loved best, rather than the pain of want. I will sit beside him, and remember with him. I will do this before the pain becomes unbearable for him. I will make our final moments together peaceful, without stress. He will know only that at this moment we are together, and will always be. His eyes will speak to me of autumn days in the forest, chasing his favorite toy into the rolling whitecaps in summer, training together for our work, and the joy of finding the lost. I will do my best to see that these final moments take place at home, and not in the sterile environment of a veterinary office. I will not tell him that he is leaving me. Nor will I beg him to stay. As always, I will allow him the dignity of his life, the joy of his spirit, and the beauty of his soul. When his eyes tell me, “It’s time to go”, he will not see me cry. Our time together will be happy and joyful until the sand slips thru the hourglass of his life.
Only then will I give way to sorrow, and I shall do so only in seclusion. And though it may sound so, I am not planning for my dogs death. That will take care of itself as it has for time immemorial. We will live my dog’s life in joy and celebration of each day. When my friend tells me, “It’s time for me to go…” we will part ways as we came together, with a smile and a deeply felt, “Good Boy!”