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The Power of Belief.

Posted: July 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

“I Wish My Dog Could Do That…”- The Power of Belief

Oh, the things you overhear at dog events. I was sitting at an obedience trial practice not long ago. A well-dressed lady of about 30 years old, was observing intently, as though she was sizing up the competitors. As the handlers and dogs went through their (mostly) precision routines, she sighed, and looked dismal. I heard her words before she even said them. “I wish my dog could do that!!”
Well, I happened to be the stranger she was speaking to without her knowing that I was one of the event proctors. When I proctor, I will frequently wear a jacket over my event supplied “official” shirt, identifying me as an official. You hear far more important, and interesting things when you become one of the observers, rather than an official.
I decided to go all-out “Tony Robbins” on this lady, because I had observed her dog earlier, and wanted to meet the beautiful, dark sable German Shepherd that she had brought. My original assumption was this was probably a well-trained dog that I would be seeing a lot of during this event.
“Are you competing today?” I asked her.
” I wish…” she started slowly. “But we just haven’t been able to get Loki trained well enough to even think about competing yet…she’s just way too hyper.”
“Who are you training with?” (cue my best Tony Robbins voice)
“Well, I bought Loki from a breeder in southwest Ohio, and they recommended a trainer in Athens. The lady there told me that Loki was too “high energy” to be trained for obedience or agility…she was just not suitable. After that, we tried a Petsmart class and they used a clicker. It kind of worked, but Loki was just not going to stay still long enough to learn. They asked us to leave because they said she was disruptive…They said that the breeder was probably a puppy-mill and bred poor quality dogs. They wanted me to report them…” she explained. “We attend these competitions because I enjoy watching the dogs so much, but I’m paying for buying the wrong dog I guess. But, I love her to death, so I’ll just deal with it…”

Oh, these are the times that try men’s souls…

“Okay,” I started, “Let’s talk about this. Can I ask your name?
“Karen”, she offered.
“I personally know the breeder that Loki came from. I can tell you that he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a puppy-mill. And even more, his dogs are well-bred and very capable of taking on any work you would like, and excelling at it…”
“I don’t know…” she seemed doubtful, “the trainers have been right so far. She just doesn’t respond to anything we’ve tried…she’s got a mind of her own…” she seemed resigned to this conclusion.
This was going to be a tough case, but I plowed ahead. “I’ve learned something about dogs and their people Karen. The dog feeds off our turmoil, joys, and emotions. We usually end up creating the dog we have. You sound convinced that Loki will never be capable of anything you want her to do…If I may be so bold, I’ll say this…Keep feeding that mind-set to her, and she won’t ever amount to anything, but it’s nobody’s fault but yours.” I was being more forward than I was comfortable with, but this was a tragedy waiting to happen.
“We communicate with our dogs every day, whether or not we know it. Our human emotions, attitudes, and feelings affect them as well or better than vocal communication ever could. When you say to people that Loki can’t learn and perform, and you believe it yourself, you’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy. It will happen just as you believe it will, because you gave up. You surrendered to what some misguided and mis-trained “expert” wanted you to believe because they failed you and Loki, and their ego doesn’t allow them to admit it. They can’t possibly be the problem because they are trained and “certified in the latest, most comprehensive scientific dog training method available.” This was turning into a rant.
“Can you help us?” she implored me, looking for a miracle.
“Better. I can help you understand how to help yourself. Loki needs you to help you. I can help you understand your mind-set, but you’ll have to change it for yourself! You have to provide her with opportunities to do what she already knows how to do naturally, and let her emotion and energy have something to focus on. It’s no harder for you to make her a success at obedience, than for you to make her fail.”
“It’s sounds too simple…” Karen said with a hint of doubt.
“First of all, start all over from this moment on with Loki. Forget everything that the failures have said to you. Start believing that Loki and you are going to be successful at whatever you want to do. Believe it in your heart and your mind. This is the most important first step of a journey that’s ahead of you both. Loki is waiting for you to communicate to her thru your energy, emotion and demeanor. You can do what you want to do.”
I was now repeating what I had heard a mentor of my own say to me a long time ago. It just took me awhile to get it. I pass it on now with gratitude to my mentor.
This was the first conversation that Karen and I ever had. There have been others since, and Loki and Karen are making progress with a good trainer. Loki is not only a good dog, she is a great dog with much potential.

A substantial part of communication is our attitude, our belief in what we want to do. Our dog reads that far better than we seem capable of, and it’s our fault. Every thought that crosses our mind affects our physical demeanor, and dogs are body language masters. “Belief” may sound like psycho-babble or rhetorical non-sense to you at this point. That’s fine, but in continuing to allow that mindset, your feet are walking above a treasure horde that lies buried, beyond your grasp. Science cannot, and should not, be the end-all, be-all of our training with dogs. Allow the idea that dogs have “emotion” to drive them, and “energy” to use in their activity. You can tap into it, but you need to learn that the energy and emotion you are putting out can sabotage your efforts. Believe.
It’s important for you to know that I have lived this experience myself. My 8 and a half year old German Shepherd, “Hans” was described by our first trainer as too “soft” for schutzhund or protection work. His temperament was too “social” and “pliable”. This trainer told me the only way to train him was to make him “meaner than a snake”. That trainer was an idiot.
I understood that every dog has the heart of a hunter, boiling inside of him. I just needed to learn how to allow him to use this energy when called upon to do so. My journey began with believing he could be trained without being abused by stupid human tricks. Today, I can walk into a public demonstration of dog skills and allow my boy to mingle without fear, as we’ve learned to communicate thru the heart.
But when I allow Hans to “release the beast”, he is fear-inspiring. The energy flow from this big, black, teddy bear/werewolf hybrid proves out that a positive belief in your dog can produce minor miracles. An understanding of what is happening within the dogs heart, and then adding your own positive attitude (or belief) to his energy flow is something truly special to see.
Because of my observation, I am convinced that a vital first step in communication is a belief in, around, and through the dog from the handler. Give it a try by adjusting your attitude. If you care to test my conclusion, try jumping my “soft” German Shepherd that an expert told me would never do protection work. But wear a bite suit…


One of the benefits of writing for the public eye, is the learning that I do with every post, article or chapter. The feedback you get is revealing, and sometimes deeply poignant. Other replies are so angry that you feel the heat coming off the computer screen. In the other parts of my life, I have the privilege of doing a lot of public-speaking to groups. My particular speaking- style involves being quite informal, and occasionally leaving my prepared comments for brief forays into “straight from the heart.” I always learn a lot from these events.
The biggest lesson I’ve gleaned over the years? Words and thoughts are tangible things that affect the souls around you. Use them wisely, kindly, and judiciously.
Okay, what does that have to do with being seen naked by your dog? Good question. I’ll try and make this simple. And the good news is this: You won’t feel like you need to hit the gym or the Weight Watchers section of the grocery store because of your dog.
As we learn to communicate with our dogs on a level beyond constant food treats, clicking, and leash techniques, it becomes evident that most of the communication is a one way street. The street leads from you, downhill, to the Dog. The dog reads you perfectly, but the reciprocal is mostly non-existent. The dog sees right thru every emotion, tension, and joy that you feel. He expertly bases his every move based on the emotion pouring out of his human like a faucet on the sinking Titanic. They sense our “energy”, and they read it fluently. And this works with every human they encounter. The energetic output of the human person is an open book to our dogs. Have you ever sensed that your dog doesn’t “like” someone? Sure you have. How does the dog know? How does the dog know? It’s because we are truly emotionally naked in the eyes of the dog. At least figuratively.
Dogs are perceptive beings, much as we humans are, with some differences. Dogs actually determine the value or threat of humans in very short order. Humans? We get fooled all the time, and that’s how large bridges get sold, and fake Rolexes end up on unsuspecting wrists. Go ahead, try to sell a dog the Golden Gate Bridge. He won’t go for even the best bargain basement price! Offer a dog a Reverse mortgage, and he’ll ignore you. He’s not that easily fooled.
But seriously, think about this: Has your dog ever reacted to a stranger in such a way that you wondered what was wrong with that individual that seemingly, did nothing to provoke any reaction? We humans broadcast our every emotion to the far reaches of the galaxy because we can’t help ourselves. Happy, Mad, Glad, and Sad, we broadcast all of it. We are mentally naked to the most pedestrian of dogs. Even more so to those dogs with training in protection.
Another good example of this can be seen at any dog park. There are always people to be seen, yelling or cursing at their own dog when it refuses to come to them. Other transgressions are also met with snarly remarks, name-calling or even swatting the dog. The dog reads this stuff like an eviction notice, and refuses to submit to it.
The fact that our dogs can see us as the naked, emotional, unstable, humans that we are, makes one correction necessary on our part. As handlers, trainers, or just owners, we do our dogs a giant favor by simply learning to calm our inner selves, and providing a calm, supportive, atmosphere. I’ve observed a young handler at an agility competition that further supports what I’m saying here.

The young lady had a wonderful Aussie that clearly loved the competition ring. That day, the handler was upset about something, perhaps outside of the competition. I don’t really know. But between runs, she talked to several different people and it was easy to see her anger was hanging out all over. The dog had begun hanging back from her on his leash, trying to avoid her emotional thunderstorm. As the day progressed, the dogs performances got steadily worse. As that happened, the handler became less and less patient. Her own performance became quite unsteady, and they both went home disappointed and angry. Previously, that same team had won a national level competition. This was about what the dog was seeing in his “naked” owner. Emotional energy of a negative charge.
Think about this whenever you are with your dog. What energy am I transmitting to the universe? What naked appendage is my dog seeing? We need to put on a coat of calm, with a nice turtleneck of positive attitude, and a pair of comfortable, confident, loafers. A pair of high energy, supportive and active Nike’s.
Again, this will take work and effort on our part as humans. After all, the dog can’t help but see us “naked”…Lets show our dogs the best parts!!!

It’s been awhile since I posted here, and I apologize, but life is beginning to return to some normalcy, and the book is nearing completion.  Here’s a brief excerpt for your perusal:  Enjoy!


  The Six “L’s” of the Communicative Approach

There are many ways to communicate with your dog. For the purpose of publication, the communicative approach is founded on six separate features that play pivotal roles in making this possible. I’m going to give you the only bullet-pointed list that goes with the Communicative Approach to Training Theory. I will expand upon each of them in turn. It is my intention that you examine each point, and understand the implications of each one. They are not techniques to be honed. They work with formal training methods, not replacing them. You still need to learn about your chosen method of training. But go beyond them, and embrace these attitudes, and you will find success beyond your expectations! These are not in order of importance. The priority can, and will, change and be adjusted any and even every day.
* Love Your Dog
*Live With Your Dog
*Listen To Your Dog
*Learn With Your Dog
*Learn About Your Dog
*Learn Your Chosen Method Well

You will find each of these bulleted points addressed thru the remainder of this book. Are they the entire program? Well, Yes. And No. You and your dog will find your way thru your lives together in a unique way. That’s the nature of communication, and bond-building. But these simple points will guide you thru a lot. Make them your own, make them work, for you and your dog.

Love Your Dog

I may be accused of treading the minefield of Anthropomorphizing our dogs. I promise you that I won’t, but there are good, demonstrable reasons to include “Love Your Dog”, into the process of the Communicative Approach. Let me start with the axiom, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done To You.”
That’s right, the good, old-fashioned, but time-tested, “Golden Rule”. This outstanding piece of wisdom was originally written in the Bible book of Matthew chapter 7 verse 12, about 2000 years ago. It’s origin sometimes gets lost these days, but it’s good life-counsel no matter the situation. I believe it important to recall the words of Jesus Christ in this context. No translation of the scripture says, “Do unto just other human beings…” Nope, they all say some derivative of “others”, allowing for the conclusion that it applies to all living creatures. Okay, Bible lesson finished. That didn’t hurt a bit did it?
All of the separate parts of the Communicative Approach, could technically fall under the umbrella of “Love Your Dog”, but there’s more detail to each and every one that is important . Therefore I’m using love as a separate feature.
First of all, what is your definition of “Love”? Just think it over for a bit, as there are many ways to describe love. For my purposes here, I will define Love as, A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a friend…the benevolent affection of Man for his charges …A strong, warm, personal attachment. This is not romantic love, nor is it the love of principal. No, it simply means that you are trying to treat your dog as you would like to be treated if you were a dog!
Now imagine that you are your dog. See the world thru his eyes, smell thru his nose, hear thru his ears.
From the day you brought your puppy or rescued dog home, he looked to you for nearly everything. You were the source of food, water, play, care, comfort, security, and leadership. Loving your dog means giving those things freely and in proper amounts. Allowing your dog to know, and trust, that you will always provide these things. Being prepared and willing to provide the best of these things that you can is part of loving your dog. Does your dog spend most of his time locked in a crate, or small room alone, because you’re busy? If your dog becomes sick, do you make sure that you consult a Veterinarian? Do you carefully make decisions regarding vaccinations? (This is a touchy subject, as some common vaccinations are actually dangerous and unnecessary). This requires that you make informed decisions. Will you take the time? Will your dog find itself tied outside to a post or tree in cold, heat, rain, or snow, left to create a path that it paces alone, wondering where his pack has gone? Referencing the Golden Rule, would you enjoy that lifestyle? Your dog has a sophisticated and active mind. Will you fulfill his mental needs with active play, exercise, and stimulation? Understand this: 15 minutes a day is not enough. Most behavioral problems have their source in boredom, inactivity, and lack of communication. Loving your dog means fulfilling these needs, and it takes time. Maybe more time than you realize. Never let it be more time than you are willing to give, for your dogs sake. This is a big reason why shelters and rescues are so busy and filled with dogs. Or should I call them “refugee’s”?
Is your dog an “At Will” employee? Meaning that you can “fire” him for whatever reason at whatever time? Many dogs are “re-homed” (read: “Gotten rid of”) when they become an inconvenience. Some of these are even euthanized because they become more responsibility than people want. Let me re-phrase that so you get the full impact. Some people have their pet dog put to death because they no longer want the responsibility. I grieve at the lack of “Love” that human beings are capable of demonstrating.
To sum up: What does loving a dog involve? Time, effort, money, resources, more time, research, and a bit more time. But the end results are more than worth the efforts.
You will always find that “Love” is a part of every facet of communication. It is simply putting yourself in your dogs paws and asking yourself, If I was a dog, and my owner did that to me, how would I feel?

I will give you a few examples of actions that let your dog know that they are loved and secure. Some of them will be instantly dismissed by “trainers” as foolish. Which is fine by me, as most trainers that I know who enjoy success with dogs do some of them behind the scenes, out of the public eye. Those trainers that are more concerned with having success with “owners” than dogs, will roll their eyes at my suggestions. After all, the dogs don’t pay them, the owners do.

As you initially bring your puppy into your life, and your home, there is a great need to replace several basics that your puppy relied upon for survival. The warmth and comfort of his litter. These needs are vital, and require that you understand the separation that has now occurred. Replacing those needs is now your responsibility, and honor.
For the first eight weeks of his life, the puppy has been immersed in warmth, comfort, discipline, and provision. His mother supplied all of these things, only rarely leaving her pups unsupervised. Young pups even require assistance from Mom to eliminate waste at first, a service she provides instinctively. The littermates provided warmth and comfort, in the form of what I like to call the “puppy pile”, which the mother often presides over until the pups grow to sufficient size. Do your level best to provide the intimacy of familial warmth. This can be in the form of providing your puppy an article of clothing in their crate, allowing limited access to your sleeping area with your supervision, and feeding the puppy an occasional meal strictly by hand. Think closeness, security, bonding.
Further, your puppy was provided with play. His littermates and he rolled, bit, chased, and otherwise entertained themselves every day. Sometimes, mother dogs will provide games of “chase me”, as puppies become physically able. They require “play” their entire lives, but especially as young puppies. Give them plenty of opportunity for playing.
Here with our pups, we have created what we like to call an “Adventure Box”, that we place the puppies in for brain-stimulating fun. It’s nothing more complicated than a 3′ x 3′ PVC constructed box with various bells, balls, and assorted toys hanging off it. We may hide little bites of food inside, place wind-up toys there for exploration, or any number of things bound only by your imagination. Be careful not to place anything loud or frightening there. It’s a place that should encourage exploration, curiosity, and even a little puppy mayhem. It should be fun above all.
I mentioned a word above that you should focus on. That word is “Adventure”. Your puppy, and later, your dog, needs an adventure every day. Exploring his yard, his home, his neighborhood, his family. Be cautious about what you allow puppy to get into, especially before his immune system is fully operable. Supervise him closely, but allow him some freedom to explore his world with his eyes wide open. Introduce him to people when possible, but do so cautiously. Most people, especially children will tend to approach too energetically, which might alarm the pup.
Another thing we love to do with puppies, is the Obstacle course exercise. Filled with toys, large pillows to climb, wobbly floor devices, small stairs for climbing, perhaps a large shallow container of water or plastic balls, a small teeter-totter, tunnels, and other items, it will provide all of you with many laughs, and great adventures. Your creativity is the only thing limiting you. Do things with your puppy or dog every day. There is no better way to love your dog than to make him a part of your daily life. Lots of people have dogs, and I’d like to switch gears for a moment to address this.
Many people “own” dogs. Not all of them “love” their dog. Some because it’s a status symbol to have a cute little dog in your shoulder bag. (consult People Magazine) Others because the dog is used as a tool to achieve some dubious and highly questionable honor or personal glory. (Think Michael Vick) Others don’t think having a dog thru with any understanding. (Hey…A cute little puppy! That would be a great Christmas present for the kids! What breed is it?) Others have the wrong motive entirely. (I want me a dawg that’ll attack anybody that comes around my house or property!) All bad reasons to take a dog into your family. Mostly bad for the dog.
But there also those owners/trainers that do pursue good, interactive, training for the dog, and for themselves. Credit to these good people. It’s a light-year ahead of the others. Yet something is missing.
It can be observed at schutzhund, agility, and formal dog shows. Dog’s incapable of socializing properly with people and other dogs, so they spend the balance of their time in a crate, often covered with a blanket to keep the dog insulated. The dog’s life is simply to perform when commanded. They are trained as little robots
We’ve just addressed “Love” your dog, which is a fundamental feature of communication. None of what follows can work without it. Let’s now move to the second “L”…

Live with your dog.

You will quickly notice that having a dog seems to take over your world. Maybe that’s just my experience, but I’ve noticed that dog-people seem to gravitate to All Things Dog. I guess that this is only fair turnabout, as a dog centers his life around his human.
My day generally begins at 6AM, or on those all too rare days, just before 7:30 AM. When my eyelids open, Hans is immediately alerted by that innate sense that dogs seem to possess by providence. One of my people has stirred! Time to get up! That’s part of living with a dog. It’s also one of my favorite parts. Hopefully it will be a habit that lasts for your dogs entire life. You become the center of the dogs universe. You are his very reason to wake up, to be by your side. Your bond is strong and healthy. How do you earn this bond? Where does it come from, and how does it grow? It starts early.
Hans was crate-trained as a young puppy, and he still sleeps in his private den occasionally, as his proto-ancestors did, warm and safe with familiar smells and sounds. The instant he hears my wife or I stir, he is out and on duty. I love this part of his day when his face appears over the edge of the bed, he licks his chops, and he jumps onto the bed. He needs to go out and relieve himself, but his first thoughts are of his family. Is everybody okay? Can I help? This leads to finding a snuggle spot on, or between my wife and I. Hans will lay there on the bed, usually across us, using the full force of his weight to say, I’m here, and ready to work!
Many trainers and owners will insist that dogs should never be allowed onto your bed. They may cite dominance theories, or contend that this behavior is not healthy for humans, or dogs. But really, consider what our goal is with the communicative approach. We are building a bond, a relationship. The place where we sleep is integral to our health and happiness. It is a nest of security, warmth, and physical closeness. It is a place of intimacy, and calming. What better way to build a bond with your dog than inviting his inclusion in that environment? You can control how often and how long this is allowed. Teaching the dog to be mannerly, and returning to his own bed when the time arrives is not difficult, and should be taught immediately. But the closeness of this acceptance will affect both you and your dog in positive ways that are immeasurable.
A rhythm will likely develop that you and your dog will miss when it’s interrupted or absent. Our two, one hundred pound German Shepherds, are obviously not going to fit onto our queen-size bed with two humans at the same time. So they have developed a pattern of trading off after a self-imposed time limit. When we initially go to bed at night, one or the other is welcomed onto the bed while we read, as is our habit. This usually lasts no more than thirty minutes with ours. Then the original occupant will secede their place, and retire to their “cubby” located in our large bedroom. Then dog number two is allowed a length of time in the nest with us, until we are ready for lights out. Then a simple command sends that dog to their individual bed. We have noticed many times that upon retirement, we will hear a loud, pronounced sigh from whichever dog has left and settled in. This marks their being “off-duty”, and ready for deep sleep. It sounds like contentment to us, and well-being. The reward for making happy dogs. This has become a “marker”, a guidepost in our day, and we look forward to hearing it.
It goes back to that wonderful quality, your bond with your dog. It’s attainable, and much to be desired, because it will affect the quality and success of your training together. As evidence of that statement, I offer the following observation, born from experienced observation of the dog world.

Many dogs are well-trained to perform various tasks. Agility, protection, obedience, scent work, therapy, personal assistance, law enforcement or other work. But when exercise, work or competition is over, it’s back into the crate or kennel. I have observed “well-trained” dogs that were no more than tools to their handler. When a carpenter finishes using his hammer, he puts it back into his tool box and closes the lid. Done. My personal observation has revealed to me that my dog and I work more effectively when we are “working together” as friends. Does your dog understand that he is only released from his captivity when you expect him to work? That the remainder of his time is to be spent within the confines of a very small space while you leave him to do your thing? Although much improvement has taken place within the law enforcement community, and the actual training of law enforcement dogs, this used to be an issue in the profession. An officer would take his dog to work, but when the day ended, the dog would be remanded to a kennel, in a less than comfortable block building, until his handler returned for another shift. The relationship, the bond, or lack thereof, between man and dog was purely professional. Dogs treated in this manner often attacked their handlers and ended their careers. An officer got injured by a dog that he neither understood, nor trusted. Two valuable assets ruined at one time. These days, most K9 officers are real “dog-people”, and want to serve in what has become a privileged position. Officers not only live with their dogs, in their homes, but the family becomes part of the dogs sphere of love and influence. Socialization and relationship becomes central to the equation of training and behavior. The dogs transcend being “just another tool”, and become trusted partners.
Here’s a short test. Ask yourself, Does my dog work well when he’s off-leash? Does he come when he’s recalled without hesitation? Or more specifically, Does he want to come to me? Or is he headed in the opposite direction? Try this exercise: Allowing a family member to hold your dog in place, run away (no toys or food treats allowed) in full view of the dog, about 25 yards, and then find a place to hide. If your dog was then released, would he “track you down” as fast as he could run? Or is it “out-of-sight-out-of-mind”? Does the dog care where you are? Or is he more interested in anything else? It’s important for you, as the runaway, to disappear at the end of your track. If your dog has no interest in finding you, your bond needs work. The dog must be motivated by something to be truly effective. In this instance, it’s as simple as this: I love my master more than life itself, and I must find him immediately so that we are not separated anymore.
How do you build this type of relationship?
Training and bonding with a dog takes time. It’s not just an every Saturday afternoon for 30 minutes. It starts when you get up in the morning, and ends when you go to bed at night. It involves formal training, play-time, nap-time, meal-time, and even some canine style rough-housing.
In the beginning of my career, I advised attendance to, and took part in Puppy Pre-schools. Fifteen or twenty puppies and their families, all gathered together to “socialize”. There were obstacles to climb, tunnels to traverse, vacuums to contend with, and various other activities. Normally, these “classes” lasted 4 or 5 weeks, one day per week for a couple of hours. This type of class can be useful, even beneficial. But be armed with this proviso: They can often be viewed by the “Trainer”, as a Profit-Center of their business and a living way to advertise their further training programs. Those programs will be two or three weeks “in-residence” programs, apart from you. You will simply pick your dog up when it’s finished. Supposedly, you will have a “trained” dog. At least the “professional trainer” will have a trained dog, but you have been excluded from the program. I soundly disagree with this mentality if you want a “trained-dog” for yourself. You Must Be Involved In The Process for real success. If a puppy school is more about advertising future training for your dog than actually involving you and your family, walk away. If you have certain breeds, (German shepherds, Malinois, Dobermans, Huskies and others) you will be told that you will NEED the trainers help with the whirling dervish that you have brought into your home. The “trainer” will go to great pains to inform you that this dog will only respond to “his” (or her) program, and that without his (or her) help, you have the makings of a disaster. While I have no problem with making a living, I will advise you to only hire a trainer that is as interested, and capable of teaching you, the owner, as he or she is in teaching your dog. You must be deeply involved in the program, at your dogs side, and holding the leash. I am seriously opposed to Board and Train programs, if you want a dog that responds to you as the handler/owner.
There, I’ve angered an entire industry, an entire segment of dog-trainers. Sorry gang, but handing over a dog that has been trained for weeks by an outsider, and then given back to the owner with a “whole hour” of reintroduction/instruction is irresponsible, and not affective. Especially with the working breeds. Find a “trainer”, not a salesman. Sadly, there are many people that hang out a sign that proclaim themselves as dog-trainers. They are certainly great “salesman”, and often have impressive facilities. They are great business people. They exist to make profit from whomever will lay down a couple thousand dollars for their “programs”. You are only required to open your wallet.

So what should you do? Interview trainers. Ask big questions. Interview their customers. Ask for their opinions and experiences. Better, and somewhat easier, find a local club that does obedience, agility, schutzhund, or some other discipline, and get to know people there. You will find guidance, meet people of like-mind, and find your “trainer”. Or better, a mentor, and even a group of mentors.

Such a club is only the very beginning of what your puppy requires. You must both enroll enthusiastically into the school of “you”. You must be the most interesting thing in the world to your dog.
During this time period, at home, let your puppy wear and drag around a light leash in a supervised atmosphere. It allows him to get accustomed to it. Also, play hide & seek games with toys or small treats. Make it a game, not a work session. This is also a good time to develop focus from your puppy. Using a happy, encouraging tone of voice, speak to your pup, while moving excitedly in front of him. Get his attention by being interesting to watch. When, and only when, the two of you have eye contact, give him affection. Give him praise, call him by his name. I like to name this behavior, “focus”, verbally to the puppy, immediately. Even the small gestural signal of pointing to your own eyes while verbalizing “focus”, can aid the puppy in learning this important behavior. Dogs read hand signals exceptionally well. Before moving on, I want to bring in another important side discussion. The use of treats in training:

You will have far less need for a pouch full of oily treats when teaching this way. You are the treat. One of the pillars of the communicative approach is to limit the use of training with treats. Use praise and affection instead. Early on, when I began training, I wore a pouch on my belt so that treats were plentiful, and at the ready. In some ways, I paid the price. The dog wouldn’t do anything without being paid to do so. A huge majority of trainers, looking for the quickest results, rely heavily on treats. Yes, it works. But the dog becomes spoiled, and your bond will have been built on a shaky foundation. Don’t ever rely on treats to anchor your training together. Shortly, you will be the focus of his eyes whenever you are together. I use them at the beginning of scent training, and I am in no way condemning them as a tool, but learn to work without treating every time you have the simplest success. Save them for after the whole lesson is finished. Why? Because it will allow you to be the most interesting thing in his world.
I will be taken to task by many trainers that use food as their training foundation. I will be applauded by many others. Those who are wholly dependent on treats, risk behavior problems that will make their appearance later on in the dogs life. If you want dependability in your dogs obedience, don’t begin by anchoring them in the treating habit. As an example: A client had a dog that learned when he stole loose articles of clothing, such as socks or underwear carelessly left about, he was paid to release the article with treats. Gradually the dog got to the point where releasing the article required more and more desirable treats from his two-legged servant. The dog “learned” that if he wanted a tasty morsel, it was only a stolen sock away. This is extremely difficult to train away, so don’t start it in the first place. This behavior will always be present with this dog, unless extreme measures are taken. Measures that work against the communicative approach.

Building the bond involves being together as much as possible. You need to make the effort of taking your puppy, and later, your dog, everywhere allowable. Take your puppy with you wherever possible during these first 2 or 3 months, being careful to watch over the pup when people or other dogs approach. These are formative times for the pup, and a bad experience becomes a life-altering experience.
This covers the early weeks of your bond-building. Make it fun, and make it interesting. Help your puppy to want to be with you. Look for interesting, but safe places to explore together. Let him try stairs if he is so inclined, and different types of surfaces that are safe.
Living with your dog is much different than just training with your dog. In our home, the dog is present and well-behaved when we eat, have company, clean house, or whatever the family is doing. His private den (his crate) is beside our bed, (which actually makes a great bedside table). My point is simply this: Live with your dog. Don’t treat him as a rake that hangs in the garage until you have leaves that need to be raked. Will he get in the way occasionally? Yes. Will you wish that he’d go lay down somewhere out of the way sometimes? Then teach him courtesy, and a solid “down-stay”. Given time patience, and training, your dog will be no more annoying than your children.

One bit of counsel is necessary here, for the good of many. Do Not, please, purchase a vest or cape online or anywhere that says’ “Service Dog In Training” accessories or “Therapy Dog” identification, and attempt to take your dog into establishments that do not normally welcome dogs. This is becoming more and more common, and the practice is causing huge problems for those that actually need the assistance of a truly trained and certified Service Dog. Trained Service dogs do not jump up on people, attempt to steal food in restaurants, bark or lunge at passersby, or urinate/defecate inside. Yet, this is being seen more frequently than ever before. There are professional organizations that provide and train specifically selected dogs for these needs, for people that need them. Nine out of ten “dog-trainers” are not even qualified to train true Service dogs adequately, and even fewer, to train the human part of the team. A new title being bandied about is “Emotional Support Dog.” A title and need that I fully support as vital. But these do not constitute a Service Dog as described by ADA standards. Carrying a chihuahua into a restaurant in your over-the- shoulder bag is not a Support dog. Walking an eighty pound Malamute into any store because you believe he is trustworthy is both foolish and illegal. Be responsible please. Tragedies have happened, and will continue to happen, if every dog owner takes unnecessary risks like this. Access to public places will be severely curtailed for legitimate users of Service dogs, and that is truly tragic. I understand that this may anger some, but I make no apologies. Currently, there are very few written laws regarding this issue. Many are held up in the halls of the lawmakers, waiting to figure out how someone can make money off the law. This needs attention.
There certainly are places where pet dogs are welcome! Many Building Supply stores such as Lowes, or Home Depot, Rural King, and others welcome well-behaved dogs. Take the opportunity to visit them with your puppy on-leash, and enjoy the socialization and the attention. But use common sense. Not everyone in the public will provide a positive experience for your puppy. Closely monitor how people, especially young children, approach the puppy, and don’t allow anyone to give the puppy treats.

Since Hans passed, it seems that nearly everything in my life has changed.  So many changes that they just weren’t processing in my head.  I wasn’t quite sure how I would ever get around all of them…

First, we’ve finally made our much desired move back to my favorite place in the entire world, Northern Michigan.  I’ve joined a wonderful Boarding /Training facility there, called Paws and Claws, and it already feels like home.  CarolAnn has joined me in working there as well, and that’s a unique pleasure.  Many other changes have taken place in living arrangements, our regular worship, different friends, new friends, new challenges…But Hansie’s death still hangs over me, like a wet blanket.  He’s not where he belongs.  He’s not where I need him.  Mostly, I realized, he’s not where I want him.  But there’s nothing that I can do about it.

The curative power of place seems to help.  A couple of days ago, I awoke early, even for me, an avowed morning bird.  There was only twilight, sprinkled with birdsong, as I dressed to walk into the morning.  I had slept lightly, the world whirling in my brain most of the night.  I don’t know what was moving me to walk, but here I was.  As I walked to door, I saw Hansie’s leash hanging in it’s place, a black mark on the wall behind it from constant rubbing against the drywall.  It hadn’t been touched since his interment in the glade where I put him to his rest.  Somehow, this morning, it seemed to call to me.  I took it down, put the loop over my hand, and went out the door.  Just me and a leash that was firmly attached to eight years of intense memories.

The path thru the pine forest is well worn, pungent with earthy smells, and alive with bird calls.  Hans would be here, nose to the ground in a better world, a world where he was still alive.  But that is not to be, and I feel diminished.

I sense that it’s time to move ahead  with life. For the time being, I’ll give Holly, our other German Shepherd, more attention, and there are lots of other dogs at work to focus on.  Our return home has had the positive effect of rejuvenation on me though…Out of the city environment, away from the traffic and grayish brown air, there’s a new enthusiasm for…WEll, just everything.  My work at Paws and Claws is actually fun, and I feel motivated to do my work again.  Our circle of friends has grown as well, and our circle of old friends has taken on added importance.

Still, I hold an empty black leash in my hand.  I have decided to hang it in a our new home on a peg with the other leashes.  Will I attach it to a new puppy anytime soon,?  Or should it become a memory that stays where it always belonged?  I haven’t answererd that question yet…But I have finally come to terms with the world as it now is for us.  I’m glad to be home, happy to be alive, and once again feeling like writing.  Life goes forward, and I’m ready to move with it.

Thank you Hans, my dear friend.  You will always be on your leash at my side…

Effective care of Paws…

Posted: May 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

Source: Effective care of Paws…

The dog training world goes thru waves of adjustment on a continual basis. One week, everybody is fighting over technique or method and which is “The Best”. Or which is “Science” and which is the complete opposite. You can’t put 3 dog trainers together on Facebook, or a chatroom, or Instagram without starting a veritable war of words. It’s taken me time to gain experience, training, and observation to finally figure out what’s really important to be a dog trainer. I consider this hard won and well earned knowledge. And when I reflect on my own work, I can identify six qualities that make it possible. They have nothing to do with training method, types of tools used, or being a natural-born trainer. Most individuals are capable of cultivating these qualities, with just a little thought. And maybe just a bit of personal introspection. It seems to me that these qualities apply to a great many human pursuits, take your choice, but I am applying them to dog trainers. These traits, when applied by more of us, would lessen, if not eliminate the atmosphere of the dog training community at large. Let’s face it, we are frequently less than welcoming, egotistical, and sometimes just downright mean. Not ALL of us, but still too many. But I don’t need to describe the Dog-Training industry in all of its less than professional behaviors. You already see it clearly yourself. Even the dogs know the best from the worst…Especially, do the dogs know.


Above all else, a Dog Trainer must possess 5 qualities.  Patience, Kindness Persistence, Reasoning Ability, Excellence in Communication, and Humility.


There is much more to training dogs than pure technique. These qualities will also make us better people.  And after the last year or so, our society needs better people of every stripe.

As individual trainers, it should be safe to assume that we have all raised dogs of our own. (If you haven’t, then it is impossible to call yourself a “trainer”.) You’ve enjoyed successes, and failures with your dog. You have learned the eccentricities and personality of “Your” dog. You have seen your dogs personality and temperament, and learned to adjust his training, (or lack thereof) to that set of variables. You have spent many hours with your dog, working, playing, relaxing, traveling, and just “being with” your dog. Without concentrating on it, you have developed a “Relationship” with your dog. Without “relationship”, neither you or your dog will be truly happy or fulfilled. This important fact must be taught to every student that you work through your program. That begs the question, “How do I teach my students HOW to build a relationship with their dog?”

The 6 qualities above are the foundation. We do not consider them as a “Secret” formula that creates a good dog. They do not “anthropomorphize” the dog, (Treating it as a human being). They DO allow a dogs willingness to learn and comply with us, to fully blossom. They do allow for us to provide discipline to our dogs. Discipline that makes many useful behaviors possible. Let’s discuss each quality individually, and learn how each is vital to practice.



No dog is perfect. They are a living beings with drives and motivations uniquely their own. Never expect a dog to perfectly obey all the time. When the dog doesn’t perform as you want, consider what outside influence may be affecting the dog at the moment. Do not yell at the dog, as this is simply ineffective at best. Never hit a dog with hand or stick, out of anger. This builds distrust. And this is not how discipline works in a dog’s mind. Failure to obey on a dogs’ part is usually the fault of you, the trainer. The dog may not understand the meaning of your command yet. There might be other factors. LOOK for them, and see things from the dogs standpoint. Adjust your technique according to the needs of the dog in front of you. They are individuals with unique needs.

Patience is also important to demonstrate with your human student. Some people will understand your direction with ease. Others will take longer to understand, and imitate your example. Some of them might even disagree with your method. Be patient and prove yourself by showing success with their dog. There are many examples of this that can be cited. During a Scentwork class, a certain dog owner was adamantly opposed to any sort of “Clicker Training”. The masterful trainer that was teaching the seminar, patiently demonstrated the Why and How of using his technique, demonstrated the mechanics involved, and by the completion of the class had won over the gentleman. As trainers, we will always find that people are more difficult to train than dogs. Humans have the attributes of Opinion, Bias, and Ego. Dogs are not burdened with these “higher functions”. But people are, including yourself as the trainer. Be Patient, Be skillful with your technique, and convince quietly.




This is basic Human behavior 101 for anybody. Humans AND Dogs. Any need of bullet pointing features of “How to be Kind” would be an unnecessary burden. And maybe even boring to you. And the techniques are surprisingly similar between people and dogs. Ask yourself these questions: Does this action help and encourage the dog/person? Does this action demonstrate the needed behavior clearly? Will the dog/student leave my class anxious to continue training with me? Will my actions cause my student to enthusiastically recommend my services as a trainer to other people? Does the student feel free to ask me questions, or even question my method in a reasonable manner? Does my customer feel that my fee was money well spent? How do the dogs respond to my approach?



Failures are inevitable. Either with a dog, or a student. Nothing and No One is perfect. How you handle failure or disappointment is the true indicator of being a Good Trainer. Never give up, especially if the problem is a human being. You will eventually encounter a human being that will try to convince you that you are a terrible trainer. This person will also try to convince other people that you are a terrible trainer. That’s the nature of this business, and many others. Learn, Practice, Train, Observe, and Convince yourself that you are doing good work. Be willing to forge ahead, while being humble enough to know that there’s always something to learn from someone else. But also work on being convinced of your method as a successful method.

You will eventually encounter a Dog that refuses to respond to you. It might be a personality clash. It might be a technique that doesn’t quite fit the dog in question. Persistence demands that you try a different technique. Which might require more effort on your part. If it’s a personality conflict, then persistence might require that you promote the dogs success by passing the dog along to a different trainer. That requires humility, but demonstrates that you want the dog and trainer to be successful. You are Persistent in making your customer successful by whatever method necessary. Dogs are a terrific example in the art of persistence. If something doesn’t work for a dog, in gaining what it wants, it will continue to try other methods. They waste no time in repeating methods that don’t work. They have no EGO that controls them from trying something different.


Reasoning Ability:

As a dog trainer, there is great value in just STOPPING. Think about things without the burden of having a decision that needs to be made NOW. We can all benefit from systematically solving problems, and celebrating our successes. An unreasonable person focuses on the negative. A reasonable person finds something positive in each day that bolsters our enthusiasm for our work, and indeed, our life. When a problem presents itself, and it will, reason your way through it. Stop, make a list of possible solutions, make a list of people that might be able to help you solve the problem, make a list of why this problem needs to be addressed, or reasons why you can ignore it as unimportant. Train yourself to react to everything in a controlled way. Ways that don’t make the problem even worse. Be systematic with your difficulties in training, running a business, or dealing with people.



Excellence In Communication:

Most failure has roots in poor, or at least unclear, communication. A dog that doesn’t obey a command doesn’t have a full understanding of the command. Or hasn’t had the consequences of disobeying the command clearly communicated. People are much the same. When they don’t follow our lesson properly, we may be lacking in clearly teaching it. Communication that works successfully requires us to “Think on our Feet” at times. If the student (dog OR human) isn’t getting it, change the communication to fit the student. You will be required to figure out the “why” of the problem. Don’t let a dedication to a particular method stunt your appraisal. Be willing, and capable of learning an alternative if it seems more effective. You might be lead toward something entirely foreign to your current methodology, and that should be acceptable to a real trainer. Above all, take the time to observe, question, listen, and ask someone for help if you can’t solve a problem. Every successful trainer, every famous trainer, has been in that position. Every one of them used their power of communication to move forward. They were then capable of communicating more clearly with their students/client.



Humility used to be a prized possession. It was an admired quality, a gold-standard of how a person was viewed by others. Human society, fueled by bad influences from powerful forces, tends to evolve in what is and isn’t acceptable. The attitudes of media and political figures has degenerated into an egotistical, self-aggrandizing, circus of “Me-First” and “I’m the Greatest____________ in the World.” Today, humility gets you pushed aside by the more aggressive, domineering, and self-absorbed individual. When we should ask, “How can I improve myself?” we tend to find justification for believing that we are special and therefore superior to that trainer. A lack of humility may not affect the dogs you are training at all. (Though it can.) But it most assuredly affects the people we train, the trainers we work with, our employees, our employers, and the training community in general. If you can learn and practice humility, you will find that you will collect the very best trainers and people to your side. They will help you, and you will help them. Our profession will be much improved, and pleasant to be associated with, if not society in general. Personally, I have four individual trainers of my association, that have shown me the value of Humility. Each of them is a far better, more experienced trainer than myself. But each of them has allowed me to stand by their side and learn without feeling lesser of myself. As I gain experience, I know that I will also demonstrate this towards those that I may influence in whatever small way.




I hope you find some value in what I’ve written here. In what is now my tenth year of working with dogs full-time, I now feel that this has come full circle back to me. I have been blessed to meet many outstanding people while learning and growing personally. In many ways, this post has been the longest in coming to fruition. It has quite truly taken me 30 years to write this piece. That long to absorb, observe, and finally accept much of what I’ve written. I’ve seen the Best and the Worst of this industry, and a couple of others as well. So many stories that need to be told, so many that should never see the light of day. In order to honor my mentors, carry on their example, I need to light my own torch, raise my own banner into the wind. We should all attempt to put our best foot forward everyday, and I sometimes despair that the world has lost any interest in this simple task. My small, perhaps insignificant, contribution to this noble responsibility may sway or convince no one. But I’m doing it anyway, because I can. And should.