Monday, 21 November 2011


On a Trail Walk with Part of My Own Dog Pack
Dog fights between dogs living in the same family happen for various reasons. The dogs may have been living together for a while when suddenly one day a fight breaks out. The dog’s people may be caught totally off-guard and have no idea what sparked the fight. Or you may have recently adopted a new dog as a companion for your existing dog. What ever the case, sometimes fights do occur.

It is very important to understand how to intercede and resolve such conflict early on, as failure to do so can result in development of repeated stressful behaviour, and can quickly escalate to psychological and/or physical harm…to the dogs and yourself.

Usually, with a little proper pack leadership the dogs can learn to co-exist in peace and harmony. As Pack Leader it is your job to coach and mentor your dogs so that they learn how to get along in a socially acceptable manner with each other.

If you have no prior experience with this sort of behaviour and suddenly find yourself in the midst of a dog fight it can be a very stressful experience. When we add our stress to the situation - fights can become even more intense. Stress creates stress.

FIRST LET ME SHOW YOU HOW ONE DOG FIGHT CAN TURN INTO A PATTERN OF REPEATED BEHAVIOUR…this will help you to understand what you should not do!

The first time the dogs engage in bickering you are caught off-guard. You may find yourself shocked, upset and anxious. You may have split the dogs apart and even put them in separate rooms/spaces.

Caught off-guard, and upset you are in an excited-reactive state. The dogs were in an excited reactive state. As the dogs look to you for direction your unintended reaction (fear, anxiousness, anger) reinforced the dogs state. It tells them my human feels the same way I do so I am justified in feeling that I should be excited, aggressive reactive. You led by example – the wrong example. Not your fault – it is natural for people to do react in this way. But, it is important, moving in to the future to learn to be self-aware and self-disciplined in order to have the ability to shut down the situation as opposed to feeding the situation.

If the dogs were separated by being placed in separate rooms while they were still in fight mode - they will likely engage in another fight in the future. Why, because they left the situation still in fight mode - this has taught them that fight mode is normal and acceptable…you have not presented them with an alternate method of coping with the situation.

If instead the dogs are coached to calm down in each the presence of each other and then allowed to remain together they leave the fight mode understanding that good social behaviour is expected and is the norm. They have been presented with an alternate method of coping.

At this point the dogs have acquired psychological trauma to one degree or another and so have you. Dogs are extremely sensitive they read our body language and are one of the few animals that look at the left side of our face to read us. Dogs are also one of the few animals that have a very similar musculature facial structure to humans. When you anticipate a fight, when you are nervous or uncomfortable the split second that thought is in your mind your dogs know, becasue dogs are such acute, sensitive and aware communicators - much more so than the untrained human.

In addition, if your dog happens to have Heightened Sensitivity (HS), your dog will excel at reading your thoughts and your real emotional state even more quickly and adeptly than a dog that is not an HS dog.While HS is an asset when understood, it can lead to more stress and anxiety if proper understanding and direction are not available to the dog(s).

I am going to provide you with a series of links to additional articles a little further below. Read the articles to understand more about how your emotional state effects your dog’s behaviour. These concepts are pivotal in understanding how you, the human create unwanted behaviour in your dog and conversely how you can learn to create good behaviour. 

The basis for change must start with you. If you want your dogs to have self control and self discipline you have to start by having self control and self discipline yourself. If you do not apply yourself with 100% dedicated, focused effort and if you are not 100% honest with yourself you will not be successful in achieving a positive outcome. If you cannot change your habits, your dog will have no choice but to continue to behave as he/she is currently doing. Change will not be instantaneous - you have to invest time and honest effort. 

If you skimp on reading these articles , if you do not take the time to calmly sit-back and absorb what is being said in the articles, then analyze where you have gaps in your current skill set and start working on improving your understanding and skills. 
  • Dogs are excellent communicators - much better than an untrained present-day human;
    • And for the most part dogs do exactly as their human tells them to do;
    • The problem is that most people are not aware or disciplined communicators, and as a result do not understand what they are truly communicating;
    • The implication ofthis is that it is the human who must be trained;
    • The dog simply needs to be effectively communicated to;
    • Self-awareness and self-control, self-discipline must come from the human first and only then can such control be expected of the dog;
    • Too many people blame their dog, when in-fact it is the human that has created the seed of the behaviour, then enables and maintains the overall environment (physical, mental) that perpetuates the situation;
    • Want your dog to be better behaved? You have to learn to be better behaved first - this is an example of the importance of following true and pure logic - dogs love logic much and hypocrisy not at all;
  • Dogs have more patience than most present-day humans;
  • Patience is not just waiting polity for something you want;
  • Patience is also having the great will, determination and persistence to adhere to something you want, need or think you require, think you need.
The implications of the above are many - the most difficult of which for many people is the concept that:
  • It is not your dog that is bad;
  • It is that you misunderstand and misdirect your dog, and;
  • Then blame your dog for your lack of understanding;
  • Leaving your dog no choice but to continue on with its current behaviour.
Treats do not correct imbedded, intense behaviour nor does forceful dominance - employing intelligence which matches a dog's intelligence corrects behaviour. Dogs are much more intelligent than most people realize and until one understands that concept you will struggle to correct unwanted behaviour. Read the following articles...


#1 By taking full responsibility for the situation:
  • Do NOT blame the dog(s);
    • Change must start with the human's acceptance that the human has  a huge role in the development of behaviour in their dogs - good and bad;
      • This is the first step in enabling change - and it is a hefty responsibility as you must first look at your own weaknesses - help for that further below;
      • Many people choose instead to ignore this truth as to accept it means you must be selfless;
        • Dogs excel at being selfless, it is an attribute of the species;
        • Humans more quickly embrace selfishness - we have to work at being selfless, and that is a trait of our species; 
        • Most humans have to work hard at learning to have self-control;
        • If you are not quite there yet you may be inadvertently creating the same condition in your dog while blaming him/her for the situation;
  • If you have or when you do take the time to read the articles listed just above you should now, or will understand this important truth;
  • If what I have just written in these bullets has irritated you, made you feel indignant or even angry - then the trigger for your dog's unhealthy behaviour is now obvious.
If all you are going to do is use physical force to attempt to intercede and stop fights you will fail to change your dogs' behaviour for the better. You do not have to be a physically large person to achieve success (teaching your dog's not to fight). I am only 5'-4" and about 110 pounds. I work with dogs that are much larger than I am. What you have to do is train yourself first...psychological control of yourself is a powerful asset. 

Many people tell me that they put their dog on it's side and it still wants to fight. Well no kidding - you skipped 99% of what you need to do and simply tried to use physical force to roll your dog. You did not coach and mentor your dog and you did not change your own bad habits - you simply employed physical force - you became aggressive and overly physical - you matched your dog's state. I very rarely ever roll a dog on its side and I work with a lot of dogs. Including dogs that are very-reactive, dogs that have learned to control humans by deploying very aggressive tactics. I also work with a lot of people and most people have no idea what patience really is. Patience is something that many people assume they have, but after working with me they realize that they were actually very impatient.  The solution to the problem of dogs fighting will not be found by simply pinning your dog on its side...

#2 - You need to do is train yourself to be aware of your own emotional state...
As you must lead by example it is very important that you leave all fear, frustration, tension, behind you. Disengage your emotions and engage your working mode. Working mode must be calm, confident, assertive, directive…no emotion, no anticipating and imagining that the dogs will behave badly. Instead you must feel with every fibre of your being the expectation that your dogs will listen to you…that is leadership.

Your dogs will only listen to you if you are truly and deliberately calm-confident. No panicking, no fusing, no scattered panicked movement…just deliberate, confident, directive calm action in your movement; in your tone of voice; in your thoughts, in your breathing in your mind, your emotions and your body language. Whatever it is that you want your dog to be you must be that thing first. So, if you want calm you must attain that state first yourself - thereby exemplyfing the concept of true leadership.

If you relax and believe that the dogs can get along it helps them to get along – surprisingly so! The thoughts you cary in your mind and heart change the minutia of your unconscious body languade, It is also very important to learn how to stop the reactive - aggressive behaviour before it escalates.

Never, ever try to stop aggressive behaviour from an angry or tense state of being – you just reinforce the aggression in your dog as you are in the same state as the dog.

Do not look to dominate your dog, but instead to coach and mentor it.  To coach and mentor you must be calm, patent and confident.

Learn to observe and read your dog – don’t anticipate but you must strategically address when behaviour starts. If you anticipate you will spark the incident. Instead just observe your dog’s body language. If you see that your dog is starting to fixate – disagree before the behaviour escalates.

To disagree - be calm confident and touch your dog quickly, firmly with the tips of your fingers at its waist or neck (this is giving the dog a quick nip or bite) and say ‘hey’, or ‘no’, or ‘shh’. Make sure the intensity of the bite and your voice matches the intensity of the dog – but do not match its state…be calm, confident. Dogs that are in a fixated over-threshold state are much like a person in a rage state - they are focused on the attack, flooded with adrenalin and may turn on and bite another dog or person who gets into their physical space - for this reason it is important to be aware of a) how you place yourself into the situation and b) your own state of mind - emotional neutrality is a situation defuser (directive calming), while being emotional is a situation escalator (exacerbates the rage state).

If you do not stop the reactivity in-time and the dogs engage – do not yell – just quickly but calmly move-in. Pull the dog (who is the aggressor) off of the other dog by getting a firm hold (but its collar if it is wearing one) and lift the dog straight up. Pulling the dog horizontally away can cause skin tearing/damage to the other dog.

Pulling up forces the dog to release its hold on the other dog, as the alternative is for the dog to choke. Once the dog has released its grip on the other dog, maintain your hold of the aggressor dog and put him on his side. 

Hold him there until he calms and stays still - remember do not be angry - be calm, directive and patient. While doing so direct the other dog to calm – ‘sit’. At this point you need to be calm – not excited, do not remove any the dogs from the room. Keep the aggressor on its side…be patient, wait until the dogs eyes start to close…at this point its rage has passed. You can then let it sit-up. If it is not calm put it back on its side. When calm let the dog sit up…and have the other dog come over and sit quietly or stand quietly in calm together. 

Both dogs need to leave the situation:
One - not having dominated the situation;
Two - calm and behaving in a socially acceptable manner;

The dogs will start to understand that:
One - reactive behaviour is not acceptable;
Two - that the outcome will always be the same – calm, social interaction will be accepted, any other behaviour will be addressed and corrected.

If you have stopped walking your dogs together you also need to start walking the dogs together again. If you are calm, confident and not tense they will accept being walked together and working together. You have to normalize their being together again.

Just remember no tension on the leash, no anticipating fights – your dogs will relax. If one does start to get reactive just touch and direct ‘no’ or ‘shh’ immediately. Have a stronger will, more determination, patience and persistence than the dogs have.

Timing is important and so is consistency. Catch the behaviour before it escalates and the dogs quickly learn not to bother pushing the threshold. Dogs prefer to receive calm, firm, fair direction, have rules, boundaries and limits - providing real leadership to your dog allows him/her to relax.

Dogs get into fights when they:
  • Are insecure - most aggression has its root cause in insecurity;
  • Get over-excited, flooded, overstimulated;
  • When a dog does not have to 'ask' permission before proceeding (i.e. dog bolts out the door, pushes past you down the stairs, grabs food the second the food drops to the floor etc.) - boundaries and limitations do not exist.
  • In the absence of leadership an unbalanced dog may seek to correct another unbalanced dog;
  • When the human fails to provide clear communicative direction...
5 Steps to a Direction

Providing a direction to your dog consists of five steps, not one…
STEP 1 - Get your dogs attention;
STEP 2 – Tell your dog what you do not want him/her to do;
STEP 3  – Tell your dog what you do want him/her to do;

STEP 4 – If your dog is not quite understanding or responding to your direction :

1)     Take a look at how you are directing your dog - are you emotionally neutral? Or are you emotionally engaged? You should be emotionally neutral.
2)     You may need to firm-up the direction. Make sure you are what you want your dog to be. For example if you want your dog to be patient you must be patient first! If you want your dog to be calm you must be calm first. Stand grounded, breath deliberately and deeply, give the command and then follow the command up by taking another deep breath.
3)     Remember to hold/sustain the command.  
a)     Give your dog the grace of time - i.e. 10 to 15 seconds to respond;
b)     This will give his/her brain and body time to coordinate;
c)      By waiting and holding the command you also reinforce the command indicating that you are serious and committed to seeing it through;
d)     You want your dog to stop and think – you must stop and hold.
e)     While waiting do not repeat the command.
4)     If your dog chooses to ignore your direction then go to the next level of command…for example you
a) Snapped your fingers to get your dog’s attention;
b) You indicated to your dog with your arm/hand that he/she should leave the space, and go sit down and your dog has refused to follow the direction…then the next level of command could be to move into the space your dog is occupying and provide direction a), b), and c) again. If your dog still refuses to comply go to the next level of direction – herd your dog out of the space, show it where you want it to go instead and show it what you want it to do instead…i.e. sit and stay.

STEP 5 – If your dog goes back to adopting the unwanted behaviour go back to Step 1 and follow through.

Be That Thing That You Want Your Dog to Be
Lead by the Right Example
Remember if you want your dog to be in a certain state you must be that thing first! You can’t teach your dog something if you are in the same state as your dog.
Direct Effectively
Use the least amount of Intervention
Don’t over-direct…always use the minimum possible intervention, and if you don’t get the looked for response firm up your command. If you start out by directing at maximum intensity you will always have to use maximum intensity even for low level situations.
Match Your Dog’s Intensity – Not His/Her State
Be the Polar Opposite
Don’t direct harshly – the intensity you put behind a direction should match – not exceed your dog’s intensity. If you are too soft you will not get your dog’s respect if you are too harsh, too intense you will create insecurity and/or aggression.

Never match your dog’s unbalanced state by bringing emotion (i.e. ire, frustration, anxiety, etc.) into the situation
Watch Your Mouth!

Be Aware of your Body Language
Remember your dog can read your face – your stance…for example compressed lips mean tension, anger, frustration, open your mouth slightly, breath and this will naturally relieve some tension.

Watch Your Stance – Ground Yourself!
Be grounded, own your space
Stand in a grounded manner – one foot slightly in front of the other and to the side, shoulders squared but not tense, breath.
Less Voice, More Body Language

1.     Dogs understand herding – herd your dog.
2.     Dogs are evolved to see movement – if you are going to point with your arm/hand then:
a)     Make sure you add movement to the gesture;
b)     Make sure your hand is in your dog’s eye-line (not over-top of his/her head, etc.)
3.     You can use your feet and knees to direct;
4.     Own and Use Your Body to Communicate:
for example…
a)     Don’t withdraw your hands, instead put them on your hips;
b)     Don’t give your space up to your dog, hold your ground;
c)      To take up more space, move into your dog’s space – for example, you can lean into your dog’s space by bending one of your knees slightly or moving your foot.
d)     You can apply slight pressure through your hand, knee, leg, etc. to get your dog to yield space;
e)     You can give your dog a quick little bite with your fingers (always make sure you are emotionally neutral when you do this).
Don’t Argue with Your Dog, Direct Your Dog
Arguing is not Directing
Remember – be aware of your thoughts and your actions:
a)     If you are thinking and preparing for an argument, you will get an argument… instead you think ‘no arguing, no debating, just do this, I expect no less, this is your new normal’
b)     If you look at your dog with a sustained and intense gaze because you are expecting your dog not to do as you have asked your dog knows you lack confidence, your dog knows you do not expect him/her to obey.
c)      Learn to create normal – instruct, feel and think firm and go about your business…if you must stand and watch your dog – your dog has stalemated you!
Stay Connected so Behaviour does not Escalate
Be fair, be supportive
Remember to give your dog cues and reminders so you don’t set him/her up for failure.
If you see your dog is getting anxious, starting to pace, starting to alert, starting to fixate help your dog!
Be Aware of When Your Dog is Asking a Question/for Direction
Be Aware of When Your Dog is Trying to Connect with You
Remember a dog will look at you for several basic reasons…
a)     To ask a question;
b)      To ask for direction;
c)      To see how you are feeling (this is a subtle way of receiving a type of direction);
d)     To manipulate, demand, control;
e)     To challenge you.
You Decide
Don’t allow your dog to decide
If your dog is demanding attention, don’t give your dog affection, don’t touch – instead emotionally and physically disengage and direct your dog to move out of your space and go sit-down. You decide when you give your dog affection/attention – don’t let him/her decide.
Don’t Let Your Dog Stalemate You
Don’t Repeat, Don’t Argue,
Remember quick tug and then immediately release tension on the leash. Sustain pulling will cause your dog to shutdown, dig-in and argue with you.
Don’t Dance
Don’t Dance with Your Dog
Move with deliberate, considered confidence – don’t wave your arms around, move frantically…if you do you will be matching your dog’s excited state.
No Sustained Pulling
Don’t Create Shut-Down, Don’t Cause an Argument
Remember quick tug and then immediately release tension on the leash. Sustain pulling will cause your dog to shutdown, dig-in and argue with you.
How You Touch Your Dog Matters
Excited or Calm and Therapeutic
If you ‘pat’ your dog with high-energy you will create high-energy. If you instead touch your dog with slow, slight pressure you will relax your dog.
Play Should Have Structure
Take Advantage of Play Time
Don’t let your dog ‘go too high’ during play…set rules for play…be calm, wait for your dog to calm, wait for your dog to make eye contact with you and then play (i.e. through the ball). Then get your dog to bring the ball back to you, yield the ball to you, sit and calm – then start the exercise again.
Don’t be Hard On Yourself
We can’t always get it right
Learning to communicate properly and understand your dog is a process that requires patience and time. If you are tired give yourself a break.
Don’t indulge in Guilt and Feeling Sorry
Remember if someone feels sorry for you it takes away your self-confidence – don’t feel sorry for your dog, instead remember that your dog needs you to be firm and confident. Remember that one of the biggest forms of affection you can give your dog is your strength in the form of calm confidence…create ‘normal’ for your dog.
Don’t Let Anything go Unaddressed
Stay on top of things
If you let an unwanted behaviour go unaddressed:
a)     You lose your dog’s respect;
b)      You set your dog up for failure;
c)      Remember undesirable behaviours enable each other ;
d)     If you take the time now you will spend less time and effort later :>)


Bad Habits to Good Habits

Neither you nor your dog learned your portfolio of bad habits in a day – so is it fair and reasonable to expect to de-construct all those unwanted habits immediately? NO.  Some habits will fall away quickly while others may be stickier – give it time. Your abilities need time to grow and you need to build a firm foundation of ‘gateways’ for your dog. The speed of positive change is predicated upon many things such as …
-        Most importantly your ability to direct properly =
a)          Control of your own state of mind, self awareness and self-discipline;
b)         Ability to employ proper communication techniques such as body language v.s. voice;
c)      Your ability to observe and open-up your senses;

-        How imbedded the behaviours are  yours and your dog’s;
Perspective is Everything – Remember…
Oh no!
Yes!!! …
A Chance to Get This Right:>)
If you look at something with dread, avoid it; hate it you and your dog will never learn how to deal with it. When you instead change your perspective and look at that thing as an opportunity to work with your dog, as an opportunity to learn, as an opportunity to ‘nail that thing’ you consciously change your state-of-mind and sub-consciously change the nuances of your body language thereby freeing yourself to move-forward and succeed.
Your Dog May Protest
Heck if you had always gotten away with something, wouldn’t you protest?
1.     It is very normal for some dog’s to react and then not want to take direction from you:
a.     First because you never stood–up to him before;
b.     Second, because you were starting to fear when he ‘flashed-up’;
c.      a. and b. create a real lack of respect as they allow the other person (dog or human)  to take over and control you both physically and psychologically;
                                                    i.     Their methodology is to:
1.     Challenge you;
2.     Study your face, body, voice for reaction...hoping that you become emotional;
3.     Waiting, anticipating that you will get vocal and invite an argument and or give in to defeat.
2.     Once that pattern is set-in place the person who has gained the power is going to do all they can to maintain that power – is going to be reticent to give-up the power.
3.     Your dog may resist my direction less than he/she resists your initial efforts to direct because:
a.     I did not debate;
b.     I was not emotional;
c.      I simply said (body, mind, audio) ‘don’t do that’ and the force/attitude/direction behind my words/direction to them is indelibly, unemotionally firm…so for example what is in my head when I am directing in such a situation is one or several of the following… with a slight smile in your mind, without anger, ire or dominance, just with matter-of-fact ‘that’s the way it is’;
                                                    i.     ‘Don’t think so’…
                                                  ii.     ‘End of’;
                                                 iii.     ‘Not going to happen’
                                                 iv.     ‘I am not asking you to do it, I am telling you to do it’
                                                   v.     ‘This is not a debate – just do it’
                                                 vi.     Don’t care what you think, just do it’
4.     So to Fix the Challenge…
a.     Just chose one or several of the phrases noted above under ‘c.’ or make your own version – put the phrase in your mind and keep it there while you directing;
b.     Breathe and relax your tense mouth and tense eyebrows :)
c.      Disconnect emotionality – shut the emotion off and just go into working mode (as you would at work) – neutral!
d.     Stand grounded and stand your ground – physically/mentally;
e.     Say it firm and say it /indicate it once, then wait  those few seconds (part of holding your ground);
f.       Be strong in your will, your conviction, your patience (breath), your belief in yourself, your confidence – this is what your dog wants to see from you – your indelible commitment to ‘meaning it!’
g.      Please remember your dog probably tried to resist my direction at first too!
h.     Remember what I do – hold my ground, be respectful but firm – what did you feel from me…’don’t care what you want - only care what you need and this is it’ :>)
5.      Your dog is simply testing you. He/she wants to see you – needs to see you:
a.      Firm-it-up just a bit;
b.      Needs to see you leave the emotion behind and replace it with indelible strength of conviction;
c.      Portray in every fibre of your being no fear, no ire, and directive ‘just do it’
6.     He/she needs to see you do this with consistency and he/she will go…

‘Woa, woof I ain’t gonna do that again ᵔᴥᵔ no point I ain’t gonna get away with it, and my human is fully capable, able and will have my back, lead me, protect me – I don’t have to make my own rules anymore, woof, sigh, now I can relax!’
Don’t Give-in, Don’t Give-up
Patience and Determination
Be persistent – dog’s are, it is one of their best assets! A dog rarely ever gives up on you, don’t give-up on your dog. Remember this is a test of wills, patience and determination.  Don’t give-up and don’t give-in – when you do you leave no chose for your dog…he/she will have to make –up their own rules.
When you are directing your dog…
-        Don’t ever let yourself think I am failing; I can’t do this, etc.
-        The second you allow such a thought in your head – the second you allow such a thought to take over, the second you give-in, give-up, back down, give ground your dog knows…
-        Remember that I must work through each and every issue with your dog just as you do…so think like I do…
a)     ’I will feel my way thru this and find what works best’;
b)     ‘ I will not give-in nor give-up as your life and well being (doggie) depends on my strength of will, my patience, my determination;
c)      ‘What I do – I do for you…whether you (doggie) currently realize it is what you need (at this moment) matters not, what matters is that I get you through this from A to Z;
d)     You will then see you have a better way to navigate through this situation – I have your back – I will lead you with respect, fairly and firmly…
e)     And so it will always be ᵔᴥᵔ