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Saturday, 7 January 2012

IS YOUR DOG BAD BECAUSE IT FAILED A DOG TRAINING CLASS?

I have had many clients whose dogs where kicked out of dog training classes by dog trainers.  The trainer told them that their dog was hopeless and bad. Some of them where even told that the dog should be put on drugs or euthanized. 

So is it true, is the dog bad?


The answer is no, the dog is not bad!

How can I say this with such assurance? 

Because I have had no problem working and assisting the dog and its people. The difference is that I understood the dog - I did not try to communicate with the dog by only using my voice and I did not try to use dominance and / or treats in place of proper communication. I also do not think of myself as a ‘Trainer of Dogs’. I think of myself as one who coaches and mentors dogs, trains the dog’s humans and in exchange I learn from every dog I work with. I see working with a dog as a position where I must give and engender respect and understanding, not arrogance and conceit.

Ask the trainer how they learned their trade. If the answer is I learned from ‘so and so’ or I took this course, and that is the end of their explanation, I think you have your first indication of a problem. To understand a dogs you must also learn from dogs - not just learn from people.

I understand that I must work from my heart and soul, and rely on my instinct, intuition and common sense, just like a dog does.

To affectively understand and work with a dog you must first have done the hard work of understanding and being aware of yourself, your emotions and how you communicate.

How can you work with a dog...

A - If you do not understand all the ways in which a human communicates and how a dog communicates?

B - If you do not understand anything of the real psychology of a dog?

C - If you have never taken the time to see and listen to what a dog is teaching you?

How can you work with the dog’s human...
If you do not consider and respect the psychology of the individual person?

Most trainers employ 'obedience training’…teaching a dog to repetitively respond to basic commands such as "sit", "down", "come", and "stay" and so on. Teaching a dog to be a well adjusted social member of society is no different than teaching a child - when one fails to teach in a holistic, empathetic and understanding manner much can be lost and much can go wrong.

A trainer who has not learned to understand themselves first cannot hope to train another person let alone a dog. They can however cause great havoc and trauma. If the trainer fears large dogs, does not know how to properly communicate to an overly energetic dog, a nervous or fearful reactive dog they will make the dogs state of being worse. Instead of having the capability to identify the issue the exacerbate it and then say the dog is bad.

For example most aggression in dogs occurs due to lack of leadership in the dog’s life - in the absence of proper direction a dog may become anxious, insecure and fearful. If dogs were pre-wired to be aggressive rather than social there would be very few dogs left standing. A dog in its natural state is a social being, a pack animal with the potential inherent to get along with others.  There are very few dogs born with 'bad wiring’. When a dog goes bad it is almost always a human who is responsible for the bad behaviour.

When puppies are young they learn their social skills from the adult dogs in their dog family. Now, as long as the adult dogs’ natural social state has not been negatively disrupted by human influence the adult dogs will teach their young how to get along without being aggressive.

Teaching a dog is really about taking over that socialization role - teaching, coaching mentoring - not training. I use the term ‘coaching and mentoring’ as it speaks more of commitment to imparting learning and understanding rather than habit, working towards creating a relationship/partnership, a foundation of knowledge based on learning, sharing and mutual respect.

Obedience implies compliance with the direction or command given by the ‘handler’. But a dog can easily learn to do all of these things and still not be ‘obedient’. 'A dog can go through Obedience training and not be obedient'. Why? Because the dog has simply been taught a repetitive action and little more. Just as you can teach a child to sit, every time you tell the child to do so, does not mean that the child will be a well adjusted, social being.

And I am sorry, but if the trainer sought to teach you to train your dog using only treats - the trainer has set you and your dog up for ultimate failure. Dogs do not teach other social skills using treats. Dogs teach each other social skills using calm assertive communication - body language and state-of-being. Why would you try to teach a dog using only treats? Why would you not seek to teach a dog using the same methods dogs use to teach each other? Would you teach your child to be a well rounded human being by only using treats?

If the right communication method is used, even a very young puppy will learn when it is being requested (without-voice) to sit. The early you start the earlier the positive gain begins an exponential build-up of understanding. The more you time you invest in mentoring using a complete kit-of-tools the more aware, the more attentive & sensitive your dog becomes to paying attention to you. This when coupled with your own ability to read & understand your puppy becomes a powerful tool to build an amazing partnership.

Dogs are intelligent, sensitive beings and need to be treated as such. Trainers who fail to recognize this, trainers who fail to train themselves to communicate properly set dogs and their people up for failure. They traumatize the human and the dog and can cause real psychological trauma. Yet I have no trouble working with the same dog and it's human. So who has failed? The trainer who has not done the due diligence of training themselves - not the dog, not it's human.

As a professional I personally believe that when you are engaged by a client you have an ethical and moral responsibility to take real ownership for what you are doing and understanding you capabilities. If you do not have the skills to help the dog and its human you should not accept the commission to do so. Working with dogs and their people should never be just about making money and it should never be about your own ego.

So, if a trainer has kicked your dog out of a training class, told you your dog is bad - don’t take what they said to heart, don’t believe that what they have said is true.

A trainer is only as good as their own limitations. Remember, if they did not explain to you the psychology of the situation, theirs, yours, your dog’s, if they just said your dog is vicious or your dog is hyper, your dog does not listen those are your first keys to understanding that the trainer does not know what they are doing. They are looking for excuses to cover up their lack of knowledge. There is no room for arrogance when teaching a dog or it’s human. They are a part of the problem. Your dog did not create the behaviour and your dog is not hopeless.

A client that I worked with in the fall was told by two different ‘reputable’ trainers, one dog behaviourist and one dog care facility to put the dog on drugs and/or euthanize their dog. They called me in to help - absolutely nothing wrong with the dog other then the fact that not one of the professionals they had gone to bothered to really observe and understand the dog. The dog just needed some simple understandable direction to understand how to relax.

Additional Assistance

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

Dog Obedience Training and Behaviour Modification Services:
  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
  • Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service



Wednesday, 4 January 2012

TYPES OF AGGRESSION IN DOGS & HOW TO AVOID CREATING IT

The most common types of aggressive-reactive behaviour in dogs result from the dog being...

A - Insecure, nervous, tense, fear based reactivity;

B - Bullying, dominating reactivity.

When these psychological conditions noted above are not addressed and resolved a dog may become:
  • Fearful reactive-aggressive, or;
  • Defensive reactive-aggressive, or;
  • Offensive reactive-aggressive.
Some typical signs of these behaviors are:

  • Fearful reactive-aggressive - backing away, trembling, low growl, whale eyes.
  • Defensive reactive-aggressive - barking, bared teeth, growling,  fearful body posture (lowered head, tucked tail, ears back, whale eye) and may back away.
  • Offensive reactive-aggressive - barking, bared teeth, growling,  offensive body posture (direct eye contact, erect ears, high tail) while moving or charging forward.


This behaviour may be directed at animate objects such as dogs or other non-human animals, at humans and at inanimate objects as well.

As an example most aggression in dogs occurs due to lack of leadership in the dog’s life - in the absence of proper direction a dog may become anxious, insecure and fearful. If dogs were pre-wired to be aggressive rather than social there would be very few dogs left standing. A dog in its natural state is a social being, a pack animal with the potential inherent to get along with others.  There are very few dogs born with 'bad wiring’. When a dog goes bad it is almost always a human who is responsible for the bad behaviour.

When puppies are young they learn their social skills from the adult dogs in their dog family. Now, as long as the adult dogs’ natural social state has not been negatively disrupted by human influence the adult dogs will teach their young how to get along without being aggressive. If you are thinking - yeah but what about the 'Alpha' - dominate dog...you need to read this.

Things go wrong when we humans...

A - Separate the dog from its early socialization process by removing the puppy from its parents and then;

B - We fail to take up the leadership role to coach and mentor the dog in the acquisition and maintenance of social skills - providing rules and boundaries.

In this day and age of technology and our fast paced-life we have lost an awareness of all of the ways in which we communicate. We have lost patience. We attempt to direct our dogs - we assume we know what we are doing - but most often people do not. 

A dog learns aggressive-reactive behaviour because a human enables the behaviour in a dog. Either by failing to provide leadership or by actively abusing the dog. Usually when a human enables the aggression it has happened by accident - completely unintentionally.

Here are some typical ways that dogs develop aggressive reactive behaviour…

A - Dogs that lack proper coaching and mentoring can become insecure, anxious and fearful. When a dog is insecure it will either be overly submissive or overly defensive. We see these same behaviours in people as well. If you are insecure, anxious or fearful you are either going to recede into the background or overcompensate by being a bully - it is the same for dogs. If your dog is nervous around humans or other dogs and you are nervous too - you tell your dog it is right to be worried. You enable the behaviour. If your dog has been attacked in the past by another dog and you are unable to let the past go, you enable your dog’s nervousness and aggression towards the other dog.

B - Dogs who receive the wrong type of affection at the wrong time can become aggressive-reactive. When you reward a dog for being in an excited state the dog learns that being excited is good. When a little dog is insecure and starts to react (snarl, growl, snap, bark) at a bigger dog - if you pick the little dog up, you have just rewarded the little dog for reactive behaviour. Your dog learns that reactive aggressive behaviour is ok.

C - Dogs who are allowed to take-over their humans, their homes, their toys, the furniture etc. without any rules that they can understand - these dogs can become aggressive. The rule - they own and the human fears to intercede. The human has inadvertently taught the dog to be a bully.

D - A dog has been abused by humans - this can make the dog insecure and fearful - the dog will seek to protect itself. To stop this behaviour you must help the dog gain confidence, you must show the dog that there are other ways to navigate through life - just as you would do for a person. You can read my Boxer Robbie’s story if you want to understand more about this cause and affect.

So, aggression is normally induced by humanity. No dog wants to be bad. All dogs want to have the opportunity to receive fair instruction, coaching and mentoring to help them be social happy members of society - the same thing that a child wants. Children don’t want to be bad - but when they lack the proper guidance, just like a dog they have little choice.

When we do not take the opportunity to correct the dog in a respectful, firm way without anger, fear or other emotions we create psychological damage in the dog. We miss an opportunity to change future outcomes - we make one more mistake in the dogs’ life - we set the dog up for future failure…just as we would be doing with a human.
  
The great thing about dogs is that they are easier to psychologically rehabilitate than humans are. Why, because dogs do not hold grudges. Because dogs live in the moment it is easier to change a dog's 'bad habits' than it is a human's. Humans carry grudges, dogs do not. Dogs are very forgiving and will, given the opportunity treat each day, each experience as a new beginning. It is only with difficulty that we are able to convince, permit and allow ourselves to do the same.


Patience, will, determination, persistence, respect and a little understanding of dog and human psychology are key. Coach and mentor the dog, train its human.

A dog is willing to give so much to their human - but what is the human willing to give to the dog?  


To enable the best in your dog you must think beyond yourself, your momentary needs your emotions. I believe you must broaden your understanding of affection, leadership and partnership. You must understand how dogs communicate and how you can unintentionally communicate the wrong thing. You must understand how dogs assign respect. You must understand what leadership really is and is not. And you should understand that there are many ways to share affection with your dog. Only when your have truly understood these concepts will you be in a position to enable the best in your dog.

If you learn to look at every element of your relationship in a more dynamic and holistic fashion you can learn to combine what you want with what your dog requires.

To have a happy, well balanced canine companion the human needs to make sure that they fullfill the needs of their dog. This is where it so often all goes wrong. Many of us, with the best of intentions, do not realize (that just because we love our dog and ensure we provide it with lots of affection the best of food, treats, a comfy place to sleep, etc.) that we have not met our dog's needs in a way that will best benefit them. 



Additional Assistance

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

Dog Obedience Training and Behaviour Modification Services:
  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
  • Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service




WHAT OUR DOGS CAN TEACH US


"In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog." -- Edward Hoagland 


If we are willing to open our minds to see, we can learn much from dogs about ourselves. They can help us be more aware of our own behaviour and give us a second chance to grow into better, wiser and happier individuals.

Dogs do not require training unless they are to learn a skill such as search and rescue. 

To learn good behaviour dogs simply need to be communicated to in a fair, aware and respectful manner. I can walk into a home where a dog always jumps on guests, yet without saying a word to the dog I can provide it with direction instantly - the dog will not jump on me, the dog will be respectful. It is not a trick - I did not use my voice to communicate I used body language and my state of mind. I communicated to the dog in a language that he/she  understands.

A dog will usually tell you if your need to improve yourself as a dog will often reflect the state of their human.

If your dog is anxious and nervous the only way you can help your dog to overcome that state - is to learn  to truly understand your dog and yourself.  Most people will automatically look to see why the dog is misbehaving - I teach my clients to understand how they create and trigger unwanted behaviour in their dogs.

The best way to help a dog is to heIp the dog's human...I teach my clients how to become better communicators and better observers. I teach them to be  aware of all of the ways that we communicate - our thoughts, our body language, our tone of voice - our state-of-being...and then I teach them all of the ways that dogs communicate. Dog's do not read dictionaries - if you want your dog to understand a concept you must be capable of clearly exemplifying that concept...this is a fundamental and critical element of good leadership. To enable the best in your dog you must learn true leadership skills. In so doing  you improve your ability to communicate with not only your dog but with everyone in your life - your children, your spouse, your friends and co-workers.


Dogs can teach us about love and generosity, about living in the moment and seeing the small but valuable things that surround us everyday.

Dogs can also teach us to be less arrogant about our place in this world. 

If you allow yourself to see how truly intelligent and sensitive dogs really are you must also ask yourself what else have I missed seeing in the past? 

A whole new world opens up, where you can see the great value of non-human animals. The bonds they form with each other, their friendships and emotions are no less than that of a human. Dogs smile, they can be joyous, and sad, they grieve, they anticipate things that they enjoy and things that they do not like, they have dreams and nightmares. Dogs can teach us to recognize the intelligence and great value of other animals too. Did you know that cows have best friends? That elephants and whales are deeply bonded to their family members? Just two examples - there are so many. From this we can learn a deeper respect. And from this we can also learn to value the environment.


This is just a small part of what our dogs express and show us. Should we be smart enough to listen to what our dogs are trying to teach us our world expands and becomes a richer place. 


Additional Assistance

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

Dog Obedience Training and Behaviour Modification Services:
  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
  • Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service