Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Perception - Part II

Why is that humans have a tendency to react all out of proportion when they think they have been criticized?  I'm not talking about real criticism, just the perception of it.  What causes such a vicious reaction to a simple statement that the impression you give off is critical when trying to change perception.

Could it be that the person who is reacting, deep down actually realizes that what they are doing is exactly what was said?  That the methods they use, the public display of those methods and the way they dress and act will affect what others think?  That the world doesn't revolve around them?  Do they actually feel some guilt and they just can't admit it because being wrong would mean death? Or are they more interested in insisting on their own rightnesses than they are in finding truth?

Being right or being wrong is also perception.  There is no "right" or "wrong", there is only agreement on what is right or wrong and even that agreement has rules to it - such as: that you can do a wrong if the justification is good enough or will save a life.

Most people, in my experience, have a need to be "right" irregardless of reality (and again, reality is only agreements on what really is real).  I even had a relative tell me one time that the encyclopedia was wrong and that he was right. Why do they HAVE to be RIGHT?  Because being wrong means they are one step closer to being invisible in their own minds.  Being wrong is a threat to their ego, their beingness and in some cases - their life.

People will actually change reality, in their own minds, to fit their need to be right. These types of people are more interested in asserting their own rightness than in being right.  These people will actually repeat the wrong action just to prove they are right.  Close to the definition of insanity - repeating something that doesn't work hoping that one day it will actually work.

Why, if a person IS right, would they object so vehemently to what they DO being displayed in an article?

Link to the first post

Monday, October 24, 2011

Perception

It really does matter what other people think. What other people think changes laws, creates common cultural responses, affects how you dress, how you eat, how you drive your car.

Pit Bulls are banned, attacked and vilified now, but that hasn't always been the case. Rottweilers, German Shepards and Dobermans in past decades have shared this spotlight. It seems to be part of human nature to need villains and monsters.

The current common perception of pit bulls is enhanced by many of the same people who say they are trying to change that perception.

Commonly associated with pit bulls are gangs, drugs and of course dog fighting. If you walk the streets of most inner cities, you'll see pit bulls sporting collars with two inch spikes and heavy chains instead of collars. The perception is that either 1) in the case of the spikes on the collar that the dog is dangerous and made even more so by the spikes or 2) in the case of the heavy chain and thick ropes, that the dog needs extreme measures to control it.

Yesterday I attended an event that was designed to create a good impression of pit bulls.  In many ways it did just that.  But in others, not only was the message lost, but the current perception was upheld.

For instance, there were five demo's yesterday.  Two demos did not involve pit bulls. One from the Border Patrol with German Shepards, one from the Doberman rescue.  Both demo's showed these two breeds in a good light.  The Shepards showed off their search and rescue and their scenting abilities in finding drugs and even people.  The Doberman demo showed how to control the prey drive of the dog with fun games, played by rules and how to positively interact with the breed.

The third demo was of pit bulls attacking ropes hanging from chains and holding on so tight and so long they appeared to have the mythical lock jaw that is actually physically impossible.  I'm all for exercising a dog, especially a powerful dog, but every time I saw one of the dogs attack those ropes all I could picture is what would happen if that dog went for a throat. 

This same group did show pit bulls in a good light doing the weight pull competition.  This is an activity where pits shine and should be promoted - not (IMO) attacking something, not in public where you are trying to create a good impression, not even something as inanimate as a ball on a string when it could so easily be misconstrued.

The fourth demo was my own.  The drill team.  We didn't perform all that well, it was hot, the dogs didn't want to work, especially my own dog and we weren't as coordinated as we should have been.  But what the dogs were doing and how we worked with the dogs, showed a totally positive light on what the breed can be like and how positive training works even on a powerful breed of dog.  During the course of our demo, the dogs showed off 10 behaviors / tricks that they had learned in the last 3 months.  The kind of behaviors and tricks that most people teach their dogs, no matter what breed.  Sit, down, stay, come, beg, crawl, circle, go around, back up and our specialty of hug the flag - all on a loose leash with no corrections, no punishment, no shocks.

The fifth demo could have been just as positive, but (again In My Opinion) failed.  It was an obedience demo and whereas the dog did marvelous, his owner trainer had been walking around the event with a client dog for a couple of hours before his demonstration.
This client dog was sporting an e-collar.  The remote was in the trainers hand and he was actively shocking the dog at intervals.  I never did figure out what the dog had attempted to do that the trainer didn't like that elicited a shock, but one time, right in front of the main event tables where the DJ was, the dog was shocked at least 7 times (and corrected also with the choke collar getting jerked) in the space of 2 minutes and made to crawl and grovel on the ground from the shock. 


How is this going to change the perceptions that people have a bout those "dangerous" pit bulls?  This post is not about shock collars, corrective type training or even that particular trainer.  This post is about the perception that is created in the minds of the public when they see the "experts" treat these magnificent dogs with disrespect, abuse and such tight control that a dog is forced to grovel on the ground in pain.  Or asked to publicly attack and hold on for minutes to a rope that is at the same height off the ground as some one's throat?
 
I have to admit that I am a crossover trainer.  I have to admit that not so very long ago, the shock collar would not have bothered me as it does today.  But even back there, in this instance, the use of it would have bothered me as it does now, because I could not figure out why the dog was getting so viciously shocked.  But even when I was using corrective measures, positive punishment and training my clients to use the same - I never did it in public. I never did it where others could misunderstand what was occurring or get a bad impression of the dog, the breed of dog (needing such harsh treatment to gain control) or myself as a trainer.  And only twice have I ever used a shock collar in my life.
 
When I started my Reactive Dog group classes almost three years ago, I realized I had to find a better way then what I'd been doing up to that point.  I immediately stopped teaching corrections.  Not only was it counter productive in a group situation, but I felt that the skill necessary, the timing necessary for proper, effective corrections, could not be achieved in that environment. 
 
What replaced positive punishment was focus, engagement, play and creating in the mind of the human that not only were they responsible for their dogs behavior but that they could change it easily. Every class since then has been fun, educational and effective.  Yes, there have been those who drop out - mostly because they wanted the magic wand technique and didn't want to expend the effort needed to help their dog achieve success.  The times when I slipped back and jerked a collar, alpha rolled a dog or tried to teach someone to do the same, ended up in chaos and I lost some of the respect I'd built in that group.
 
So yes, what others think really does matter.  What you project will create what others think.  Be aware of what perception you are creating.  Do your actions and the response they create with your dog create respect, admiration, hope and affinity in those watching?  Or are you promoting that which you say you are trying to eradicate?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Harvey & Beau

Here is Beau.  Beau is a pit mix up for adoption through Tucson Cold Wet Noses.  Beau is also looking for a new foster hoem, he is currently in a kennel and is not doing well there.  Many people have stepped up to help Beau have a bit of a life, but he really needs a home to learn how to live in the human world again. 

Here he is playing with one of the dogs of one of the wonderful people who have been helping him .

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Out of Control class 09/15/2011

This is Charlie.  He came to us in January for Reactive Dog Class and only made it to 3 sessions.  He was completely out of control most of the time when other dogs came around.  I vividly remember his first class when he redirected on his owner and got in a good bite.

Charlie has gotten worse over the months and eventually he came back to us to finish what we started.  His first class he was withdrawn, fearful, terrified of me, the walls, my dogs and walked in a crouch the whole time.
Now, three weeks later, here is Charlie, along with Kino and Chester, just doing car crashes, some confidence course and a wee bit of TTouch. 


(Please ignore the date on the video, I wasn't paying attnetion !!!)

Charlie has some weakness in his front shoulders and left front leg.  He gets TTOUCH every 15 minutes, withe the occassional massage.  His first session he pertty much collapsed after 20 minutes of work.  Now he can do the entire hour and still have some energy.  Charlie's reactivity to other dogs is almost completely a byproduct of the pain he is in.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Video Highlights of this mornings puppy class

Puppy class this morning, minus one puppy who's owner had to go to the doctor. The border collie is Harvey, the rotti is Nora and the husky is Loki (and he truly lives up to his name :))








Monday, October 17, 2011

Chaos


No one functions well in and environment full of chaos. Chaos affects us mentally, behaviorally and physically. Dogs living in the midst of chaos, just like us, are more likely to have a compromised immune system, get ill, stay ill longer, and have a shorter life span. In a chaotic environment where there is no or inconsistent and confusing rules, structure, barriers and restraints, dogs are far m...ore likely to be forced to exhibit the extremes of canine behavior.
 
Nature, despite the seemingly random system of evolution, is not chaotic. The conservation of energy is one of the most important and pervasive concepts where man has had little to no influence. The entire system of dog culture and dog language is set up to facilitate conflict resolution and the conservation of energy. The entire focus of canine social language is to facilitate a steady state whereby survival of the individual, the family and the species are ensured. Dogs are hard wired to crave stability

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Philosophy of Behavior Training - Attention

Attention

It's all the rage with school children these days to ensure their attention (ADD ADHD come to mind). There are drugs and therapies and discussions and tricks to get and keep a child's attention long enough to teach him something. There is a key ingrediate that most educators and those of the psychiatric persuasion are missing however. It's not the child's attention that needs to be ensured - it's the child's interest. That interest should be an integral piece of what we consider "attention".

My bent is toward science and math - in school I did not like english and history. Except once, in 9th grade for history and 12th for English. Both times it involved a teacher who put a lot of energy, play, creativity and engagement into the class, into the materials and sought out alternate methods of teaching.

My interest was engaged and my attention ensured by the graphic and creative way both classes were introduced. There wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't learning something new and excited about doing so. I even started writing short stories and studying the history that wasn't taught in school. I eventually became a conspiracy theorist and have never stopped writing.

I still prefer math and science, but now I know how to research, how to write about it and how to gain and keep the interest and attention of those I'm trying to educate, and I have a breadth of knowledge of the past that assists in helping me create the future.

Many times in the beahvior classes that I teach, this lack of attention and interest is very apparent. The dog in question is much more interested in the other dogs, in the smells, in the toys or in treats everyone else has. The human follows along behind the dog, letting the dog create the game, letting the dog set the rules and it's all for the dog. The dog however is on a leash, the human gets tired of being pulled around and pulls back, this frustrates the dog and the human. That frustration can spirl out of control and end in the dog lunging, barking, snapping and creating a commotion. All from a lack of attention and interest in, and from, the human end of that leash.

Getting and keeping your dog's attention is necessary when teaching your dog to do anything. It is also necessary when trying to resolve behavior issues. If your dog is focused on something else, if his attention is distracted from the task at hand, there can be no learning and no change. Having an interest in your dog and paying attention to her communication is just as, if not more, important.

What is attention?

Attention is much more then just looking at you. I could look at you with my eyes but be thinking of the new DVD I just got on TTouch, so unless YOU are truly paying attention, you may think I was being stubborn when I didn't "sit" when you asked. This is the basis of frustration and eventually anger and then abandonement. It started with you demanding the dog's eyes be on you, but without a purpose and without getting the dog's interest and engagement in the activity.

Attention is engagement, focus, interest, affinity and communication. In order to accomplish true attention, your dog must be willing to be in your space and have you in her space (affinity). YOU must be willing to have your dog in your space and be in her space. You must be willing to learn the language of dogs and communicate at the dog's level and with the dog's understanding. Learning human is much harder for the dog, then learning dog is for the human. It can be done, but it takes a human who is first willing to learn dog. You must be willing to engage with your dog and have her engage with you, both physically and emotionally. There needs to be a responsibility and willingness to have this creature as an integral part of your life.

If you aren't engaged, how can you expect your dog to be interested in what you want?

Attention occurs because there is a purpose to the activity that is in alignment with your goals. A dog has goals as well. They are much simpler then ours, and shorter lived, but they are there. True attention aligns your goals with your dog's and true learning and change can occur because both of you are willing participants in the activity.

When we put our own enthusiasm, our own energy and our creativity into communicating with our dogs, both of us learn something, both of us win and a strong bond is built. This is the major building block to gaining your dog's attention. First you have to get his interest by being interested in the process yourself. You have to give of yourself first, before you can expect your dog to care about what you are trying to communicate.

Tomorrow I will discuss some of the ways that you can gain the interest and attention of your dog.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Philosophy of Behavior Training Part I

Over the last three years, I have been making a transition from a methodology of dog training to a philosophy of dog training and rehabilitation.  This morning in going through the blogs that I follow, I stumbled upon what someone called a problem solving tool.  I realized while reading it, that it, and all the other "tools" for rehabilitation that I had read anywhere, in any book, video, blog, or website, was all about the mechanics with a tiny bit of "why" those mechanics work. I also realized that the tools are there, but no where was there a step by step approach to rehabilitation.

The mechanics are mostly simple to do and simple to teach, which is probably why the discussion of them is so prevalent and the discussion of why we do these mechanics is mostly missing.  But having only one side of the equation does not allow one to truly handle the issues that dogs have because of our bumbling attempts to train them to live by our rules.  I think that is really why there is very little discussion of why - most humans are more interested in exerting control then they are in actually living life.  Life is hard, life is unpredictable and life changes constantly.  Control and predictability become two of the most important aspects of living.

Therefor, our dogs must conform to this.  They must be under control so that we can always predict what they will do.  But it's a prediction based on human values and human control and the aversion to change that most humans seem to have - not on what nature has created within a dog. A dog's view of life is very different then a human's.  Humans think about things, relate the things of now to the things of the past and the possibilities of the future.  Dogs live now, this moment and predict only based on what works and what doesn't.  Humans contemplate the future, dogs live in the present.  Living in the moment is not a based on whether dogs remember the past, it is based on dogs not thinking about or planning for the future.

So this morning, I started quantifying how I take a dog from reactive to social and why I have the humans and dogs do the things they do in the order they do them.  On Facebook, I put up the first synthesis of this quantification.  The six steps to rehabilitation: Attention, Alignment, Awareness, Activity, Application, Assignment.

These six steps totally ignore most of what I've learned over the years about dogs, wolves, dominance, operant, classical, Pavlovian and Premack conditioning, Skinnerian psychology, psychology in general and the mechanics of teaching a dog sit, stay, come, heel, and down.  These six steps fly in the face of conventional dog training and behavior modification no matter which quandrant you normally work with.   Almost all that I learned about dog training and behavior modification is about conditioning - you condition the dog to respond to commands, you condition the dog to have a different emotion about a stimulus, you condition a human to give the proper commands and you condition a human to manage a dog's reactivity. 

There is only one philosophy that actually addresses what a dog truly is, what a dog really does, how a dog is designed to respond and think by nature, and that is Kevin Behan's Natural Dog Training.  And there is only one philosophy that is truly a philosophy and very little "conditioning" happening and that is Cesar Milan and his psychology of dogs.  But neither philosophy gives a step by step process whereby the average person can actually rehabilitate a reactive dog. 

Cesar talks about being the packleader, creating calm submission, exercise / discipline / affection, and calm assertiveness, but no where have I found step by step explanations of how to achieve these things - and I have all his DVD's and books.  In my practice I've found that 80% of the people I deal with cannot be a calm assertive leader, it's just not in them.  I realized a long time ago that just like in the dog world where only a small percentage of dogs are actually true alpha dogs, it's the same in the human world.  Most people are content to just live life and enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Very few people have the personality and skills to be a true leader.

Kevin's Natural Dog Training is much more comprehensive and explains so much of why a dog does what he does and why we respond the way we do.  The problem is that Kevin uses $150 words and concepts that the average human would go unconscious trying to fathom.  Neil Sattin and the other Natural Dog Trainers help but they haven't translated more than the basics of what Kevin teaches. 

So, in the following weeks, I will present my philosophy, the pattern of what I do to rehabilitate a dog who is off the rails into a social companion.  Hopefully I can explain things so that others can duplicate what I do and be just as successful.  I will be mentioning Natural Dog Training a lot as what I do aligns most closely with this philosophy.  I will also mention other training methodologies and philosophies as what I do is a blend of many ideas, practices, theories and methods because each dog and human team is different and will respond differently and may need just a slight adjustment to a proven method.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Dog's Needs

1. Daily opportunities for the dog to act as a dog, both in its instinctive dogness and in its individuality.

2. Trust in us, its humans, to provide it with safety, security, stability: being able to predict that its needs will be met in a reasonably timely way.

3. Social feedback, including full membership in the family-group: being with its humans, active and effective communication that flows in both directions.

4. Safe, comfortable and interesting places in which to be a dog: places in which to rest undisturbed, places in which to explore and to play.

5. Water, food, shelter, protection from the elements.

6. Grooming and medical care; touch to the body, opportunity to touch other warm bodies.
7. At least adequate mental stimulation;

8. At least adequate physical exercise and rest time;

9. Human recognition of and relief of any distress the dog may be in that it cannot itself relieve.

10. Dogs we breed or adopt as companion or family dogs cannot survive long nor well on their own. They have evolved over the centuries to be part of the social groups that humans create.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Makes A Professional Trainer?

Here is a testimonial from one of my puppy clients who not only learned the basics of puppy training, but also learned how to think outside the box and use the tools I taught her in a new situation on behaviors that we didn't work on in class.  The client posted this today on Facebook and I shared it on my wall.


"Today was a super great dog day for me...Neighbors were working in the yard across the street. I was able to open the door and take advantage of the opportunity to teach Cocoa about her barking behaviors. Every time she barked at them with the door open, I closed the door and said no and lightly held her muzzle closed, then associated this behavior with a treat. Opened the door and repeated the process. Eventually, she accepted that if she wanted it open she couldn't bark...and she got many treats for not barking.Then stepped it up and leashed her and took her out. She barked at them and I told her "No..sit." She did so more treats out of my ugly fanny pack. Then she just didn't care and watched them work and was more excited to move on. Walked down the block and another neighbor in yard working, due to the great weather.  Cocoa started to bark at this new stranger did same things and worked. 2 bikers went by and nothing. Her growing up and rewarding positive behavior is the credit. I'm so glad she's almost 7 months. It has been a long training process. Soooo happy!! Now, I have to deal with people who knock at my door...LOL One step at a time."
In my view, this is the result of working with a professional dog trainer.  You learn from a professional the tools needed for the job, how to think with the tools and use them in many ways and many situations.  What you learn from a professional should stick with you and be a part of your life and livingness because it makes so much sense and works so well and can be used in different ways for different situations. 

The Crate

To crate or not to crate?  It's a big issue in the world of dogs. There are those who swear by crates and those who abhore them as torture and there are those in between.

Today I witnessed a rant by someone who was trying to adopt a puppy from a rescue and was turned down because of his views (so he says) about crates.  He is for crates, so is the rescue, but there was a HUGE difference between them in how a crate should be used.

I use crates.  In the last 4 years, with the 4 puppies that I've raised as my own, I've used a crate for them all until they were 9 months to a year old.  That three month difference between dogs was due to differences in maturity level between the puppies.  Only one of the puppies was crated at night and when I wasn't home until a year old.  The rest were free of the crate at 9 months.  When I was home, they were free to roam the house after they were 4 months old.

In this last 4 years I have had no problems with potty training, chewing or other destruction, counter surfing, trash diving or any of the other normal issues people have with adolescent dogs.  The oldest dog is now 4 and the youngest is 20 months.  There have never been any fights between these dogs - ever.  None of them have separation anxiety, fear of thunder or fireworks, they are friendly to other friendly dogs and love meeting new people. These were all puppies that I raised from 8 weeks old. I have had fosters during this time as well. The oldest is now living with my daughter and two young grand children.

So what about older dogs that are adopted? Should you use a crate?  In my opinion and practice, yes.  The new dog, no matter what it's age, condition or behavior issues, knows nothing about you, your other animals, your rules, boundaries and limitations.  They need to learn those and earn your trust just as you need to earn their's.  So a crate is essential and in the first week of having a foster I use the crate for everything.  The dog sleeps in the crate, is in the crate to eat and when I'm not home or I'm working intensely on the computer and don't have any spare attention units.  If the foster is ill to begin with, the time in the crate is longer to make sure the dog gets sufficient rest in order to heal.

In the almost 59 years I have lived with dogs, the adult dogs have had free run of the house and the yard.  In those 59 years - 17 of which I was still living with my parents - I have lived with 23 adult dogs and numerous puppies (more then 40).  Some of the adult dogs were raised from puppies, some were adopted from the pound as adults.  None of them stayed in a crate with the door closed for any reason after the first year (that long only for the puppies - otherwise 30 - 45 days was the longest).  The time the dogs spent in the crates, other then at night, was never more then 3 hours at a time and then an hour of exercise, training and non structured play.  The time out of the crate, free to roam the house, was progressively lengthened as my trust in the dog's ability to live appropriately in my world increased.

One of the dogs that I grew up with, had it been in a crate unable to interact with the environment, would not have been able to warn my sister of the 71 earthquake in So Cal.  My sis would have been severly injuried had Petunia not woken her up.  A large heavy book shelf fell on her bed.

In those 59 years I have had only three fights happen.  Two were mildly serious because of the size difference between the dogs, the other wasn't serious at all. All three of the fights were provoked by one of the dogs involved and the other dog defended itself.  I witnessed all three fights and all three involved the same dog of mine and someone else's dog.  There has never been a fight when I wasn't around - at least not any that involved blood or other evidence that there had been a fight.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

General Training Tips

“Anything a dog can learn on his own is more effective and better understood than what humans can force on the dog.” – Randy Hare

A dog does a certain behavior because it gets him something. It doesn't really matter what that something is. If you supporess a behavior instead of figuring out what the reinforcers are and removing them, the dog will eventually find another behavior that will get him those reinforcers. Change the environment and you change the behavior. Change the behavior and it's likely to be replaced by some other behavior which could be equally as annoying or dangerous.

Probably the most common training mistake is being inconsistent. Inconsistency exists in the mechanicals and in your emotion. Emotionally, you, the trainer, become overly excited, frustrated, and/or stressed, and your dog doesn’t even know who you are anymore. Maybe your voice gets really high, loud, commanding or shrill. Maybe you start to beg, or plead with your dog to do what you're asking. When you get like this, your dog starts searching for some way to get away from you. Who can blame her?

Many people embrace the concept that there are no bad dogs, that there are only humans who aren't handling the dog correctly. Despite this, I still see too much that puts the dog in the hot seat, teaches the dog to behave, suppresses the dog's natural energy and instincts. I'd rather see people replace "training" with "playing" and teaching a dog how to be a dog and how to live in the human world. The days when trainers concentrated mainly on showing dogs, competing with their dogs, hunting or working with their dogs is largely a thing of the past. I'd say that 90% of all dogs are pets and companions. Why continue to follow a model that doesn't fit the paradigm?

When training your dog, or just with life in general, cultivate your ability to observe - to see what is actually hapening uncolored by emotion or past failure. Look for things are aren't there as well as things that are there. If you do this often enough and long enough, you will start to see patterns in your dog, in your life, in nature and in society, and you will be able to put those patterns and observation to good use.

Seeing what is happening around us, what is there and not there, is something we unconsciously do all the time. Make a decision to consciously do this. You can learn a lot about people -- and dogs -- very quickly.

"He should just do it because I have asked". I have often heard this despondent remark from the humans during class and at private training lessons. Regardless of the difficulties at that time (anxiety, confusion, fear, or lack of solid previous training). In my view, not only is this statement a little dictatorial, but it also lacks realism.

I have heard there are trainers that say they can train a dog with only this motivation "because I asked". I've never seen a mention,however, of how they will get a distracted, unfocused, could care less about the human at the other end of the leash, dog to "do as one asks".

So, when faced with this plea, I can only ask one question: ‘How’s that working out for you?’. ‘That’ being the often unsuccessful demand that the dog should simply obey - the plea for me to do it all, for the magic wand to come out of the closet.

Learn to view the leash as only an accessory required by law. The leash should be almost non-existent as far as the dog is concerned. To train a truly loose-leash walk means the leash "invisible" in its impact on the dog - the leash is not used to control where the dog is walking or how the dog responds to stimuli except in an emergency. Even in an emergency, to continue to promote the loose leash... philosophy, don't jerk or tug the leash, just turn around swiftly and run away from the danger. Your dog may reach the end of the leash a few times in practicing this and get jerked just because it's the end of the leash, but the energy, emotion and frustration from you is not there. The dog learns to stay WITH you instead of learning to "respect" the leash. You learn that your dog can make the choice to be with you and not be constantly in a battle with you.

What Happens Here at Seize The Leash

It's really interesting to watch my students as they navigate through either a group class or private behavior training. Almost every one of them takes, in about six weeks, the same journey I as a behavior trainer have taken in my exploration of training and behavior of animals and in particular - dogs.



The first session, they are all about the mechanics - how do I do this, how did you get him to do that, what are the steps and how do I do them. This first session there is usually no desire to understand the dog or the theory behind why the mechanics exist. In the second or third session - depending on whether the human is really invested in changing their dogs emotions about things, they start asking why and actually listening to the explanations.

Then around week five, the light bulbs start going off and understanding of what is happening not only with their dog but themselves starts happening. This is why I try very hard not to do marathon sessions for changing behavior like you see on TV. This is the progress that is necessary to actually get permanent behavior change. In my experience, it takes 6 to 8 weeks for the dog to change his emotions backed by the change in emotions of the dogs humans. Both changes have to occur and the human has to start understanding body language, emotions, energy and the mechanics. Mechanics alone, which is all that can be learned in a marathon one day session, does not give permanent change.
Some of the training here at Seize The Leash is based on Natural Dog Training, a branch of dog training that looks at behaviour in terms of energy. It is, in many respects, similar to Natural Horsemanship, which looks at horse behavior in terms of the dynamic relationship between predator and prey, but transposed into the dog's world. It is therefore based on the hunting behaviors of dogs - why they chase, chew and tug... things.

Natural Dog Training looks to answer two fundamental questions in a dogs life.

•What do I do with my energy?
Knowing what to do when the world around is unnatural and confusing leads to many problems that owners can struggle to deal with.

•Where is the danger?
The second question centers on fear and the need for safety.

Natural Dog Training aims to answer these questions, resulting in a happy dog that knows how to behave appropriately and make choices that reflect it's knowledge and understanding of the human world.

The Natural Dog Training philosophy holds that a dog’s social energy, which governs his desire to learn and obey, is inextricably linked to his hunting instinct. By playing games that stimulate and satisfy the emotions contained within a dog’s prey drive, we automatically restructure the emotional dynamic between owner and dog. This, in turn, creates focus from dog to owner and a strong desire for harmony between the species.

How we utilize Natural Dog Training is in creating an understanding in the human that the dog isn't out to dominate and control everything. That a dog is a social creature who's nature is to be attracted to certain environmental stimuli and social groups. We teach both the dog and the human how to related to each other, play with each other and create a bond that supercedes anything the environment can provide.

One of the first things dogs and humans learn from us is leash manners. Many problems are created by mis-handling the leash on a walk. It seems like a gut reaction for humans to always jerk the leash and yell at the dog.whenever the dog reacts/lunges/barks at another dog while on leash.

Turn your walk into a dance with your dog and most of these issues disappear. The very first lesson all group students learn is how to dance, how to create an understanding in the dog that there doesn't have to be any pressure or pain in the neck and shoulders, and the human learns how not to create that discomfort and yet still have the dog willing to walk with the human. This takes on average about 20 minutes.

During this first session, why the dog is reactive is addressed. Most fearful dogs are under a lot of stress. Stressed dogs don't respond to praise, treats, toys or much of anything. Nearly their entire focus is on looking for the danger. You must first reduce the stress in the environment before you can start any training or behavior program successfully. Teach the dog to focus on you so that you can answer the two questions most dogs have - please help me with all this energy and take care of the danger.

Those two questions are completely answered in session 2 when the humans learn how to take their dogs energy and show the dog what to do with it by use of targeting. Targeting is the most useful skill you can teach your dog. It helps them build focus, confidence and self control, it shows the dog that you can control the environment all around him so he doesn't have to, it teaches him to work near you or away from you and that it can be fun to work away from you and it allows you a method of redirecting the dog away from reactivity or danger.

Too many humans have required that dogs conform to a different set of rules – rules that come from the human world, not the animal world. This attitude of human only adds a stressful dimension to a dog's existence that can eventually move them from calm intent, to frustration and eventually into aggression. This attitude gives humans an excuse not to "listen" to their dogs, so as communication after communication goes unnoticed or unrecognised, dogs become behavior problems.

Structure, more then leadership, is what helps dogs relax and understand the human world. Structure, like leadership, involves consistency and predictable consequences. Dogs do not need or want to be completely “free” and unstructured. Most dogs value structure over pure freedom. Structure handles anxiety and fear of the unknown and the future. A shelter dog put into a new home situation and left to his own devices can suffer a mild meltdown. Shelter dogs are not in shelters because of too much structure--they are often there because they never received enough. For children and pets, proper structure is a gift of love.

Week 3 is all about structure, confidence and movement. Our world, the human world tends mostly to be flat, but at best is mostly right angles with long stretches of flat. Our dogs need spaces to move where they have pot holes to avoid, branches to jump, trees to dodge around, different surfaces, textures, smells and interesting things to chase. With the use of TTouch, The Playground For Higher Learning, Massage, scent games and agility equipment, we show you how to create a world that is closer to what is natural for a dog.

The Natural Dog Training philosophy holds that a dog’s social energy, which governs his desire to learn and obey, is inextricably linked to his hunting instinct. By playing games that stimulate and satisfy the emotions contained within a dog’s prey drive, we automatically restructure the emotional dynamic between owner and dog. This, in turn, creates focus from dog to owner and a strong desire for harmony between the species.

The best way to train a dog is to do it while its prey drive has been activated. Work on obedience and other behaviors during a game of tug-o-war or fetch tug, and use the games themselves as the reward for compliance. Feed your scent hound its meal by sprinkling it on the lawn and practice behavior cues during the hunt. Teach recall by running away from the dog or moving away or making a noise resembling a prey animal. Find out what your dog really likes to put its heart into and train while it’s driven and can win by obeying.

With Seize the Leash, the prey drive, the need to chase, catch, shake, bite and most of those things we humans seem to need to control, are addressed in weeks 4, 5 and 6. With the use of games, the flirt pole, learning how to play tug and retrieve so as to redirect and control your dogs need for the hunt, both the dog and the human learn that a dog can still be a dog in a human world without stress.

"We’ve been taught to believe that a dog’s wild essence needs to be tamed, and by taming it he will become the perfect companion. But it is this very wildness that makes the dog social and allows him the ability to live with us in the first place. It’s this essence that needs to be nurtured and loved, not trampled and suppressed. The irony of course is that most dog owners will tell you that they love dogs, when the truth of the matter is that they actually live in fear of them. And dogs being our mirrors, what does that tell you about who they really fear?" Sang Koh

After six weeks of learning how your dog thinks, what it responds to instinctively and individually, how to get and hold your dog's attention and then direct that attention to safe and fun channels, build his confidence and yours and how to play again, you'll have a different dog and the dog will have a new life.