Sunday, August 18, 2013

Purchase the Book

              Snake Avoidance Without Shock - The Book

Snake avoidance is purely about teaching a dog that the sight, smell or sound of a rattlesnake is to be avoided.  This is no different than teaching a dog not to cross the street without our approval, rush the open front door, beg at the table or poop in the house. It’s also a lot easier then teaching a dog to alert someone to an impending seizure or a dangerous drop in blood sugar levels.
Training a dog is all about teaching it what to do when.  It doesn’t matter whether that when is a word, a signal, a smell (detection and medical alert dogs), an object (agility and fly ball), or a shock (avoid pain). If training a dog what to do when wasn’t possible, guide dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, cadaver dogs would none of them exist.  Very few of these dogs were trained with the use of a shock collar and even the small percentage that are is lessoning as everyone embraces the fact that dogs are a lot smarter than we’ve given them credit for in the past.
Does it work? Yes.  Just two days ago, as I write this, we encountered our first rattlesnake since moving to our current property. I had not yet finished the avoidance training with my own dogs.  What they did as soon as the rattle started was:  Brynda and Asher ran away and as soon as I opened the back door ran into the house.  Micah was barking up a storm at this creature from about five feet away.  This is Micah’s normal response to just about anything new or that he feels doesn’t belong in his space.  Temperance was trying to herd it in high heeler fashion, but still staying about five feet away and mostly behind Micah. 
A frantic, emotionally charged, high pitched “COME” from me pulled the two of them away and into the house.
I have other success stories from clients who took the class, but there is nothing like the adrenaline rush of seeing your own dogs in danger and realizing that your training has worked.

Buy now, before the release date, and receive 12 more games - two full weeks of fun and learning!

Release date is September 1, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Possibilities and Perfection

There are many methods of training a dog and some are a mixture of others. It seems however, that they all promise to create a dog for you that can do no wrong, that will comply to your commands/requests instantly each and every time. But is it really possible? can you turn a dog into a robot? can you make a dog that is better then all humans?

Nature is more powerful then any dog training method.  Emotions are more powerful then any method also. There isn't always a training or behavior solution for every dog problem.  Each time a dog does something, cued or not, it's slightly different then the last time she did it, or the next time she will do it.  Nothing in this universe is ever an exact duplicate of another, not even actions, even if the only difference is time or space. 

This variability can work for you however IF you train your dog to think, to solve problems and to be able to listen through arousal or depression.  This is how nature works, it's what allows animals to actual survive in the wild. Each and every situation is at least slightly different than any other, and if a dog cannot change it's own behavior that slight bit, it may not survive that situation.

If you could train a dog to 100% reliability, there would be no need for sports and competition because there would be no way to win against other dogs trained to 100% reliability.  It doesn't matter what method you are using - clickers, toys, play, shock or choking - creating a robot dog out of flesh and blood and emotions cannot be done.

And yet, people still look for magic wands. We have created a culture where everything has to be done now.  "Make your child a genius, just put these ear phones on your stomach", "lose 16 dress sizes with this diet in 5 weeks" and other strange advertisement trying to part lazy people from their hard earned cash.

Think before you expect something of your dog that even you aren’t capable of. Acting perfectly all the time is a pipe dream for dogs or any other species. Get out there and do the work necessary for getting the best dog possible but at the same time remember that we all have bad hair days.

How Many Lessons?

How many lessons, how much time, does it take to train your dog? This is the wrong question to ask. It isn’t about the number of lessons, or even how much it costs, it's about committment and seeing things through to the end.

I had a phone conversation with someone who has literally talked to almost every trainer in town about her needs.  She sited answers such as "for $2000, in two weeks you'll have a perfect service dog", "first you have to pay $1500 for the obedience and then another $2500 for the service dog training and it will take a month", "Your breed of dog cannot do what you want it to, give me your dog and I'll trade you for a breed that will", "your dog is too young", "your dog is too old" and many other either canned answers of time and money or reasons why it couldn't be done.

If all you are concerned about is how long and how much, you will not get effective results. If all you are getting is excuses about why things can't be done or weren't done after you did pay the money, you need to find an effective trainer. There are some excellent trainers in this area and there are some who only want your money. The trainer and the methods you choose can directly impact what is going on in your home. Your dog is part of your life, it's up to you to determine how your dog fits in.  You can take the easy road and have a "trained" dog in 2 weeks and a permanent collar attachment, or you can make the commitment and work with your dog for the time needed.

BTW, she signed up with Seize The Leash.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Teaching Dog

The popular advice is to be the "pack leader", which is basically saying "When your dog is acting out and trying to dominate you, then you must emulate a wolf". This piece of advice has, as most know, led to strange training and behavior management methods that are controversial at best and downright silly in some instances.

I was thinking about this and realized - if I did act like a wolf when my dog jumped up on me, what would that really mean I was to do? I don't have any wolves handy to test with, so I thought back to Saturday morning when Brynda was out with me during class being the teaching dog. What did she do when a dog got rude with her? She turned around and gave him what for and he backed off and was much more respectful after that. It happened one more time during the other dog's interaction with Brynda as he was trying all those things he has used in the past with other dogs and also with people. One more time, more mildly the second time, Brynda turned and snarked at him and he stopped with the rude behavior. Not only did he stop, but he started parallel walking with her, sniffing where she did and basically being her shadow.

So how does Brynda's action affect how I should respond to a dog being rude (head butting Brynda)? jumping up? humping my leg? nipping my hands (Brynda's ear)? There's is no way that my lunging at, snapping at and making the sounds Brynda did are going to have the same affect. My body is different, my speed is different, my coordination is different and my vocal chords are different. That dog knows I'm not a dog or a wolf. Brynda didn't alpha roll the dog, she didn't punch him, nip him on the neck or grab his collar and jerk it. In fact, she never made physical contact with the other dog at all unless sound waves count.

Can I, as a human, communicate as effectively as Brynda did so that ONE TIME was all that was needed to stop a particular behavior? Not if I try to emulate a dog or a wolf because I am not either of those species. The dog I'm trying to stop knows this, and so do I.

I think the first thing that has to be looked at between a human and dog is whether there is "interest in engagement" coming from both sides. Without that interest in engagement, you may be able to force a dog to comply with your wishes but you will have to apply that force repeatedly (or with enough intensity) until the dog finally gives up. If a dog is interested in engaging with me, even if that engagement is fueled by food or play, I can get a dog to do anything. I can also stop any behavior I don't like, the first time, with permanence, just by telling the dog I want nothing more to do with it if it's going to act like that. You can't just ignore the behavior, you have to indicate somehow that it's inappropriate and won't be tolerated in your presence. But force is never the answer - ask Brynda.

Have a shy dog? Fearful of new places? Doesn't seem to know how to play or interact or too scared to? Again, ask Brynda. Her answer? Walk away and play with something, come back and sniff, walk away and play with something, sniff the ground, lay down with back turned away from scaredy dog, pick up toy and throw it near the other dog, grab the toy and play with it close to the other dog, sniff the dog and walk away. In 80% of the cases of shy dogs, at this point they start following Brynda around and sniffing the toys she throws at them. Eventually, Brynda will lay down and, I'm assuming, invite the shy dog to come lay down with her and if it happens, give the other dog a bath and a massage. This might repeat for a couple of sessions if I let Brynda do all the work and the owner of the scaredy dog is willing. But once is usually enough to handle the fear to the point of being able to work with the dog myself and finish the confidence building.

More and more as I'm understanding what it means to be a dog, I'm realizing how inappropriate most training methods are. Brynda has been the best teacher I've ever had. Her methods are "come be with me and do what I do" or "come play with me and learn this skill" and of course "don't do that". This is where I am heading. There are still the residuals of traditional methods, human ego and frustration, but it's working and dogs are recovering faster and with more permanence and skills are learned in short quick sessions with fun and companionship all around.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Learning to like or at least accept unpleasant necessities

Learning to like or at least accept unpleasant necessities (via DogRelations™)
Source: via Elisabeth Weiss on Pinterest The article below talks about something that I touch upon quite frequently, namely the day to day application of “skills” like “STAND” or “BANG” ( play dead lying on your side until released) that do not fall into the category of…

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Perception 2013

It's interesting to watch how people respond to things they like, things they don't like, things they don't understand, things they are willing to understand and things that may or may not get them in trouble.

For instance, two weeks ago, I posted a picture I found on another trainer's Facebook page that illustrated a method of working with dogs that, frankly, turns my stomach.  I shared that picture with a group on Facebook that I infrequently post in, but thought they would like to know about this new method and the tools used with it.

Eventually, the trainer who's picture I linked to, discovered that I had linked to it and had posted about a report given to me about one of the dogs who had been the recipient of this new method of socialization.

You would think that there would be a polite request to delete the link and delete the post.  One would think that humans are gentle enough and caring enough that they would try a soft approach first.  But it's been my experience that those who practice harsh methods of training dogs, also treat their fellow humans in a similar manner - especially when confronted with the effects of their methods.

Excuses and justifications that I've heard for working with dogs in a harsh, aversive, forceful and often times painful for the dog, manner are:
1. my clients are happy with the results
2. my dog loves his e-collar, he is always excited to go for a walk when I grab his collar
3. I tried everything and nothing else worked
4. It takes too long with any other method
5. It's just a tap/tickle, it's not any worse then a static shock (I don't know about you, but I hate static shocks and will go out of my way to prevent them!!!)
6. I don't talk about your methods, don't talk about mine.

and many more, all of which is a total lack of taking responsibility.

In this case, what descended on my head was a storm of vitriol from not only the trainer, but several people that she talked to about what "I did to her".  One of which was someone that I work with closely who only got that I was being unprofessional and didn't want the shit to hit her group.

I think the worst part of all the hatred that came my way was when the trainer started spouting lies about what people had told her about me and my methods and a justification for what she does (i.e. everyone gets bad reports so just ignore them).  She even went so far as to say she had gotten reports from people who had "shadowed" me. 

I have had 5 apprentices and several who came to one or two group classes to see if they wanted to be an apprentice since moving here to Tucson.  Out of those five apprentices, one went home and started her own business in Washington, one comes here at least once a week to socialize her dogs and ask advice, two are still apprentices and the last one is now my assistant trainer.  Basically, any "reports" she got about me came from people who barely knew the back of my head in regards to my training methods.

One of the people this trainer "talked" to, was apparently (and I say that with little knowledge of whether it's true) one of the people in the picture I shared.  This picture showed some legs and an arm that didn't appear to be coming from the same body as the legs, and several dogs.  The hand at the end of the arm was attached to a whip like object and that object was blurred in the picture suggesting movement.  Next to the legs, and held by a hand was another whip like object which appeared to be still.

The reason this person had for IMing me on Facebook was to get me to retract what I said about the picture and to delete the picture from the group I shared it with.  The reason she wanted this done?  I had to reread her vitriolic ramblings several times to find out the exact reason.  The dog in question is a foster.  She was afraid that the rescue organization would think she was using abusive methods to train the foster dog. Makes me wonder if she - deep down inside - knows that putting the dog in that situation has the potential for abuse. It also makes me wonder what other abusive methods she might be using on the dog.

So who really is at fault here?  Was I wrong in pointing out the potential for abuse because of whips  being part of the training process? or was she at fault for putting a dog she didn't own into a situation where abuse was possible?

Monday, January 14, 2013


Leadership comes from within, not from what you do or don’t ask another to do. The qualities of a leader have more to do with inner strength and a calm, confident manner, not how good you are at getting compliance or fending off rivals. Communication plays an huge role in being a leader. Respect comes from understanding and ability to convey and receive information.

Your dog’s respect for you will also grow the more you understand each other and can effectively communicate. Learn dog body language, teach your dog more then just six or seven human words. Label everything for you dog. Off means gets off, down means put your belly on the ground, sit means put your butt on the ground and keep it there until I tell you otherwise.

Our tendencies as humans are to find short cuts, especially in our current magic wand society. Your dog is not going to understand that "no" means, get off, get up, stop that, move away, leave it alone, stop barking, don't dig, etc. Label everything. Stop taking shortcuts and bring out the fullness of your relationship with your dog in such as way that your dog understands.

And don't forget to play.

Few dogs are beyond repair. If you as the rational thinking species actually use your creativity, sense of fairness and need to help, your dog can become who you wish her to be in a very short time. Tap into your dog's instincts. Dog's run, chase, pounce, shake things, dig and howl. Use these activities to teach them when to do what they already know how to do. Then show them how they can do them better and help them via the best method there is - play.

Want you dog to learn how to get you a beer out of the fridge? Create several games that show the dog how to: open a door, grab a can, close the door, bring the can to you and drop it in your hands. None of this is beyond the intelligence or physical ability of a dog. If you make each segment a game (which implies a goal with a reward), not only will he learn fast but he won't forget because the pleasure never goes away.

When you have this level of communication with your dog, being "the boss" isn't really even necessary. A creative, calm, confident leader can teach anything and fix anything.


Many dog trainers, behaviorists and TV personalities attempt to speak with authority on the subject of wolf and dog behaviour. However, their knowledge of wolves is largely second-hand information gleaned from books, research papers and television documentaries about both wild and captive wolves. Much of this information is now out of date, and subsequently retracted by those who did the original research. In reality, the best teachers are the wolves and dogs themselves when it comes to learning about their behaviour and relationships with their own and other species. While many professional dog trainers work with dogs daily, and have the opportunity to interact and experience a variety of breeds and temperaments, very few have the chance to work with captive wolves on the same basis over a number of years.

The best learning experience is always hands on, immersion into the subject you are learning about. You can learn the general theories and methods from the experience of others by reading, going to seminars and even attending workshops and schools. But until you've actually worked with at least 1000 aggressive dogs your words and utterances will only be based on others wisdom and not your own experiential knowledge. Until you've brought at least 1000 shy dogs away from their fears and given them the ability to enjoy life again, be careful how emphatic you are about asserting your "rightness".

A dog who is not actually being a dog, but is an amalgam of what a dog could be and what humans have constructed with their ignorance, is not a simple construct. To label such a dog as "dominant" or "submissive" does a grave injustice to yourself and the dog. There is so much more to discover about such a dog in order to assist him. By actually demeaning him with such a vague, amorphous label, demeans you and your abilities as well.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What is a Game?

There have been many different definitions and attempts at defining the term "game" but for the purposes of dog training, here is a definition that fits in the instructional setting as well as for life experiences.

A game is a challenge, created by the rules that govern it, bound by the cooperation between the players of the game who all have the same purposes, intentions and focus; all of which results in a quantifiable goal.

Just so we are all on the same page, I will also define the terms used in the definition.

Cooperation-To work together toward a common goal, justly and honestly. Cooperation implies the ability to engage in communication with understanding; to be honest about intentions and purposes and the rely of information; to do one’s rightful share of the work; to effectively perform one’s job and assist in the survival of the players until the goal is reached.

Players-As an adjective, to be "game" is someone who is eager and willing to do something new or challenging with the purpose of reaching a goal or creating something new. This person is a "player". A game can have one player or multiples. These players can be working cooperatively or separately, even in conflict as a means to deter the other players from reaching the stated goal.

Quantifiable-Capable of being measured. For instance, if you were playing the game of 1-2-3-break which has the goal of the dog learning to stay in the position asked for until released, you could measure your progress with duration of stay, level of distractions, how many different environments the behavior is perfected in and the distance the handler can move away from the dog.

Challenge-A test of one's abilities or resources in a demanding but stimulating undertaking. A challenge also invites the player to learn new things, refine already known behaviors and abilities, create new pathways and new worlds thus guaranteeing survival.

Rules-a rule is a statement explaining what someone can or cannot do in a particular system,game, or situation. The rules of the game are the structure that allows the goal to be reached. Rules create the boundaries, set the tone and make coorperation inevitable.

Goal-The end toward which an endeavor is directed; an objective. Having a goal is often what differentiates between play and a game. A game can have more than one goal. For instance, coming back to the 1-2-3-Break game, there are several goals - 1) learning to stay in one place 2) waiting for a release 3) creating self control in the face of distractions.

Purpose-The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. Each teaching game has a stated purpose, a reason why the game is being played.

Intention- a determination to act in a certain way; to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim. Without intention, we go nowhere. It is determination in the fullest sense, almost the need to move forward.

Focus-a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity.

Play Away Sound Sensitivity

Well, last night was the first time in many many years that I actually was awake at midnight at the start of a new year. Not by choice !! Turns out that Tora does NOT like fireworks and there were a lot of them in yards around me, especially in the one behind me. 

This gave me an opportunity to test out my method of handling storm phobia on fireworks. It was harder because they don't last as long as a storm, the smell is entirely different and there are a variety of sounds. And it was 36 degrees outside !!!

So, I let all the dogs out with Tora on a leash just in case she decided to try and jump my 8 foot fence or dig her way under (although she has not shown that she's a digger). Tora was not happy, not even with Tempe playbowing at her and Brynda rubbing up against her. She was better out in the open then she had been in her crate however so I took that as a good sign.

I picked up the flirt pole - a game Tora was finding increasingly more interesting - and started flinging the rabbit around. I had a long tuggie in the other hand and Tora on a long line. It took about 20 minutes for Tora to finally bite the tuggie, all the while the kids behind me are setting off some impressive fireworks. My four kept running to the fence thinking to get some treats and eventually I did have the kids throw some treats for them - and even Tora decided it was safe enough to eat. Encouraging signs.

By 12:40 Tora was chasing the rabbit, running for treats, tugging the buffalo and tackling Temperance. Success.