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.