By Sean O’Shea

Therapy. It’s a messy, uncomfortable, and often painful process. We all know going in that there’s a good chance of tears, overwhelm, panic, uncertainty. 

A therapists gig is to help you dig down into the muck of your experiences, trauma, and pain, examine it all, process it all, feel it all, and then, by giving you new tools and support, hopefully help you move on in the most healthy fashion possible. 

Lots of folks avoid therapy because it’s hard and often painful. It’s much easier to distract ourselves with all manner of “stuff”, and hope it will all be okay. 

But if you’re willing to dive in, be vulnerable, and do the work, amazing things can happen. But there’s no escaping the hard work, the discomfort, pain, and the challenge of the process. 

Do we always look happy in therapy? Are we always smiling and laughing? Is it the most fun point of your day? Probably not. Is it the most beneficial part of your day…probably. 

People in therapy are often found crying, trembling, overwhelmed and freaked out as they attempt to navigate their interior world. 
Breaking old patterns, finding new insights and awareness…all good stuff…good stuff that doesn’t always look so good. 

I see rehab with dogs in much the same way I do therapy for humans. Are their differences? Of course. We can’t have the same verbal conversations and we can’t communicate emotions and best approaches for forward movement in the same way. But, are we working through trauma, anxiety, toxic patterns and beliefs? Absolutely. 

So knowing all that, why on earth would we expect a dog, who’s going through major transformational stuff, to always look happy? Why would we expect these complex creatures to just happily, easily, and seamlessly adjust to their entire worlds changing? Shouldn’t we expect some emotional fallout? Shouldn’t we see some therapy-like discomfort and overwhelm as they attempt to navigate unchartered mental and behavioral waters? 

This is what always perplexes me. Folks want dogs to be trained and rehabbed and transformed…but they don’t want the dog to have to experience any discomfort or uncertainty as they do so. They want the dogs to magically transform and skip all that nasty, not fun stuff. People freak out if they see a dog shaking as it lays in place or looking unsure or afraid. Even though all that’s been done is that the dog’s pattern’s been blocked, or it’s in a new environment, or it’s simply not being allowed to act out as usual. 

The patterns being broken create temporary stress and anxiety. The dog, finding itself in unfamiliar territory is freaked out…just like the person on the couch in the therapists office. But even though we get it for us, we struggle seeing it with dogs. 

Of course the goal of therapy, or training, isn’t to keep the human or dog in a state of discomfort and anxiety or stress. It’s meant to be a gateway to the opposite – more comfort, less anxiety, less stress. But that takes time and growth. And neither species gets a free pass or a shortcut. 
And while it might be hard to watch dogs in an uncomfortable state, if we can see them in a deeper fashion (emotionally, pattern wise, trauma bearing etc.), and understand that they too have to go through difficult stuff to come out on the other side, we might just be able to see things a little differently. 

We see this arc of shock, confusion, adapting, processing, and growth constantly. It’s not always pretty, and it’s not always “done” by the time the dog goes home. Many dogs need months of continuous work to finally reach their comfy, happy, easy space. This is why some folks remark that dogs in our program don’t always look “happy”. I’m okay with that, I don’t love it, just like I’m sure the therapist doesn’t love seeing people in pain, but I do appreciate it, because I know it’s leading the dog somewhere. 
Somewhere far better than where they were when they showed up. 

So the next time you see a picture or video of a dog being trained, and if the dog doesn’t look ecstatic and bouncy, take a moment, learn what the dog came in with, what’s being worked on, and maybe you’ll be able to see that he’s going through a process, a transformation. One that’s unfinished. 

By Sean O’Shea

If you’re lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the current friction in the dog training world, let me ruin that for you. ūüôā 

There’s an approach that goes by various names. It might be called pure positive, force free, or rewards based. The concept is simple: for dogs, life and learning should always be 100% fun, comfortable, and enjoyable. You reward the behavior you like, and ignore the behavior you dislike. No tools or approaches that might impinge on 100% fun, comfortable, and enjoyable should ever be used. Anything that makes the dog uncomfortable is labeled inhumane. 

It’s purported to be “scientifically based”, extremely modern, and highly evolved (even though it eschews 3 of the 4 learning quadrants science accepts.) It’s a new and better way to learn. Consequences, and all that nasty stuff the rest of us creatures learn by, are all unnecessary. It’s incredibly popular, has the best built-in marketing (who wouldn’t want to just use treats and love to create good behavior?), and has a near-religious, cult-like following among its devotees. 

The only issue is, it doesn’t really work. 

Let me clarify. It works really, really well to teach certain things. If you want your dog to “know” how to sit, down, place, recall, beg, roll over, shake, or do any number of behaviors or tricks, it’s awesome. But there’s a rub. There’s a big difference between “knowing” and reliably performing something. Your dog can “know” all day long and still not do…especially when you need it most. Also, there’s the little matter of it not working at all to teach what is absolutely NOT okay – dog aggression or human aggression, reactivity on leash, resource guarding, jumping, counter-surfing, poop eating, just to name a few.

In other words, it’s a great yes, but a terrible no.

But, if you listen to the devotees, they’ll tell you it does it all, with any dog. It creates absolutely reliable recalls…even around squirrels and other dogs. It creates awesome, non-pulling walks, eradicates reactivity on-leash, stops jumping, fixes human or dog aggression, and makes resource guarding a thing of the past. And all without any of those nasty tools, or having to be “mean” to your dog.

So we’ve got all these claims of awesome results, all done in a loving, kind, aversive-free fashion. There’s mountains of books, DVDs, workshops, and websites, all claiming amazing results and help for those in need. We’ve got trainers swearing they can do seriously amazing rehab with seriously tough dogs. We’ve heard legendary tales of truly nasty aggression being turned around. Heavy-duty reactivity issues totally sorted. The most challenging behaviors, and all of it better handled and better solved. And once again, all achieved without those damn tools, consequences, or leadership stuff. 

I mean, come on, that’s amazing. That’s like dog trainer rockstar stuff. That’s the stuff that changes the world…or at least the industry. That’s the stuff you can’t wait to see in action. The stuff you can’t wait to witness and cheer on.

Except…

When you go to find it, to cheer it on…you can’t. It’s not there. All that awesomeness has been misplaced, or tucked away somewhere. Maybe it’s so awesome that you need to join a club or get some private access code? 

It’s a head scratcher for sure. Where is it all? Why can’t you find all this great stuff. Surely the folks who have this knowledge can’t wait to capture it on video and share it with the rest of the world. Surely they want to help dog owners and other trainers see this great stuff so they can all make more evolved, more enlightened decisions. Right? If you truly loved dogs you’d want everyone to have access to this great information. Right?

But alas, when you go searching, it’s nowhere to be found. Not the serious stuff. Sure you can find videos of cupcake dogs, purported to be “serious” at one point, that were never really a challenge doing great. But all that heavy-duty stuff? Crickets. 

And that’s where you have to ask some hard questions. If this approach is one devised by dog lovers, who only want the best for dogs, and if this approach is truly revolutionary, why would those with this information and ability keep it to themselves? Why would dog lovers rob other dog lovers who are struggling? Why would they keep something so helpful, for so many, a secret? 

And you really only have two possible answers. One, they don’t care enough about dogs and owners to share what they know and how they do it. Or two, they can’t do what they say. 

Or maybe there’s a third. Maybe it’s both. Maybe the only true priority is the agenda, the religion. Maybe dogs and owners aren’t the priority at all. Maybe real results and real caring aren’t the North Star of this religion. Maybe this religion is about something else altogether.

Maybe this religion is actually more about rescuing broken people by way of rescuing dogs. The dogs, their owners, and their issues aren’t the focus. They’re the window dressing. They’re the camouflage used to distract from the true motive of the religion: the practitioners attempting to heal or retroactively protect themselves by way of protecting dogs, from what they see as parallels of their own disempowerment, lack of boundaries, and coping with what they didn’t desire in their own lives. 

The dogs, the owners, the truth, don’t matter. All that matters is that that nagging pain within subsides. 

That’s the religion. 

image

By Sean O’Shea

What most folks don’t get, is that everything with your dog is connected. Every allowance or permissive moment, opens the door for another, seemingly unrelated behavior. They don’t realize that over-indulging your dog with love, freedom, and tons of unearned affection, creates perceptions about you that can lead to other issues. That everything you do or don’t do is giving your dog information about who you are and how he should respond to you. That you’re constantly dropping clues to your dog about what opportunities are available, as well as creating openings for instability.

When your relationship with your dog is lopsided, unbalanced, and based far more on “love” and spoiling than it is rules and structure, you’re going to have problems. (I think we all get that by now.) But the interesting part is that you never know how that information of permissiveness, allowance, and lack of accountability will show itself.

You think the spoiling might lead to begging or barking at you, but instead it leads to resource guarding. You think that allowing the pulling on the walk might lead to barking at other dogs, but instead it leads to growling and snapping at guests in the house. You think allowing jumping, barking, and craziness in the house will just lead to bad manners, but instead it leads to separation anxiety.

While the origins of these serious issues might seem dramatic and improbable, I can assure you we’ve seen them all in action. We’ve seen relationship gaps create what seem to be amazingly disconnected issues. The thing is, you don’t get to choose how your behavior (or lack of) affects your dog’s. You don’t know what’s going to come out the other end of a relationship that’s short on leadership, rules, and accountability, and long on chaos and permissiveness.

Oftentimes it makes clear sense. The behavior you think you’re possibly creating (and are ok with) is what you get. But just as often it’s not. Often the dog’s individual psychological makeup and personality create an outcome you’d think was totally unrelated. But what happens is, your dog’s personal insecurities, temperament, genetics, and attitude become a giant mixer – a mixer that combines with what you add to it. You both add your parts, stir them up with daily life and repetition, and voila, you get some nasty behavior that SEEMS totally unrelated. But it’s not.

We see so many dogs with gigantic laundry lists of issues. From annoying stuff to super dangerous. And the funny thing is, our program almost never changes. But all these dogs, with all these different issues, using the same program, transform. Do we sometimes need specific protocols for specific issues? Of course. But by and large, a simple program of believable leadership, non-negotiable rules, dependable structure, and accountability for poor choices are what make 95% of the changes.

Do you know how many resource guarders stop guarding once they experience a few rules totally unrelated to their guarding? Or how many territorial guys stop being territorial once believable leadership is in place? Or how many separation anxiety dogs relax and stop freaking out once they learn that structure, rules, and accountability are prioritized over freedom and affection?

Leadership gaps, rule gaps, structure gaps, accountability gaps – accompanied by permissiveness, affection, and freedom are the perfect recipe to create all manner of dog behavior problems. The thing is, you never know which ones.


CONNECT WITH US ON Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube for more training insights, tips, our free weekly Q&A Saturday, and community interaction!

Our groundbreaking do-it-yourself E-Collar training video/PDF training guide Learn to Train The Good Dog Way: E-Collar Training is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE DVD TEASER!

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.05.52 AM

3z7a0957

By Sean O’Shea

Relationships are real things. You and your dog have one. It might be healthy, balanced, and awesome, or it might be toxic, disrespectful, and disheartening. Or maybe it’s somewhere in-between. Whatever it is, it’s been built by your interactions. What you’ve allowed. What you haven’t allowed. What you’ve asked for. What you’ve reinforced. Who you’ve been and how you’ve behaved.

Everything you’ve done has been information your dog has used to determine your relationship. All this information has told your dog who you are and what role you wish to play in his life. It’s also informed him about the rules of life. What is and isn’t okay, what is and isn’t expected. It’s created the framework your dog makes all his decisions from.

While trainers can teach your dog commands, manners, and what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, your dog is simply too smart and too emotionally evolved to take that information as universal. Just like you know who means business and who doesn’t in your own life, so does your dog. Eventually, if you don’t keep up the work, if you start to slack, your dog will see the cracks. He’ll realize there’s two sets of rules: the ones he knows, and the ones you actually enforce. And he’ll choose the latter. Not because he’s a bad dog, but because he’s opportunistic…just like you and me.

Like us, when authority and rules are foggy, or not consistently enforced, we tend to take advantage of them. Whether we like to admit it or not, it’s always consequences – or the possibility of them – that tends to keep us on our best behavior. The more predictable and dependable, the better our behavior tends to be. And of course, the less predictable and dependable, the worse our behavior tends to be.

Our dogs are reading us. All the time. What are we enforcing, what are we allowing? They’re taking this information and deciding what needs to be adhered to and what doesn’t, who needs to be listened to and who doesn’t. If you ask for less than what the trainer asked, you’ll get less. If you ask the same, you’ll get the same. It’s in these moments that you create your relationship dynamics.

And while us trainers can build the foundation for the new, more healthy patterns and choices to stand on, it’s only you – the person your dog lives with, the person who enforces the rules, structure, and expectations daily – that can make these changes permanent.

We can only give you the tools to start you on the path, we can’t build the relationship. That part, the hard part, is up to you. Your dog is too smart to have it any other way.


CONNECT WITH US ON Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube for more training insights, tips, our free weekly Q&A Saturday, and community interaction!

Our groundbreaking do-it-yourself E-Collar training video/PDF training guide Learn to Train The Good Dog Way: E-Collar Training is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE DVD TEASER!

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.05.52 AM

By Sean O’Shea

While typically we associate the abuse of dogs with denying them food, shelter, or physically harming them, the abuse I see in my work is far more common, insidious, and acceptable.

Why insidious? Because it’s abuse that is shared under the guise of love, caring, or just a lack of knowledge.

So many owners mistakenly associate leadership (creating a framework of rules and expectations), structure (daily habits, routines, patterns), and accountability (consequences for breaking known rules, or making poor choices in general) with being mean, nasty, and harsh. These owners just want to love their dogs – which is code for selfish/lazy behavior.

But here’s the thing, the only mean, nasty, or harsh thing is denying our dogs the framework and foundation they need to thrive and lead healthy, happy lives.

Owners who decide to forgo leadership, structure, and accountability are basically sentencing their dogs to a life of stress, anxiety, worry, over-arousal, uncertainty, pressure, and way too much responsibility.

And the dogs we see that live like this are every bit as abused and unhealthy as the more obvious and accepted forms.

What would you call constant stress when it’s avoidable? Constant anxiety when it’s avoidable? Constant worry when it’s avoidable? Constant over-arousal when it’s avoidable? Constant pressure when it’s avoidable? Constant responsibility when it’s avoidable?

I’d call it abuse.

Of course no one is hitting the dog, starving the dog, or leaving the dog out in the snow. These dogs likely have the best food, tons of “love”, and a nice cozy bed(s) to sleep on. And yet, they’re emotional wrecks.

If we allow dogs to be emotional disasters (which looks like chronic barking, possessive behavior, separation anxiety, hyper-reactivity, growling/lunging at triggers, maniacal on-leash behavior, maniacal indoor behavior, aggression etc) when we have the ability to change that and offer them something far better, isn’t that abuse?

If we allow our dogs to suffer when there are methods, approaches, and tools that can change all that, isn’t that abusive? Isn’t allowing suffering the same as causing suffering?

Now, if you’re hard at work with a challenging dog, or you’re working on turning a toxic relationship around, this isn’t aimed at you. You’ve got my full support. But if your dog is a wreck, and you prefer the easy, comfortable, lazy (or worst yet, chosen ignorance) approach to “dealing” with this, then this might be for you.

Abuse comes in many packages, and the package that is most pervasive isn’t the horrible, nasty, or unbelievable – it’s the every day, socially acceptable, loving, spoiling, allowing, permissive stuff that’s doing the most damage.

Remember, love isn’t about doing what’s easiest and most fun/comfortable/emotionally enjoyable for you. It’s about doing what’s best and healthiest for those in your charge – even when it’s hard or uncomfortable.


CONNECT WITH US ON Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube for more training insights, tips, our free weekly Q&A Saturday, and community interaction!

Our groundbreaking do-it-yourself E-Collar training video/PDF training guide Learn to Train The Good Dog Way: E-Collar Training is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE DVD TEASER!

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.05.52 AM

3Z7A0190
By Sean O’Shea

1) Thou shall only pet, soothe, and share soft energy with a dog when they are in a healthy and positive state of mind. 

We learned in¬†The Ten Commandments Of Dog Training¬†(Don’t!) that sharing soft energy or soothing interactions with our dogs when they’re in an unhealthy state will likely reinforce and strengthen the unwanted behavior. Remember this phrase to help you:

What you pet is what you get!

So be mindful to use your interactions to cultivate positive mental states rather than negative.

Instead of coddling and soothing your dog at the first sign of distress, let’s learn to ignore minor stress and moments of uncertainty. Trust that your dog is a creature designed to overcome challenges, and that she is much more resilient than you give her credit for. Like kids, your dog will take cues from your level of reaction as a guide for how strongly they should feel and be concerned about situations.

For more serious behavior issues, embark on a balanced obedience/training program which will instill confidence and growth. With the right training approach, even serious issues can be successfully tackled. Check out my basic free how-to videos HERE or my Foundation DVD HERE.

So think of it this way: if there’s a behavior that you would like your dog to do less of, don’t do something that will increase the frequency of the behavior (petting, soothing, etc), and instead do something that will reduce its frequency (ignoring, correcting, or training).

2) Thou shall keep your on-leash dog safe by not allowing interactions with unknown dogs, who are also on-leash. 

We learned in the previous post that dogs meeting on-leash tend to be in a compromised state, either due to stress from excitement and frustration of anticipating a meeting; or stress from nervousness and insecurity from trying to avoid a meeting (and, of course, some dogs are conflicted and vacillate between both). Either way we know that even really social dogs may end up in a negative interaction when on-leash due to these factors.

So what’s the right approach to dogs meeting on-leash?

Well, in my opinion, you shouldn’t let¬†it happen. I just create a simple rule for my clients that they aren’t to let their dogs interact on-leash with other dogs on the walk. The only exception to this is if the other dog is a well-known friend to your dog, you’re certain they get on great and have no issues interacting – and your dog doesn’t act like a knucklehead dragging you across the street to meet his buddy! For all other situations, I’d suggest simply deciding to avoid the possible drama and trauma of on-leash greetings, and use my favorite line to keep other owners and dogs at bay:

“Sorry, my dog is in training.” (It works every time!)

Most of the motivation behind our desire to have on-leash meetings stem from our belief that our dogs need to meet every dog they see. That in order to be fulfilled and happy, they need to have interaction with all the neighborhood dogs. Believing this to be the case, and, of course, wanting our dogs to be happy (and not wanting to be a social outcast who says ‘no’ to other owners), we allow them to drag us over to random dogs at their discretion and peril. But the reality is that your dog needs structure and guidance from you on the walks much more than he needs to meet every dog in order to be happy and balanced – not to mention, safe.

Remember that it’s our job to advocate for our dogs and to keep them safe, sound and balanced when on-leash and off. Simply put, your dog needs you to make the smart decisions and understand what’s best for him when it comes to safely navigating through our world.

3) Thou shall ensure that your dog waits patiently at thresholds, heels politely, and obeys the rules of the structured walk. 

Previously we learned that allowing these behaviors oftentimes creates relationship issues, teaches your dog to ignore you, trains pushiness, and often creates stressed out little monsters. So let’s not go there!

Instead, focus on creating respectful, calm behavior at thresholds with your dog stopping and waiting for permission from you to move through. This simple exercise can dramatically change your dog’s behavior on the walk and elsewhere. The trick is to not use a tense leash to hold your dog back from moving through the threshold, but, instead, use a quick pop on the leash if your dog should try to move past you. You can also ask your dog to sit first, but the way I do it, without a verbal command, actually challenges the dog more and encourages better focus and more respect.

Check out my Threshold video below for step-by-step instructions on how to create better behavior and a better state of mind at thresholds:

THRESHOLDS VIDEO

Same goes for the walk itself. Many owners use constant pressure (holding the dog back with a tense leash) in an attempt to control the dog. This only makes for a tense, frustrated, struggle for both of you. What we’re looking for is a short, but not tight, leash, that always has a little slack in it, except for the moments when you correct with an instantaneous leash pop and release. These leash pops are conversations to your dog that communicate where your dog should be position-wise.

Check out my Walk video below for step-by-step instructions on how to create a calm, structured walk:

WALK VIDEO

Also, see my post called Why Heel Matters.

When done correctly, the structured walk (with relaxed leash and using leash pops to communicate) will keep your dog from pulling, keep him/her calm, and will prevent many of the outbursts and reactivity (barking and lunging). ¬†These outbursts typically come from dogs being overly-stressed due to straining, frustration, and feeling disconnected from you. As for the actual rules of the structured walk, don’t allow your dog to pull, sniff, mark, or target other dogs. Your dog needs structure and rules from you in order to feel comfortable, respectful, and safe on the walk. You can allow your dog to have potty and sniff time on your release, not when your dog simply decides to pull you to something of interest.

Owners often struggle with feeling bad about asking their dogs to walk in a more structured fashion. They feel they’re denying their dogs the fun and joy of exploring and being dogs, but the reality is that your dog will actually enjoy the walk much more if he’s calm, relaxed, and stress free.

We recommend a 90/10 ratio of structure to freedom. Shoot for a 90% structured walk with your dog walking at your side with zero pulling and then 10% of freedom, potty time, and/or sniffing, spread out over the duration of the walk, as a reward for great behavior.

If you will set the tone from the beginning of the walk at the thresholds, and then create a respectful, calm, structured walk, you will find your dog becoming a much more relaxed and comfortable dog, who looks to you for information and guidance, and is far better behaved in all other aspects of life, as well.

4) Thou shall always supervise and direct the interactions of dogs who are new to each other. 

In the previous post we learned that allowing dogs to work their relationships issues out on their own can be a recipe for disaster. Because there are so many variables and dynamics at play when dogs are being introduced to each other – territorial issues, excitement issues, competition issues, bad manners, trust issues, owner nervousness, etc – it’s prime time for dogs to make bad choices and create bad blood right from the get-go.

So, instead of leaving our dogs to sort things out when the deck is stacked against them, let’s help set them up for success through some simple structure, rules, and guidance. If we will take the time to move slowly, be aware, and to create a calm and relaxed state where both dogs can comfortably get familiar with each other, and over the initial hump of newness, novelty, stress and pressure, we have a great chance to create a harmonious, safe, and happy relationship.

Click HERE to read my post that gives step-by-step details of how to create this harmonious introduction.

5) Thou shall utilize the dog park at your (and your dog’s) own risk.¬†

We learned in the last post that while dog parks are a really cool idea in theory, unfortunately, the reality can be something very different. Many dogs develop trust issues with other dogs after having been bullied or attacked at the dog park, or off-leash, and this often spills over into creating dog reactivity and dog aggression issues down the line.

Personally, I don’t ever go into dog parks, and I recommend my clients avoid them as well. My suggestion is to find safe, balanced dogs that your dog can play with¬†– create play dates with friends or neighbors who have good dogs, or take hikes or other excursions off-leash in a safe environment. Treadmills can be a great addition for helping higher energy dogs to expend some of that energy. Bike rides or jogging with your dogs are also awesome activities.

If, for some reason, you’re unable to utilize these other options and feel the dog park is a necessity for you and your dog, then here are a few tips to think about:

  • When you arrive, check out the vibe: Is it chaotic, are there too many dogs in a frenzied state? Are there any dogs who are engaging in bullying behavior or anything else that makes you nervous? If so, honor that feeling and skip the park or wait until later.
  • Having a rock solid recall on your own dog gives you a big edge in being able to manage and mitigate trouble.
  • If your dog is being chased or bullied and appears nervous, insecure, or that the play doesn’t appear reciprocal, calmly go and intercept and get him/her out of there. A Pet Convincer is an awesome tool for helping with situations that could be problematic at the dog park – like interrupting an escalation or breaking up a fight.
  • Monitor the situation as you would if kids we’re playing or wrestling. Don’t allow things to continuously escalate and intensify – these escalated intensity/adrenaline moments are the perfect opportunity for trouble to break out. Work to maintain a fun but in-control vibe.

Remember, it’s your job to advocate and protect your dog. Many owners use the dog park as a place for their ill-behaved dogs to run wild, and many other owners are totally unaware of what their dog is capable of and may not even be aware that their dog is dangerous. Once again, I don’t recommend the dog park, but if you going to use it, be sure to be as safe, aware, and prepared as possible.

6) Thou shall use a calm and relaxed tone and energy when interacting with and correcting your dog. 

In the previous post I talked about the fallout that can occur when we use raised voices, anger, or emotional intensity in our interactions with our dogs, and how it’s the natural by-product of the frustration that occurs when we don’t use proper tools and strategy that let us communicate effectively.

As a trainer I see this all the time: Good, smart, emotionally-balanced people losing their cool and falling apart because they feel that they have no other way to effectively communicate and control their dog. I also remember how I would lose MY cool back in the days before I had any understanding of training or tools – it wasn’t fun or pretty.

The good news is that this is easily avoided and/or rectified by utilizing some simple training concepts, and using tools that empower you. 

If you’ve been to my website or Facebook page, you know I’m a huge advocate of prong collars. I know many people have strong feelings about them, and that’s okay, but as someone who’s tried most of the methods and tools out there, and who’s only goal is to help the average dog owner be successful, I’ve found few things that are able to turn an unhappy, frustrating, and dangerous dynamic around as quickly and effectively as a well-used prong collar. It’s also extremely safe and very easy to use. So I almost always recommend owners who are struggling start here.

Another part of the problem that leads to crazy owner syndrome is not using tools that help inside the house. As owners we instinctively understand that we need a leash and collar to safely control our dogs outside on walks, but for some reason (and trust me, I was included in this group some years ago!) we don’t think to put a leash on in the house to help us direct, control, and train them. So our dogs run roughshod over us and everything else in the house. They bark, jump, mouth, destroy, and drive us nuts – and we, because we have no ability to control them without tools, lose our minds, yell, fuss, and fume.

Most owners would be astounded by how much the “crazy” factor – for you and your dog! – is eliminated by simply leaving¬†a leash and training collar on your dog in the house, and having the most rudimentary grasp of training skills on board. Suddenly you have the ability to give information, give direction, and also give corrections if needed, all without raising your voice or losing your cool. How cool is that? When we have tools that work and empower us, communication that is valuable, and dogs that actually listen and are safely controlled, we’re able to stay calm, relaxed, and emotionally balanced.

So have your dog wear a training collar and leash in the house, only when you are home supervising. Use this simple setup to empower you to calmly and confidently guide and train your dog in what you want as well as to correct the behavior you don’t want – no yelling or frustration needed. ūüôā

7) Thou shall pick a dog who’s physical energy and state of mind is compatible with your own.¬†

In the 10 “Don’t”s,¬†we learned about all of the possible fallout when humans and dogs start off with physical (energy) or mental (attitude/demeanor) incompatibility issues. When these divides are great, the outcomes are oftentimes frustrating, sad, and heartbreaking. The best way to avoid this unhappy situation is to become highly conscious of finding a dog that is a good match in both temperament and energy levels.

If you’re a highly active person (think hiking, running, adventuring etc), then a high energy dog can be a great fit. If you tend toward quiet, low-energy activities (think reading, web surfing, gardening, and relaxing walks), then a lower energy dog who will be comfortable in a lower gear would be a great fit. Imagine putting runner Usain Bolt in an office cubicle for eight hours a day and you can probably picture not only the frustration, but the lack of fulfillment and sadness that would occur. Athletic dogs need an athletic lifestyle – to choose one and not provide that lifestyle is dooming your dog and yourself to a very unhappy existence. This existence usually looks like barking, destruction, escaping, obsessive behavior etc.

The other factor to consider, and one that can be harder to gauge, is mental disposition. Dogs, like people, come with all different types of attitudes and dispositions. You can have assertive golden retrievers and sweet, soft German Shepherds. Of course there are breed tendencies, but what I’m suggesting is that you focus less on breed and more on individual attitude/demeanor of the dog in front of you. A soft owner, a laid-back owner, an emotionally-fragile owner, or a sweet and overly-loving owner can all get themselves into serious trouble if they’re attempting to cohabitate with an assertive, confident, bratty, or otherwise strong-minded dog. When dogs feel a serious assertiveness/strength/leadership discrepancy between themselves and the human that thinks they’re in charge of setting rules and limits for them, you can see major friction arise. Some of the behaviors¬†that can manifest from this friction are: resource guarding, bullying, territorial/protective issues, dog aggression, limits/rules being set on humans, and of course biting, if the human makes the mistake of breaking these rules or pushing these limits.

Knowing all this, be sure to carefully observe the dog you’re thinking about adding to your life. Watch for the attitude behind the cute exterior. Does the dog “feel” assertive, bratty, pushy, or stubborn? If so, honor that. We’re able to easily sense these traits in¬†people, but we often let the cuteness and love of dogs obscure our animal ability to objectively assess dog-attitude. Instead, check in with your inner human animal and let it tell you how the dog’s attitude and demeanor “feels” to you.

At the end if the day, it’s all about compatibility. If you’re a softie, try to find a softer dog; if you’re confident and assertive, you have more leeway to work with firmer dogs. If you’re a couch potato, try to find a low-key, chilled out dog; and if you’re a high energy, action person, go find yourself a suitable partner in crime.

Remember, to think that dogs are a one-size-fits-all is a recipe for struggle and heartache.

8) Thou shall always have control of your off-leash dog and prevent him from harassing other dogs and owners. 

Okay, so in our original post we learned that even though we may have a super awesome dog that is friendly to all – or at least we think we do – our dog running up to another owner with a dog on-leash is highly unfair and highly selfish. This simple act can create serious dog reactivity issues for that dog, can undo hours and hours of progress and trust building for dog and owner, and can easily end in a serious dog fight (and maybe even a human to human fight!). So here are some suggestions:

  • Train your dog!¬†Work on creating a bombproof recall at the very least. You can train this with a long line and training collar, with treats and toys if your dog is super mild and motivated, or the best and most dependable suggestion – E-collar recall. E-collar or remote-collar trained recall is the closest thing to 100% recall there is.
  • If training isn’t your bag, then invest in a simple long line. You can get them from Amazon or Petco for a few bucks, and you can get 15, 25, or 50 feet lengths. This way you have freedom for you and your dog, but still some control. This doesn’t guarantee your dog will come when called, but it offers a much higher level of control and safety.

Most importantly, I want you to simply be aware that even if you have a friendly, easy-going dog, many other owners aren’t lucky enough to be in the same position. Ignoring this reality, and allowing your dog to pressure and stress out other dogs and owners is highly disrespectful and irresponsible. Your fellow dog owners and their dog’s comfort, security, and enjoyment is just as important as yours. So get that dog trained, get him under control, or get him on a leash or long line.

9) Thou shall honor your dog at the highest level and keep him balanced and healthy by treating him like a dog and not a human. 

In the previous post we talked about how indulging ourselves –¬†sharing too much unearned affection,¬†humanizing and babying our dogs, and not sharing the necessary structure, rules, and guidance – while feeling awesome for us, is almost always the greatest contributing factor to bad behavior and uncomfortable and unhappy dogs. As a professional trainer, I see this one almost constantly – and attempting to repair the behavioral fallout that occurs from it is a daily focus.

When we baby, spoil and humanize, we not only create bratty and entitled dogs, but we also create stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed dogs. When dogs feel like they’re without a strong, guiding presence in their world to lean and depend on, they begin to take on more responsibility and stress, and serious behavioral issues are often the result. So what’s a conscientious dog owner to do?

First, just becoming aware of the reality of this dynamic and the power of our affection and interactions is a good start. Understanding that our affection can be used to both help or harm, and then being mindful of wielding that power wisely is where we need to go. And it’s not about one or the other – affection or discipline, all or nothing – no, it’s all about balance.

It’s about being¬†as believable in your discipline as you are in your affection.

It’s about being able to gift your dog with guidance that is as fluid as the real world is. We need to be able move between both worlds of lover and leader effortlessly and intelligently, being mindful to correct negative, unwanted behavior effectively and convincingly, and reward positive, healthy behavior. This doesn’t mean reward for every simple action your dog makes that isn’t negative!! Like anything else, that which is too easily obtained is not valued or appreciated. And if you reward constantly, and for everything, your dog will see you as needy, soft, and not to be followed – and he will likely become spoiled and entitled – expecting the world to revolve around him.

A great approach to keep things between you and your dog on the harmonious path is to use obedience commands to have your dog work for your attention, for food, and for other valued interactions. This is a simple and effective strategy to help keep your relationship in balance and ensure your dog is in a heathy frame of mind, seeing resources comes from you at your discretion, and patterning a healthy habit of respectful, obedient behavior.

A quick reminder! Be sure that you are the one who sets up these interactions, not your dog. In other words, you decide when to give affection, not your dog. You decide when feeding/treat time is, not your dog.

Remember, what your dog needs and wants most is a balanced world where you fulfills all his needs – his need for structure, leadership, rules, discipline, guidance, play, adventure, exercise, and love. When you truly care and are truly aware, you doesn’t just share the stuff that is fun, fulfilling, and pleasurable for yourself – you also share the stuff that is sometimes hard, sometimes not easy, and sometimes not fun. That’s the true responsibility of raising dogs. That to me is real love.

10) Thou shall appreciate and cultivate your dog’s ability to be quiet, still, and relaxed.¬†

Okay, so in the last post we talked about how many people mistake excited behavior for happiness and calm behavior for sadness. We also talked about how dogs that live in a perpetual state of excitement and adrenaline tend to be stressed and anxious and almost always have behavioral issues as a result. These issues can run the gamut, from mildly annoying, to the very serious and dangerous. So if we understand that excitement, adrenaline, stress, and anxiety are actually where problem behaviors come from, and that calm, relaxed, stress-free dogs tend to make great choices on their own, we can hopefully see the value in perceiving these states for what they truly are rather than what human emotions we project onto them.

Of course I’m not suggesting that every dog who is excited is stressed, or that every dog should be constantly calm and chilled out – absolutely not – but dogs who live in constant motion and who are unable to access calm and stillness when requested, are often dogs in trouble.

So the only action step needed for this commandment is a perspective and awareness shift. Once you understand that many of the behaviors we associate with happiness are actually stress and anxiety, and many of the behaviors we associate with sadness are actually calm, relaxation, we can start to feel differently about what we’re seeing from our dogs. With this understanding we can also start to prioritize some activities and exercises that actually condition our dogs to comfortably access both the active world and the still world, and in doing so, cultivate¬†better mental health and stability.

Read about this simple but incredibly powerful exercise that will teach your dog how to be calm, relaxed, and comfortable in a chaotic world HERE.


CONNECT WITH US ON Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube for more training insights, tips, our free weekly Q&A Saturday, and community interaction!

Our groundbreaking do-it-yourself E-Collar training video/PDF training guide Learn to Train The Good Dog Way: E-Collar Training is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE DVD TEASER!

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.05.52 AM

By Sean O’Shea

What’s the number one question we get from owners? When can we pet him? When can we love on him? When can he be on the couch? When can he have total freedom? Okay, that’s several questions, but you get the idea, right? ūüėČ

When people get dogs they don’t get them thinking they’ll have to temper their affection. They don’t think couch privilege might not be on the menu. They don’t think they’ll have to restrict their dog’s ability to roam the house. But, if things have gone sideways with their dog’s behavior and their relationship with their dog, changing or adjusting these things might just be what’s needed to help sort that behavior and relationship stuff out.

What many owners don’t understand is that these seemingly benign privileges and interactions can create strong feelings and perceptions in our dogs – feelings and perceptions about us, their owners. Feelings of permissiveness, softness, neediness – feeling like we might just be ripe for the taking advantage of. With certain dogs, these interactions and privileges we share can unintentionally convey that listening, respecting, and prioritizing us, isn’t something they need to worry about. And this can cause lots of problems.

You may see horrible behavior on walks, territorial stuff around the house or yard, possessiveness, guarding, neurotic barking, fighting amongst household dogs, fear and nervousness, or even human aggression.

But here’s the thing, these privileges and interactions, on their own, aren’t the sole cause of the problems – actually, they can be almost totally benign. So then what’s the problem? The problems arise when these privileges and interactions occur IN THE ABSENCE of their counterbalance – the training, leadership, rules, authority, and accountability. It’s when the conversation is completely lopsided that things get funky. Owners don’t realize they’re having a one-sided, dysfunctional conversation with their dogs that is leading things astray. They don’t realize they’re giving all the privileges and freedom and love, without asking for anything in return. And when things are given excessively, freely, with no boundaries, and no demands for corresponding good behavior, things can get ugly, fast. Respect goes out the window, and dogs get stressed, anxious, nervous, opportunistic, and freaked out!

So trainers, looking to shore things up, even things out, and re-balance the human-to-dog conversation, ask owners to remove or reduce certain privileges and interactions. The goal is to shift the way your dog feels about you and your household back to a more healthy space, and thus, get your dog himself to shift back to a more healthy space. And usually, when things are just beginning, when you’re just starting to work on resetting your dog and your relationship, we want to create as much leverage as possible; to create the strongest perceptions we can. So we go hard on the changes. Perhaps zero affection. Perhaps zero roaming. Perhaps zero furniture access. But that’s only half of the equation. It’s not just about what we remove – it’s also about what we add (that leadership, rules, accountability stuff!) that really makes things click. It’s striking that balance between asking and giving that creates the magic.

But what about those inevitable questions at the top of this post? When can owners loosen up? When can the affection creep back in? When can the dog have more freedom and access? How do owners know how much is too much? Honesty, it depends on the dog, and it depends on you. It depends on how bad things have been, how out of balance you both are, and perhaps most importantly, what you’re capable of sharing in regards to the other side of the conversation. The leadership conversation. And this is where our 10/10 Principle comes in. ūüôā

Here’s what we share with our owners to help them wrap their heads around the formula for keeping their dogs and relationship in balance, especially as they’re working through problem behaviors, training and relationship transitioning. We use a number system to make it easy and clear. On our scale, if you’re a 2 in the leadership/rules department, you better be a 2 in affection/freedom department. If you’re a 6 in the leadership/rules department, then you can be a 6 in the affection/freedom department. See how it works? It’s just about balancing the conversation so your dog stays…balanced. Your job is to make sure your numbers line up as best you can. If you’re an 8 in affection and freedom, and a 2 in discipline, you’re gonna have issues!

The truth is, most owners struggle with the discipline side of things. They struggle with the rules, the enforcement, and structure, so keeping an eye on the corresponding freedoms is essential. If you use this scale – honestly! – it can help you better navigate all those tough questions above. It can also help you tweak what’s out of whack and allow for an easy check-in with what’s really going on relationship wise.

So the answer to all those tough questions is on you. What are you able to change within yourself? What space of leadership are you able to step into? How believable can you be as an authority figure? What leadership, rules, and accountability level can you honestly embody? (And this number can always change and improve if you’re working on it!) It’s a great formula to help owners see super clearly what their responsibility is, and the hard work they have to do in order to have the fun stuff they desire with their dog.

Remember, the numbers don’t lie. Ask yourself seriously what level of discipline, rules, structure, and leadership you’re able to embody, and then adjust you and your dog’s lifestyle accordingly. The more leadership you can embody, the more latitude you get. The less leadership on tap, the less latitude you get. If you’re honest with yourself, you can create a lifestyle that works and keeps everyone happy and balanced.

P.S. My personal dogs are allowed on the bed, on the couch, get loads of freedom, and plenty of affection. I’d say they’re just about in the 9-10 range. But at the same time, if something silly goes down, if there’s a serious transgression or mistake, you better believe that they know that the ole number 10 of discipline isn’t far behind. And it’s that willingness to be the authority figure, to share with my dogs what I know they need from me – to do the hard stuff rather than just the easy stuff – that allows us to maintain a happy, respectful, and fun-filled life together. You know, all that stuff that owners want. ūüôā


CONNECT WITH US ON Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube for more training insights, tips, our free weekly Q&A Saturday, and community interaction!

Our groundbreaking do-it-yourself E-Collar training video/PDF training guide Learn to Train The Good Dog Way: E-Collar Training is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE DVD TEASER!

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.05.52 AM