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Monthly Archives: July 2016

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? 😉

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. 🙂

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. 🙂


 

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By Sean O’Shea

Few industries have as much contentious, friction-filled, vitriolic, opinionated, near-religious beliefs being flung around as does the dog training world.

Opinionated owners and trainers will noisily (and nastily) condemn the tools, training methods, and approaches being used by others. It might be pure positive trainers (or believers) cursing prong collars, e-collars, and/or any form of correction – or even saying “no” to your dog – or perhaps it’s “balanced” trainers slinging mud at each other for perceived poor training, or training that doesn’t mesh with their beliefs.

Regardless of what camp you belong to, what tools you do or don’t endorse, and what philosophy you subscribe to, it’s all talk until you show your work. Until you show proof of what you speak.

And in this day and age that should be easy enough, right? Everyone has a video recorder in their pocket today. So if anyone has some super strong beliefs, concepts, techniques, alternatives, man, I’m all ears. But first, I’m all eyes. First, show me. Don’t tell me. If your approach gets great results, show me. If you’re tools get great results, show me. If your revolutionary process creates revolutionary results, show me. It’s easy enough.

Don’t show me scientific studies, or site science-y sounding rhetoric. Don’t talk to me about the how’s and why’s and benefits of a certain method. Don’t offer strongly felt opinions. Instead, show me. Show me truly troubled dogs, before training, and show me these same troubled dogs transformed, or at least tremendously improved, after training. And show me a lot of them. Don’t show me your dog, or one dog, or even three or four dogs, show me over and over your approach creating great results – and the owners getting the same results.

If you’re getting great results, this should be easy enough to do. I know it’s work to capture before footage and after footage, and to edit it and all. I get it. But if you want your opinion to have any legs, and any chance of being entertained, that’s the price of admission today. If you want anyone to listen, to care, to change, to adopt something, simply show us its value. Easy peasy.

And just to be clear, I’m not being a chest-beater, and declaring everyone needs to show their results (even though that sure would be nice for consumers!), it’s only for those who shout, scream, bully, belittle, or not-so-cleverly undermine others. Those who shout about alternatives – alternative tools, methods, approaches. If you’re shouting, you should be ready to share your results, your proof. And lots of it.

Because here’s the thing, talk is cheap. Everyone can talk a big game. We all can declare certain tools or approaches to be the worst, or the best, but only results matter. Only results are real. Only results walk the talk. Everything else is just the easy part…talk and opinion.

Show me.

P.S. If you’re an owner trying to make sense of all this stuff, my suggestion is to follow the results. But be a conscientious consumer, and be aware that video (especially those using the trainer’s own dogs) can be made to look awfully good! Many dogs shown in the positive only camp are very specific dogs (Border Collies, Aussies etc.). Dogs who enjoy chasing a ball or frisbee or a treat more than they do chasing, attacking, or freaking out on another dog, or person. And in the balanced camp, watch for high-drive working dogs (Malinois and GSD’s) who were bred to work and do amazing stuff. In both of these camps these special dogs get used for showy videos and demos, but are not showing reality – they’re showing “ringers”. Not that these breeds can’t be a mess as well, but dog trainer dogs are usually picked for their exceptional temperament and good behavior, so it’s not a good reflection of the reality of what your dog’s behavior will look like. Make sure you see actual client dogs making progress. And make sure you see the actual clients duplicating that process.


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

Our groundbreaking, game-changing dog training book The Good Dog Way: Love Them By Leading Them is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE BOOK TEASER!

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