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By Sean O’Shea

Okay, so you’re driving down the freeway, minding your own business, enjoying a serene moment of automotive bliss. Suddenly a car pulls up along side of you, the driver fixes you with his gaze, and then he begins to yell and motion with his hands. You look over and roll down your window, straining to figure out just what this other motorist is trying to share with you. And then you hear him – he’s telling you to pull your car over, that you’re driving too fast, that he’s going to write you a ticket for speeding. You pause for a second and assess the situation. You look down at your speedometer – you’re doing 74 in a 65 zone – you know you’re speeding, but this doesn’t exactly qualify as a major International incident – you look back at the other motorist and you realize, he’s just an ordinary citizen, a regular dude – you’re baffled and confused…just who does this guy think he is to tell me what to do?

The gentleman is not a Highway Patrolman or even regular police…he’s simply a regular citizen who, for some reason, has decided it’s his duty to police you – to create some rules and consequences for you. After getting over the shock of the absurdity of the situation, you smirk over at the gentleman, wave mockingly, and just to make sure you put the proper exclamation point on all this silliness, you actually speed up, and while leaving the aforementioned gentleman in the dust, you think to yourself: “That dude MUST be crazy!”

A few minutes later, while still reflecting back on the earlier interaction, you look over to your left, and there, somehow, without you having noticed, a Highway patrolman on a motorcycle has snuck on up and is cruising right next to you. You freeze, your heart starts to beat faster, adrenaline starts pulsing, and you know your goose is cooked. The patrolman motions for you to pull over, and you immediately and sheepishly comply. You’re busted, and you know it. It feels just like it did when you were a youngster and your Dad would catch you red-handed in some nefarious activity – suddenly you’re a 10 year old again. You are incredibly compliant, eager to please, apologetic, and a bit nervous about your future! The officer informs you that you were doing 74 in a 65. You apologize, and assure him it was a mistake. But the reality is that you knew the rules – you had been taught exactly what was expected of you, and you knowingly broke those rules – and now it’s consequence time!

So how come you reacted so differently to the two different situations? You were breaking the rules in both cases. With the first situation, with the “regular dude”, you laughed at his attempt to control you, and actually behaved worse, because of the interaction. But with the second situation, with the Highway patrolman, you immediately and completely not only complied with the request, but your entire demeanor and state-of-mind shifted into a very sweet, compliant and, dare I say, submissive mode.

Now I’m sure that this is all entirely obvious from a human standpoint. The first gentleman is an ordinary citizen, he is not an established authority figure, therefore, it makes absolutely no sense for you to allow him to influence you or change your behavior. But in the second situation, when an established and accepted authority figure enters the picture, you immediately comply – because you have been conditioned and trained to view him in this fashion. The police have cultivated this relationship and association with you from the time you were tiny. So when they say pull over, you say “Yes sir!”

So here’s the takeaway for dog owners: If you haven’t cultivated, through lifestyle and conditioned through training, a relationship of authority with your dog, it makes absolutely no sense for your dog to listen to you when you suddenly decide to try to influence/change his behavior. When you attempt to block his barking, his jumping, his digging, his mouthing, his biting, or anything else, without first becoming an authority figure, you appear to your dog exactly as the kooky citizen did who tried to pull you over earlier – you look like a crazy person – and crazy people tend to get ignored. When it comes to our dogs, we don’t get to skip steps, or take shortcuts. Like yourself, your dog isn’t programmed to follow just anyone – he wants to follow a safe, consistent, trustworthy, and dependable leader – and that kind of leadership isn’t just when it’s convenient or crisis time, it’s 24/7.

 

P.S. in the next post we’l cover how you actually become an authority figure in your dog’s life…

 

 

By Sean O’Shea from www.thegooddog.net

One of the biggest challenges I experience in working with clients who are having issues with their dogs is helping them to understand why rules, structure, and leadership are absolutely essential to creating a well-behaved and balanced dog.

Most owners have a very strong opinion on what fulfillment to a dog looks like, and it usually entails loads of affection, loads of freedom, and a suspiciously small amount of rules, structure, and leadership. Inevitably I start sharing analogies in the hope of connecting the dots of what I believe to be fulfilling to dogs in a way that will resonate with their human experience. Anyone who has worked with me has probably heard me use the “policeman driving behind you” analogy, as well as many others.

The other day, while walking the pack, this one popped into my head…I think it’s a good one!

Let’s use the LA riot as an example of what can occur when humans are suddenly faced with a massive leadership/authority void:

As the beginnings of the riot got under way, it wasn’t long before authority (the police presence) almost completely disappeared. As soon as people realized there was no longer a police/authority presence (read: a threat of significant consequences for poor choices), lots of interesting things occurred:

Some people, who realized no one was there to protect them, and that they were highly vulnerable, became highly stressed, nervous, and fearful (many small business owners, for example). These people very quickly became proactive – using guns and firing on anyone that they perceived to be a threat. When one feels vulnerable, and no one is there to protect and advocate for you, the incredible stress and fear will cause you to make decisions you absolutely would not make in a different situation.  And the interesting thing is, just prior to the riot, most of these people who lived in close proximity to each other co-existed mostly peacefully. But now, suddenly, with the disappearance of authority, both were attempting, and succeeding at killing each other.

Some other people, once they noticed that the authority presence was gone, decided that all of this chaos was a fantastic opportunity to engage in some uber-exhilarating, adrenaline-spiking fun…like robbing, looting, attacking/beating innocent folks etc. For some folks, when authority is on hiatus, fighting and engaging in violent, unlawful behavior is a fantastic, but obviously toxic release for their frustrations.

Other people simply acted out in obnoxious, petty ways, thumbing their noses at what used to be the rules – not necessarily doing major harm, but definitely getting into some general knuckle-headedness.   Why? Because the lack of structure and authority creates both excitement as well as stress…and physically acting out is a nice release and reset for this stress and excitement. It’s a way to balance back out.

The upshot here is that many, many people, influenced by stress, panic, fear, adrenaline, or exhilaration, due the obvious authority vacuum, began to make very different decisions than they would normally have, had an authority presence been, well, present. We like to pretend that we human beings are quite a civilized and sophisticated bunch, but the truth of the matter is, when authority, structure, and rules disappear, the politeness of human society takes a pretty immediate vacation.

Ok, so how exactly does the LA riot tie into the behavior of our furry K9 friends? It ties in in an unbelievably strong parallel:

When dogs perceive a leadership vacuum, here’s what we see – nervous, fearful dogs, who have no leader to advocate for them/protect them, and are keenly aware of the chaotic, unpredictable environment they live in, become highly stressed, anxious and fearful, and eventually will start to do just what their human counterparts above began to do – become proactive in their attempts to keep themselves safe. They begin to make poor choices, and start to view every dog as a potential threat, regardless of the other dog’s intentions. Many will simply attack first and ask questions later.

Other dogs, once they feel the void, will start to bully and attack anything that moves. Why? For some it’s because it’s fun and exhilarating. It offers a major adrenaline dump, and is a great release for their frustrations – and as I mentioned above, a nice reset for the stress of chaos. For others, bullying is the best way to cope with and camouflage their own insecurities, anxieties, and fear. Either way, when there isn’t an authority figure sharing limits, or consequences for poor choices, reactive behavior, whatever it’s origins, simply happens.

And then you have your basic knucklehead dogs – they sense the leadership void, and they’re not necessarily fearful or serious bullies, but once again the stress of no rules and guidance will cause them to become hyper, pushy, destructive, jumpy, and well, a giant pain in the butt…thumbing their noses at your lack of authority, in an attempt to balance out  and reset.

With me so far? Ok, so here’s the real kicker: as soon as authority (the police presence/National Guard) was restored to the Los Angeles area, the majority of issues, conflicts, and poor behavior simply disappeared. I mean, quick like. Yeah, there was some residual bad feelings and isolated issues, but once again, with the presence of authority and consequences for poor behavior/choices present, things went from absolute chaos, danger, and mayhem, to relative peace, quiet, and harmony – and if it wasn’t always harmony, it was at least a begrudging tolerance. And guess what, it’s the exact same thing with our dogs.

When I walk into a home where there is absolutely no authority, and chaos reigns supreme, and the dog is engaging in any number of serious behaviors (from attacking other dogs, to attacking people, to nervous/insecure behavior), I know that once I create a relationship of leadership, authority and respect, structure and rules, the dog is going to immediately change his behavior – he will start to relax, become more comfortable, and make better choices, simply due to the presence of a believable authority figure. Remember, leadership creates comfort! When leadership, guidance, structure and rules are present, along with consequences for poor choices, behavior changes…almost instantly!

Remember, both K9’s and humans become massively stressed, fearful, unpredictable, and even dangerous when leadership, rules and authority are on holiday – and that both species will behave in ways we never would when our basic needs for security aren’t provided for.

As Cesar Millan says: “Your job as pack leader is to protect and direct” I think that sums it up pretty efficiently.

In reality, this stuff isn’t rocket science, and is fairly easy to implement. If you’re not sure how to go about it, contact a qualified professional for guidance. (Drop us a line here at The Good Dog, we have a great list of talented balanced trainers across the U.S.) And please, don’t let a riot go down in your living room…be your dog’s authority figure!

 

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By Sean O’Shea

While many trainers and training approaches advocate for, and infuse their training with, excitement and high intensity, one of the things that we’re always focused on here at The Good Dog is working to train and create calmness.

Obviously if you’re training for a dog sport or some other kind of competition/performance you’re going to want lots of excitement/intensity, but for most family dogs, and especially those with serious behavior problems, calmness is absolutely key.

So much of what we do here – and what other trainers who are aware of the value of calmness do as well – is teach impulse control and relaxation. We use lots of anchoring behaviors with long durations, like “place” and downstays, as well as being sure dogs don’t pull on leash, don’t fly out of crates or doors, wait for food, and generally approach all things in a chilled out fashion…except of course playtime…which is when the dogs are allowed to let it all hang loose…as long as the “loose” is appropriate!

This calmness training is one of the biggest secrets to transforming problem behavior, and this style of training tends to be the opposite of most rewards-based training approaches, which tend to create a dog that is heavily excited/worked up…possibly listening to the trainer, but a dog that exists in an amped up state of mind that makes him challenging to live and work with. This is the one of the major reasons we don’t use treats/toys to train/rehab dogs. We want an easy, relaxed mind to work with…not an edgy, hyper food/toy-focused maniac.

That said, when I work with my girl Belle competing in flyball or doing tricks, I want her goosed up and crazy…that way she does everything in an intense, hyper-fast, hyper-focused fashion…but I would certainly not want that state of mind all the time!

One of the greatest side benefits of all this calmness training is, it creates a fantastic relationship of leadership with you and your dog. Once a dog understands you can control his behavior, it creates a new and improved perception of who you are and how he feels about his world.

And that is good stuff!

 

 

The Good Dog Tip Of The Day: You can have a nervous, fearful, anxious dog that makes poor choices (barks, growls, lunges, attacks, runs, hides) towards people, other dogs, bikes, skateboards etc, or you can have a nervous, fearful, anxious dog that instead of simply reacting to their nervousness, fearfulness or anxiety, defers to you, and makes great choices around all of the above listed items.

Left to figure it out on their own, with no real information about what an appropriate response is, dogs will simply react, and are liable to make very bad choices. It’s your job to show your dog what to think, how to feel, and how to react when faced with things that unnerve them.

This takes knowledge and leadership on your part and establishing the right relationship with your dog.

 

By Sean O’Shea, read more at my website http://thegooddog.net/about/

The Good Dog Tip Of The Day: If your dog pulls on leash when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog lunges at, drags you towards, or becomes agitated around other dogs on walks when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog pulls you towards places it wants to sniff or pee when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog jumps on you or your guests when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog barks when you don’t want him to, and you are unable to stop him, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog races or pushes past you out of the crate, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog races or pushes past you at any doorway when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog jumps in or out of the car when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship. If your dog steals food or counter-surfs when you don’t want him to, you have a problem with your relationship.

And on, and on, and on.

If your dog doesn’t respect and defer to you with these small ticket items, please don’t expect to be able to stop or block any of the big ticket items such as dog to dog aggression, human aggression, nervousness/insecurity, or resource guarding.

Until you have established the proper relationship of respect with the small stuff, it makes absolutely no sense to your dog to listen to you for any of the big stuff.

Start small, and work your way up. If you build this foundation, you can change virtually any behavior problem.

By Sean O’Shea

Hey all, last weekend I had the great pleasure to attend Chad Mackin’s Pack to Basics workshop in Riverside CA. Chad has pioneered an advanced concept for socializing dogs with varying degrees of behavior problems. Without this program, many of dogs would never be able to be off leash around other dogs, and would never be given the chance to recover their natural social state.

The program uses the dog’s naturally strong social drive to reduce stress and fear, and to build confidence. It’s a breathtaking thing to behold…watching dogs with issues almost instantly begin to adapt and change their behavior and their choices. It’s definitely an advanced program, and not for the faint of heart. Any time you have strong breeds off leash, that have issues, the stakes are fairly high. But the reality is, you have to be able to push boundaries, and walk the tightrope a bit to give dogs a chance to improve their behavior issues.

The program was modified by Chad after studying with Dick Russell, who pioneered the large field socialization concept of dog rehabilitation. Dick would use a rather large piece of land (5 acres I think), and had a very specific set of rules and protocol for the humans to follow. And from everything I’ve heard, he was very successful with his approach, as well as an amazing dog trainer in general.

Chad sought to find a way to modify the basic approach for smaller areas both indoors and out – which folks  thought could never work – but work it did! Now Chad travels the country putting on Pack to Basics workshops to teach both dog trainers and dog owners alike, how to better understand, and better identify aggression, as well as read their dog in general. It’s a two day workshop that will change the way you view your dog, and change the way you interact with him as well. The workshop covers both the academics as well as the hands on.

Anyone interested in furthering their knowledge, and becoming either a better, more knowledgeable trainer or owner should definitely sign up and experience this amazing workshop! This is some seriously cutting edge stuff!

PS, I’m working to get Chad out here to LA for one of these babies in July! So anyone interested, let me know!

Here’s Chad’s info:http:

//www.facebook.com/pages/Pack-to-Basics/85497347392

http://www.facebook.com/ChadMackin?sk=wall

And here’s the link to the new documentary about the legendary Dick Russell and his work:

http://thedogmanmovie.com/index.html

By Los Angeles Dog Trainer Sean O’Shea,

Ok, so continuing where we left off from the last post, we were talking about how dogs on the walk are keenly aware of whether another dog is under human control, and how that perception either creates relaxation and comfort, or stress/nervousness/challenge.

So now, lets move this concept indoors, with a multi-dog household. Once again, the primary concern a dog has is, who is in control of their environment, and the dogs in it – am I safe, or do I need to advocate for myself?

This aspect of the human/dog relationship not being totally clear and rock solid, is what causes most dog fights in my clients home. When dogs see that no one is setting firm boundaries, or correcting inappropriate behavior, they are going to take matters into their own hands, and insure that the situation is “handled”. And you’re usually not going to like the way it is “handled”.

When dogs see other dogs in the home behaving in an anxious, pushy, dominant, possessive fashion, or simply acting nutty and hyper, they are going to take matters into their own hands. Why? It all depends on the other dogs in the scenario, and their personalities, issues, triggers etc.

I often hear about dogs from rescues or from the shelter, being introduced to a new home with other dogs by just letting them go and watching them feel things out on their own. Just saying that gives me the heebie-jeebies! I cannot stress enough what a recipe for disaster this is. You can take a perfectly viable situation, where if the right measures were taken, and the right amount of time given, a fantastic situation could be created, and instead, absolutely ruin the chances of ever having these dogs safely co-exist.

Here’s my method for introducing new dogs to my home that might have some issues: The first step is to take everyone on a nice long walk together. This way, the dogs can get used to each other’s scent and presence in a totally non-challenging, non-confrontational fashion. Watch them closely, they will give you all kinds of information about how they’re feeling about each other. And don’t feel the need to walk them side by side until you are seeing a massively relaxed conversation between them…and even then…take your time, move slowly, and be patient (this may be several walks down the road). If there is tension, you are going to have to move even slower and more cautiously.

Next, all dogs should be on leash in the house…the last thing you want one of you’re dogs seeing is a strange dog prancing about his home in a disrespectful or hyper fashion. You should immediately begin teaching the new dog a “place” command…you need to be able to have your dogs learn to exist around each other, and the “place” command is the best way for your original dog(s) to feel comfortable about the  new dog’s presence. Use this command A LOT!! All your dogs should be in a heavily structured regimen – just hanging out quietly around each other. If you’re consistent with this, you will slowly see all the dogs begin to relax around each other. The trick is to insure that all the dogs KNOW that you are in charge, and that no one but you is to be correcting, and that no one is acting the fool.

The new dog should absolutely be crated  when you leave the dogs alone…DO NOT open up the possibility for a fight simply because they seem ok at first.

As you continue the process, you will start to get a feel for the comfort level. Watch for negative eye contact, tension, avoidance (looking away when the other dog is close), growling, or a sense of unease. If things start to feel relaxed, you can then take some more steps…just move slowly and cautiously…walk them next to each other, “place” them closely (are they looking comfortable?), are both dogs wanting to engage in play, or is one growling and maddogging the other?

The trick is slow and steady. I never have fights at my place, even with known fighting dogs, because I always move slowly, and take my sweet time (and all dogs know unequivocally that I am running the show). If you’re paying close attention, the dogs will let you know when they’re ready for the next step. The biggest mistake (which sometimes can have terrible consequences), is simply moving too fast and not controlling the environment.

Remember, all your dog wants to know is, that you’re in total control, of yourself, the new dog, and the other dog(s) in your pack. This combined with good rules and structure create the opportunity for a harmonious integration. Take your time and you’ll be surprised how little friction/problems you’ll see.

Visit us at www.thegooddog.net