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By Sean O’Shea

Something that I think is hard for a lot of folks to wrap their heads around is that many of the issues their dogs have (both physiologically and psychologically) are simply the symptoms of being stressed and anxious. Dogs who are constantly on edge, worried, reactive, stressed and anxious have nervous and immune systems that take a beating. And when these systems take a beating, there’s going to be fallout. You’re body and mind are going to take a hit.

On a regular basis, we see dogs that come in that spin, that self-mutilate, that fixate on shadows or light, that have bowel issues, allergies, skin issues, car sickness, and on and on. What’s fascinating is to watch how many of these dogs – without any medication or diet changes – manage to heal themselves mentally and/or physically once having gone through our training program.

We’ve seen it over and over. An owner has been through all kinds of testing, meds, diet changes etc., and their dogs have remained stuck with whatever issues they’ve been struggling with. Then, after a two or three-week board and train, voila, the issue has magically disappeared or dissipated tremendously. Of course, this isn’t the case for every dog, but the numbers of afflicted dogs who have moved through long-standing issues would amaze (and delight!) you.

We’ve seen dogs that tail chew to the point of actually losing a portion of the tail, stop chewing. We’ve seen spinners stop spinning. We’ve seen light chasers stop chasing. We’ve seen chronic loose stools firm up nicely. We’ve seen skin issues clear up beautifully. And we’ve seen car sickness just up and disappear. (Emma, who just went home from a three-week program had her first ride without throwing up just the other day!)
One client recently asked me how come vets don’t know or understand or recommend training for these issues. While I’m sure some vets do (bravo!), the vast majority either aren’t aware of it or aren’t down with it. It’s a shame, but hopefully, posts like this can help inform owners about possible options.

In reality, it’s all kind of simple. If it was you instead of your dog, if it was you that were dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety chronically, your nervous system and immune system would take a beating too. You too would likely develop outlets for all that toxicity and see physical issues arise. Physiological and psychological problems are a commonly accepted result of chronic stress and anxiety in humans. Why would it be any different for our dogs?

But here’s the rub. We’re much better at recognizing (and understanding) stress and anxiety in humans than we are in our dogs. We know that stress and anxiety show up in our world by way of financial issues, work issues, relationship issues etc. Our dog’s stress and anxiety are created and expressed differently. We see chronic reactivity (in the house and outside), neurotic barking, hyper-territorial behavior, bullying/being bullied, overly protective/possessiveness, assessing/worrying about strangers and guests, constant boundary pushing, and often just being hyped-up and on-edge the majority of the time, never knowing how to unplug and relax.

If we could learn to see all these behaviors as massive stress and anxiety producers, and understand that they create much of the seemingly unconnected negative physical and psychological symptoms, we might look at these behaviors as being less annoying “dog stuff” and more problematic in the real sense.

And how do we get there? In many ways it’s simple stuff. When we take those negative options away, when we block unwanted behavior, when we provide structure, rules, leadership, and accountability, we remove many of the stress/anxiety creating options/reactions that actually give life to the above listed symptoms. When we break old negative habits and patterns of coping, and provide new and healthier replacements, we end up with a nervous system and immune system that is solid and firing on all cylinders. And when we manage to do that successfully we end up with much healthier dogs.

Of course training can fix many annoying behavior issues and create a better relationship and clear communication. We can get dogs to come when we call, stay in place instead of roaming, stand instead of jump, walk nicely on-leash, and live peacefully with us instead of making us crazy. But training can also help many issues that have long been allocated to veterinarians, medication, and management only. Good training can actually heal the mind and body.


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By Sean O’Shea
What happens after you get a speeding ticket? What happens after your doctor tell you your cholesterol is dangerously high? What happens when your spouse threatens to leave because of your behavior? What happens when your accountant tells you you’ve spent far more than you earned?

Well, if any of the above matter to you, a couple things will happen. One, it’ll create some fear (what might happen if I don’t change this or it happens again?). Two, it should create some serious contemplation (Perhaps this choice/action, even if I’ve enjoyed it in the short term, doesn’t serve me in the long run). Three, it should create some future better choices (if the consequence matters, it should cause you to choose a better, more healthy choice next time).

All of the above are communications about behavior, and their possible consequences. Consequences that are the result of our choices and actions. And they serve a purpose. Their purpose is to remind you that something you’re doing is putting you or your quality of life in danger. And if you look at consequences that way you can view them as gifts – gifts that enable you to reorder, course correct, change behavior that is putting you in harm’s way.

Consequences for your dog should create the same results. Of course the context will be different. They won’t be overspending, eating too many hot fudge sundaes, or racing down the freeway. But they might be bolting out the front door, jumping on people, attacking another dog in the house, barking excessively, counter surfing, guarding their food, pulling like crazy on the walk, or destroying stuff in the house. And all these behaviors impact your dog’s overall quality of life as well as yours.

Dogs get hit by cars every day for bolting, and dogs are returned to shelters every day for jumping, barking, guarding, destruction etc. Dogs also die every day from obstructions from eating things they shouldn’t. This is real stuff.

But in our current dog owning culture, consequences are things that are deeply frowned upon. They’re things that many purport to be dangerous to your dog’s mental and emotional well being, as well as detrimental to your relationship. Best to ignore the bad and reinforce the good, right? But what if life treated us the same way? What if the policeman ignored your speeding but offered you a “Nice job!” when he saw you driving appropriately? What if your doctor ignored your cholesterol count but said “Good work, you lost two pounds.”? What if your spouse ignored your inability to manage your anger and stress, but said “You were lovely tonight” when you didn’t explode for a change? What if your accountant ignored your spending issues but said “Nice work on only spending 5k over your budget rather than the usual 10k”?

What would happen is that, instead of receiving the gravity of the communication of what your actions are creating (and the danger they’re putting you in), you’d be allowed to believe things aren’t as dire or serious as they actually are. And that absence of clearly conveyed consequence for unhealthy behavior would put you directly in harm’s way. By not being direct about what is okay and what isn’t. By ignoring the truth of our actions. By prioritizing things feeling “good” rather than true, we’d be setup for impending disaster.

And so it is with our dogs. We don’t clearly let them know what is isn’t okay. We ignore the bad and reward the good. We give our dogs a partial view of the reality, and then they pay the price for that lack of clarity and truth. People recommending you ignore the bad and reward the good are people who aren’t connecting reality – universal reality. The reality of the beauty of consequences. The beauty of knowing clearly what is acceptable, heathy, wanted, and what is not allowed, dangerous, and totally unacceptable.


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By Sean O’Shea

So many dog with issues tend to automatically get labeled as abused. Their owners or caretakers often create elaborate stories and possible causes for their fear, insecurity, reluctance, panic, and unique emotional triggering around specific people or things.

And of course there are abused dogs out there. Of course there are dogs who have seen some really unfortunate stuff, and their behavior might be directly connected to that abuse. But in my experience as a trainer, I see very few true abuse cases, and far less abuse as the root cause of most behavior issues – including fear.

What do I see more often as the actual root cause of so many behavior issues? Usually what I see isn’t some horrible event or trauma that occurred. Usually what I see is either a lack of exposure, a lack of leadership and guidance, a lack of solid genetics – or a combination of all three.

The lack of exposure – which is more often referred to as socialization – is all about dogs being exposed to all kinds of novel stimuli at crucial points of the dog’s development. Without this exposure, many things that a well-socialized dog would be solid and easy with are instead huge stress and fear triggers. Almost like us seeing space creatures or a ufo. If you’ve never seen something before, there’s a good chance it’ll freak you out. And if your dog hasn’t seen a lot of stuff, and built a comprehensive stress tolerance and overall generalizing confidence that comes from that early exposure, he’s likely to be afraid, skittish, worried, maybe even downright neurotic about stuff.

The lack of leadership and guidance can exacerbate the gaps listed above, or create large issues out of small ones. Here’s how this looks. A dog with some level of concern/worry/stress/fear experiences something troubling, and instead of being given information about how to better handle the stressor/trigger, the dog is allowed to experience it sans help or guidance. This means your dog experiences something troublesome, worrisome, fear-inducing, and instead of you working him through it, your dog feels the stressor and is left worried. Even well-intentioned owners often miss or allow small moments of insecurity, or are unsure how to address the issue properly. Typically this means your dog will become more and more stressed, more and more worried, and more and more fearful. This might look like out and out fear, nervous barking/growling, or even aggression towards dogs or people.

One last piece of this puzzle is genetics. Genetics plays a huge role in how dogs adapt to their world and how resilient they are. Many dogs who have genetics that aren’t robust and confident will behave in very skittish and fearful ways. This behavior often gets labeled as abuse based as well – these dogs will cower, shake and have extremely poor body language. And while it might look bad, it’s simply the stuff the dog came with. No abuse, no neglect. Genetic-based insecurity and fear often looks the worst, and can be some of the toughest stuff to overcome.

Once again, there are abused dogs. I’ve seen them. But the reality is, the vast majority of problem behaviors, fear issues, and other stuff that gets labeled as having an origin in abuse isn’t abuse at all. It’s far more often about what didn’t happen to the dog, rather than what did. Exposure that didn’t happen. Leadership that didn’t happen, and even genetics that didn’t happen.

It’s a great reality check, to remind people that while abuse does exist, it’s far less prevalent than presented, and far less of a cause of behavior issues then most think. And understanding this is crucial to helping owners move from a place of feeling sorry for, or making excuses for their dogs, to instead training, leading, and guiding them with strength and resolve.

And that’s the only way to truly help your dog move forward, regardless of the cause.


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By Sean O’Shea

One of our primary goals when training and rehabbing dogs is to shift them out of auto-pilot, reactionary, impulsive mode, and get them into a listening, processing, thinking mode. What does this auto-pilot/reactionary/impulsive behavior mode look like? It’s the mode where the dog sees, hears, smells something and instantly reacts to it. No evaluating involved. It’s where the dog wants to do something, or to access something, and simply does it, with zero concern for the outcome.

It’s an impulse control issue. Feel = do! No thinking, no evaluating, no value given to the choice, just an instant desire and an instant response. And it’s here that so many dogs get into trouble. Allowed to practice this “auto-pilot” way of life, it becomes their default. I want something I take it. I dislike something I growl. I want to run somewhere, I go. I see a dog on the walk I go bananas. I’m afraid of something I hide. And on and on.

This is where permission based training comes in to save the day. Permission based training isn’t anything fancy, but it is highly effective. Basically, we start teaching the dog that he needs to look to us before making decisions – not every decision mind you, just the ones that matter. The important decisions. The decisions that have serious ramifications, serious gusto behind them, or are reinforcing patterns of impulsive behavior.

This new way of living/behaving creates many positive changes. First and foremost, it calms the dog down. Dogs living on the edge of constant action or reaction (think of a runner at the starting line – always ready to explode) are typically super tightly wound, nervous, and edgy. Along with the calmness, it also creates handler respect, which is paramount to a healthy relationship. (A dog who looks to his owner for permission is usually a dog in a good headspace.) And of course, it teaches tons of impulse control, and gets the dog to think before acting – creating a safer, more conscious dog. All major pieces of the training/rehab/healthy dog puzzle.

Once a dog begins to look to you for permission, rather than just reacting to impulse, you’ll see much of the manic, hyped-up, tuned-out, crazy, disrespectful, and disobedient behavior disappear.

Here’s a few examples of where we work on this and where permission is needed:

-Crate (going in or out)

-Thresholds (going in or out)

-Place command (not leaving unless given permission)

-Eating (waiting for release)

-Peeing/sniffing on walks (waiting for release)

-Walking in a structured “heel” fashion (unless released)

-Any command that the dog has been asked to be in (must wait for release)

-Furniture (wait for permission)

-Personal space (must wait for permission to access)

-Getting in our out of the car (wait for permission)

-A bomb-proof recall (must always come back on command, wait for permission to roam – or not, perhaps the greatest impulse control/relationship builder)

-And any other contexts where you see a lot of excitement/pushiness/determination etc.

Teaching your dog to look to you, to ask you for permission before simply reacting is the true secret sauce to transforming both behavior and attitude. It creates a more relaxed, respectful, thinking dog. And who doesn’t want that?


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By Sean O’Shea

One of the biggest messages out there in dog training is the one about a tired dog being a good dog. The premise is, that if you’ll just find a way to tucker your dog out consistently, he’ll be happy, well-behaved, and chill. Your job is to find out how to exercise him or her enough to create this magic.

But here’s the rub. How would you, the human, go about becoming more athletic, having more stamina, more go-go juice, more endurance? You know the answer. It’s an easy one. You’d workout. Consistently. Every day you’d push yourself, and every day you’d either maintain or increase your athletic abilities. Would you be tired post-workout? Sure. Of course. But after a little rest you’d be stronger, faster, and more resilient. And because exercise is addicting, because it releases so many pleasurable hormones, you’d be dying to go tomorrow!!

It’s the same for our dogs. We exercise them like crazy, teach them to just go, go, go, and then we wonder why they’re movement/action/adrenaline junkies. We turn them into super athletes who NEED the fix daily. But even with the fix, they’re still crazy and ill-behaved – just not for the hour post-action.

Of course we, and our dogs need exercise, release, fun, activity etc., and we should all make sure to provide that for ourselves and our dogs. It’s a big part of being healthy. But it’s not the only part! Just like we need the other side of the coin -the calm, the focused, the relaxed – so do our dogs. Our dogs need a balance. They need the go and the slow. The on switch, and the off switch.

And just like we can cultivate super athlete dogs, we can also cultivate relaxed dogs. We can cultivate and condition our dogs to be relaxed and calm through certain kinds of training and lifestyle. But most owners (and trainers) seem to forget this essential piece of the puzzle.

If you were looking to learn how to slow your hyper-mind down, if you were looking to learn how to relax, if you were looking to learn how to be calm and chilled, you wouldn’t expect exercise to be your only answer. No. You’d work on quiet activities – like reading, meditation, something creative, a quiet walk, downtime, rest. Of course this isn’t a perfect parallel for our dogs; they can’t do all the stuff we can, but they can do their own versions of it. And they can reap similar rewards.

Some simple suggestions would be:

-Slow your walk with your dog. (If it’s a slow, structured heel it will work the brain far more than a speedy walk. Remember, slow is hard for dogs, fast is easy.)

-Teach duration “place” or “down” commands. (Few things will transform your dog’s behavior as dramatically as duration work. We call this doggie meditation for a reason. It slows the mind, and teaches dogs to learn to ignore the myriad stimuli that are going on all around them – and which they usually react to. This helps condition a calm, peaceful dog.)

-Teach your dog to be able to manage its energy when playing. (Develop an “on/off” switch by utilizing action then dead-stop inaction. Play fetch or tug and after a few reps ask for a long down and walk away, move around, and then restart. This teaches your dog to learn to manage him or herself even when energy gets flowing – and that the play and action can stop at any moment.)

-Only allow access to what your dog wants when calm behaviors are offered. (Crate rushing, threshold rushing, car door rushing, food rushing etc. All these are examples of opportunities to teach calm gets what you desire, thus conditioning more calm choices.)

-Correct any unwanted, over the top behavior. (It’s up to you to teach your dog what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior. Stopping monkey business – think jumping on and off furniture, running around the house, jumping on people, barking at you or anything, mouthing etc – and overly aroused behavior will give your dog access to better choices.)

-Slow yourself down! (Our dogs will definitely mirror us, and if we’re constantly on-edge, agitated, moving fast, anxious, and stressed, we’re far more likely to see similar stuff from them. If you’ll provide a more calm, conscious, chilled out you, you’ll have much better chance of getting more of this from your dog.)

The main point here is that exercise alone won’t give you the dog you want. It won’t create a well-behaved, calm, respectful, relaxed dog. But the appropriate balance of exercise, structure, rules, and actually conditioning slower, calmer behavior will.


 

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By Sean O’Shea

What’s the hardest thing for both owners and trainers? It’s the power of association, emotional habits, perceptions, and feelings. All the stuff owners have accidentally or inadvertently created between their dogs, themselves, and their environments.

Watching well-trained, calm, and obedient dogs literally become different animals – reactive, aggressive, crazed, freaked out, incapable of listening etc – right before your eyes as the owner enters the room, grabs the leash, or returns the dog home is something that never ceases to amaze and confound.

It’s the one thing we can’t control. Even with owners doing their homework, having the tools and commands down pat, and showing up ready to change it all, it’s still the wildcard in play. For many dogs it’s a seamless transition – they jump right into the new game. For others, it’s a totally different story. These dogs are so affected by the relationship/associations/feelings they have with their owners that their minds and nervous systems simply meltdown.

They are so aroused, excited, overwhelmed, over-stimulated, and most of all, reconnected to their past feelings (dependency, guarding, fear, anxiety, excitement, possessiveness etc) that they’re completely different dogs. They don’t respond to commands. They don’t care about the tools. They react when they didn’t react. They explode when they previously didn’t care. The just-minutes-ago calm, and well mannered dog, disappears in an instant! They actually engage in physical ticks and behaviors (rolling on the ground, scratching, licking, spinning, whining etc) to try to channel out some of this toxic remembrance and association.

This is the power of relationship and association. Dogs not only get into behavioral patterns, they also get into emotional, and physiological (secretions of stress hormones) patterns. They actually feel emotionally different, and physically different around their owners and environments. To be successful with these guys, it’s not just about training new behaviors and habits, no, we’re talking about needing to actually reprogram the emotions and the body of these dogs.

To be successful, these dogs need to actually FEEL different in their owner’s presence and in their home environments. And this is the Mt Everest that these owners have to climb, if they want their dogs to be safe, polite, relaxed, and well-behaved. These owners have work ahead of them that many aren’t going to be down for, simply because it’s too hard, too exhausting, and takes too much perseverance. It’s not your usual dog training hand over, it’s something totally different. It’s human and dog reboot time. World Series version.

This was me with my two dogs, Oakley and Junior. It took me fighting and wanting it so bad, for over a year and a half to get them to finally reset. We had SO many negative, toxic associations and feelings, that the only fix was tons of time and tons of effort. Daily battle, of me wanting this and being unwilling to give it up unrealized. It was messy, and it was far from pretty, but we got there. Finally.

For other owners who find themselves in this position, I can tell you that what you want is definitely possible, but I can also assure that it can be an incredibly hard, and long road. And only those who want it bad enough to go out day after day and earn back a new relationship, create new associations, and develop new feelings will get it. It will be hard, it will be uncomfortable, it will often feel hopeless, and it might even be embarrassing, but that’s the required exchange if you find you and your dog in this predicament, and you want to find your way back out.

P.S. Yes this is about training, tools, commands, rules, structure, and accountability, but even more so it’s about the inner resolve to become the person you need to be daily, in every moment, to create these lasting changes in your dog’s perception of you.


 

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By Sean O’Shea

So much of what we see with problem dogs and their behavior, is that people have unintentionally reinforced and encouraged the wrong stuff. And of course, none of us want to intentionally mess up our dogs (even though many of us – including your’s truly have). So here’s a little list of reminders that we’ll call the “don’t do”, or “watch out for” list. Keeping these in mind, and doing your very best to avoid these common dog/owner traps will go a long way towards you having a great relationship, and enjoyable life with your dog.

-Trying to love a badly behaved dog better. (Guaranteed to make a bad dog worse)

-Coddling, nurturing, babying an insecure, nervous dog. (The very best way to deepen insecurity, and to ensure a neurotic mess of a dog)

-Allowing a dog to have constant access to you and your personal space – following you everywhere, jumping in your lap uninvited, always needing to be near. (The perfect recipe for separation anxiety and possessiveness)

-Constantly petting a dog. (The very best way to create a dependent, nervous, entitled, bratty, separation anxiety dog)

-Ignoring bad behavior – jumping, whining, barking, fence fighting, growling etc. – in the hopes it will go away. (It never does, it only gets worse)

-Using your dog to fill emotional gaps in your life. (The most common reason for neurotic, unstable dog behavior)

-Not enforcing rules because they feel bad. (A selfish act that ensures your dog will not have access to the rules and leadership it needs to thrive and be balanced)

-Letting dogs be “dogs” – thinking/rationalizing that growling, protective behavior, resource guarding, reactivity etc. is normal/acceptable. (This excuses unacceptable/unhealthy behavior by calling it “normal” and allows it to continue/increase)

-Being inconsistent. (Teaches dogs rules and boundaries are always negotiable, and ensures they will be negotiated)

-Accidentally rewarding whining/barking/growling by petting/talking to/letting in or out of a door/crate. (Teaches dogs that those behaviors get them what they want, and ensures you’ll see a whole lot more of them)

-Spoiling/allowing bad behavior due to guilt. (Feeling guilty about working long hours/being away from home for long periods and trying to assuage that guilt by spoiling the dog/being permissive/allowing bad behavior to occur to make ourselves feel better. Unfortunately it only makes your dog feel/behave worse)

-Letting stressed, pulling, anxious, worked up dogs meet on-leash. (This is a common scene that can create dog reactivity and even dog fights)

-Letting dogs pull to trees or bushes on walks. (Teaches dogs that pushiness gets them what they want)

-Touching, talking to, “enjoying” a dog who jumps on you. (Reinforces jumping and guarantees more jumping)

-Letting dogs “work it out” on their own (Old school approach to “ ocializing” dogs that is a great way for creating dog fights and never ending tension/grudges between dogs that live together)

-Giving treats or petting a growling/barking/anxious/stressed dog to calm and soothe them. (A very common mistake that does the exact opposite of making it better. It always makes the behavior worse, by reinforcing it)

-Sharing only your soft, sweet, loving, affectionate side. (This is akin to only saying yes and cuddling your child, and never saying no or enforcing rules. It leaves dogs feeling alone and unsure about who’s in charge, nervous, anxious, stressed, and out of control – just like it would kids)

-Using tools that allow dogs to ignore you and the tool. (The wrong tools – harnesses, flat collars, flex leases etc – can actually empower the dog to misbehave and disempower you from communicating with your dog)

-Using tools that allow/encourage the dog to behave worse. (See above!)

-Seeing freedom, love, and affection as more vital to your dog’s well-being than structure, rules, guidance. (This is a common mistake, born out of either our desire to nurture, our desire to fulfill ourselves, or not understanding that dogs need guidance and leadership at least as much as they do “love”. It’s also the best way to truly mess up a dog)

-Thinking exercise and activity create calm, relaxed dogs on their own. (This is a huge misconception. exercising a dog to try to make it calm is futile and limited benefit endeavor. The best approach is both exercise AND teaching the dog to be conditioned to be calm through training)

-Wanting to be your dog’s best friend before having become his leader. (Trying to create a heathy relationship through love, play, and friendship without first creating respect, rules, and boundaries is a first-class ticket to problem dog city! First impressions are as important to dogs as they are to people, and trying to fix negative first impressions is just as formidable)

-Thinking dogs just want to please you. (Like all the rest of us, dogs want to please themselves first and foremost. If you’ll look hard enough you’ll see the benefit for them in whatever they’re doing to please you. Understanding this is essential to living well with dogs)

-Not sharing valuable consequences for bad behavior. (The most common way owners allow negative behaviors to continue and flourish! It is only through clear, valuable consequences for their choices and actions that dog behavior changes and improves)

-Being afraid that consequences and discipline will ruin your relationship. (A common misconception. The truth is, the exact opposite; you’ll create a much healthier, respectful, balanced, and enjoyable relationship by sharing clear boundaries and rules consistently. Your dog will be happier and enjoy you far more if you’ll be a good leader)

-Letting love blind you to your dog’s actual needs. (So many of us are so desperate to connect and love and nurture that we’ll forgo sharing what actually makes our dogs happy, balanced, and comfortable. This is a selfish act, based on our needs, not our dogs.)

-Letting your needs blind you to your dog’s actual needs. (So many of us struggle to connect, feel safe, engage in love within the human world, or are just overwhelmed, overworked and lean on our dogs for love, support, nurturing, in a world where we aren’t able to receive the same support and nurturing from our own kind. When our dogs represent so much more than just being our dogs, it can become next to impossible to share the leadership, discipline, structure, rules, and accountability they need to thrive)

Of course there’s always more, but this is a pretty good place to start to get a better handle on you and your dog’s relationship. And if you’re having any issues, chances are awfully good that you’ll find the cause right here in this post.


 

 

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By Sean O’Shea

One of the greatest challenges for dog owners post-training is fighting…the slippery slope.

Your dog comes back to you and he’s like a new guy. He’s well-mannered, he doesn’t do the old stuff that drove you crazy, his commands are spot-on, and he’s just kinda amazing overall. You rejoice!

But then the slippery slope slips up on you. The slippery slope is all about the slow, almost unnoticeable return to regular life. The slow return of old habit patterns. The loss of focus. Perhaps taking the easy (or lazy!) route instead of doing what you know you should. And especially letting little, teeny, tiny moments – the ones that seem totally inconsequential – get away from you. This is how all the great work you paid for starts to come undone. Drip by drip. Teeny moment missed by teeny moment missed.

It almost never happens in some big and obvious fashion. That would be easy to see and address (and most of us wouldn’t let ourselves off the hook for the easy and obvious). But  because all these moments seem so small, innocuous, and are maybe even hard to see, we start to slip.

And so slowly, drip by drip you start to lose that new and awesome dog you got back.

Owners slip back into real life and are distracted. Owners are amazed that their dog is SO much better that they allow some little things because the good-to-bad ratio is so improved. Owners haven’t been educated on how important the small moments are and how to effectively address them. Owners aren’t truly prepared to change their habits and lifestyle. Owners feel bad about the rules, structure, accountability. It’s a ton of work.

But here’s the thing, the way your trainer made all this crazy progress, the way they delivered you a totally new and improved dog, was precisely through addressing all the small moments and understanding how valuable they are. By not being distracted when the dog was out with them. By focusing and addressing issues the moment they occurred. By seeing what your dog was capable of and continually asking for more, rather than less. By not feeling bad about sharing the stuff that makes your dog feel more comfortable, happy, safe, and fun to be around. And by being willing to do the work. Lots of it.

I get it, it’s hard. Really hard. Especially if you have the luxury of owning a dog who leans more to the troubled side of life. But like everything else in life, there are no shortcuts. No cheating. Not if you want the good stuff.

The good news is, the slippery slope can totally be avoided. With some new disciplines and some mental shifts you can totally keep the awesome dog that came back to you, but it’s going to require oodles of work. Like, serious oodles. We always tell our clients that the hard work starts when the the dog goes home. Not that we haven’t done our job, we have, but that’s easy. It’s our job. The real challenge is for everyday people – people who aren’t dog trainers, people with tons of other important things going on in their busy lives – to prioritize and make both the mental effort as well as the physical effort to ward off the slippery slope. To do all the necessary stuff to maintain this awesomeness your dog came back with.

Like all life stuff, it comes down to how bad you want it? Will you make the time? Will you prioritize the work? Will you maintain focus? Will you train yourself to be a deputy dog trainer? Is it important enough to you? It’s like eating right, working out, saving money, doing a great job at work, and maintaining awesome relationships – they all take sacrifice, self-improvement, and continued hard work. But they all also pay off some handsome rewards.


 

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By Sean O’Shea

Ok, so here’s an interesting thought. What if even without any actual “training” – meaning all the usual sit, down, place, heel, recall etc., and without any fancy tools – you could still massively impact your dog’s behavior and state of mind? What if by simply NOT doing or allowing certain things you could make some great stuff happen?Well, the good news is, half of our success as trainers isn’t even in the actual “training” we do. A lot of it is simply in all the stuff we don’t do or don’t allow.

Here’s a quick list to help your dog and yourself get to a better space:

-Cut back on the unearned affection. Play hard to get. Only reward awesome choices and states of mind – not just existence or demand. Remove the unconscious, incessant petting and stroking. Make your dog work for his/her interactions. Become aware that unearned affection is one of the NUMBER ONE CAUSES for poor behavior. That it often creates wound up, edgy, entitled, bratty, neurotic, dependent, guarding, possessive dogs. And don’t forget about heavy-duty separation anxiety.


-Don’t allow disrespectful space invasions. This includes jumping on you, pushing you out of the way at thresholds, jumping on your lap uninvited etc. Instead, claim your space by using your body – not to hit or harm – but to have a calm, quiet conversation with your dog that your space is valuable and needs to be respected. For jumping you can do this by placing your knee forward when your dog jumps, so that he gets your knee and not you, and so jumping is not rewarding. At thresholds simply block with your body and then walk confidently INTO your dog’s space (and your dog if need be) to move them back. As for jumping on your lap uninvited, simply say “no” and stand up when your dog jumps on you. This will remove him from your space and make this not rewarding. Then remove your dog from the couch. (Bonus points for initially keeping a bubble of space – say 10 feet – around you so your dog works on being more independent and less clingy.)
-Don’t allow or reward demanding behavior. If your dog is barking at you for attention, for food, to play, to get access to a door, or to get out of the crate, don’t reward the behavior with what the dog is looking for. Say “no” and ignore the behavior. If your dog demands something and you respond you’ve just taught your dog what works to get what he wants. Be careful not to unconsciously reward/allow this.
-Make your dog wait. Simply make your dog wait at moments of excitement or intensity. This could be feeding time, at thresholds, going in or out of the car etc. By teaching your dog to wait for permission from you you teach impulse control, respect, and to look for permission rather than be on auto-pilot. Conversely, by allowing impulsive behavior you teach your dog to ignore/disrespect you, to be impulsive, and that intensity and excitement gets him what he wants.

-Don’t baby, console, pet, nurture, smother nervous, insecure, frightened dogs. This will only make them worse. Instead, treat them like normal dogs by asking more of them, challenging them to get out of their comfort zones, give them a firm human to lean on, not a soft one to feel alone/frightened with. (This is a super hard one for most, due to our desire to nurture and help, but the truth is, this behavior is responsible for creating so many completely dysfunctional dogs.)

-Don’t lean on your dog emotionally. One of the biggest advantages trainers have is being in an emotionally neutral space when interacting. For many owners, their dogs have become their place of solace in a world they often feel unfulfilled or unsafe in. This neediness presents you in a weak state that will cause pushy dogs to be more pushy and nervous/insecure dogs to become more nervous. For either mindset, the outcome is often the development of protective or aggressive or reactive behavior. By treating your dog like a dog – in the very best and positive sense of the phrase – you’ll set you and your dog up to be in a much more balanced space.

Once again, this is all the non-“training” stuff you can do that will help your dog’s behavior tremendously. Just being aware and acting on these simple recommendations can change things DRAMATICALLY!!

So even if you’re not going to do any actual obedience work and teach commands, you can still make some MAJOR changes simply by first doing no harm.

P.S. Now if you’d like to go even further and make bigger strides, change behavior more significantly, create reliability, and have a deeper, more healthy relationship with your dog, you can visit my website and watch the free do-it-yourself training videos. They’re easy to follow and will help you make some amazing stuff happen.

www.thegooddog.net


CONNECT WITH US ON FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube 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-CollarTraining is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE DVD TEASER!

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By Sean O’Shea

Ok, first off, I know there are some amazing substitute teachers out there, so please no angry comments from those of you who are awesome!

That said, I think most of us are familiar with the massive atmosphere shift our classroom would undergo when a substitute teacher would show up when we were in school. There was a palpable sense of relief (relief from the usual demands and accountability of our regular teacher/program), and a corresponding excitement about the perception of “looseness” and cracks in the rules that could be exploited.

Now why on earth would a classroom full of the same kids – who just yesterday were respectful, obedient, polite, deferential, and happy to work within the framework of the rules of the classroom – suddenly turn into a bunch of pushy, bratty, opportunistic wild things?

It’s simple. We’re programmed to follow believable leadership and authority, and we’re also programmed to ignore and push against non-believable leadership and authority. It’s in our survival DNA. It’s also in our opportunistic DNA. What can be taken advantage of will be taken advantage of.

The regular teacher, who has been doing the gig for years, has a sense of confidence, certainty, no hesitation, and an air of believability. Step over the bounds, act the fool, and surely consequences shall befall you. He or she exudes this vibe, and the children naturally respect it.

The substitute teacher on the other hand is a part-timer. He or she is likely far less confident and sure. Not having done this for years and years as his or her main gig, he or she hasn’t mastered the fine art of leading…of controlling the room, of being certain, of creating respect by way of presentation and confidence.

And it shows. It shows in the hesitation. It shows in the self-doubt. It shows in the trying to make friends rather than establish rules. It shows in the lack of certainty in their words and movements. It shows in the inability to confidently issue consequences. It shows in the overall energy of the substitute – and it’s this uncertainty, hesitation, and lack of confident energy the kids see. And it’s what makes the the sub vulnerable.

The kids see it, and the kids eat it up. They prey on it. And why shouldn’t they? If you’re not able to be a believable leader, you have to expect pushback. That’s the law of the jungle. Uncertain leaders get led.

And it’s the same with our dogs. We’ve all heard about the dog behaving brilliantly with the trainer and then abominably with the owner the next moment. It’s the exact same thing. The trainer is the experienced teacher. Confident, certain, not hesitating, sure of what to do and when and exactly how to do it. That confidence and certainty is obvious to the dog, and like the kids in the classroom, he or she tends to comply nicely, and most importantly, offers their best work and best selves. Like magic.

The owner on the other hand smacks of the substitute teacher. They’re part-timers. They’re uncertain about the commands, the mechanics, the timing, the sharing of consequences etc. And of course, all this uncertainty and lack of confidence is super apparent to the dog. And so he or she naturally takes advantage of what can be taken advantage of, offering far less than their best work or their best selves.

It’s the substitute teacher syndrome.

So if you’re looking to get your dog and your relationship back into a great space, you gotta get out of the substitute teacher zone. You’ve gotta become the real deal. The experienced, certain, confident teacher/leader that naturally – by way of what you’ve earned, learned and cultivated – causes your dog to behave differently. There are no shortcuts to this. Just ask the substitute teacher. You only get the awesome classroom (and the awesome dog) by putting in the continuous hard work to become the awesome leader, the certain leader, the confident leader, the believable leader.

Lots of practice and hard work is the only gateway to this promised land.


 

CONNECT WITH US ON FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube 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-CollarTraining is now available for order! Click HERE to order your copy!

CLICK THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE DVD TEASER!

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