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By Sean O’Shea from The Good Dog Training and Rehabilitation

While I’m a big proponent of using and leveraging the very best tools available for you and your dog to be successful, the reality is that the greatest tools in the world mean nothing if your head, heart, and energy aren’t in the right place.

The greatest tool you have at your disposal is always yourself. Your mind and your intention. If your emotions and outlook regarding your dog (and yourself) are out of balance, you will both likely struggle, regardless of what tools you use.

If you have an out of balance dog and you’re: still babying and spoiling because it feels good/fulfills your need to nurture, feeling guilty for working long hours so you only share freedom and affection when you get home, shunning structure, training and discipline because it feels yucky or un-enjoyable, being too soft with a firm dog because that’s simply who you are, substituting dog relationships and connection for human relationships and connection, or using your dog to fill unattended to emotional voids and needs, you and your dog will likely still struggle.

The way you feel about yourself and the world, and the way you think about your dog and his training and lifestyle is what fuels the tools and your training strategy to either be powerful and transformative, or to be superficial, unconvincing, and powerless.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your human animal is having a constant, 24/7 conversation with your canine animal about who you are and what role you wish to play in his life. You cannot tell your dog 23 hours of the day that he’s your little cuddle bug and that you’re his doting mommy or daddy and then on your walks where he misbehaves and acts likes a monster try to tell him you are the big pack leader. 🙂 That ones not going to work. We have to give our dogs more credit than that.

Every moment is valuable. You build credit towards good behavior by creating believable leadership long before you’re going to need it when the chips are down. If you want to turn behavior issues around and get your dog into an awesome space state of mind wise, you have to cultivate a believable energy, and a believable presence your dog is able to buy into and follow as an ongoing lifestyle – not just in the moments you need it or that are convenient.

These awesome creatures have a special knack for highlighting and exposing our personal gaps, camouflaged shortcomings, and internal struggles. How awesome is that? You live with your very own personal therapist. 🙂 That’s the awesome challenge and opportunity of dogs: you can’t fool them with tools or a momentary decision of commitment or fortitude, no, they’re looking and waiting for the real stuff. Your best stuff. If you want them to change they’re ready for it – just as soon as you are ready to change yourself.

So remember, the tools are important, no doubt, but it’s your presence, your intention, your emotional balance, your energy, your decision to treat and view your dog like a dog, your force of will and desire and determination, and the constant conversation that your human animal is having with your canine animal that fuels and empowers the tools and the training strategy to actually create the possibility for transformation and change.

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By Sean O’Shea

Hey guys, I often get asked about introducing new dogs to your house/pack. There are many approaches to create initial introductions (walking together for example), but I wanted to share my best secrets for creating long-term, full comfort when new dogs are freely interacting and living together.

What are those secrets? Ready for it? Time, structure, and leadership. (I know, I know, you we’re probably hoping for something more exotic, but this stuff is simple. :))

Dogs want and need to know a few things so they can be comfortable. They want to know what the other dog is about. Does she mean me harm? Is he someone I can trust? Am I safe? Do you belong here? What’s your story? Are we going to be friends or enemies?

It’s your job as their leader to create the environment and the state of mind, throughout your pack, which will allow positive, tension-free relationships to flourish.

Most of the issues I see that go down with new dogs being introduced to each other in the home are totally avoidable and stem from dogs being let loose far too quickly, in a chaotic, stressed, nervous, and excited state to figure things out on their own. Dogs in these states are ripe for the fighting and bad-choice-making. And here’s the thing, once dogs have had a serious squabble you’ve got a very good chance of a grudge and long-term distrust being created. That means lots of trouble and tons of work to even attempt to resolve it and create harmony again.

So instead of chaos, here’s what I recommend:

-Don’t be in a rush. Take as much time as needed. This could be two days, two weeks, or two months. It all depends on the dogs. But I want to make sure you understand the time parameters I’m suggesting as possibilities.

-Teach all dogs in the pack the basics: Walk politely on leash, be polite at thresholds, wait calmly for food, have a rock solid “place” command, be polite around humans and their space.

-Get ALL dogs (not just the new guy!) used to being consistently in a good, relaxed, obedient state. Crazy, disobedient, “out of their tree” dogs are just asking for fights with the wrong dog.

-Be aware of whether you have a resource guarder in your midst. This can be guarding you, guarding food, guarding toys, guarding space etc. If you have one of these guys, you will have to be hyper-conscious about removing points of competition and contention, and may have some heavy-duty management in your future. (I recommend working on the guarder and your relationship to remove as much of this as possible.)

-Have dogs learn to simply exist around each other. Being in “place” is a great way for dogs to very comfortably get used to each other’s presence without the pressure of having to make decisions about each other. (Decisions = stress. Stress = bad choices.) Consider mutual “place” commands as a low-impact meet and greet. You can slowly add more movement with one dog at a time and gauge the reactions to see your progress.

-Be patient! And when you think you’ve been patient, be patient some more. 🙂 You’re going to have these dogs for a long time, there’s no rush to create magic instantly.

-Be aware of if you have a nervous, insecure, or just plain scrapper in your midst. These guys need way more time than the average dog to relax and trust. Add a few more of my “be patient” reminders to your list. (Note: some dogs with serious fighting issues might not be safe around other dogs even after a protracted introductory period. If you’re unsure get a pro involved to help you assess.)

-Keep excitement, affection, and chaos to a minimum during the initial period. All of these things can create stress, competition, tension, and fights.

-Use crates to ensure all dogs are safe when unsupervised. Do not leave dogs alone together who are new to each other. Many things in the home can trigger excitement, stress, competition, and ultimately fights (doorbells, delivery people, squirrels etc) even in your absence.

-Use crates to have dogs simply get comfy around each other. You can crate dogs near each other and help remove novelty, uncertainty and concern. But you have to ensure that that all dogs in the crates are practicing awesome behavior. If one or more of the dogs are stressed, barking, whining, carrying on, trying to escape, panicky, demanding or bratty, then you’ve got a recipe for disaster brewing. (Imagine living next to the worst neighbor in the world and how stressed, angry, and unhappy that makes you feel. Same goes for your dogs.) If you can’t ensure great behavior, crate in different rooms.

-Walk the dogs together. They don’t need to be right next to each other to benefit from the walk together. As they show more comfort in each other’s presence you can slowly close the distance.

-Don’t feed new dogs close to each other. Food, like affection creates competition and stress, and by now we know what that leads to 🙂

-Be careful with play and toys. As you get more comfortable, remember that dogs who are cool with each other in one context and environment can lose their cool when excitement and competition (toys and play) are introduced. Watch for tension and serious intent and address/diffuse it quickly.

-Here’s the big Kahuna: Dogs are constantly assessing each other and you. If one of the dogs (doesn’t matter if it’s the new dog or your long-time dog) sees the other dog or dogs misbehaving, being bratty, out of control, pulling on leash, barking/being reactive at other dogs on the walk, demanding attention from you, guarding space or objects, barking in the house incessantly, able to push into your personal space, and that you the human do not have control of and over him, you have another recipe for disaster brewing. Just like you see a dog that is out of control and say “good grief, what an annoying, out of control, dangerous, pushy, little so and so” so do the dogs in your life. If you won’t create and demand polite, respectful, comfortable, courteous behavior, then you can be almost guaranteed that one of your dogs will. Take control, create a respectful, calm, and polite environment and all the dogs will feel more comfortable and they will thank you with nice, non-fighting behavior.

Ok, so it sounds like a giant pain in the butt that’s going to take forever, but it’s not really that bad. It’s a little pain, and it does take a little time, but it’s so worth the pay-off of long term comfort and safety with your dogs. Of course there are many dogs that you could throw all this out the window, you could turn them loose instantly and have zero issues…forever! But unfortunately I get all the calls for the dogs where it didn’t work out that way. 🙂

If you know you’ve got a dog that isn’t perfect and has some issues, follow these recommendations very closely, be super patient and prepared for a longer haul. Watch the dogs to see how the comfort level looks, and then you can assess where to move from there. If you have an easy dog and you’re bringing a new dog in, use these recommendations as well, and watch your dogs. They will tell you (absence of tension, staring, side-eyeing, growling etc) when they feel comfortable and ready for more freedom and interaction.

Just remember, it’s so much easier and takes far less time (and money!!) to create a great relationship with new dogs from the get-go than it does to try to undo nasty tension and animosity down the line. 🙂

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By Sean O’Shea

When it comes to working with our dog’s behavior issues, we are often told we simply need to “be” calm, assertive, relaxed, and confident. That that state of mind will change our dogs and us.

Honestly, I think it works in reverse. A calm, confident, relaxed, and assertive attitude/mindset is the natural byproduct of having tools, strategies, and mechanics in place that work.

When things work, it’s easy to step into a different mindset.

Yes we can decide/cultivate/manifest/manufacture some degree of determination, relaxation and confidence when working with our dog’s problem behavior as a baseline starting point – and that’s a great mindset to start with – but the real stuff, the stuff that is palpable, that changes the way your dog feels about you and your relationship – and hence changes your dog’s behavior – comes about through the confidence we get when we know what we’re doing works. When we use tools and strategies that leverage our abilities, that allow us to feel in control of our dogs and ourselves, we begin to truly transform. (This is one of the many reasons we utilize prong collars and e-collars in all our work; because they help everyday people to be far more successful, even with serious problem behaviors)

Great training doesn’t make it harder for owners and dogs to succeed. Great training makes it easier. Great training empowers everyday people, people who don’t live 24/7 in dog world, people who aren’t dog trainers, people who very likely don’t have 8 hours to devote every day to dog training, to be successful.

Real confidence comes not from the ether, not from attempting to manufacture that which doesn’t yet exist, it comes from success.

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For more dog training tips, info, and for help with questions or issues, connect with me on Facebook (The Good Dog Training And Rehabilitation) and YouTube (TheGoodDogTraining)

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By Sean O’Shea

When it comes to our dogs, we always have a choice. The choice to see problems or to see opportunities.

Instead of simply being upset, annoyed, frazzled, or frustrated with your dog’s behavior, ask yourself if there’s a gift for yourself in the problem.

Are your dog’s issues offering you an opportunity to challenge yourself, to grow, to become more? More confident, more emotionally balanced, less anxious, less in a hurry, quicker to problem solve than to anger?

Are your dog’s issues exposing issues for yourself that need work?

It’s a very rare appointment in which the dog I’m working with isn’t reacting from the human’s issues and/or wouldn’t benefit from the human growing, challenging, progressing, developing themselves into more fully balanced, healthy versions of themselves.

If you only look for the problem your dog is offering, that is all you’ll find. But if you’ll take a deeper, more honest, and vulnerable look, you’ll find the gift he is offering as well.

Click Here to visit Sean’s website.

 

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By Sean O’Shea from The Good Dog

Remember folks, dogs always do what ‘works’ for them. If pulling on the leash works to get you to walk faster or gets them to a desired tree, they will do it. If barking from the crate works to get the crate door opened and them out, they will do it. If acting the fool when you pull the leash out works to get the leash put on, they will do it. If barking and lunging at other dogs on the walk works to make the other dog go away (the dog’s perception) or is just a bunch of fun, they will do it. If jumping up on you works to get attention (even negative attention) they will do it. If pulling you out the front door works to get the walk started, they will do it. If barking at the back door works to get them inside, they will do it. If whining works to get them petted or soothed, they will do it. If chewing/mouthing on your pant leg or your hands works to get you to engage with your dog (what he’s looking for), they will do it. If staring or growling at you works to cause you to move away from your dog’s food bowl, crate, toy, bed etc, he will do it.

And they will do all of these things more and more intensely, and more frequently, the more it works for them.

When we respond to our dog’s negative behavior in a way that ultimately gives the dog what he wants, we have trained our dog (and he has trained us) to create the reality he desires…which might not be the reality you desire. 🙂

Our job, as our dog’s leader and guide is to be sure that we only encourage the behaviors we like – what ‘works’ for us and our lifestyle – and discourage that which doesn’t ‘work’ for us.

The best way to achieve this is to ignore very mild behavior totally and completely, correct more intense behavior you don’t like immediately, and to actively train your dog that patience, waiting, calmness, respect, and courteousness gets them everything. It’s what ‘works’!

Dogs, while being some of the most awesome creatures around, are also awesome opportunists! Left to their own devices, they will create a world for themselves (and for you) that is exactly to their liking. It’s up to you to pick which reality ‘works’ for you, yours or your dog’s.

(If your dog’s behavior is dangerous or frightening, or if you are unsure about how to proceed, please do not attempt to correct or train him on your own. You should seek the help of a trained professional who, if qualified should be able to help you sort these issues out.)

 

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Whether It be business, financial, relationship, personal, or even dog training (make that especially dog training!), if you’re not harnessing the amazing power of visualization, goal setting, and creating intentions, you’re missing out on some of the great secrets of success!

I personally am a big subscriber to the power of these tools, and they have helped me tremendously in all aspects of my life.

Let’s take a super quick look at how these work, and then we’ll see how they might just help you with your dog…and maybe more.

When you set a goal, visualize an outcome, or create the intention of what you’d like to create, you set several things in motion:

1) You cause your brain’s filter (known by its fancy name as R.A.S. – Reticular Activating System), to adjust its focus toward helping you accomplish the goal you desire. Your brain filters out most of the information that it is bombarded with, in order to protect your sanity, and to help you survive/accomplish the things you have deemed important. The famous example is where you decide to buy a new car and suddenly begin to see the same car everywhere in great numbers. The amount of these cars on the road didn’t increase massively overnight – what happened was that your filter suddenly adjusted itself to find/accomplish the things that are foremost in your mind. In this case the car you are fascinated with/focused on. Some folks call this Law Of Attraction, I personally enjoy the scientific explanation the most. So once you create a goal, visualization, intention, your mind’s filter begins to filter out all that is unhelpful to achieving your goal and filters in all that is helpful to achieving your goal. Often ideas, strategies, and solutions will simply pop into your mind as your supercomputer of a brain hyper-focuses all of its power on solving the problem you are working on. Is it magic? It’s pretty close to it.

2) When you visualize exactly what you want to see, before you create it, you become positively charged with certainty and confidence, rather than tentative, unsure, and clumsy. People actually perform physically and mentally at a much higher level when they utilize the power of visualization. (Star athletes and other performers have used these tools for years, and there many scientific studies that back up the efficacy of the practice) You set yourself up for success when your brain has a defined set of images and goals to shoot for rather than a vague groping. And scientists have also found that we tend to get what we expect, and find what we’re looking for.

3) Clear set goals have a magical pulling power, they actually pull us in their direction. And the clearer, more defined the goal, and the stronger the emotional connection to it, the harder it pulls you towards it. Without clearly set goals, our focus and efforts tends to wander here and there. We dilute our power to accomplish great things through the scattering of our focus and attention. Defined goals bring us back again and again to our purpose. So if we want to create great things, we simply need to intensify and focus our intentions like a laser on what is we wish to create.

4) When you visualize or project an outcome, you create a psychological response, which in turn creates a physiological response. An example would be that you’re walking your dog reactive dog and suddenly see a dog walking towards you…you immediately see in your mind’s eye your dog whirling around, snapping, lunging, barking like a mad beast. What happens at that moment? Your psychological conversation has now caused your breathing to become shallow, your body to become tense, and stress hormones to be secreted – all signals to your dog that not only is trouble afoot, but also that you are in no way the person who is capable of either managing the situation or protecting your dog. That little negative visualization almost always guarantees a negative reaction from your dog. But if you develop the habit and skill of instead seeing what you want, rather than what you don’t, you have a far better chance of maintaing normal breathing, maintaining a relaxed body, and keeping the stress hormones under wraps – all of which convey confidence and certainty – and this positive visualization process can yield major results as you and your dog work towards solving problem behavior.

Personally, I utilize these concepts every time I’m working with a dog. On the large end of goal setting, every dog that comes in to us gets a chart made up of the owners goals and our goals that we wish to achieve before the end of our work together. On the small end, I set goals or an intention for every single training session – even if it is only a momentary issue – set the goal first and watch as that decision pulls you to the achievement of your goal. And in conjunction with the goals I set, I also visualize every outcome, ahead of time working out exactly as I wish it to. The combination of deciding ahead of time exactly what you want and what it looks like are an incredibly powerful set of tools. And the more challenging the dog, the deeper I go into this process. This keeps me positive, totally clear about my objectives, focused on solutions rather than problems, relaxed and confident. And all of these elements give me the extra edge when I’m working with challenging dogs or humans!

If you’re having problems with your dog or you just want to improve his/her training, you want as much of this creative, problem solving mojo on your side as possible! How do you think a dog (or the world!) would react to a confident, certain, positive person, with a clear image of what he wants to create versus the opposite? I know you know the answer to this one! 🙂

So regardless of whether you’re a dog trainer, a dog owner, or just one of those weird people without a dog, if you’ll practice seeing what you want, defining what you want, and feeling what you want, you’ll be harnessing some of the most powerful tools that man has at his disposal.

And you might just create a little magic of your own.

 

 

By Sean O’Shea – visit our website thegooddog.net

You don’t start swinging the bat the day of the World Series. You don’t throw your first Shot Put the day of the Olympics. You don’t sit down at the piano for the first time the day of your recital at Lincoln Center.

Of course all of these examples are silly, and no one in their right mind would actually contemplate them. BUT, as crazy as these examples are, this is exactly what I see so many dog owners do. And it’s one of the biggest causes of failure in their attempts to train/rehab their dog. It’s fascinating that something that we so intuitively understand in the human world (that being the necessity of using baby steps and constant preparation in order to achieve a bigger goal/accomplishment) regularly escapes us and frequently sabotages our attempts to train our dogs.

We somehow believe that the dog with the maniacal door reaction (or even worse, an aggression issue) will respond to our frantic attempts to keep him in “place” the one day someone shows up at our door, rather than practicing, preparing, and conditioning him to respond appropriately, to respect, listen and defer to you for the 3 weeks preceding the visit.

Or, we let our dog wander on the walk, smelling here and there, pulling us to and fro, teaching them ever so consistently that they need not respect or listen to us…and then our dog sees the little obnoxious dog from down the street and decides to not only bark, growl, froth, and spin, but also to share a bite on your leg for your trouble.

In the dog world, these are all World Series moments, and to think you can simply suit up and knock it out of the park on game day, without having spent the necessary practice, preparation, and skill building time, is folly.

If you’re looking to train or rehab any serious behavior problem, be sure that you practice, prepare, and condition both you and your dog with massive repetition and small, incremental challenges long BEFORE game day. Much of our success with severe behavior issues comes from utilizing this simple formula.

Remember, if you’re going to rock the stadium, you gotta work through T-ball, little league, high school, college ball, and then finally, if you’ve worked your butt off, you graduate to the big leagues. And if you approach your dog training with the same mind-set, you can accomplish something just as amazing!

By Sean O’Shea from The Good Dog Training and Rehabilitation

 

How much impact would 5 dollar speeding tickets have on drivers speeding habits?

Probably not much.

And why is that? Because the reward for driving over the speed limit  – whether it’s running late for an appointment, impatience, or just the thrill of some extra speed – outweighs the consequence. No one is going to change rewarding behavior for a 5 dollar penalty…why would they?

When a reward outweighs a consequence, the consequence will be ignored. And the behavior that the consequence was supposed to impact/change/prevent/stop simply continues on.

If speeding tickets were 5 dollars, folks would likely be driving like maniacs…it would be chaotic, it would be dangerous, and it would be unpredictable. (This is strangely similar to dogs we see who live in a world of few rules and insignificant consequences for negative behavior).

So what changes a driver’s speeding habits? What changes anyone’s habits? It’s simple really. Significant consequences for breaking known rules. When consequences become significant, behavior changes…for all of us. (That’s why speeding tickets and the ding they put on your insurance are so heavy…in order for them to be significant)

In working with dogs, I see the 5 dollar speeding ticket issued all too often by owners in an effort to stop or change unwanted behavior. And the fallout is: The dog’s negative behavior continues; owners become frustrated/annoyed/resentful; the unwanted behavior becomes even more deeply patterned; and worst of all, the dog begins to view the human in a disrespectful, dismissive light…and this spells massive trouble.

So knowing that insignificant consequences undermine what we’re trying to achieve, and significant consequences help us to achieve what we want, what stands between us and the promised land of stopping bad behavior and creating great behavior? Lots of things. For one, many owners are far more prepared to share affection and fun than they are discipline and rules. For others they are unsure about how to create and share fair and appropriate consequences for their particular dog (and this is an important point – this is not a one size fits all – for some dogs a stern voice is significant, and for others this would mean absolutely nothing). Others still are unsure about which tool or approach or strategy would be best to help achieve this. Some owners are worried that they might hurt their dog’s feelings or undermine their relationship. And maybe the biggest one of all, owners have been told over and over that correcting their dog will create aggression or other serious behavioral fallout. In all of the dogs I’ve worked with, I have never, repeat, never seen this be the case. But, there is an awful lot of propaganda saying otherwise.

Once you’ve clearly and fairly taught your dog the rules of life, the next step is finding just the right consequence motivation that causes him to make good, healthy and safe choices. And in many cases, the best course of action is to hire an experienced, balanced trainer, who can help guide you through the best choice of strategies, tools, and reading of your dog, to ensure that you share exactly the right balance of reward and consequence for your particular dog…and that you leave that 5-dollar speeding ticket far behind.

 

By Sean O’Shea from the The Good Dog Training and Rehabilitation

When we start to have problems with our dog’s behavior we naturally focus on our dog. It’s natural – the dog is doing something wrong, what’s wrong with him? Why won’t he stop barking? Why is he attacking Aunt Ethel? Why are my dogs fighting? Why does he always destroy the house when I leave? Why does he try to attack every dog on a walk? It’s normal to try and problem solve by focusing on the problem at hand, but problems are usually just the result of other issues left untended to, that have now grown into bigger problems.It’s easy for us to focus on our dogs, but oftentimes the better and far more valuable question is: How are YOU doing? This is usually the best place to start and the last place examined.If you honestly assess yourself, what percentage of the day do you spend being anxious, stressed, guilty, resentful, sad, fearful, needy, impatient, conflicted, angry, manic, depressed or worried, vs peaceful, calm, relaxed, confident, happy, assured, positive, patient and balanced?If you’ve spent any prolonged time with a person in any of these negative states, you know how uncomfortable, draining, and agitating the experience can be. Our dogs feel the same way – except they aren’t able to leave for a breath of fresh air – they simply have to stay, endure, and absorb all of the negative energy.Two things happen when our dogs are repeatedly exposed to this kind of negative human energy: First, it has a profound effect on their fundamental state – because they are forced to live in an uncomfortable emotional environment, they become heavily stressed, and this stress will cause them to engage in all manner of negative/neurotic behaviors. These behaviors can range from chronic barking and licking, to serious aggression. You cannot force an animal to consistently live in a toxic environment and not expect some serious behavioral fallout.And second, by presenting yourself as an unbalanced, unsafe, inconsistent, unpredictable human, there is no way that your dog can allow you to lead him – it simply makes no sense – why would a dog, or anyone else for that matter, follow an emotionally unstable leader? And if a dog has no leader, he will become stressed from the pressure of having to try to lead, and from the absence of guidance.

So the negative impact on your dog is compounded by both of these dynamics – and the effect is fairly staggering.

Because our dogs cannot speak verbally, they become convenient scape goats and unfortunate victims of our unresolved issues. But the truth is, if you watch your dog, you’ll see in his behavior – whether balanced, comfortable and happy, or unbalanced, uncomfortable and stressed –  that he’s speaking volumes about you and the environment you’ve created for him.

So if things have gotten dicey or problematic with your dog, it might be a good time to sit back and ask: How are YOU doing?

 

 

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…