Hi folks! My buddy and his mama had our first play session today. I am in the process of learning to implement what I have learned in my 3 day workshop. There are quite a few components to the process of real engaged play where it's not about the toy but about relationship, play and rules. I am taking this next phase in my training the opposite of lightly even though it's play because it's important to make sure all components are in place. Also, it's important that I am teaching it clearly so when I leave my folks have an understanding to begin play properly before advancing the deeper play styles. It is such an amazing tool and I'm excited to be digging in & sharing! I am grateful to my client and pup today for our first tug session.
We are beginning to get our lives back.
During the pandemic we adopted a foster puppy. It is not our first dog, in fact, we have two others, a small 9 year old mixed breed and a 6 year old English Lab. In his first months, our puppy was quickly house broken, easily trained, and was even better behaved than our other two family dogs, and seemed to assume his place among their small pack.
However, being a pandemic puppy seemed to effect him in ways our other dogs were not, especially when it came to meeting new people. Certain things made him afraid, and he would respond with barking. We took him to our kids’ sporting events to get him used to new situations, and we were even able to help him mostly overcome his fear of small children; despite the fact he was tipping the scale at 70 pounds, he was unnerved by toddlers.
When it had seemed like things were going almost perfectly, one evening, completely out of the blue, he lunged and attacked one of our other dogs. It was uncharacteristic for him, and also disturbing for us. We assumed it was an aberration - maybe he was tired or resource guarding - but it continued happening toward both of our dogs, and each successive time it seemed to become more intense.
Our home became uncomfortable to be in, especially during the evening when we would normally be winding down and enjoying the quiet after a busy day. Instead of enjoying our evening routine surrounded by our dogs, we were sitting on edge waiting for our gentle boy to explode into an uncontrollable raging monster. Our other dogs were also on edge, especially our lab who was afraid to enter the house or be in the same room where this ticking time bomb could go off with no warning.
We were exhausted. Moving each dog from room to room and insuring the three were never in the same room at the same time every day was unsustainable. We dreaded coming home. Everything began to revolve around this disheartening and unsettling situation. We were quickly finding ourselves running out of options, except for one, which was giving the newest member of our family a new home. It was a heartbreaking possibility.
However, we were fortunate enough to discover Kathy through a friend. We called her in as our last ditch attempt to see if there was any hope in changing the dynamics between our three dogs, but mostly whether or not our problem dog could be helped, or if our only option was to give him a new home.
What happened next was transformational. With only one in person visit, Kathy helped us realize that the situation between our dogs was controlling us, rather than us controlling the situation. With firm encouragement, she provided us with some immediate measures we could implement to change the dynamic between us and our dogs. She helped us understand the actual dynamics of what was going on between them, based on her research of wolves and years of experience. It was illuminating.
By the time Kathy departed after our first session, all three dogs were laying down calmly together, something we have not at all felt comfortable doing in the past few months. Implementing her suggestions, our evenings have once again become relaxed and our home a welcoming environment for us, and all three dogs.
One thing we greatly appreciated about Kathy’s approach was that she came to our home and evaluated every aspect of the environment, and the dynamic of the dogs in that environment, including how we relate to them as a family. What she was able to see in the first few minutes, and convey to us, helped us unravel what was otherwise an impenetrable mystery. Her authority was inspiring to watch, and you couldn’t help but feel empowered as she explained how dogs think and function within a pack, and how they prefer the alpha - in this case human - to bear the responsibility of taking control so that they do not have to be on heightened alert, therefore bringing down the tense energy that readies them for hair trigger reactions to what they perceive as threatening situations. Once we were able to understand this, as well as learn how dogs communicate, we could respond much earlier to their reactions, thereby reducing their need to be on constant alert, and being able to relax.
While we have only begun working with our dogs, just this first step alone has helped us see there is hope after one two hour session. That is why were are committed to continuing our work with Kathy. Her holistic and direct approach is incredibly effective. We cannot wait to continue to work with her as already our time with her has felt transformational for our family.
I'll talk more about the complexities in the future. Last weekend I got to witness dogs and their owners being vulnerability and learning in the moment and absolutely slaying it!! Watching dogs personalities light up through play or shy hesitate dogs figure it out in small increments was awesome! As a dog trainer/teacher I tend to seek new information new ideas this one was to incorporate more play and the use of drive to build relationship among other things. Looking forward to slowly bridging this information into my sessions with everyone.
Cuteness is a blessing and a curse especially the small pups. They are sooooo cute and cuddly who would want to give them a boundary or say no to them. Yet, this is exactly what they need. When I say it's the "micro mini moments that matter the most" it encompasses everything. For example how much affection do you give them? How much holding do you do? How often do they eat? How much do they bark? This is aside from leash handling and working on clear conversations that matter. It all adds up and sometimes these cute lil' pups can become a hot mess and they really don't want the job. So just sending the message if they are nudging you too much or barking at the window or nipping etc. that no way is that acceptable you. You don't have to be over the top in your boundary they just have to get the memo a lil' snap of your fingers can be enough. Helping your pup large or small out of a toxic state of mind is the BEST thing you could do for them. xo
I received this 3D printed dog from a cool client of mine a few years back. Looking at this picture I thought ya know we pretty much have our dogs lives in our hands like this. We can choose to show up and build clear, clean conversations with our pups. Or we can leave them at their own devises which can show up as unwanted behaviors. Not all dogs are the same just like our hands or fingerprints. Pretty special stuff so choose your relationship if things are wonky change it, if your dog is having a tough time help which can look like seeking a trainer, looking up training videos, educating yourself and most of all follow through. It is amazing the relationship you build with clear clean boundaries, conversations and intentions. Sometimes though even with all the work I find some clients are super sweet and their dog is a full on College Jock with a STRONG opinion of every moment. This is not an easy shift you may need to seek outside help to bridge the relationship with a hand that the dog can respect for their is no history which can make the shift for the dog easier to then see you in this position of leader. I equate it like a king he's not going to give up his or her crown to just anyone. You need to earn it though moments of clear direction and trust over time it is NOT a one moment shift.
Pigging backing off the COME command we work retrieval/ball work! It can be awesome to focus, ground and engage with your dogs energy. Believe it or not all the pieces of the puzzle before this moment matter so much. Walking by your side short leash, or having more freedom on a long leash, engagements with sit, down and holding stays for you. This all goes into this moment of your dog bringing the ball back to you. Why he/she does or does not and if so how many times. This is why I teach you a ton of dog psychology. Why I bring you back time and time again to the micro mini moments so we can stretch abilities, thresholds and be connected through trust. For really trust is everything the golden thread to a dog following you and bringing you back the ball once you have thrown it. #trainwhatyouexpect #bbdt
Teaching the "COME" command looks like this. Backstory this guy happy go lucky and a mad door dasher! He would send his folks on high tail pursuits and honestly it can be very scary. We didn't just work the come command we worked everything. We worked close leash walking, long leash walking, stay, sit, down we worked engagement boundaries AND the come command. A dog will only come to you if you are greater then the activity or whatever their attention may be fixed on. So we build not only what the word come means we build relationship. Then there is the element of time, working life and adding texture to your moments so you build a stronger threshold in who you are and what is expected of your dog in all situations. Which is ultimately to listen and follow you even if he/she is enjoying freedom from the leash. #trainwhatyouexpect #bbdt
When we take the time to train what we expect from our dog we teach them without pressure. When we have a clear goal in mind we are able to attain it better then scattered thoughts. Our dogs feel our vibes unsure or sure, tones I can hear or mumbling tones that mean nothing, do we make eye contact to help connect us when we need to or are we wishy washy in our communication? It is soooo valuable to train our dogs what we expect then they can surrender and just follow our lead. Why wait until you need your dog to be a certain way by then it is way too late. Usually there is pressure and you get embarrassed or use tones that sound alarm bells for your dog and life feels chaotic. Maybe you yank the leash or pull on your dog in a way that promotes fear and they look at you like what the heck! Dogs can't follow that it's not calm assertive. So if you have worked situations at least a bit it actually serves YOU to be able to be calm assertive. Calm in energy assertive making a decision it keeps you the owner clear headed that really is the key. Then we teach our dogs that we are the energy to follow. So figure out what you want from your relationship with your dog and take the steps towards those goals dangle the carrot in your life and take it day by day!
Dog Play is intentional and most of the the time seems harmless. Who doesn't love to play tug with their pup! It is important to understand that dogs use play as a power up. By that I mean they live in the moment and will feel like they "one up'd you" if you lose the battle or play moment. If your dog has other issues this little moment can be used to solidify or keep solidifying the fact that the pup is obviously in charge of you in their eyes. So, it's important to work your dog in other areas of it's life to balance out the bigger picture and your relationship so play doesn't become a thing. It is also important to teach proper play and begin and end the play. You can also use play as a motivator or reward. Next time you are playing tug watch, ball or whatever with your dog watch for it's subtle cues in the game. See if in fact he/she is trying to one up you.
One of the things I teach is how food is power for a dog. Some dogs don't have a need to use food so they won't it's still a definable staple in their life none the less. Some dogs manipulate their lives around it in a way that most don't see. Then act entitled or act out in other areas of their day. Part of that can be rooted in their definition of themselves where food is concerned. Again, it is usually under the radar that most don't see although the dogs do and that is really all that matters. A simple, yet powerful tool we use is food how the dog defines it, training with it, shifting out of training with it thus working their minds. Without food we see once the dog totally understands what's being asked if they will follow. This is where true balance lingers for moments that feel like minutes. Does the dog follow through with what it knows or does the dog have an opinion about what's being asked. Dogs are so smart and when you line up and start to build conversations in training whatever is going on underneath shows up. Then it can be shifted into balance. Food is a GREAT motivator yet, it can dumb a dog down as well. Food used appropriately can bring out the BEST and EVERYTHING your dog has been hiding and needing to evolve into.