Be a Lifeguard in a Sea of Dogs: Dog/Dog Socialization Mistakes

Have you ever watched footage of a lifeguard in action, diving off of their stand into a crowded pool of people to save someone? A few months ago, I watched about 20 videos on YouTube of these rescues -- a lifeguard overseeing a crowded pool full of people and notices the one person/child who quietly started to struggle in the water, immediately diving in and saving them within seconds. It was simply amazing! I would have to rewatch each video to see where the distress happened, becuase the signs of drowning are so subtle...it's typically not someone screaming for help and flailing their arms around, it is actually a very fast, silent, and frantic thing that could go unseen if you weren't watching close enough. These heros are trained to save people, enforce the rules, and prevent problems while everyone else is simply there to have fun. If a lifeguard was too busy chatting up the guests or flirting with the cuties in their bathing suits, they could miss something that could be the difference between life and death.

The same thing goes for dog socialization (between other dogs or between people and dogs). There are a lot of subtle signs when dogs are interacting with each other (and people) that can be missed and conflict can arise. When I am out in a social group of dogs, you will very rarely see me stopping to kneel down and give lots of affection, pets, and belly rubs to the dogs. In fact, I don't often do much petting at all - the only direct interacting the dogs get from me are some obedience commands to add a level of voice control to the activity in the yard. Our#Saturplay posts are some of the most popular videos because people love to see the dogs in action running and playing, but if you look closely, you will also see me on the move - watching, regulating, enforcing the rules - being a lifeguard in a sea of dogs.

A common mistake people make when they are around multiple dogs is that they stand still and start to share alot of affection. I totally get it - being in a yard full of playing dogs is any dog lover's dream! However, what most people don't realize is that while most human friendly dogs would gladly be pet and want your attention (and in a one on one setting it wouldn't be an issues, besides being jumped on), in a group setting sharing attention often creates a bottleneck of dogs crowding you for some petting/affection. All of a sudden, you and your attention become a valuable resource, which can create a guarding/ownership situation and you have multiple dogs with excited/aroused energy bumping into each other creating tension, conflict, and completion: all which can be the perfect storm for a dog fight.

During socialization, I am always walking around - keeping the dogs in motion, using my body language, or a dressage whip as an extension of my body, to help make space and avoid conflict. I rarely share affection with dogs in the yard, and if I have one crowding me and asking for it, I will own my space by making the dog move away via my body language/spacial pressure or moving into or walking away from the dog. If you don't become something a dog can be possesive over (by sharing soft, only affection based energy) and instead are someone to be respected and listened too, you won't be unintentionally encouraging competition to develop in the dogs. 

I watch closely for each dog's proximity to the others - moving into them, away, having them follow me - I am always moving through the sea of dogs, dispersing them like I am trying to keep the water "cloudy" - when the water settles, that means dogs are being still, and unless the whole groups is tired and resting, stillness can mean crowding, which means tension could be developing about dogs being in each other's personal space. Crowding happens when people are not moving (like all the dogs greeting someone sitting in a chair) or where things bottle neck (like doorways or entering/exiting a gate). Most dog park fights happen right at the entrance to the park, when dogs enter the gate, if play gets too rowdy/too fast, or a dog is overwhelming another who isn't interested in playing/being bothered. Most house fights happen when someone is stationary and sharing affection, or dogs are in close proxomity to share space and compete for something they want (like the best view out the window, who goes out the door first, sharing the water bowl, interest in the same toy/food/bone). If the dogs are at all excited, hyper, or aroused during any of this (which 99% of the time they are) you have the perfect storm for bad things to go down, and dogs/people to get hurt...all because the dogs were "happy and having fun." (There's a reason there is no running or horseplay allowed on the pool deck, right lifeguards?!)

Keeping the arousal levels low (not letting play get too high energy, interrupting dogs getting into belligerent excitement, avoiding high impact dog/dog play or adding a toy/food into an active group of dogs) and making sure all dogs are respecting each other's personal space is VITAL to keeping multiple dogs safe around each other in a social setting. This goes for 2 dogs or 20 dogs sharing the same space - the more chaotic and uncontrolled the group is, how little they listen to the human in charge (if there is one!), and how much they respect that human and their personal space plays a huge role in how things will pan out. (If a dog is constantly jumping on your, crowding you, pawing you, or barking at you they don't have much respect for your personal space bubble, which means they won't have much respect for what you have to say in a social setting. They likely won't "move out of the way" when you walk through, because they are so used to moving in on you whenever they way! This is a relationship issue you must work on outside of social time and establish boundaries privately first!) Tension, conflict, and crowding don't just happen around people who are petting dogs/standing still - it can happen at the water bowl, if two dogs are sniffing the same area, if someone has a toy and the others want it, or if a dog is pressuring another too much and not reading body cues that say "I am done being sniffed by you, I don't want to play, I don't want to share, etc." 

As the lifeguard to your sea of dogs, you're not just out there to "be with all the puppies" - you are enforcing the rules and watching for trouble in a group full of predators 😈 (cute, fluffy, complex, dynamic, perceptive, and emotional creatures with teeth for tearing flesh)! I CAN NOT stress enough that when multiple dogs are together, especially when they are not that familar with each other (like a newly adopted pet or just somewith a history of tension/competition with each other or other dogs in general), that is NOT the time to share affection and have a soft, coddling presence. Keep moving, keep the dogs moving, keep arousal down, and don't allow crowding of space or bullying of other dogs. Don't be someone for dogs to be possessive over, be someone that is listened to. It's time to be a lifeguard and keep your eyes and ears on your "pool" to keep everyone safe. Don't flirt with the cuties, or you could miss the subtle signs of trouble brewing!

🏊If you're curious, here is the channel of the Lifeguard Rescues! It is amazing to watch:https://www.youtube.com/user/LifeguardRescue11

Dog Socialization

Friendly dogs can cause fights

As we work with Rocky and Colby more, we are seeing a common trend. Colby, the older dog, really doesn't want trouble and finds Rocky, the younger dog, annoying and makes him unsettled. The reason he is uncomfortable around Rocky is because the young guy gets in his space, is pushy, and is constantly pestering him. For Colby, Rocky' s pushiness is stressful and unchecked Colby will eventually correct Rocky (which in the end developed into fights). After a couple fights where you got chewed up, you'd feel pretty tense around a dog who doesn't take the hint without fighting back and always comes back to get in your space. 

Many folks look at young playful dogs interacting with older dogs (that snap) and say the older dog is the aggressor, where in the end it was the obnoxious youngster that upset the apple cart. When a pushy dog ignores the signals and body language cues from another dog too much, eventually the pushed around dog acts out...and if that happens too much, it can lead to a fight and to a grudge :/ People often miss the signs because they think one dog is being playful, and one is being cranky where in the end...one is being overbearing and one is being tolerant. For Rocky and Colby's owners it is going to be their job to step in and correct Rocky's pushy advances so Colby doesn't have too. When Colby sees them have control, with solid household management and Rocky on "speedial" of calm behavior, Colby will trust his family can take care of things. On the flip side, Colby will not be allowed to go out of his way to correct Rocky either - things must be in balance, so that starts with existence and acceptance, through human leadership advocating for each dog.

Here is an amazing video from our friend Christina at Balanced Life K9 Training that breaks down the "overly friendly, pushy dog" problem. P.S. this is why most fights happen in dog parks, and is one of the main reasons for reactivity and aggressive tendencies to develop...bad energy, too much pressure, no human advocating, and the dogs have to take it into their own paws! This stuff sneaks up on you too, as it is not always obvious what is fair play/positive interaction if you arn't familar with dog behavior or looking for warning signs. Things can shift quickly within a pack when one dog feels too pressured by the other too often: https://youtu.be/kGlb6iCtc7o

Stay tuned as we continue working on helping these boys build a new and more comfortable relationship together and teach their owners how to be the advocate and leader they need!

dog aggression

Possessiveness Gives Them Something to Fight About

When it comes to dogs fighting with each other or biting people, it's important to remember that the fight or bite is actually not the problem (although, obviously it is a huge and dangerous issue). What I mean, is that the aggressive situation is a symptom of problems that have been festering for a while in your pack - most often the relationship you have with your dog, and the resulting dynamics based off of it. 

When my dogs were fighting, it was a no brainer to say "they obviously don't see me as the Pack Leader...duh!" The simple part was identifying the lack of leadership - the hard part was doing something about it because I had no clue. The more I began to learn about dogs, the more their behaviors made sense to me and the more prepared I was to advocate, teach, guide, set boundaries for, and correct my dogs. 

In my pack one of the biggest triggers leading up to a fight was possessiveness. Once you live with a possessive dog (one who claims or acts like they "own" a person, space, or item) you quickly become very aware to when and where those moments occur. One of my dogs was extremely possessive of resources (food, toys, space) and people (anyone who was petting him or being close to him was "his"). Basically, if the corgi had something he deemed was valuable, the greyhound was in trouble if he came too close OR if the corgi was getting pet by someone, the greyhound could not come close without getting bitten. To this day, I am always very on alert when multiple dogs are gathering to receive affection from someone - more often than not, unless the relationship between dog(s) and human is in the right place, various levels of possessiveness will appear. It could be one dog bopping or blocking the others out the way with their body, a quick snap or growl, or a full on dog-fight. The "right" relationship for multi-dog affection means all dogs respect the human and their space, have clear and believable boundaries set by that human, understand the rules and consequences in play, and feel that person has strong leadership. Unfortunately, these are things most human/dog relationships are missing, especially in this multi-dog scenario, because it's likely a person petting and playing with multiple dogs at the same time, which is often a high pressure/not-such-a-good-time-to-be-doing-that situation, often only shares softness and affection in general. It's the formula for problems!

Possessiveness is really very common in the dog world and really easy for us, as humans, to nurture- which means with possessiveness often comes entitlement. Many dogs don't start out really possessive of people/items (granted there are genetic resource guarding tendencies in certain breeds), but without clear boundaries and expectation set they start to make their own rules. You'll see dogs taking more control and an active role of where people can walk in your house or where you can sit (again through body language, pushy behavior, growling, barking, biting) and where the other dogs can move about, where they will position themselves on furniture and in proximity to you and other dogs/people. Again, without your dog being in a behaviorally productive relationship with their humans, they will see their people with lots of softness and accommodating tendencies, that are fun to dish out from the humans POV and appreciated by the dog, but not holding up to the task of keeping the chaos and competition at bay...thus, troubled waters!

A good indicator of relationship issues, which will likely lead to conflict in your pack and trouble with your dog, is if your dog is possessive over you - not just toys, food, and space, but YOU their human (or other members of your family). A dog who "owns you" and denies any one or anything close to you or your property (unless you have invested trained protection dog doing its job...and most pets are NOT that by any means) is likely anxious, stressed, and rather entitled. They've learned through unintentionally encouragement (like petting a barking/growling dog in a lap and them being allowed to practice that behavior often), self reward (guarding something and moving people/other animals away with that behavior), AND lack of consequence (never being told "no" you can not act like that, in a way that is valuable enough to change how they behave in that scenario). Do you think your dog may have possessive issues?

The good news is, once your realize that's an issue you can start working on your relationship, and your journey to be the Leader your dog needs! You'll know you're moving the right way when your do is not acting possessive of you! But how do you get there? You start by building a new relationship - based on a teacher-student principle (and not the easy teacher- the one who was really hard and made you do your work, graded tough, and made you WORK to pass!) of teaching and learning, with set boundaries and expectations, rules, and consequences. If you haven't already, cut back on affection and intimate moments like furniture privileges and sleeping in bed. By keeping your possessive dog out of your personal space bubble, you are not empowering those tendencies. Instead, teach your dog to be OK standing alone - holding place command, and respecting the boundary so that guests can give you a hug when they come inside. Teach your dog to rest calmly and quietly in their crate, so that they arn't growling at your spouse to come back to bed or are growling at you for bumping into them. Don't give them a seemingly "soft" person to guard - instead, show them that you are the strongest in the relationship and are the one to keep all of you safe.

Remember, that un-earned affection is one of the most challenging things for dogs to have from you and see you in that role of control. Affection, however, is one of our FAVORITE things as people to share with our dogs! If you can redefine how you share affection and love with your dog - in a way that moves your relationship, your pack dynamic, and their behavior in the right direction, instead of just softness, petting, free roam, un-earned rewards, and accommodating behaviors on our end. There will be plenty of time to share affection and be buddies with your dog, ONCE they are making better choices and you are being the leader they need. Until then, make them safe and comfortable so that they can keep living their best life with you.

Also, please exercise caution when sharing affection with multiple dogs, giving food resources to multiple dogs, greeting yourself or someone else with a dog pretty contently in their personal space bubble, or interacting with a dog who is feeling empowered on furniture or with a food/toy/guardable resource. Changing the mind of your dog and adjusting your relationship is a process that takes time, and remember that if there are other people interacting with your dogs, that will affect and influence behavior as well. You may be tough as nails and strict to the T with your dogs and what they are allowed to do, but if someone soft is sharing affection or involved with/engaging with them, it's still an easy opportunity for guarding to happen because of the immediate leadership gap relationship. Dogs are not dumb - they asses the other people and animals around them immediately to see what their role needs to be to be most comfortable, safe, and productive...and if that means taking control because someone soft is around, that's what they will do! Be smart, be safe, and please get help from a professional if things are becoming dangerous (or before they do)!

Becoming the leader my dogs needed, and learning what to look for in scenarios where possessiveness was prime to take place made me a better dog owner, a more knowledgeable dog person...and in the end, a dog trainer, too! :)

dog fight

You may be an Accomplice to Leash Reactivity!

Dog Training Cat Tip of the Day: With dogs who have reactive behavior on walks, it's important to remember that there was typically one more accomplice to the explosions...and that person is unintentionally you! You are, through association, a part of your dog's insecurity, protectiveness, arousal, adrenaline, and frustration process when he becomes reactive. You've been a partner at the scene of the explosions, and that relationship feeds their response. (If you just got a dog who is reactive, and have zero history with them...that's ok, too! This info still applies and can help you define a relationship so that you can help them move past their issues) ðŸ˜Š

Don't worry, with some work it can get better! Your individual dog and the depth of the association and relationship will determine how much work and diligence is ahead of you to tackle this issue.

When we think about reactivity, it's important to remember that in a nut shell it is an exercise of poor impulse control. Sure, there are emotional triggers behind it, but the action of "lift off" is coming from making a knee-jerk response to act on an impulse. That means, particularly if you've been working with your dog already in training, the best way to prevent reactivity is by being pro-active and addressing other incidents of poor impulse control.

The reason we say that the first things reactive dogs MUST do is walk in heel beside you with no pulling, sniffing, marking, barking, eyeballing squirrels, etc is to not just create a "pretty walk" but to create handler relevance and the understanding that things are different now - that every doggie impulse is not acted upon, and in fact on your walk none of them are allowed. Can you imagine how that would change your dog's mindset on a walk? If they were already softer, less adrenalized, paying more attention to you, waiting for permission, and not following their own agenda on a walk, instead differing to you? For a dog, it's hard to be reactive or continue to hold that association of your owner being a by-stander to reactivity when all of a sudden they have stepped up and set a bunch of rules and expectations for the walk. In fact, your dog will be mighty surprised that there is so much of your presence and influence in what used to be a pretty dog-decided and oriented walk. Instead of being a witness to your dog's checked out behaviors you are now becoming relevant and influential - a huge role shift that, for many dogs, can almost remove reactivity because the rules and roles are different! And guess what - your dog is able to be more comfortable, relaxed, and less tense on the walk because they see you have total control. There is no more uncertainty or concern about what you guys will stumble accross in the world - a dog see their owner assertively and confidently taking the reigns, and let our a sigh of relief to follow and let them deal with the stresses of life.

Have you tried all of that and are still struggling? Don't worry - I wish, but not every dog relaxes quite that easily 😉 Many dogs may see the shift and the new rules you are laying down, but are so patterned and sort of junkies for the "adrenaline dump" that comes with reactivity that you are still struggling. Here's what may be missing: Many of those dogs are also looking for other little moments in your walk, even your structured heel as you try to apply the new rules and atmosphere, to get a little "worked up"...to get a little bit of their arousal fix! Those are the dogs you have to work harder for to address impulse control in a much larger scale, beyond just reactivity.

These are the dogs that you are "setting the tone" with early and often. These are the dogs that you are holding accountable and getting on their case a bit, not to let any moments of pushiness or disconnect slide. For example, if your dog-reactive dog is walking in heel, but constantly showing interest in squirrels, birds, bikes, sounds they hear (not full out reacting, but alerting checking out those things) that is is a perfect opportunity to correct impulsively challenging behaviors. Think about it like this - if you correct firmly and consistently to address those little checked out moments of chasing squirrels with their eyes or tryinf to rush a little because a distraction is approaching, your dog will start to put some valuable thoughts into how they want to focus their attention on a walk. If something seemingly minor like eyeballing a squirrel or missing the auto-sit cue on a walk got a pretty firm consequence, they'll likely start thinking "If I can't get away with squirrels, there's no WAY I'll get away with barking or lunging at dogs!" It's the beginning of a new relationship and association of behavior on your walks! :)

For many dogs, they won't start making those choices right away because of the history you guys have together. For many it will take some convincing that you are consistently interrupting that disconnected and aroused state-of-mind, and every walk being black and white clear on your rules and expectations! For a while, your dog can't handle looking, checking out, or fixating on anything that takes their mind (and heart rate) to "That place" where they begin to disconnect and adrenalize - especially not with you, who's been an accomplice to their behavior in the past. However long it takes - weeks or months - there is definitely some ground to cover association and reationship-wise for your dog to trust, feel advocated for, respectful of what you ask, and safe to follow you instead of them taking the lead for you both. How you interact with them and what you do with them on your walks matter, as well as the boundaries and leadership you share inside of your home (constant cuddling and soft energy, allowing them to do what they want inside including barking a lot and practicing poor impulse control in your day to day life) affect their believability in the new "rules" your laying down. Don't be someone to be protected by with reactivty (although most dogs are actually just trying to protect themselves, not you!) - be the protector, guide, leader, teacher, boundary setter, and source of information your dog needs to feel safe, calm, comfortable, and NON-reactive:) -Cenicero,#dogtrainingcat

leashreactivity take the lead

The "Best Doggie Behavior" Check List! (How to get great stuff from your dog!)

Just some little tidbits I think may be helpful to my wonderful clients and those working with their pups :)

When it comes to getting great stuff from your dog:

- Be relevant to your dog by setting the tone early, and often (especially if you've got a pushy pup!) Look for little moments like thesholds or forging ahead to stop/sit/correct OR do a couple 180 degree directional changes (called tap and turns, for those familiar).

- Too Low, Too Slow! You may be underwhelming your dog and late on information - especially if you're still struggling with staying in command around distractions and not pulling/lunging on the walk.

- Just keep swinging, just keep swinging... (kind of like Dory from Finding Nemo, but instead a friendly reminder from Vic(Tori)a the Dog Trainer ;) Don't forget to swing your arms as you walk - that leash is like holding hands with your dog :)

- If your dog likes to rush, walk slow and randomize your pace. Fast walking is so easy for most dogs, slow (snail speed) with accountability for being in heel is so HARD and mentally challenging. Challenge their mind and focus, and you'll have a dog a million times more tired than miles of running.

- No barking, lunging, marking, sniffing, or pulling during the walk. Potty and sniff breaks are on your terms - constant marking and dragging their nose on the ground are huge red flags to a tuned out dog. It's a precurser to the pulling, barking, or lunging you will see the first time any sort of distraction appears. Walks are for training and leadership, and have specific sniff times based on your desicion. The more pushy/reactice your dog is the MORE important this structure to your walks is. 

-If your dog ignores you on the walk it's probably because they are doing one of these things, or are thinking about it (their leaning into the grass body language, eye balling every tree, intensely looking at people/birds/cats/dogs etc). Interrupt that stuff...it's the first step into the cycle of a not-so-great-walk. Don't wait for your dog to react, because by then you are too late - STOP the cycle at these little moments!

- Duration work is a must! Less free roaming and start influencing choices by giving direction. Hold them accountable to staying there! They don't have to be exhausted to be calm.

- Look for situations your training struggles with your dog's excitability/reactivity and set them up to practice. Turn them into training drills and repeat them often so that they arn't weaknesses anymore. Don't wait until the pizza man is at the door to address breaking place and running over there, do this 15 minutes everyday for 7 days, correcting (successfully!) breaking command/attitude issues. You neednto have meaningful conversations during these drills so that when it's actually GO time, your dog has had practice!

- Exercise and play is important, but don't let it be a free for all! It's on your terms and with respectful boundaries set - make there be rules to the games!

- If it's not polite, it's not nice! Correct (effectively...don't be too low, too slow!) pushy stuff like jumping up, charing into your space, barking for attention, pawing things, whining, crying, etc. 

- Dogs will make mistakes, but don't let that be an excuse for poor behavior.

- Address the little stuff, so you won't have the big stuff. If your dog is acting out, ignoring you, tuning you out, etc. that means you are missing little moments that are the difference between success and failure.

- Be equal in your affection and direction. (To be honest, no one really does this well...affection always seems to weigh larger than direction...even if you are trying to do this!) If you are still struggling with your dog and their behaviors, it's time to cut way back on affection. It's not forever, but until your dog truley takes you seriously.

- Work smarter, not harder - once your dog is trained, it's time to hold them accountable! If you're busting butt with your dog everyday, do you find yourself moving in the right direction? If not it's time to reassess your approach.

- Know and respect your dogs limits, while still aspiring for them to be better.

- Every dog will not like every person or dog. That's ok! Advocate for your dog by helping them feel safe, while also holding them to a level of expectation of polite behavior.

- They're dogs, not furry children (as much as we wish they were). They are apex predators living in our home - don't forget what they are capable of and don't set your family up to struggle by not teaching them how to behave. They have teeth, prey drive, strong bodies, and a natural instinct to assess, adapt, and survive in their current environment. Will they be following your rules or theirs?

- If you don't teach them what to do, they won't know what is right or wrong. Train them, don't blame them.

- Be consistent - every time. Set boundaries, and stick to them. That goes for the whole family!

- Be firm while being fair. Nothing in life is free. Be the leader your dog needs, and have the dog you've always wanted.

- Training never truley ends, however if you put in some hard work (physically and emotionally) at the start for the sake of your relationship and their behavior (for 3 months, 6 months, a year or three) you can have an amazing companion for life. 

- Have fun! This is a journey and bonding experience for both (or for some - ALL) of you 🖒🐕❤

orlando gsd take the lead

He was a rescue: Why your dog wants you to stop talking about the past!

One of the biggest things we see in the dog behavior profession is a struggle for people to move past a dog's history. Often times, the story behind a dog becomes a huge part of how a dog is treated in the present. The truth is, your dog needs you to move on from their past so they can, too!

It's human nature to have a huge heart for animals, and particularly for those that have had a rough situation in their life. I want to be the first to say that I do not want to discredit any of the struggles that these animals have gone through, prior to coming to their new home, BUT they are no longer in that situation! The worst thing for anyone who has been through a tramatic event is to continue to talk about it and relive it - and unfortunately, with many dogs in rescue that is exactly what is happening. The dogs may not understand the English we are speaking, but our actions with them read loud and clear that we feel sorry for them.

What I mean by that, is that often times we accommodate and stay very soft emotionally and boundry-wise with these dogs. A dog who we will give free roam of the house, furniture, our personal space, no rules of the walk, no or very limited crate time, sleeping in bed, going where they want, having your attention when they want it, etc! While the intentions are good, and are coming from a place of never wanting this creature to feel stress, pain, emotional discomfort, or anything close to the unhappiness it felt before - so we don't ask much of the dog when it comes to their behaviors and choices. What often ends up happening, is that these dogs begin to develop behavioral issues in the home, unintentionally reinforced by the accommodating nature of their owners.

In the dog training industry we often hear stories of dogs (many from rescue and shelters) that were "great" in the family for a little while, but then started to act aggressively on walks (barking/lunging), growling at other people, became territorial, have seperation anxiety, fighting with or other pets, anxiously cry/whine/bark anytime they hear a car door close outside or a leaf move in the wind.

Why does this happen so often, with so many dogs? I believe it has to do with their past, but not in the way that you would think - it has to do with the fact that people have can't move past their dog's PAST and try to be the protector and friend for a dog, instead of a teacher and guide. I assure you that a dog does enjoy their owner for their softness, attention, freedom, and empowerment recieved from them as they accommodate the dog, with the desire not to stress or deny them anything ever again. BUT on the flip side, that softness (though much enjoyed) does not give a dog a sense of protection or security. Basically, they think you are great but incapable when it comes to being and advocate for your household - and there is no way that someone who has that role in their dog's life can "protect or be a source of security" when it comes to the scary things in life. So, your dog feels that not only are they concerned/broken about certain stressors in life, but their new family is too, so it is their obligation to try and keep themselves and their environment safe. Hence, the high levels of anxiety, stress, reactivity - these dogs are carrying the weight and responsibility of the world on their shoulders...and that is the complete opposite of what the owners of rescue dogs are trying to do!

Your dog wants to know that you confidently have control of the environment they are in and that they can feel safe and trust you to keep them that way. The only way to do that is by showing them, teaching them, how to live in your world - by not lingering on their past, but setting boundaries and expectations, guiding, training, and leading them like nothing ever happened. Your dog can't move on if you can't, and I bet if you could asked them, they would really really like to! Honor the dog that they are, not the story that they had :)

rescue dog

Less Affection Is the Key

Dog Training Cat Tip of the Day: I know we've all heard the term "let sleeping dogs lie" - the idea to not disturb a dog while it is resting, because you could startle them and when they awaken potentially bite you. Makes sense, right?

Well, can we also make a new saying "leave relaxed dogs alone" - that when a dog is in a mellow, calm, and comfortable state we don't constantly touch or pet them? I know that seems a little counterintuitive, especially if you've been told to "reward the mindset you want with praise." To be clear, this doesn't means ANYTIME your dog is calm, never pet them ever. What it means though, is that as a whole humans over praise and pet their dogs a lot, often creating a very overstimulated dog! Have you ever been tickled until you can't breathe? That's how a lot of people pet their dogs - they pet them until they get a rise out of them in the form of licking, wagging tail, whining, wiggles, or even jumping up...to many dogs, human touch means it's time to have a mental/emotional meltdown!

During training we spend a lot of time giving feedback to our dog (food, praise, verbal marker) that we like the behavior they just did...and that's super important! However, when you are working on more than just tricks or obedience commands, and you're using dog training as a gateway to having a calm family dog who isn't stressed or constantly hyper-aroused in your home, constantly petting and praising the dog is most likely not helping your cause.

Truthfully, most dogs struggle to become relaxed (due to the patterning of high arousal/stress/excitement that they are used to exhibitng at home or with you), and when they finally rest and put their head down/close their eyes, a person rushes over immediately with some verbal and physical praise. This almost immediately removes the dog from the mellow, calm state they've finally touched, and puts them into a more alert mental space (waggy tail, whining, licking, pawing, panting, constantly trying to get your attention, shaking). So, in the end, the praise is actually hurting your dog's progress more than helping!

We want the dog to know they are doing a good job, by finding the self satisfaction of a calm mind and relaxed body - acheiving a reward on their own. That feeling of relief, we can't give to them with treats or praise - that's something they have to find themselves. However, the work you are doing training them is a HUGE part of a dog finding their "zen," because you are the one encouraging them to do place command or down/stay durstion work in the first place :) They'd never slow down if you don't give them that first command, so you are a very important part of this process - calm the mind and the body will follow!

This doesn't mean you're never allowed to pet your calm dog, by the way. It's just for now :) It's for weeks, months, or however long it takes for your dog to start automatically go in "mushy mellow" mode when they lay in a Place or Down Command, and most importsntly it's when your touch doesn't take them from 1 to 100 on the arousal scale. How long will it take for your dog to achieve that? I'm not sure because it's different for everyone, but the best way to get there is by giving your dog some time to make their own calm, relaxed, endorphin-releasing mental happiness via duration work meditation :)

....and in a much simpler form, straight from the cat's mouth: Control yourself human, and quit petting your dog who has finally calmed down! ðŸˆ-Cenicero, #dogtrainingcat

Why do we use Place Command so much?

The place command is such an important part of training for clients and dogs. Duration work (long periods on place or in a down/stay) help condition your dog to be relaxed, calm, and have powerful impulse control.

For hyper/excitable dogs, place helps them learn how to regulate energy and have an on/off switch.

For anxious dogs, place encourages relaxation and impulse control, while discouraging anxiety ridden behaviors like pacing and barking.

For aggressive dogs, place promotes a clearly set and non-negotiable boundary. Conflict cannot arise if your dog is on place and knows the rules. Fights are much less likely to happen with two dogs on separate places - guests are less likely to be bitten with a dog in place.

For pushy dogs, place provides a rule and expectation which helps owners show their dog that they are in charge. 

Place command and structure are the key to a calm home and avoiding problems, while nurturing a calm state if mind. Free roaming and too little boundaries allow dogs to make their own rules, and for many families it feeds into problem behaviors, anxiety, and/or aggression.

In a nutshell, to get maximum benefit of Place Command - ask your dog to do it often. The more often they practice being calm, the more they rewrite their bad habits!