Why On-Leash Greetings with other dogs can be one of the single biggest mistake you make with your dog.

On leash greetings with people and dogs are the number one cause of behavioral issues on the walk.  They cause reactivity, condition excitement, and put dogs in immensely uncomfortable situations.  Lets break this down..

First and foremost the number one reason why we discourage on-leash greetings is due to the unnecessary social pressure that it creates for the dog.  In ideal social situations between dogs and dogs or dogs and people the dog is free to roam.  If they get stressed out due to another dog or person they can get up and walk away giving them space and reducing the social pressure.

Being on a leash is very restricting to most dogs.  They are stuck within a 4-6 foot radius of you at all times and are very aware of it.  This puts them in an innate position to tap into their fight or flight responses.  Since they do not have the ability to flee, we see them find alternative ways to deal with the stress.  You will see this in two major forms.  The first, and most common, is in leash reactivity.  Your dog will quickly begin to realize that barking, growling, or lunging makes other dogs or people go away before they have a chance to approach.  The other major sign that we see is your dog aggressing on the dog/person trying to make them go away.

Next, lets take the example of a dog that is not nervous or fearful, but overly playful and social as can be.  There are a few major reasons why we still discourage on-leash greetings, even with these dogs.

The big thing we want to avoid with a social dog by eliminating on-leash greetings is conditioned excitement.  Classical conditioning is a beautiful thing.. except when we are accidentally creating responses to things that we don’t want our dog responding to.  By allowing your dog to say hi to every dog or person that they see on the walk we are essentially telling them “Get excited every time you see a dog”.  This shows itself in pulling, barking, and other unwanted behaviors making it difficult for you to keep your dog under control.  Keep in mind that these issues can go from 0-60 very quickly and turn from playful energy to aggressive and dangerous behavior through continuous rehearsal.

The last reason is more of a precaution that we take than anything.  We don’t know the other dog!!  You could have the most social dog in the world but if your social dog says hi to another dog that doesn’t like it or isn’t quite as social as the owner may say, you could wind up with your dog being attacked.  And that in itself will cause a whole OTHER slew of unwanted side effects.  You may not be concerned about this for a number of reasons but the reality is that I see dogs every single day who have been attacked by another dog on the walk.  It just isn’t worth taking the chance.

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The growl or the bite

A lot of people mistake a growl as a separate behavior from a bite or any other aggressive behavior. A growl IS the aggressive behavior in a more minor form. Catching the behavior at the growl when the dog is more “subdued” increases your chances of the dog processing what you are correcting for.
Correcting a dog growling will NOT make them go straight to the bite. The growl is the first part of the sequence of escalation in dog aggression. You are punishing the THOUGHT of acting aggressive, not a separate behavior. Once you have done that and established a boundary then you can reward for an appropriate behavior knowing that you inhibited the response.
I have seen all too many times people use treats with aggressive dogs only to get bit in the process. Just because you have something that the dog wants does not mean that that will not flip in an instant.

One step at a time..

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with your ambitions.  Most of my friends and colleagues find themselves repeatedly bashing their head against a wall when they think about all that they want to accomplish, yet how far they are from it all.  These people all have high goals, strong work ethic, and a burning passion to better themselves, but still feel like they will never reach those goals or be the person that they want to be.

But when you stop for a moment a look back, there is a good chance that you’ve already gotten there.. again.. and again.. and again.

The problem isn’t that you aren’t meeting your goals.  The problem is that each time you meet them you immediately raise the bar even higher without taking any time to celebrate the little victories.

Take a minute the next time you start to feel overwhelmed and find 2 things that you once told yourself you would never accomplish that you in fact did.

Celebrate them.

You’ve come a long way.

Separate yourself from the mold.

We live in a time where anyone can do anything.  We have a wealth of information that took generations before us centuries to acquire right at our fingertips.  All of this information is up for grabs for any person who has a hunger to change LITERALLY any part of their life.

Yet many people see themselves and their current situation and get discouraged that they will never move forward.  They work 9-5’s following the crowd as they talk about the days gossip and how much they look forward to the weekend to get a break away from it all.  

Is this really the life that you’re meant to live?

Heres the beauty of the time that we live in. Everyone who has ever accomplished anything that you dream of or aspire to do has left BREADCRUMBS.

Challenge!

Pick just one area of your life.  It could be your financials, your relationships, your career, or your favorite hobby.. LITERALLY ANYTHING!  

Pick 3 people that inspire you in whatever area it is that you pick.  Don’t know any people in that area?  That’s fine.  Research that too!  Once you’ve found those 3 find one common trait or idea they all carry that has made them stand out above the rest.  

Get a notebook or journal and take that trait and write it down.  Each day that you write it down, document one thing that you did to move you towards your goal or to follow that habit.  Do this EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Document your results each week for a month.  

Watch as your brain shifts each day and week from “these people are superhuman, how can I ever achieve what they have?” To “WOW.  These are all achievable goals if I put in the work and follow the clues left behind”.  

Time vs. Attention

Many would argue that people who have many hours per day to spend on things they want to be doing have the ultimate freedom. They can work hard days, come home, and shut off.
But what happens when you get home only to check your email or get a call informing you of a crisis that can’t be addressed until the following day? Or worse, a few days later.

You still have the time, but do you have the attention to take full advantage of it? Will you really be able to give your all to whoever you are spending time with? Will you really be able to relax? Probably not.

Keep this rule in mind as your approaching your days off or weekends. In a day and age where time is our number one asset, make sure that you are setting yourself up to make the most of it.

Rules and Safety in the Car for your Dog

The car can be a place of great excitement or great stress for some dogs.  We see quite a few dogs that get severe car sickness, become anxious overexcitable messes, or are highly reactive at people or dogs outside.  Lets asses the different behaviors that we see in the car and break down the causes and solutions.

Car Sickness:

Lots of dogs get severe car sickness.  Some cant even drive 5 minutes down the road without their dog puking in the back seat.  One common sign that we see in most of these dogs that are losing their lunch is LOTS of pacing and restlessness in the car.  This nonstop movement in an already moving vehicle is recipe for disaster.  Have you ever tried to walk on a rocking boat?  We have found that removing the ability to move around so much and get themselves all wound up has drastically removed the car sickness.  Most times even eliminating it all together.

Enforce a down stay in the back seat and use your remote collar to keep the dog there.  Setting this clear boundary will stop the dogs ability to escalate into a state of mind that would make them vomit.

Reactivity out the Window:

Reactivity!  We see this one everywhere.  Dogs, People, squirrels, noises!  Some dogs just bark at everything.  This can get to be quite a nuisance when stoped at a light or going through a drive through.  Most reactivity is stemmed from a lack of structure, guidance, and dogs being put in a position to make decisions on who is ok or not ok.  Unfortunately in the car is prime opportunity for this because there is rarely any structure or rules in the car.

Set structure and boundaries in the car.  For most dogs, this alone will stop the reactivity.  Make a very clear back seat only policy.  There should be no climbing onto the center council or riding shotgun with their head out the window.  Correct with your remote collar any time the dog tries to climb up front, jump on the door panel, or get jumpy in the back.  If you have a dog that is very active in the back seat, enforcing a down stay will help.  This is very easy to manage while driving.  Keep your remote handy and mark with “No” and correct every time the dog tries to pop up.

If you have a dog that has more extreme car reactivity they may still get vocal even after all of these techniques have been applied.  The last remaining step is enforcing a clear quiet command.  Set your remote to a slightly higher level.  When the dog begins barking, say “Quiet” and pair with a tap on the remote collar.  Repeat process, increasing your level as needed, until the dog calms down into a relaxed position.

Safety in the Car

Traveling with your dog can be quite dangerous to both you and your pet.  Their sometimes wild behavior can turn into some serious distractions that take our attention away from driving.  These are a handful of safety dos and don’ts that we strongly encourage when traveling with your pet.

Do not allow your dog in the front seat:

The number one distraction that your dog can create for you is blocking your sight or impairing your ability to drive.  Pets in the front seat can very easily bump something on accident, jump into your lap and block your vision, or cause you to become distracted by petting them or giving too much attention to them.

Use a car restraint if necessary:

An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert approximately 2400 pounds of force.  There are many great ways to safely restrain a dog in your vehicle.  There are seat belt harnesses, pet barriers for the back area of your car, and travel kennels that will fit your vehicle.  These are all fantastic options to help keep your pet in one spot and your eyes on the road in case of an accident.

Keep the windows rolled up:

Allowing your dog to stick their head out the window is in my opinion one of the more dangerous things that you can do with your dog.  We have had numerous clients with dogs that have jumped out of the car window, causing serious injury to your pet.  You also greatly increase the chances of potentially fatal injury if you were to get into an accident while your pet has a part of its body outside of the vehicle.

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Key Steps To Eliminating Unwanted Behaviors (Inspired by Gary Wilkes)

Most dogs show a handful of behaviors that we would like to reduce or eliminate.  Jumping, mouthing, excessive barking, or the countless other things that our pets do are not only annoying and rude to us or our guests, but they can also be quite dangerous.

When it comes to stopping unwanted behaviors there are a few things we must keep in mind.  Following these rules will ensure that we are connecting the consequence with the correct behavior and reducing the likelihood of the dog repeating the behavior over and over again.

1.) Identify the Behavior:

Any time that we are going to be stopping an unwanted behavior the first thing that we need to do is identify the behavior.  We use the word “NO” to do this.  There are few reasons why this is important.

First is that our “NO” marker ties the consequence to the behavior.  If we have successfully marked the behavior with “NO” the second that the dog does it, we are able to deliver a correction even if the dog has already stopped the unwanted behavior.

The second reason is what we refer to as “Latency”.  This means that you do not need to correct the behavior immediately.  You just have to have a marker that IDENTIFIES the behavior immediately.  In Pavlov’s studies he has shown this to be true up to 30 minutes after identifying the behavior.

The final reason is so we can avoid creating direct associations with training tools.  By Verbally marking the unwanted behavior with a “NO” before delivering our correction We avoid the dog just listening because the remote collar is on.  The dog is able to directly associate the correction with coming from us and not a specific piece of training equipment.  Without identifying the behavior BEFORE correcting it we are simply dropping land mines and hoping that the dog is making a connection to the BEHAVIOR and not just the TOOL.

2.) Consistency:

This is arguably the most important aspect of stopping unwanted behaviors.  Everyone has heard the old saying “if you give them an inch, they will take a mile”.  This couldn’t ring more true to our dogs behaviors.  Correcting jumping 50% of the time and allowing or ignoring it the other 50% will do nothing but confuse the dog and leave them guessing “Maybe I can get away with it this time?”.  This makes it unfair to the dog as well as ruins your chances of creating a lasting inhibition.

I have seen owners completely stop jumping in 3 days and have it never come back and I have seen owners struggle with these things for months on end.  Every time the result is due to consistency.  To sum it up:  If you say “NO” you MUST deliver a correction every time.

3.) Ensure that the Correction is Highly Motivating to the Dog (or Intolerable):

For obedience training or general household management, our remote collar is set to a motivating but not highly aversive level.  Trying to use this lower “communicative” level to stop problematic behaviors has a similar effect to poking the bear.  It may temporarily interrupt the dog from rehearsing it but will do no good in leaving a lasting effect the next time the dog considers trying the behavior.  Occasionally it can just irritate the dog and further escalate their behavior.

When trying to stop behavioral issues we typically will set the remote collar much higher.  By ensuring that the correction will be “Intolerable” we greatly increase our chances of eliminating the behavior in less time.  If we successfully pair an intolerable consequence with a specific behavior we will be able to create lasting inhibitions.

4.) The Correction Must be Unavoidable:

We are big fans of using remote collars for stopping unwanted behaviors because it ensures that the dog can’t avoid the correction.  There is no need to chase the dog around the room to grab a leash or use any other corrective device.

That being said, anyone that is training exclusively with leash and prong, or any other corrective tool must keep this one in mind.  If the dog can escape or run away before you deliver a correction you will not stop the behavior.  Set yourself up so that you can easily get to the dog to give a leash pop or any other correction when you are setting up these scenarios.

A Few Final Notes:

This is always a sensitive topic.  No one wants to “hurt” their dog or cause any distress.  It is important to understand that that is not the goal we are trying to accomplish.  “Motivating” and “Intolerable” does not always mean “painful”.  To some dogs a spritz of water to the face or a rolled up towel thrown in their direction is what one would consider “Intolerable”.

The other important things to note is that POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT ALONE WILL NOT STOP UNWANTED BEHAVIORS.  Nor will teaching an alternative behavior.  Most behavioral issues that dogs show are self reinforcing, meaning that the act of doing the behavior is positive reinforcement alone to your dog.  The act of digging in the yard or jumping up on guests feels good to the dog.  Why would they stop those behaviors unless they had a good enough reason to do so?  Creating a negative association with these behaviors through proper punishment WILL successfully stop and inhibit the behavior.

Follow these steps and you will be well on your way to having a much more behaved and well mannered dog.

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Preventing or Eliminating Separation anxiety

Many dogs struggle with some degree of separation anxiety.  When a dog is in a state of panic and stress, they are suffering and in mental pain.  It is our obligation as dog owners to be advocate for their physical as well as mental well being as well.  Most times it can be reversed or eliminated with a few simple tweaks to how we are interacting with our dogs when we leave the house or are coming home.  These are a few tips on how we go about ensuring our dog is as calm as possible in our absence.

It is important to not make a big deal out of leaving.  Giving a big long hug and reassuring our dog that we will be back soon does nothing but create a contrast that something big or exciting is about to happen.  The last thing that we want when we are leaving the home.

Begin your process of leaving 20-30 minutes before you exit the house.  Eliminate all interaction with the dog to prep them for your absence.  Grab your keys, put your shoes on, and go about your routine as normal while ignoring the dog.  Crate your dog up or leave them where you intend them to be when you leave.  When you leave the house, just leave!

When returning to your home, keep your energy calm!  Come in, get your dog, take them outside to potty, and let them exist for 10-15 minutes before giving any sort of physical or emotional attention.  Instill no touch, talk, or eye contact until the dog is in a calm state of mind.  I understand that we are excited to see our dog but coming in home with lots of high energy and baby talk does nothing but adrenalize the dog.

It is important to understand that if your dog has more extreme cases of separation anxiety further steps may need to be taken.  Here are a few more tips on things to do to eliminate anxiety and get your dog in a much more healthy state of mind.

Exercise:

Though it is not the fix all for separation anxiety, Getting your dog properly excersized can help make it easier for your dog to remain calm in your absence.  Getting out for a quick session of ball or tug can help to get your dog in the right gear before you leave.  Treadmill training is also a great option for those who may not have the space or time to walk their dog as much as they would like.

Practice Out of Sight Duration work:

Working on down stays or bed stays while you leave the room is beneficial for teaching the dog to stay calm in your absence.  This is our version of controlled forced separation.  This blocks unhealthy habits of pacing the room, following you like a shadow, or any of the other symptoms of separation anxiety.  We want our dog to learn to coexist without always needing to be right next to us.

Avoid Conditioned Excitement:

Lots of owners unintentionally will create patterns of excitement through their words or body language.  Common words or phrases like “do you want to go for a walk?”, “I’ll see you soon!”, or “Dinner time!” become conditioned through repetition of saying them in exciting situations.  This does nothing but cause unintentional adrenaline.  This is the same concept as your patterns when you leave the house.  Slowing down all these other situations will bleed over into all other situations where your dog struggles with impulse control.

Correct The Anxiety:  

It is a common misconception that you can not correct separation anxiety.  We have found this to be untrue and actually found it to be one of the beneficial ways to tackle the issue.  If you can stop the sequence of escalation in the dogs state of mind (Barking, whining, or any other destructive behaviors we see due to the anxiety) it can help to dramatically reduce the stress levels.  Bark collars are an incredibly valuable tool if you have a very vocal dog in your absence.  Blocking these patterns that the dog shows when you leave teaches them to find new coping mechanisms for you leaving the house.  Most times this results in the dog relaxing and taking a nap.

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Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Duration work and state of mind in the house

The primary focus in our training system is the overall state of mind of the dog.  Most of the dogs we work with struggle with anything from lack of impulses to extreme anxieties.    There are not many things that are quite as beneficial to achieving impulse control and melting away anxiety issues as practicing duration in positions.

An essential habit to develop is to work on your “bed stays” or “down stays” daily for a minimum of 45 minutes.  Once a week I try to do 2 hours straight with my personal dogs.  Look for areas in your day to day where your dog would be showing signs of unnecessary arousal or being annoying, and put this to use.

When practicing this, put your dog in position somewhere in eyesight.  I usually recommend using “Bed” in the house as it is a more clear position and much less likely that your dog will try to army crawl around the room.  Proceed to go about whatever you were currently doing while keeping an eye on the dog to make sure he hasn’t gotten up.  If your dog breaks command say “No”, correct with your remote collar at a motivating level, and take our dog all the way back to the spot they were in.  Be 100% consistent about correcting ANY TIME the dog breaks command and follow through until they relax into the position.  Avoid working on duration with you out of sight until your dog is reliable with you in sight.

Great opportunities that I have found with my personal dogs to work their duration are:  Having guests over, Cooking dinner, Mealtime, Winding down in the evening before bed, or when you are trying to do household chores.

You will find some of these situations will be much harder for the dog than others.  You may see excessive whining, panting, restlessness, or other signs of stress.  I will typically refer to this as “the good stress”.  The stress of your dog working hard and finding new ways to cope with their anxieties and arousal.  If you are seeing these signs while working duration it is important to STICK WITH IT.  Each time will get easier as your dog works through their old habits.  If it’s hard to do, it’s important to practice.

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