Calm

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.

Saint Francis de Sales

Calm.   It always seems you’re just shy of hitting the right spot, like that itch you can’t quite reach. That elusive place you know exists, but you never can seem to find.  Like Comcast’s Customer Service department.

Picard would have been calm...just sayin'

Picard would have been calm…just sayin’

The PAW Method we developed here at Darwin Dogs is very simple.  The three steps to working with your dog:

1. Control yourself

2. Control the situation

3. Answer your dog’s question(s)

There’s a reason controlling yourself is at the top of the list:  it’s the most important.   Your dog may be out of control, the world may seem out of control, but you will be adding calm to the situation.  To make sense of chaos, you need a fixed point. That’s going to be you – and you will be feeding calmness to the situation. Sprinkle calm all over the situation like Tinkerbell sprinkling Pixie Dust.

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Easy to say, sometimes not so easy to do.

I find many of my clients at their wits’ ends.  They have no idea how to even start working with their dogs’ behaviors.  What they don’t understand is that those behaviors start with the human.  So how do  you start? By pulling an Elsa.  

Let it go.

  • Let go of the tension.  A tense situation doesn’t need more tension.
  • Let go of the anxiety.  Don’t react until you need to answer the question.
  • Let go of the anger.  You are answering a question, not punishing a dog for asking.
  • Let go of perfection.  Your dog is a mirror of you.  Are you perfect?  Of course not, and nobody expects you to be.

So start at the beginning.  Calm.  It helps you better to work with your dog and guide them in this human world.  And I’m not the only one who firmly believes this.

Science Daily wrote this article about the findings of a Duke University study recently published.  Specifically of interest in the Science Daily Article:

“In a series of experiments, the researchers challenged dogs to retrieve a meat jerky treat from a person standing behind a clear plastic barrier that was six feet wide and three feet tall. To get it right, the dogs had to resist the impulse to try to take the shortest path to reach the treat — which would only cause them to whack into the barrier and bump their heads against the plastic — and instead walk around the barrier to one of the open sides.

In one set of trials, an experimenter stood behind the barrier holding a treat and called the dog’s name in a calm, flat voice. In another set of trials, the experimenter enthusiastically waved the treat in the air and used an urgent, excited voice.”

You can guess what happened.  You know that high-pitched, squeaky, baby-talk voice that makes human’s ears bleed? The flapping of your hands, like a fledgling bird desperate for it’s parent’s attention? Yeah, it doesn’t do much for dogs either. Especially the excitable or nervous ones.   Or as Science Daily put it:

“For the dogs that were naturally calm and laid-back — measured by how quickly they tended to wag their tails — increasing the level of excitement and urgency boosted their ability to stay on task and get the treat.

But for excitable dogs the pattern was reversed. Increasing the level of stimulation only made them take longer.

In one high-arousal trial, a two-year-old spaniel named Charlie Brown lost it and shut down, barking and zipping around crazily until she almost ran out of time.”

In other words, some dogs can take pressure and stress, and not only work through those situations, but thrive in them, just like some humans.  However, those are not the dogs most of us are typically dealing with. Let’s face it – most of us have some trouble with our dogs.  Some of us may have a dog who might nervously and anxiously be asking us a question, and rather than being the voice of calm reason, we’re dousing them with more anxious, nervous (or worse, angry) energy.

So start with yourself.  Check your body language – are you tense? Strained? Anxious-looking?  Take a deep breath and reboot yourself.  Take charge of your inner-calm, and you will be able to Pilot your dog through any storm.

For the full video of the trials see below:

And always remember, there’s a reason we end our blog posts with this motto:

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

When To Remember They’re Cute

Boot and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boot and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

There are days where our dogs may drive us nuts. You may find your favorite shoe with some new teethmarks, toilet paper strewn about, or maybe you could make it down the driveway on a walk before you had to start correcting.

On those days it’s important to remember that your dog is adorable. Your dog is the cutest in the world. Because if you forget that, you might just give in to the frustration and anger.

These dogs have that cute factor down. They know that on those days where they accidentally chew through the blinds, their owners can look at these pictures and remember that their dogs are adorable no matter how much trouble they may cause.

So, take a quick break and take a look at these dogs that are taking cute to a whole new level.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Stranger Danger

Fear makes strangers of people who would be friends.

Shirley MacLaine

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

“My dog is aggressive towards strangers.

“My dog is fearful.”

“My dog is skittish.”

I hear these phrases constantly.  Some dogs are goofy, fun-loving balls of affection who have never met a stranger.  Then we have dogs who have what I call a healthy sense of self-preservation.  My Orion used to be like that.

No, Orion wasn’t abused, which is a common misconception with dogs such as these.  As humans we try to rationalize and explain behavior.  It must have a cause!  Something precise that has caused our dogs to be wary of the world.

But the world doesn’t work like that.  For example, my daughter, River, is the most fun-loving, outgoing creature I have ever met.  She explained to the pizza delivery guy a few days ago that if he ever encountered a monster, she’d protect him.  She then gave him a hug.  River is the equivalent of a goldendoodle:  the life of the party who thrives on any type of human interaction.

My son Eric is completely different.  He’s more circumspect.  He has wonderful social manners, but it takes him a long time to warm up to someone and feel comfortable.  He needs to feel out a situation before he participates in it.

Neither of my kids have been abused.  Both have been raised exactly the same way.  We accept that kids can have different personalities, but we don’t allow much wiggle room for our canine companions.  They have to be wriggly balls of fun, just desperate for human interaction, regardless of with whom, in order for the to be healthy, happy dogs.  But just as not all humans are of that caliber (I certainly am not), not all dogs need to fit into the one-size-fits-all mould of “dog behavior”.

Orion, who took a few weeks to warm up to my husband, now thoroughly enjoys any attention he can get from him.

Orion, who took a few weeks to warm up to my husband, now thoroughly enjoys any attention he can get from him.

 

Orion, for instance, is a lot more wary and aloof than a typical Labrador Retriever.  Orion is a Papillon.  As a matter of fact, when I first met Orion, he bit me.  Completely not his fault:  he didn’t know me, and I had thrust my hand inside his carrier to retrieve him, as he had gotten caught in the back of it somehow.  Any creature with a lick of sense (especially one weighing 5 lbs.) would do the same thing!  It doesn’t mean he’s damaged, it means he has a sense of self-preservation.

Gradually I built up Orion’s trust in me.  I started by not yelling, kicking, hitting or otherwise abusing the dog.  Common sense, right?  The longer I went without kicking Orion, he figured the more likely it was that I wasn’t going to start.  But then we moved beyond that.  There’s a difference between a friend and a protector.  I was to become both.  I needed to Pilot Orion.  In other words, I needed to not only answer all of his tough questions (such as, “Is that person a threat?” and, “Should I be afraid?”), but I had to get him to trust me enough to forgo his own determination of a situation and accept my answer.

Teaching a new trick can help build trust.  You're working together as a team with a common goal: communication. Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Teaching a new trick can help build trust. You’re working together as a team with a common goal: communication.
Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Look at it like this:  What if I told you to sell everything you own and invest a certain stock?  Your reaction would probably be, Why on earth should I listen to you and do something so potentially catastrophic?! You’d be crazy to just listen to me regarding such a decision.  However, what if I started off with small suggestions, such as putting $5 towards something.  You take a look at my situation, which seems financially comfortable, and decide to take the $5 plunge.  That $5 turns into $10.  Your faith in my decisions is boosted.  I give you another suggestion, you take it, and make more money, or, at the very least, don’t lose any.  Pretty soon you’re actively looking to me for suggestions.

That’s how it works with dogs.  You have to give them a reason why your answers to their questions are better than what they can come up with.  That’s what Piloting is all about.  Now obviously you can answer their questions with force, and with pain and anger, but that’s losing the most important part of the Piloting equation:  trust.  So how do you get a dog to trust you? Easy! Put them in very simple situations that require only a very small leap of faith, and then gradually up the ante.

I recently boarded the world’s most adorable Labradoodle, Cody, in my home due to his owner’s injury and anticipated long convalescence.  How did I get him accustomed to me, and used to my answering his questions?  I started with agility. Teaching him to jump over a yardstick placed directly on the floor.  Then adding stimulation: placing one end on a soup can, raising it just a bit.  Then the next side is raised.  Pretty soon Cody is trusting me enough to go bounding back and forth across the “jump”.  If I had started out with the jump raised all the way…well, that’s a bit of a stretch.  He didn’t know me very well, and that’s an awful lot to ask of a dog.  But by adding gradual amounts of stimulation to the situation, raising it slowly, I was able to expand his level of comfort with my decisions until eventually he trusts my answers more than he trusts his own.  That is what Piloting is all about.

So how do we put this in play with regard to stranger danger?  Well, we need to start with the fact that it is okay that your dog is wary of strangers.  We aren’t trying to change who your dog fundamentally is.  But we can indeed broaden their horizons a bit.  Get your dog to trust your answers with the small things, like walking by the man on the other side of the street.  Answer their questions as you are walking, and make sure you are Pilot during the walk.  Don’t just drag your dog along past the stranger – that’s forcing them past a point, not answering their questions.  It may take a bit of mental fortitude on your part to make it past the first person, but if you are Pilot, take your time, and keep your patience, you will do it.  Remember, this is difficult for your dog: this is the first time you are Piloting them past a perceived danger.  It is a huge leap of faith on their part and should be treated as such.  Just because you realize that the other person isn’t a threat doesn’t mean they do.  But if you get them past the first person, answering their questions all the while, the second person is easier to get by, then the third, and so on.  Pretty soon your dog is looking for your answers rather than coming up with their own.

Orion is still wary of strangers.  I allow him to be.  Unless I don’t.  That’s the beauty of Piloting.  If you don’t abuse the position, you can ask your dog to do marvelous things.  Orion and I worked on his stranger danger, gradually upping the ante each time.  First he had to walk calmly by strangers, which is difficult when you barley reach someone’s ankles – no wonder everything looked like a threat!  (You try walking among a herd of elephants without being apprehensive, and then you’ll understand what a small dog can feel like on the sidewalk.)

Next we worked on strangers approaching. They would ask to pet my dog, and I would let them…in a very controlled way.  I would pick him up and present him rear first.  If Orion would ask a question, such as “Can I make them stop petting me?”, I would answer his question by very gently tapping him on the derriere with all five fingers, similar to the way one taps out an email on a computer:  no harder.  It’s not about pain, it’s about getting him to refocus on me and the answer I was giving him.

Trust is integral.  If I’m asking Orion to trust my judgment about someone, it’s up to me to keep him safe and make wise judgments.  So if the individual who wants to pet Orion seems very hyper or is giving off a lot of negative energy, my answer is no.  My first duty is to my dog, not to social graces.  It’s up to me to put Orion in situations where he can thrive, not situations that test his faith in me to beyond capacity.  I also don’t force Orion to take affection without a good reason.  I don’t make him be pet just for the sake of being pet. Affection has to be mutual.  My goal was to make sure he was acclimated to being touched by anyone, just in case circumstances arose where he needed to be (vet, boarding, etc.).  I still make him accept being pet, but only for one of two reasons: he truly wants to be pet by that person, or I need to work on his accepting touch to keep him from backsliding into not accepting touch from a human.

As Orion accepted being pet by strangers, he was always given a reward.  For Orion, food doesn’t do much, but calm gentle praise certainly did.  He wanted to know he was on the right track, and I most definitely assured him of it.  Answer his questions, give positive when he chooses to accept the answer.  Wash rinse repeat.

Orion is still wary of strangers, but rather than immediately cowering in fear or lashing out when someone decides to pet him, he takes a different approach now.  He looks at me.  He expects me to answer his questions.  Sometimes he has to accept that he will be pet, but since I’ve always protected him during the petting, he isn’t afraid anymore.  Now he’s the dog who will warm up to a stranger after a bit, and actually “ask” to be pet – something that I never thought would happen.

Orion and Cody.  It took a little Piloting to get Orion to accept my answers and Cody, namely that Cody wasn't a threat.

Orion and Cody. It took a little Piloting to get Orion to accept my answers and Cody, namely that Cody wasn’t a threat.

Orion has come a long way from that frightened little creature he once was.  Yes, I have put a lot of effort into Piloting him and answering his questions, but it’s always easier to be the one answering questions than the one who has to take a leap of faith.  That’s why I’ll always strive to be worthy of the Pilot position and never shake his faith through ego or vanity or putting him in situations that we haven’t worked towards yet.  I’ve earned his trust, and it’s up to me to make sure I don’t abuse it.

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog training in Cleveland, Ohio

A Workaround

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise – Sigmund Freud

A few weeks ago, Porter and I had a few days that were highly out of our routine. We were staying with friends, around lots of people during the day, and our regular schedules of exercise and relaxation were disrupted. None of this was bad, just different.

I knew this was coming ahead of time so had time to prepare. And by prepare, I mean worry. I was concerned how he would do in a brand new place without our normal routine. I was concerned his anxiety would come out through his behavior. I couldn’t blame him, I was anxious too and my behavior would be different. I knew my piloting skills might not be up to par like the usually are. I would have to try and fake that I wasn’t anxious. Sure, I could do that, but it wouldn’t be enough.

So, we walked. Everywhere. And a lot.

I would get up earlier than normal to take him on his walks. I made the walks longer to get out any excess energy.

On top of that, when we had the option of driving or walking, we walked. It may have taken us longer, but we both needed that time. Not only did it help both of us get rid of some anxious energy, but it also put more Piloting money in my bank with little effort. I don’t have to fake my confidence on a walk. We’ve done that 1,000 times. It’s a good way for me to get some more Piloting in with little effort.

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography by Brittany Graham

I also had Porter have a play date or two. That is one of the best ways to tire out a dog with little effort on your end. So, Porter had a blast wrestling, running and playing tug of war with his Pittie friend Sadie.

By the end of the weekend we were both exhausted. It had been strenuous emotionally and physically on both of us, but we made it through! And he acted like a champ the entire time.

Boots and Bee Photography - Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – Brittany Graham

If you know your Piloting skills may not be up their usual standards, look for ways that you can help yourself succeed. Exercising your dog and getting rid of any excess energy is a great place to start. It will make things easier for you to handle. You’re not expected to be perfect all the time. That’s not the way things work. But, make sure you’re setting yourself and your dog up for success. Supplement activity and work if you need to and then get back to full time Piloting as soon as you can.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

New Normal

“It always is harder to be left behind than to be the one to go…”
― Brock Thoene, Shiloh Autumn

Dog-Sad-Depressed-SickThere’s a reason why “Fido” is a popular name for dogs:  it means “Faithful” in Latin.  I’d be hard-pressed to find anything more faithful than a dog.  Their definition of loyalty is beyond the scope of most humans, which is why losing a pack member can be particularly difficult for them.

When my Darwin was about 11, I adopted a very young dog, Sparta.  Sparta grew up pulling on Darwin’s ears while he patiently tolerated her puppy antics.  Sparta was the annoying little sister, best friend, pack member and mutual protector of the house for Darwin, and in Sparta’s eyes, Darwin could do no wrong.  He was her confidant, her ally, her security blanket. Yes, I was the pack’s Pilot, but Darwin was definitely next in line.

When Sparta was a bit over a year, Darwin finally succumbed to his age.  He had lived a happy life, but now it was time to say goodbye.  I still miss him, and it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, walking into the vets office him following me like the good dog he was.  I walked in with my best friend and walked out alone.  But at least I understood why Darwin’s bed was empty that night.  Sparta knew something was wrong the moment I came home without Darwin – my body language told it all.  Sparta was spiralled into a deep grief right beside me.  She wouldn’t eat for close to a week.  My normally very active young dog would go outside only to relieve herself, and then come back inside and bury herself with her grief in her little corner.  She was grieving hard.

A dog feels the loss of a pack member in a much more profound way than we do.  We miss our friend. Sparta missed the security of one of her Pilots.  The pack was smaller now, meaning less secure in her mind.  She lost a hunting partner.  For a dog, it’s more than about the love and friendship: it’s about survival.  In a dog’s mind, the pack is less likely to thrive with the loss of a member.  The only comparison I can possibly give is the grief a blind person must feel if their seeing eye dog dies suddenly.  Of course they miss their best friend, but it is so much more than that. It is a bond very few of us will ever understand, myself included.  I am not dependent upon my dogs for my day-to-day lifestyle.  Of course they enrich my life, but I could easily get along without them.  Dogs require each other just to survive.  The loss of a member is catastrophic on so many levels, and even more so if the pack member was a Pilot.

 Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

You can help your dog get through this grief, though.  Resist the urge to act any differently than you usually would around them.  Don’t baby them.  Don’t talk to them in a whiney voice, telling them everything will be all right.  They don’t need baby talk; they need a Pilot.  Calmly hang out with them wherever they are grieving (I frequently hung out in Sparta’s little corner with her).  Take them for walks.  Exercise does indeed boost moods, for both of you.  You don’t have to pretend that you didn’t lose a pack member, but you do have to move on.  Slowly is fine.

Sparta worried me profusely when she wouldn’t eat for several days, but gradually she started eating again.  While I did give her a few treats during that time, which she refused, I did not offer her any different food.  We are trying to normalize a new situation, not change everything she was accustomed to. Sparta slowly picked up her regular meals.  Pretty soon she was bugging me to go for a walk instead of my having to retrieve her from her corner to take her.  In other words, we found a new normal.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Of course I still miss Darwin. Sparta does, too.  But our Pack has changed now, and includes Orion and two cats, Pixel and Echo.  Our Pack would be stronger with Darwin’s calm nature helping to lead it, but he’s gone.  Our Pack would be enhanced by his presence, but that won’t happen.  We find a new normal, and we make it work. And it works well.

Keep calm and pilot onKerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Foundations

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.

Edward Hoagland

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

There’s nothing I hate more than people punishing their dogs.  There is no point to it. Punishment is merely a method of retribution, and that concept would never occur to a dog.  Dog’s mostly live in the here and now.  They don’t dwell on what wrong has been done to them, or the need for retaliation.  Dog’s will address a misstep, and then move on.

Some people believe that dogs are mute - they aren’t.  They just happen to communicate in a way we sometimes overlook:  body language.  However, dogs ask questions all the time!  Usually when your dog does something “bad”, it’s because you didn’t answer their question.  ”Can I have that piece of steak on the table?”  ”Is that mailman gonna eat us?” You MUST answer their question.  Now, here’s the easy part:  dogs are binary creatures.  They ask “yes” and “no” questions.  They don’t have another option.  “Fido, wanna go for a walk?”  YesyesyesYES!  “OK Fido, where do you want to go?”  Blank stare.  *crickets chirping*   Fido can’t answer a questions that isn’t yes or no.

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Answer their questions before really bad things happen – photo Twigg Studios

Communication is the key.  Reward the behaviors you want with praise, treat or just a gentle pat on the head.  Answer “no” to the unsavory behaviors want using their form of communication: body language.

So let’s put it all together.

There are only 3 things your dog needs: Piloting, Activity and Work. Or, as we like to call it, the PAW method. Notice I did not say, coddling, kissing and affection. To work with your dog’s behavior, give your dog what they need: Piloting, Activity and Work.  After you have given your dog what they need, then you can give them what you want: love, affection, praise,…namely, the good stuff.

Love and affection:  the only reason you should have a dog.  Piloting, Activity and Work: how you manage your dog.   Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Love and affection: the only reason you should have a dog. Piloting, Activity and Work: how you manage your dog.
Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Piloting

Why do we call it Piloting?  Well, imagine you are on a plane.  It’s just you and the pilot, and all of a sudden the pilot suddenly becomes unconscious and you have to fly the plane.  How do you feel? Terrified? Anxious? Overwhelmed? That’s how your dog feels without a “pilot” of his own. The world is a scary place, and not everything makes sense to them.

Quit frankly, my dog is scared of her own farts, and most dogs (including yours) are still trying to figure out peanut butter

Quit frankly, my dog is scared of her own farts, and most dogs (including yours) are still trying to figure out peanut butter

So, let’s say the pilot wakes up while you’re still trying to fly the plane. What do you do? You’d probably let him fly the plane again right? Same thing with your pup. If you show that you can be Pilot, and that they can trust you, they will gladly hand over the controls and let you take care of them.

Piloting starts with confidence and body language. Make sure you are holding yourself in a tall and confident manner when answering questions for your dog. If you look confident, your dog will believe you are confident.  Women tend to sit and stand in an “S” shape. We tend to cross our arms and legs, which makes us seem less intimidating more nurturing. Men tend to sit and stand in a “T” shape. They take up lots of room and spread out. Make your body more of a “T” shape to help with your confident body language. Think of it as a uniform you are putting on when you need to Pilot your dog.  Make sure to stay calm as well. Adding tension and anger to the situation will not help. If you need to, step away for a few minutes. Then come back when you are calm and ready to interact with your dog.

Confident body language helps answer those questions your dog has been asking you constantly. Your pup is always asking you “yes” and “no” questions. Can I have this treat? Can I sit on the couch? Can I have some of your dinner? And more importantly: Is the person at the door a threat? Is that garbage can a threat? Is that other dog a threat?

The absence of “no” is “yes”. If you’re not answering your dog’s questions, then you are essentially telling them “yes”. (If you’ve ever raised teenagers, you know what I’m talking about.  “You never said I couldn’t!”)

Use your body language to answer these questions. If your dog is staring at a treat on the floor and then at you, he’s asking if he can have it. If you do not want your dog to have it yet, answer his question by walking in between him and the treat, facing him.  Imagine your dog is a lot taller, and you are trying to push him back from the treat using your stomach.  Remember, you are only answering one question, “Can I have the treat?”.  The body language you are using is telling him “no”.  As soon as he’s no longer engaged with the treat (i.e., staring at it or moving towards it),  remove your strong body language.  Take a step back.  He may ask the same question again immediately:  give him the same answer, (“no”) using your body language again, always removing your body language when he is no longer engaged with the treat, and adding it back when he does become engaged again.  Think of it as a giant game of Hot & Cold.

Now, if you want him to have the treat, just don’t say no. If you decide you want him to have it, you can just remove your body language from the situation.  You are no longer telling him “no”.   Remember, the absence of “no” is “yes”.

This is the same method you would use when answering the door. The question is “Is the person at the door a threat?”  Let your pup know that the answer is “no”, by making sure you are answering the door and not your dog. Pretend the door is the treat you had on the floor previously.  You are answering your dog’s question: “Need help with the door?”.  The answer is “no”.  Simply back them away from the door to give yourself some personal space (hint: you don’t need to back them up across the house, a few feet away from the door should do it!).  Now, nail them to that spot with your finger and your eyeballs (aka, the “Mom Look”), and back towards the door.  If they follow you, simply back them up again.  Wash, rinse, repeat, until you have a calmer situation to answer the door.

Calm can take a few tries.  Don't worry - you'll get there.

Calm can take a few tries. Don’t worry – you’ll get there.

The more you show your dog that you are capable of being in control and the Pilot, the more your dog will be able to relax and actually be a dog. He’ll look to you for guidance instead of feeling as though he needs to protect you and your family from every garbage can, dog and plastic bag in the neighborhood.

Activity

The second thing that is needed is Activity. Dogs, like wolves, need activity daily. Walking on a daily basis gives them their sense of roaming that they would get if they were in a wolf pack. Each day a wolf pack hikes miles to and from a hunt. Your pup has this same instinct. It’s important that they get activity every day, and the amount they often require is a lot more than you think.

Some ways to enhance your Activity time is to invest in a backpack for your pup. You can find them on Amazon and it’s a great way to make your dog feel like they have a “job”. Don’t place any more than 3% of their body weight (at max! – start very small) in the pack and make sure it’s something that won’t hurt them.  For example, water bottles tend to slap them in the ribs with every step.  I prefer bags of beans, rice or coffee grounds.

Although you’ll be going the same distance, it will feel a little longer to your pup, which is always a good thing!

Fetch and playtime outside and at a dog park are great additional ways to get in activity. But the walk is so very important because it gives you an opportunity to work on your Piloting and it helps them with their roaming instinct, even if it is just in your neighborhood.

Work

The third part of the PAW Method is Work. Your pup needs mental work daily. Think of it this way, if you drive the same route home every day it becomes monotonous and easy for you. However, if there is a ton of traffic on that same route, you’re a lot more tired when you get home because there was a lot more mental work that went into that drive home. Your pup needs to feel that mentally tired. Otherwise, they’re bored. And boredom leads to finding things to keep them busy. And that leads to your grandmother’s quilt being torn up.

Stress is a good thing.  I want them to have a lot of stress in their life, because when you eliminate that stress, you get confidence.  Think of the confidence boost you get when you complete a project, or finish a crossword.  Benevolent stress = self-confidence.

An easy way to get some mental work in for your pup is to use an enrichment feeder. Such as a Kong Wobbler or Busy Buddy Twist N Feed. These feeders make your dog think about how to get the food out as opposed to just waiting for you to poor it out of a bag, which is dull, boring and EASY. By making them work for their food, it adds some mental work into their day and doesn’t add anytime to yours as you are going to feed them anyways.

Other things you can do for some mental work are playing “find it” games. To start, show your dog a treat, then put it down on the other end of the room in plain sight. When you release your dog repeat the phrase “find it” over and over until they get to the treat and then praise like crazy. Then move on to hiding the treat so it’s behind something, repeat “find it” and praise again. Then move on to using one of their favorite toys.  This is a good way to get some more mental work in.

Remember, your dog is family.  Sometimes family really sucks.

Okay, hopefully not THIS bad

Okay, hopefully not THIS bad

…but we can’t expect our relationships with our pets to be all sunshine and lollipops.  Sometimes we need to answer questions.  Sometimes it feels like they will never be housebroken (the dog, not the family).  But that’s why we Pilot our dogs.  That’s why we set them up for success with plenty of Activity and Work.  To make those moments less and less frequent.  And no, your dog isn’t perfect (mine sure aren’t), but we work together perfectly, understanding each others’ flaws, and not just loving each other in spite of them, but embracing them as part of who they are.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Take a Break!

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

 

Most people know I’m obsessed with the pitties. Their wiggly butts and goofy smiles get me every time. However, French Bulldogs get me just as bad. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the squishy face, or the way the waddle when they walk. All I want to do is hug one and yell “IT’S SO FLUFFY!”.

So, when I stumbled upon this link, I had to share it. It just brightened my day. And for any of our Frenchie owners out there, please send along your own pics! We’d love to see them.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

Word Games

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.

Eleanor Roosevelt

 

If you’ve been around the Darwin Dog’s blog post a bit, you’ve probably figured out that we are a bit quirky. Okay….I’m  a bit quirky.  Danika is the more serious of the two of us. But that’s not really saying much.

Danika and I at a recent event.  There was absolutely NO alcohol involved in the making of this pic. Nope.  None.

Yeah, we’re kinda like the Oz Couple.  

We’ve also developed our own lingo here at Darwin Dogs.  You hear words thrown about, like, “Piloting”, and “slamming the door”, but what does it mean?  Well, here you go, a list of words that are commonly used, along with links for more information about each term.

 Darwin Dogs’ Dictionary

Activity Exercise!  Fundamental for a happy, healthy dog.

Think outside the, uh, leash, too!  Orion is doing agility over my leg for a bit of Activity.

Think outside the, uh, leash, too! Orion is doing agility over my leg for a bit of Activity.
Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Cobra-ing When out on a walk, your dog find something terribly interesting and keeps trying to look around you, from one side to the other, like a cobra or a pendulum.
Houdini or Copperfield As in the magicians.  A dog whose owner thinks that their dog’s behavior will never change, but 2 hours with Darwin Dogs and –poof!- behavior problem is solved.  Example:“Hey Danika, how did your session go yesterday?”
“The dog just had a lot of questions, so I showed the owners how to answer them. It was really easy. A total Copperfield session, Kerry.”
Lap Shark This:

Natural habitat: Grandma's lap.  Also found being carried *everywhere*

Natural habitat: Grandma’s lap. Also found being carried *everywhere*

Meerkat-ing or Prairie-dogg When your dog suddenly looks like he rubbed Viagra all over his body: he’s alert and all his muscles are stiff, ears rigid, and perhaps a little furrow between his brows develops.  He’s asking a question about something.  Answer his question.home_meerkat
Negative Reinforcement Answering any of your dog’s questions in a negative fashion, from “Can we go for a walk now?” or “May I please beg?” to “Should I attack that other dog?”.  Not to be confused with “punishment”. Ever.
No No Bad Dog session A dog who jumps, barks, walks terrible on a leash…but deep down is a wonderful dog, who happens to think his name is “No No Bad Dog”. When writing descriptions of the dogs we are working with on our schedules, Danika and I frequently refer to some as “typical ‘No No Bad Dogs’”.55df2e62e7e3343e85c98fcd236fc915
Pavlovian Response (aka, Classical Conditioning) Linking two things together so tightly that when one happens the other is implied.  For example, “salt and __________”.  If you immediately thought “pepper”, you’ve been classically conditioned to always think of those two things together.  Anything can become a Pavlovian response, from a doorbell (indicating someone is here), to my snapping my fingers (which in my house, stand for “no” to my dogs).  See also, “Touch Talk Treat” for another example.
PAW Method Combining Piloting, Activity and Work together to create a happy, healthy relationship with your dog.
Piloting One the three basic things required when working with a dog.  Piloting a dog is merely answering your dog’s questions, so they don’t have to. Answering questions puts money into your Piloting Piggy Bank.
Sparta is asking as simple question ("Should I get up?").  I Pilot her by answering her question (in this case, with a negative). Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham
Sparta is asking as simple question (“Should I get up?”). I Pilot her by answering her question (in this case, with a negative).
Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham
Piloting Piggy Bank The more questions you answer for your dog (i.e., Piloting them), the more money you take out of your dog’s Piloting Piggy Bank and deposit it into yours.  The more money you have, the easier it is to Pilot your dog.
Positive Reinforcement Simply giving a positive answer to a question, or rewarding a dog when trying to catch a behavior so as to have the dog repeat said behavior.  Example: housebreaking a dog requires positive reinforcement. See also, Touch Talk Treat

Orion gets some positive, this time a treat. Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Orion gets some positive, this time a treat.
Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Slamming the Door Using your body language to answer your dog’s questions while on a leash (such as, “Can I react to that other dog?”) by pivoting on your foot, swinging your body around to face your dog entirely.  You look like a door slamming in your dog’s face, thereby answering “no”.
Touch Talk Treat Every time I give my dogs a treat, I give them a gentle pet or touch, along with a soft “good dog”.  Pretty soon, a pet, or a “good dog” tastes like a treat, freeing myself from always carrying around treats in my pockets. It also allows me to mark the precise behavior I’m looking for.  For example, teaching “Sparta” to play dead.  While she was learning, I could tell her “good girl”, and she knew she was on the right track and would be receiving a treat soon if she continued.  See also, Pavlovian Response and Touch Talk Treat
Work Mental stimulation, enrichment…are you making your dog think?
Yo, Bitch-ing When your dog is trying to take Piloting money out of your Piloting Piggy Bank.  Symptoms include: slapping you with their paw, trampling you, pushing you out of your seat on the couch.  Basically, any behavior that would translate to : “Yo bitch, give me a cookie”, or “Yo bitch, pet me”.  Detrimental to your healthy relationship with your dog, as it would be in any human relationship!

Our vocabulary is enriched by each session we do.  It will forever be a growing, living language, formed by our interactions with so many different dogs.  Kinda like….

Only less take-over-the-universe and more dog hair

Only less take-over-the-universe and more dog hair

Yeah….nevermind.

Now, on to the words that I detest.

Bad Yuck.  Your dog isn’t bad.  Your dog simply sucks at being a human.  And guess what….you’re not always the best dog.  Avoid this word (and this train of thought) at all times.
Clicker Dogs communicate with each other without the use of a clicker, we feel you should be able to as well.  A clicker is merely a Pavlovian response.  Click equals treat. Sound theory, but it’s like Communism; it only works on paper.  Where is that clicker when you need it? See Touch Talk Treat or Pavlovian Response.
Dominant, Pack Leader, Alpha, …bleh bleh bleh We’re secure enough in our, uh….masculinity (yeah, or, um, something) not to feel the need to “assert our dominance” over our dog (or anything else).  We are here to answer our dog’s questions about a confusing human world, not to make them “understand their place in the pack”.o094d
Punish Sick, gross, and completely unnecessary.  Punishment is only there to make a human feel better, not to train a dog.  See also, “Bad”.  Just don’t step in it.

The work we do with dogs enriches our lives.  It shines through to our day-to-day lives.  From the fun session we had with a crazy puppy, to the sad, scared, newly-rescued older dog, every training session leaves us enriched, and that has permeated through to our vocabulary, and made its way directly to our hearts.  Open the doors to communication, and amazing things can happen.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Play

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.

- Michael Jordan

dog_ball_fail

I’ve mentioned before how much I wish I had a “fetch” dog.  You know, the kind who will chase a ball around for hours.  However, I love the dogs I have, not the dogs I wish I had.  However, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying watching other dogs have fun playing fetch.

Thus I present to you – Dogs Playing Fetch By Themselves.

Trust me, I know exactly how they feel.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

No Other Option

When something scares us our first response is to run, very fast, in the opposite direction. The second response is actually much harder. It’s where you ignore every instinct and instead of running you stay and fight. – Dance Academy

Fight or flight?  Lady or the Tiger?  Both may be good choices…both may end the same way: badly.  It’s a choice your dog is always making.  For some dogs, the choice is difficult.  We label these dogs as “aggressive” or “dog reactive”.  Let’s take a look at what goes through the mind of a dog-reactive or aggressive dog.

Technically speaking, there is more than fight or flight. 

  • Ignore:  Right now, Sparta is ignoring the yarn I have on my coffee table.  It is of no interest to her.
  • Accept:  Orion was originally engaged with said yarn.  I answered his question (“Can I play with it?”), and he’s accepted the answer (“No.”) and is drifting off to the “Ignore” category, which is right where I want him in relation to my yarn stash.
  • Avoid:  Pixel, my kitten, thinks I’m stupid.  He thinks he can get at the yarn if he goes around the coffee table, where he thinks I can’t see him.  He doesn’t want a direct confrontation, but he’s not quite ready to give up.

Accept, followed closely by Ignore, are generally the places you want your dog to hang out.  The path to those places is sometimes paved with Avoid (sometimes you have to answer their questions more than once).  But where does it all start?  You guessed it:  Fight or Flight.

FLIGHT
‘Shall we fight or shall we fly? Good Sir Richard, tell us now, For to fight is but to die!’ – Tennyson

Flight is typically any animal’s first choice.  It’s the one that keeps them alive.  You may call it cowardly, but it’s actually rather rational:  live to procreate another day.  Pass along those flight genes, and you’ve got Natural Selection working in your favor.

Look at it like this:  a dog decides to kill a mouse, for no apparent reason.  The mouse, though losing the battle, manages to nip the dog on the muzzle, giving him a small wound.  Mouse is then promptly turned into lunch.  That wound festers, and the dog dies.   That’s a small case scenario.  Imagine the life span of a dog who decides to fight with everything.  Other dogs. Larger prey.  Just for the heck of it.  Pretty short.
FIGHT
Welcome to Fight Club. – Tyler Durden
20130419-080054-133-190
There are very few reasons why a dog would choose Fight over Flight.   Typically, those revolve around resources (they need to eat or you’re trying to take what they need to eat), breeding (Hey! That’s my potential mate!), or defending their young or pack (don’t get too close to my family!).  Typically, the need to eat and the need to defend their young/pack are the strongest motivators of Fight.
Imagine what it would take for you to become aggressive and decide to Fight.  What if someone broke in your house, would you shoot them?  What if they were taking family heirlooms? What if they started up the steps towards where your children were sleeping?  What is your breaking point, in other words.  We all have it.  Some would have pulled the trigger with the first provocation.  Others would only wait until they were certain they or their loved ones were in mortal danger.  Dogs are the same way:  we all perceive the same scenario as a different threat level, and will respond with violence when that level has been breached.
Fight Club.  Or as I refer to it, Some Movie Starring Brad Pitt's Abs, not to be confused with That Other Movie Starring Brad Pitt's Abs

Fight Club. Or as I refer to it, Some Movie Starring Brad Pitt’s Abs, not to be confused with That Other Movie Starring Brad Pitt’s Abs

REMOVING OPTIONS
“So if every healthy animal would choose flight over fight, why is my dog reacting to other dogs/people aggressively?”
- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

 Because you’ve removed options.  They no longer have the option for Flight; they’re only left with Fight!  You have them on a leash. You have them in a crate.  Heck, you have them surrounded by the walls of your house!  Their option to run away is gone!  Ever notice how some dogs are crazy-reactive to other dogs when you take them for a walk on a leash, but at the dog park they’re fine?
For some dogs, even if you take them to a field and have them off leash, they still may be aggressive.  Why?  Because now they have pack to defend.  Meaning you.  You’ve made it abundantly clear that you aren’t going anywhere.  They can’t move you.  Again, their only option is to defend you.  Their young/pack.
 Now take a look at your “aggressive” dog.  Are you seeing things a little differently now?  That other dog walking right towards you isn’t a cute little Golden Retriever.  It’s another predator.  Heading straight towards you.  Your dog starts to give “back off” body language.  The other dog doesn’t back off because they’re tethered to a leash as well.  Your dog realizes their warning is unheeded, and therefore decides to step up their game to all-out aggressive mode. A simple miscommunication between owners and their dogs has resulted in at least one dog being tagged as “aggressive”.
THE ANSWER
So, what is the answer? The answer is the answer!  Let me explain.
That scenario with the other dog coming towards you?  Your dog is actually asking a question:  “Is that other dog going to hurt us?”.  When that question isn’t answered, it can escalate to another question, “Should I back him off?”.  Obviously the answers are “No” and “No”.  To successfully work with dog-reactivity:
- Control yourself.  If you are angry, tense, upset, yelling…basically anything other than bored and calm, your dog will pick up on it.  It’s okay to feel angry, upset, nervous.  Just don’t show it.  Take a deep breath, and release those clenched muscles (take a look at your arms…I guarantee they’re clenched with the leash as taunt as you can make it).
- Control the situation.  You can not add stimulation to a situation you’ve already lost control of.  So, your dog regularly pulls you on a leash…how do you think it’s going to play out when you add the stimulation of another dog?!  Get control of the current situation.  Work with your dog on leash skills.  (If you need some help, read Danika’s 3-part post on leash walking 101.)  Gradually add stimulation as you can handle it.  Hint: Don’t try walking past the dog park on the first day you’re working with dog reactivity.  Remember, we’re looking for progress, not perfection!
- Answer the question. “Is that other dog going to kill us?”
“No, Fido, it isn’t.”  The more often you answer these questions successfully, the easier it will be to answer the next question and the next.  You are building up trust.  To answer a dog’s question, read about the PAW Method here.  Remember, your dog will be asking questions with body language.  Answer as soon as you see them asking!
Stiff tail, alert expression, standing on their toes.  We refer to this as "Meerkating" or "Prairie Dogging It".  I don't know what the question is this dog is asking, but the answer is "no".

Stiff tail, alert expression, standing on their toes. We refer to this as “Meerkat-ing” or “Prairie Dogging It”. I don’t know what the question is this dog is asking, but the answer is “no”.

Again, stiff tail, "Meerkatting", body shaped like a letter "T", wrinkled or furrowed brow.  This dog is asking a question.

Again, stiff tail, “Meerkatting”, body shaped like a letter “T”, wrinkled or furrowed brow. This dog is asking a question.

More meerkatting by the inventors of the sport.

More meerkatting by the inventors of the sport.

Finally, you don’t always have to know what the question is to answer it.  Sometimes you won’t be able to identify what your dog is concerned about.  That’s fine – just answer “no”.

Congratulations!  You have successfully Piloted your dog.

Teach them to trust you.  Trust for a dog means trusting you not to do crazy things, like, oh, …get angry because they are legitimately frightened.  Remember, they aren’t doing it because they are bad.  They are doing it because they are scared.  Let them know that yes, you see that dog, too, but you will protect them.  You will answer their questions.  You will Pilot them so they don’t have to be afraid any more.

And remember:

Keep calm and pilot on
Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio