A Little Less Ego

-Brittany Graham Photography

-Brittany Graham Photography

The biggest challenge after success is shutting up about it – Criss Jami

Dog’s have no ego. Which is a big reason why we love them so much.

The dog that saves his family from a fire, doesn’t go up to the news crews wagging his tail saying “I did it! That was me!”

Balto didn’t make sure he sent out a press release before he made his journey. Nope, he just did it.

The dog that puts himself in between his owner and harm doesn’t post it on Facebook after to see how many likes he can get.

Dogs don’t look to feed their ego. They do what they do because their hearts are made of gold and it’s the right thing to do.

- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

Wouldn’t it be nice if people worked that way too? Yes, of course we all like a little positive reinforcement.

We like to hear someone say “good job” and that they appreciate what we’ve done for them. But, do we necessarily need to have our name attached to it if it’s for the betterment of the community?

So, in human terms, let’s make a larger analogy here. We know there’s multiple universities and research labs that are looking for a cure for cancer. No one can argue that a cure for cancer wouldn’t be an amazing feat for mankind. Let’s say University X discovers a piece of information that could help the other researchers get one step closer to a cure. What would you expect University X to do? Share it right? Ok perfect. University X shares this groundbreaking knowledge. And let’s say University Y says “ummm… thanks but no thanks. We’re working on that as well, so don’t need your help”.

Now, you’re scratching your head right? Because, let’s be honest, if this piece of information could help us get that much closer to a cure wouldn’t you want to use it? Wouldn’t you want to discuss this information with University X and see what further developments you can make? After all, it’s all the same end goal correct?

But see, this is where we as humans are sometimes flawed and dogs are, well, quite perfect. We have egos. And unfortunately some people need their name attached to the feat. They need the press release stating that they’re the ones that accomplished something great. They’re the ones that need the Facebook likes and the shares. And sometimes, this can cause our community not to improve as quickly or rapidly as one would hope.

Dogs don’t need their name attached to anything. They do the right thing and they move on. If there’s more than one of them doing the right thing? They’re perfectly content with that.

- Brittany Graham Photography

– Brittany Graham Photography

Ego. Try letting it go. Do good just to do good. That’s what dogs do. They give you affection, not because they expect anything in return, but because they are emotionally attached to you. If we’re all working towards a common goal, let’s be more like our canine friends and be supportive. After all, who cares whose name is attached to anything? How about just putting our pack name on there – The Community. We all have a stake in the changes that are made each day. So, let’s take away the credit by giving us all the credit. And let’s live a little bit more like dogs. Because, what a wonderful fulfilling life that would be.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Positive Influence

Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.

- Sam Walton

 

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

As you may know from previous posts regarding The Paw Method, here at Darwin Dogs, we are all about answering a dog’s questions.  Dogs are full of questions: Can I eat that? Is that person a threat?  Can we play ball?  And as with any healthy relationship, communication is key.  In other words, you must answer your dog’s questions, or they will come up with an answer for themselves, and odds are you won’t like it.

c7f1ac0ebacf13a9c116f588aeac4356 Dogs are binary creatures: every question they ask is a yes/no question.  Every answer you give them will be a yes or a no.  It’s like a giant game of hot/cold.  Remember, “no” doesn’t mean your dog is bad.  Your dog is incapable of being bad…they do everything perfectly, for a dog.  Unfortunately, they need some guidance in our human world.  That’s why we answer their questions.  But how can you tell when it’s appropriate to use positive reinforcement with your dog?  Simple:  it fits into one or more of these  categories:

You are calling your dog (“come” command).    No matter what, the “come” command must end in a positive.  Give them a reason to come to you, not a reason to run away.  For hints on how to work the “come” command, read this.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

You are asking them to be human(ish).  Dogs will tell each other to back off; not to mess with each other’s toys.  They will ask each other to play, and will give an appropriate answer to each other.  Dog do not teach each other agility, nor do they teach each other English (as in “sit”, “stay”, etc.).  So any time you are asking them to be more than a dog, fun it up with positive reinforcement.  You are both trying to discover a behavior together…make it fun for both of you.

Agility - it's like an exorcism for your animal.  Okay, for you, too.  Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

When they are calm.  I know….Fido is super happy to see you after you’ve been gone all day (or in human terms, 1/2 hour).  It’s tempting to return their enthusiasm upon coming home, but you’re setting yourself up for a hyper dog – one who uses energy to get what they want.  Instead, wait until they’re calmed to give them positive.  As a matter of fact, any time you catch your dog calm is a great time to give them some positive reinforcement.  We want them to understand the calm is the key to a great treasure: what they want.  No matter if it’s a walk, a treat or just a pat on the head, calmly asking is the only way they will ever get it. Not jumping.  Not barking. Not slapping you with their paw.  Calm.

Go ahead.  Just try to ignore this sweet, calm face!  Guess what?  You don't have to!  Slather on that affection - this calm boy deserves it!

Go ahead. Just try to ignore this sweet, calm face! Guess what? You don’t have to! Slather on that affection – this calm boy deserves it!

Sometimes you want to create a behavior out of nowhere.  Teaching your dog a new trick or command.  For instance, I decided to train Sparta to hold random objects in her mouth so I could take a picture each day (you can view the hilarious results here).  I obviously used positive reinforcement for that behavior, but exactly how does one give their dog a positive?

Playing bathroom attendant

Playing bathroom attendant should definitely earn Sparta a positive!

Simple:  We use Touch, Talk, Treat.  We created a Pavlovian response.  Any time I gave Sparta a treat, or even her food, I gently pet her head and in a soft, calm, voice tell her she’s a good girl.  That’s it.  We are linking Touch, Talk, Treat so closely together that when we gradually drop off the treats, they’re implied by the Touch and Talk.  Just like if I said I was going to to make myself a peanut butter sandwich, what’s implied?  Jelly, right?  Because peanut butter and jelly always go together.  Once you get your dog to understand that Touch, Talk and Treat are linked, you can easily remove one (or more) of the components.  After all, who really wants to walk around with a pocketful of treats all the time?  Not very convenient!

So when I was working with Sparta to get her to hold things in her mouth, it was quite obviously impossible for me to reward her with a treat while she had the item in her mouth.  Of course I could just give her the reward when she finally dropped the item, but dropping the item was exactly what I didn’t want.  I wanted her to hold it.  That’s why Touch, Talk, Treat is so important.  While she held it in her mouth, I could give her all the positives she wanted, telling her she was a good girl and petting her.  I could catch the precise moment  she gave me the behavior I wanted.  As she held the item in her mouth, the Touch and Talk were both cues that the treat was (eventually) forthcoming, and that holding the item was the correct behavior to earn the reward.

 Same goes for agility.  Some dogs (*cough* Border Collies *cough*) over think everything.  Suppose the behavior I’m trying to catch is merely jumping through a hoop (“hmmm… last time I went through the hoop, turned counterclockwise towards mom and sat down after blinking twice whereupon mom gave me a treat. She must want me to blink twice!”).  I can’t get food down their gullet while they’re jumping through the hoop, but I sure can yell out that positive word while they’re going through!  That’s catching a behavior. So much miscommunication between humans and their canine companions arises through not catching the precise moment of behavior we wish to see repeated.

This form of verbal positive can come in very handy when you don’t or can’t have treats readily available.  For example, when I am on a walk with Sparta and she sees another dog.  Sparta is very dog reactive, and it takes a lot of trust in me for her to calmly pass that other dog.  I want to reward that trust she has placed in me.  Once we pass by that other dog, I give her that calm praise and a gentle pet on the head.  We just had an entire conversation using only body language.  Translation:

“Mom, that other dog was scary.  Did I do alright?”

 

“You did beautifully, Sparta.  I’m proud of you.”

 

“Thanks for getting us through that, mom.”

Note:  I will not bribe her past that other dog.  I will Pilot her, answer her questions, and then reward her for being calm through the whole “ordeal” (and yes, sometimes a Chihuahua can be an ordeal).

Remember to use your positive reinforcement as much as you possibly can.  There are plenty of opportunities to use positive reinforcement with even the most ill-behaved dog.  Catch those moments.  I tell my clients that in order to know where you are in this world, you need latitude and longitude.  That’s it!  In order for your dog to understand what you wish from them, they must get both “yes” and “no”.  Don’t skip the positives!  If your dog is calm, for any reason slather those positives on them.  Teach them a new trick just for the sake of giving them some positives, (which is why I taught my cat agility).  The positives are what bind you together as pack.  It’s the glue that makes your dog want to learn.  Use it generously.

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Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

A House with a View

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Set wide the window. Let me drink the day – Edith Wharton

 

Spring has been the theme lately. And for good reason. A lot of us are seeing “new” behaviors in our dogs. In reality, the behaviors are nothing new, they are just more noticeable once there are more triggers outside.

Spring and summer is a time of year where there is more activity outside. People are outside walking and biking. Sometimes they’re with dogs and sometimes they’re with strollers and little kids. The neighborhood cats are making their presence known a little more, and like we mentioned last week, the squirrels and birds are back and ready to party. What this might mean for you, is that your dog is a little bit more interested in what’s going on outside your windows. This interest can lead to barking, which can get frustrating. So, let’s take it step by step.

Your dog is barking to warn you that there’s something that you need to pay attention to outside. He’s raising the energy of the pack. So, all you have to do is answer his question of “There’s a woman walking by, is she going to murder us?” with a simple No and move on.

Look for signs before the barking starts. Ears perked, brow furrowed and stiff body langauge.  Brittany Graham Photography

Look for signs before the barking starts. Ears perked, brow furrowed and stiff body language.
- Brittany Graham Photography

When your dog starts barking, calmly place your body in between your dog and the window. Remember to stay calm. Once, you get in between your dog and the window use your body language to back him away while making a short sound. I’m a snapper, but you can make any noise that is quick. What we’re doing is linking this sound with your body language.

As you back your dog away from the window, make sure you have an endpoint in mind. Don’t back your dog all the way up the staircase and into the guest bedroom. A spot that is a few feet away is fine. Once your dog gets to that spot stay strong and calm with your body language. Your dog may keep barking, that’s okay! Barking is the last thing to go, so we’re getting your dog used to the fact that you can decide whether or not that squirrel out there is plotting to steal all of the milk bones. Stay in front of your dog until he stops barking. Once he stops, remove your negative body language. If your dog goes back to the window and starts barking, repeat the steps above.

Once your dog gets to the point that he accepts your answer and goes to lie down or chew a bone, give him some affection for being in a calm state.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

In the beginning this can be tedious and frustrating. But take some deep breaths to stay calm and know that the work you’re putting in now will make your life easier later on. The goal is to eventually be able to make your  noise that you’ve associated with your negative body language and have your dog listen to the command without you having to use your body language. However, if your dog does not listen to your noise, be ready to get up immediately and follow through on the command with your body.

There’s a lot more activity outside your window these days. By staying calm and answering your dog’s questions you will enjoy having the shades open and the sun pouring in. And so you will your dog, because he won’t be concerned about the neighbor’s cat plotting to cut your car’s brakes.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

Simple Dogma

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.

 -LYNYRD SKYNYRD

So many religions out there.  Varying philosophies. Ways to go about living your life “right”.  So many different thoughts about how to be the best person.  Rules deciding who isn’t a good person. Who we should emulate, and who we should eradicate.  Some are good, some are, uh…gooder.  Some are flat out wrong.  I can’t always tell them apart.  Sometimes they’re good and bad.  So many confusing thoughts and ideas out there, it’s how to deduce the best way to live; what philosophy is best. I think maybe a different dogma is in order.  Something much simpler.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

I’ve long maintained that dogs are very, very simple.  Not stupid, just simple.

For example, one of my favorite foods – fresh tomatoes out of the garden, still warm from the sun – is about as simple as it can get.  Nothing complex.  Nothing weird lurking under all that deliciousness.  Probably won’t give me cancer, cellulite, bad hair days or an unsavoury reputation.  Just sweet simplicity.

Frequently we assume that simple can’t be good. At least not as good as something more intricate…more complex. The more engineered, the better.  Why?  I’ve never seen a tomato engineered to adequately replicate a sun-ripened tomato I’ve just picked from my garden.

Dogs are good because they’re simple …or they’re simple because they’re good.  You can’t redesign them or re-engineer them to be more simplistically perfect than they already are.  Go ahead.  Try.  I see people do it all the time.  It makes my eyeballs itch.

“I make Fido sit every time we stop while on a walk.”

“I don’t let him go swimming because his fur smells funny afterwards.”

“I only stay on the path so his paws don’t get muddy.”

“Fido isn’t allowed on the bed because it’s bad.”

Who came up with these ideas?!  Your dog is a dog. Not a machine.  Treat them like a dog, and you’ll have 10+ years of an imperfect being in your life, loving you as perfectly as only a dog can. A wonderfully smelly beast full of nasty fur, drooling mouth and sloppy kisses. If you want something pristine, I’d suggest a pet rock.

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Brittany Graham Photography

Dogs love you because you’re simply there.  No reason is needed.  You exist, and they love you, whether you haven’t showered after your workout yet, or your socks don’t match.  They are so accepting of everything about us, they don’t even fetter us with descriptions of “good” and “bad”.  Rationalization and categorization are not a strong points with dogs (mercifully).  Why are you rationalizing them?  Over thinking everything?

Dogs ask simple questions:  yes or no are the only answers to these questions.  How simple is that? Dogs have simple needs:  Piloting, Activity and Work.  Give them that, and you can return their love as much as you want. Such a simple way to attain limitless affection!  They make it so easy for us, and we still try our best to mess it up.

We create back-stories for our dogs: “He’s afraid of men because he was a rescue, and I’m sure he was abused by a man.”  Nope.  It’s just who Fido is.  Don’t try to pick his brain apart.  Just answer his questions!

Should I be afraid of this man?

No, Fido.  I’ll protect you.

That’s all he wants to hear – the answer to his question.  Simply stated without all kinds of bells and whistles.  The same way he would answer it for you.

Even when it comes to commands I teach my dogs, I still keep it very simple.  Sit, Stay, Come, No.  That’s it.  Every single situation we run into can be covered by these simple commands.  I never taught my dogs “lie down”.  I never found it necessary.  Why waste time on something like that when I can train them to do something fun like this?  While you’re training your dog to sit at every stop sign or corner, Sparta and I spent a summer doing this!

Keep it simple.  I have a favorite phrase that I like to use when I find myself over-complicating things:  Eschew obfuscation.   That’s my dogma.  No, Sparta doesn’t sit every time I stop during a walk.  But she has learned some pretty amazing tricks that make both of us happy.  Orion never learned to lie down, but he’s a lot of fun to do agility with.  Our energy is going towards simple, easy goals: companionship.  Bonding. Joy.  And simply put – love.

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

Time Out

All punishment is mischief; all punishment in itself is evil.

Jeremy Bentham

Brittany Graham Photography
Brittany Graham Photography

So you’ve just caught your new puppy chewing on something in appropriate.  Or perhaps you’ve just cleaned up yet another mess on the floor that your Dachshund has left for you.  Maybe your Beagle won’t stop barking.  Whatever the behavior, I’m noticing a trend among how to handle the situation, and I hate it.

Put the dog in a time out.

You are punishing your dog by putting them “jail”.  For a crime they don’t even realize they committed!  Remember, you are asking your dog to be a human.  To insinuate themselves in a human world with human things and behaviors.  And you are punishing them for failing to be human.  

Is it symbolic?
Is it symbolic?

Ask yourself why you’re putting your dog in a time-out.  Is it so they know what they did was bad?  But was it?

Dogs are incapable of being bad.  There is no such thing.  They know love, devotion and happiness.  They know fear, hunger and pain.  However, they have no concept of bad.  Something is either accepted or it isn’t. It’s an unemotional answer to an unemotional question.  So rather than punish your dog for asking a question, such as “Can I chew on this?”, why not just answer their question?  And then be done with it.

For example, the puppy who is chewing on something inappropriate, simply use your body language to “claim” whatever it is they are engaged with, (as in, “No, you may not have that”).  Once they accept the answer, you are done  Now, in the case of a puppy, they will probably go right back to the thing that is verboten.  Puppies have the attention span of a Bartlett pear – that’s why they’re called “puppies” instead of “adult dogs”.  Answer their question again using the body language. Once they accept the answer, immediately remove the item.  Take your G.I. Joes and go home, in other words. You’ve now removed their opportunity to ask the question again, which would force you to answer the question.  Again.  Ad nauseam.

Your puppy is still going to want to have something to do, so let’s give them something appropriate.  This is a great opportunity to show them exactly what will earn them some positive attention.  Pick a toy and engage them with it for a bit (ie, play with it), and then let them have it.  If they start chewing on it, reward them with some positive attention.

Engage with your pup
Engage with your pup to get them interest in a more appropriate item
Allow them to play on their own
Give them a chance to go it alone.

 

Now for some positive
Give positive reinforcement for their ability to occupy themselves with an appropriate toy.

Tip: when I have a dog under 12 months in the house, I only keep 1/3 of all toys out for them.  The rest are kept away.  I then rotate the toys every 3-4 hours.  Result – everything old is new again, and nothing inappropriate gets chewed. 

Now, that’s not to say I have never locked my dogs up.  Sparta gets sent to her mudroom.  But it’s not to punish her.  It’s so I don’t punish her.  Remember that part where you take your G.I. Joes and go home?  Well, if Sparta is barking out the window (let’s face it, the weather has warmed up and there is a lot of activity outside for the first time in a while), then I will answer her question (“Can I bark?”) using my body language.  Once she accepts the answer, I take my G.I. Joes and go home.  In this instance, I know Sparta’s limitations – that’s why I’m her Pilot.  Rather than giving her negative body language for every threat person who walks by our house, I simply remove her from the situation. I let her calm down a bit so I don’t have to give her negatives.

That’s different than simply sending her there because she’s barking. I answered her question before putting her in her mudroom, rather than avoiding the question she’s asking.  In a little bit, I’m going to let her back out.  When I’m prepared to answer her questions again.  I’ve controlled the situation before adding more stimulation, as outlined here. If I simply try to blunder my way through it, continuously answering her questions without a break, I’m going to lose my temper.

Yeah...you realize nobody likes you when you're angry.
Yeah…you realize nobody likes you when you’re angry.

So instead of Hulking it out, I’m going to give myself a time out by removing Sparta from the situation.

...and that it's okay to take a break!
…and that it’s okay to take a break!

While we’re both chilling in separate areas from the house, I’ll give her something to do. Maybe a bone.  Maybe a Kong.  After a bit, I’m calmed down, and she isn’t as focused on the people outside.  She may eventually ask again about the people outside, but I’m in a better frame of mind to answer her questions unemotionally, which leads to a better experience for all of us.

Which is more my cup of  tea
Which is more my cup of tea

So before you send your dog to time-out, ask yourself a few questions:

1) Am I doing it to punish?  If so, rethink.  Dogs don’t need punishment.  They need answers.

2) Have I answered my dog’s question?  If you’ve already answered your dog’s question, and are removing them from the situation to prevent Hulking out on them, you have my blessing.

Bear in mind the more often you answer your dog’s questions unemotionally, the less likely they are to ask them again. We Pilot our dogs by infusing them with our own calm.   Now when someone is walking in front of our house, Sparta merely whines a little.  That’s it.  No, it didn’t happen overnight, but it definitely didn’t take a Hulk to make it happen.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Dogs of Ireland

The moon is none the worse for having the dogs bark at her.
- Irish Proverb

I'm not even sure if there's actually a dog under all that green!

I’m not even sure if there’s actually a dog under all that green!

Cead míle fáilte and welcome to our St. Patty’s Day blog post!  To celebrate the holiday, let’s take a look at breeds that have originated from the Emerald Isle.

Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier

Wheaton Terriers are possibly on the of the oldest dogs of Ireland.  Previously known as “the poor man’s dog”, they were used on farms for a variety of reasons, including protection and herding, but are at their best when doing their “terrier’ thing:  hunting down vermin.  Weighing in at about 30-45 lbs, they are a nice, solid dog.  In my opinion, they are also one of the sweetest dogs in the Terrier group (ever heard of the “Wheaton Greetin”?).

Wheaton

Wheaton

Kerry Blue Terrier

Also known as the “Irish Blue Terrier”, Kerry Blues are a gorgeous, animated and lively dog weighing in at approximately 30-40 lbs.  They originated in the 1700′s in County Kerry, Ireland, their namesake (as well as mine!).  They tend to be little jesters, who, like most terriers, are very intelligent and like to show off.  Typically friendly, they can be very courageous if needs be.  They are a good all-around working dog, taking occupations from herding and companion animals, to “the verminator” on some farms.

Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Blue Terrier

Kerry Beagle

Kerry Beagles were developed in, you guessed it, Kerry County, Ireland, as a scent hound.  Typically weighing in at roughly 60 pounds, it is still used for hunting fox.  Kerry Beagles almost died out, but fortunately, there are still people maintaining this lovely breed.

Kerry Beagle

Kerry Beagle

Irish Terrier

Also known as the “Irish Red Terrier”, this sprite little guy weighs in at under 30 lbs.  They are always ready for some fun, and can be a great hiking companion, as they have endless energy.  It is believed that these little sprites were one of the first terriers, and may be over 2000 years old!

Irish Terrier

Irish Terrier

Irish Water Spaniel

Justin McCarthy from Dublin, Ireland created this incredibly useful dog for retrieving on land and in (sometimes icy) waters.  Intelligent, active and possessing an amazing stamina, this was the go-to dog for hunters.  Unfortunately, they are rather rare now since the increasing popularity of Labradors has taken their place.

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Wolfhound

Not sure if this is a dog or a pony, as this breed is gigantic weighing as much as 150 lbs. and can be 7 ft tall on their hinds legs.  Sweet (almost to a fault), they are the dogs who would apologize for apologizing too much.  Gentle giants, they are more likely to let an intruder in and serve them coffee rather than raise an alarm.  Originally bred for hunting wolves, as the name implies, they are a very, very old breed dating almost 2000 years.  As far as I can see, there only flaw is their lifespan, which is an all-too-short 6-8 years.

Irish Wolfhound - my personal favorite!

Irish Wolfhound – my personal favorite!

Irish Red and White Setter/Irish Setter

Two separate breeds, but essentially the same dog excepting colors (red vs. red and white), both Setters remind me of nothing so much as frolic and mirth on steroids.  Weighing in at up to 75 lbs., they are a very energetic breed and always looking for some fun.  These guys definitely have a mind of their own, and they sometimes can be a free spirit.  They excel at any type of hunting you throw at them, making them a very well-rounded gun dog.  Red and White Setters were originally much more common than their Red counterparts, but then in the mid-19th century the Reds gained popularity, so much that the the Red and Whites almost became extinct!  Fortunately, people have managed to preserve this wonderful variation for all to enjoy.

3-17-14(7)

Irish Red and White Setter

3-17-14(8)

Irish Setter

Glen of Imaal Terrier (Glen Terrier)

A very stately individual is the Glen Terrier.  Small, compact and low to the ground, this little guy packs a lot of courage and poise in that short little body.  They are intelligent and brave, and can be quite fierce when on the hunt.  They are truly kingly little dogs.  They derived their name from Glen of Imaal, in County Wicklow, Ireland. They have been used to kill foxes and badgers, as well as “turnspit” dogs (walking on a crude treadmill, they would turn meat on a spit for hours).  To me, they personify 35 lbs of quiet dignity.

Glen Terrier

Glen Terrier

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Fad saol agat, gob fliuch, agus bás in Éirinn!

Do you have a personal favorite?  Do you happen to own one of these beauties?  If so, let me know what your thoughts are on any of these breeds.

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Spring Distractions

 

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

A dog is one of the remaining reasons why some people can be persuaded to go for a walk – O.A. Battista

As Porter and I were taking a walk last week, I couldn’t understand why I was having to correct so much more than normal. Yes, it’s been cold out and there’s a ton of pent up energy, but the amount of corrections I was making did not seem proportional to the usual walks that get out the winter kinks.

Then, I realized…. the birds were back and so were those pesky squirrels.

Over the winter, there’s less of a chance that you’re having to correct due to your dog’s prey drive. The squirrels stay to themselves and the birds, well, they’re smart and go south. So, all of a sudden your walks are pretty much critter free. Which is great! However, then spring hits and the squirrels are frantically running about and the birds are back in full song. And now, you’ve just spent 5 months walking your dog without having reiterate the fact that “no Fido, you cannot go see what squirrel meat tastes like” and “no, you cannot try and try and see if you can catch a Robin mid-flight”.

So, what to do? Well, let’s go back to the basics of dealing with prey drive during the walk.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

1. Don’t Get Frustrated: I know your dog hasn’t had this bad of a walk in a long time. And you are getting nowhere near the normal distance that you’re used to. But, it’s okay. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’ve just been handed a new set of distractions, so the walks are going to feel a little bit harder for a while. Deep breaths. And if you can’t go the same distance, that’s okay. Make sure you’re staying calm throughout the walk. Yelling and getting frustrated are not going to help your dog get to the walking state that you’re used to.

2. Pay Attention to the Questions: Look for the furrowed brow or you dog’s body stiffening. Make sure you’re answering your dog’s question of “I can have a squirrel appetizer today?” before he’s full on ordering it rare. Quick corrections are key. Pay attention to your dog’s body language so you can answer the question when they are first asking. Not after they’ve decided that squirrel is the correct choice for a snack.

3. Keep Moving: When it comes to little critters that are fidgety and exude a lot of energy it’s best not to stop and try and reboot in front of them. There’s so much energy there your dog won’t be able to focus on you. Keep moving. Don’t stop. Once you get them a bit past that huge amount of distraction (say, the squirrel appetizer) then, you can start answering your dog’s questions.  If you like, you can move past the situation that’s causing tension and once you have gotten enough distance between you and the squirrel, you can take a break and regroup. But it’s best to just keep moving forward.  Remember, control the situation; sometimes it’s just not feasible directly in front of an angry squirrel.

4. Don’t Compare Your Walks: You can’t compare your walks in the coming days to the ones that you were going on a month or two ago. It won’t be the same. With the weather changing it’s as if you’re going on a completely new route to your pups. There’s more smells, more things that are moving, more people and more creatures out there. It won’t do you any good to compare your walks to when the area looked desolate and you’d be lucky to see one other person as crazy as you were out there.

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Just stick with it, you’ll get back to your calm walking state soon enough. It’ll just take a little work to get there. But, nothing that you can’t handle. Get out there and start enjoying that nice weather! You and your pup will be much happier for it!

Keep calm and pilot on

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

The Power of Experience

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything – George Bernard Shaw

Remember those days, where posters of your favorite movie star or boy band covered the walls of your room? It basically looked like a teeny bopper version of a stalker’s basement. Or remember when you would see your favorite movie star or boy band on tv or on a magazine, you would squeal and go on and on about how amazing they were and all their great qualities?

These guys used to cover my walls

These guys used to cover my walls

Well, my poor parents had to go through that stage with me twice. Once, when I was an actual teeny bopper. And once when I was older and found out that pitbulls had stolen my heart. Anytime one was on tv I would stop and stare after letting out a slightly embarrassing sound that I hadn’t used since my ‘NSync days.

If we saw a pitbull on the street, I would come close to drooling. I had pictures of them on my desktop background and I was constantly sharing facts and videos of them.

When this first started my parents didn’t seem to fully understand what was happening. They, like most people, hadn’t had much contact with any pitbulls. In fact, pretty much none. I was the only one that had met and interacted with bully breeds out of my family.

 Brittany Graham Photography


Brittany Graham Photography

At first, my parents would ask about certain traits that many people haven’t been around pitbulls or haven’t been able to gain enough information about the breed (I use the term breed loosely, because as we know, they’re just a mix) ask:.

Aren’t they aggressive?

Their jaws lock don’t they?

Don’t you think they’re kind of funny-looking?

Why aren’t they allowed in certain apartment complexes and towns?

This was my opportunity to educate! I would share the knowledge that I had gained about them every time the opportunity came up. My parents would just nod and smile. I never knew what they were thinking really. It was kind of like my teeny bopper days, they accepted it but didn’t fully understand. But that was okay with me. I went on oohing and aahhing over every pitbull I came across.

When Vesta came into my life (she’s the reason that I want BSL to end), I could tell they were hesitant again. But, they were supportive and went with it.

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vest as an adorable little puppy

Vesta was a lovebug. As they would come to visit, I could see my parents warming up to her more and more. They saw how happy she made me. They also saw how sweet she was. She had an amount of devotion towards me that was extraordinary. She knew what my next move was going to be before I did. She knew how to make me feel comfortable and how to cheer me up. She also knew how to make everyone around her laugh and that endeared her to them. They were able to see the dog she was and not just the breed.

It’s hard to connect or change your mind about something or someone if you’ve never interacted with that individual or animal. You’re only able to go off of facts or stories that other people have told you. It’s not the same thing as experiencing it yourself. And sometimes, those that are able to change others minds can do it without even knowing.

The other day, I was home visiting when a neighbor was talking about a new dog in the neighborhood. It was a pitbull and they relayed concerns and incorrect facts about pitbulls. I took a deep breath to start in on my arguments and all of a sudden my parents piped in:

“They’re very loyal dogs you know”

“They’re not what the media makes them out to be”

“I saw him the other day, just standing there, wagging his tail with a big smile on his face. Looked like a great dog.”

I took a step back and just realized, the individuals that had never understood my pitbull obsession were standing up for my pitbull obsession. They were able to rely on experiences that they had had with the breed and help others appreciate these misunderstood dogs.

Vesta and I playing around

Vesta and I playing around

This is why the Pittie Parade is so important. It’s a chance for individuals to encounter well behaved and gentle dogs that they might not have met in any other circumstance. They get to meet the wiggly butts and goofy smiles that pitties so lovingly posses. That’s what it takes to changing minds. No yelling, no screaming, no yelling out facts over and over. It takes someone to say, “hey, this dog is really sweet” for some changes to start to take place.

If we can change just one mind, we’ve succeeded. If we can change more? Well, that could create some more loving homes and arms for wiggly butts and goofy smiles everywhere.

Keep calm and pilot on

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

 

Hulk

“…so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” -Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park

o-PITBULL-570This is Hulk.  At 175 pounds, he is the world’s largest pitbull (which yes, I know isn’t even a breed, but rather a conglomeration of different breeds).  He is owned by Marlon Gannon of Dark Dynasty K9.  Hulk has been bred, and according to Gannon, is a trained professional guard dog, who will heed his owners every command and protect them with his life. Lisa Gannon claims she trusts him around her toddler “precisely because of his thorough guard-dog training” and even lets her toddler ride him(!), a very dangerous (and stupid) thing to do.

Because nothing shows respect so much as letting your children ride your dog

Because nothing shows respect so much as letting your children ride your dog

Let me start by stating that anyone who claims their dog will follow their “every command” has some ego problems.  My dogs and I are pack members. I have nothing to prove to them except that I will always take care of them, and in a crisis situation (say, intruder breaks in or a zombie apocalypse) I know they will do their best to protect me.  I will never claim any animal (or human, for that matter) will obey every command, as every creature has a breaking point.

I’ll admit it: I don’t respect guard dog trainers very much.  I think it takes a special kind of bully to turn a dog into a compensating appendage.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

Contact your doctor if you try to compensate for more than four hours.

I do realize that there are indeed special circumstances that actually require a guard dog, and that there are indeed wonderful trainers who can train dogs to safely handle these situations.  Police dogs, military dogs, even personal protection dogs, are all a necessary evil.  However, I do wonder at the ludacris number of “guard dog trainers” out there. Especially the ones who use pitties as guard dogs.  One of the worst choices for the job.  Yeah, they’re muscular, but so was Michael Clarke Duncan.  Who was a vegetarian.  

So wait, muscular individuals don't dine on baby flesh?

So wait, muscular individuals don’t dine on baby flesh?

I stumbled across the best statement about this whole “Hulk” debacle on Facebook.  Trainer Shannon Duffy, from Your Good Dog, had this to say about it:

“This may come as a surprise but I am not a fan of Hulk. Well, Hulk I love, the situation around him is despicable in my opinion. Hulk, the 175 pound “Pit Bull”, is the latest internet sensation. Hulk is also a mutation that is the result of irresponsible breeding that is done purely for looks and size with no regard for the health or temperament of the dogs created. He seems to be a great family dog even when the parents, showing extreme poor judgment, allows their child to ride him like a horse. I wish him all the best and hope that he continues to be a good ambassador for Pit type dogs but I cannot support the concept of breeding based purely on appearance (looking at you too AKC).”

And that sums up everything despicable surrounding poor Hulk. I, too, wish you the best in this crazy world you’ve been thrust into, big guy.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

True Pack Mentality

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.

Bill Gates

I had a wonderful client – we’ll call her Jane –  last weekend.  She was exceptionally well-prepared for my visit: asked all the right questions on the phone, gave me plenty of information about the dogs I would be working with, and had even read the Darwin Dogs’ blog extensively.

During our training session, Jane mentioned a few blogs that she had found exceptionally helpful: Leash Walking 101 and Stopping the Winter Blues were examples she cited.  She also mentioned that, while she didn’t personally own a pittie, after having read the article about Darwin Dogs’ Pittie Parade, she would most definitely be joining in our parade with her pooch in support of ending BSL.

I just smiled as she was rattling off her favorite blog posts.  She didn’t realize that I hadn’t written a single one of them.  Those were all Danika’s posts. Danika’s posts (typically) come out on Mondays, and I take Wednesdays and Fridays.  I didn’t mention this to Jane, as I wished to save her any embarrassment.  I thanked her profusely for her compliments, and mentioned a few more posts that she might like, including this one about taking cues in your personal life from your dog, as well as this one, which is about over-thinking issues with dog-reactive dogs.

Yes, I gave her more of Danika’s articles to read.  She apparently enjoyed Danika’s writing style, and Danika does have away with words, especially when writing about her personal experiences with Porter.

Danika and I are always preaching The PAW Method, and what it means to be Pilot for your dog.  Your pack (which may consist of a house full of dogs, or may just consist of you and Fido) is a single entity.  There is no “I” in pack.

There is a lot of "ack" in "pack", as in, "Ack!!!!! What did I just step in?!!

There is a lot of “ack” in “pack”, though.  As in, “Ack!!!!! What did I just step in?!!

Yes, there needs to be a Pilot in your pack.  Someone to “fly the plane” if you will.  But it’s the diversity of the pack, operating as one entity, that makes it a beautiful, healthy, and functional thing.  Quite honesty, pack mentality is typically a lot healthier than the “I deserve the credit!” mentality that we humans often operate  with.    My two dogs, Sparta and Orion, don’t argue over who did the most work towards securing the yard from squirrel threats (sorry, the answer is the cat, anyway).  Each does their best according to their own ability.  And their own abilities are very different, as they are as dissimilar as two dogs can possibly be.

02-12-14(2)

Technically speaking, on paper, Danika is a contractor for Darwin Dogs, and I am the owner. In reality, though, she’s a partner.  When she isn’t sure she can handle a certain issue in a training session, I’m there to tell her to put on her big girl pants and just do it. (And she does it perfectly!).  When I come up with some crazy idea about how we can make the Pittie Parade even better if we only added…she automatically vetoes it.

Seriously, who couldn't get into a dock diving event during the Pittie Parade?

Seriously, who couldn’t get into a dock diving event during the Pittie Parade?

Danika and I operate as a pack.  A pack always has a leader, or Pilot, but it can change depending upon the circumstances.  Neither of us feel the need to take all the glory for anything. There’s never an “I did it” moment – we always did it.  Sometimes we disagree, but we disagree because we each want what is best for Darwin Dogs and our clients, not because one of us is plotting to take down the other, or someone isn’t getting enough recognition.  That makes me have more faith in Danika’s Piloting abilities, as well has hers in mine. We respect where the other is coming from because we understand the intent is always for “us” not “me”.

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

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

Applying this same concept to your pack (be it dog, human or otherwise) is imperative.  Your dog isn’t working against you.  As a matter of fact, your dog is probably trying to create a healthy pack just as much as you.  Fido just has different ideas on how to do it.  So rather than taking anything (and everything) your dog does as an affront, realize that Fido is merely trying to keep the pack healthy and functional.  Dogs don’t do things to get back at you, nor do they ever do things in anger.  Can you say the same?  Have you ever felt the need punish your dog?  Put them in a “time out” so they know what they did was wrong?  If you even for a moment think your dog is “bad”, or has wronged you in some way, then you need to “dog it down” a little. Stop thinking in a human fashion, just for a moment, and bask in the simplicity that is dog.

***

At this point I thought my blog post was done.  However, I felt that the idea I was trying to convey might be a little bit nuanced, so I asked Danika to read the post before it went live.  ”Looks good, but I would include in the conclusion a point in time that maybe your dog would be a better Pilot. If you’re lost or in the woods by yourself or something like that.”

Kerry suddenly realizes that although Stan thought he was following the Red Trail, he has actually been following the Grey Trail.

Stan, in helping Kerry find the Red Trail, has only succeeded in finding multiple “Gray  Trails”.

Or perhaps a time where you were lost in a blog and decided to let someone else Pilot you out of it.  Thanks, Danika.  I needed that.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio