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

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

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

The Most Terrifying Day of the Year – Happy 4th of July!

 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

- Benjamin Franklin

flag-dog_650x366

When I was a kid, my grandma had a dog named Patches.  He was the sweetest beagle ever.  A bit stoic for a beagle, he wasn’t really into playing much, but he was a solid companion.  He was one of those dogs who never did anything wrong – he was trustworthy both in and out of the house.  He never needed a leash, and he didn’t have a fenced-in yard.  Didn’t matter; he never even thought about leaving the yard.

I’ll never forget Fourth of July when I was 11 years old.  Patches would have been roughly 13 at that point.  A senior most definitely, but a healthy, sprightly old man.  Most of my  mom’s side of the family was spending the holiday at my grandma’s house:  at least 18 of my 22 cousins, plus aunts uncles – it was a kid heaven.  At dusk the adults started to light some fireworks.  We had a great time.  We headed home around 10:00.  Traffic was unusually heavy on the street where my grandma lived.  It took us a while to navigate.  When we got home, we found out why.

Patches had been hit and killed by a car.

The dog who had always been so stoic, truly a Pilot of a dog, had been frightened by the fireworks and run into the street.  Nobody had bothered to check to see where he was because the dog had never left his boundary in his entire life!  Not to chase squirrels (he stopped at the perimeter), not when guests came (he met them at the driveway).  Never.  Of course if we had realized he was terrified, we would have taken measures to ensure his comfort and safety.

Sparta and Orion have a fenced-in yard.  They will be spending the 4th in their crate, with soft music playing (I almost always have music on in my house, so this will seem normal, if not a bit louder, to them).  My pets’ safety is all on me.  It’s my job to make sure they are happy and healthy.  Things that may not seem scary to me may be terrifying to them, so even though they’ve never shown any signs of fear in the past from fireworks or thunderstorms, I’m still going to make sure they are contained.  It’s my job as Pilot.

Fourth of July is the busiest day for animal wardens.  Dogs (and cats) become scared and run off.  Some never return.  Take some precautions to avoid tragedy:

  • Exhaust your dog before nightfall.  Exercise creates a natural state that make your dog want to sleep.  Help them to sleep through the scary parts.
  • Secure your dog in their crate.  For added security, a blanket can be placed over the crate (it will insulate some of the noise).  Just make sure that the dog is comfortable, and not overheated if you add a blanket, and always leave a few inches of the crate uncovered for ventilation.
  • Make sure your dog has their tags on, and consider microchipping. It could be their ticket home.
  • If your dog is terrified, Pilot them.  You can’t soothe them.  They are legitimately frightened, and speaking to them in a high, whiney, “soothing” voice is counterproductive.  They need a Pilot, not another source of stress.  Read how to accomplish this here.
  • If your dog needs to eliminate, take them outside on a leash.
  • Ask your vet about medication if your dog has a history of reacting badly.  I’m against casual medication of dogs because they are “too hyper” or “anxious” during normal situations.  Those dogs need Piloting.  This is not a normal situation.  Before I get on an airplane, I have drink.  A strong one (or two).  I’m terrified of heights, and it takes the edge off.  That’s all you’re looking to do:  take the edge off of a truly terrifying and abnormal situation.  Again, consult your vet.  Do not self-medicate.

I do miss Patches, though it’s 25 years later.  He was a good dog.  Perhaps he would have lived only a few more months before succumbing to old age.  Perhaps he would have lived a few more years.  Regardless, his life was cut short due to ignorance.  I now know better.  I will Pilot my dogs through the Fourth of July.

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