In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.
I get in a dog fight more than 75% of the time when I’m training. Maybe even more. Yes, a real, honest-to-God dog fight. Most of the time the people I’m training don’t even realize we’re fighting. That’s because dog fights are not the big mess of snarling, snapping dog that is glamorized on tv. Violence is not a dog fight. Violence is what happens when a real dog fight has been turned into a human-fight.
All dogs, all packs, need a Pilot. Without a Pilot, there is no pack, just like without a chain of command, there is no Army, just a group of people. Pilot is God. Pack is Family. Territory is Country. Simple, efficient way to live a life, I think.
The Pilot position is a very serious undertaking. That’s why I see so many dogs in distress. They don’t want to be Pilot, but nobody else has stepped up to take the position. Heaven forbid, but if I were to slump over in the driver’s seat while driving my car, my 8 year old son would probably try to steer the car because there’s nobody left who will do it. Not exactly a healthy situation, but better than him not trying at all. That’s what these dogs without Pilot’s feel like.
So I walk into a dog’s home (territory) as a complete stranger (or Not Pack as they think of it). I need to take the Pilot position pretty quickly if I’m going to show the humans how to Pilot their dog as well. The dog, who up until now has been doing a decent job of Piloting in the house (after all, nobody has died while they have been Pilot), doesn’t like that I’ve decided to take over the pack. So they fight back. Remember, Piloting is a big piggy bank – whoever has the most money wins. So the dog is going to try to take all my money out of my bank. Meanwhile, I know I have to get their money out of their bank. A dog fight ensues.
So what does a real dog fight look like?
Pretty boring, huh? Basically, it’s a bunch of posturing, eye contact and above all, stillness. It’s a game of chicken. Unless you’re dealing with a very, very dominant or frightened dog, it never gets beyond this. The dog on the right is taking out the Piloting money from the dog on the left. Notice the difference in their body language: the dog on the left is shaped like a letter “S”. He’s actually giving his money over to the dog on the right, who is standing like a letter “T”.
When I walk into a client’s house, the first thing the dog wants to know is if I am a threat or not. I am unable to answer that question for the dog because I am not pack yet, let alone Pilot. Therefore, I usually have to let the dog answer that question for themselves, which can be a bit scary sometimes. The dog will usually come bounding up, give some warning barks, maybe even some growls. I just stand there, appearing as uninterested as I can. I don’t make eye contact. I stand like a letter “T”, because I am a Pilot, just not his Pilot. Yet.
A dog knows nothing until they smell it for themselves. They need to familiarize themselves with my scent before I can start to be accepted. So I let them smell me. I never offer my hand to them to smell; I usually just let them come up to me and smell me. I offer no movement (hint: movement equals energy, and this is the last situation that you want to add energy to). Usually the dog smells me and decides I’m not there to kill them. People are always shocked at how quickly their dog calms down when I arrive. I hear how the dog is usually still barking at a guest, or by this point, the dog is typically growling. I played by dog rules, though. No physical contact until I’ve been accepted. No staring at the dog. Stand up straight (I’m Not Pack, not a victim – I’m still a Pilot). Above all, look bored.
So now that I’ve been accepted, now the fighting starts. It’s been determined that I’m not a threat, but now I need to take over the pack. To do that, I need to start Piloting the dog, which means answering their questions, such as:
Can I jump on you? Can I run around and be hyper? Can I smell what you brought in your bag?
All of these questions are answered with “no”, using the body language described here. My body language looks very intense, but not angry. Anger means you’ve lost control. I just look intensely focused on the dog, like every last piece of my being is aimed directly at the dog. Sometimes there’s a brief moment where they try to Pilot me back and retain their Piloting money, but most of the time the dog fights I’m in are pretty anti-climatic. The dog just sort of shrugs and turns away, relieved that someone is finally flying this plane.
Usually after I’ve taken the money out of the dog’s Piloting bank, I can start my training session. I usually sit on the floor, because that’s the best seat in the house, for obvious reasons. I like the company. I like cuddling and petting the dog while I’m speaking with the humans. Yes, just a few minutes after getting into a dog fight with the dog, this is what the scene usually looks like.
Now to create some co-pilots out of the humans in the house.
Darwin Dogs LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio