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Under Pressure Pt: 2

If you haven’t read Pt: 1….. Start there!

So, since you’ve read that….. Let’s just get right in to this.

This one’s gonna be the one that bunches panties up.

Like I said in Pt: 1, the 4 basic training pressures are:

1. Physical Pressure

2. Spatial Pressure

3. Social Pressure

4. Resource Pressure

We talked before about how Physical and Spatial tactics are very obviously pressures. And, many people feel inherently “bad” about using all but the most subtle versions of them.

Some trainers nowadays like to go so far as to say they not only don’t use those forms of pressure, but they don’t use ANY pressure. They only use Positive Reinforcement.

When people use Praise, Food and Toys…. They always feel like they are not pressuring. They’re “Motivating”!

Here’s the thing…… Food and praise are also creating and using pressure to “motivate” these dogs.

In the last 8 months the two biggest influences on my train of thought are Chad Mackin, and Suzanne Clothier.

I don’t think either one of them has ever really investigated the others work….. But in the spirit of “Great minds thinking alike”…. They both assert that Food= Pressure! And honestly…. It didn’t really register as “truth”. I mean it’s one of those things that you hear and go “eh” and don’t register it as significant.

Fortunately for me….. I have become friends with Chad (after harassing into mentoring me). And, we have dog training discussions till way too late in the night. This gives me the chance to get directed back to those tidbits I wasn’t smart enough to “get” at first exposure.

And one night…. Chad said the line that shifted my understanding, and let me see the “Matrix”.

I was actually leaning to the side of food being “positive”, and not pressure.

Then, he busted out this gem:

“Wave a french fry under a dieters nose and tell me that’s not pressure.”


Then I saw it. It’s all pressure.

Look, when people use food to train their dog they are betting that their dogs are food motivated. Really…. They mean that their dogs respond to food with craving. The kind of craving that makes them literally jump through hoops to get the tiniest morsels. Hell, that kind of craving is PRESSURE!!!!

Sure, it’s not the “oh shit don’t hit me” pressure everyone like to (wrongfully) associate with physical, and spatial pressures. But craving IS pressure.

Strong pressure.

Shit, it’s probably the only pressure STRONGER than “oh shit” pressure. An animal that is in the throes of craving will take CRAZY risks.

And that brings me to the realization that we subconsciously CREATE the pressure.

Here’s the proof-

When a dog isn’t food “motivated” it means they aren’t craving. They are maybe just a little interested. So…. The “Posi” only (implying no pressure) people will say you need “higher value” food. That means, food they are more willing to work for. That means that’s food they have a stronger craving for. That means MORE PRESSURE.

What if they don’t have motivation for even the “high value” food?

Well, you make sure you don’t feed them before training (increase craving). Or you divvy their food up into portions and only feed during training (increase craving).  Or you make them skip a meal, or a day of food so they are more motivated (increase craving)!

“Wave a fry in front of a dieters nose, and tell me that’s not pressure.”

Come on. You can feel it when you read that sentence. Can’t you?


Looking through that same lens, I instantly see toy rewards the same way. There are entire protocols for “increasing DRIVE” in dogs. They are essentially creating and then directing that pressure. That desire. That craving.

And it’s even easier to see that social praise can essentially be “Peer Pressure”. When you’re recalling the dog, you back away…. Make them want to close the gap. When the dog jumps up, you turn away and remove the relationship as punishment. That’s the definition of peer pressure. Hell, how much dumb shit were you willing to do in school just to not have your “friends” turn away from you? Need to build the relationship craving….. Yep….. Remove and dole it out sparingly. Make them want it. NILIF anyone?

I’m really into simplification.

So, here you go….

All training is intentionally creating a pressure, whose release is dependent upon doing an act you have predetermined.

You create pressure on the leash…. They make it go away by yielding.

You create pressure by stepping into them as they break a stay…. They make it go away by going back to position.

You create pressure by removing attention…… They remove it by getting back to the positions that gain your attention.

You create pressure by offering food…. They relieve the pressure by doing the behaviors that get them fed.

All training is pressure. Period.

Instead of seeing all the quadrants, and minutiae. and how we are all different.

Just see the pressure.

Physical, and Spatial “push”.

Social, And Resource “pull”.

That’s the only difference.

All, can be abusive if used in an asshole manner.

All can be subtly, fairly, and to the benefit of the relationship, if used lovingly, and skillfully.

But. It’s all just the creation and release of pressure….





Dogs Don’t “Want” Structure”

Listening to a dog training podcast today, I thought my head was going to explode.

This (totally well meaning) guy, was going on, and on about how dogs love structure.

They NEED it.

They CRAVE it.

ON and ON and ON.

He actually got me talking back to my radio in the car. I’m sure I looked like a lunatic.

Chad Mackin once told me “Dogs don’t want STRUCTURE….. They want CLARITY!”

Write that down.

No animal thinks…… “ooh, I’d really like to be put in a box, and have my movements restricted by ropes, and be made to do tricks before I get anything”.

Nope. Not dogs. Not kids. Nobody.

They’d rather be free.

Now, before I get crucified as a hippy…… You have to understand…. Real freedom has crystal clear consequences.

In the wild, if you do A…. B happens. Every time. You don’t get food, you starve. You don’t follow the social structure of the group you split, or get trounced. You don’t find warmth, you freeze.

So….. Wait…. Dogs crave punishments?

Nope. Again. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc.

Just because something comes after, it doesn’t mean it came because of that thing.

Nature provides clarity. It may do it harshly, but it does it. An animal may seem free…. But they are acting in a tight parameter of rules.

We took them out of nature. We put them in our modern world. We took away their clarity.

And since I learn as I write…. I’ll take it a step further. What they are really craving isn’t clarity… It’s self empowerment.

There’s an evolutionary psychology book called “Power Therapy” that goes into detail about this in regards to humans.

Clarity, lets us understand the rules of the game. And when we really understand the rules, we can navigate everything more skillfully. This skillful living is how all animals derive self esteem.

The problem is in the life of most dogs, there is no “system”. Things are haphazard. Sometimes it’s ok to jump up sometimes it’s not. Sometimes when they pull you towards a dog, you laugh and try to keep up (they’re an “approved” dog), but then sometimes when they pull you get really mad.

That’s really hard. You want to drive someone nuts. Put them in an environment where they can’t figure out the constants. The light cycles randomly change. The temperatures change. Sometimes that food is amazing. Sometimes it’s rancid. That’s considered torture! You can break people like that.

But people do that on a lower intensity to their dogs all the time.

And that’s a HUGE source of stress.

Here’s where it gets tricky. The “structure to fix a dog” camp is right in their action.

Structure can provide clarity. Clarity can provide self esteem, and satisfaction.

So yes, when a dog is really, really, out of their mind a “lockdown” protocol with good structure, can really help them. Even though it seems like jail. Hell, some humans would rather be in jail, than outside because the clarity inside is better. But, that doesn’t mean “People crave jail”.

So yeah…. Technically, dogs need structure.

But, you have to realize WHY you’re doing it.

You’re doing it to take a dog that has NO maturity, self esteem, or confidence….. And you’re teaching them how to GET those things. When they are more skillful, you can relax some of the structure. But, you still have to provide clarity!

Dogs (or people for that matter) don’t crave “structure”. They crave clarity. They crave self efficacy.

You use structure skillfully to get them there.

But, please…. Let go of the “dogs are meant to be followers”, They “crave” dominance” and “structure”.

Your understanding of that can have a huge impact on your relationship with your dog.



No Cookie For You!

What’s it say about dog training, when I write an article about dogs meditating, it gets a few hundred views, and a couple of shares.

But, when I write about choke chains, it gets more views than anything else I’ve written. It gets shared to tons of places. Gets discussed all over the place. And not in a good way. In a “look what this asshole said” way.

It’s just like when you’re training dogs. You do something to have one result, and end up causing something entirely different.

You chastise your dog for being sketchy towards a person because you don’t want them doing it again…..

And they like people less, because they keep getting in trouble when they come around.

Boom….. Cobra Effect.

(I know, I did that too.)

I know that the people that respond with such vitriol are trying to change the world of dog training for the better. They are sticking up for the humaneness. The kindness. The “positivity”, of the process. They want to get away from all the brutality and dominance they see in the dog training world.

And that’s an amazing gesture. One that I totally support, by the way.

Here’s the rub…..Most people who write want people to read. They (even if subconsciously) write what gets more traffic. Well, all you people that are trying to stamp out the negative methods, are giving people like me the encouragement to write more “negative” stuff.

It’s funny. If only all you “Purely Positive” people could treat writers like me like you treat dogs…..

I’m getting all sticks. and no carrots.

What happened to the principle of ignore what you don’t like, reward what you do?

How come when someone writes a “boo, hiss” response and shares the article 3 times on other forums, driving emails my way, they don’t make sure they respond on the few articles where I may show a glimmer of humanity?

Surely, you can find something I’m saying worth encouraging, no?

Shit a broken clock is right twice a day.



Nope, I get only punishment. No reward.

Fortunately, I’m not a readership based guy. This blog is for me to form my thoughts, so I just say whatever the hell starts to come out of my brain. (sort of like real life). So, I will continue write the useless, non-readership building, love, kindness, and commitment to dogs stuff (I mean what could be more “fairy farts and rainbows” than a god damn dogs meditating as rehabilitation article?!). In spite of the fact that you people are trying as hard as you can to encourage me to write more “choke chain” type articles.

Next time you want to shit on an article, maybe read the rest of their stuff, and see who they are. Maybe encourage them in the articles that aren’t demonic. Shit you give a dog a cookie for looking toward the placeboard if you’re trying to shape behavior. Maybe throw a “nice article”, “more like this”, or “I knew you had it in you” occasionally. You might have an effect. Or at least closer to the effect you’re looking for.


Winter Survival Gear: Mushers Wax


This winter is clearly shaping up to be a rough one here in Maine, so during this little vacation we’re on we thought we’d post some of the stuff we use to help us keep our pups (and ourselves) active during these cold months. We’d love to hear about some of the stuff you guys have had success with also so make sure you share your comments! First off for us exercise is an absolute deal breaker. If we don’t have this stuff when the temperature drops, the snow starts falling and the chemicals and salt starts hitting the road we are out of luck. We use this stuff, to keep them on the road.


What we’re talking about is Mushers Wax!! This stuff is not difficult to put on (depending on the dog of course) and will turn what would have been a ten minute dash into a four mile walk. You can find it at pretty much any pet store so give it a try and let us know if it helped.

Managing Holidays With Your “Bad” Dog.

Here comes the holidays.

And for people with dogs…… That means getting ready for the headaches.

Guests. Decorations. Strange sounds. Crazy emotions. Dancing. Fistfights. (Well…. Maybe that was just my house.)

I was once told that “We get dogs to have a friend. We hire dog trainers to make our friends not act like assholes.”

Here’s how to make your dog stop being an asshole, in just two easy steps! And, Just in time for the Holidays!

I’ll lay out the plan:

Step 1:

Wake up a tad early, and take the dog out for a good long roadwork session. What kind of walk? A “Cesar Millan” close heel? Nope. A good exploration. I like to use a long line (NOT A FLEXI! I’ll get into that another time) to allow them access to a lot of room to explore their world. This is a HUGE stress reducer for most dogs. And their behavior reflects it. Now, Just to be clear….. I’m not saying let your dog run crazy! There are rules. They have to “Wait for me”, “Come with me”, “Come to me”, and “Excuse me”.

“Wait for me” means, no pulling. We’ll get there, just don’t pull.

“Come with me” means I pick the direction and timing of the walk. You have 300 sq ft to roam around as long as you stay in my vicinity.

“Come to me”, means come when called.

And, “Excuse me” means, don’t block my path. One of my mentors, Chad Mackin, turned me onto an article written by one of his mentors, Dick Russel, that suggests this one piece alone is an important method all by itself.

A good long walk like this will give your dog great exercise, and help them relax. But, more importantly, it is a huge stress reliever for them. They get to just explore with you. They get to enjoy a ton of freedom, provided they follow these simple rules. The leash turns into a communication device, instead of a restraint.

Do this walk, and you’ll have a tired, satisfied dog. ready for a break.


Step 2:


In case you’re not familiar with it…… The place command is when you tell your dog to get in their bed and they stay there and chill out until you release them.

Yep, this is the one that takes preparation. If your dog doesn’t have that skill, it’s not to late to get it in time for Christmas!

But you have to start NOW!!!

If you’re in Maine come check us out at Finish Forward!

If not, Google “place command” and see if you can find something useful.

But, no matter how you get them to learn it….. It’s a game changer. Not only are they in a predictable spot, and not knocking every ornament off your Christmas tree. But, it really goes much deeper than that. For them to be ABLE to stay in their spot, they have to have some self control. They have to be able to stay calm, even through temptations. Now, that is good for your ability to manage them. But, honestly, it’s really just good for them to have that kind of emotional control. Dogs are cute wound up, and playing…. But…. For their own sanity, and health, they really should be ABLE to bring it down for a bit. A long “stay” is a great way to develop those skills. Now, I chose “Place” and not a “Down” because I’m waaaaay more concerned with geographic location, and emotional state than a particular position. The “Place command allows them to stand up. Stretch. Circle around. Whatever. Just stay on the bed, and stay cool. Now, they don’t have to stay there forever. But, if they are getting a little to amped, or are getting to under foot. I’ll put them in their bed for a while, and when they are in a better frame of mind, I will release them. I won’t try to keep them there all day. But it’s nice to have it, when you need it.

Waiting their turn!
My crew working their “Bed” at the school.

So, to recap:

1. Long walk, with lot’s of freedom, and good communication.

2. “Place” command when the dog needs to take a break.

Boom…. There you have it. Lassie in two steps.

Guess, what.

This isn’t just for the Holidays.


Look, if you do these things, you’ll have Lassie all the time. To me this isn’t just how to manage a holiday. This would be my “Companion Dog” program.

Yeah, you won’t win a trophy.

Sure, they don’t know “heel”, or “front”.


You’ll have a well exercised, non frustrated, happy, content dog. One that walks well on the leash. Comes when called. Respects your space. And, can sit on their bed under your table at the sidewalk cafe.

And honestly…. isn’t that what you were looking for when you daydreamed of a dog.

“What gives you the right?”

“What gives you the right?”

If you train your dog in public, you’ll hear this at some point.

And as my mentor said “It’s not your right…… It’s your responsibility!

See, we built this world up around them, that they have no possible chance of navigating without our help.

We domesticated them. The very word means that they need a home. They NEED our care.

And that means, that if we put them is this crazy world, it’s our job to help them navigate it. We have to be their guides. To guide someone, they have to follow us. And if we expect them to follow us we have to lead them.

That’s why we have to teach them obedience. Not for entertainment. Not to show off our superiority.

The leash helps them not get run over by a car. A recall gets them back to you and out of the road, or your neighbor’s yard. A down stay lets you take them to the coffee shop with you. Otherwise they get stuck at the house again. Do you know how many dogs live in a 1000 sq ft radius their entire life? They stay home because they’re just too much to deal with. Or maybe their owners join the 2 am dog walking club. Or just surrender them, cause it’s just too much.

My dogs have a pretty awesome life. They can go sit at my feet while I have coffee outside. They can walk in the park with me. When I go teach a seminar, they get to hang out on their bed while I teach. They go EVERYWHERE with me.

And that is ONLY because they have obedience.

Their obedience gives them their freedom. It’s like the rules we follow when driving gives us the freedom to take a road trip if we want to.

Their ability to understand human rules, and make good choices, gives them a life most dogs will never have.

That’s not my dominion over them.

That’s my greatest gift to them.

Freedom and autonomy are the greatest reward we can give our dogs.

Give them training, to give them freedom.

It’s not your “right” to teach them “commands”……It’s your responsibility!

Keep Your F**cking Dog On A Leash!!!!!

I am so unbelievably tired of people in public with their dogs off leash.


What the hell is wrong with them? Don’t they know there are cars, squirrels, cats, and MY F**KING DOGS out there!?!?!?

Here’s where this rant is coming from.


That’s my face. Got one on the back of my leg, and my arm…… But that one was the good one.

I took my dogs out for their morning exercise, which today happened to be pulling a scooter. And as we round the round the first corner, we see a lady walking 3 dogs of her own. No Problem. I’ve never seen her or her dogs before, so we head out in the other direction.

This is a necessary part of having dogs that react poorly to aggression. I can have them in a down next to a strange dog if that dog is controlled. But, if that dog is acting sketchy……. They’ll react. So, as I’m trying to set them up for success, I avoid situations, that I’m not sure they have a good chance of doing well.

That said, I took my dogs and left. Or at least I tried to. That’s when I heard “No! Come back here!”. I look over my shoulder and see the dogs coming at us….Yep…… Off leash.

Her dogs proceeded to run in a circle snapping at my dogs. Which of course gets them wired as hell. Now because they’re on a tow line in harnesses, they proceed to get completely tangled. Which in the presence of the other dogs instigating a fight, causes them to redirect on each other.

Now, this took about two seconds to happen. My dogs are fighting while tied together. Great. I have to get in end try to separate them, which is VERY difficult to do, with three dogs fighting tied together and three other dogs, nipping and running around our mess.

So….. I catch a bite from one of mine, as I’m trying to untangle them. It wasn’t re-direction. He just didn’t know who he was biting. I was laying on top of him, and trying to use my hands to untangle his line, and ward of the dogs, who were biting at him from any exposed parts.  This is when I got the bites on the backs of my legs and arms from the loose dogs. My dog had already been hurt and was just biting anything he could. He got a grip on my face, but he outed on command. I just don’t think he knew it was me. This isn’t unheard of in trying to break up multi-dog fights.

Now, to give you the real picture… As this debacle is occurring, the lady is standing their WATCHING. And saying shit like, “Are, you OK?”, “You need help?”. And I’m just yelling at her to get her dogs and get the hell away from me. She doesn’t.

I have to wait for people to literally pull over on the side of the road, and shoo the other dogs away. That gave me the drop in intensity I needed to separate my dogs.

The people that pulled over were very cool. Partly because they could see the other lady/dogs had caused it. And, partly because they see me every day, as we run, walk, and pull dogs. They know we are good people, and handle our dogs with great care and responsibility.

None of them were scared of our dogs. And these, essentially, strangers all helped me out. One couple took one of the more injured dogs, and drove them back to my house. I walked the two less injured dogs back to the house. This happened about two blocks from my home, BTW. One guy, walked my scooter back with us. And, still another, gathered up my wool cap, glasses, and gloves that had come off in the scuffle.

To those people, I can say I am tremendously grateful for their courage, help, and understanding. I really don’t know what I would’ve done if they hadn’t run the other dogs off.

Anyway…… Things to take from this:


2. Be hyper aware that there are idiots with ill behaved off leashed dogs literally everywhere. Your vigilance can’t be limited to dog parks and other “typical” off leash areas. This can happen literally outside your door.  And even though we’ve run these same exact streets for about 10 years, you can’t get complacent. This person may be visiting, or god forbid have moved here. No assumptions!

3.  Although pack walks are super cool……. This is the downside. I have to treat my walks with my own dogs, with the same kind of hyper cautiousness that I take with other peoples dogs. No more group walks. At least until we get enough acreage to do it without leaving our “compound”.

4. Even though my first response to this is to just solidify the fact that I hate people…… It actually gave me a few reasons to think that there may be a few good ones left after all.


Dogs Are Crazy Super Fans

I like to use analogies when I learn. When I teach martial arts, I go to the analogy “well” quite a bit! I think they help everyone learn, not just me.

So, one I came up with for understanding how some problems develop in dogs, is…….

“The Super Fan!”


None of the dog trainers that I’ve told it to, like it. Here’s why:

They see the balance of power in the human dog relationship all out of whack. The dog runs the show. The dog chooses everything. Which couch is it’s. When this obedience nonsense will be happening. When you pet them. And it goes on and on.

One dog trainer I knew, described it as the dog having YOU trained. He was fond of saying “Open the door, Monkey.”, “Pet me Monkey.”, etc, etc…… He had a million of them. And they were totally accurate. And, they were really hard to hear. I watched that dude pitch that line to a lot of people, and I never saw anyone not struggle with the implication that their dog didn’t care about them. That the relationship that they imagined with their dog didn’t exist. That their dog was a cool, economist, who was only tolerating “the Monkey” because of the payouts it was getting. It feels like they’re implying that the dog doesn’t love you at all. They seem to imply you’re being deluded into servicing this animal.

They don’t like the super fan analogy because to them, it seems, like the rock star is in control of the relationship. One trainer said to me “The rock star can walk in the room and say do this, and the fan will drop everything, and do that.” That seems right….. On the surface anyway. But if you look closer, you’ll understand my point. If a famous country singer walked into his fan club, and in all seriousness, asked them to dress and act like gangster rappers…… I bet they wouldn’t be quite so in love with him anymore. So really fans are pumped to drop everything and do what you want, IF you want something they understand, enjoy, and agree with. Sounds like most dog’s obedience, doesn’t it?

See, fans are actually fickle as hell. Many a star has kept some aspect of their lives a secret for fear they would lose all their fans. They are careful to craft their PR very carefully, just to stay in their fans good graces.

So, if we look deeply, you’ll see the analogy is quite accurate:

You want to be a rock star. So, you behave certain ways to attract fans to you. and it works, they love you. They follow you around. They stop seeing you as a person, and just start to obsess over you. They develop an unhealthy lopsided relationship with you. You have to hire security. You have to change your behavior to stay out of their site. Disguises. Avoid your favorite places. etc…. Next thing you know, they’re mailing you hate mail, and tearing out your hair when they run past.

Doesn’t sound like you’re much in control. Weird. You’re the rock star. But you do everything you do to keep your fans in love with you, all while managing the huge pain in the ass having them has become.


Hmmmm……. Sounds like your average dog owner.

Wanted a dog for the sense of love and companionship. Get the dog, and just lather it with love and anything that may make them like you more. And it works. They love laying on top of you on the couch. And they love the way you pet them when they ask. They love how you’ll give them food if they stare at you. And, all the toys you leave out for them. And they love how you respond to their bark right away if they do it just right.

Some of them really get the obsession going, and really feel like they need to be attached to you. And you get the dogs that have separation anxiety. And, the dogs that are crazy jealous and possessive.

You end up with a dog who loves you deeply. It’s just that the relationship is not balanced or healthy for them…. Or you.

To fix it, you have to do the same thing. You have to get past the superficial part of the relationship. You have to set healthy boundaries. You have to teach them to see you as a real person. You have to develop an ACTUAL relationship.

That means learning how to really relate to them. To see and understand them for who they are, not just what they can do for you. And to teach them who you really are, so they can see you for more than just what you can do for them. You have to share experiences, and develop trust.

Maybe then, you won’t be the Beatles, you’ll just be you. And they won’t be the nutty super fan. They’ll just be them.

Maybe. you could get rid of your bodyguards, and go for a walk in the neighborhood again.