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Sully: Making Big Strides

Sully has come a long way from where he was when I first met him. will be ready for CGC soon!


Not bad for a rescue with a bite history! Nice work Sully!!!!!!!


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.