Tag Archives: anxious dog

Screw Yellow….. Get A Muzzle?

By now, you’ve all seen the “Yellow Dog Project“.

You know…. The yellow paraphernalia that indicates your dog needs space.


At first I thought this was a good idea. You know, very polite way of saying, “please don’t molest my dog”.

The problem that I find developing, is two fold:

1. Most “non-dog” people won’t know what the hell it is. And let’s face it….. the less “dog-people” they are, the more likely they are to to molest, this, now, “cutely adorned” pup. OK, that’s obvious. That’s the YDP’s mission right now. Spread the word. Fine.

2. Here’s the “Cobra Effect” for this particular conundrum: IF people DO learn about the YDP….. They will naturally assume that dogs without yellow are OK to molest! Think about it….. Your talking to someone. You’ve worked for MONTHS to get your troubled little mutt well behaved enough to be out in public. They are in a down stay, on a 3 ft leash. Out of nowhere, someone decides your cute dog “needs a kiss”. Goes into a pushup in your dogs grill…… And gets “bit” (don’t get me started on what constitutes a “bite” I’ll do that in another post). “WTF……! Why didn’t you have YELLOW on that dog? I would have never done that if I knew he was sketchy?!?!”.

And that right there is the problem. The YDP is inadvertently perpetuating the “Lassie Myth”. You know…. Every dog is Lassie. Awesome, and loving, and friendly. Every dog, just CAN’T WAIT to be hugged and caressed by every person they see. Well, every good dog. Except for the really F**ked up ones. And they should never go out of their house. Well, at least without yellow on so good people know to avoid them.

Son. Of. A. Bitch.

Why do I have to put a symbol on my dog to alert you to the fact that I’d prefer you not invade their space without my knowledge or permission. How ’bout you don’t molest other beings without invitation as a general rule? Or, if you’re one of those “animals are property, and not autonomous beings” folks….. How ’bout you don’t touch MY shit without asking!?

Really….. Is that too much to ask?

Look, I’m not trying to blast YDP. Honestly, I applaud them for trying to help the “non Lassie” dogs of the world. I don’t have a better idea, or I’d be promoting THAT.

I’m wrestling with this issue myself RIGHT NOW.

One of our dogs, is a naturally HYPER dog. And he thinks the best way to show affection is to press his face into yours as hard as he can. Which, wouldn’t really be a problem if he did it slow. But….. Stupid, doesn’t do ANYTHING slow. And so some would call this more of a “muzzle punch” than a kiss. We know this is problematic. We are working with him with professionals. He is NOT allowed unsupervised around unapproved people. And anyone that is allowed inside his 3 ft leash radius is warned, and guarded. The problem is with that pesky word “allowed”. See, I can’t stop people from invading his space. I mean I “can” (remind me to tell the story about me pushing an old woman into a display of cat food at a PetCo), but I can’t catch everyone, ALL the time.

That example I gave earlier, was not made up. In fact….. What actually happened was even more ridiculous. I had to take our little hyper ball to the vet to have a bandage removed and staples replaced in his leg. And I KNOW he’s problematic. So, I ask for him to be sedated to get through this as easily as possible. They say no. After wrestlefucking the bandage off and seeing his level of stupidity, they agreed to sedate. Vet returns with a tech, and all the gear. We put on the local, and are waiting for it to work, when the vet just puts in a staple. All hell breaks loose. After wrestling my now CRAZY dog into submission. I ask what happened to the sedative. “Oops….. Forgot…… Most dogs don’t need that.” “Should we sedate him now?”. Screw it. Just staple him. He’s already pissed, lets just get it done. Three staples later….. My dog is WOUND. I mean, no exercise for a week, in pain, traumatic experience at the vet WOUND THE F**CK UP. When we get done. I IMMEDIATELY take my dog to the other side of the room and start running obedience to get his brain back on me. It works. About a minute or two, and he’s back. I go back over to the vet. Put him in a down And hold my 3 ft leash. As I’m discussing aftercare with the vet….. The tech decides my dog needed a kiss, after doing so well. Seriously. She really did. Of course he punches the holy shit out of her. I correct the hell out of him, and re-down him. He holds it. Of course he cut her. Muzzle punches do make teeth contact many times. Whatever. According to the vet, the tech, and unfortunately the law….. My dog just “attacked a person, and bit their face”.

This puts me in a prolonged discussion with my local Animal Control Officer. Who has to inform me that my dog now has a “bite history”. And as I describe the incident, he acknowledges that the circumstances suck. He tells me the only thing I could have done better was to have my dog in a muzzle. I explain that a muzzle wouldn’t have done anything. He still would’ve punched her. Probably still cut her. Hell if he’d have had a “basket/metal” muzzle on, it would’ve been WAAAAY worse. It was at that point he enlightened me. See, the muzzle isn’t for the protection of the people. It’s FOR THE DOG! 90% of the bites this guy sees are from dogs that are PHYSICALLY UNDER CONTROL, that someone WITHOUT PERMISSION tries to kiss/pet. The muzzle prevents that. No one wants to pet the dog with a muzzle. Hell, no one wants to be near a dog in a muzzle. This ACO, actually told me “you CANNOT stop people from touching your dog without permission. So if your dog even has a chance of reacting poorly to a kiss from a stranger….. Either, don’t take them out in public to avoid it. Or muzzle them so no one will approach”.

Screw the Yellow Dog Project….. Just muzzle them.

He’s right. I usually have to ask people not to approach my little problem dog, and it’s hard. Cause he’s so damn cute. Last time I took him in to the vet for his “bite quarantine” follow up. he was muzzled because they required it. And you know what….. No one wanted to pet him. Hell one guy literally stood up on the bench to avoid him. A kid started crying because she was scared. Awesome.

So much for elevating the opinion of the breed.

What are we teaching people?

I know this will never work, cause people suck…..

But couldn’t we try, just not screwing with beings or property without invitation?

Probably not.

I’ll just get all our dogs muzzles.

And one for me too. Since honestly it would be really convenient for people to just avoid me too.

Wow. I may have just created the perfect social tactic. Next time you’re in a bar, and don’t want to get hit on, or on the bus, and don’t want to socialize…..

Just break out your Hannible Lecter muzzle, and enjoy the privacy.


But just to be sure…. I’m gonna put a yellow ribbon on mine.

Can’t be too careful.

Leash Rant Revisited.

OK, when you’re REALLY, REALLY pissed about something, you have to stop and look at it and figure out, is my anger completely righteous,  or, did I contribute to it, and that’s why I’m so mad? Well, I was good and pissed. So, naturally the next part of the process was introspection. Mad, is only a good thing, if it creates drive to solve the problem that is pissing you off. Just MAD…… That’s just a waste. Just drama.

So, in that light, I’ve given my incident lots of thought. And, I’ve tried to not just blame it on the other people (my first reaction). I tried to see how I could have done better. Aside from having my dogs so well trained that I can get a down in motion and not have them break while being goaded by an aggressive dog from an inch away, thus allowing me to run the offending dogs away…….
Here’s where I think I really screwed up. I wasn’t running neck lines on their rigs, because I was letting them have a more relaxed tempo. Neck lines are lines that hook collars to the tow line, so if a dog on the team starts to lag, or drift it keeps them in line. But just making the rounds by my house, and not being around other dogs, I don’t use them. This allows one to drift a tad, or drop back for a second. Just a bit less “strict”. Now neck lines per se, wouldn’t have helped with the fight, but it would’ve necessitated collars and collars would have! But, I didn’t have them on. Just their harnesses. :(
When I take my dogs around other dogs, I always have a slip (or at least a flat) collar on them, just in case shit hits the fan, I can adjust their oxygen, and stop things if I need to. But, I ASSUMED based on a decade of running dogs on this route, that I wouldn’t see anything. So, no collars. Would’ve been the only tool to help in that situation. My two redirected and got tangled with each other. I could’ve ended it quickly, and begin untangling. Repeated as necessary, until they stopped initiating, or I got them untangled and could adjust distance, and bring out of drive, and work my way back to them sitting controlled with each other. Certainly would’ve stopped my bites from the breaking up my two. And probably would’ve avoided the bites from the loose dogs as well, If I were standing tall, and obviously controlling, they most likely wouldn’t have run in for their cheap shots. Certainly would’ve minimized the damage they did to each other, and reduced the time.
But, I didn’t. I assumed.
Lesson learned:

1. Always, always, always, use the gear that would work if EVERYTHING went wrong. Never assume.
I’m the asshole that didn’t put his seat belt on, because “I won’t crash”.
Won’t make that mistake again. Even if you decide on your gear, and strategy. The walking stick/spray deterrent/slip collar/etc….. won’t work if you don’t bring it. :oops:
Maybe someone can learn that from this, without getting a hole in their own face.

2. Working on a variation of a neck line that is rigid. Prototype will probably be PVC over a normal neck line. but will eventually be more sturdy that that. This would allow me to take dogs on a pull, and insure that they CAN’T redirect. Well, they technically “could” redirect, but they couldn’t engage. And that’s gonna make it easier to deal with. I’ll keep you posted, if I come up with something useful!

Really, it all boils down to what you learned as a kid. Be prepared. If something makes you mad, figure it out. Don’t just be mad.



Michael Ellis Speaks The Truth!

Man, I like Michael Ellis. Very balanced trainer. Very, very clear instruction. Solid science behind his methods. Tries like hell to use softer, enjoyable methods, but understands that “corrections” must be used in some situations. Still, attempts to use them as little as possible. And this is on SUPER high drive performance dogs that are VERY hard to manage.

But, mostly I dig his honesty. He is one of the most honest trainers I’ve ever seen. If you’re unfamiliar with him, watch this clip. It is only 5 minutes long, but gives a real solid example of why I like him. And for a short clip it delivers a surprising amount of info!

Check it out HERE.

Hang In There!

We’ve always gravitated towards the difficult dogs. So, we’ve had our fair share of issues. We’re in the middle of one right now.

Jax (our newest addition), is just reaching his new home crescendo. He’s been here long enough, and developed enough confidence to really open up and be a shithead. For example, when he first arrived, a sound may have made him shrink, because he didn’t know where he was, who he was surrounded by, or what he was supposed to do. This is made worse by the fact that he didn’t live in a house before, and life on a chain is pretty devoid of decisions. Fast forward a few months, and he’s more confident in himself, and more sure that he belongs here. Awesome. But the problem is, that has grown a LOT faster than his impulse control. Not awesome. So now, when we’re all lying around watching a movie, and he hears a noise…….. Super Jax; Defender Of The Home, springs into a fit of barking and trampling dogs to get to whatever he thought he heard. This of course, does not go over well with the rest of the crew. And, they are not amused. And let me tell you, a 5 way dog fight is a scosche stressful. Well, it’s only 3 really. Bella, looks shocked, and sits in a corner. Emma (our 14 year old Chow/Healer mix, and only non-Bully), just screams and nips and retreats. But Jax, Mabel, and Milo…… They are in it. Now, we’re working through it. Jax gets kenneled in the living room during what seems to be the problematic couple of evening hours. We’re working on his impulse control, and holding positions under distractions. Improved impulse control will help him not go to level 10 when reacting to things. And, if he has good positional control, he will hold his “Down”, or whatever, even if he wants to go see what the noise was. This will translate into Jax being able to hold a down in the room, instead of being kenneled. Once he can see that there’s no need to jump, and the rest of the pack can see he’s not insane, it’ll settle down. Add some age and maturity to the mix, and in 6 months to a year, we have a totally relaxed, free roaming group.

But, 6 months….. A year. ugh.

Listen, I’m not telling you this to complain. This is not a FML post. I am not in need of sympathy.

I tell you this because,, last night I was talking to a dog trainer who was telling me about their similar situation. And then, someone else jumped in and told their story. And, it was nice. Nice to hear that it’s not just me, or “my” dog. This happens to a lot of people. And, with education, hard work, and a never quit attitude…… They work through it.

Looking back, I can see so many dog situations we lived with that we thought would NEVER resolve. Things that were like “I don’t think we can handle this”. But all of them did. And not just a “lock one in the bedroom” kind of thing. Everyone, EVENTUALLY, had dogs that could chill out together and hang out with the family.

When I realized how uplifting it was to hear that other people were fighting my same battle AND WINNING, it made me feel a little comfort. I knew I had to share my story here. Hopefully, someone who’s “holding on” in their own situation will see this, and get a little second wind.

Make sure all your bases are covered. Get educated, so you understand the problem. Get help making a plan that you understand, and believe in. DO THE PLAN.

And, just hang on.

It WILL work.

Tough New Years Day

In the spirit of making you feel better about your situation…. I thought I’d share our monster of a New Years Day.

Awaiting the “New Year”, we have a lapse in attention of our newest member of the Bully crew. Jackson is still learning house manners, and will absolutely flip out at unexpected sounds late at night. Of course, when he does that, it can set off a scuffle, if I’m not right on top of it. Of course, I wasn’t. So at approximately 11:55, we ring in the new year with a dog fight. Ugh.

Not the end of the world. We’re pretty experienced with these things. Within a few minutes, we have it all back under control. No injuries. No lasting grudges. The pack is peaceful shortly after. But….. Bummer way to ring in the year.

So…. Later that morning I have 3 of the 4 pups in the truck, running errands. Beautiful day. Lovely drive. The day was starting to look up. Until, a sheet of icy snow flipped off the vehicle in front of me and smashed into my windshield. This scared the holy shit out of all of us. I did manage to not drive off the road…. So there’s that. And even though there was no scuffle because of the scare…. It made everyone pretty freaked out. So, no damage… But seeming like one of those days.

Like I said, I had 3 of the 4. My wife had the 4th. She was salvaging the stressful day by hanging out at her moms. Of course, when she let our dog out to pee….. He see’s a deer just outside the yard. Of course, he goes smashing out of the yard and through the woods behind their property. Oh, did I mention this was just before dark….. And it’s the coldest night we’ve had all winter.

Now, we have these Garmin GPS collars:


They are awesome! They show you real time, where the dogs are on a gps unit. You can track them. You can go get them if you need to. The new models have a tone, that you can recall them with. You can track up to ten dogs. They are really amazing tools if you’re gonna be in the woods. The sense of confidence, and comfort they give you are really phenomenal…..

Yes, they’re expensive. But the piece of mind they give is worth it. That’s why we have one for each dog.

Of course, the downside to these things are….. YOU MUST PUT THEM ON THE DOG!

Son. Of. A. Bitch.

Yep. Since Mandy was just letting him out the back door to pee, and NOT going on a woodland excursion…. he was just wearing his house collar.

So, three hours  or so later as they scour the woods in arctic gear and finally go back to the house….. Milo (the little escapee) is sitting at the back door, just waiting to be let back in.

He was a little cut up from the chase, but nothing significant.

It’s about 9pm now, and I think we may be done with this “New Years Day From Hell”.

Now, lest you think I’m just whining, I’m not.

I like to think I have some of the tenacity of these dogs. It takes more than one shit day to stop me in my tracks!

I’m not telling you this to bitch. I’m telling you because this is a blog for people with “difficult” dogs.

“Difficult” dogs come with days like these. Maybe this will make you feel like your day wasn’t quite so bad.

Maybe, seeing someone else have a fiasco, and not completely shut down, makes it easier for you to keep your head up with nightmare New Year story.

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.

Happy Holidays

Whatever you celebrate…… Enjoy it!

A lot of people are either having guests over. Or are leaving their pets at home for longer than usual while they go somewhere. If you have a “difficult” dog, this can be daunting. I’m very familiar with the urge to cancel holiday plans because it just doesn’t seem worth the “dog” issues. But, over the years, I’ve learned how to manage things better. Hopefully some of these will help.

Some holiday tips:

1. The obligatory training/lifestyle suggestion.  Yeah, if you don’t have this base already covered, it’s not gonna help for tomorrow…. But, I’d be misleading if I didn’t suggest it helps EVERYTHING. It is a HUGE part of the equation. Like 2 thirds. Lifestyle, “Pack Structure”, or how you live with you dogs, is 1 third. Obedience training is the second third.  But, like I said. This can’t be done in a day…. So not really helpful if you’re staring down the x-mas barrel. But, for next year!!!

2. Exercise. It doesn’t fix everything. But it sure helps manage things. It is the other 3rd of the equation for a good dog. But, more importantly, it’s one of the only “short term”, “immediate” fixes.  It sure is hard for dogs to be annoying when they’re worn out. So, before you leave them for the day, or have people over….. Plan a little extra time, and WEAR THEM OUT!!!!

3. Crates.Obviously, if you leave them. But, they can be great for when guests come over.  Crates, are a great way for dogs to be WITH everyone. If you’re little difficult one, is weird with people, or just hyper, you can put a crate in the room where everyone is. They get to be “with” everyone, but not bother everyone so much. Yes, they’ll probably freak out for a sec. But usually, they settle down. They get to be there, but not ruin the day.

4. Enforce the rules. On your dog; if they don’t normally beg food, don’t let them “just today”. If they normally sit before being invited onto the couch, just cause it’s Festivus, doesn’t change anything. But honestly, and I think more importantly, enforce the rules on your guests. Yes, it’s it’s gonna be annoying. Yes, people will be irritated. But, if you let people act differently, your dog will see, and they will act differently. For some that just means after the guests leave, you’re dog may take a few annoying hours to get back on the program. For some of us, that means, HUGE protesting when we try to re-instate the rules. And for some, that means the inconsistency means your dog slides back into fearfulness, or aggression, and now your back in a world of shit. Make sure that if you’re gonna put your dogs in that situation….. do what’s right for them, NO MATTER WHAT. Otherwise, leave them home, or in their crate.

5. If you leave them crated for way longer than normal. leave them something interesting to do. That may take up the first part of time at least. Puzzle/treat toys. Meaty bones. Or my new favorite…. A Kong filled with peanut butter that’s been frozen. That one takes a WHILE. Helps pass the time, and release a little frustration.

6. If they didn’t get the privilege of being loose, you’re obviously not looking forward to “Releasing The Krackens” when you are done. Step 1- don’t come in and make a thing about it. You’re guilt, excitement, whatever, is just gonna get them tripped out worse. Just walk in AND IGNORE THEM. as soon as they start to settle down (yes it will seem like forever) get them out and WEAR THEM OUT again. They’re gonna need to dump that energy to not be completely annoying. Then, get right back to your normal structure ASAP.

Hope that helps some of you.

Happy Holidays!

Can’t Make An Omelet Without…….

I’ve dedicated a ton of energy over the past 2 decades to change the public perception of the vastly misunderstood American Pit Bull Terrier.

I’ve been responsible for changing the mind of countless people. I’ve personally been credited with a dozen or so adoptions that would NOT have gone with a Bully breed, had they not met my dogs.

And yet…….

Just the other day, I totally validated a persons irrational fear of these dogs.

I am rehabilitating/socializing  a new rescue right now. He lived on a chain for a year and a half. He had ZERO manners. He’s not in any way aggressive….. But he will jump from the floor literally on top of your head in order to kiss you WAAAAY to energetically. And, when he’s all pumped up, he will bite your sleeve, lay down and alligator roll, all with that huge, stupid Bully smile.

Clearly, this is not acceptable behavior. But it’s not “dangerous”, or “aggressive”. I am determined to fix it, and give this dog a second chance. I WILL make him a breed ambassador.


It will be impossible to do that without pissing a few people off. It is literally impossible. There are some people who have it out for dogs, or that breed in particular, and are just waiting for proof. It is impossible not to give them ammunition. I mean, for you to change their mind, you have to have a BOMBPROOF dog. They have to have perfect obedience, and sit right at your side, just waiting for you to ask them which well Johnny fell down.

Sweet, give a few months and I’ll have that. But right now….. Right now, he’s working on it. Cool, peoples answer is to not take them out in public until they are perfect. Problem is….. You can’t get them perfect till you take them out in public! You have to work on a skill, and nail it. Then, add distractions. Then, TAKE THEM OUT INTO THE REAL WORLD. Know what? They will at some point screw up, and lose their manners. THAT’S HOW YOU MAKE THEM BOMBPROOF.

And this is one of the MAJOR hurdles people have to getting their dogs past the “Good in my house, but nuts in public” issue. People are scared of what others may think of them (or their dog/breed). So they don’t take their dogs out in public. And their dogs never get to become those awesome ambassadors they could be. The less dogs that are bombproof, the more validation people have. It’s a never ending catch 22. By trying to not look bad in front of people…. You are doomed to looking bad in front of people for the life of your dog. By insisting you never make a bad impression of your breed, you reduce the number of ambassadors on the street, keeping the average impression low.

If you have a dog in your charge, you have to think more about what’s best for them, than you do anything else.

People will be pissed when you’re teaching your dog impulse control and out of nowhere they get crazy and start barking. They’ll say “why would you bring them here?”. People will be pissed when you say “Please don’t pet them. I’m working on her fear of strangers.”. They’ll say “why would you bring her her?”. The list goes on, and on.

My point is, you have to look first, at what’s best for your dog. Most likely, that’s getting past their issues, not hiding them and being embarrassed. Then, you have to look at the big picture. What’s best for the overall impression society has of dogs, is to show them BOMBPROOF dogs. Not hiding any dog with a problem, making the problem worse and reducing the good examples.

Makes me feel terrible that my dog tugged a guys sleeve. It was a huge handler error. I wasn’t watching his arousal level, because he’d been doing so well. Yes, I immediately, corrected him, and put him in a down while I apologized. Yes, while we I am explaining he’s learning manners, a child was playing 3 feet from us while he held his down. Yes, I allowed the kid to pet him, while he held the down (only to demonstrate his temperament, and show the earlier behavior was not uncontrollable). And no…. None of that made a difference. He was now sure all APBT’s are dangerous, and out of control. He is convinced that I am an irresponsible prick.

And yes, that makes me kind of sick to my stomach. Not that guys feelings, because he’s made up his mind already….. But, because he will now be able to badmouth these dogs, that I have tried so hard to help.

I just have to focus on all the good we’ve done. And will do for them in the future.

Anyway…. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from doing the right thing for your dog.

What’s that saying…… You can’t make an omelet, without making somebody angry.

Or, something like that.

Is Language Ruining Our Ability To Communicate?

We talk too damn much. Really……. That’s the point of this article.

I have two main interests. Dogs, and Martial Arts/Self-Defense. These seem ridiculously unrelated on the surface…. But, in reality, they aren’t. I’ll explain:

This is how I think animal communication goes. And yes…. Humans are animals.

1. Calming/Avoidance Signals

2.  Stillness

3. Pressure

4. Sound

5. Touch

6. Attack

It goes in that order as a continuum, unless the situation warrants jumping to a higher spot on the ladder.

Now, I’m clearly, only talking about the “conflict” aspect of communication. Because, when your goals are aligned, there’s no “need” for “good” communication. It’s like if you and someone else are both zealots of a certain political bent, you don’t have to have amazing communication to convince them of which way they should vote. But….. If you are of opposing viewpoints, and you want to change their position…… You’d better have some damn good communication!

Our problem is that we’ve become so specialized in language, that we’ve become dependent on it. Which is fine, if  you’re dealing with linguaphiles. But….. If you are dealing with a being that either doesn’t know language, doesn’t know your language, or is not “able” to be “civilized”…… You can’t afford to not have the rest of the continuum.

How does this effect our two subjects:

Self Defense:

Inexperienced people, will use calming signals like look aways, nervous laughs, hands up palms out, etc…. And if that doesn’t work, they go right to “Sound” and try to talk their way out of it. They just JUMP two ahead. If THAT doesn’t work…… They’re screwed. The likely hood that it will work is low, as prematurely running up the ladder is a sign of fear. Fear draws aggression. And when they ignore your “Sound”, and become more aggressive…… Most people have ZERO experience dealing with the “Touch” and “Attack” end of the continuum, so they are ineffective…… Or worse…… don’t even try. All just because they only have 2 of the 6 rungs on the ladder.

To fix this, you have to learn human body language to fill in the gaps in the “Stillness”, and “Pressure” categories. And, learn Brazilian JiuJitsu to take care of the “Touch”, and “Attack” categories. They are BOTH important! If you can fight well, you’re fine if you end up all the way at the end of the continuum……. But without the understanding of body language, you’re gonna start the whole process further up the ladder than is necessary. And it’s a damn slippery slope. The higher up the ladder you go, the more emotion there is. The more emotion there is, the more likely you are to escalate. A full understanding. of the ENTIRE continuum reduces your chances of conflict. Remember that….. You’ll see it again.


If you think people have a bad understanding of human body language, they have even less of canine body language! When dogs see us, they see a being who doesn’t communicate well at all. We ignore all the communication under level 4. We also only communicate at level 4 and above. To them we must seem like the body language version of “hard of hearing”. Here’s a typical example; you disapprove of something they’re doing…. With absolutely no “warning”, we say “NO” (“sound”), and if that doesn’t work, we punish (“Touch”) them. Hell, the only time we use anything less than level 4 with dogs, is when it’s a complete accident. Here’s the typical example of that; we want to approach a dog, but we don’t know how they’ll react. So we throw ZERO “calming signals”, cause we don’t understand canine versions of them. Then we stand still so we don’t scare them, accidentally throwing an escalation signal (“stillness”). Then, we walk straight at them (“pressure”), and bend over the top of them to pet them (more “pressure”). They don’t like any of this and we are rifling up the ladder. So, in an attempt to get ahead of us, they growl (“sound”), and we top them with yelling (more “sound”), or worse a correction (“touch”), and the only way the top us is with an “Attack”. This exact example happens damn near daily. It’s not an exaggeration.

And that’s not the only way it affects our life with dogs. They learn not to trust us. See, dogs throw levels 1-3 CONSTANTLY. To them, we just don’t seem to care. This seems small, but can lead to pretty significant problems. Here’s an example; Some ill mannered person (read above example) approaches you and your dog. If you knew anything, you could read all the signals of discomfort your dog is throwing, and ask them to stop. But, you don’t, so you didn’t, so they get bit.

And creating problems out in the world isn’t even the main problem. Dogs are pack animals. And most of them don’t really want the burden of being of being “Pack Leader” (yes I know that a played out term, but it works so shut up). But you leave them no choice. You don’t look like you’re listening to them, or are willing to address their concerns…… So, they say “fine” and handle business themselves. Look, I’m not saying that all problems are caused by “Pack Leadership” confusion. Sometimes, the problem is that you’ve trained them to be little extremists. They learn that you don’t pay attention to anything under level 4….. So EVERYTHING is level 4 and up. Like I said before….. A full understanding. of the ENTIRE continuum reduces your chances of conflict. Both between you and them, and them and the rest of the world!

Great, now that I’ve told how bad you are at everything…… What are you supposed to do about it?

1. Whichever one you’re interested in Dogs, or Self-Defense….. Study the body language of that species. Clearly, if you look at the links above, that’s doesn’t take a lot of digging. This is also one of the only times I recommend TV for anything. There are a million “dog” shows on TV showing “problematic” dogs. STUDY the dogs. IGNORE the commentary, and the leading music. Literally study the dogs. See if you can see the continuum unfold. For people study….. Watch movies. Actors are fake, but they are masters of creating effect. Turn of the volume, and see if you can see the body language play out. Yes…. I probably have too much time on my hands.

2- Spend some sessions working UNDER level 4. As in no touch, or sound. Get, your dog….. Or a willing (very patient) person…… And try to get them to do something that they have NEVER done before without using ANY language (including gestures, and mimicry), or touch . The action can be standing on a chair, or making a certain gesture. Nothing TOO crazy. But, you’ll be surprised at how freaking hard it is. A dog trainer I worked with once made me do this with a person, to get a better understanding of “Marker” training. It’s kind of like the “colder/warmer” game when you were a kid. It’s crazy challenging and will show you just how hamstrung we are by this gift of language we have.

3- Learning “touch” and above, you should really seek help from a professional. A dog trainer can show you how, when it’s utterly unavoidable, to correct (“touch”) properly.

And a martial arts instructor (preferably BJJ. Preferably me) can show you how to put hands on a human, if you blew every other part of the continuum.

Anyway, to sum it up…….

To get better at communicating with dogs, OR people.

Shut your mouth.