Tag Archives: canine exercise therapy

Blind Sled Dog!!!

Just in case you need some feel good motivation today…..

I give you a blind sled dog. What can you take from this?

A- Dogs are awesome.

B- Happy stories motivate.

C- The reason that you tell yourself why your dog “can’t” do awesome things is most likely invalid.

Check it out:

AP/ January 25, 2013, 9:34 AM

Blind sled dog thrives with brother’s help

Gonzo, a blind sled dog, and his brother and guide Poncho, run together at the Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H.

(Gonzo, a blind sled dog, and his brother and guide Poncho, run together at the Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, N.H.)

JEFFERSON, N.H. When Gonzo started tripping over his food dish three years ago, no one could explain or stop the Alaskan husky’s quickly advancing blindness. But a veterinarian offered some simple advice: “Run this dog.”

Blind sled dog aided by brother

Gonzo, one of 120 dogs at Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel, was happy to comply. With help from his brother, Poncho, he soon resumed his place pulling a sled all over New Hampshire’s North Country to the delight of tourists and his caretakers, who quickly realized that if Gonzo didn’t treat his blindness like an obstacle, neither would they. Given the dog’s obvious eagerness, he was allowed to continue on as usual.

“Even though he’s blind, he still knows when hook-ups are happening. He’s still very aware,” said kennel manager Ben Morehouse. “When you have a dog such as Gonzo, with such a want and a drive and a desire … you try it, you hook up, you see what happens.”

A frenzy of excited barking engulfs the kennel whenever Morehouse and other staffers haul out a sled. The chosen team is outfitted with harnesses and booties; those left behind scramble onto their doghouse roofs and howl. Gonzo and Poncho are lined up side-by-side, usually toward the back of the eight-member team — “brains to brawn” is how Morehouse describes the order.

(Gonzo, a blind sled dog, throws his head to the wind as part of a team of dog taking riders through the snows of New Hampshire.)

“A lot of people say everything about dog sledding is efficiency. Gonzo and Poncho are not the most efficient sled dogs out there. They won’t set a speed record, they won’t pull the most you’ve ever seen,” Morehouse said. “To be honest, they’re probably some of the goofiest dogs you can put in harness. But they’re just fun.”

Some dogs at the kennel, including Gonzo and Poncho, were born there. But it’s also home to what kennel owner Neil Beaulieu calls “second-chance” dogs — former professional sled dogs a bit past their prime — as well as dogs rescued from bad situations.


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.

Winter Fun

Here’s a collection of photos and a short video of an outing we just did during the first big snowfall of the season.

Amanda ran with Milo (65lb APBT) and Mabel (45lb APBT) on the kicksled. And I used Bella (75lb Alapaha), and Jax (50lb APBT) on my new Ski/Sliding snowshoe things.

What a blast.


(Jay going down!)

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!

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.

Canine Good Citizens

We took Milo and Mabel to the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test at Finish Forward Dogs, and they passed with FLYING COLORS!!!!
For Milo, it was no biggie. He’s kind of one of those easy dogs, that just does things well. He’s a bit of an overexcited greeter, but no fears. No aggression.
But…… Mabel, is a different story. Outright dog aggressive. People reactive. Food aggressive. Just a bad, bad dog (we love her anyway). We have worked on that little angel for a long time. This was one of those things that we saw a year ago and thought “There’s no way she could ever do that”. But, tonight, SHE DID!!!

She kicked ass. The evaluator said that she was perfect. All the people that were there, asked us why we had done the test, since they were obviously so well behaved.
Yeah, if they only knew!

Economics….. And Dogs?

First…. Just in case you don’t know…. Economics isn’t just the study of money, and it’s effect.

A great book called Freakonomics


convinced me to stop being nauseous at the though of economics.

Anyway… What the hell does this have to do with dogs?

Well, there’s a rule in Econ called the Rule Of Unintended Consequences. Yes, it’s pretty self explanatory. Although, the story people in Econ always go to is called The Cobra Effect. As the story goes……. In Delhi India, there was an epidemic in the overpopulation of Cobras. The government tried to solve the problem by paying citizens for any dead Cobra they turned in. Of course, this lead to people breeding them to turn them in for profit. And when the government found out, they canned the program. As soon as there was no reason to keep the snakes…… They were abandoned. Which of course caused the population of loose Cobras go UP.  So, the solution for getting rid of Cobras, increased them.

And so it goes with dogs. The things we do to train them, sometimes don’t do what we intended. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes, it’s horrible.

The reason this is on my mind, is because of my little Mabel. In our constant search for developmental things to do with our dogs, we’ve found a pretty cool “benchmark” challenge for her.

She’s getting ready to take her Canine Good Citizens test.

Now, for a lot of dogs this is kind of a joke. Like, her brother Milo is doing it too. And, for him, it’s just a formality. But, for Mabel….

For Mabel it’s REALLY HARD.

One of the first parts of the test, is to be greeted, and GROOMED by a stranger. Oh. My. God. It has taken a TON of work for me to convince her that everyone out of her pack deserves to live. But to let them touch her feet….. Are you kidding?

Well, seems like an easy fix. Have some “strangers” approach, and offer her a treat and leave. Classic “Counter Conditioning“. Her current conditioned emotional response is “go die”. But, after a few reps of this drill, her response to a stranger is “cool, what have you got for me?” Which is great.

(Now, don’t get me started on whether or not this is the best long term solution. As, currently, people only have about 20 seconds of not producing the treat before she realizes she’s been duped. And, for it to “work” in the first place, it has to happen more often than not. Which means, you have to have endless amounts of “decoys” to keep it going for life. I’m still undecided on the subject. I’m sure I’ll write more about it as I learn more about it.).

But, I digress….

Now, for the unintended consequence. Mabel now associates strangers, or at least strangers in that setting (still figuring that out) with getting treats. Cool, but now she is getting TOO EXCITED when she greets strangers. Great.

Who would’ve thought that Mabel’s problem would be being TOO friendly.

Yeah…. Cobra effect, in full effect.

Oh, well. New thing to work on. Working with your dogs is supposed to be a lifelong process!

So, look at your own relationship/training and make sure that you aren’t throwing your own unintended consequences around!