Tag Archives: dog behavior modification

Building and Breaking Trust

Everyone that reads this thing regularly, knows I do a lot of training through game play.

And, not in the surface “Create a reward event to make them work” sort if way.

But, in a profound way. Almost a spiritually fulfilling way. It impacts so many different levels.

Gives activity which is physically healthy. 15089859455_43f4e6a968_z

Gives psychological fulfillment, as the activities let them express their natural drives.

And we’ve always said that it builds relationships. Builds the language we will use. Builds fluency in body language for both dog and handler. All that good stuff. I’ve always thought there was carry over into just living with your dog. Past just the “tired dog is a good dog” line.

Well, now we have a bit of proof!

In this study, they talk about how dogs develop, and LOSE, trust!

Once you read that, you will have a greater understanding of how your “Game” can effect your day to day relationship. When I coach people in play, I constantly use the common phrase “breaking trust” to tell them why not to do certain things. And, on the surface….. It could be about just the game. Like… Giving fair presentations of the toy so they can get it without clipping you. Like moving it enough that they have to “try” but not so much they feel like they “can’t”. Tugging hard enough that they are in the “fight”, and not “overwhelmed……. All that seems to be only Game related.

But this study shows that dogs can learn from how you play and do trivial activities what kind of trust you deserve.

Seems like the Clarity the dogs learn from your Game will effect them in all aspects of your relationship.

A lot of times when I work with a dog, I start with play. And I’ve always felt it wasn’t just “play”. But us really learning one another. Build trust and language, before trying to navigate sticky situations.

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Kind of cool when science tells you you’re on the right train of thought!

That’s it.

Go play with your dog!

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Faith In Handler Drill

I wrote about this a long time ago. Back then I was calling it “Reverse BAT”.  But, now I call it the Faith In Handler Drill. After that article, a ton of people have asked me to demonstrate it. Here’s a video of me showing to a dog/handler for the first time.

Jaxxy Doing Work.

This video has two purposes. Well, 3.

One is celebrating my little idiot. God dammit I love that dog.

Two, is showing progress to anyone following his little story.

And, last, but not least….. Showing training doesn’t have to feel like this piece of shit chore. There was only about a third more of these activities that weren’t on film. This really is indicative of the amount of time I “worked” him.

Embed the training throughout the day. Train through game play.

Make it fun for YOU. And then you may do it.

Anyway….. Here’s Jaxxy doing some work. Enjoy:

Conditioned Relaxation Is NOT Massage.

OK……. Conditioned Relaxation is one of those hot topics going around. And, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 6 months…… you’ve seen it. Or, at least heard it described. The typical view of CR goes like this:

“CR is using massage to get a dog relaxed.”

Massaging a dog until they relax IS NOT putting relaxation on cue!

I mean….. Yes……. you do need to use massage to get the dog relaxed. But that shouldn’t be the way it stays forever.

Look at Sit. I can push the butt to the floor to “create” sit. But if someone says “Did you teach your dog to sit?”, you wouldn’t say “Sure, watch.”, then push their butt down.

If you’re still pushing their butt down…… That dog don’t know sit!

There in lies the rub (pun).

People see the massage wrong.

The first mistake people make in CR with “touch” is they pet, scratch, or stroke the dog. And that might be “relaxing”…… But not on a Therapeutic level. If I went to a massage therapist and they gently stroked my hair…… Not what I need.

Then, once people realize the therapeutic benefit of touch, they begin to go to “work” on their dogs.

AND IT WORKS!!!

Then comes the second mistake.

Since it works, they keep using it.

Like people that say “My dog knows sit”, but they have to have food in hand!

You can get your dog relaxed but you’re still relying on the inducting method.

You’re still pushing on the butt, or grabbing a cookie for sit!

Like all solid obedience commands….. You want to wean of needing to induce, or coerce!

Have had a number of conversations over the past couple of weeks that has made me realize that people don’t “get” the idea that it’s an “obedience command”.

Some examples:

Woman dreads the toll booth, cause her dog blows up.

I, after suggesting crating the dog till they’re past the issue, said “Cool, work his CR until you can use it a the Toll Booth”.

She asked, “How am I supposed to massage him from the drivers seat at the toll booth?”.

Last night, I was doing a little clinic for a local rescue. Several of the volunteers were clients. And I was talking about dealing with difficult dogs. CR came up. I got a gut feeling the above example wasn’t a lone misunderstanding. And, I said…. “You guys know that CR isn’t just massaging your dog till they relax”.

And, holy shit……. almost every single one of the people that I HAD TAUGHT were shocked. Like…. kinda upset.

Like…… “What the fuck do yo mean it ain’t massage?!?!??!”

Now I know break things down well. And, I know that I am very careful in my teaching to avoid misguided learning. And, if my own clients, I taught myself, are confused about that…….

There’s no way folks out on the interwebs trying to self teach aren’t fucking that up.

And there’s no way the skeptic “CR is bullshit” crowd isn’t using that as reasons to dismiss.

Hell, that WOULD be bullshit.

You can’t give your dog a 10 minute deep tissue massage every time you drive through the toll booth!

But…. you have to induce it to “capture” it.

Food goes up- butt goes down. Once that’s reliable you name it sit. Once they “know” it….. you fade off the food.

CR is the same…. Massage to induce relaxation. Name it. Fade off massage.

Both are oversimplified….. there is more to food luring & CR but, you get the point.

Anyway, if you’re still reliant on food lures, leash pressure, or butt pushing…… Your Sit isn’t “finished”.

If you’re still breaking out the massage table for a long session…… Your CR isn’t finished.

Yeah…. It’s kinda the defining feature.

But it’s not the “END”.

For more info on CR:

Go directly to the source. Kayce Cover!

Chad Mackin covers CR in his Dogmanship Workshop.

And I do it in several of my workshops as well!

Extinction Burst

You walk up to the elevator.

Push the button…… Wait.

Push the button…… Wait.

Push the button…… Wait.

“One more fucking time, and I’m taking the stairs” you say.

Push the button…… PUSH THAT STUPID PIECE OF SHIT BUTTON 55 GOD DAMN TIMES!!!!!!

Quit, and take the stairs.

That’s the extinction burst.

It’s the burst or “trying” that happens just before the quit.

OK. So what’s this got to do with dogs.

When people are training, I watch an epic “Race To The Extinction Burst” play out.

Here’s the scene. They are teaching their dog to stay. The dog breaks once every 3 minutes. The person calmly replaces them. The dog starts to have his extinction burst AND STARTS BREAKING EVERY 5 SECONDS. The people mistake it for them being “dominant”, or “falling apart”. They get exasperated. And start sounding that way when they replace them. Goes from a real easy “no”, to “UUUGHH God Dammit…. NOOOO”.

Dog thinks…… “Hmmmm……. I think Mom/Dad’s about to quit”

And, they’re right. Mom/Dad quits.

And, they just taught their dog to really be persistent if they want a human to give up.

Son of a bitch.

I Think dogs still watch body language. And intention. So, they subconsciously understand what they’re seeing. They can tell you’re breaking.

But, even if you believe that dogs are just classical conditioning machines, you have to see that your frustration at their extinction burst preceded your quitting. That teaches them what your frustration means. THE QUIT IS COMING!

So…..

Understand that when your dog is going through that, you just have to hold on. If you don’t show your quitting “tell”, they will eventually give up and “take the stairs”.

If you do that consistently in the beginning, the dog will have the clarity of knowing you don’t quit! And the whole game of “obedience chicken” will cease.  Remember, It’s not the “structure” dogs need. It’s the Clarity.

This concept of consistency, and clarity in training, will make HUGE headway to that end.

Now, get your poker face on and show your dog you don’t quit!

Sometimes…. It Works Out

Walking 2 of our dogs through the woods, and in the middle of a good conversation (aka not paying attention to the pups) we hear screaming and sounds of dog blowing up from around the corner on the trail. Yeah….. The same trail that Jax had just run down.

I have the dogs on remote collars for recall, but…. no matter what some people say, I’m not using them to break aggression! But that’s a rant for another time.  Anyway…..

I go sprinting around the corner towards the sound of what I’m sure is gonna be the event that gets Jax put down. As I round the bend, I see a big ol Pit Bull. But he’s not blowing up. There’s still someone screaming. I have the split second fear that Jax is mauling this person. I want to puke.

I keep running, and that’s when I see Jax come back to this Pit at the end of the trail and they start……..

PLAYING.

Seriously.

Playing. Nicely. Appropriately.

Holy shit.

For another split second, I couldn’t process why this woman was still screaming. Or why there was still a dog blowing up. I get to the end of the trail. And there’s this woman with another dog on a leash, who’s just blowing up at Jax. And the woman is screaming at her own dog!

And, here’s the funny part. She starts apologizing to me!

I asked if she was ok, and she kept saying, “you’re dog is no problem. I’m so sorry. It’s my fault” etc….

I hooked Jax up and we left. His new buddy tried to come with us, but eventually went back to the screaming lady.

I literally cried a little.

My little man has come so far.

There may be something to this dog training shit.

 

 

Why “Break Sticks” Are Shit.

If you’re a dog trainer with an interest in rehabbing dog aggression……

Please. Throw the “Break Stick” away.

Look, I know why you have them. It’s a logical mistake to make.

You want to break up a fight that involves at least one committed dog. (a concern you NEED to address if you work in rehab). Well….. Who has the most experience in breaking the toughest dogs apart? Dog fighters.

Yep.

If a dog gets fanged in a pit, the ref breaks them. If a dog in a roll (practice fight sparring match) starts to get hurt, you break them. Hell, if there’s a management failure in the yard and two dogs get going, you break them. These guys have hands down THE MOST EXPERIENCE breaking game dogs.

How do THEY do it?

Break Sticks.

Ergo….. You want to break game dogs fighting. You use a Break Stick, no?

NO.

Yes….. They are effective. IF……

You have 3 people to the 2 dogs.

One handler goes in for hind leg suspension (another pass down from the pit) on each dog. This kills their ability to punch back in and re-grip. That’s good. It means, All you have to deal with is the current grip. The 3rd, (and sometimes 4th) person, go in and use the break stick to mechanically separate the grips.  And it works! Well. It breaks the dogs.

So…. Why should you NOT use it?

1- Most people didn’t know that above scenario. They just stick a break stick in their pocket and will somehow utilize it to make things OK. They don’t understand the 3 to 2 principle. They don’t know or practice that teamwork concept of “wheelbarrow” and split. If you aren’t in a yard with multiple trained, people all, of who have Break Sticks in their pockets. All of who, know the drill and can fluently assume one role or the other in rhythm with you…. It’s worthless. Trying to separate a game dog (let alone 2) by yourself with a Break Stick is futile, and dangerous for ALL involved.

2- Even IF you understand AND practice the above method with ALL your staff (shut the fuck up, no you don’t)…….

YOU STILL SHOULDN’T USE BREAK STICKS!!!!!!

When you use a Break Stick you are mechanically separating the dogs. Ever hear of “Restraint Frustration”? “Barrier Frustration”? Well, when a dog is in HIGH DRIVE, and wants to get at something and can’t, it’s drive goes UP!!!!!

Think about it. Leashes make dogs more reactive. Fences make dogs more reactive. On, and on. Those are things preventing them from accomplishing their goal. And it makes them want to go at it more.

Hell, that reaction is so strong, that trainers utilize it. We tease dogs with food to increase drive for it. We try to wrestle the tug out of their mouth to make them want to grip it harder the next time!

When you pry their mouth off that dog….. Guess what they want to do MORE now?!?!?!

Yep…… Bite.

And THAT’S why the Pit men used them. It’s the only way to reliably separate a game dog and NOT DIMINISH IT’S WANT TO FIGHT!

Hell, it increases their drive to fight through frustration. And for Pit men, that’s a good thing.

For you, in your home. Or daycare. Or rehab facility……. Not so much.

So unless you’re looking for a tool that takes more dogs than handlers acting in coordination, that INCREASES aggression after the fight…….

Please.

Throw the Break Sticks away.

(How TO break a fight is a tricky and dangerous subject that can’t really be done in an article. But check the services page for avenues of instruction.)

 

Spring Pole: Good Or Bad?

I’ve gotten this question a few times in the last couple of days. Thought I’d share my response here since a few other people may have the same question. Enjoy:

Question:  “What are your thoughts on people who tie a tug and let the dog hang?  ……..What’s the purpose?”

dreadspringtree

(old school shot of a tree Spring Pole)

My Answer:  “Back in the day Spring Poles were just ways to develop grip and drive. They would put dogs on them and let them rip. Most dogs didn’t have an out so they would break stick them off the hide/tug. This is CLASSIC agitation. Take the dog up pulling on a 2 inch collar going apeshit. Let them get it and go NUTS. Then….. Literally pry them off! Makes a ton of drive. Not to mention physically conditions their wrestling, and biting musculature. That said….. There were a lot of stuff in old school Keeps/Pit Dogmanship that can be super useful if done a little different. Spring Poles are one of them. Typically everyone now knows that tug can be a great way of training your dog. Builds great obedience, and impulse control. Develops relationship. And, satisfies a very biologically appropriate style of play. Spring Poles have all those same benefits…… AND……

1- MORE impulse control. The tug is being directly controlled by you. Which means “some” of what keeps them from early strikes is spatial/social pressure. And “some” of what makes them out is you “deading” the toy (-P) to enforce the command. Well….. If the toy is inherently self reinforcing and not being controlled…… Their impulse control must be SOLID. And their out must be BOMBPROOF. Because, when you say out, they “can” keep going. That’s a HUGE jump in impulse control.

2- Increased area of influence. For you to send away, out, recall, down at distance etc…. your obedience from a distance has to be solid. Most people can say down and get compliance at 2 ft. At 20…. Not so much. compliance from your dog at 20 ft, in the face of an available, HUGE temptation…… That’s monster training.

3- Real world translation of skill. If you can out and down at a distance….. Or recall your dog OFF a spring pole, you have a much better chance of calling them off a squirrel! 

4- People have adopted  WAAAAAAY to much dog. There are a gang of nice little old ladies that are adopting Pits. Good for them. But they couldn’t play tug with their dog to save their fucking life. That’s a huge bummer. That dog will forever miss out on an amazing activity. And that owner will miss out on a great training modality. a trainer can do a few sessions and get the dog working on a spring pole. Then help them put one up. Get them all set. Then,,,,, Granny can work that dog like a champ! That’s a HUGE benefit. Really fills a hole for new, over their head adopters.

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(modern day Bully on a constructed pole Tell me that dog’s not the epitome of happy)

Here’s one of my dogs during their 3’rd session learning Spring Pole. As he gets better it’ll get higher. (the higher it is, the more it “fights”, the more impulse control it requires)

So…. There you are. Why I like, and teach people how to use the old school spring pole!

Maybe now I’ll put up a “How To Make One” article.

Those “Graduation” Moments

This is Firkin. She used to be super reactive. If anyone listens to the Podcast…. She’s the one that snapped the long line and went Zombie style on the door I narrowly exited.

But that was then…….

THIS. Is now.

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This was outside a Starbucks in a strip mall. There’s a grocery store, a pet store, and a children’s bus stop there. No small feat!

Notice, the leash. Definitely prepared in case there’s a mistake…. But, loose from Firkin’s perspective. Not adding any negative energy. Her owner is learning to trust her ability to make good decisions.

New life for Firkin!

Good job.