Category: Blog

“I Changed My Mind” Video Series Episodes

Life is full of learning and growing, and sometimes relearning things you thought you knew. We should all reserve the right to change our minds.

I have started a YouTube series about some of the opinions and ideas that I have changed over time. The videos are shown below.  Please click here to visit my YouTube channel or click here to subscribe directly.

Want to get more professional dog training support? I have a lot of videos in my online school, a Facebook group, and a lot more for Student and Pro members of the Animal Building Blocks Academy.

Where Do Our Dogs Go? Reflections on Peanut’s Life and Loss

grisha-peanut
13.5 years is a lot of shared life experience. He still makes me smile.

For the last several years, I have been pre-grieving Peanut's death. I have been afraid I would completely fall apart and lose my will to live.

Luckily for me, his death was not complicated by other emotions. We supported each other throughout his life and he was right there in my lap when he chose to go.

It turns out that his death was not as terrible as I thought it would be.  I thought I would want to jump off a bridge when he died. I literally had my family on suicide watch.

But now that it's finally happened, I've noticed that it's different; the worry for him and for myself is gone, leaving me with a chance to savor his life, a huge appreciation for the time we had together, and gratitude for the support of my friends and family.

Sadness is much easier to handle than worry, especially when you don't fight the pain, but just let it happen. This post isn't about telling you how to grieve, but just sharing how I am grieving, to share this possibility that we don't have to be crushed by loss to honor those who have passed. There are no 'shoulds' here.

Dog Dalmatian running outdoors in beautiful green against the blue sky with clouds and a rainbow
Dogs run free at the rainbow bridge.

Many people talk about the rainbow bridge as the place where are dogs are waiting for us when we die.

It's human to have a deep need to know where are loved ones are now, and what they are doing. Having spent years caring for him, needing to know where he is at all times is a hard habit to let go. It's our job to keep track of them.

With Peanut's passing, I have found some solace in thinking of him running around happy with Spoon, who passed away last year, and Pirate, who passed away this month. But I need to process Peanut's life and death in a way that fits in with my own worldview. It turns out that what I came up with isn't inconsistent with the rainbow bridge, either, so hopefully it works for you.

This 'song of life' analogy has has helped me come to better terms with Peanut's death. It's loosely based on the Buddhist concept of clinging, as attachment as the root of suffering: "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional." If you have lost a dog (or cat or other family member) I hope that this post helps you find a way to savor the experience of loss, to appreciate this time instead of suffering through it.

(And maybe this is already something already woven into some religion or philosophy. I don't want to waste this important time researching whether this analogy is new. I just know it didn't occur to me before and I want to share it because it helped me.)

If you've ever laid down tracks for a song or a video this will make sense. If not, I hope it still works for you, but feel free to comment with your own version, like maybe weaving together a tapestry or something else.

life-as-movie
I'm visualizing it like this video editor, except a LOT more clips (one for each living being) and more overlapping.

I'm thinking of the sum of all life as a jazz song or a movie, where each individual being is like one track laid down for a recording (like a guitar riff or a little movie clip). The length of those clips is the amount of time they are present here for the rest of us to see. Feel free to through your own worldview whether some higher power is creating the song or it's just what happens when so much life comes together.

Trees have very long lifespans, so they'd have very long tracks. Humans have shorter tracks and dogs and other small animals even shorter. When they happen to be in the same space and time we 'know' each other but we are all still part of this same multi-dimensional song, starting from the beginning of life and ending when it is all over, if ever.

Grisha Stewart using her BAT leash Skills with Peanut
Every day with Peanut was a gift.

If I zoom in on my own track and see things just from my own perspective, it feels like a sudden shift, a catastrophe to lose him. If I zoom out to see the whole song, I see the beauty that we shared and how that fits in with everything else. I see how he was fading toward his end. All solos start and stop. If they went on forever they wouldn't be appreciated in the same way.

So Peanut may or may not make another appearance in the song of life. Maybe there is reincarnation, or heaven, or his energy and matter have just been converted into other form.

To me that doesn't matter so much as concentrating on what I do know. We had a fantastic time together, where our harmony added to the song of life. That will never go away. His existence has influenced the whole direction of my life and work. He was a frequency changer, a catalyst to shift my perception of the world.

His life happened exactly as it happened. At this point, the song has moved on and I have come to terms with the idea that he would no longer fit into it. So rather than clinging to him and wishing he were here now, I celebrate the fact that he *was* here. It feels oddly right that he is no longer here, which isn't to say that I would have wanted it that way, not at all. But I'm at peace with his death.

peanut-at-property-246x300
Peanut spent a lot of time running free in nature.

That doesn't mean I don't cry or that I just move on with life like he was never here. I have cleared my schedule to savor my sorrow and grieve for the loss of his physical presence in my life. I couldn't keep food down the day that he passed away. I have a knot in my chest sometimes. I cry when I feel like it and I enjoy every moment of this sad time while it's happening because that is the way that he is here now, through that experience of transition away from a physical Peanut. [If you have another experience, that's totally fine. We all grieve differently. I just want to share how I feel since it was unexpected to me.]

I feel intense joy and satisfaction when I look at the quality of our time together. I made mistakes with him, but I did my best to fix them, to strengthen our relationship and improve his quality of life whenever I could. From his influence on me and many others, Peanut is still part of the song as a whole, but his own track is over; from my own perspective in time, his tangible presence is gone. But his 'solo' is still impacting the song as it moves forward: there are so many ripples from his existence, like how I perceive my world, how I may now be better at honoring my own emotions, how I think of death, how I read dogs, how I love, how other dogs now have better lives because of him, and so much more.

In the end, I don't need to scream at the universe, "WHY?!" Instead, I whisper, "thank you."

"Love Never Goes" Lyrics (Peanut YouTube version)

I am bound to you
You’re in my heart to stay
One look at you and I knew
I’d love you every single day

---

We’re on solid ground
You’re in my heart to stay
Even when I'm not around
I love you every single day

---

* Love doesn’t leave
* (It) Doesn’t run out
* Love never goes away

* Love doesn’t need
* No fence around (it)
* Love never goes away

---

You’ve got other loves
They’re in your heart to stay
I don’t have to be above
Just love me every single day

---

Hope you know by now
You’re in my heart to stay
Even when I have to go
I’ll love you every single day

---

* Love doesn’t leave
* (It) Doesn’t run out
* Love never goes away

* Love doesn’t need
* No fence around (it)
* Love never goes away

* Love doesn’t leave
* (It) Doesn’t run out
* Love never goes away


Here are some things that I did that helped with my grief process and/or made grieving less complicated:

  • Quality time - As he aged, I arranged my schedule to spend less time traveling and be home more with him. I arranged for quality time alone or with Bean when possible, although I also maintained my own life and non-dog hobbies. For many devoted dog lovers, their life is all about dogs. If you have more than one dog, that could be fine, but if your dog passes away and you have no other dog, then you may find you have no sense of self and don't know what to do with your time. So let yourself have a life. You deserve it.
  • Filming - videos of us loving on each other and of him just walking through the forest give me the most solace. It gives me a way to reconnect as needed.
  • Empowerment - choices I made for him were always in his best interest, within the constraints of life among humans. So things like positive reinforcement, long leashes and harnesses, carpets on the floor, training for him to actively cooperate in blood draws and vet procedures, predictability, ability to control his own proximity and interaction with stressors, and only adding in pain or discomfort when it was medically necessary.
  • Being his advocate and fighting to be present at the vet whenever I knew me being there would help him. That helped prevent regrets. Many veterinarians insist on restraining your dog themselves or won't allow you to be in the room for IV fluids, but may agree if you sign a waiver or have muzzle trained your dog with positive reinforcement (even if they have no history of biting, muzzling means there's no possibility of the vet getting sued so they will allow it).
  • We kept his body at home for two days before cremation, like a wake. That gave all of us (including Bean and Dharma) time to really process that he was gone. I was able to go to his body and say goodbye many times. We curled him up into a dog bed (head tilted up to avoid leakage) before driving him home, so that he was in a good position when rigor mortis set in. It was relatively cool on our sun porch so we kept him there. If it's warmer where you are, get dry ice to put into the bed, under and around your dog (or cat or whatever). We had a hard time finding dry ice though. My friend in California had her dog's body for 5 days before cremation, so it's not just possible in Alaska.
  • Hearing other people's memories of him and going through videos, photos, etc. really helped. Specific memories of Peanut in real life or in videos help more than general statements like "I'm sorry for your loss" or "Dog's lives are too short," so I asked for people to share memories when I announced his passing. Every comment helped me, but it was so helpful when they did share a memory. If many people don't know your dog, make and share a short video of your dog's life so that people can share what they see in that. The process of making the video was also helpful to me, as well as rewatching it many times.
  • Stopping the clock. This is what I'm doing right now. I have lost a family member and need this time to sit with the grief. I don't need to go to work right now. I allow myself to have whatever emotions that come through, and I don't berate myself for having strong feelings or try to push them away. I don't force anything, neither trying to be sad nor trying to be happy.If I want to go on a hike or work or whatever, that's my choice, but I have paused as many time commitments as I can right now. Question anything that involves the word 'should' - that's usually a sign that it's not helpful for you in your grief, but rather just something that is motivated by avoidance of punishment.If you work for yourself, take the time off. Put on an autoresponder. If you work for someone else, use your sick leave or vacation time, and if that doesn't exist, see about a leave of absence.
  • More tips in my main grief article.

Here's my announcement of Peanut's passing on Facebook:

Revive Your Yes Life #CelebrateTheGood

Does your Yes life need a tune-up?

I wrote a Facebook post last night. It was very satisfying, at first, because I got to say NO, confrontational dog training isn't right. Stop It.

But that's really yes-iStock_000009246841_Largeironic, right? That I am trying to use something negative to fix the problem of being too negative? I can do better than that. If I really want change, there's a better way to teach, which I use all the time with dogs.

My goal with dogs is to maximize chances for positive reinforcement in their lives, in all forms. I want to be able to say YES a lot to dogs and that applies to people too.
yes-fist-iStock_000021168856_LargeSo what do I want to happen? What do I want to see? I do try to use positive phrasing when talking to people, but sometimes on social media, or with my husband, my inner 2-year-old comes out. No No NO.

So I'm working on my Yes life. Today I started my own challenge, and I hope you'll join me. For the next two weeks (and maybe more) I am going to focus on phrasing all social media posts and comments in a positive way, and add the hashtag of #CelebrateTheGood to remind myself. If I look back and see that I could have done better, or missed an opportunity to be positive, I will revise or repost, and add the hashtag of #CelebrateTheGood to those, too.

yes-iStock_000067452315_LargeExamples of positive posts and comments:

  • Why you train dogs the way that you do (if you catch yourself pointing out negative things about the other side, just replace those with information on what TO do and why it's awesome).
  • Something great that happened to you.
  • What you agree with about XYZ (especially good for comments)

I picked social media because in a way, it's easier than real life. You can take your time crafting your words. You can revise when you see that it could have been better. That's a  great learning opportunity.

Flags that indicate your post may have room for improvement:

  • Words like no, not, never, wrong,...
  • Judgements like hate, can't stand,...
  • Name calling or insulting someone's character (idiot, uneducated, mean, bitch, jerk, troll, you get the gist)
  • Reading through it gives you a bad feeling

Here's my original post from yesterday:

"You're the Dog Whisperer!" Have you ever gagged a little vomit into your mouth? That's what I feel when someone calls...

Posted by Grisha Stewart-person on Thursday, April 14, 2016

So let's try that again, with positive phrasing. First, I would leave off the blog post share because it's all about negative phrasing, "things dog trainers hate."

Here's a new post about the same topic as yesterday but with positive phrasing. See the bottom of this post for why I...

Posted by Grisha Stewart on Friday, April 15, 2016

So there we go. Let's positivize the internet and fix our Yes lives. Can you join with me and take the #CelebrateTheGood Challenge for the next two weeks?

New Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0 Book (Press Release)

Grisha and Peanut
Grisha and Peanut - click for high resolution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ellen Naumann
ellen@grishastewart.com
818-281-8235

Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0

New training approach brings hope for dog reactivity and socialization
Continue reading New Behavior Adjustment Training 2.0 Book (Press Release)

Life Hack: Yours/Mine Position for Treat Delivery

When you change your behavior, your dog can change his!

I came up with a specific way to feed treats so that it's clear to my dog when he's allowed to take the treat. Humans talk a lot to dogs, but dogs are actually very visual, and they usually understand hand signals better than vocal cues. Try this out - your dog should learn to see the difference very quickly. Continue reading Life Hack: Yours/Mine Position for Treat Delivery

19 Fun-Saving Tips for Festival Dogs

Avoid costumes, especially ones that make a dog uncomfortable or hard for other dogs to recognize.
Avoid costumes, especially ones that make a dog uncomfortable or hard for other dogs to recognize.

We took the dogs to the 6-Mile Creek Whitewater Bluegrass Festival in Alaska this weekend. It was great! I was very happy with how Bean and Peanut did and how the dogs felt about the experience.

It was a bit like a dog park with music, but it worked out well, since the dogs all started to know each other. The surface (river rocks) also discouraged a lot of running and playing, so it was easier for the dogs to stay calm.  There was a lot of space and the dogs were off leash, so they were able to diffuse tension more naturally. Continue reading 19 Fun-Saving Tips for Festival Dogs

Will Training a Dog with Treats Spoil the Dog?

sitting for treatsYou might have read some of the traditional training books or watched a certain tv show that talks about training with treats as if it were a sloppy or mamby-pamby way to train dogs, whereas training with punishment means the dog works with you because they love you. The people who avoid treats just don't know enough about *how* to train dogs with treats, and I thought I'd write a blog post to give an overview of how to precisely use reinforcers to get reliable dog behavior.
Continue reading Will Training a Dog with Treats Spoil the Dog?

What are Quadrants? Applying Learning Theory to Dog Training

There are only two main principles for dog-friendly training.  Give something to get more of a behavior you want. Take something away to stop a behavior you don't like.

Positive Reinforcement (+R): If you want your dog to repeat a behavior more frequently, reward that behavior in some way.

Negative Punishment (-P): If you want your dog to repeat a behavior less frequently, remove any reward or perceived award for the behavior. This should happen rarely - focus on reinforcement.

Access to anything interesting is a reinforcer
Access to anything interesting is a reinforcer

Think of positive and negative in the addition/subtraction sense.  The counterparts to +R and -P are negative reinforcement (take away an aversive - something painful or unpleasant to the dog - as a reward) and positive punishment (present the dog with something painful or unpleasant for doing something you do not like). Continue reading What are Quadrants? Applying Learning Theory to Dog Training

How to Train a Dog To Come When Called

This dog's recall is so strong it's actually flying!
This dog's recall is so strong it's actually flying!

Training your dog to come to you on cue is one of the nicest things you can do for your dog. Knowing that your dog will return whenever you want her to allows you both freedom to play and go wherever -- within reason -- like the park or even a dog-friendly festival.

Training a recall, along with a solid "emergency down" may save your dog's life one day, so it's worth putting some time into training her to respond quickly. Continue reading How to Train a Dog To Come When Called

What is Clicker Training? How Do You Use It to Train a Dog?

Box Clicker
Box Clicker and Bean

When dolphin trainers want to get a perfect jump from their charges, they don't put a leash on the dolphin, ask it to jump, then 'correct' the dolphin for not jumping and manually put it through the jumping motions. For one thing, the dolphin's body isn't well-suited to a leash. For another, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to physically manipulate the dolphin into a jump. Finally, the dolphin would get back at the trainer -- probably dousing her with a big splash of water or tossing her out of the pool (a favorite tactic of killer whales)! Continue reading What is Clicker Training? How Do You Use It to Train a Dog?

How to Train a Dog to Stop Pulling on the Leash

A loose leash dog walk is a joy! Check out this streaming DVD for tips.
A loose leash dog walk is a joy! Check out this streaming DVD for tips.

[Click here to see some great custom leashes!]

If your dog pulls on the leash, then the walk is neither healthy for your dog nor relaxing for you. It's also a sign that you and your dog are not paying attention to each other -- it takes two to pull, after all. Walks with your dog should feel like walking meditation, not a battle! Please learn about the BAT leash skills in this article or the BAT Leash Skills webinar before blaming the problem on your dog. It's easier to start out teaching yourself not to pull.

Continue reading How to Train a Dog to Stop Pulling on the Leash

BAT Leash Skills – How to Stop Pulling Your Dog

Your dog can walk ahead of you, as long as the leash is loose.
With BAT, we prefer a long leash and a harness, instead of a flat collar.

Related:

BAT should be a dance between the dog and the person. The human is the one who knows the plan for the dance, but the dog is the one who has the understanding of rhythm.

Continue reading BAT Leash Skills – How to Stop Pulling Your Dog

How Not to Pick a Rescue Dog

First off, I want to say that I'm all for getting rescue dogs. I have rescue dogs and I probably always will. There are tons of great rescue dogs that need forever homes. In fact, I just flew down to the Seattle area to get Bean from Welfare for Animals Guild, because at the moment I was looking, there were no reputable rescues in my area with puppies available.

Continue reading How Not to Pick a Rescue Dog

How to Avoid Dog Bites (plus Be More Fun and Less Annoying)

_MG_2445Do you love to pet your dog? Does your dog love it too? Are you sure?

Here's a family safety video with a way to ask your dog if he or she likes the way you are petting. I call it the 5-Second Rule, and every person who interacts with a dog, cat, or even horse should know it, because it's excellent bite prevention and also just basic polite manners! Teaching it to children will avoid bites and also teach the concept of setting their own boundaries for safe interactions.

Continue reading How to Avoid Dog Bites (plus Be More Fun and Less Annoying)

Say Please Protocol (or “Using Real Life Rewards”)

How does your dog ask for what he wants? Does she get dinner by barking? Does he get through the door by shoving past you?

_MG_1558In any home, whether it has dogs in it or not, good manners are appreciated. Things like pushing past your parents to rush outside or bugging them for candy while they were working were probably not allowed when you were young and they show that your relationship with your dog is not as strong as it could be. There's no need to yell at your dog when he does things like bolt out the door or bark, whine, or jump for attention. What you need to do is teach your dog how ask for what he wants or needs in a way that fits with your family.

As with all of the training methods that we recommend, we want you to set your dog up for success. Cue or show the dog what you want her to do (in words that she knows or by reinforcing behaviors you like), and ignore the tricks you don't want in your dog's toolbox for getting what he wants. You get what you pay for with dogs. If it works for them, they'll keep doing something, even if you don't like it.

Continue reading Say Please Protocol (or “Using Real Life Rewards”)

Resource Guarding – How to Teach Your Dog to Share

dog-eating-flowers
Dogs may guard anything!

Does your dog growl at you when you approach his food bowl? Is your puppy possessive about toys and rawhides? Does he snap at you when you even step near him when he's got a bone? Does your dog bare her teeth when you approach the couch? If not, you're lucky! Read through this information and start working with your puppy or dog now, to keep him in the blissful state of loving your approach to his food bowl or other prized possessions.

Continue reading Resource Guarding – How to Teach Your Dog to Share

Fireworks, Thunder, and Scary Sounds: Training and Survival Tips

Fireworks, Thunder, and Scary Sounds: Training and Survival TipsFirework noises have been exploding in my house all week.

Why? It's part of Peanut's annual fireworks vaccine. Because sound desensitization isn't just a one-shot deal and the fourth of July is coming up in the US. It's so long between firework displays that your dog may not remember the last training you did. To prevent spontaneous recovery of your dog's fear, give your dog a little taste of firework noises every year, before the full-volume ones happen.

Continue reading Fireworks, Thunder, and Scary Sounds: Training and Survival Tips

Follow your dog: How a little black dog led his trainer to the world and the web (Press Release)

dog-abba-100-tallClick to download as .docx

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ellen Naumann
ellen@empoweredanimals.com
818-281-8235

Follow your dog: How a little black dog led his trainer to the world and the web
Grisha Stewart Follows Her Dog Again and Launches Animal Building Blocks Academy

Continue reading Follow your dog: How a little black dog led his trainer to the world and the web (Press Release)

Thought Revolution and Online School Launched by International Dog Training Expert (Press Release)

dog-abba-100-tallClick to download as .docx

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ellen Naumann
ellen@empoweredanimals.com
818-281-8235

Thought Revolution and Online School Launched by International Dog Training Expert

Anchorage, Alaska. June, 2015 – One of the main controversies of the last several decades in animal training is whether or not to train with aversive force. Grisha Stewart is definitely about minimizing force, but asserts that modern training can do even better. She’s here to start a grass-roots revolution. “Quality animal care is more than training without adding pain or fear,” she said. “As caretakers, we have the opportunity to facilitate two-way communication, empower animals to meet their needs, and teach them how to participate in their own care.”

Continue reading Thought Revolution and Online School Launched by International Dog Training Expert (Press Release)

Animal Magnetism: Is Your Training Attracting or Repelling?

"You have to enable and empower people to make decisions independent of you. As I've learned, each person on a team is an extension of your leadership; if they feel empowered by you they will magnify your power to lead." -Tom Ridge

There are two opposite forces that inspire behavior: attraction (I want) and repulsion (I don’t want). I like thinking of these as physical forces, like gravity or what happens when you bring two magnets together in different ways. One way pulls them together in a very strong bond. The other way pushes them strongly apart.

magnets

If you had one magnet and wanted to move the other one around without touching the second magnet, how would you do it? You can move the second magnet around very reliably if you use attraction. You can still move the magnet with repulsion, but pushing is less efficient than pulling, and sometimes shoves it in unpredictable directions.

Let’s go back to animals. By attraction, I mean that the animal is inspired to do the behavior. For example, there’s a smell across the room, so the dog walks over to investigate. The smell pulls him over. Or you ask the dog to sit and he does so because he has a history of getting treats for sitting. By sitting, he moves toward the opportunity to get a treat. It’s like the treat pulled him into sitting, so that’s why I call this attraction. Continue reading Animal Magnetism: Is Your Training Attracting or Repelling?

Dog Aggression Outbreak in Chicago in 2016?

Aggressive_Australian_ShepherdThe Canine Flu outbreak in Chicago is serious and responsible dog lovers are being cautious, not taking their dogs to parks and other such areas. This flu is a virus that US dogs have never been exposed to. It's a big deal.

But what worries me more is what is going to happen later with Chicago's puppies, because you really only get one chance at good socialization. Will we have a rash of dog aggression showing up in 2016, from all of these puppies who missed out on meeting other dogs? Will people say "my dog was a Chicago Flu Puppy" to explain why they lack social skills and show aggression?

Continue reading Dog Aggression Outbreak in Chicago in 2016?

You’re Not Crazy, You’re Mourning: Grief from the Loss of Your Dog

I miss you, Spoon.
I miss you, Spoon.

To love a dog is to truly know the meaning of unconditional love. If you were lucky enough to share your life with a dog, especially a ‘soulmate dog’ who has passed or is nearing the end of life, then you also have the flip-side of such a strong relationship: grief. Every experience of grief is unique, so you can’t really be prepared for the loss of your dog.

Continue reading You’re Not Crazy, You’re Mourning: Grief from the Loss of Your Dog