We 'dog people' love our dogs, in ways that people who aren't bonded to dogs just don't understand. We have formed a special kind of connection, what scientists call an attachment relationship.
It's not just a preference to attach. We're literally biologically linked to our attachment figures. Our heart rates and breathing sync up, and if the relationship is secure, even imagining the attachment figure increases heart rate variability, meaning our mammalian nervous system is better able to respond to stress (Bryant & Hutanamon, 2018). Life is less scary, less painful, and more interesting with healthy attachments.
Attachment includes proximity seeking, which is one explanation for why my dog, Joey, just brought his toy to chew on my leg.
We can make life better for our dogs by paying attention to their experience of attachment relationships. To that end, I've developed a framework to systematically apply attachment theory to canine learning, which I call Secure Attachment Family Education (S.A.F.E.). This is big stuff and I hope you'll read it through!
I have a confession to make. Today was a down day, that kind of day where I wasn't my best dog trainer self. At all.
To paraphrase a Reddit that I found when I furiously googled "I hate my dog," in that moment of frustration, I hated him with the passion of 10,000 suns. A surprising number of people have written on the internet that they hate their dogs.
And although hate is too strong of a word, even though it's not my whole truth, and even though I'm a dog trainer and I love dogs, especially this one, and truly hate no one...it still feels really, really freeing to type out the words, "I hate my dog."
OK I don't hate him, really, I love Joey, but I was really angry today.
I wanted to share my experience, to say that even professional dog trainers mad at their dogs. Even trainers like me, who are all about compassion and help other people with dog aggression every day. If you get mad at your dog, you're not alone.
The backstory...I adopted this Labrador Retriever teenager a month ago for my fiancee. He really loves the Labs and besides, Zuki was pining for a new dog friend after we lost Bean to a coyote last year. She's small and I figured a larger dog would help keep her safe.
Joey was being trained to be a service dog and he washed out because of his fears. As a puppy, they had always kept him in working mode when out and about, rather than really interacting naturally with lots of people and dogs. That's the opposite of what most trainers recommend.
Joey also spent a lot of time in a crate before I got him, to the point that his hind end was weak. Maybe his reactivity developed because of how the organization raised him, maybe it was genetic, or maybe he's a typical Covid puppy. A lot of dogs are really under-socialized right now.
Whatever the cause, my dog is terrified of people (barks like mad), timid around most dogs, and generally only trusts other Labs on sight. He's petrified of going into stores or other houses. This week we urgently need a petsitter to attend a funeral in Chicago. Having Joey instead of just Zuki makes it super difficult.
This month I've been slowly, systematically trying to work through Joey's fears, especially the ones that lead to barking at humans. I've usually been keeping him safe, at a distance where he can handle things. He's made several new friends. So far so good, even though it's a pain to be so careful. I miss the carefree days of just having Zuki, my little solo dog who used to panic around people but now does generally a good job looking 'normal.'
But today, I took the dogs for a walk in a space where I didn't expect any humans -- 40 acres of forest behind my home, where the only people on it are us and the landowners, who live across a footbridge that I keep the dogs from crossing. As I left the house, I thought maybe I should bring the full treat pouch and have him wear a harness, just in case. I settled on carrying a leash, just in case.
And then we ran into a bear. Not a real bear, the bear sculpture in the middle of the field. Joey lost his sh*t and I thought that this would be a good time to use the technique of showing him he was safe by going up to it and touching it. That did help, more or less, but until he figured out that I wasn't going to be eaten by the bear, it wasn't quiet. (Next time I'll use the BAT technique (as shown in the video at the end) so we're quiet all the way through.)
Anyway, the next thing I see is one of the landowner’s helpers swiftly crossing the bridge, walking straight at us. Joey is terrified by humans anyway, and an intentional approach is the worst, so and barks his head off at them. Normally when a human comes toward us, I'd just toss treats and get out of there, as fast as possible. But I didn't feel like I could just run away and ignore them, since I was on their land. I clipped the leash to Joey’s collar, definitely not my preference (harnesses are way better).
So she walks straight up to us, Joey barking his fool head off, to politely tell me to keep my dogs quiet during nap time. I was trying to end the conversation as quickly as possible, wanting to sink into the ground in shame and exasperation with these clearly untrained dogs (by now, Zuki was also barking).
Why didn't I toss treats right away? Why didn't I quickly say, "got it, I'm so sorry, I'll call you to explain?" Why didn't I just turn and run the other way when I could see she was headed right for us?
It's hard to be human, because we aren't perfect. Darn!
I did eventually pull out treats and do some tossing but it didn't go great, as Joey was Too Close For Comfort. She asked if she could feed Joey and I said yes, as I know she’s great with most animals, even though the little voice in my head said, "people trying to feed him treats is also a trigger!"
Eventually we got out of there, with some more barking and the question, "are all of your dogs rescue dogs?" Which I took to mean, "clearly there's some explanation why you are a dog trainer and yet your dogs are being total A-holes right now."
On the walk home I think I said "I hate this dog" 20 times. I know that I used a lot of expletives. I said all kinds of mean and scary things in a not-mean-or-scary voice, counting on Joey's lack of comprehension of the English language to prevent permanent damage. I got home and cried, then took a nap. I wondered whether this hot anger was borne of the perfect storm of tiredness, grief (yesterday's death in our human family), and maybe middle-age hormones, added to this new dog thing and the low-grade stress we all face of a seemingly-never-ending pandemic. In dogs, we call that Trigger Stacking, where more than one thing piles up in a time span that's too short to cope with everything.
I railed at the Universe: "I'm tired of dealing with behavior, my own and that of others. Can I please just trust that things will sort themselves out?" And yet I have decades of experience with dog reactivity, I have seen things Not Work Out when people aren't careful. At the very least, I still have to keep my dog from barking his head off at the neighbors.
My prefrontal cortex is still slightly online. I remember that I have more information and reasoning than I can access from a reactive state. I can help the border collie in my head find calm. I pull out the Glimmer I've trained:
I remind myself that I'm Safe. I Belong. I breathe.
Exhale. Then in for 4, hold for 7, out for 8. Again.
My rational mind comes back online. Black-and-white thinking fades back to understanding nuance. I regain my capacity to think things through.
Hi there, empathy, glad to have you back!
One of the things that I've learned in the last 5 years is to "embrace the AND" - seemingly incompatible states can co-exist. I can be angry at Joey AND still love him. And I can be angry without being aggressive.
I can have this white-hot fury at my dog and simultaneously not follow the recommendations of that side of me, that frustration that cares not for consequences, the Giant Monster that wants to grab my dog and throw him 100 feet away, into the river, never to be seen again. I don't follow the advice of the frustration that's tempted to throw him to the ground to just Make Him Stop Barking in this moment, no matter the cost for his fear. I know, in my decades as a dog trainer, that yelling or pinning the dog down is likely to just erode his trust in humans and make his fear worse, but that little part of me that has suddenly become a Giant Angry Dragon is actually willing to do harm to get my dog to stop.
This is why they make you sign a paper, when you get a baby, that you will never shake the baby.
Then I breathe.
The moment passes.
I don't get aggressive, beyond my thoughts and words. I note my emotion and let it flow. I remember that my dog is just a teenage Lab in a fear period and even if it's not a phase, I have the tools to work through this: BAT, for example. Targeting his hand to my palm for up-close greetings when he's a little iffy, then tossing the treat away. Treat and Retreat. Playing with toys.
I was angry for the same reason Joey was barking - we are both being (over)reactive, using antisocial behavior to address something uncomfortable that seems out of control.
The good news for Joey is that I don't really hate him and I have a LOT of dog behavior resources to make this easier for both of us. Reactivity is my speciality and it won't likely last forever. I was just angry, at that time, and I want the very best for him. He's an adorable smush-face AND he struggles with anxiety sometimes. ❤️
It's not like my first time helping a dog who has this kind of issue. I specialize in aggression/reactivity/fear.
I have the tools to keep him safe, but only if I really accept that he is reactive and needs my help. I need to give up the fantasy of a Labrador Retriever who loves everyone (he doesn't!) and accept that he needs me to consistently use the most powerful tools I have: time, distance, and (when needed) distraction.
Joey needs time to get to know people, starting at a distance he feels safe, and working his way in. Going for a walk and following them, slowly catching up, works great (I use a long line and the BAT leash handling skills so he feels as off leash as possible while still being safe).
My dog needs me to set the boundaries that he can't right now, to orchestrate his environment so that he can learn to trust people and set his own boundaries without freaking out.
The part that I've been failing at, the part that makes me so angry at him (at myself) is that as I learn what he's capable of, he's been put into situations that he can't handle, and I'm otherwise occupied. It's work, it's a pain in the rear sometimes, and I've been hoping I didn't have to. With some more foresight, I can have fewer moments where he is suddenly too close to a human. I can take a breath and get him out of situations that are too hard, even if it's socially awkward with humans. I can give him a food puzzle and meet guests farther from the house until we have time to do set-ups.
When he's in deep water (metaphorically), he needs me to keep him from drowning by taking control of the situation using the tools I already know and share with clients (see for example Survival Skills and Urban BAT). Things like Mark and Move, cueing him to do a hand target (nose to hand touch), or even just tossing treats, saying "Let's Go," putting out a stop hand to the person and saying "please stay back," etc.
Like any relationship, the dogs that bring out anger in us often have the most to teach us - about how to relate to them and to the parts of ourselves with which we have trouble. Thanks, Joey!
This dog is going to teach me a LOT.
Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more about Joey search for the hashtag #JoeyTheLablet on social media.
And another clip of us doing the Leash Belay at the beach (a technique for walking larger dogs more easily).
And in case you're not yet ready to leave the page...here’s a high school duo covering a song by Trace Adkins that might make you cry and feel into love for your dog and the goodness your life just a little bit more. Or maybe that’s just me!
The phrase, "shut up and train" has been around for at least a decade or two, but it's gotten in my head lately.
I'm going to split hairs here, and I totally understand that part of the point of "shut up and train" is to stop splitting hairs, to log off and train our dogs. But I don't want to respond to a command to shut up, and I have a little time, so here goes.
Words matter, even when they're meant to be a little tongue-in-cheek. Can we inspire ourselves or others without giving a command to shut up?
"Shut up" is loaded with conditioning. Using the phrase brings that conditioning with it, and it's part of why it's effective. Punishment does, after all, work, it just has negative side effects. It's kind of like a trainer saying that they just use the beep of an ecollar after training, that it's not aversive any more because they aren't needing to shock. It's there, in the language.
We're capable of finding a kinder way to inspire people, as trainers, teachers, motivators of behavior. I have faith in us.
The intentions of the phrase have merits.
For example, one more modern interpretation of the phrase is to encourage us to clock more actual time physically working with our dogs, off of the computer, (as in gabbing about it on Facebook, arguing amongst ourselves, or, writing articles that split hairs about phrases like "shut up and train" (yes, I see the irony). [Two articles from 2016 here and here].
How we do one thing is how we do everything, and attitude matters. Phrasing matters. Surely there's a more life-giving and respectful way to motivate ourselves to than by saying "shut up"? How about "Show up and train?"
Do we need an aversive shock like "shut up" to get us out of the thrall of our devices, because they have trained us so well to keep pushing buttons for virtual treats? "Why are you staring at the square?" is what I think my dog wonders (phrasing from Anders Hallgren). As we say in the school, "Pause to practice."
As a trainer, you can also focus more on the consequences, because that will help remind you to train. Create your own reinforcement plan to build the behavior of training your dog, if you want to train more.
Back to more perks of shutting up and training...
One of the original meanings was to be less chatty while training. Focusing on nonverbal behavior when working with nonverbal animals is pretty useful.
For example, if we're constantly talking to our dogs as we train, it's hard for them, and us, to focus on things like timing, behavior chains, treat delivery, reinforcement schedules, and carefully observing the dog's behavior.
It's also helpful to not overload our human learners. If you're a trainer, be concise and show the client what you're talking about by demonstrating with an animal, sharing a video, or walking them through training their dog. Speak mindfully, with long moments of silence to enable focus when the caregiver is practicing.
If you're wanting to convince someone else to train without intimidation, and they're not yet asking you questions, the best way to do that is just to show them that it's working. I understand the desire to say "shut up and train" to yourself (or others) there, but "show up and train" still works without the implied insult. Or just "lead by example." 🙂
My issue with the phrase is the violent nature of the statement, "shut up." I know, it's tempting to use because it has more impact, but it also has an inherent bit of intimidation or anger in it, of wanting to silence whoever the person is saying it to (even if that person is oneself). Quickly, without another word.
"Shut up and train," is not a conversation, it's a one-sided demand that stops further thought. It has been rocketing around in my head for weeks now. Why do I take so much offense?
"Shut up and train" makes my ears squint just because of the word "shut up," but lately the phrase has also been used to imply that talking and having emotions is not part of the dog trainer's job. In fact, the opposite is true. Professional dog trainers are primarily educators. The caregivers do the bulk of the training.
Demonstrating is a huge part of what we do, but using words to communicate to people and learn from others is critical. If we just show them the mechanics of dog training, they miss the whole point, and we have to teach every single thing.
Or worse, dog training becomes stuck in outdated techniques, focusing on the human's wishes without considering the dog's nuanced needs.
As dog trainers, the function of our own behavior with dogs is what's important - it's not just what we do, but WHY we do it.
Building empathy, getting caregivers and other trainers to understand the function of canine behavior, to carefully observe dogs, to notice what needs a dog is trying to meet, to know enough about themselves to take their own needs into account...that's how we make life more harmonious and safe for people AND dogs. That's how we continue to move the industry forward.
So no, for that interpretation of the phrase, I will never "shut up and train." And I know most of you won't, either.
A key part of a dog trainer’s job is to speak for those who cannot.
We are educators, bridge builders, translators.
I will never stop advocating for dogs (and people) and their needs. I will keep building empathy and understanding through words.
And I'm overjoyed to see so many people doing the same. Keep listening. Keep learning. Keep your voice. Stay kind.
(Oh yes, and do log off and train! Your dogs need you.)
A few weeks ago, I went into darkness for 5 days. Five whole days and nights in a small hotel-like room with a comfortable bed, well ventilated, but without a speck of sunlight. It was a phenomenal experience and I thought I'd unpack a little of it for you.
It's called a 'hygienic darkroom retreat,' the idea of hygiene being that if living organisms have healthy environments, we can thrive. The darkroom is an environment to let our spirit take center stage, away from the stimulation of the outer world.
I'd read about darkroom retreating 3 years ago, but didn't know where to go to do it. Turns out, there's one about 10 minutes from my house! My time had come.
Practically, it looked like this: before entering the dark, I made 5 days worth of meals for the super-kind and wise helpers at the lodge to reheat and bring to me. I packed snacks for the rest of the time, brought a journal, and whatever else I'd need for camping indoors, in the dark.
My fiancee, Tom, went into darkness ahead of me. He was on his Day 5 when I started. We overlapped in the room for one night as he shared what he'd discovered about himself, alone in the dark, and I shared what I'd found about myself at home.
The next two days were mostly about getting sleep. Lots of it, whenever my body wanted to rest, without any pressure to stay awake (nor pressure to sleep). When I was awake, I stayed tuned into the feeling of my body from within - belly, heart, breathing, toes, hands, energy centers (the parts of my body that feel like they have the most Life, spirit you could say).
Did you know that the bright corona around a star is usually only seen during an eclipse, when everything else is dark?
I went to the grocery store yesterday and I could see barely contained panic in the eyes of the checkout guy. The muscles in his face stood out as he scanned my items. Touching things and trying not to touch them at the same time. I guessed that it might be related to coronavirus and said it must be hard to be around so many people for his work right now. He said yes, if it gets any worse, he's just going to stay home.
I know this is a challenging time, and I honor the sadness and fear in all of us. I felt some bleakness start to overtake me for a moment, my thoughts spinning. Then I recognized that as my old programming, and that the tightness in my body was just my fight or flight instincts kicking in.
I remembered that this is one of those times where I don't have a lot of control. That I can do my part, but I don't have to fix this. It's like that moment in a dream when I fall and know that there's nothing to do but accept what is happening, to face it with curiosity.
I lost my husband last year and it was so painful that I can hardly describe it. And yet now there is new life in all of the cracks of my heart. I am grateful for the friendships I have and I am more honest and compassionate with myself than ever. Grief is a healer. Life is oh so different, and his death will always contribute to my world view and my ability to be here.
Things are going to get worse before they get better. Schools closed all over the US today. Other countries have shut down already.
Can you pause right now for a moment to slowly exhale everything you're holding in? Take another deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and exhale that over the count of 10. And repeat one more time.
There's an opportunity here. When all of our services close down to prevent the spread of the virus, it reminds me of how very interconnected we all are. We are not on our own in this life. We have support.
The man in the grocery store, he helps me get my food. He's part of a long chain of beings who make it possible for me to live life the way I do. Bees, farmers, truck drivers, the woman who designs the label on my food, the man who cleans the floor, the people who built the building I shop in. My local farmer's market, the people I barter with for cabbages in the summer.
Every single one with a heart and a life of their own. And that's just a fraction of the people it takes to bring this all together. The people who hire me to teach them about dogs, the dogs who had trouble and needed help, the people who make the computer I type on, the people I learned from... we are all interconnected.
And this virus reminds me that we are all made of the same human bodies, that we are so similar that a virus can pass from one of us to the other.
Kindness, joy, love...let those also continue to be spread. Let the love I hold in my heart arrive into yours. May gratitude for the kind word or smile you got or gave recently brighten your day. Times like this can bring out some bad things, but they also bring out the very best in us. Let yourself be kind, and see tiny acts of kindness everywhere. We humans help each other in times of survival.
Remembering that we are mortal may be one of the best things to come of this all. I would love it if we could learn to help each other thrive, even when this is all over and cooled off.
Right now, there's a big scare and we all feel a little more mortal. We are not making it out of this life alive.
But here's the thing, we were always going to die.
That's just how life works. So maybe we could help each other all the time, and remember we are all in this together. Not just in the middle of this challenge, but next year or the year after, when we have forgotten about this big scare. Let's take kindness with us everywhere.
Being human is a terminal disease, and frankly, I think that's a gift. Whatever I'm doing here as Grisha, it won't last forever. We don't have to worry about whether or not we will die. I can take that righ off of my to do list.
We will, eventually. Everyone I know, all of the dogs I will ever have, me. It's one thing I know for sure. Remembering that I will not be here forever lets me take a deep breath, accept my mortality, and focus on seeing how many wonderful things happen to me every single day. We only have a short time here, and yet we have an abundance of individual moments.
I savor this experience, right now, and live my life with purpose. Meditation practice allows me to not take my spinning thoughts seriously. I let them go and shift back to the moment. I feel what needs to be felt in my body, and shift back to the present.
Every interaction I have, I strive to be authentic to my own spirit and also improve the lives of those around me.
Live is lived in moments. And right now, I have dogs on the couch next to me. I'm warm, my belly is full. I have an abundance of all of the things I need in life in this exact moment.
So yes, there's a downside to coronavirus, but let's look more at the corona part. What else might this affect for the good?
People have time to spend with family.
People may remember to value contact with one another.
Dogs on walks not being constantly petted by strangers, for fear of transmitting a virus. There may be a whole generation of puppies who show less reactivity because they were able to go on walks without being accosted. In Sweden, for example, people don't pet dogs out in public and I think it's great for them.
People may prioritize their mental health for a while, taking a break from the go-go-go world we have created. This is a good time to practice daily meditation (or morning/night), start getting therapy online, read wholehearted books. If you need some ideas to shift toward wholeness, I teach an online course called How to Human. It's packed full of the tools and techniques that have been most helpful to me.
People spending more time outdoors, in nature.
People reconnecting with the ones they care about, using video chat, etc.
Basic patterns of life are disrupted, so it's a good time to develop new habits and hobbies, if done mindfully.
It's a good time to take a real look at what you do that feeds your soul and spirit, what helps the world be a better place.
Yes, all kinds of other things are possible. But we all get to choose for ourselves what to do right now. Do we take it as a challenge or a catastrophe? Regardless of the downside, there is always an up side.
We have, right now, a sort of permission slip to do something outside of the ordinary. Expectations of everyday life have shifted for a little while, as the world goes into hibernation.
The darkness is the best time to see what is light inside ourselves.
It is all going to be okay. Things always work out, one way or other. Life is more than okay. It's actually pretty amazing.
What opportunities for wholehearted living and kindness are opening up right now?
What healthy and joyful things have you been resisting?
What are you doing with the gift of corona?
Also I'll leave you with this video. If you watch only one thing on the Internet this week, let it be this.
I was surprised to hear that there is still at least one Facebook group that doesn’t allow discussion of Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) because of where they place it in the Humane Hierarchy. I’d post in the group directly, but I was banned years ago for daring to talk about BAT and besides, it may not be the only group that hasn't gotten around to updating their rules. So I wrote a Facebook post and I'm sharing here in my blog for posterity.
While I think it’s great for a well-informed group to take a stand to encourage humane protocols, the key point is ‘well-informed.’ I’d like to help anyone with outdated information get an accurate look at BAT.
Certified BAT Instructors are required to adhere to the Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive principles of training and Joint Code of Ethics published by the CCPDT, IAABC, and the APDT.
BAT is used for many species, especially dogs with fear, aggression, and even frustration. It promotes learner agency, fosters better communication, and improves the well-being of all involved; as such, discussion of BAT should not just be allowed in modern dog training groups, but actively encouraged. I’m grateful for the many dog trainer groups that discuss BAT as a go-to method for reactivity.
BAT 2.0 lives in the least intrusive parts of behaviorist Susan Friedman’s Humane Hierarchy. I recently taught a seminar at ClickerExpo on the Evolution of BAT, where Susan re-verified that classification before I spoke.
I am disabled young lady who has a service dog to mitigate my disabilities in my every day life. I do tons of charity volunteer training sessions which are private one on one with rescues, pets, fosters and service dogs.
When you at me, you won't see my disabilities; they're invisible. Rest assured they do exist. I am Deaf; a rare genetic disease is to blame, amongst other disabling issues. I do not hear at all. My service dog alerts me for fire alarms, knocking, my name, dropped items that hit the floor, and other sounds that I might not notice.
I have had the pleasure of implementing Grisha's BAT techniques/protocols with service dogs.
At K9 Triumph, I frequently have had disabled handlers who have had traumatic experiences with their service dogs on or off duty or their service dogs have picked up some unwanted behaviors.
By law, service animals must be under control when working. That means we have to figure out ways to reestablish training, and 'empowered partnership' means we do it in a way that also meets the dogs' emotional needs.
This is where Grisha's BAT leash protocols come in. Within 2-3 sessions of BAT leash skills, their dogs are relaxed, calmer and walking loosely without pulling. They are checking in with their handlers and stopping waiting for to catch up (hence before they would just pull).
I go through the handler's stance by gliding my hands over their shoulders (with permission). I go over their arms, their wrists and hands. I tell them what their body is showing, their energy, and what I see with their body language. Dogs responds to this.
When we walk I watch the handler and how they walk. I stop them, ask questions and get in their minds/what they are feeling?
My questions are, 'Are you in the moment?' and 'Can you look at how you holding the leash?' I slide my hands gently down the leash and pull a tad (this is where you are creating tension). I remind them, 'Remember to be in the moment with your partner.'
I physically move their arm, gently guide their hands, I tell them to relax.
[Grisha's note - touching the client can be distracting or it can be really useful. Please use your best judgement when working with clients and always get their consent, verbally and by observing their body language! Just as with the dogs, we need to respect their boundaries.]
Communication goes down this leash. I role play the motions and slightly coach them by physically showing them how to walk with their service dogs. Not the dog walking them, or us walking the dog. It's a unified skill. Togetherness. Partnership. After all these are working dogs, not pets. They go above and beyond the call of duty. These service dogs save our lives every day.
Usually the handlers are almost paranoid, edgy and worried about judgement when we start; trying to correct their dog every move they make.
I tell them the vest is off, they are with me to learn and no judgement here. Only good things.
I am here to help and empower them as a team.
As take my harness out and properly fit it onto a dog (whichever breed I have that's in service). We treat and reward for acceptance of the harness. Then we walk. No expectations, no tension and we walk with 12 feet of leash.
We let them sniff and as they start to pull I slowly and gently stop the leash and turn/bend and make kissing sounds; as the dog immediately comes, I reward and smile. Usually we continue this one way. We allow the dog to be busy and sniff again, but if they pull we turn a different direction: bend, turn, kissing sounds and again the dog comes immediately and is rewarded. As I am finishing, reeling the leash in without tension, I treat and give a friendly smile.
Power is the dog's choosing to come. We start with the dog taking an entire slack with the lead wanting to pull.
On the way back from one way walking; the dog is voluntarily looking at me and walking beside me on a loose on the leash.
It takes no time for them to figure out and we have communicated clearly what we would like.
After we are done a few rounds I pass the dog off to the disabled owner/handler. I get shocks of laughter, surprise and their dismay. Is this my dog? What have you done with my service dog?
Their dog is relaxed, no tension and choosing to walk nicely with their handler.
No fighting, no pulling back and no frustration.
The team's energy shifts. Walking is now enjoyable. Working or not.
I get a ton of pullers as clients. They all cannot believe the change. That's what BAT is about. Behavior Adjustment Training.
Even though some don't have fearful or aggressive issues, the BAT leash protocols work excellent for unwanted behaviors and habits that have formed.
I continue to enjoy seeing these service dogs be in sync with their handlers and being able to master leash walking skills by their choices. All we do is show them and they follow through. They give so much to us with serving.
We need to give respect and empathy to these amazing working dogs. BAT is one great way to help these dogs, whether it's maintenance BAT leash protocols or BAT aggressive and fearful adjustment training.
Things happen on the job, but there is a solution, and if handlers are willing to find a professional trainer that does BAT things could definitely turn around for all.
Imagine you're a betta fish, swimming in your home, and suddenly you find yourself jostled around into a cramped 2-liter bottle for the rest of your brief life.
You're not there because someone loves fish and want to take care of you, you're just part of a child's science experiment. Live animals are prohibited in the national science fair, but not in school classrooms. Texas middle schooler Ruby G. recently stepped up on behalf of the animals and may have saved thousands of (fish) lives over the next decades of classroom experiments.
Ruby's 7th grade honors classroom was experimenting with different ecosystems with 2 liter soda bottles. A terrarium, with soil and bean or grass seeds is in a bottle on top. On the bottom was the aquarium bottle. A string between the 2 acts as a root system and carries water to the soil.
The aquarium ecosystem had gravel, aquatic plants called Duckweed, bottled spring water, and snails. The teacher also said they could add a betta fish and/or small fish. This is when Ruby started to realize putting fish in something that small was disastrous. It wasn't just theory--fish in other classes had already died in the first week!
Her mother reports, "When we went to Petsmart to get aquatic plants for her team's aquarium, the employee there said, 'please don't put any fish in those bottles.' And she told Ruby that kids from her school had completely cleaned out the store buying betta fish. And she was asking her manager not to allow the kids to buy fish for that anymore."
"So Ruby decided then and there she was going to do something about it. And when we came home from the store she got on the computer and started writing."
Albert Einstein would have been proud of Ruby's activism, her to bring heart to scientific inquiry. Einstein is well-known for his outstanding intellect and curiosity, but he urged scientists to have compassion, too.
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. - Einstein
Next, Ruby submitted her well-written paper to her teacher, who was convinced to stop using live fish in future science experiments in his classroom. While that might have disappointed a few of the children, most approved of the compassionate choice to not use animals in classroom experiments.
We all can make a difference in the world. We see injustices every day, to humans and other animals. We make choices with our actions and our words, our inactions and our silences. Brava to Ruby for standing up and getting things done!
Here's Ruby's paper:
The Act Against Fish and 2-liter Bottles
I would first like to state this- in the national science fair, live animals are prohibited. No animals are to be used- nor human subjects without permission slips. Now- I realize it’s not possible to ask a fish for a permission slip, but picture this. You’re taken out of your home/shelter and are put in a tiny containment space for a semester- about 18 weeks, with unusual amounts of food, and caretakers who know nothing about you. There you have it- exactly what happens to whatever fish, or shrimp you buy for your bottle project. It isn’t reasonable to leave these creatures with 12-13 year olds who just buy fish because they think it will look cool- they have no idea what the fish need- and as I’ve discovered, our teachers may not know anything about our water breathing friends either, seeing as if they did they would know the inch-per-gallon rule.
Betta Fish Living Conditions
Betta fish are actually a rare breed of fish called labyrinth fish. They need at least one gallon of water, though that is not recommended because it isn’t healthy. Typically, for every inch of fish (smaller fish), you need one gallon of water. Larger fish need 3. The Betta fish need five to thrive happily, a thermometer to keep track of water temperatures, and normal amounts of food. For the size of ‘tanks’ we keep them in, the water should be cleaned DAILY. The bottles used in our experiments are 2 liters- not even a gallon. With these conditions, this can be considered animal cruelty- in the case of not knowing the needs, and stable environment required to keep these creatures. Betta fish also should not be placed in direct sunlight, as it creates an unstable environment, causing an overgrowth of algae, also it may raise water temperatures over a normal 78-80 degrees. All bottles in my own classroom are left on the windowsills.
Shrimp Included in Bottle Projects
In normal aquariums, shrimp are food. For many fish besides Betta- but Betta fish are naturally aggressive and will not only eat, but kill the shrimp mere hours after placing it in the water with the fish. Shrimp are not meant to be put into 2-liter bottles with killer fish. They are food, when you want them to be. Emotional distress can impact children my age losing a shrimp, or fish.
If children wish to have fish in a science class, first, don't put them in a bottle. Second, inform the children of the needs and expenses of a fish, including feeding habits, water temperature, and water purity. Third, make sure that they have an aquarium or plan for when the project is over so that a fish is not slowly being killed due to lack of attention, food, or water changes. Fish are intelligent, beautiful beings, and should never be considered for a project like this. It isn’t right, and no teacher is well enough informed to know that, or else we wouldn’t have children feeding their Betta gummy worms, and laying them on paper towels, while removing all original water. Who knows what else has been done over the years? I ask you with all good intent- please ban living creatures in science classes, for the safety of the students- and the specimen.
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.
Now that the worst has actually happened, I got lucky, because his death was not complicated by other emotions. I am just really sad and that's okay. 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. We all mourn differently, there are no 'shoulds' here.
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.
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 look through your own worldview to think about 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.
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.
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."
(Look below the video for tips).
"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.
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 ironic, 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.
So 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.
Examples 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...
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→
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→
You 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?→
I know some of you just can't stand that fluffy new puppy who adores you, and want to get rid of her as soon as possible. If you can't find anyone to take this cute bundle of fur, here's how you can at least make sure she doesn't live out her natural life. Unfortunately, most of these also make your neighbors mad at you, but whatever. Continue reading 8 Sure-Fire Ways to Shorten Your Dog’s Life→
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.
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→
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.
Dogs and puppies should all be taught to be comfortable in a crate or kennel. The crate is a great hang-out place for dogs that are stressed, it's excellent for safely taking dogs in the car, and Continue reading How to Crate Train Your Puppy→
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?→
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 can feel like walking meditation, not a battle! One wonderful thing is that if the human learns not to pull on the leash, the dog can learn much more easily! Please learn about the BAT leash skills in this article [click here] or the BAT Leash Skills webinar to help set your dog up for success. It's very helpful to start out your dog's training by first teaching yourself not to pull.
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.
Do 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.
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?
In 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.
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.
Firework 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.
Contact: Ellen Naumann
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.”
It's not just about getting behavior to change. The learner's motivation for changing has a profound impact on the arc of future behavior. For example, getting a child to stop picking on someone to avoid punishment is not the same as teaching them empathy and the power of compassion.
When I teach humans or other animals, I want behavior change to be for the right reasons, whenever possible, so that the lessons can keep propagating forward over time, like ripples in a pond. That's why I train dogs the way I do, and why I'm a huge fan of nonviolent communication (more about that in my How to Human class).
I like to think of two opposite forces that inspire behavior: attraction (I want) and repulsion (I don’t want). You can imagine 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. Reverse that, and they're pushing apart.
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?→
The 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?
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.