Changing your dogs mindset.

I had a client reach out yesterday having trouble throughout the course work, I was waiting for it.

I prep all my clients for the kick back, when things are going great and running smoothly then bam it’s a shit show, sometimes behaviours they have never seen or haven’t seen in a long time surface.

For those who have been playing along on this page for a while know I have discussed doggy tantrums before.

You don’t think they will happen until they happen.

This is what happens when dealing with and working through heavy and deeply ingrained behaviours like anxiety and/or reactivity, (where the dog is flying off the handle and all the owner can do is hold on and hope it will be over soon, or hope the neighbours don’t complain to the council again as their dog flies at the fence.)

The work we do is deep, see you can do surface stuff, sits and drops but it doesn’t translate to every day life, when you are moving around the home with your dog or out and about on the street.

The systems we use are complex but the work is simple, we know how and why the things we teach our clients work all the have to know is HOW to do the work and it makes complete sense to them.

It’s not the work that’s the hard part, it’s easy.

The hard part is changing a dogs mindset.

When you have a dog that is make decisions from a very emotional place, I describe it as their brain basically falls out of their head, everything disappears except for the one thing that has triggered them and nothing in that moment is really all that effective.

My job is to help clients get in there and build communication and methods that help a dog learn how to regular and be more self aware of his emotions as well as being able to pop that brain of his back into his head so that he can realise he isn’t alone in this and there are other choices.

Emotional change and growth for a dog is hard, it’s like trying to learn how to write left handed when there is nothing wrong with your right hand, your brain fights what you are doing when there is no logical reason not to do it the easier and more sufficient way, you see as far as your dogs brain is concerned what he is doing is the best, easiest most efficient way of survival.

He isn’t doing it to be a jerk, to spite your hard work, and this is why we work closely along side our clients to make deep changes isn’t easy and so many things are working under the surface that can halt your progress, and if you don’t know it’s normal that it’s a part of the growth and change, well, most people throw in the towel and say fuck this right before the break through right before the dogs brain accepts the changes and builds the “muscle” to carry out the new behaviour just as efficiently as the old behaviour.

One thing I realised as I spoke with my client yesterday is that in a perfect scenario none of them would need me.

If they had a different dog, a more balanced dog, one that had a better start in life, less energetic, less drive or if they had of had the training in how to handle energetic, drivey dogs, been aware of that dogs genetics and known what the future may be with that dog before bonding and falling in love with it, if they had of picked a different puppy. If the timing was different.

They wouldn’t need me.

Its not that they lack the ability to care for, train and love a dog.

They have all owned dogs before, they come to me with skills and experience prior to this particular dog.

And yes you influence your dog. your choices, your management of their behaviour does have an impact, but when I look at each individual dog, they aren’t easy dogs no matter who owned them, how they were raised from day one, they would still have their challenges, their quirks, they are highly intelligent highly emotional dogs.

They are different they aren’t your regular easy going lab that just gets a little excited.

These a complex dogs with complex things going on under the surface.

I see people often getting caught up in where did I go wrong and if I can find that one point, maybe recreate it? Maybe work back from there we can fix this.

Going back will not help you move forward.

All my clients know this – they could have maybe eventually found the answer on there own they are driven people who work hard on the things they care deeply about, they are always willing to fight for their dogs happiness and aren’t content with just ok, that drive would have had them continuing trying with or without me.

The ONLY difference between them and me?

I have dedicated hours upon hours and learning practical and theory for over a decade, I have made numerous mistakes, watched and taken data on others, poured hours into making things work and continually improving the process.

I made this my lifes work, this is something I wont ever stop working on, it’s a slight obsession I’ll admit but I wouldn’t have it any differently.

And the best part is that my clients don’t just learn from me, I am continuously learning from them as well.

And one thing I have learned is that they are all so capable of handling these dogs when they piggy back off of the years of blood sweat and tears I have poured into this profession.

That’s what happens when you hire a specific person for a specific job that you don’t have all the answer to, you fast track your own journey by jumping on the path they have carved out.

We don’t have time to learn all the things, to do everything on our own.

You wouldn’t spend 3 years learning to cut and dye hair just so you could give yourself any hairstyle you wanted.

You wouldn’t spend 4 years learning to be a mechanic just to service your own car.

And you certainly wouldn’t enter the life of becoming a GP just to be your own doctor.

Dogs lives are so short compared to our own, and the one thing I hear from every client is “I just wish I had found you/done this sooner”

as always with training the sooner the better but it is NEVER too late to create change x

BARKING DOGS

BARKING DOGS

One of the most common problems people struggle with,

Which is funny because EVERYONE seems to have to answer as to why a dog barks and how to fix it.

Which usually goes something like you’re dog is most likely bored, you need to do more with him, he needs more environmental enrichment, he needs more toys.

Meanwhile, the people I speak with – their dog has ample toys, works out treat dispensing toys in a flash, if they work their dog for the food i.e sit, drops and tricks the dogs nail them quickly and both owner and dog get bored fast with the same repetitive tasks, they walk or play with their dog frequently.

Buuuut he is still barking at the neighbours movements, passer byers, at the fact that a bird farted.

They feel frustrated, like they aren’t or can’t do enough for their dog, that everyone makes it sound so god dam simple and they just can’t get it together.

Truth is there are LOTS of reasons why dogs bark.

Boredom is usually on the bottom of my lists of why.

When speaking with people they usually have a dog that is either or both highly anxious and highly energetic or high drive.

It’s usually misplaced energy, frustration or an attempt to realise emotions that are making the dog feel tense or wound up.

Sure you can call that boredom throw toys, treats, training, and heaps of exercise at the problem but if you don’t know what you are doing and why, how is that going to actually dig into the core issue and start to fix it?

So what DO you do instead?

I think all but one of our currently clients was or is currently struggling with barking being ONE of the issues their dog actually has, it’s one we get caught up in and zero in on because it bothers the neighbours, it bothers our peace and quite and we can also receive council complaints and warnings.

But when we assess what’s going on around the dog we find that the communication between the owner and dog isn’t great, the connection isn’t as strong as they wished it could be, they don’t do the things they wished they could with their dog because of the way he behaves, and when they are really honest, they love their dog but they find him tiring he just seems like yet another chore they have argue with themselves about doing training, exercise or play because none of it seems to work anyway.

We have carefully designed our programs to heal those things, to bring back the connection, with that comes motivation, they feel closer to their dog then ever before, they begin building the foundation they need to truly get in and fix the problem of barking and once we do address that issue, it’s already improving on it’s own, it seems like no effort at all to get a handle on the issue,  and usually owners like the fact their dog barks, they just wish he could understand when it was appropriate and when its not, and that’s why we teach them a system that clearly shows the dog this.

This TAKES time.

Something I say often to people.

We are not a take away business.

We are not cheap, easy or fast.

We want to build results that are long lasting that address all aspects of the dogs and owners lives, to ensure that the work matches them, can be moulded to suit their lives and the changes that will occur in it.

Because at a guess having 10 plus years with your dog shits going to change, life doesn’t stand still, people go through injuries, moves, expanding family, loosing family, all things that can impact on you, your dog and how things appropriate in the household.

I love management strategies, having things to lean on during those rough patches or changes in your own life or your dogs life, which is what those solutions that are so frequently given for barking are

But they aren’t sustainable, they can’t be kept up forever, I have lost count the amount of people who have rang me with injuries, who were walking there dog up to twice a day to keep the bad behaviours at bay to have everything fall apart and all the things they were keeping just under the surface spring up, now on top of an injury they have to deal with say – a lot of barking.

“it’s because you aren’t walking him as much any more”

No sally it’s because people like you keep pumping out the same old story people don’t realise that they need to take into account that walking doesn’t fix an issue like that, it just puts a band aid over it and helps make living with the dog easier.

It doesn’t solve the dogs coping skills, yes you should walk your dog, it’s nice to get out of the house but you shouldn’t solely rely on one thing to manage an issue, and there is a huge difference between management and teaching your dog how to cope when shit changes.

Dig in and do the hard work and you get the long term, sustainable results.

Do the “easy” work and watch how quickly all that time and energy slips backwards because you couldn’t for what ever reason sustain it any longer.

 

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Doggy Adolescents

Adolescents in dogs is ruff

Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

It’s a topic that has come up a few times in the last week between my clients and some of the lovely people who have reached out to inquire about help.

What I am finding is it’s a topic a lot of people know very little about, when does it start, what can you expect from your dog, how long does it last for etc

So I want to share with you guys some information on adolescents in dogs.

Often I have people reaching out once the dog is 2 years or older which is fine, it’s never too late to start work on your dogs problems but quite often they will say to me,

“I don’t know why this started to happen things were going alright then all of a sudden it started going down hill, or the behaviours started just popping up here and there and we don’t know why”

Once we dig into it and look at the time line we discover two things,

Things weren’t always running smoothly when the dog was younger, from either the point of acquiring the pup at 8 weeks being more shy and anxious than the other pups

OR being an absolute ninny and being way over the top excited and struggling to be able to calm down, at all in the presents of certain stimuli like other puppies or people.

Both nerves and excitement are natural for pups but we find that when the owners think about it compared to other pups their age, they didn’t quite fall into the same level of nerves and/or excitement,

Sometimes we find on top of that a traumatic incident has occurred, neighbours bullying the pup, dog playing far too rough or a fight occurring, or anything else the dog perceived as dangerous/life threatening and the owners not knowing how to move the dogs mind through that event so he remains stuck on the idea that things linking back to that threat equals danger.

Or the other thing is isolation and a lack of exposure because the pups reactions are so extreme it becomes difficult to take them out of the house and also lacking skills in building a better perspective around those triggers when it creates anxiety or excitement.

When a puppy is young, its easier to handle them pulling, handle their reactions, to pick them up ,to remove them from the situation.

Yes we train with little dogs too but it’s mostly big dogs because once they start growing and reaching the potential of their strength it becomes harder to just sweep them up into your arms and walk away from what ever it is that has become too much for your dog.

So during puppyhood owners brush off the incidents and just keep on keeping on.

Around 10 months is when dogs usually hit adolescence and it usually fits in pretty dam well with the behaviours becoming more exaggerated and harder to deal with, like a switch has been flicked.

But it doesn’t stay like that it goes up and down, as hormones fluctuate and the brain goes through different developmental stages, learning and understanding, so will the dogs reactions and behaviours.

This is why adolescences seem so random, it ends around 18 months bigger breeds tend to mature a little slower.
And it’s why a lot of people swear by the fact that once the dog reaches the age of 2, things settle.

And it’s why people ring me around then because they go holy shit, this aint settling.

It’s not the golden rule for every dog.

The dogs we work with aren’t like every other dog, be it genetics, the breed type, intelligence level, life experiences, either way their responses aren’t typical and their responses tend to isolate them and their owners from living a regular life because of the way the dog behaves.

If your dog is showing signs of reactivity on leash, in the car, where ever, you can bet that isn’t going to go away on it’s own without the correct work.

If your dog is patrolling the yard, pacing, barking, doesn’t seem to really settle or have an off switch is fidgety and always seems to be looking for something to do, you can bet that isn’t going to go away.

If they are anxious, easily startled, struggle with new people, struggles to be left on there own, that’s not going to away on it’s own just because the dog has become an adult.

Our clients whose dogs are currently moving through adolescents are having moments of struggle for sure, it’s a part of the teens years, pushing boundaries, testing limits, it isn’t an easy time to navigate without added problems on top of it, adolescents is the time where dogs are building the foundation for how they will react to particular things in their environment.

In saying that they are kicking ass and achieving things with their dogs that took myself years to work out what actually works and doesn’t from my own trial and error, they seen the value of hiring someone to fast track that progress so they didn’t wander around lost for years wondering if the work they were doing was actually working or not.

And god dam that can be one of the most frustrating aspects of trying to fix behavioural issues on your own.
And whilst changing things within adulthood isn’t impossible, the longer it’s left the more work we need to get in their and do, habits, reactions, aren’t easy to change, they can be changed but the longer the are around for the longer it takes to remould things.

Lets assume your dog lives for 15 years, your dog is x years old, ask yourself this do you want to keep doing what you are doing, living the way you are living right now with your dog, for the next how ever many years that works out to be?

Truth is, its easier to do the work pre adolescents, but it’s not impossible to do it during or after, we can help at any point in a dogs life, so when is the right time to get help with the issues you are having with your dog? Right now.

Dogs face resistance too

Ever fought change?

Been at that fork in the road and felt your stomach flip at the thought of it?

Or not known what it was until you moved through it looking back thinking dam is that what had me feeling/acting that way.

It’s instinct to resist change, it’s no mystery as to why people sit on my emails or phone number until something bad happens.

A bite, a near incident or just one of the worst days they have faced with their dog and they feel like they just can’t do this anymore.

We will always want and seek for the environment around us to change before we have to change, it’s just easier, or at least FEELS easier.

And look in an ideal world it would be great to get the work in before hand but I know you guys don’t intentionally do it to me, it’s just how humans are.

In fact, it’s how mammals are, yep your dog goes through resistance as well, right now some of our clients are going through hell with their dog as he resist and tantrums all over the place for so many things, he isn’t happy about the changes.

and it’s so wonderful watching my other clients rally around them like yep I’ve been their with mine you’ve got this that gives me the warm fuzzies.

because when changing some pretty serious behaviours, you know you’re digging in deep and making ground breaking change when it gets worse before it gets better. They are at the top, at the worst spot and they are about to come sliding down into a much easier life with their dog BUT they had to do that initial climb.

Dogs feel resistance too, they will manipulate the environment around them, they will avoid change if they can, quick fixes simply supress a particular behaviour but it never gets to the core, it never makes ground breaking change.

This is one of the elements that makes changing behaviours so dam difficult and why people will give up just before they gain a result from there work, because sometimes the work looks and feels like it’s not working.

Dogs don’t understand that they can’t choose whether to resist, or go after it when they resist, they don’t and wont ever have that level of self awareness, one of the biggest points that makes us so unique as humans.

And I get it, I feel the empathy for what dogs AND owners face around this because I come up against resistance almost daily with my work, to be the best that I can be it requires self-awareness, self-evaluation, growth, and change.

Because I want to give my clients what they deserve and you know what it goes down the line, my clients go through the work, no matter how hard and bumpy it can be at times because they want the same for their dogs.

THIS is what makes me so dam proud of them, its when they show up on the hardest days, on the days when other shit is falling apart and the do the work and the results are showing massively as we catch up and they randomly go shit, you know what my dogs doing xyz and I didn’t even realise that we were achieving that.

Like when it was noticed that the room they had avoided for months with the dog was now a nice relaxing place to be because he was no longer slamming into the windows something they hadn’t specifically trained for, because when you dig deep the results start trickling into other areas and some things start to simply heal themselves.

If you’re afraid of hard work, if you’re not into learning to understand your dog on a MUCH deeper level than we aren’t the trainers for you.

But I tell you what if you made it this far and your stomach getting that flippy feeling, and your torn between I want that and “oh, maybe I don’t need that help, surely I could just sort it out myself”

That’s resistance baby and you have two choices, follow resistance lead and dance away from the problem until you are backed in a corner and can’t resist any more which does makes going through change all the more harder.

OR realise you are stronger than resistance and you can persist with getting the help you need, you deserve and giving your dog the life you have dreamed of and you know with his big ol’heart he absolutely deserves.

“nothing thats worthwile is ever easy, remember that”

Perfectionism

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Perfectionism

I have been inspired a lot by Brene Browns new book this week and the quote below hit me hard.

I’ve spoken of perfectionism before, I think it all gets us at one point or another, and I know it comes up a lot for people when doing the work with their dogs, trying to get the things they are teaching to look a particular way and quite quickly.

It’s taken me YEARS to refine my skills when working hands on with a dog, and even then I still drop treats, trip over leads, fall over, and get my hands in the way of teeth when playing tug with a new dog. It just happens less often and the dance steps between the dog and I smooth out faster than it used to. But I still stumble about a little with a new partner.

So I never expect you guys to get it perfect, in fact I had this very conversation with some of my badass clients last night and I invited them to fuck. Shit. Up. (will safety in mind of course)

Because it’s in our mistakes and our dogs mistakes when we give room for critical thinking, self awareness and reflection that we learn the most.

And I know this all to well because I used to carry that shield with me every where I went, especially when it came to my dog, it’s what stopped us doing a lot of things because what we were going through didn’t look like what everyone else had.

So my defence was if he could behave like the dogs I seen on youtube, the dogs I had seen other trainers own, the dogs I had owned previously in my life (thinking how they hell did I even manage that and why was he so differently) If we could get all the things perfect, perfect sits, drops and stays if he could walk perfectly on lead, and behave himself perfectly we would be fine.

And I was so god dam critical of myself, which ended up putting unnecessary pressure on myself and more importantly him, I wasn’t directly being hard on him, it wasn’t that I had high expectations of him but I did of myself.

When I stripped down my defences of perfectionism I realised what I really wanted was not a perfect dog but a happy dog.

A dog that could be relaxed, not robot like not constantly directed or controlled in how to behave but could feel comfortable in all situations, felt safe enough to lean on me, look for me/towards me for guidance when he felt unsure, to be connected and doing things as a team opposed to one of us doing all the work.

Perfectionism doesn’t put just you in a box of how things should be, it doesn’t put a butt load of pressure on you but your dog as well.

We think perfectionism protects us but really it keeps us from the freedom we are wanting not just for ourselves but our dogs.

I don’t know if there is a cure to this I have been working on putting that shield down for many years and I still discover places where it unconsciously gets raised but self awareness helps AND the bit that we all hate, doing the things that makes us uncomfortable it what helps us drop that shield.

For my clients they need and appreciate that space to be able to drop there shield and know that they will be supported in their mistakes just as much as they will be celebrated in their successes, because they are showing up every day and doing the work.

What we teach our clients is far from easy but to see the happiness it brings there family, I’m sure they will agree with me on this it is certainly worth embracing the uncomfortable, the unknown and getting to put down that twenty-ton shield.