Sunday, August 28, 2011

We've tried *everything* . . .

I hear this phrase from clients usually followed by the laundry list of things they have tried to do with their dogs (or kids!) and then it's followed-up with . . ."but nothing works."  

Let's take a look at the "I've-Tried-Everything Theory".  First, this can apply to humans not just dogs so whether you are a pet parent or otherwise, this could help you out. . . .  Now, my first thought isn't that of, oh dear this dog must be difficult, but rather that the person has failed somewhere along the way.  Dogs don't fail us, we fail them.  It may be a big fail or small one, but it's us who fails.  So when our dogs are not "getting it" or they keep repeating some unwanted behavior over and over it's time for us to take a step back and re-evaluate what we are doing.

First, I don't know how to get this across to some people because a lot don't get it but--dogs aren't little humans.  While they are intelligent, fascinating creatures capable of some amazing things they still lack many things that the human mind doesn't.  Like reasoning and complex understanding.  Until you can actually wrap your brilliant human mind around this you won't be able to move very far with successful results with your dog.  Dogs are dogs, whether superheroes or not they are still dogs.  

So now that you realize your dog is a dog we can now move forward.  First comes the part any and all dog owners know they need to do but fail to--be consistent.  This doesn't mean for 24 hours, it means always, everyday.  Consistency will yield reliability, stability and trust--here is where this applies to humans too!  I'm a parent of an almost 3-year-old and so I'm around a lot of toddler parents.  I often hear this statement from parents--"Oh we tried that, it didn't work for us . . ."  and again my brain goes back to--Really? So does that mean you attempted it 4 or 5 times and it didn't seem to work so you gave up?  Probably.  And this is what I run into with dog training.

But know this too.  There is a fine line.  You need to know what is going to work with a dog on his level of understanding, as well as with a toddler.  As with kids we assume that this little thing is so brilliant (afterall they understand so many things we say!) that we put way too much expectation into what they actually understand and comprehend.  Everything has to be appropriate for what you are working with.

If you have tried something that is punishment-based (tugging at your dog's collar for a "stop-it" for an unwanted behavior) but the actual behavior isn't going away after repeatedly doing this then you are probably not doing something correctly.  However, on the flip-side if you are using positive-based methods and you think it's "not working" then you are probably not utilizing it appropriately either.  

I don't condone punishment-based methods for dogs or kids.  In the long-term it doesn't work.  What happens with punishment is that if and when it does work you will suppress a behavior but you haven't actually taught the lesson you were hoping for.  You cannot teach any living thing what is wrong if you havent' taught it what is right first.  A great example: If you dont' want your dog to jump instead of kneeing it in the chest or jerking it's leash to get it off of you why don't you tell it what you do want it to do?  The kneeing will usually only work on the people that consistently knee the dog.  What does that mean?  It means the dog hasnt' learn not to jump it's learned that jumping on you (or whomever does this method) is bad and receives a punishment.  However the dog's desire to get what it wants (usually attention is what a dog jumps for) is so strong that it needs to know that it can get what it wants by offering a more desirable behavior (sit instead of jump and then you can get the attention you want).  With punishment you don't give options.  You just attempt to teach it to stop jumping but you don't teach it what it is that you would prefer.

As humans we also want instant results.  We don't want to mess with training and taking time to practice, having to proof behaviors by going in different places, etc.  That's too time consuming for us busy Americans these days.  Who has time for that?  

A well-trained dog or a well-behaved kid doesn't happen with militant rules or punishment.  While appearances may show what looks like instant results you can be rest assured that other behaviors that are unwanted will result when you leave out the actual act of teaching a dog what is right and then when you do tell him he's wrong it will actually count . . . and make sense.  Also, when you do this the punishment doesn't have to be physical or harsh.   I can actually say "Hey!" to my own dogs with an instant whip of their head and they stop doing what they were doing. 

Some dogs, like some kids, can "tolerate" being yelled at or given ludicrous rules, or even physical punishment.  However, those that are taught with positive discipline, over time, will be much more relaxed, comfortable with others and have better self-esteem.  They also learn better and retain knowledge better.  So, if you are finding yourself in a quandary then take a step back and re-evaluate.  Does your dog understand what you want?  Does your dog know a better behavior than what you are trying to say "no" to?  Do you find your dog doing the right thing (that could be just lying calmly on the rug!) and you acknowledge this with even just a simple, "Good boy!"?  Have you taken the time to teach your dog basic things (sit, lie down, come when called, walk nicely on leash) so that communication is easier for the both of you?

Do you just feel like maybe you need a coach to show you how to accomplish some things or even get rid of some behaviors?  Then give me a shout!  I'd be more than happy to show you the way!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Late Night Jazz . . .

Are you following Jazz on her Facebook page? If so then you've seen all her videos.  She's doing videos every night with great music . . . we are calling them "Late Night Jazz".  Here is a look at one of the videos.  To see all of them either go to my YouTube channel or see her Facebook page & scroll down to follow all of them.  There are Volumes I-VII so far, more to come! (If you cannot view the video below visit this link:

Friday, August 12, 2011


Well I had to ask the program peeps but I've now gotten permission to advertise that . . . Jazz is accepting sponsors!  Oh yes!  A couple of the other Extreme Mutt Makeover dogs in the competition have sponsors and it's been great.  Their "donations" range from t-shirts to coupons to other fun things from dog-related businesses to individuals.

Jazz would love anyone to sponsor her and donate whatever the person, company or organization feels they can or want to do!  Nothing is too small and all monies or donations go toward the on-going care and costs of shelter dogs.

If you would like to be a sponsor and have a banner, brochures or any other promotional materials we'd be happy to advertise them for you on the weekend of the double-event, The Extreme Mustang Makeover and the Extreme Mutt Makeover.  Which will take place September 16-18 at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Ft Worth.  The crowds expected range between 1000-2500 people.  It's a huge event and draws a big crowd.  Not to mention it's all for the animals, in this case horses and dogs!

And don't forget to follow these great Facebook pages too!

Wanna sponsor Jazz?  Let me know.  Send me an email.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Funny what a challenging dog can teach you . . .

Jazz with her Nylabone
All my training clients are going to love me after this event.  Not because I think I'm going to win and take home the title of winner.  I'm fairly certain that isn't going to happen for me and Jazz after our experience today.  However, Jazzie-girl is teaching me a lot about myself and the challenges dogs endure.  Which in turn are challenges my clients endure when they have a challenging dog themselves.  Not that I never knew that many of my clients have some challenges, but this particular dog is showing me just what a challenge can do to you, the caretaker of the dog.

My own dogs are pretty great dogs.  I don't have any horrible challenges that I face.  I've also never owned a dog that came with baggage.  And I recall my beloved, late mentor, Lee Mannix saying to me--"Stacy get a dog that's hard, that's a challenge.  Don't go get a puppy that's a clean slate.  Once you successfully train a challenging dog you'll be the best dog trainer in world . . . "   And although I always knew he was right, I couldn't ever bring myself to go get a challenging dog and do that.  Too comfortable with my lovely pooches at home. . . .  

And so this is the story of Jazz, my new guiding star . . .

I took Jazz out today for the first time outside of our house.  Things went horrible.  She's terrified of the outside, even  more terrified of the car and forget Petsmart.  She completely shut down.  For a trainer, you know what this means.  For anyone else wondering it's basically where the dog is so over-stressed that it does nothing for anything.  As a trainer well-versed in doggie behavior I also know this means a long road ahead.  Fear is very difficult to overcome, and usually time is your only friend.  It's just a real tricky thing to deal with in training and it has many factors that come into play . . . .

Jazz playing tug
I had chopped up ham in my pouch and although, because I could read her like a book, I knew she wasn't going to take any food I did offer her some to "see if".  Upon offering the yummy ham she did this: sniff, head turn, heavy panting--that's a dog saying, help, I'm freaked out.  I knew this was going to happen after watching her body language.  Sigh.  We bought the dog food I came in for and left.

Poor girl was basically in the shelter her whole life, all (about) 10 months of it.  Damaged dogs can teach you a lot.  A lot about people.  A lot about how to be patient.  A lot about what to do when time isn't on your side. . . .

However, today I really was able to stop and go through a lot of things in my head.  I have 6 weeks now to get this dog to where she'll go into a huge arena (at this point that is out of the question!) and perform.  I was going through all these thoughts in my head and then I realized I wasn't too incredibly worried.  Not this time . . .

When I joined the Extreme Mutt Makeover in 2009 my thoughts were to get my dog trained to be the best dog out there. Win!  Of course we did nothing of the sort. "Harry" was entertaining as he darted away to a member of the crowd and completely ignored me during our huge performance.  The crowed laughed and roared.  While I laughed and smiled, inside I was horrified.  What a terrible trainer I am, how embarrassing . . . and on and on my head went spinning. 
"Harry" the mutt

However, I learned that I wasn't having fun and I didn't allow Harry to just have fun.  If I hadn't had so much competition fever in me then my training would have showed it.  Harry was rather intelligent and he was very easy to teach new things to.  He also really wasn't fearful of anything, at least not enough to make any difference.  So I could have very easily won that competition last year.  

This year I questioned doing this event because I didn't have time or I recall all the stress I put myself through with Harry.  My husband even said, "No, you're not doing it again.  Do you not remember all the stress you endured and the many days of tears?"  But this time I thought more about it.  

Jazz in the shelter
I don't care if I win.  Heck, I don't even care if we can't get out there to perform!  I just want this remarkable dog to be given a chance, show the world that any dog can be trained and brought a long way from where they started.  I just want to show myself that a challenge doesn't have to endure so much stress that you lose sight of what you're doing.  Take a challenge and go with it.  Just break it down.  Take it one step at a time.  Let Jazz tell you when she's ready and move forward.  Rushing things never works.  Nothing ever good comes of it and it only leads to thoughts in your head, "I should'a. . . If only . . . . . ."

I'm learning and hoping that Lee Mannix can see me.  I hope he is able to be proud as I've finally been able to take his advice and see what a joy it is to have this giant learning journey ahead of me . . . because I can see that at the end I'm going to be better for it.