Spanky & Me

In this world of behaviorism where dog rescues rely heavily on professionals claiming to be behavior experts, many times a dog’s life depends 100% on that person’s judgement.

This is where Spanky comes in. Spanky is a Labrador Retriever and Mastiff mix. Recently, I was sent a video of the canine’s evaluation by a “reputable behaviorist”. During this video, what I observed was a dog that was deemed aggressive and a danger because he was attacking a plush dog replica while not being corrected. I also observed a “behaviorist” that was scared the dog, and he refused to end the anxious reaction for “fear of being bitten”. I don’t know if there is enough storage space on the internet or me to actually write out what is wrong with this procedure, but I will gladly and certainly point out the obvious flaws in this “behavior assessment”. It is my duty to do so:

1. A behavior evaluation based upon a dog’s reaction to a plush toy is not an accurate assessment whatsoever. This rings especially true in this case as Spanky had come from two different homes. This means, certainly that at some point, this young lad had a plush toy to play with. If one observes the average domesticated dog living in households, one can normally find plush toys. Another factor that was not considered was that the shelter uses plush toys as an “experience enrichment” protocol. This means that the dogs there are given plush toys to play with. Now we fast forward to said “behaviorist” that assessed the dog aggressive because he want after a plush toy, how the fuck does this make sense when he is perfectly aware of the circumstance? Claiming that a dog does not know the difference between a plush dog and a real dog is incredibly absurd, and not reason enough to throw a dog onto the euthanasia table.

2. Claiming to be a telepathic animal communicator is not reason enough to give oneself enough credentials to deem an animal’s death a must. Holistic dog training based upon one’s self-imposed clairvoyant powers is not valid in deeming a being worthy of life or death. Period. Of course the canine will automatically gravitate towards a texture that has been associated with biting, biting is a primary way for dogs to let out their anxiety. Dogs have so much to tell with their mouths, and tearing a plush toy apart is not a reason for any dog to die, ever.

3. If one is scared of an animal, and believes that this animal will bite if disturbed, why would we go in without a bite suit? Why would one feel the need to psychologically deem this animal as an “assassin” and not take proper precaution when dealing with such an “aggressive” being? This has nothing to do with theory and which approach the trainer/behaviorist is subscribing to, this has to do with credibility. This man is taking money from city funding, he is being paid by your tax dollars, and he is failing these dogs.

Within twenty minutes, I was able to maintain the dog’s energy below threshold which allowed him to interact nicely with a pitbull named Hanna. In fact, Spanky play-bowed the first chance he got. The key to these two different evaluations was simple, when giving a behavioral evaluation trainers/behaviorists need to make sure that they aren’t just setting the canine loose to make decisions on their own after spending thirty plus days in a kennel-like room. We have to set proper and humane parameters, and let me be clear, giving treats or telling a dog to “drop it” without having trained that command is not giving the canine a fair chance to comply. Spanky complied with me almost instantaneously as my body language communicated clear cues: confident, calm, and loving.

After working with Spanky for a twenty minutes, I decided that it was time to pull him and save his life. I have offered to work for free with his foster family, and I will rehab him. This is a good dog. He would have been killed because of the faulty methods of one person. This guy will now have an amazing life due to the rescue efforts of Lucky Lab Rescue and my company K911!.

Good dogs are being killed every day because most “professionals” have watched one too many episodes of The Dog Whisperer, or they operate from a place of egoic stimulation. Dog behavior modification and training should come from a place of love only.

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Not all canine pros are made equal

Recently, here in Austin, Texas, a self proclaimed “dog whisperer” was arrested for animal cruelty charges. In my own experience in the ATX dog training/behaviorist world, I have had many clients that have used the services of said self-proclaimed “dog whisperer”. Some of the horror stories I have heard were very pale in comparison to what she was actually arrested for. I would like to address a few things in the article, and I would like to give some advice when choosing a trainer/behaviorist in order to avoid putting your dog through a traumatizing experience.

Here is the link: Austin Dog Whisperer Charged with Animal Cruelty

Here is a second link: Article 2

The article states that the puppy was wearing a prong collar and describes the tool as controversial. Well, as my clients know that I am strong advocate of these collars in a simple light pressure system that does not and will never require lifting the dog off of the ground and intentionally causing pain. In fact, the way she is using this collar here is by no means a proper means, and this clearly demonstrates her not knowing what she is doing whatsoever. Coming from the rescue world, I have been quickly able to rehabilitate dogs with a light pressure system far more efficiently and effectively than with treats, but this is not an article that pits balanced training vs pure positive training. This is to help you defend your own dog against con-artists like this woman.

When looking at her website, we clearly see a mess. A total influx of overwhelming disorganized information. This should be warning sign number 1 to people. Sending a clear and concise message is the goal in dog training, so if someone is not even able to convey that on their own advertising I would highly suggest that we run for the hills! This is a clear case of having watched one too many episodes of Cesar Milan.

When deciding on your trainer/behaviorist make sure you take the time to interview them. I personally will not start training with clients until we have sat down in person and have a conversation regarding their needs and my own philosophies and how we can reach symbiosis in bringing the two together. Never just hire someone, pay the consultation fee to interview the person, it may end up saving you money in the end AND most importantly save your canine from abuse. A good trainer/behaviorist will have a good understanding of Pavlovian concepts and operant conditioning while being intuitive to your own standings as a human. If nothing is mentioned about conditioning and how we achieve proper conditioning in canines, ask. If there still isn’t a clear answer, again, run for the hills. Working with people is just as important as working with the dogs themselves! If the trainer recommends a board and train program immediately then I would also be very hesitant to hire this person as one does not know what is truly happening behind closed doors. My clients and I work hand in hand to accomplish our goals with their dogs to the point that sometimes it is hard to say good-bye. If this is not the type of personal experience that you feel is offered then do not hire this person. Training your dog, should be, an intimate and special experience that should only be shared with someone you can relate with and trust. If your gut says,”no” then do not, by any means, roll with that person.

If a board and train is what is needed… let me actually go into this a little deeper. If you have grown tired of your dog, but love you dog, and just need this to get done and you have no interest in doing the training yourself then by all means this option is for you, but also be aware that this attitude and mindset is probably what caused the issues in the first place so when the canine returns home, LISTEN to the trainer/behaviorist that worked with your dog in order to maintain the training, follow directions.

So once again, if a board and train is what is needed, GO CHECK OUT WHERE THE TRAINING WILL HAPPEN. I am going to say this once and only once, DO NOT LET SOMEONE JUST TAKE YOUR DOG TO AN UNKNOWN PLACE! Everyday reputable training facilities are caught not upholding their standards, and it is truly sickening that people who make their living off of canines can not even give them respect and honor them for that. This is why I do tons of volunteer work. I make a great living working with dogs, and it is my duty to help as many of them as possible because of that.  This profession is a long lost art that has been clouded with “dog whisperers” and “quick fixes” that only hurt our dogs.

Also, before sending your dog off to a board and train, I would recommend doing a one on one session with a trainer, and with that evaluate them. Look at their body language, are they tense? Are they quick to get flustered? if yes, then move on. If they are not smiling because of “minor” victories that happens in training then I would suggest you move on from them. It is so important that the person you hire to help you with your canine is balanced themselves while working with your dog, otherwise we are only going to end up with a train wreck.

As far as tools go, I am a strong advocate of prong and eCollars, when they are used properly that is. We have too many idiots in training world using high level corrections that aren’t needed. Listen, if a trainer goes directly to correcting without teaching these collars to a dog, then they are posers. Low level corrections, and low level stimulations are what we shoot for when dealing with corrections in general, unless the trainer is pure positive, but that is another topic of discussion. Personally, I label myself as a balanced approach trainer, we correct (PROPERLY!), redirect, and reward.

No one should be hurting your dog with malicious intent, ever. No one should take your dog without you knowing exactly what will be happening, and no one should ever tell you that swinging a dog by a prong collar and leash is acceptable. Let’s take care of our dogs, and if you have problems consult with a real professional. Many of my clients have said,”Wow, you are like a dog whisperer”. I am quick to refute that term and compliment because I have spent years learning how to do this. I have spent so much time learning from the greats, from my own dogs, and the countless rescues I have proudly kept in homes. I make no claims of extraordinary canine whispering abilities, as I honor my own learning process, and I honor the trials and errors that I have faced. True passion, regarding canines, comes not from humanizing them or acknowledging ourselves as one of them, it is a direct reflection of the work we have put in and the acknowledgement that the inter-speci relationship between Homosapien and Canis lupis familiaris is fucking special.

 

Rule of Thumb

Structure works in all lives due to appearance of predictability. Stability and knowing that no unwanted surprises may come our way. Give yourself and your do the gift of comfort by providing a firm and positive schedule that emphasizes building your relationship and role with your dog as friend, family, and leader.

The All-American dog.

Nothing embodies the United States of America more when it comes to a canine personifying American ideologies than the American Pitbull Terrier: strong, athletic, powerful, honorable, and a sheer will to protect.

Now masked in controversy because of people, their true history has been forgotten. They are the misunderstood superhero of domesticated dog breeds. A wonderful and truest athlete they require lots of bonding time and socialization from an early point. These dogs are the dog of America. They even come in the colors red, white, and blue. Breed specific legislation should never be the answer for a dog that has protected our families longer than it has been made into a undeserving role of villain by those that simply lack heart.

 

#1 tip to changing your dog’s troublesome behavior

99% of the time I ask owners,”how much do you walk your dog?” The most common answer I get is,”Well, we don’t really walk our dog, but the dog gets plenty of exercise.” Now, the exercise part is great, I am a huge fan of exercise, but that does not equate to setting leadership and authority. If your dog is not at all heel while walking with you, despite that s/he may not be reactive, the message of leadership is not clear. I am of firm belief that all dogs should be at a loose leash heel, and following your lead: pace, body language, and relaxation.

Properly walking your dog eliminates problematic behavior. It may not cure all of it, but it sure helps cut down the load of troublesome behaviors we are dealing with.

The #1 tip to eliminating problematic behavior… engage your dog in walks with you at a heel for at least 45 minutes a day. Watch the magic happen.

Up to this point…

 

empress

Six months ago, I woke up with this crazy itch. I wanted to be sovereign and independent. It was as if I was going through my own Revolutionary War. I conjugated my current state beyond more than just past, present, and future. I attempted to regain my happiness. The happiness not just being a derivative of money, but more so an in the moment, accepting when rain falls on you and loving it, type of happiness. Having volunteered with dog rescues for a while, and the people who love me supporting my hopes to make a career working with canines… I woke up and decided to open my own business. Little did I know that opening this business would not just open the doors to generating my own income, but it would also open the doors to a more stress free me. It allowed me to work more, but work less at the same time. The hours I put in still to this day now are the hours that I am awake, and heaven knows that has consequences in itself, but I can not help it as my passion dictates where my feet take me. I swear sometimes, my body is my best friend, somehow it takes me to get food or use the bathroom because my mind is never on this plain of basic mechanics that are required from humans to survive.

Now, six months have passed, and literally over a hundred customers plus volunteer work hours later, I find myself expanding my mind once again. Recently, some of my clients went out-of-town and they asked me if I knew a good dog walker. Well, the best dog walker I know is myself, so I told them that I would gladly make the exception for them, and for one of my All-Star canines, Empress. As I was walking Empress, it began to rain. At this point I’d like to refer you to the first paragraph where a mention of rain was made. I stopped walking, Empress followed suit. She sat down next to me, and looked at me waiting for me to tell her what to do. However, in this moment there was a connection. It was as if we both were deciding wether or not to continue this walk with all this stuff chaotically falling from the sky. We made our decision together as we continued on our walk. It was mutual, you could tell. She stayed at a perfect heel with me enoying the rain just as I was enjoying the perfect heel we had accomplished while walking in the rain with her. There was something special going on, and as we were passed by cars, I noticed that people were smiling while waving at us with true joy. It was with those people, and a beautiful symbiotic relationship between myself and Empress that I realized I had set out to do exactly what I planned six months. I found myself happy, in the moment, drenched in rain, wearing basketball shorts with paw stains on them, and completely accepting of the present state. This is the area of the mind and soul that is capable of teaching, this is the area of power that we seemto forget. The power to accept simply beautiful moments, daily. I then realized that I had created this. I manifested this, and I had worked hard for this.

In that moment, I began to tear up. I looked around, and the rain was coming down heavier than before. It mixed with the few tears that fell from my face, and right then and there I thought of how special this was. As the rain and now tear stained asphalt only emphasized the special moment that Empress and I shared, we decided that at this point it was time to go home. I walked her home, and I dried her off. I was so proud of her, and I am so proud of her. We dried off, and she went to take a nap as I went to work with more clients that needed my help.

I though to myself,”This is the type of passion and art that the dog training world is missing”. As I look around the dog training community, it is in shambles. So, I decided that I would start a blog to get my thoughts down, and share (for those who want to know) what I am learning on my path. I do not know where I will end up, nor do I care as long as it’s somewhere with dogs.

In this blog’s future one will find: opinions on dog training, product reviews, success stories, case studies, training advice, daily ventings, and of course many grammatical errors.

I look forward to sharing my journey with anyone that is interested. I look forward to working with clients that turn into friends, and I look forward to meeting and helping as many canines as I can in this short life that we all stumble through.

  • Jonas Black