Sometimes your love gets in the way of your dogs growth and potential. As a dog trainer, there are zero dogs that I see that have behavioral issues from a lack of love. The same cannot be said from giving “too much love”, always at the wrong time.
We put every human emotional onto our dogs, hell most of you have a separate dog voice for each different dog you have. The issue is, when we make up emotions, feelings, that our dogs are not even having.
“Awe he looks sad.” As the dog calmly walks off the couch and lays on his dog bed.
“Look how happy he is!” As the dog has a stress face, frantically barking at the Squirrel on the other end of the window.
“I don’t want him to not want to cuddle me tho” When a dog gets kicked off the bed because they are protective over it.
“He doesn’t like that” When the dog finally lays his head down during a stay command, whilst the family eats dinner.
WE make up so many scenarios inside our head, and we overthink (go figure) everything!
Something I want you to think about. Love is not affection. Affection is a part of love, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle. Your dog needs more than that. Honestly, your dog would be happier working than they would be sitting on the couch getting affection.
“But I love him” is a line a hear all too often. If you love him, you’ll do what is necessary, and what he needs. Not what you want.
Now we are here, what was the point of this post.. ⬇️
I’ve been in this industry 9 years, and I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seems that dogs are getting more and more worse behaved. I believe it is because our perception of love. If you think back, it was fairly common for all dogs to live outside not too long ago. I’m absolutely not advocating for that by any means, but we have made a huge directional change in the way we interact with dogs, an animal with 42 teeth, in a very short period of time.
The market and the media have twisted love. It’s not only about cuddle time, new toys, bones and other materials. It’s about meeting their instinctual needs. Your dog was bred to work. Bred for a purpose, and the average dog doesn’t have that in their life. We took a German Shepherd Dog, painted his toe nails, and give him a 15 minute walk a day, and wonder why he’s an absolute psycho in the house. He’s not fulfilled, he’s not loved, in the way he needs to be.
I want you to do me a favor. Research your dog breed today, and dive into a little. Look at what they were bred to do, and used for in the past. When you make the commitment to bring that breed into your house, make sure you are doing enough to meet their needs, physically and mentally. Also make sure you meet their needs by giving them direction, by leading them. I can promise you this, your dog will love you significantly more when you take the driver seat.
You have to make sure you stop humanizing him. Love him, but love him as your dog, not as your child. However, in the same instance that you would with your child, you need to create rules, and more important stick to them! I know your dog is cute, but that cuteness is not a get our of listening to rules free card.
Change your mindset, and it will change your outcome. Happy Training.
You’ve booked your first session with the Best Dog Training Company in Pittsburgh. What do you need to do, know, and have for your special day.
First off, breathe. You don’t need to be nervous for your training session. Remember, we are absolutely NOT coming to your house to judge you. We are coming to your house to help you and your dog reach your potential, build your relationship, fix the behavioral issues you are having, and give you the confidence it takes to be the leader your dog desperately needs. I have so much respect for owners who know when it’s time to call for help, and we cannot wait to be the help you desperately need.
What do you need to have for your session?
Every dog is different, as well as every household environment, but there are a few things that should be in every house. Whether you have a puppy, or a dog with a behavioral issue, you will benefit from having the following.
Two very important notes! Make sure you don’t over exert your dog before our training session, and do not feed your dog directly before our training session. Even if they miss a meal, or only eat half, it will help. Remember, in order to train, we need some energy, and we definitely need food motivation!
What should you do when your trainer arrives at your house? If your dog is a bite risk, we put these particular dogs in the crate, or a back room when we get there. Remember to condition your dog to the Baskerville Muzzle before the session! If your dog is human friendly, even if they are a pain in the butt at the door, let them do their thing! We will coach you through it, just have a leash handy. The first 10-15 minutes your trainer will sit down with you and have a conversation at the kitchen table, get to know you and your best friend, and explain the layout of the session before starting the hands on portion of your training.
As the owner of the company, and have been training dogs for the past 10 years in this beautiful city, I want to thank you very much for trusting our team with your dogs. I know how much they mean to you, and it’s my honor to help you and your dog achieve balance, and reach their true potential. Happy training!
Cancelling and Rescheduling Fee:
We always send a reminder for appointments 7 days in advance. Cancelling within 3 days of the appointment has a $45 rescheduling fee. Cancellations the same day as appointment is 50% of appointment fee.
If you are struggling with your dog’s reactivity towards dogs, prey, or people on your walk, understand you are not alone and help is right around the corner. This is something that we, Say It Once Dog Training, are known for solving. I want to break it down for you. Welcome to Part 1.
There is a huge difference between leash reactivity, and aggression, and the difference lies in the behavior your dog displays without a leash. We see countless clients who talk about how well their dog plays with other dogs at the park, or family and friend’s dogs, but as soon as they are on a leash they turn into Cujo. This, is the prime example of frustration related reactivity. If our dog is seeking to cause physical harm and attack a dog, on or off leash, this is considered, quite obviously, aggression. Now, you’re going to take a similar approach for both of these reactions, but for people who are struggling with frustrated reactivity, you need to understand why your dog is frustrated, how it started, and how to fix it moving forward.
What does a typical walk look like for the average dog? We stroll down the street, often they drag their human quite a while, and sometimes they meander from side to side, sniffing the grass and spacing out as we walk them. However, they rarely check in with their owner because the owner rarely asks much of their dog when they go out on a walk. Most of the time the owner will only try to ask their dog to stay close if they see another dog, which is a clear signal to your dog that they should focus on to them. That other dog is now providing me with tension (because you have physically put tension via the leash, and the only thing that has changed is the addition of the other dog) If the only time you try to get your dogs attention is when another dog is around while walking them, you are in for a world of hurt.
From the dogs perspective, as soon as they see another dog on a walk they become very interested. Ears perking up, head lifts high, tail starts to wag with a faster pace, their chest puffs out, and all of this body language happened in the blink of an eye. Within a few seconds, there is tension on the leash, and Fido begins to pull towards the other dog. The average owner takes one of two routes here.
Option 1. Because the dog owner knows the other dog and their human, they allow fido to pull towards the other dog until they get up to them for a greeting. “They are friends, so it’s not that big of a deal.” Here is the problem with this scenario. When you allow your dogs to meet as they’ve been pulling, you are reinforcing their pulling, but also the state of mind which is the big issue. The other issue with this option is when you come across you do not know, and you do not want to greet them. Your dog doesn’t understand why you won’t let them greet other dogs, which forces them to pull harder. You’ve probably noticed the trend, the harder they pull, the harder it is for you to physically hold back, and the more they try (opposition reflex) On-leash dog greetings are not something I recommend, but I’ll talk about that in another post.
Option 2. You see a dog, and you immediately tense up. You wrap the leash around your hand 4 extra times until your hand starts to turns purple. You start to pull your dog closer to you for “more control”, and cross the street to get as much distance between each other. In this scenario, this is where dog owners believe their dog can all of the sudden speak the English language, and we start pleading with our dog to not pay attention. “Fido, come on now, leave it, leave it, leave it, keep it moving, he doesn’t want to be friends, he could eat you, why do you do this to me?” A full on conversation, until we physically drag our dog 30 feet past and can regain the small amount of control we had to begin with.
Now, where did you go wrong in this scenario? The answer is not on the walk, it always starts well before you even saw the dog. When you opened up your front door to go for a walk, I can all but guarantee your dog ran out the door first, excited, without permission. It’s not about being “the alpha”, it’s about not rewarding your dogs frantic and overexcited state of mind. Pay attention to that line, “state of mind”. If you allow your dog to walk out the door while they are overexcited, you are teaching them that their crazy behavior is going to get them what they want. (As it does when they react when they see another dog) Just like a child who is kicking and screaming in the grocery store because they want chocolate bars, and gets rewarded for it, your dog will do the same. I don’t want you to only focus on the obedience commands you are asking your dogs to do, I want you to focus on the state of mind of your dog. Our goal, is to have a dog be as calm as possible while we walk.
Some other steps to take before taking your first steps on your walk is the way you put your leash on. Do not put the leash on your dog if they are jumping up, bouncing around, barking and whining. Once again rewarding a behavior that we hate. Ask them to sit, wait until they are sitting CALMLY, and put the lead on. Try not to make a huge fuss over the fact that we are doing this, because truly it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to your dog.
Before you grab the leash, if you catch yourself hyping up your dog by asking them, “Do you want to go for a WaLk?” Stop it. Remember, do everything in your power to keep your dog calm while getting them ready to go for a calm walk.
Once you’ve made the appropriate changes, does this mean your dog is now going to calmly pass other dogs on the walk? Heck no, but it’s the start of you asking more from your dog. It’s the start of the relationship change that is required to lead your dog. Sometimes, leadership is uncomfortable, and most always leadership takes patience and calmness. Now, lets go over how to teach our dogs to heel on lead.
Part 2 next.
It’s funny, when yo mention dog park to a dog owner, you’re only going to get one of two reactions. “MY DOG LOVES THE DOG PARK!” OR “Absolutely Not Will Ever Go To The Dog Park Again!”
Personally, I’m a huge anti dog park guy. I’ve seen way too many things happen inside the park to ever go back. However, I’m also a dog owner who has a fairly big fenced in yard, can take his dog’s off leash in fields for running, and have the liberty to meet many friends and clients with their dogs to socialize my dogs with. I understand the appeal to dog owners have to take their dog to the dog park, and honestly on paper it sounds amazing. Here is the problem with the dog park. You have to rely on other dog owners to watch, and correct their dogs behavior as needed, and that just doesn’t happen. Too many dog owners will go to the park and either sit on their phone, converse with the other owners, smoke a cig, bring Chik-fil-a inside the park, or try and take a nap instead of being an accountable dog parent. Yes, I’ve seen all of this happen, and if you’re a regular you’ve seen it too. Without this lack of accountability and oversight from owner to dog, issues are bound to flare up more frequently than they should.
The dog park should be a reward for your dog for being well behaved, but it should not be your outlet to get rid of your dogs energy in order for your dog to be well behaved. That just doesn’t work. Over and over again you’ll hear me talk about the importance of mental exercise over physical exertion. That is what Say It Once Dog Training is built on. If you are relying on purely physical means to get your dog calm, this tends to be an issue. Multiple dogs who are high strung in the same area competing for the same ball, affection, water fountain, new dog coming into the gate, will eventually lead to a mistake. Once again, a mistake isn’t the problem, how you react, or a lack of reaction to the mistake is a problem. This is where dogs get learned behaviors, and where big time problems appear. If everyone was committed to stopping their dogs ill behavior and working with their dog to be better behaved, it would be a beautiful process, but that’s not the case. Some people don’t care enough, and that’s okay! I’m just not going to put my dogs in a position where a mistake can be made.
If you are going to go to the park, that’s awesome! Let me give you some quick pointers on how to have a better behaved dog at the park.
It’s the small details that make the big picture, and that couldn’t be more true when talking about body positioning. Where your dog is sitting, or hanging out at, tells a story. If I’m having a conversation with you, and my dog positions himself directly in front of me, this is a big time problem. It seems so insignificant, because a mistake hasn’t happened, but as we know there is never a problem, until there is a problem.
You have to remember, dogs do not speak English. They speak through body language and energy. Every move is a sentence in the story. When a dog places themselves in between you and someone else, it will not always mean that my dog is trying to hurt or attack someone, far from it. However, it does put my dog in a position where they believe the can make decisions, and it puts them in a position of control. I’ve heard hundreds of stories in which this was the beginning, and the story ends with the stranger moving closer to the owner and their dog lunged and nipped. Here is the question. Why wouldn’t they? Once again, they’ve been in a position of protection and control through the entirety of your conversation with this stranger.
This doesn’t apply just to protective or aggressive dogs. Over friendly dogs are more likely to jump when standing in this position, then they would be in a heel next to their owners. Nervous dogs tend to let off low nervous growls in this position, and will absolutely nip to say back the hell off if someone comes too close. Your job, for all behavior types, but especially as the owner of a nervous dog, is to put them in a position to succeed. Put them in a position where they understand what they should and shouldn’t be doing. Where they understand that they do not have to make decisions, and you, their owner, are in complete control of not just them, but the entire environment. The more confidence your dog gets with you as a leader, the more confident they will become throughout their life.
If you are practicing putting your dog in a sit when other dogs are nearby or walking past, do so with them next to you and you closest to the other dogs. Use your body and space to your advantage.
Body positioning doesn’t only equal outside behavior. Once a week I meet dog owners who have dogs that will nip their spouse when they move to close to them in the TV room, or when they try to get next to their spouse on the couch. I ask where the dog is during this sequence of events, and the dog is on their lap. Well, he’s in a position to be protective, so why wouldn’t he? He’s off the couch, ♾.
Opening up a door for a friend and having your dog in front of you, and in between the two of you at a threshold is another big time problem. Don’t open the door for your guests with your dog in this position. “But Vinnie, how do I bring the guests in then? They will be waiting outside for hours?”
You have a few options, but this is why we PREACH the place command. Having a home base for your dog to stay on while you bring guests over is so important. However, you can always use your crate as well. Never as a punishment, and I’m not anxious or angry when putting my dog in the crate after the doorbell rings. Ill take my time, and stay as calm as a cucumber. Finally, if your dog has perfect leash skills, you’re in business. You can always use your leash, and heel them to the door and throughout the house while your guests is there.
Overview: Body positioning matters, and start to pay more attention to the minor details. Continue to work with your dog, and have a tremendous amount of fun throughout the process. Remember, “Properly Trained Humans Can Be a Dog’s Best Friend”
One of my bigger pet peeves is when dog owners compare their current dog with their previous dog. Not only is it unfair, it’s not realistic. Imagine if you were to hold your two kids at the same standard for everything they did in their own lives. Yes, they will have similarities, but they will also have traits that they each individually excel at, and more importantly, struggle with. This doesn’t mean you’ll get frustrated when one is better at a particular something over the other, it means you are going to have to spend more time teaching the struggler in that particular area. And guess what? That’s okay!
The two biggest issues that I have with comparing dogs is memory and inactivity. Let me explain. First, whether your last dog was 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or 15 years ago, memory fades. We tend to look at and remember the big picture, but we don’t remember the small, albeit important, details. We forget that puppies nip when not engaged with, or that dog’s steal underwear when given the opportunity and when given too much freedom. I can guarantee you this, your new dog will not come preprogrammed with the understanding of your household rules. Sometimes owners expect the 2nd dog to immediately catch on. That is total BS, and absolutely unfair. You have to teach them, you have to coach them, and you have to show them.
Your dog is going to make a few mistakes, no doubt about it, but when we start complaining and take a stance of inactivity towards progression, then it turns into a learned behavior, to which we then again blame our dogs. If your new dog has a behavior problem, or a very annoying learned behavior, great! It gives you something to work on, gives you an objective, and gives you the chance to help your dog mature and grow. Look at everything as if it is a training opportunity, not a mistake or failure, and that positive outlook on your relationship with your dog will change everything you thought you knew.
Now, does this mean I’ll willfully stand by and let my dog chew apart my couch? HECK NO! This just means that I’ll accept the fact my dog doesn’t yet understand that he can’t chew my couch, and I, as a responsible dog owner, will not put him in a position where he is alone and not secured. And if I do put my dog in a position that he will fail, I will blame myself rather than blame my dog. I will be proactive, and will start spending more time training him so the can learn what is right from wrong.
Look at your dog, understand he will never be anything other than what you put into him. The more you work with him, the better he will be. Have fun, and get your ass to work!
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Humans. We love seeing cute stuff, until it becomes annoying and then we get frustrated and blame the dog. Unfortunately, they don’t come with an on/off switch, so once you rev them up, be prepared to deal with the consequences of an overexcited dog. Stop announcing events to your dog and then getting upset when they act like a psychopath before you do that specific activity. What are some examples you ask? Let’s talk about them below.
Let’s say you’re sitting in your living room hanging out with your dog, and you hear your husbands car pull into the driveway. What is the one thing you typically do when you hear your spouse’s car pull in? “DADDY’S HOME!” or “Who’s here”, “who’s that”. When you announce the arrival of the person coming into the house, you create an association that people coming into the house is a big deal. Then your spouse walks in and boom, you are hit with a jumping, overexcited, annoying dog. To make matters worse, humans blame the dog! We then ask, “Why does he behave like this?”
It’s a terrible cycle that we start, and the sole reason for the announcing is selfishness. We think it’s so darn cute to have a dog be excited to see someone, but hate dealing with the jumping, barking, and craziness, especially when it’s grandma or a five year old coming into the house. The best thing you can do is, nothing. Act like its no big deal, don’t announce, don’t act excited to see your dog until they have done something correct.
We should apply that same logic before doing activities as well. Try not saying, “Do you want to go for a walk?” It’s hard to get a dog to calmly walk out the door if they are jazzed up and bouncing off the wall. Same philosophy with car rides, or any other exercise that you want your dog to be calm. Calmness will bring more calmness, and at the end of the day, more happiness to you!
This isn’t to say dogs should never get excited, and far from it. Before a training session, rev them up! Get your dog so excited about playing ball, tug, and frisbee. Your dog should be wound-up and aroused for obedience training and trick training sessions. The difference in these occasions is we actually need the dog to be excited to complete the task. That brings the question. Do we really need the dog to be excited to greet us when we come home?
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Every year we keep a tally of dogs who have been prescribed Prozac, trazodone, or some other type of antidepressant drug, and unfortunately the number keeps going up ever year. Why? Because we are treating our dogs like human beings. We are forgetting that we signed up for an animal to live in our house, and that these animals the needs of a dog, not of a human. Buying them more toys, hanging out with them in the tv room, snuggling in bed with your dog. These are all great, but they are all bullshit. Your dog doesn’t need it, humans do. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do all of the things listed above too, once my dog’s needs are met. I love my dogs more than anything else in the world, ANYTHING, but I will never forget that they are dogs. They are not my kids. The second I get that twisted, is the second I fail them. I treat Trigger, Thurman, and Xena like dogs BECAUSE I love them so much. Because I respect them so freaking much. Let’s dive in.
Dogs are prescribed prozac and trazodone left and right. (which by the way is not a reflection upon the owner. This is not a guilt trip on you, you are following the direction of someone who is following protocol. My goal, is to change that said protocol) They are prescribed for separation anxiety, nervousness and fear, and worst of all overexcitement and too much energy. Are there some dogs who need medication, absolutely. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say less then 10% of the dogs I train actually need it. What they need is structure. They need to be treated like a dog. They need challenged through exercise, mentally and physically. They need to work. That is the bottom line, and something we forgot along the way. These dogs, they were bred for a purpose. Our job as responsible dog owners is to give them that purpose, and it’s not to hang out in the house and do a short 15 minute walk everyday. That’s not enough. That is not going to cut the mustard.
How can we be better? We can start by changing our mindset. Yes, some people own dogs that dont get Regular exercise and they live a perfectly “happy” life. That shouldn’t be the standard, and honestly, it should be far from it. Some of the higher drive and energy dogs need, two good 40-60+ minute exercise sessions a day. Before we start to think about the, I don’t have the time, remember, this is what you signed up for. Daily obedience sessions, even a few 10 minute sessions daily can change your relationship between the two of you! Exercise alone is not the only component that will fix this problem, its a huge piece though. The other? Teaching your dog down time. Teaching your dog that doing nothing is indeed doing something. This is where it gets hard. We love and recommend kennel training, the right way, and never to be used as a place for punishment. Ever! The kennel though, when introduced correctly, becomes a tool to slow your dog down, so they know they can relax and hang out. (We will go further in depth about re-crate training your dog our next blog post.) Structure in every part of your dogs life. Dogs need to know where they stand and what they should be doing constantly. Knowing what youre doing creates confidence, decreases insecurity and anxiety. Have you ever gone to work and no one tells you what to do? You’re ready to hit everyone in the office with a baseball bat, because it creates stress and anxiety.
Give your dog absolutely nothing for free. Make them work for everything. You want to go outside? Perfect, do a down. You want to eat your meal? Beautiful, let’s practice impulse control and have you stay on place beforehand. This mindset of actively working your dog, is life changing. Not just for your dog, but for you!
As always remember, “Properly trained humans can be a dog’s best friend!”
“Vinnie my problem is that my dog lunges, pulls, snarls, or tries to bite people or dogs when they are on the leash”
Most owners of a dog who is severely leash reactive believe that the lunging at other dogs is the problem, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not the issue. The problem begins way before the lunge. Out of the next 100 leash reactive dogs that I will train over the next few weeks, I can guarantee 99 of them have two things in common. Terrible leash manners even before the stimulus comes into the picture. You will see a lot of weaving, pulling, smelling, and realistically a dog who has no understanding of heel, of following their human being. If your dog isn’t listening to the rules when there is no stimulus around, why all of the sudden would they listen when a dog/person/jogger walks past? If there is no expectation set beforehand, your dog will fail. Guaranteed. If we can teach our dog to heel, without stimulus around first, only then can we pass the dog with perfection. However, that expectation, that new standard on the walk, has to be set in stone ahead of time, and enforced indefinitely while on the leash.
Once we teach your dog to heel and walk properly on leash, we will run into our second issue, fixation. Prolonged eye-contact will inevitably get your dog in some serious trouble. Dogs, when staring at each other, are much like two men sitting across the bar staring at each other. The longer they stare, the more their chests puff out, frustration builds, and the inevitable, and altercation. Stopping your dog from being able to fixate on other dogs is the biggest piece to the puzzle. Imagine that your dog has a “freak-out” scale of 1-10. Once they get above 8, you’re in deep, let’s say “doggie-doo”. We need to start correcting the problem at a level 1/2/3. How do you do that? Back to our above statement, good leash skills and putting a rule in place that we are able to enforce. That is our job, to determine what is the best solution for you and your dog, and how to best correct the problem. Once your dog is heeling, we can enforce the next rule, no staring at other dogs nor people unless we are going to meet them.
There is a good chance you are dealing with this issue, whether it’s just minor and slightly annoying, or it is a major problem and extremely aggressive. Clients often ask, “How many sessions to teach my dog how to walk well?”
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