Excerpts From the Book
The following excerpts are provided simply to give you an idea of how the book is written and introduce you to some of the many topics covered. These are not provided as training tips or as an information resource. If, at the end of reading them, you are confused, that is normal! These excerpts are embedded into larger topics covered in the book, and, as when working with dogs, we need to start at the beginning and work our way through the process. When you read the book from the beginning the information will make more sense!
Dogs is written with a capitol D to decipher them from puppies
Approaches, Commands, Techniques (A.C.T.) are the three fundamental components of UPWARD Methodology
“Upward” refers to everyone who works, volunteers or lives with a rescued Dog.
Urban Phenomenon: Physical Aids and Gimmicks
With the increase in popularity of dog training and behavioural rehabilitation, and the inability for basic techniques and three-minute videos to solve problems, the consumer market jumped on the bandwagon, producing a plethora of physical aids and gimmicks guaranteed to solve all problems.
Physical tools (such as electronic collars) and walking tools (such as head haltis) are often effective in preventing unwanted behaviour; in fact, they have become so popular they are considered “positive training tools”. I know many Dogs who would argue that.
Over the years, trainers have invited me to casual meet ‘n greets. It quickly becomes clear they want to learn my methods. They asked me the standard questions – “Are your techniques positive?” “What do you do when a dog does x behaviour?”
And here-in lies the problem.
Human Perception of Training:
The dog-world has funneled Upwards into viewing training as applying a specific technique to fix a specific problem or teach a certain skill. Trainers teach manners and basic obedience; sport trainers teach tricks/skills; behaviourists correct behaviours. Many Dogs do not learn using the conventional techniques applied to accomplish these tasks, (when conventional techniques were successful, people did not hire me). Conventional techniques often fail with Dogs because 1) the technique applied may be successful in some situations, but is not correlative to the situation it is applied to; 2) the technique is successful with some dogs, but is not suitable for the personality of the Dog we are working with; 3) the technique is contrived, based on how humans, not Dogs, act and learn; or, 4) the technique is successful with puppies, but not with Dogs, (discussed further in chapter seven).
I use Guidelines and Concepts to explain the Approach (one of the components of UPWARD Methodology) which allows us to effectively work with Dogs. Working with a Dog is literally learning the best method for that individual Dog. I cannot make Dogs like a certain technique and one singular technique is not always effective with every Dog. Their personality and upbringing indicate and determine the best way to work with them. When working with a rescued Dog, we should never have preconceived ideas as to how a Dog should behave, learn, or feel.
GUIDELINES: (below are two guidelines, as examples)
Never Focus on the Negative Behaviour: Generic advice often fails because it focuses on assessing and labelling unwanted behaviour and applying techniques (not methods) to correct behaviours.
Rescue Example: Years ago, I acquired a couple of Dogs out of an auto wrecking yard where they were used as guard dogs, living in horrible conditions. They lived with me until I homed them with a dog-experienced couple, John and Pam. After a few days, they contacted me saying the Dogs had ripped through the door to get into their basement while they were at work, even though the Dogs had access to the yard through a doggy door. They thought perhaps the Dogs were nervous and wanted to hide in the basement, (it was suggested to them to get anti-anxiety medications). The Dogs were not nervous -they were used to noises and activity and had been comfortable in my home. They thought the Dogs were not house-trained, so it was suggested to them to crate the Dogs, take them outside at specific times, and treat them when they did their business outside. This standard house-training technique (Operant Conditioning) would have been ineffective because the Dogs knew it is wrong to go inside (they were house-trained), and crate training them would be cruel since they had never been crated. We needed to take the focus off the behaviour of ripping the door and messing in the basement, and instead, focus on the reason for the behaviour. “What did they do in the basement?” They did not chew anything but shit everywhere. “Had they been in the basement before that time?” Yes, they followed Pam down there while she did laundry. “Is the basement finished?” “No. It has a cement floor with some runners, which they did not shit on.” I remembered, when they were living with me, they had always shit on my patio stones or on the sidewalk while on walks, and the auto wrecking yard they came out of had cement everywhere. “Do you have carpet in your home?” “Yes, the whole home is carpeted except for the kitchen and bathroom, but the dogs do not have access to those rooms. They have access to the yard, which is all grass, with a small wood deck.”
I suggested they get patio stones for their yard. Problem solved.
Do Not Rush to the End Goal: “The end goal” is commonly the reason Upwards contact me – essentially, the contents in their list of unwanted behaviours. We need to provide Dogs with the skills that allow them to learn expected behaviour and work through situations on their own. To accomplish this, we need to slow down the process (which often does not take a long time, it just takes creative application of the Tools). For example, when Dogs on a leash-walk bark and lunge at Dogs in yards or windows, Upwards frantically pull their Dog passed the house because their end goal is to stop the barking. We switch the process to, 1) teaching the skills (combination of the Tools) outside of the situation which, 2) are applied to the situation to allow the Dog to “read” the situation and/or learn expected behaviour, which then leads to, 3) the Dog not feeling the need to react, and choosing to calmly walk by the dog in the yard. The “end result” is the same, but the process to achieve it is not rushed or forced, making the long-term success rate much greater.
A common technique when a Dog is nervous of people, is to give people treats to give to the Dog. This technique often backfires because this approach is rushing to the end goal of convincing the Dog to like the person, as opposed to working with the Dog to decrease the anxiety and allow her to learn for herself that people are not scary.
CONCEPTS: (below is one of many concept, as an example)
“Segregate, Eliminate, and Correlate”
Solutions may be effective with one Dog, yet not another, depending on their personality and the situation. It is important to segregate solutions based on the reason for the behaviour and/or the skill level or personality of the Dog. For example, when a Dog messes in the home a common suggestion is to hang a bell on the door. If the Dog does not know it is wrong to mess inside, then the bell is not correlative to the problem. If the Dog knows it is wrong to mess inside but is not letting the Upward know he needs to go out, then hanging a bell can be effective; however, teaching a Dog to ring a bell can be unnecessarily complicated. Some Dogs learn by watching another dog do it; some not. Many Dogs can easily learn to ring the bell, resulting in the Upward becoming their personal “doorman”.
When a Dog pulls on leash, it is commonly recommended to “circle around”. The goal of this technique (I believe) is to teach the Dog he does not get where he wants to go by pulling. Some Dogs do not care which direction they go in, making this technique useless. Switching techniques while on the walk (for example, applying repeated sits) may only serve to increase frustration and complicate the process. The reason why the Dog is pulling should determine the way in which we address the pulling, and this may require us to work with the Dog in other situations, such as in the yard and when guests arrive, to increase the bond, increase the skill level, and change the Dog’s perception of the area, the activity and the Upward.
Common Recommendations to Gain Dominance or Alpha:
The following common suggestions to achieve dominance or alpha status do not necessarily have negative repercussions, but are, none-the-less, often ineffective. I discussed these routines (or rules) with Upwards to help them understand how Dogs perceive them.
- Going through the door, and/or up and down the stairs, BEFORE your dog:
The idea that going first through a door or up the stairs shows dominance is a human belief, prevalent in some cultures, but means nothing to a Dog. The exercises can be a pain if you do not want to go outside and the dog learns how to get you outside, which you may regret teaching. The exercises can strengthen commands; however, because they are routine driven, the focus is off the Upward and on the routine.
Many people adopting a Dog already have a dog in their family. Dogs learn from each other, but I do not recommend getting a second Dog with the intention of correcting problems with your first Dog. Dogs learn what they choose to learn from other Dogs. It is necessary to determine the reason for the behaviour to address the behaviour. Sometimes getting a second Dog can help to do this but should not be considered a replacement for working with your first Dog.
Special Care Dogs:
Special Care Dogs are those displaying signs of anxiety and/or aggression. Fostering Dogs requiring special care (from a behavioural perspective) requires a home life suitable to meet the needs of the Dog. Commonly less-active homes allow rehabilitation to progress at the pace of the Dog. If the Dog is aggressive toward other dogs, or anxious around people or in busy situations, a quiet foster home without other dogs is preferable, but, unfortunately, these can be rare in the rescue-world. If your lifestyle fits that description, please consider fostering for a local rescue.
Dogs with low levels of anxiety often over-come their fears with love and patience, making further rehabilitation unnecessary; however, Dogs with higher levels of anxiety and fear often require more than love and patience. I get concerned when I hear, “all you need is love and patience to rehabilitate abused or traumatized dogs”. Love and patience are good but should not be considered a technique for rehabilitating higher levels of anxiety and aggression, and, if continued to be relied upon can be unfair to the Dog. Consoling is a natural human response when a loved one is scared; however, when Upwards console Dogs who are feeling fear, this often exasperates the fear.
People can be quick to assess Dogs as fearful based on signals considered to be indicative of anxiety, such as crouching or hiding. Many rescued street Dogs continue throughout their life to crouch or hide with their family members simply out of habit – not out of fear. All behaviours commonly associated with anxiety and aggression are not necessarily correlative to abuse. Just like people, some Dogs are hesitant or cautious. This does not mean they are traumatized or need to be “fixed”, and often the solutions are simple and logical. For example, it is common for rescued Dogs to not want to eat. The common assumption is they are frightened which leads to the Upward attempting to hand-feed the Dog. Handfeeding can backfire because it is adding yet another new element. It is important to view feeding the way the Dog views it. The Dog may be accustomed to eating on the street, so scrap the bowl, or try a bowl of a different material. Feed in a less confined area or move the bowl away from the wall to allow the Dog to have his back against the wall. Move the bowl to a quieter place or put it outside. Change the food – add human food. Leave the Dog alone. Remove other dogs from the area. Try commands (Sit, Stay, OK!) – maybe the Dog was in a home and those words were part of the feeding routine.
Often Dogs are abandoned, surrendered, returned to the previous owner or rescue organization, shuffled among fosters, improperly assessed or euthanized because the practices and techniques used are proven effective with puppies but often fail with Dogs. Our Approach to working with Dogs should reflect not only the differences between individual Dogs (not breed based), but also of that between Dogs and puppies.
This chapter focuses on the differences between Dogs and puppies. This chapter explains:
- how Dogs think, learn and behave. I compare how children think, learn and behave at different stages with that of dogs. When working with Upwards, they often compared the way I work with Dogs with that of children, and I often incorporated these comparisons into future sessions (when appropriate).
- why Puppy Practices, (necessary and successful with puppies living in urban homes) are often ineffective with Dogs. The dog-world convinces people they should adhere to these practices. Upwards often ask me to explain why these practices proved to be limiting, ineffective, useless or counter-productive with their Dog.
- introduces the second and third integral components of UPWARD Methodology – Commands and Techniques – and compares how these differ from those used in puppy training.
Puppy Practice #2 – Crating:
The term “crate training” is an oxymoron. Most puppies respond to being in a crate the same way a baby typically responds to being in a crib; although they may cry for a little bit, it is a “positive routine” and a comfort place. If a Dog likes the crate, then no training is required. If a Dog does not like the crate, then forcing him to like the crate is cruel. Forcing crate training, feeling proud to “win” the battle, or pleased the Dog submitted to the crate are mind-sets and goals which can be counter-productive and lead to further battles. As a means of justifying crating (making it socially acceptable), the dog-world has created friendly names for the crate, such as a “house” or “safe place.” If a Dog likes the crate, there is no need for these names. If a Dog does not like the crate, changing the name will not change his perception of it.
When Upwards contact me because they cannot crate train, I always ask them why they are trying to crate train, which commonly results in a pregnant pause. If they are crating because it is a standard rule in their home or standard procedure of the rescue organization, irrelevant of behaviour, then they need to lose the rules. If one Dog in the family likes the crate and the other one does not, then both Dogs are getting what they want.
When I tell clients, “I use commands to work with Dogs,” the conversation commonly goes something like this:
Client – “My dog already knows commands.”
Me- “Good, that will be helpful.”
Client– “But they aren’t helpful. My dog does not listen to them when I need him to.”
Me – “I figured that, since I am standing in your living room.”
It can be difficult to envision Dogs responding to commands at difficult times, or for commands to have such a great effect. I agree – commands unto themselves are not effective beyond a basic level. Running after a dog yelling multiple commands rarely results in the desired outcome. Upwards gain a greater understanding as to how Dogs think and learn when we discuss why many commands commonly used in the dog-world are limiting or ineffective. I have put these commands into five categories:
1) Useless, 2) Reactive, 3) Repetitive, 4) Convincing, and, 5) Counter-Productive.
Positive Reinforcement is the part of Operant Conditioning used to reinforce wanted behaviour by rewarding the wanted behaviour. Positive reinforcement training is popular; most trainers and behaviourists subscribe to this technique.
I remember the first time a potential client asked me if I used positive training techniques. I had no idea what she meant. As the positive training craze erupted, I was asked that question repeatedly and each time I wanted to roll my eyes and puke. It’s like asking a dietician if their program is based on calorie reducing strategies. The term is basic and generic. In fact, the term “positive training” became so popular it is now both a verb and a noun. Trainers explain their techniques as “positive training techniques” and describe themselves as being a “Positive Reinforcement Trainer”. What this really means is they can answer the question, “What reward do you use?” – I cannot answer that question, although UPWARD Methodology is reward driven.
I cringe when I read postings for Dogs declaring the Dog to be “treat motivated” because, by labelling Dogs this way, it encourages Upwards to rely solely on treats, therefore limiting, or “ceiling”, their ability to successfully work with Dogs.
Treat based exercises do not have the ability to change the Dog’s perception of the Upward or the situation.
Client Example: Chris phoned me because her two dogs fought on a regular basis. Sheba was ten years old; Tucker two years old. Chris got Tucker a year earlier from a garbage dump when she was vacationing in Central America. We spoke for a while. When she said Tucker was super friendly, but jumped on guests and was commonly over-excited, I mentioned I would probably start by using commands to show Sheba that Chris could calmly manage Tucker in these situations. Three weeks later Chris called me because her Dogs were still fighting, even though she taught Tucker to sit and to not jump on guests. I asked her how she taught this. “With treats.” When Chris and I began working together we increased her manageability using Command-based exercises which did not rely on treats as the reward. These exercises changed both Dog’s perception of Chris and established transferable skills allowing Chris to teach expected behaviour, which, in turn, changed the dynamics between the Dogs.
There are seven Techniques in UPWARD Methodology: (below is one part of the description of one Technique)
Delayed Response Methods – Delayed Response Methods combine Approaches, Commands, and Techniques to effectively prevent a repeat of intentional bad behaviour that occurred while the Upward was not present, and/or there was a lengthy amount of time between the unwanted behavior occurring and the Upward noticing it. For Delayed Response Methods to be effective they must correlate to what is important to each individual Dog and the Command-based exercises applied must be taught prior to implementing them. (“Teach at Easy; Apply to Hard”)
In 2018 I was asked by the front desk manager at a veterinarian clinic to come in for a “meet ‘n greet” with the front desk staff. A few of the attendees were taking the Veterinarian Technician Program, of which one claimed they learned dogs cannot remember when they, for example, chew or mess in the home. (Disclaimer – this is the information provided to me by the young woman. I do not know what the veterinarian teaching the course said or his or her opinions regarding this subject matter.) I explained that puppies, (and Dogs who did not have the opportunity to learn expected behaviour), do not remember misbehaving because they did not know the behaviour was wrong. When Dogs know their behaviour was wrong, they remember doing it because they did it intentionally. If I were to tell my clients their Dog did not remember doing these bad behaviours, they would laugh me out of their home. My clients knew their Dog remembered misbehaving because their Dog’s behaviour upon their return was different than at times when the Dog did not misbehave. (note: “return” refers to the home, yard, car, room, an area, etc.)
THE TOOLS (A.C.T.)
Use the Tools to Communicate:
The Tools (Approaches, Commands, Techniques) allow us to establish a bond and a means of communication which are necessary when working with Dogs who are accustomed to managing their own situations and behaviours. Let’s say a Dog is well behaved ninety percent of the time without any direction from the Upward. He is doing what he wants to do and getting praised, which may or may not be encouraging the behavior, since he is doing the behaviour out of choice, not on direction. Ten percent of the time he is doing what he wants to do but, for some reason, his Upward is attempting to prevent it. In the Dog’s mind he is doing what he wants to do one hundred percent of the time, making redirecting, or preventing the unwanted behaviour unsuccessful. The Tools allow us to effectively redirect and teach expected behaviours.
A Dog’s Perception is his Reality
Human Comparison – If you go into a bar and people are loud and drunk, you are non-reactive and not surprised. If you go into a library and people are loud and drunk, you are surprised and perhaps nervous, irked, or even angry. Your perception of the expected activity in that area determines your feelings and reaction. Although your perception may be justified, your reaction to it may or may not be acceptable to others. If someone insists you should be fine with this activity occurring in the library, or chastises you for being nervous or angry, you may become more defiant and increasingly agitated. Upon learning the library is currently being used as a movie set and you are given the opportunity to complete your task at the library, you can comfortably choose to change your perception and, in turn, change your reaction.
The reason Dogs react is based on their Perception of Factors.
Factors include, but are not limited to, a place, area, situation, person, dog, event, object, action, and/or anything which causes a Dog to feel the need to act or feel a certain way. Factors can over-lap. A Dogs perception of factors is individual. The perception of the factor(s) determines the reason for the behaviour.
Kongo is non-reactive to people in the dog park but is reactive to the same people coming in his home. Kongo’s perception of people being in the dog park is different than people being in his home. His perception is irrelevant to the specific person – it is based on the place/situation.
Mattie loves other dogs but is snappy toward dogs who approach when Joanne is patting her. Mattie does not perceive these dogs as a threat to Joanne, but as a threat to her own happiness. Her reaction to the dogs is determined by her perception of her ability to maintain her happiness.