Caldwell Mill Animal Clinic recommends The Barking Zone for dog training

The Barking Zone has been with Caldwell Mill Animal Clinic for 12 years and many more to come. Rick could not be more proud of the relationship he has built with Caldwell Mill and the trust and loyalty The Barking Zone has with Caldwell Mill Animal Clinic. The Barking Zone is so proud to be The Recommended Trainer for their clients and as you know The Barking Zone is located at Caldwell Mill! Private sessions on site and off site and Mini Terms on site!

Is E-Collar training for you

from my friend Sean O’ Shea

Many people have the mindset that E-Collars are shocking your dog and are cruel. I am sure there have been people and trainers not using this collar correctly and that is not fair and humane to the dog. Used correctly, this collar is one of the most humane ways to train your dog. The collar we use has a range from 1 to 100 and most of the time we are around 10-20. The dog can barley feel it and it is more like a tickle. This is the fastest way you can get your dog trained off leash. This collar is a Communication Tool and fun to use. Your dog can learn to respond quickly to what your are asking of him to do. We have a system in place that can get your dog off leash in a much faster time frame and this training tool can help with aggression, nervous, digging, dumpster diving, jumping on guest and more. We look forward to educating you more about the e-collar! To start working on E-Collar you must graduate from Fundamental Obedience Mini Term or The Obedient Party Animal Program!

Trauma manifesting later

from my friend Sean O’ Shea

The usual age that we see dogs is typically between 1 and 3. This is the juicy time for issues and attitudes to flare up. This is often referred to as the “teenage years”, the time when the sweet and goofy puppy starts to push boundaries and test limits. It’s also the time we tend to see more serious issues arise. Of course there can be many factors that can cause behavioral changes in your dog, but one that doesn’t get discussed much is early trauma manifesting as behavior issues.

I’ve seen personally, and heard many times from clients, how many dogs that have experienced some kind of traumatic event early on can later have it manifest as problem behaviors. We see it most often with dogs that have been bullied, or attacked by other dogs at dog parks, doggy day care, or even on-leash when young, and then later, as the dog matures we can sometimes find dog aggression issues and/serious reactivity problems. (Of course this can also occur with an adult dog that has a traumatic event.)

What seems to happen is that a youngster experiences something intense, scary, painful etc, but as a youngster doesn’t typically manifest issues straight away. They tend to brew and stew, and wait for a more mature state of mind to develop, and then things start to change. We hear so many stories of dogs that we’re great dog park dogs, or great on-leash as pups and adolescents, but then as maturity begins we start to see behavior change. Usually it’s a slow transition. We see small little reactions that are different – dogs start to become less tolerant of other dogs, and they may start to get into scuffles, and eventually they might become truly dog aggressive.

I saw this with my own dog Oakley. When I first saw him he was 7 months old and sharing a kennel with an adult pittie. Every time someone would walk by the kennel the adult dog would attack Oakley. It was horrible to watch. After he was adopted we started going to the dog park. He loved it. Him and Junior would run and play and goof off. Everything was great until he turned about a year and half, and then, as I described above, he started to slip. Slowly becoming less tolerant and less tolerant, then more proactive, and eventually super dog aggressive. He went from being a no-worries dog park dog to a serious danger to other dogs. And I truly believe this was a manifestation of his early trauma in the kennel.

I’ve had that story confirmed many times from owners with their own dogs. It’s one of the reasons I tend to recommend my clients stay away from dog parks, day cares, and on-leash meetings. (Dog parks and doggy day care tend to be places where dodgy/bratty/bully behavior can occur, and on-leash meetings are famous for going south.) It’s not that our dogs are so sensitive and can’t handle some challenges or bumps in life, but when the right dog meets up with the right trauma – whether that be a one-time attack or a slow build of being bullied – you can have seriously unfortunate results.

So I share this with the hope that it will possibly clarify some possible reasons for behavioral changes some of you might have seen in your dogs as they’ve matured, and also to hopefully help some of you avoid having unwanted issues down the road.

The Magic of Duration work

from my friend Sean O’ Shea

In the world of training and rehab work, few things have such a profound impact and cause such profound transformations in dogs as does duration Place and Down commands.

Because this all appears so deceptively simple, and it’s not exactly action packed, it’s easy to dismiss the incredible value and impact duration work can have on all manner of canine behavioral issues.

Let me see if I can help explain what’s really going on behind this exercise. Most dogs live in a state of almost constant reactivity and alertness to all stimuli in their environment. The bicyclist, the skateboarder, the mailman, the squirrels in the yard, the construction across the street, the neighbor kids running around and playing out front, the family kids running around and playing inside, the dog next door barking and beckoning, and on and on. All of these goings-on cause our dogs to be constantly on edge, tense, concerned, worried, wound up, and freaked out. It’s akin to your dog being an overworked stock broker working on the floor of the NY stock exchange – overstimulated, and stressed out. And the more fundamentally nervous/insecure your dog is the more susceptible and vulnerable he/she will be to these stressors.

And here’s the thing, just like us, when stress in an ongoing, never ending merry-go-round, behavior issues are bound to develop. For us, it might be excessive drinking or eating to cope, or just general irritability, unhappiness, and anxiety – we snap at our kids or spouse or co-workers. For our dogs, they too will attempt to cope, they will attempt to turn off the noise and discomfort – but their approach – barking, fence fighting, chasing, biting, nervousness, obsessive behavior, will only make them worse.

But just in time, in comes duration work!

With duration work we’re actually patterning our dogs not to care about all the noise in the world. We’re desensitizing them and conditioning them to disregard and let it all go.

How can duration Place and Down create this? It only works when these commands are trained to be completely non-negotiable. Once these commands are solid enough, and our dogs learn that pushing against them doesn’t get them anywhere, they will finally relax and surrender into the exercise. This takes patience, repetition, and almost always corrections to be able to override the more intense emotional state. The training will actually begin to override our dog’s knee-jerk desire to respond to whatever is provoking or making them exited or uncomfortable.

When we train properly, we actually teach our dogs to prioritize our requests over their initial impulses, and over time, the training and patterning will cause the actual emotional feeling that originally was paired with the stimulus in the environment to change. Your dog will actually start to not care or worry or be stimulated about many things he cared, worried, and was intensely stimulated by.

We like to refer to duration work as enforced meditation. And if you think about meditation for humans, it’s goals are virtually the same: to teach your mind to disregard the incessant noise of your thoughts, and simply let them appear with no reaction, and then disappear, leaving you relaxed and calm and peaceful. We’re looking for the same effect on our dogs. We want them to hear or see what originally bothered or excited them, and let it simply occur without them feeling the need (or initially the ability) to react to it. By conditioning this over and over, we teach our dogs to be relaxed observers of their world rather than stressed participants to all of it.

Over time, through duration work, and other training, we condition our dogs to exist at a much lower stress baseline in general – and when your dog is relaxed and less stressed in general, he will make much better decisions – even without your help or guidance. And that my friends is the promised land!

I know it seems to good to be true, and far too simple to have such a profound effect on your dog’s life, but take it from someone who works with highly anxious, highly stressed, severely dog-reactive, dog aggressive, and human aggressive dogs constantly, it’s an absolute game changer and godsend. But remember, the magic only happens when the commands are 100% non-negotiable, non-flexible, and the dog completely surrenders and relaxes into the exercise – eventually even in the face of intense triggers.

So give it a shot, and let me know what kind of results you get. I think you’ll be amazed at what this simple exercise will give your dog.

The Dog Reactivity Handbook

from my friend Sean O’ Shea

Oftentimes I see dog owners allowing tons of monkey business to ensue on walks – their dogs are pulling continuously on leash, darting here and there, marking this and that at their discretion, and all in all being disconnected, disrespectful, and stressed out – but then when their dog sees another dog and starts to freak out, the owner tries to address/correct their dog by vainly tugging on the leash, talking or yelling at them, and getting frustrated.

This is the “address the dynamite rather than the fuse syndrome” and, as you can imagine, trying to stop the explosion is way harder than trying to put out the fuse. :) This isn’t how you want to go about getting rid of reactivity issues on the walk!

The trick to fixing this stuff is actually simple: it’s all about setting the proper tone and state of mind before you encounter the target or trigger, not once you’re in the heat of battle.

Dogs who are allowed to pull you through thresholds, pull on leash, veer to trees and grass to pee and sniff when they choose and, in general, disregard their owner, are being taught that they are in charge. This creates stressed-out, fearful/anxious and/or entitled/empowered nervous wrecks who feel unsafe and overburdened with the responsibility to figure their world out.

Not a fun place to be for your dog.

And this is where dog reactivity on-leash comes from: Frustration or fear (and sometimes a combo of both!) from a lack of believable guidance.

Dogs with believable leaders, enforced rules, and structure are confident, relaxed, and comfortable dogs. And dogs who are confident, relaxed, and comfortable aren’t stressed and reactive! :)

So let’s have a look at a few very simple steps to change the dynamic of stressed and reactive into one of calm and cool.

Here’s your no monkey-business/reactivity/stress/anxiety prescription:

1) Dog waits patiently at thresholds (with zero pulling) for permission to move through. (Watch my “Thresholds” video HERE.)

2) Keep the leash short but not tight, always leaving a small amount of play. The short leash helps you keep your dog out of trouble AND allows you to know the instant he becomes disconnected. (Watch my “Walk” video HERE.)

3) Oftentimes a firmer conversation/correction for bad behavior/poor choices at the top of the walk will set the tone for a much more respectful and deferential walk. Setting the tone with a firmer consequence for a smaller infraction can be counter-intuitive but highly effective.

4) Never use constant pressure to hold your dog back from pulling. Instead you use corrective leash pops with instant release to give your dog information and allow him to be responsible to hold himself in position. Let your dog tell you the right level of leash pop needed. If you pop at a level two and the behavior persists, you’re likely using too mild of a correction, so try a level four. Again, let your dog tell you what works.

5) If leash pops aren’t breaking through and your dog is continuing to be intense and pulling, brisk 180’s when your dog gets out in front of you (walking the opposite direction while holding the leash firmly to your chest with two hands) can be a very helpful conversation. Always only use as much pressure as needed. Helpful video HERE!

6) Never allow pulling to trees/grass/flowers etc for marking. Instead you release your dog to pee and sniff when you decide. It makes no sense to your dog if you allow him to pull and disregard you 90% of the time, and then expect him to listen during the 10% when it matters to you most.

7) Manage and cultivate a healthy/positive state of mind by using the leash pops to address/correct your dog at the split second he begins to escalate or become excited when he sees or hears a dog. Do not wait for the explosion – correct your dog when they are at a 1, 2, or 3 and you will never see a 7, 8, 9, or 10!

8) Use space as a buffer with oncoming dogs. Don’t put your dog into “the pressure cooker” with another dog. The closer your dog gets to another dog the more the pressure increases. If your dog is nervous – like most reactive dogs are – the closer you get the less safe he feels. If your dog is bratty and excited, the closer you get, the more his frustration/excitement increases. In either case the less the space the harder it is for you and your dog to be successful. (Note: Super naughty, spazzy, bratty, reactive dogs coming towards you need more space than sedate and relaxed dogs do.

9) Focus on creating polite, courteous, and relaxed behavior at all times, and this will become your dog’s default state.

Remember, if you will proactively create a relaxed, respectful, and stress-free state of mind before the bombs start falling you’ll have a very good chance of avoiding the explosions of reactivity altogether. :)

Sean O’ Shea with The Good Dog

from my friend Sean O’ Shea

The Good Dog Tip: Many folks are worried about hurting their dog’s feelings (or spirit), or damaging their relationship by setting boundaries, saying no, and correcting negative behavior. The truth is, not doing any of the above is the guaranteed way to not only damage your relationship, but to also damage your dog.

A dog without a believable leader/guide/parent is a nervous, insecure, overwhelmed, and unnecessarily uncomfortable dog.

He’s also a dog that has respect issues… and trust issues. With you.

Give your dog the gift of true love. Do the hard work of sharing what he really needs, not just what feels good for you.

The State of mind in dog training - Sean O'Shea

from my friend Sean O’ Shea

The Good Dg Tip: The difference between state of mind training and more traditional obedience training.

We tend to see this often. Dogs who have had tons of traditional training. They know oodles of commands, and can jump through hoops of fire, but their mindset and attitudes are a mess. They are amazing at fast movement, and responding to many rehearsed commands, but ask them to sit still in the face of distractions, or not be dog or human reactive, and things get messy.

These guys have learned to go, go, go, and have had their drivey side cultivated to high degree of wound-up-ed-ness and intensity. But they have no off switch. No ability to relax and calmly interact with the world. Oftentimes we get dog or human aggressive dogs in who have been through these high-energy/high-intensity approaches to training, and this training approach simply makes them very dangerous, but yet highly trained machines.

It seems counter-intuitive that a well trained dog (by more traditional obedience standards) would still be a dangerous dog, but that’s a very common reality.

Here’s the thing, there’s a world of difference between cultivating and conditioning high-energy/high-intensity responses (basically creating adrenaline/dopamine junkies), who’s main mission/focus is to perform a task perfectly at a high rate of speed, and a dog who has been trained/conditioned/cultivated to be respectful, calm, polite, practicing heavy impulse control, and clear headed due to the lack of constant excitement-related hormones surging through his/her body.

The part that I see gets missed so often is the attitude, demeanor, and overall state of mind of the dog. Folks (owners and trainers) seem to get caught up on performance – motions and behaviors that seem to convey “good” behavior or a “well trained” dog. But unfortunately, many dogs are poorly served by this focus.

We currently have a dog in our board and train, and this guy is highly trained – tons of commands and lots of lightening fast responses. He’s also highly dog aggressive and dangerous. The state that he lives in – constantly on an adrenaline buzz – makes him even more dangerous and reactive. He’s also got a major attitude issue, which makes him even more dangerous. Our focus and mission with this guy is to slow him down. Majorly. To teach him to focus less on being a charged up executor of commands, and instead focus on being highly respectful, and highly self-aware of his actions and demeanor. By focusing on slowing down his mind, getting him off the adrenaline merry-go-round, looking for unique ways to challenge him and his attitude (and his perception of his place/status in the world), and sharing valuable consequences for dangerous choices, we’ll be cultivating a much safer and saner dog.

Remember folks, activity, speed of response, high-intensity often don’t equate to a comfortable, well-behaved, and safe dog. State of mind is far more important than the appearance of “obedience”.

And that’s where the magic is at in rehab.