by Ellen Landauer
This dog behavior consultation was done by email. James lives on Prince Edward Island, Canada with his beautiful German Shepherd Bodhi.
I truly enjoyed working with James because he is seeking solutions far beyond conventional training AND understands that real training is not about 'fixing' the dog. He very kindly gave me permission to share our work together and some great photos of Bodhi.
James: "My biggest issue with my boy who is almost three year german shepherd is his stress. I went through low dose e collar training early on and then switched to "purely positive" though I see both approaches just added to his stress. I want him to have contentment. Not to be stressed or suppressing his stress."
(NOTE: Here is yet another example of conventional training methods - with all best intentions on the owner's part - INCREASING a dog's stress.
James is tuned in enough to have noticed this even before he consulted with me - just didn't know how best to help his dog. He was seeing that something wasn't right and wanting to help Bodhi be more whole and at peace).
Wow! Stunning dog! Gorgeous head, nice full muzzle and focused expression, sturdy build - looks like he's from some kind of working lines - a lot of Heart in him.
Question; is he an intact male?
I suspect he was a handful as a pup and adolescent. Probably higher drive than pet quality or show dog. He's got a stable temperament, looks like.
By his eyes and relaxed tongue and lips (1st 2 pics above) he still has a lot of puppy in him which gives you temperament flexibility to work with.
4th pic (shown below), a little tension around his eyes, brows and back part of his lips and jaws. A bit of coiled tension in his thighs. Also holding his breath (hollow behind back ribs and arched tension in his lower spine. This is the place where 'deep inner stress' (unchanneled energy) builds up. My trainer said that 'fear is unchanneled energy.' Some desires not met, some hesitancy and doubt about opening energy flow / emotion.
He's just waiting for someone to open to receive all his energy.
I will write up some ideas for you shortly, which, with a little luck you will be able to utilize to help this beautiful Guy."
James: "He is not intact. I rescued him at 9 months old from a poor situation. He was a handful. He spent 12 hours in a crate a day minimum while his owner worked and then more at night then only went outside on a short lead. Zero training. High chase. Wants to go after cats. He still paces often and is up at the tiniest noise.
At same time he seems super in tune and sensitive. He has come along way. Iv def been feeling he needs more from me though to reach what he needs.
Iv been working on my own energy. To be a better partner to him. Would love any recommendations.
I really am amazed how much you can read in the pictures. Its beautiful really. Iv always been more able to connect with animals then people and bodhi here has taken that even further. Anyhoo sorry about the long winded message
Thank you for who you be and all you do!"
While I was thinking about best approach in preparation to writing out some ideas for this dog behavior consultation, I sent James some articles (links below).
No problem with long message; gives me more background on Bodhi.
While I get some ideas written for you, you might want to look at a few articles on my site which mention a bit about some of the methods AND reflect on how dogs (and other creatures) know EXACTLY what's going on with us:
For healing to take place, giving a dog space to initiate most contact with us and taking 'social pressure' off them is ESSENTIAL:
Beginning of this one tells about starting 'food and pushing' technique, also the rest of the story is informative:
From pup's point of view; first experiences in new home:
Article below will be good for you to read. Lots of hints that not only apply to pups but to all dogs. The amount of emotional pressurization that is imposed on most little puppies in the name of training is intense:
I'm also wondering if you know of any other abuse aside from too much time in crate was part of Bodhi's past - did former owner hit him or anything else...?
For this dog behavior consultation, I have given some thought how to best help you foster more wholeness and connectedness between you and Bodhi.
Will also write up 2 or 3 of the basic Natural Dog Training exercises in next couple days and send to you.
A few things to start with:
1 - Take all pressure off yourself to be 'better' and all pressure off Bodhi.
2 - To best succeed, you need to anticipate situations - for example, not putting him in circumstances where he may chase a cat. Or if for example this happens when outdoors, have him on a sturdy long line and calmly and decisively move out of range if you see potential situation.
3 - DO NOT verbally reprimand him for anything - when he is trying to move energy in the best way available - pacing, wanting to chase cat, being hyper alert, you remain calm.
The secret is - by adding stress to an already stressed situation by a verbal reprimand, that ALWAYS makes it worse.
***(NOTE: When verbal reprimand is given, dog immediately ATTRIBUTES any discomfort of a physical correction to owner. Physical correction alone with owner in neutral or cheerful emotional state is more likely to result in dog perceiving that it was his OWN behavior that made HIM uncomfortable.
IMPORTANT: With dogs who have been verbally reprimanded repeatedly, it will take some time before this 'inner training' takes place).***
4 - For a few weeks, just be the 'nice guy at the other end of the leash.'
All food should be given by hand, which will prepare the way for one of the exercises (food and pushing - described in a story on my site: https://www.huntingforheart.com/white-dove.html
When feeding by hand, do so in calm environment with no distractions. See if he will accept some slow, contactful massage with your non-feeding hand around shoulders and spine. If he is hesitant or moves away from your touch, be more subtle or just back off until he can accept a little touch.
*Remember - if he does not do your new 'image' of desired behavior, it is NOT because he 'doesn't want to' - it is simply that he CAN'T - so take pressure off yourself for 'not doing it right' and off him - he loves you - he may just not be ready.*
5 - Long walks in the woods and fields are good - I would have him on a long line - you want to keep him safe from dangerous wildlife and also be able to calmly check chasing activity - we will get that energy channeled to you!
If he sees something that gets him agitated (though you want to avoid or minimize that right now), try working your way up the long line til he is by your side, and with relaxed hand massage his shoulders and spine. Also understanding his view of how tempting the object of his attraction - so you are on same emotional wavelength.
6 - Do not IMPOSE training on him - for example if he moves away from your touch - just give him space.
***VITALLY IMPORTANT - Do not let ANYONE call him, move toward him, or in any way impose their presence on him!
Advocate for your dog by insisting that others do not try to get him to come closer and GIVE HIM SPACE TO INITIATE ALL CONTACT! This alone will give your dog much-needed peace, wholeness and confidence! Explained in this article: "Puppy Training Timeline" ***
All the Best,
James: "Thank you so much for all of this. I am not sure of abuse before I got bodhi. I think it was more neglect. He belonged to a young women who worked 6 days a week 12 hours a day and was on the go alot. When I took him the crate that came with was way to small. He would have spent a lot of time cramped in.
I find it really helpful how you talk on his pacing as wanting to release energy. So let it happen. Before it was something I felt I should train out of him for his own good. I like this approach much more. Just to be with him and his energy. Finding ways to help him move it."
You may find it surprising that from my perspective, Bodhi would have suffered MORE had he been conventionally trained, underfoot in the house from puppyhood, and relentlessly 'socialized!' (Not something you are likely to hear in other dog behavior consultations).
Not being able to move for long periods was not a good thing - he would have been happier with much more opportunity to move freely. BUT - the good thing is, he didn't suffer near as much emotional damage as most dogs, because he was not very much compressed and repressed emotionally by humans.
As far as pacing and other behaviors that we would like to see our dogs free of - Natural Dog Training works 'indirectly.' When you are able to channel his drive to YOU in enjoyable activities, such as the food and pushing - 'bad' behaviors commonly lessen and often disappear.
NOTE: Kevin always said, 'When you try to control or prevent a behavior, you end up reinforcing it!' So indirect works best.
Just take your time, relax emotionally (so he can, too) and feed by hand, just hang with him and take long walks in the woods for another week or so. I'd be interested if you see any change JUST from that.
THEN, start slow with food and pushing. This is how he should receive ALL his food. I even did this exercise feeding raw. I would make Ena's ground beef mixture into little raw meatballs and put them in a roomy pouch on a belt for training.
Make sure he is hungry so he can break through the old emotional barriers. If he doesn't engage, let him be hungry and try again (no dog will ever starve themselves). Hunger is the impetus for him to open up. If he jumps on you - good! You are not training him to jump on others - you are opening to receive his drive so he won't need to jump on others!
If you have a quiet, fenced-in area outdoors (or else have him on a long line in a quiet outdoor environment) you can start the food and pushing outdoors, which is the BEST place as it is less compressed than in the house. Also, outdoors is where all the excitement, playing etc. should take place. Indoors is the place to rest and relax. This is the benefit of using a crate for a pup/young dog when they are in the house. See my article here:
I was going to write up the food technique for you and discovered I already wrote an article on food and pushing. I just worked it over and put it up on the site, here:
There are a couple photos that help you visualize how to - what they don't show is that you can slowly back up and keep the flow of him moving toward you, by offering a smooth continuous flow of food. You want to aim for steady-state unbroken attention and contact when doing food and pushing. When doing this exercise, stay in the same general area of the yard - you want to limit variables to make it easier for him.
Be easy on yourself - even if you don't do it 'perfectly' at first, he will benefit anyway! I plan to put up a part 2 with hints on technique.
Also plan an article on how to engage him with a bite toy...will let you know when new articles are posted.
Do let me know how you and Bodhi are doing."
James: "Thank you so much. I feel really good about all this. You make a good point on him being spared from to much training early on. He has no problem eating. Highly food motivated. I feed raw as well. I like your idea for the little meat balls! Also knowing how to properly engage him on a bite toy would be great. Iv tried to get him to tug but he doesn't show much interest. Iv taken him for 2 hour walk in the woods yesterday and today. It's so beautiful seeing the animal in him come alive when we in the woods!
I am totally fine with you sharing any information you wish. My name, pictures, contact info, anything at all. I'm an open book."
"Thanks so much for your permission - will get our discussions posted soon.
Just as I suspected about the lack of interest in the toy; that energy likely goes toward chasing cats - so arrange the best way to end any cat chasing so drive will build up inside him. Then ultimately he can give you that energy.
Also the lack of interest in playing tug indicates energy that is not yet moving but can open when he feels safe doing so and you provide the conditions and the opening of your own energy to allow it. No rush; this is an organic process...
I would say first get food and pushing going - that may help as well. I'll post a 'how-to' article for that soon.
I will give some ideas on boosting drive for a tug toy as I write the article on playing tug."
James: "I appreciate your help so much. Been laying off the "training".
Spending time every day in the woods. Hand feeding and doing the pushing. We are both getting used to it.
But I'm already seeing progress. A subtle calming. We will keep on picking at it.
Your book arrived yesterday. It looks so great! Start digging into it today!!
Once again thank you so much for all the help and info!"
BUY 'Hunting for Heart' and
Rediscover Your Primordial Bond With Dogs