So, OK, your dog bites, or tries to… It’s bad. Or does it pull on the lead? Tries to run away? Barks incessantly? Does not like … the list goes on. This is my working week answering the phone. – What can I do for you? – “I have this dog / s and the problem that didn’t seem to be serious at first seems to be ruining my life…” Yes, this is the nature of calls I receive from people looking for help with their dogs. I still hope that one day the phone will ring and the person ringing will ask whether I have any more fun ideas on making their training / communication together more fun, exciting and challenging. This is what I want the Dog Training to be, and not just the way to resolve someone’s wrong-doing (or non-doing!).
And then I go and see the dog/s in question and attempt to put things right. Day after day, session after session. But what if there was a trick to do all this in one go, to help all the dogs at once, to install a gadget / secret recipe that will work for every dog in trouble? How much more fun that work would have been… Teaching good dogs to be great, improving the well-behaved dog’s reactions towards achieving the best this dog can be! And I am sure the day will come, but for now there’s one thing that will make it all so much better, easier and promising – it is finding the reason WHY this hound does that thing that puts it on the “bad” list in the first place.
And there is an answer. I think you would all agree with me as over years of observation and working with dogs, I noticed that almost every badly behaved dog is not motivated to listen to its owner and will therefore do (or not) what it’s told. But what is this illusive MOTIVATION and how do you find it when needed? So here we go:
Every dog has NEEDS. There are a few, and most often a combination of them is presented, but they all are a MUST and no dog can go on without them. They are:
Need to eliminate bodily waste products (basically, when you need to go, you need to go!) – understandable, metabolism, or functioning, has end products – it is the activity itself as a result of energy produced, and it’s by-product, waste.
Need to thermoregulate – whether you like it or not, all living things tend to move towards the best temperature suitable for their specific organism. We might not even know what it is, but our bodies do, and the rest of this machine will do whatever it takes to provide it with the best possible climate.
Need for drinking water / fluids – it goes without saying that no living thing can function without the fluids needed for the many internal processes to take place. Be very careful with this one as it can save lives as well as irreversibly affect one’s physics if the provisions are not sensible.
Need for food – you wouldn’t run your car once the fuel is out. Same goes for your pooch. Keep filling them up and they go on, and on, and on.
Self-preservation – safety seems to be something that every dog somehow knows a lot about. Sometimes rightfully, and at times wrongly, but what is perceived as a threat will be avoided or dealt with. Plain and simple.
Need for fresh / breathing air – as most of the reactions inside a dog are bacterial or have a chemical nature, it requires a strictly balanced atmosphere to function at the fullest. Air is there and we don’t need to notice it. But we all need it at all times.
Sexual desires – ok, some can live without it, but some dogs (let’s just talk about dogs here) get seriously affected by it, and sexual drive becomes one of the only things that matter for them once they are out of their den. They might not even want or intend to act in this way, but the hormones in their blood stream make them act in this way, not usually acceptable by the outside world.
Need to chemically balance the food intake (micro and macro-elements needed for the organism to properly function are numerous. Whatever the dog diet is, they may need lots more ingredients and chemicals to digest it into the system, which would have been available in natural diets of whole prey carcasses, plants and various waste products that dogs seem to instinctively want to find and consume.) Please look up the term “Homeostasis” for more info on this.
Need to exercise / movement – greatly varies in all dogs, so this cannot be generalized and routinely prescribed to every student.
Physical activity helps the body to release beta-endorphins, enhances nor-adrenergic activity (increasing production of noradrenalin) and increases serotonin metabolism in the brain.This means that it benefits brain chemistry, enhances mental stability and well-being and increases immunity and activity level and health overall.
Need to recuperate / rest / sleep. With all the above in place, a dog has to still recharge it’s batteries. Let the sleeping dog lie, and it will be once again your loving and caring companion once it is up.
Organism deals with quite a high level of adrenalin and cortisol, which is exhausting and makes it work extra hard almost all the time. Rest and sleep help them to produce Melatonin that helps to balance all of the bodily functions and immune system.
Social needs – mysterious zone, described widely and by every pretender to the “Dog Whisperer” title, but mostly misconstrued as they are not physiological needs as such, though we will still list them here as they often overlap with other behavioural necessities.
Leadership, attention and affection – this is a source of those positive emotions, mental stimulation and excitement in animals’ life-cycles. Depriving your dog of these will only work once the alternative has been offered aplenty.
Cognitive Needs – these are not far fetched from the ones described above. Dogs (presumably!) have more than just a pre-programmed set of instincts. They also have the ability to think and problem solve. They need to experience more than just the same old scenery of their own home. Mental stimulation leads to a happy dog.
Chewing – very commonly overlooked as a physiological process, chewing is a source of quick serotonin just as sleep, and it, being a hormone of calm and happiness, gives a dog what no other activity can. Given a chance to rip the flesh of an animal and consume every tiniest remain of its carcass would obviously compensate this need for a self-sufficient animal, but receiving all your deer and pheasants on a silver plate you should expect the uneasy attitude many owners have over destroyed table-legs and ripped-off shoes.
Overall health not covered with previous points – skin, ears, eyes and other sensitive zones’ well-being (there are four basic types of animal tissue – epithelium, connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue).
For more on these please see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, best described by J. A. Simons to help our discussion. There you will see that all those needs can be spaced out in certain order by which you can understand a dog’s priorities and order of behavioural tendencies lots better. But in this presentation it is irrelevant as we are just trying to understand what gives the dog the reason / s to do what they do. And hopefully to control it better!
Have I missed anything? Please point this out if I have and I will happily accept my lack of academic knowledge on the subject.
But keeping in mind that all of the above are the sole reasons for ALL of our Fido’s antics and not most – we can now easily figure out the trading currency needed to modify / improve on any of the behaviours we are interested in changing. Bluntly speaking – close off the dog’s air-supply, or the rear “canal” (please don’t) – and you get yourself a devoted servant for the time being. Keep him up all night, or out in a wet and cold (don’t you dare!) – and the chances that he’d sell his soul to win back what’s being taken off him will be substantial. Easy-peasy! Make him believe that from now on your love is conditional – and he’s your silent follower for life!
“It doesn’t help” – you’d probably say, and you will be right. None of the listed is applicable due to the whole issue of keeping your dog as a pet, not as a beast being treated with just “Stick and a carrot”. We love our dogs, however good or bad they are. But we need that trading tool, the motivator, the currency that can buy those good behaviours, habits and thoughts from our pooch.
But there is a point that you will find usable. One of the needs that actually works when controlled by humans who know what to give, how much and when just as well as the tens of thousand years of dogs’ evolution have made our dogs want to pursue. It is food! And this is the reason we encourage you to consider HANDFEEDING – the nicest of motivational practices and a gentle approach that can do no harm.
And remember – it is not just about delivering or withholding the stimulus you find working for your Canine. It is about teaching them to value your input, appreciate your part in the whole daily routine of being fed and being provided with nutrients and extras everywhere and any time. It is about forming a habit of feeding from a pouch on your belt or bum-bag be it in a park, on the way to shops or in a car. Get used to doing it, and learn to enjoy it on the dog’s part. In brief –
Reflexes are built by repetitions.
Attitude is a result of motivation.
Reliability is a product of good handling skills.
And Handfeeding offers a solution to all of these and more. Lots more. Just see the videos below if you are tired of reading.
Training should not just be about dealing with problems – using the Handfeeding technique you will learn the way to turn Dog Training into fun and games –a training game with a happy, content and compliant dog and a skilful, coordinated, consistent and understanding owner able to teach their own dog at the end of it.
Here are the links to the free help available:
Please note, that the recommended Handfeeding course should be attempted over a course of a few weeks, usually between 2 and 3 after which all of our dogs are then put on normal bowl (or Kong, Activity Ball, or Buster Cube if you prefer) feeding so you would not be able to tell the difference in the owners’ input. Being the most commonly asked question I just felt that I’d rather tell you this now. Try it, stick with it, wean the dog of it – and you are good to go!
Have fun, and keep us posted on your progress.