The 3 most important things you need to have with your pup is Love, Respect and Trust. If you are reading this or you’ve worked with me in the past means that you Love your dog and that love is not something to be concerned about. Respect and trust seems to be more of a struggle in my years of experience. For some reason there’s a lot of confusion here.
So let’s start with Respect. Respect is commonly miss-understood with showing who is the boss. It has nothing to do with it. You don´t ask , demmand or gain respect. This is not something you achieve. Respect is something that you give and you get back in return.
The question is how do I give respect to my dog? The answer is simple: acknowledge and treat your dog as a dog.
Let me explain this with an example. If I treat you as a dog, you´ll agree with me that I´m miss-respecting you. Well, if you treat your dog as a human you’re mis-respecting your dog. I could write an entire book about how to Acknowledge dogs as dogs, but to keep things simple I´ll give you a couple of tips for you to be aware and to think about:
1- Instead of talking to your dog, listen to your dog. 95% of dog´s communication is through body language and energy. Meaning in silence. Yet 90% of my clients do not know how to communicate with their dogs in silence. Dog´s don’t understand English or Spanish or Chinese.
2- Understand your relationship with your dog. Who is the parent? Who is in charge? If your dog is in charge don’t expect him or her to listen to you. Respect the relationship and accept your responsabilities.
Being a parent is a privilege, not a right or entitlement. Dogs don’t care about liability, human laws or rules. They have no idea how to behave in a human environment. They need you as a guide and as a leader. Understanding your relationship means to accept your role as a parent or decision maker and to be accountable for it.
3- Be aware of your state of mind. This is a big one! If you are not in control of yourself don’t expect your dog to listen to you in a willing and a cooperative way.
What I mean by this is to be in control of your body language and your energy. This is a skill that you might need to re-learn. We are animals too. Body language and energy is not a foreign language to us. This is our common and universal language.
4- Be aware of your your dog´s sate of mind. This is huge! You have to be sensitive and reactive to your dogs state of mind instead of trying to impose your dog training program. Dogs are not computers. Ex: If your pup is anxious and you give her a treat because you feel sorry, you are rewarding anxiety. Even if your pup sat down for the treat.
5. Be present. Dog´s can’t live in the past or in the future. They can only live in the present. So don’t allow your mind to take over and navigate around time. Be present!!
So, How about Trust?
Although all the above applies for getting your dog to trust you, the main way to gain trust with your pup is with Leadership. By leadership I mean taking the responsability to take over and being accountable. I don’t mean entitlement or dictatorship. The difference between Leadership and entitlement or dictatorship is that the first one comes from acceptance and the later ones come from imposition, force and fear.
Your dog won’t trust you if you don’t lead with confidence and calmness. The same way you wouldn’t trust someone that doesn’t know what she or he is doing. Think about it. What would you do when you come into a place where the crew doesn’t know what they’re doing? Well, you either take over, you get out of there if you can or you crap in your pants. And that’s what dogs do too!!
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, November 2017
What’s a crate?
A crate is a safety confined small space where your pup should feel safe and relaxed.
In nature this would be the same thing as their “Den”. This is where they can crash and feel safe. A Den in nature is small, cosy and usually there’s only on entrance or doorway. Danger can only come from one place so its easy to protect.
When living with humans dogs usually find their own little corner maybe underneath a bed or furniture to snuggle up. This is kind of their domestic dens.
Crate training means that you train your dog to feel safe and relaxed in the crate. Basically you want to think of the crate as their ¨den¨.
A crate is not a place to punish your pup or a place for your pup to hide. If your pup is in a fearful state of mind close the crate before he or she gets in and use it when he or she is relaxed.
When should we use it?
Crate training is basically used for three reasons:
1 – Potty training and house training: The crate is a great tool to create a schedule for your pup. Because dogs don’t pee or poop where they sleep you can use the crate when you can’t supervise him or her to avoid ¨accidents¨ in your house.
2 – Destructive behavior: A crate or a pen that is puppy proofed allows you to have a space in your house where your pup doest have access to chew on your furniture, shoes or more importantly things that can actually kill them or injure them such as electric cables, medicine etc.
3 – In certain cases for separation anxiety: Crate training can come pretty handy to prevent or to fix separation anxiety. It teaches your pup to be left alone and sleeping.
How to Crate train.
The first thing you should work is on letting your pup in and out of the crate. You can do this by simply luring your dog with treats or a desirable toy into the crate. Do it several times during the day. Don not close the gate when doing this. Other things that can help is to hide treats or food crumbs in the crate so your pup spends some time there looking for them with the door open.This will create a positive association with the crate.
IMPORTANT note: While you do this don’t put a lot of excitement, keep it low key and do it in silence. The reason why is because a crate should be a relaxed place where your puppy is going to sleep or simply relax and calm down. It´s counter productive to get your dog all excited to go to the crate and then shut the door and expect him or her to relax and calm down. This is a very common mistake.
Once you’ve created a positive association with the crate, you also want to practice leading your dog to the crate with a leash and making him or her wait before leaving the crate. Do not force or push your pup into the crate, just lead him or her gently and confidently. This is a good practice because food creates excitement and excitement is what your are trying to avoid when you are crate training your pup. You want your dog to go calmly to the crate, remain calm and get out of it calmly too.
If you leave an excited dog in a crate this becomes a jail not a den.
The second step is to leave your pup for a while with the door close. The best way to do this is after a long walk or a good session of training when your pup is tired and ready to crash. Leave your dog in the crate while he or she is calm and take him or her out of the crate while he or she is still calm. Don’t wait until they start baking! If not your dog will learn that barking gets him or her out of the crate.
Do this in silence and don’t say good bye or talk to your dog. Engaging with your dog and creating excitement before leaving him or her in the crate gets your pup confused. Dogs don’t understand what good bye means because they don’t understand English. Good bye is not a command and is not good manners its just a tease.
So to recap a little bit and avoid confusions: Use treats or toys to create a positive association with the crate, but once your are going to close the door be calm and avoid excitement.
© Gabriel Riesco, NYC, November 2017
When a bad experience happens to your dog there are good chances that your pup might develop a fear associated with that experience. It could be fear of stairs, fear of men, fear of kids, fear of your car etc.
In the following example Lassie (I´ve changed the dog´s name for privacy) developed fear of stairs because he fell. When this happens don’t feel sorry or pity for your pup. Or just keep it to yourself and when you get over it start helping your pup 😉 Make sure he or she is not injured and don’t wait to start helping him or her to overcome it.
There’s nothing wrong with getting emotional, I get emotional too. But once you decide to help your pup you have to overcome your emotions. You can get emotional later.
I must say that in this example I worked previously with Lassie´s mom on Leash Communication, energy and body language.
Question: (Lassie´s Mom)
¨We recently put up child gates at our stairs. This past Wednesday, after the gates had been up for about a week, Lassie ran right into the gate and then partially fell down the stairs. I wasn’t home, but my husband was and he said that Lassie then tried again to run through the gate and he feel down the stairs again. He did not have any physical injuries, but now he is terrified of the stairs. He will run downstairs, but he will not come up unless I literally carry him. He’ll be shaking as he reaches the top. I feel so awful! Things that usually trigger him to dash upstairs aren’t working (treats, his dinner. the doorbell ringing).
Do you have any advice for what we can do??¨
¨There is a couple of things you can do. The first thing to do is to know if he is afraid of the stairs or of the gate. This is very important.
If it´s the gate: Remove the gate and walk Lassie upstairs on the leash. Do it a couple of times. If you are in the middle of the stairs and he is still a little bit unsure go down and try it again. Kind of like baby steps. Once he is comfortable doing that, do the same but with the gate. Once he can do it with the gate several times try to do it without the leash.
If it´s the stairs, make sure you put a rug or something that ´s not slippery on the stairs. Put him in the middle of the stairs (carry him) and block the way down with a gate. So the only way is up. Do baby steps until he is comfortable doing it alone the whole stairs.
Use the leash communication we went over when I first saw you. Don´t drag him, but don´t let him fly away. Be very calm and confident yourself. Think this way while you are helping him: you know he can do it, because this is something new. You just need to remove the fear.
Let me know how it goes. I´m confident you can figure it out! – Have a great day!¨
Lassie´s Mom – :
¨ IT WORKED! The minute we did the stairs with the leash, he was then able to do them on his own. Thank you so much!¨
The reason why it worked so fast is because Lassie´s Mom already new how to communicate with the leash, with her body language and energy. What’s funny is that she first tried with external tools like treats, dinner or even the door bell and didn’t think about what she already learnt, which comes from within.
This is just one example of the importance of mastering leash communication and the walk. Your body language and energy is much more powerful than what you think when you know what you are doing.
© Gabriel Riesco, Brooklyn, NY December 2017
A fearful or skittish dog can be heartbreaking. Fear can also lead to aggression or to panic attacks where they can shut down and freeze in terror.
If you encounter a fearful, skittish or extremely insecure dog there are some things you should know in order to help him/her.
A dog in fearful or panic mode will not eat or accept treats from anyone. This is a red flag and you should be extra sensitive to how you react in order to help. In this kind of situations always apply the NETT rule: No Eye contact, no Talk and no Touch. You should never talk, touch or give eye contact to a fearful dog. Even if you mean well or if you have treats in your hand. It doesn’t´t help them. I will explain why each of this rules are so important.
- No eye contact: If a dog goes into fear mode, means that he/she is in an extremely sensitive state of mind. Eye contact will be perceived as a threat or a challenge and it will not help to calm them down. If you make eye contact he/she is going to shut down even more. Even worse he might show some kind of aggression or even try to bite if they see no other way out.
- No Talk: This is a hard one for most humans. For some reason we can´t keep our mouths shut. If you start talking in this kind of situation, the poor pup is going to have to deal with one more noise that he/she doesn’t´ understand. If the dog is already overwhelmed and you add more noise to his/her noisy head you automatically become part of the problem not of the solution. The more common words that come out of our good will or intentions are : ¨It´s ok, oh poor little thing, you see… he is friendly, don’t be afraid, you are such a sweet puppy ¨ The reality is that they don’t understand any of these. Words are unintelligible noise to your pup at this point. Furthermore, noise creates excitement and tension not calmness. But this is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that you are so busy talking nonsense that you forget to listen to your pup. By doing this you´ll miss opportunities to actually help him/her. In a way what you are doing is denying and overriding their feelings or state of mind and imposing yours. Remember this is not about letting the world know how much you care about the dog. It´s about self control and sharpening your listening and communication skills to be able to help him. Tip: when you stop talking, you start listening. And when you start listening you start acting and communicating in a more harmonious way.
- No Touch: Trying to touch a dog that doesn’t´ wanna be touched or that is not ready to be touched in a way is lack of respect, wether it´s consciously or unconsciously. Again we might mean well and we might have good intentions, but respect is not something you achieve by imposing your agenda. Respect is something that you give and you get back in return. This has to do with listening and being sensitive to their emotions or state of mind and properly reacting to them in order to give guidance. It´s always going to be on their time not on your´s. If you are patient and a little savy you´ll be surprised how much faster ¨their time¨is than your deadlines. program or agenda.
Your body language, your sate of mind/ energy and your communication skills are key in order to help these kind of dogs.
Important Note: Only after you´ve acquired these skills you can bring food or treats and use positive reinforcement. If you don’t do so you are probably going to be rewarding the wrong state of mind. And believe me it will take for ever. Positive reinforcement means to reinforce positive behavior and that includes their state of mind. Nurturing fear, rewarding it with food or feeling sorry for your pup is not Positive Reinforcement.
Keep yourself calm and confident so you can invite them to become your energy instead of you becoming theirs.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, 2017
In this blog I´m going to expose a little bit myself. I might get a little emotional. But bare with me, it´s worth it. 😉
As some of you know I´m a musician. More specifically a professional guitar player, or at least I used to be for over 18 years of my life. As a kid my dream was to come to New York and play music. To live the bohemian life performing and recording music with New York musicians from all over the world. At one point I told this to my parents and surprisingly they were supportive. I also wanted to study music here, in the US, and that´s extremely expensive, specially if you come from Spain. My parents didn’t have that kind of money.
So I saved money, a lot of money. At least a lot for me. I studied and practiced very hard: 7 to 8 hours a day. EVERY DAY. I applied to several scholarships. I got one in Miami. Then I saved more money and I got another scholarship in Berklee College of Music. I graduated with honors in Jazz performance and composition. Then I moved to New York. I was BROKE. My college degree wasn’t very helpful here. It took me years to manage to survive and live out of the music. I was very proud of it and I was busy performing and recording. But I wanted to thrive not to survive, and I was ready for it. I decided to start focusing on my own project. So I started getting into international Jazz Festivals around Europe and the US. I recorded my second Jazz album and started promoting it. I got fantastic critics and reviews from important Jazz magazines and experts. Things were going pretty well. I felt empowered, but even more importantly I was ready to go for it with full force and commitment.
To achieve this and to come to the US to do music, I made a LOT of sacrifices . I left all my family, friends and a warm land behind me. I even left my girlfriend at that time. And it felt that it was beginning to pay off. I was ready for the next step for the big reward.
At this point, I remember once when I went back to my parent´s house in Spain. One night while I was sitting in the living room, my dad came to me and held my hand. This has never happened to me before. Then he told me: ¨I´m very proud of how far you’ve come and I know that this is just the beginning. I want you to know that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve. I believe in you.¨ I think this is the first time I saw my dad crying. That really meant the world to me. It was a signal of my success to come, or so I thought.
What happened next is not a success story of glory and fame. It´s actually heartbreaking when I go back in time. A week after my album release and after I had lined up all my upcoming concerts and tours, I started to develop focal dystonia. This is a condition where you slowly, and without knowing it, you start loosing control of your fingers. Every day no matter how much you practice you get worse. At the beginning you think it´s you. You slowly start to convince yourself that you suck, because you make stupid mistakes that you never made before. Basically you are sending yourself to failure every time you pick up the guitar and there’s noting you can do about it. It´s so intense that your hand without your consent starts rejecting the guitar to a point where you can’t even touch it. The worst part of this condition is that you don’t know you have it. It´s actually cruel.
At this point one day I was at the doctors office treating my hand and somehow I started reading something from a magazine that got stuck in my mind since. I quote: ¨When the Gods want to get you, they really know how to strike¨. I stopped and I read it again: ¨When the gods want to get you, they really know how to strike¨. Wow, that was me! It felt exactly like that : I got striked, and it really got me.
Reading this hit my soul hard and very intense.I started crying and I couldn’t stop. The emotions that came to me were hard tp put into words. It was the strangest combination of pure sadness, frustration, anger, self pity and tenderness, compassion and beauty at the same time. I wasn’t sure why I was crying, but it was stronger than me and out of my control. I was releasing and letting go a tremendous amount of pent up energy. I guess I realized that this was bigger than myself. In a way I completely surrendered to it. I stopped fighting it.
This process, I learnt a little later from dogs, is called Letting Go. Animals are experts at this and if we are sensitive enough we can learn from this infinite wisdom.
Anyways, after this event my life changed in an unimagined way. I discovered a new thriving and effortless career as a Dog trainer. The way this happened belongs to a different and fascinating chapter in my life. But this also allowed me to become a father and a husband with endlesss joy and gratefulness, which by the way was never in my goals or plans as a bohemian musician. As a musician the word Husband was a blasphemy. Becoming a Father was simply out of reality and irresponsible.
After years and a very different perspective of things the same quote came to my mind. ¨When the gods want to get you, they really know how to strike¨. Now I laugh and I get it. I was so tunneled vision, fixated and closed to one side of myself with music that there was no room for anything else. The ¨Gods¨ had no other way to snap me out of it and show me that life is much wider and wiser than your goals, fixations or big rewards. How funny is that the word ¨dogs¨ is the same letters as gods but inverted. Through Dogs I´ve learnt a new and different way of looking at life. They showed me how to live in the present and Let Go of things. I never chose to become a Dog Trainer, it just happened to me because I listened and surrendered to it. And by the way since then I started slowly recovering my hand movements and playing the guiar.
Now, my big reward was not becoming a Dog Trainer or recovering my hand movements or the money that came with it. All these were consequences. The big reward was the process of Letting Go itself. I FREED up a big load of my back and a tremendous amount of pent up energy that was holding me down.
Ok, so you’ll say, this is great Gabriel, but what on earth this has to do with dogs. Well, it has a lot to do with dogs. 90 % of my 911 calls have to do with fixations, obsessions, rewards, boundaries and limits. I promise I will dig in more on this on my next blogs.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, December 2017