I do. Actually I do it quite a lot. I love doing it because I know that Ralphie is never gonna argue with me. He is the best listener! His answer is always a cute face with that look saying: ¨I know, I get it.¨ It´s amazing how much this little he can take on. It just doesn’t affect him.
The best part is that he doesn’t judge me. He doesn’t give me any bad advice or tells me what to do or how to do it. He just sits there and do nothing.
Sometimes I even get emotional and change my tone of voice. When this happens he pulls his ears up, he looks at me and slightly turn his head to the side. He is asking me: ¨Really, please tell me more about that¨. So I keep going. Eventually something really amazing happens. All of a sudden I just realize how simple the answer is. Then I looked at Ralphie and he always looks back at me saying: ¨you’re welcome¨
After this sessions, sometimes he just stays where he is, laying down and with his head resting on a pillow thinking: ¨you humans need so much help¨. Sometimes if the session was a little more intense he stands up, looks back checking on me and walks towards the terrace to sun bathe for a little while. He is thinking: “I’m done working for the day, you’re a piece of work, take it easy buddy¨.
Ralhie is the best the psychologist in the world and it´s free!
Now, does he understand me? Hmm well, when I ask a question he never replies back, not even with a bark. Although that doesn’t prove he doesn’t understand. Pshychilogist doesn’t answer either! And he does have that look that says: ¨Really, please tell me more that.¨ which is the favorite phrase of psychologists. On top of that he doesn’t ask me weird and uncomfortable questions about my mom, which I highly appreciate. Sometimes I wonder how much this little guy takes in. So does he really understand me?
I’m sorry to bust your bubble if I tell you that I’m convinced he doesn’t understand my words or the reasoning behind them. That’s just my opinion. Call me crazy! But I always learn a great lesson. Listening is an art.
PS: Here is a little whispering secret: I use it with my wife and it works!!
If you think your dog understands you please let me know and email me! I LOVE those stories!!!
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, May 16, 2018
When Amy called me she was desperate.
¨Hey Gabe, Daisy loves going to the park, but the minute I take her off leash she runs to the water, which as you know is pretty far¨ She told me.
“What do you do when that happens?” I asked her.
“Well, I call her, but she doesn’t come. Then she takes off, so I have to go all the way to the water. She doesn’t listen to me.¨
¨Where are you when you call her? – I asked again
“What do you mean? I’m at the park¨
“Are you between her and the water, or is she between you and the water?” I replied
“I don’t really know, I guess she is between me and the water because I usually end up chasing her”
When I went to the park with Amy and her pup Daisy I saw exactly what was happening. Because I already new the deal I stood between Daisy and the way to the water. Then I told Amy:
¨When a I say come please drop the leash”
As soon as I said come, Amy dropped the leash and Daisy rushed to me. Well she didn´t rushed to me, she was rushing to the water, but I happened to be in the way.
We repeated this several times. Every time Daisy came to me I gave her some pads, and cuddles, I played with her a little bit and then took her back to Amy to repeat the process.
In very little time Daisy was coming to me when I was calling her. But even more important she was not rushing to the water anymore. She was staying around with us.
Amy was astonished, she couldn’t believe it.
How did this happen so fast?
It happened fast because I didn’t impose a method to Daisy. I simply saw where gravity was and I used it in my favor instead of against me.
Amy was calling Daisy after taking off and from behind her. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was calling Daisy before she was taking off and I was on the way where she was heading. Gravity was in my favor not against me.
Note: I never got into the WHY Daisy was going crazy about rushing to the water. I just noticed that she was fixated into rushing towards the water. We humans love to get into the WHY of things and create science fiction stories around it. Dogs don’t really care about our stories.
The really important thing here is not the WHY but the HOW. How Daisy was performing this behavior, what state of mind was she in? If Daisy would’ve been in panic mode this would´ve never worked. I would’ve taken a completely different approach.
Dasiy was not afraid, she was fixated or obsessed with the water. That’s why she was running. Typical Bulldog behavior. Daisy is a bulldog.
Fixations or obsessions have a clear straight line direction towards something. They are easy to spot.
Anyways, by standing between Daisy and the water I broke that cycle where she was getting stuck. By calling her name and knowing that she was going to come to me I created an association between the word “come” and the action Daisy coming to me. Once you know what’s going to happen it´s a matter of repetition.
According to Einstein, and I quote: ¨definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.¨
I would suggest to inverse this quote and use it for training : ¨do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results.¨
Make sure you use it wisely! 😉
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, March 5th, 2018
There are two approaches which you can use to teach your dog to ¨come¨ when called. You can also combine them.
The first one is Conditioning and Training and the second one is Gravity.
Let’s talk about the first one.
Conditioning and training means to condition your dog to associate the word ¨come¨ with the action ¨coming to you¨.
It´s really that simple.
This might seem obvious to you. Nonetheless I keep seeing more often than not dog owners calling their dogs while they are going towards them.
This usually happens when your dog is getting into trouble. You call his or her name, your pup doesn´t listen and you end up going there. It doesn’t take long for your dog to learn that the word ¨come¨ means that you go to him or her.
I can’t repeat this enough: ¨YOUR DOG DOESN´T UNDERSTAND ENGLISH¨. Now, I don’t wanna bust your bubble. You are more than welcome to talk to your dog. I do it all the time. Just don’t expect him or her to understand what you’re saying. If you think your dog understands you please let me know and email me! I LOVE those stories!!!
Anyways, going back to business. When you say the word ¨come¨ make sure that you know your dog is going to come to you. If not don’t say it, especially at the beginning. You want to create a solid and very consistent association with the word ¨come¨ and the action of coming to you. Successful repetitions is the key in the first stage.
How do you do this?
Well, it´s easier than what you think.
Choose a place with no or little distractions. Get something your dog really wants or likes. It could be you. Move away from your dog. Ignore him or her for a while. As soon as he or she walks away, call him or her name and say ¨come!¨ You can use a treat, a toy, a ball or whatever you dog really likes. It could be just your attention.
Make some noise and create some excitement if your pup doesn’t come to you right away. Kneeling down also helps. So you can try that too.
When your dog comes, reward him or her with enthusiasm. Then repeat it three to five times. Don’t over do it, because your dog will get bored. Do this several times during the day. Soon your dog will come to you like lightening.
As you are more and more successful add distractions and distance.
Always reward your dog for coming. Never punish or get angry at your dog for coming to you. Even if they just misbehaved, because if you do, your pup will think that he or she is being punished for coming to you. And guess what, next time they wont come to you. They learn pretty fast.
PS: In the next blog I´ll talk about the fascinating second approach: Gravity!
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, March 13th, 2018
¨… So suddenly I hear a very weird noise, like a tornado galloping on four legs in my living room. I walk in and ¨Simba¨ is going crazy. She is running like a maniac and possessed like a poltergeist. What’s going on?! At first I thought my puppy was going crazy and I didn´t know what to do. She was going to destroy my house and probably injured herself. As soon as I could I put the leash on her to manage her behavior … but then she started bitting and chewing the leash and even jumping and going after me!. Gabriel I need help!¨
This is a story that I get quite often. And no, don´t worry your puppy is not crazy or possessed . It´s just pent up energy that your pup needs to release. By the way, cats do it too! Just in case you have a kitty and you´re wondering.
In any case, there are different ways to deal with this behavior. One of them is using a leash, but not if you haven’t introduced the leash to your puppy first. This blog is about how to do this.
If you wait to put a leash on your pup until he or she misbehaves or goes crazy, good chances are that you are either going to dial Pawmos 911 for help or start singing the Hakuna Matata while your pup is driving you nuts. Btw, Hakuna Matata works, I sing it all the time, and it´s cheaper than Pawmos 911;)
Anyways, your new puppy has no idea what a leash is. So how you handle the introduction might save you some time and headaches.
There are two ways I recommend on how to introduce the leash to your puppy.
The first is very easy and extremely simple. Wait until your puppy is tired or even half a sleep and put the leash on. While your puppy is still calm take it off. This is a very effective way to tell your little cutie that the leash means absolutely nothing. Do this several times during the day for several days. It’ll take you no more than 1 minute each time.
The second is to put the leash on your puppy when you are going to train him or her. For example: Go and get a treat or a toy. Put the leash on and tell your pup to come to you while holding the leash. Don’t pull the leash or drag him or her around. Just hold the leash ,show the treat and start moving away from him or her. Let your puppy follow you or even chase you a little bit while holding the leash. Give a treat here and there when she or he comes to you.
When you do this kind of training be gentle and don’t put to much excitement. Excitement and Leash are like oil and water. It´s a bad mix! Remember this for the rest of your doggy life:
Take a moment to think about it. It really doesn’t make sense to get your puppy all excited and then restrain him or her with a 3 foot leash. This is like telling a 6 year old kid that he or she is going to Disney World before going to sleep. It´s just bad timing.
This is why you want your pup to associate the leash with calmness and not with excitement right from the beginning.
As your puppy grows bigger and cuter you will want to start learning how to communicate with the leash. To learn more about this click on this link: Leash communication
But for now just make sure you start with the right foot instead of singing the Hakuna Matata later.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, March 5th, 2018
There are different ways to teach your dog commands. My preferred method is positive reinforcement or reward based techniques. Usually using food or toys.
This technique is under what I refer as conditioning and training. As I explained in previous blogs this is different from communicating and bonding. Conditioning and training is very effective at teaching your dog commands, but not so effective at teaching your dog not to do things or changing behaviors, such as excesive barking, aggression, anxiety, fear etc. For more information on this please check out my previous blog : The Secret
Anyways, this is a simple but very effective formula of teaching your dog from simple commands like come, sit, down to more complex ones such as go and grab me a drink from the refrigerator.
Reward Based Training or Positive Reinforcement is divided into five steps: the craving, the command, he cue, the marker and the reward. This is the CCC Mr. formula (Craving, Command, Cue, Marker, Reward ) or the triple ¨C ¨Mr. formula
Let’s talk about each of these steps:
The craving: this is basically finding out what motivates your dog or what does your dog want. Most dogs want food or treats, some dogs want a ball, a toy, a moving object or a tug of war. Whatever it is, you’re going to use that craving to get your pups attention and teach him/her certain commands such as sit down, high five etc. If your dog does what you want he or she gets the reward. With repetition it becomes automatic.
The command: This is the word you want to use to teach a command. For example: ¨sit¨ or ¨sienta¨ if you want to do it in Spanish. The word or command should go before the cue, but only once you’re good with the cue and you are getting the behavior you’re trying to teach. This way your pup will associate the word with the behavior. Say the command no more than once or maybe twice.
The cue: this is the action or movement that you are going to do in order to get the behavior that you are trying to teach your dog. In this part you need to get creative in order to get the behavior you want. Here is an example: if you want your dog to sit down, move your hand with a treat a little bit over his or her head and wait until he or she sits down. Usually that makes the trick. The cue in this case is moving your hand with the treat over your pups head.
For different behaviors you’ll have to learn different cues. This is the part where you can either use the help of a professional trainer or learn by trial and error to see what works for your pup. In this step you’re still silent, you don’t have to say the word or command again, you just have to make it happen.
The marker: as soon as your pup does what you want him or her to do you say ¨yes¨. You can also use a clicker instead if you are into clicker training. The marker is telling your pup that he or she did what you wanted and the reward is coming. Which is different from the reward is here. What I mean by this is that when you say yes or you click the clicker wait one second and then give the treat. Don’t give it immediately. The marker is not the reward. The marker always comes before the reward. This is important.
The reward: Once your dog has done the behavior and you’ve used a marker by saying yes or clicked your clicker simply give him or her the reward. You can also say ¨good boy¨ or ¨good girl¨.
Now, be careful using good boy or good girl. The reason why is because in my experience we use ¨good boy¨ or ¨good girl for¨ everything and it becomes completely meaningless to your dog.
As a matter of fact good boy or good girl most of the times means excitement. I see more often than not the following sequence: the owner asks for a command. The dog does a beautiful performance. The owner after the dog did the command gets all excited and says GOOD GIRL! And the dog immediately misbehaves by jumping. Why? Because excitement creates excitement and excitement creates jumping. So be mindful with how you reward.
With this simple five step formula you can teach your pup pretty much anything.
Go and have fun with it!
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, Feb 28th 2018
I will first start defining what I mean by leadership.
Leadership means practicing awareness, self control, decision making and accountability when you have to. By that order!
I see leadership as a responsability, a service and a privilege, not an entitlement.
This is always true with dogs, although in appearance is not always true with humans. And I say in appearance because we humans sometimes get lost in the intricate game of power by manipulating or imposing our way, although this is simply because of lack of awareness. Our egos take over and we make a big mess. Dogs don’t have Egos.
Anyways, dogs don’t play that game. Dogs don’t listen to a leader, they listen to the energy behind the leader. This is a very important concept. It has to do with awareness. Being a leader is not a title that once you earn it you expect your dog to listen to you and respect you. If you are not up to the task, the privilege will be removed. Kind of like your drivers liscense. In a way, your dog will tell you if you’re connected to nature or to your phone! I’m guilty to 😉
Dogs live in the moment, so if at the moment you are not in control of yourself or aware of the environment around you, your pup will probably not listen to you. He or she will not trust nor respect you, no matter how much training and conditioning you ´ve worked on manipulating his or her behavior. But don’t worry, your dog will still love you though 🙂 They are truly amazing souls.
Anyways, when your dog is at high alert, tense or fixated, all the training and conditioning you’ve worked on goes down the drain if you don’t have the right relationship. And it´s precisely in these moments when you really want to make sure that your dog is going to listen to you. Think about this for a moment: If danger is coming and you need to make a decision, would you listen to your 7 year old son? Would you turn to look at him for direction? Of course not, because you are in charge. But guess what, if you are not in charge your son will not look up to you either. That’s just simply how it works. You don’t look up to someone who you don’t trust, respect or who is not in control.
I see this happening with dogs all the time. If you have it together, is at those moments when your pup will listen to you, because it´s at those moments when he or she really needs you and will look up to you for guidance.
In many ways we all need some kind of leadership or higher power to look up to when everything falls apart. I consider myself lucky that I always had my parents when I was in trouble. It´s funny that it was at those troubled moments when I was really paying attention and listening to them. And I’m not talking about listening to their words. My parents where not big in giving me advice and telling me what to do. I’m talking about listening to the trust, respect and love that they always delivered unconditionally. This is the kind of assets good leaders create. And this is the kind of leadership I’m talking about. It´s an unspoken language.
Leadership is not a skill, it´s a state of mind which you have to know how to turn it on and off. Good leaders are good followers too. Some times you lead sometimes you follow. Both are equally valuable and knowing when to do what makes a big difference.
You don’t have to prove leadership or stablish leadership. You provide leadership. Because if you have to prove it, this means you don’t have it. Its a calm and collected way of being, even when things go paired. Even when the worst fears show up. It´s a state of mind that allows you to be connected with your environment in a way that you are listening, observing and getting ready for the cakewalk. By the way, being calm doe not mean being slow. Calmness has nothing to do with speed.
Your presence and your guidance should be more powerful than the sources of stress . When you achieve that kind of leadership you can bring back your dog to calmness no matter how crazy or out of control the situation is around you. The key to achieve this is to remain calm and in control no matter how bad things get. It’s impossible to control a dog if you are not in control of yourself. You can restrain them with strength or tools, but that will only take care of liability which is a human problem not of harmony and peace which is natures will.
It´s not about you, it´s about harmony.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, Feb 21st 2018