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Sensitivity

I think it's fair to say when we see a dog with their tail tucked between their legs we know that dog is scared and/or nervous.  Most often those dogs are quite sensitive to various sounds and movements.  What I don't think most owners are aware of is that dogs that lunge or are aggressive are more sensitive than the scared dogs.  This sensitivity has just manifested itself to look differently than the scared dog.  By lunging a dog has learned they can create a lot of space around themselves which in turn makes them feel comfortable.  The dog that lunges can by hyper sensitive to anyone approaching their space which turns into a big loud display to make themselves look bigger and more intimidating.  Instead of the loud display the nervous and scared dog will often use "flight" as their defense to create space to make themselves feel better.  In both cases, the dogs feel they must make a decision because it has worked for them at some time in the past.  Once they figure out if they keep repeating the process they get what they want, then that behavior can turn into an "auto-pilot" reaction. 

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If either of these cases sounds like a dog you have it's important to look at your dog's day through their eyes, yes all 24 hours!  It might give you a better idea of how and why they think.  With dogs that are very sensitive I focus on calming activities like massage, walks, treadmill, or leash handling without commands.  To me, the quieter you communicate with a dog like this the better the relationship can become as it's more primal.  When dogs communicate there are no commands or treats, just intensity, body language, and eye contact.  Go back to working with your dog's instincts and you will end up with a dog that feels more comfortable with their environment.   

Importance of Down Time

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Often times we see dogs that are too over-stimulated which can manifest itself in seeing a dog that is hyper.  Most owners will think that dog will need more exercise when in actuality that dog needs the opposite, more down time.  Some dogs have the ability to regulate themselves while some do not and that's where we step in.  For the dogs that can't regulate we will take the time put the dog in a crate or a kennel so they have the chance to rest their brain and body.  Think of a young toddler that doesn't get enough sleep or misses nap time, they can be very difficult to deal with.  If you have a dog that seems hyper or maybe a new puppy, down time is going to be your best friend.  Go ahead and take your dog for a walk, play with them, or have a training session with them but keep it somewhere between 15 - 30 minutes.  After the session put your dog in a crate or tether them to something in the house where they can get some much needed rest.  Give them a 1-2 hours to rest and repeat the process again.  At the end of the day you will have created a structure that your dog will love! 

Commands

I've been thinking lately about the word "command".  This is a term that is used across the dog training world to tell your dog what to do.  It most of our training methods we don't use commands as we teach the owners how to communicate with their dog using a leash and body language for 30 days after training to help build a foundation for years to come.  After the 30 days, the owners can use commands on top of what we have already taught them.  I don't look at giving commands as a bad thing to do, I just feel that we have humanized our dogs so much that I hear owners have running conversations with their dogs like they are kids. 

Now let's look at the word "command" and what it means.  Dictionary.com defines it as:                                                                           

1. to direct with specific authority or prerogative; order:  The captain commanded his men to attack.

2. to require authoritatively; demand:

3. to have or exercise authority or control over; be master of; have at one's bidding or disposal:

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These are pretty strong words if you relate them to the dog world.  I don't like the idea of the slave/master relationship, we have "Educator" on the back of our shirts, to me a teacher-student relationship is a better way to go.  Teachers don't command their students when teaching math they "instruct" and maybe that's the word we as dog trainers need to utilize.  There has been on-going research to debunk the idea that dogs have a dominant-submissive type social structure yet we use "commands" to get our dogs to do what we want.  As research continues "commands" will continue as a way to communicate with our dogs and that term is directly related to an authority-inferior type relationship.  We can't have it both ways, so where do we go from here?