Nothing In Life Is Free

“Nothing In Life Is Free: The Alpha Dog Boot Camp”

If you own a dominant dog– especially a dog that has exhibited aggressive behavior– then you’ll need to follow these guidelines for the rest of your dog’s life. They will help create a more natural relationship between you and your dog.

But don’t be fooled: This approach also works on shy, timid dogs– because the shy, timid dog gains confidence by knowing that you are a strong leader who will protect and keep him safe.

Following our Nothing In Life Is Free: Alpha Dog Boot Camp approach will create a balanced, harmonious and more natural relationship between you and your dog.

Remember: Dogs are not “hairy children.” They have different drives and instincts than children do. And although there are some similarities– your dog will interpret your behavior through the eyes of canine genetics that have evolved over several hundred years of domestication.

1. Neuter or spay your dog. Not only will it eliminate the possibility for various types of cancer to develop, but it will also reduce hormonal dominance levels. Have your veterinarian give your dog a full health check-up.

2. Stop roughhousing and playing tug-of-war type games with your dog. It teaches your dog that challenging you is fun. It is not a productive activity in any manner, for the dominant dog. When your dog wins, he thinks he is stronger than you; and stronger dogs are always higher in the social hierarchy of the pack.

3. Teach your dog the down-stay exercise and use it throughout your day. Instead of letting your dog wander around the house or go where he pleases, make him hold a down-stay while you’re preparing dinner, watching television, changing your clothes, etc… Make your dog stay down for at least a full 30 minutes every day.

4. Do not reward your dog if he hasn’t first earned the praise. That is, make him “work for the praise.” If your dog approaches you and demands to be petted, then make him sit, first. Or hold a down-stay. Or some other exercise. He needs to learn that nothing in life is free!

5. Only issue commands that you are in a position to enforce. In other words, don’t use the formal “Come” command if you’re not in a position to physically make your dog come. Do not tell your dog, “Down” if he’s not wearing a training collar and short leash (tab). Otherwise you’ll be teaching your dog that your commands are meaningless. And in the pack, when the alpha dog wants a subordinate dog to do something… he’s never ignored, as this would jeopardize the survival of the pack.

6. Don’t wait to see if your dog will obey a command. If you’re having dominance problems with your dog, then every command needs to be enforced, immediately. Eventually, your dog will become conditioned to respond to commands– and at that same time, you will have noticed your dog has begun to see you is his pack leader. But until that point (which can take several months) … you need to enforce commands, as soon as you give them.

7. There’s an old military slogan: Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way. In short: You need to be the leader. This means that you need to be the first one to walk through doors, the first to eat, and the first to decide where you’re going to walk. Alpha dogs never walk behind the pack. They always lead. If your dog is pulling on the leash or walking out in front of you– you need to change this and learn how to get your dog to walk on a loose leash and pay more attention to you than anything else that may be going on.

8. Your dog needs to “work” for everything. Does he want you to throw the ball? Then he needs to lay down first. Is he hungry? Then he needs to sit and stay there, until you tell him that it’s okay to eat.

9. Your dog should be wearing a leash and training collar, anytime you’re with him. You cannot enforce a command if your dog isn’t wearing a short leash (a tab) and a training collar.

10. If your dog is not wearing a leash and training collar, then he needs to be confined in his crate or dog run. Free run of the house is no longer permitted. Seems harsh? Only to us humans. Remember: You’re dealing with a dominant dog. Act like the pack leader so he’ll view you as the pack leader! Note: Never leave a training collar on your dog when he’s unsupervised– even in the crate or kennel run.

11. You can create your own short leash (tab) by buying short piece of rope (or plastic coated cable if your dog is a chewer) and then tie a knot at the end of the rope. Attach the other end to a harness snap (about .27 cents $USD at your local hardware store). It just needs to be long enough that you can grab, create a bit of slack, and give a tug on the tab when you’re correcting your dog for bad behavior.

12. Do not let your dog sleep on the bed. And do not let your dog sleep on your child’s bed. This is very important. More dominance and aggression problems are created by people who let their dogs sleep on their bed, than probably any other single behavior. The pack leader always sleeps on higher ground. Subordinate dogs sleep on lower ground. Being higher (or on top) is a dominance behavior.

13. Work short obedience sessions, throughout the day. 5-15 minutes. There is no limit as to how many obedience sessions you can work with your dog. The more, the better.

14. When your dog does something right, praise him. The way to effectively praise you dog is by saying, “Good dog!” and then making physical contact. Dogs are very physical animals. And don’t be shy. Some dogs like to be patted, while others like to be stroked. Observe which style of praise your dog likes best, but always make physical contact when you praise your dog.

15. Correct your dog every time your dog exhibits an unwanted behavior. There are many different ways to correct your dog, which we elaborate more on at Remember: You must make sure that your dog gets corrected every time he exhibits an unwanted behavior. (See point 10, above).

16. Dogs live in the moment. You should, too. If your dog exhibits a bad behavior, correct him for it and then forget it. It’s not personal. Dogs don’t do things out of “spite.” They do not possess the ability to use long term logic.

17. You decide when your dog is allowed to meet visitors. Do not let your dog immediately run up to visitors and greet them. You need to decide when and how– which in most cases, should be after holding a sit-stay or down-stay.


The Electronic Collar vs. the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors

An article published in a recent issue of The Canine Times states that, “The Association of Pet Behavior Counselors condemns the widespread use of devices which deliver electric shocks to dogs for the purpose of training or curing behavior problems,”The article later states that, “Only in a handful of cases, where all else has been tried and failed, and when the condition is potentially life-threatening, can the use of such devices ever be justified, according to the association, and, only then, in the hands of an experienced behavioral specialist who is capable of accurate timing.” HHHMMMMM… if the electronic collar is truly cruel and inhumane… WHY would they advocate ONLY using it in cases where everything else has already been tried? This is ridiculous.

If something is truly CRUEL and INHUMANE… you should not do it… period! But the truth of the matter is that the electronic collar IS NOT CRUEL AND INHUMANE. Sure, there are people who will use even a buckle collar in a manner which is harmful to a dog.

But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater! Let me go on record as saying that the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors HAS ALTERIOR MOTIVES! They epitomize the Mothers Of Prevention who will not rest until they save every dog owner from himself! They simply will not believe that YOU are a smart, intelligent thinking individual and would rather treat you like an incompetent child! The fact is, I have never seen a problem arise from an owner PROPERLY using an electronic collar.

It is only when the e-collar (or any other training device) is misused that you’re going to run into problems. But if we’re going to start lambasting training devices, let’s not forget to chastise the mother dog for using her terribly sharp teeth to nip and bite the 5 week old puppies for biting her nipples too hard! Trust me, with the insanity and lack of understanding the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors has demonstrated in adopting this stance, it won’t be long before we see them outlawing pinch collar, choke chains, leather leashes, and fur savers, too!

Many of you have written to me this week and have asked that I clarify my stance on using the electronic collar. You’ll note that I don’t refer to this marvelous training device as a “shock collar,” which is more of a loaded, propagandistic term designed to belittle the electronic collar and the people who use them.

For those of you who don’t know what an electronic collar is, let me explain: The electronic collar is a small box fitted to a collar which the dog wears. The box has two contact points which should gently touch the dog’s neck when fitted snugly. The handler carries a small transmitter the size of a garage door opener, and this transmitter sends a signal to the collar which then delivers a small amount of electrical stimulation to the dog’s neck. “Electrical stimulation???” you ask. Yes… electrical stimulation.

A small tingle. This stimulation can be as light as a tickle, or as strong as a minor jolt, depending upon your dog’s sensitivity. “But why use the electronic collar?” you ask. Well, if you’ve read my book, you’re probably familiar with the concepts of timing, consistency and motivation. With the electronic collar, you can:

1.) Achieve perfect timing. Especially if the dog is doing something at a distance, such as digging a hole in the yard. If you had to manually run to the dog to correct him, there’s a good chance you’d sacrifice the 7 to 9 seconds required to get your dog to associate the correction with the behavior. With the electronic collar, the correction happens immediately.

2.) You can be 100% consistent. It doesn’t matter if your dog is running through heavy brush or speeding past you at 20 miles per hour, the electronic collar will allow you to consistently correct your dog. And in many cases, he’ll only associate the correction with the unwanted behavior, rather than associating the correction with you!

3.) Unlike the electronic collars of the 1950’s and 1960’s, today’s electronic collars let you match the motivation level of the correction to your dog’s temperament. So the possibility of over correcting your dog is pretty unlikely.

What many people don’t understand about the electronic collar is that giving a correction to your dog must be motivational. This is similar to the police officer who gives you a $2 ticket for speeding. It’s a correction…. but it’s not motivational. So, it really doesn’t matter whether you use a buckle collar, a choke chain, a pinch collar, or an electronic collar… as long as your corrections are motivational.

So, not only does the e-collar allow me to give motivational corrections that can be precisely matched to my dog’s temperament, but it also allows me to have perfect timing and consistency, too. Here are my rules for who should use an electronic collar: Beginners: If you’re a beginner, it’s probably best to stick with using an electronic collar for behavior modification only.

Put simply, if you’re trying to break a behavior such as digging in the trash, digging holes in the yard, excessive barking, or jumping on furniture… simply set the collar to the high setting (you’re goal is to create avoidance to the object)… and press and release the stimulation button RIGHT WHEN THE DOG JUMPS on the furniture.

Or just as he starts to dig. Or when he sticks his head in the trash can. That’s all there is to it. It’s just that easy. Pretty much any idiot can immediately and successfully break any number of behaviors by merely using a little common sense and only using the e-collar for avoidance training, as I’ve just described. Intermediate trainers: For dogs that already have a working understanding of on and off leash commands, the intermediate trainer can start synchronizing his manual leash corrections with the e-collar.

This can help polish your exercises, build faster response, and make proofing exercises take 10% of the time they normally would. Advanced professional trainers: Advanced professional trainers who have a good feel for reading a dog and understand advanced handling techniques and concepts can use the electronic collar to help solve aggression problems. For some reason, the texture of the correction can affect the dog in a way that the regular training collar will not.

And remember, with the e-collar, there’s no jerking or pulling… which can really come in handy when you’re dealing with a 140 lbs. Rottweiler who’s trying to bite the fingers off your left hand. And by texture, I’m not talking about motivation. Sometimes just because the texture of the correction feels different to the dog, you can cut through the nonsense and make communication much faster and easier.

A well timed and placed electronic correction can, in many cases, have a calming effect on the dog and make him focus on the handler– in the case of dog aggression. The remote electronic collars I recommend and use are made by Innotek and Tri-Tronics. The e-collar I’m using right now on Forbes, my Rhodesian/Bull Mastiff mix, is an Innotek Retriever Trainer that I purchased through the Fosters and Smith Mail Order Catalog for $389. You can reach Fosters and Smith at 1 800 826 7206

My View On the Problem With “Clicker Training”

Clicker training has become the New Age buzz word amongst the humanist-oriented dog training bunch and the book and pet product promoters eager to capitalize on this latest trend.

Based on theories of operant conditioning first expounded by psychologist B.F. Skinner, and later popularized by dolphin trainer Karen Pryor in books such as Don’t Shoot The Dog, clicker training involves attaching a positive, motivator (such as food) to an event marker (such as a clicking sound made by a child’s toy known as a ‘cricket’) in order to improve timing and allow the dog to more easily understand which behavior he did correctly.

The problem I have with clicker training is not inherent to the use of a small child’s toy to assist in training a dog, (which, it could be argued, strays away from the natural way dog’s communicate with each other), but rather in the promotion and word of mouth associated with this behavioral approach which closely resembles the ramblings of a college boy newly converted to Evangelism. Furthermore, clicker training has quickly evolved into the poster child of those who view traditional dog training as something closer to torture for the dog, rather than as a method of training new behaviors.

The weak point of most clicker trainers’ arguments is in the assumption that using compulsion (giving a dog a correction) is the same as a punishment and/or force.

In reality, a well timed correction, with proper motivation (but not too much motivation) is merely a method of telling the dog he did something wrong. Imagine trying to learn how to drive with an instructor who only told you when you were doing something right, but refused to tell you when you were doing something wrong.

Sure, you might eventually learn how to drive (if you didn’t kill yourself first), but the fastest and easiest method of learning is to know when you are doing something right as well as when you are doing something wrong. I feel there is a definite place for clicker training in a trainer’s bag of tricks… however, it should not be to the exclusion of every other trick in the trainer’s bag, especially when those tricks may work faster in certain circumstances.

Don’t Call A Dog Trainer Until You Know These Seven Key Insider Points!

Hiring the right dog trainer is of utmost importance. If you don’t hire the right dog trainer, not only will you be out good money, and not only will your dog not be trained, but there is also a high probability that your dog will end up in worse psychological condition than before you started training. Here’s what to look for in a dog trainer:

Insider Point #1:

Hire a dog trainer who has real, hard-core experience in the dog world. By this, I’m not talking about the number of years he has been training, but rather the quality of those years. Does he engage in continuing education? Has he worked or trained under some of the most prominent dog trainers in America, or in Europe? I know many people who have been driving an automobile for more than 30 years, but still cannot parallel park. So, when you hire a dog trainer, you want to be absolutely sure that you are hiring a person with quality experience.

Insider Point #2:

Group classes vs. private instruction Unless you happen to be training for a specific type of competition, group classes are generally a waste of time. Many people enroll in group classes because they think it makes for good socialization and interaction with other dogs. However, as long as your dog was with its litter from six weeks of age to eight weeks of age, then he has already learned proper dominant and subordinate behavior with other dogs. Remember, you are not dealing with a child…where supervision and socialization are required for several years. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to work your dog around other dogs as a distraction. But this should be done after the dog has gone through the training phase of learning what each command means. And once you recognize this fact, you don’t need to spend $80 to $100 on enrollment in a pet store sponsored group class. You can obtain the same benefits by taking your dog down to the beach, or to Starbucks Coffee and get the same type of stimulus and distractions for free. In contrast, the amount of progress you can make by working with a qualified dog trainer can be phenomenal. For example, in less then ten minutes, you can take a dog that has been pulling on its leash for the last three years and get him to pay attention to you and keep the leash loose. If you watch students in a group class, you will see people who have been training for more than a total of 10 hours (weekly sessions) and their dogs are still pulling on the leash! I urge you to consider a “learning to drive ” analogy. You can learn something about driving from a group class, but you are kidding yourself if you think you will learn to actually drive without taking private instruction. Dog training is the same. It’s a hands-on discipline that must be learned in a one-on-one environment. (Of course, you should include your family, too!)

Insider Point #3:

How much you should expect to pay for dog training? Because there he is no licensing or regulations in the State of California to open a dog training company, there are a lot of unqualified practitioners claiming to be professional dog trainers. The bottom-line is that you want to hire someone who can really deliver the results. Hiring a dog trainer is a lot like hiring a good heart surgeon. Given the choice between hiring a heart surgeon who charges $30,000 for an operation and one who charges $395… you have to wonder. There are some times in life when you don’t want to make your selection based on price, and hiring a dog trainer is one of those times. Why not? Because, simply put, not all dog trainers are alike. And not all dog trainers can deliver the type of results you are looking for. And furthermore, you don’t want to let an amateur (or worse, an idiot!) jeopardize your dog’s psychological well being, simply because you wanted to save a few bucks. Let me be honest with you. Those dog trainers who can actually deliver outstanding results are few and far in-between. And the ones who can deliver the goods are definitely going to be charging the absolute premium for what their services are worth. Currently, at the time of this printing, a comprehensive obedience dog training program can run anywhere from $500 to $800. Anything less than approximately $500 and you are probably dealing with someone who, deep down inside, knows that they can’t deliver good results. Top-notch dog trainers are going to charge top-notch rates. There is no way of getting around this fact. So, chalk up any training expenses as part of the cost of owning a dog, to be calculated with other expenses such as dog food, veterinary bills, and grooming.

Insider Point #4:

There are no guarantees in life. My personal feeling about offering a guarantee in selling dog training services is that one should not be offered. And if someone is offering a guarantee, then it’s a marketing gimmick, and they probably aren’t being straight and honest with you. Why? Because there are three factors when it comes to offering a guarantee for dog training services. First, I can always guarantee that my techniques will work on the client’s dog. And second, I can guarantee that I can get the client’s dog to work, that is, do the exercises. But the third factor is that there is no way in the world that I can guarantee that my client will go home and use and practice the techniques I teach them. Nor can I guarantee that the client will instill a sense of respect in the dog. For example, all of the greatest techniques in the world will not make a bit of difference if the client has the internal attitude that his dog is untrainable. So, in effect, the client has already convinced himself that none of what I teach him will actually work. And the dog can sense that the owner doesn’t feel it will work, and therefore doesn’t respond. In actuality, in these types of cases, it’s not that the owner is actually using the technique in the manner in which it was taught. So, if the owner is correcting his dog for undesirable behavior, then he’s usually administering a correction which lacks motivation. And because it lacks motivation, then the dog doesn’t respond appropriately. Now, in the beginning, all novice trainers and dog handlers run into this problem. But in such cases, there’s a point where the trainer has to draw the line and recognize that the owner is intentionally (either consciously or unconsciously) not giving good corrections. And it is for just this kind of reason that I feel it is impossible for a dog trainer to guarantee results.

Insider Point #5:

Charging for results, rather than charging for the number of sessions. On the other hand, while I offer no legal guarantees for the dog’s performance, the way I do structure my services is that I charge for the results, rather than for a specific number of sessions. In other words, after I’ve done a consultation with the owner and the dog, I can usually tell about how many sessions it should take to train the desired behaviors. But, in the event that it takes longer, I continue working with the owner for as many sessions as necessary. When you hire a dog trainer, you want to make sure that you too are paying for the results, and not for the number of sessions. Let me give you an example: If a trainer is going to charge you $500 for six sessions… what will happen if the dog is not completely trained at the end of six sessions? It could happen… even if you’re using the best trainer in the world. The reason is that there is no way we can tell how quickly you, the owner, will pick up on the techniques (since dog training is really 90% training the owner). So make sure that there is an open-ended agreement that you are paying for the dog to learn specific behaviors, rather than paying for a number of sessions with the trainer.

Insider Point #6:

Training the owner vs. training the dog Don’t kid yourself. As I mentioned earlier, dog training is approximately 90% training the owner. There is no way you are going to send your dog away for in-kennel training, and have him come back and work brilliantly for you. Not unless you’re planning on sending your dog away for more than a whole year. There are two reasons why you need to be the one who learns how to train your dog. First, it’s your dog. In essence, learning to train your dog will heighten the bond between you and your pet. And in more practical terms, owning a trained dog is like owning a finely tuned sports car. You may have the fastest Ferrari in the world, but if you don’t know how to drive it, it’s going to sit in your driveway and you won’t be able to do anything with it. Now, Mario Andretti may come over to your house and be able to make your Ferrari do amazing things. But, for you… it may as well be a broken down Volkswagen, because if you don’t know how to drive… it really doesn’t matter what kind of car you own. Unless you have a chauffeur… or in this case, a live-in dog trainer. The second reason you need to be the one who learns how to train your dog is that, sending your dog away to be trained at a kennel or training facility ensures that your dog will sit in a kennel run 23 hours a day, and get trained for maybe half an hour. Additionally, he’s not being trained in a variety of training environments, so he learns to work only at the training facility, and only for the professional trainer, who, like Mario Andretti, already knows how to work his craft. Once you retake possession of the dog, you’re now in a position where you: 1.) Haven’t developed enough handling skill to make the dog work like you saw the professional trainer make him work, and 2.) Are now in a different environment, where the dog has yet to learn that he has to work for you. The only way you will get lasting results with your dog is if you are the one who learns how to train and work your dog, in a variety of different settings. Insider Point #7:What if I only want to fix one behavior? It’s very rare that you can just hire a quality professional dog trainer to come out and fix one behavior. The reason is that the problem will get fixed… however, the fix will only be temporary. Or the dog will substitute one problem behavior for another. If the owner is not taught how to establish themselves as the pack leader (which takes practice), soon the dog will learn that, since the correction is coming from what it sees as a subordinate member, then it is a correction which has no meaning. Another problem with the “one-shot training session” is that the fixes prescribed rarely fix the cause of the problem, and only deal with one specific symptom. Without dealing with the root of the problem, other symptoms will soon follow.

Think Like A Dog Trainer

A Comparison Of The Success Mindset vs. The Non-Success Mindset When Fixing Chewing Problems!

Let’s assume that both the Successful dog trainer and the Non-Successful dog trainer start out owning two exactly identical three-year-old dogs. And let’s pretend that these dogs are a perfect genetic match, and will do the exact same behavior for each owner (initially). This way, we can see how it is actually the Success Mindset that ends up with a well trained dog that will no longer have a chewing problem. And how the Non-Success Mindset will never have a reliable dog. Let’s refer to the dog trainer with the Success Mindset as “SMDT” (Success Mindset Dog Trainer.) And the Non-Success Mindset Dog Trainer as “NSMDT.” (Non-Success Mindset Dog Trainer)

SMDT will own Fido#1.

NSMDT will own Fido#2. Again, both dogs are a complete genetic match (for all intents and purposes, it’s the same dog.) First behavior: The genetically matching dogs, Fido#1 and Fido#2, begin to chew on the owner’s new leather couch! Both owners come home two hours later. NSMDT says, “Oh my, you’re a bad doggy,” and spanks the dog. However, the dog was sleeping at the time and mistakenly thinks that the spanking was for sleeping next to the heater. (Not to mention the fact that spanking isn’t the right way to correct a dog, anyway.) SMDT, seeing the same thing, recognizes that the dog has just demonstrated that he cannot be left alone, but that it is too late to correct him. SMDT then goes out and buys a crate, so that the dog will not be able to chew the leather couch without receiving a correction.

Behavior #2: Fido#2 chews on the leather couch, for the second time. Fido#1 is in the crate, and therefore cannot chew the couch. When NSMDT comes home, three hours after the fact, Fido#2 shows submissive body language. NSMDT mistakenly thinks that Fido#2 “knows he did something wrong.” But in reality, Fido#2 has associated the spanking he got THE LAST TIME NSMDT came home, and is worried he might get spanked again, for reasons he can’t understand. When SMDT returns home, he lets Fido#1 out of the crate and goes outside to play ball.

Behavior #3: Both Fido#1 and Fido#2 go to the couch and begin to chew. SMDT, recognizing that this WAS going to happen again, and that the dog learns through trial and error… smartly had a training collar and tab (a 1 foot leash) on the dog beforehand. When Fido#1 started chewing on the couch, SMDT said, “No!” and went over to the dog and administered a correction. NSMDT, on the other hand, did not have the foresight to put a training collar on the dog. Nor did he have the discipline to keep his eye on the dog in order to catch him in the act. And when Fido#2 chews on the couch, it is again 15 minutes later that NSMDT finds the evidence, and at that point, Fido#2 is again sleeping next to the heater. With another spanking, NSMDT (using the wrong technique for correcting the dog, and not understanding the basic concepts of timing, consistency– outlined in my Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer Book– and motivation) incorrectly assumes that:

1.) Dog training doesn’t work.

2.) Her dog is dumb.

3.) The dog KNOWS he shouldn’t be chewing. Now, SMDT may not be done with his job, either. However, with the Success Mindset, SMDT recognizes that his dog’s behavior is a direct reflection on HIS OWN UNDERSTANDING AND USE OF THE RIGHT TECHNIQUES. So, Fido#1 may try to chew on the couch again, but he’ll be sure to get a consistently motivational correction that is applied RIGHT when he chews. And after he’s corrected a few times, and then set-up, tested, and re-tested to make sure he’s trust worthy… only then will he be allowed to have free roam of the room where the leather couch is… without being supervised!