Dog training is boring and exciting

I know what a contradiction. But truth is I personally find this in most disciplined arts. Dog training is no different. I mentioned in a previous post that I box and enjoy forever learning the sweet science. Boxing at first was very boring and robotic.

My coach would also explain concepts to me that made little practical sense when I was first starting out. Now a couple years later in my journey these concepts make more sense. I spent day in and day out working on the same steps. After a while it became boring and I wanted to work on new moves. I didnt realize how important it was to work on the basics.

This idea of doing the basic boring moves over and over transfers over to dog training. When Im talking with a client they always have a end goal in mind, but many don’t know how the road is to get there. It takes a lot of patience and practice. The fundamentals are very important. A lot of the fancy stuff people see dogs do are broken down in basic steps.

Focus heeling for instance has multiple components. You have to teach the dog to hold its head straight up, then teach them how to focus on you while they hold their head up. Next you have to introduce turning to the dog and the heel finish. All these exercises by themselves are not very complicated but together they paint a beautiful picture of the dog. (If you dont know what focused heel looks like go on youtube to see what Im talking about.)

The exciting part of dog training doesnt come until you have mastered those boring moves and you are able to connect the dots between them. A down is very basic. But it looks much fancier when a dog can stay down while 8 people stand around the dog enticing them to get up.

Im always excited when Im training a new dog to do more complicated obedience. Not only is it fun to me to teach it, I love knowing the possibility of what this dog will be able to do when Im done with them. Im guessing thats how coaches feel when their players do great things. I feel like a dog’s coach. I work him/her through any problems they might have, whether its insecurity or uncertainty. This is why its exciting to me. I set up the roadmap for the journey I want to take the dog on and just fall in love with the process.

The process can be lenthy depending on what you want to do. Many dog owners are unfamiliar with how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to dog training. It goes deep! You can become a service dog trainer, pet dog trainer, police k9 dog trainer, personal protection dog trainer. Its like being a doctor with training dogs . You can be a pediatrician, a primary care physician, or a specialist like a surgeon or cardiologist. There is certainly levels to this dog training stuff and just like any discipline, the details make all the difference. Thats what makes it exciting and boring.

Bratty dog vs well behaved dog

I love the nature vs nurture idea and it comes into play in what I want to talk about today. What do I mean by nature in dog training? The nature is genetics. Its when the dog comes from good stock with you having to do anything. I used to wonder how some dogs were so muscular only to realize their father was also muscular. Nature plays a big role in protection dog training. Some dogs have “it” and some dogs don't. Sometimes I hear people say that they want their dog to be protective. The problem is that som dogs don’t have a prtective instinct. Sure they bark at strangers, but thats mostly out of fear not protection. The other part to this equation is training. A protection dog can only truly protect on command through training. This is the nurture side of the same coin.

Nurture is how you raise your dog. What type of environment? Is she socialized well? Does she have any fears not due to genetic disposition? I focus mostly on nurture when training dogs. It's the only area I have control over. I can't control what a dog was born with.

I seen a friend with their dog. It was a pit bull that was well behaved and even easily capable of being off leash within a short period of time. His dog was 7 months old. His roommate claimed she was a dog trainer and said the dog needed no training. As much as i feel a dog trainer is needed, I agreed. If my friend just wanted a well behaved dog the dog needed no training. This dog was laid back and calm. I would trust a kid 6 years old and above to be around this dog. My friend began to explain to me that this dog was not like his previous dog. This dog was naturally calm and not pushy whatsoever. His last dog was a brat and if you gave her an inch she would take the whole football field for a touchdown. How do you recognize each?

Laid back dog

Has ears slightly backwards and flat against head

Eager to please

Looks at you a lot for approval

Moves slow a lot

I don't want you to confused this with a dog who has been punished a lot. These dogs can show the same signs yet it's because their natural drive has been suppressed. You would have to know a dogs history to know for sure.

Bratty dog

Pushes head on you to make you pet them

Usually the first one to eat from mother and pushes other puppies out of the way

Possessive over toys, people, and other objects

Rushes out the front door

Never takes in information from the owner

When you correct they tend to redirect as if to say “how dare you”

These are just some ways that you can easily spot this behavior.

I wrote this post with the beauty of variety in dog’s personality in mind. I love it how different breeds have different tendencies. Since society has been modernized we forget that all dogs have a purpose. Some dogs are not made to sit in an apartment with little exercise. Other dogs have a tendency to chase things. This could be the difference between a well behaved dog and a “bratty” dog. The dog might just be displaying natural tendencies that is not beneficial to us in our modern society.

Get a professional dog trainer to help you figure this out.

A story of how a trip to New York City Housing Authority opened my eyes

I was sitting on my blue couch in my living room and going over my notes for a client’s dog and realized something. I would never have known any of this without the studying of dog training.

I know!!! That seems so obvious but I want you to think about it for a second. Some things do actually seem intuitive like if the dog does something wrong you give them a punishment and if they do something right you give them a reward.

But what about how to stop your dog from attacking every black guy they see or an old italian guy. ( I use men because ive never heard of a dog not liking women although im sure they are out there). I remember I was doing dog walking at a time. There was a client in East NY brooklyn in the Pink Houses. The time was 5:45pm and I was schedule for 6pm so I was there early waiting in my car. I just so happen to look up and see a guy walking his pit bull without a leash.

I was curious so I jogged across the street hoping to have a word with him before he went inside his building. As soon as I caught up I told him he had a beautiful dog( black and white medium built). I then asked him how he got his dog so well behaved. Now this answer is definitely not what I wanted to hear nor what Im sure any of you guys want to hear but here it goes

. He said “ He gets a lot of ass whoopings”. I was shocked and amazed at his honesty and also disgusted with his form of training. But you know what? It worked. How can I argue with a man that is showing me proof in front of my face. Of course I can tell him there is a better way, but he would probably resist as he did.

One thing I learned over these years is that people living in urban areas like New York City housing authority do not have the luxury that dog owners in the residential suburbs have. The dogs living in urban areas are always around a lot of people which provide a natural distraction that the dog realizes is just part of life. They walk by people with no issues because they do it every day.

Another important reason why these dogs tend to behave better is because there is less room for error. These dogs are usually quick to get put to sleep if something bad happens. The dogs that live in the suburbs are usually less interactive. They usually have a big backyard that they usually run around in screaming insults at the neighbor’s dog. They become less socialized and have a lot more problems. If these dogs become aggressive the first response by the owner is usually avoidance. They avoid streets where there are a lot of people. They avoid other dogs. They avoid anything that makes the dog act up.

The homeless are another group of people we can learn from. Here in NEW York City I can’t tell you how many times I have exited the train station and seen a homeless guy wrapped in a blanket with a cardboard sign saying we need food or something of that sort. Alongside him is his dog in a sweater and being calm as can be in a crowded dity street.

There are two ways that I feel dog owners can avoid the pitfalls of common behavioral issues.

Become very strict with your dog in the beginning and ease up as they gain your your confidence in them. The dog doesn’t want to be you equal. They want someone who will provide guidance for them. Stop trying to placate your dog and seeking their approval to like you.

Practical examples include

  • Dog is not allowed certain areas in house

    Dog can not pull me on walk

    Dog will work for food

    Take your dog places and socialize them. Many dogs only know your backyard so anytime you take them to other areas they act up because it seems so novel. When you go get their dog food from a pet store take them with you.

Places to take your dog

  • Pet store when you pic up their dog food or just to train

  • Friends house with a dog. You can have a play date

  • Walk on crowded streets if you can once you can get your dog’s attention

Hope that helps send any questions in the comments section or @

Why you need a dog trainer

Today I was at EQBC boxing gym and I just finished working on some kinks in my defense when a question came up about dog training. Now I am a dog trainer so I had to ponder this question. The question was “Why do I need a dog trainer”? . I was stumped at first so I had to think about it. I went home, ate a salad(Im trying to get back in shape), and thought. As I reminscien a few thoughts came to my head. There are some main statements that I hear dog owners say that I want to address

Statement #1: I read books on dog training and I watch Cesar Milan theory on dominance on his show so I can train dogs myself.

First off, did you also watch Cesar Milan get bit by a dog. Before you think it can't happen to use remember he is a professional. I have watched his show on tv. In the beginning of the show it is in writing: Warning This is for entertainment purposes only. I mean when I was a kid I used to watch kung fu movies and practice the moves , but I never thought i was a fighter. It was just fun. This stuff is serious business.

Most owners want a puppy so they can raise it to grow with them. The issue is that nobody is perfect. Sooner or later most dog owners tend to slack off after a while and the dog ends up picking up bad habits. You have to constantly stay on top of the dog. They are like a child that never grows up. The training never stops. Most people think that after they go to a 6 week dog obedience class that the dog is trained for life. Not true! They are always learning and its your job to teach them the right things.

Think about this for a moment. Do you work? If so, for how long? Most people work 9-5 or some variation. You might work even more if you have your own business. You also have to count travel time. How long does it take you to get back and forth to work? Also, do you have a strengthous job or a desk job? If you are tired its going to be even harder. Do you have kids? That is also time consuming. All of these things take up your time and even more important it takes up your energy. After a long day most people want to relax.

If you do have all this time ( you don’t work, or you are not in school, etc) then you really don’t need me and you should become a dog trainer yourself.

Another reason is that there are many details to dog training. This is especially true when it comes to a phobia, fear, or aggression. These issues are not so cut and dry or black and white. Its like being a psychologist.

Imagine you went to see a psychologist who read a few books and watched a few dvds. Would you trust them to solve your problems? Or would you go to a professional who studied hard for years and understood psychological problems and how to solve them like the back of her hand.

WHat I have also found is that most owners are part of the reason why their dog behaves this way. They contribute to this behavior yet they dont understand why the dogs act out.

This is simply a communication problem. You have to learn the language fluently if you want to have a full blown conversation, or you hire a translator. I have learned a few words in spanish, but put me with a native speaker who only speak spanish and we would both be totally lost.

When I first started dog training I made a lot of mistakes. I read a lot of books obsessively, but what I learned was that every situation was different. You need someone with a plan to give you piece of mind and assurance. Sort of like a personal .You can read a few books to get in better shape. But then you will get “ i only read a few books results”. Or if you are serious you can hire someone who takes it serious. If you dont know something hire someone who does. I know a lot more now but I am still learning more and growing.

Statement #2: I had dogs all my life and know how to train them.

In my experience these people do know something about dog training and it worked for their dog. That doesn’t mean it can work for their next dog.

Genetics play a huge factor in dogs behavior. Sometimes an owner takes credit for training their dog when the dog just had an easy going personality and a willingness to please. The problem is that even if a dog starts out like this things can change. Environmental factors can cause the dog to display traits outside of its genetic disposition. It's this love affair between nature and nurture.

Now what happens when a dog owner adopts a dog from the shelter and don’t know where the dog came from. The dog starts to exhibit bad behaviors only in certain environments.

What do you do? Do you avoid that environment altogether? But what if you need to go there and it stresses you out because you can’t bring the dog because you know she would freak out. Most people avoid the problem simply because they dont know how to deal with it. This is why a lot of rescue dogs get adopted and then sent back to the shelter. It is a lot of work helping some of these dogs.

Some dog owners received their puppy from a breeder. These days anybody can say they are having a puppy litter. These backyard breeders are the reason why a lot of dogs are in shelters. You should make sure your breeder knows the breed standard for the particular breed of dog you are buying. Find out if they breed dogs seriously or if they are trying to make a quick buck. I am so against the latter type of breeders. They do a disservice to the dogs and the world due to their greed.

I have had clients that say that their current dog is stupid because he doesn’t listen like their last dog. I do my best to explain to them that every dog is different. Just like humans learn differently. Im a hands on guy. A friend of mine is more auditory. This is why he did good in lecture class while we were in school. Some people are visual learners. Dogs don’t quite learn like that but every dog is different. Some dogs you need more patience with. It can be frustrating as an owner to deal with everything else in life and have to figure this dog training stuff out too. If you want piece of mind, hire a dog trainer. It can be fun and open a new world for you.

An example of why and how of structure and freedom with a dog

I've noticed something with a recent client and their dog. Not only was the dog hyper and unruly, he also did not like it when you told him what to do.

For instance, if the dog jumped on me biting my hand and I told him “no” he would jump even more ferociously. He would have his calm moments after a while but for the most part this was his normal behavior.

Now I am a firm believer in punishing biting by the dog. Some are against this and say that the dog will grow out of it. Some dogs do while others don't. I am not in the business of leaving things to chance.

So that is what I did first. I punished the biting at a correction suitable enough to make the dog not want to bite but not enough to cause the dog pain. It is a tricky balance.

The next thing I did was get the dog to stop taking advantage of the owner, who was a sweet woman. She didn't realize that she was giving the dog way too much freedom. He was allowed access to the whole house and whole yard. One thing always sticks out to me is that dogs with too much freedom can never sit still. They are like kids with adhd. These dogs need duration exercises to teach the dog how to calm down and relax in one place. I had the owner and her family sit still and not engage with the dog. The dog looked lost. He had to be in the grass sniffing, in the garbage sniffing, bothering the owner by biting on her shoes, etc. This dog needed something to do and told what to do. The best way to control is to keep a leash on the dog even in the house. Now it is time to give the dog something to do.

When we are in the house I want the dog to lay quietly on their bed. I will usually put the bed next to the couch where the owners watch tv. This makes it easier and no big deal or effort considering the owner is not doing anything they wouldn't do anyways(watching tv). The dog at first kept trying to get up. This is why the leash is handy. You can keep watching tv and feel if the dog is moving away from their bed by holding the leash.

Structure and limited freedom is the key to get your dog to listen to you without doing obedience.

The above example shows one way to live with your dog in the house. By keeping your dog on its bed for a duration of time, they learn to relax in place.

Another way to add limited freedom is to cut off certain areas to your dog. Areas that are off limits might include the living room, the bathroom, a special room. How do I stop the dogs from entering these areas?

I put up little baby gates that you can get from target the store. If you don't put anything across the doorway and rely on your voice then you'll be screaming a lot of “get out” to the dog. Also the dog is faster than you, so they will be in the room before you can get a word in. If you put up a baby gate the dog will respect the barrier and eventually stop without the barrier there.

A structured walk is also important. On a structured walk the dog is not allowed to sniff, pull, or stare at any dog or person intently. The dog can sniff the ground only when I give the okay command.

It is important that you realize that you don't need obedience if you just want to live peacefully with your dog. Rules and respect make a relationship thrive in the dog world.

My experience at the Michael Ellis School for dog trainers

Three words described how I felt in that Santa Rosa county for those 2 weeks… I LOVED IT.

I couldn’t imagine that it would be so eventful and relaxed. As soon as I arrived I was welcomed on campus. Everyone was friendly and included me in whatever dog activity they were doing. I was the only one who stayed on campus but wasn’t there for the 17 week immersion program. Everybody else seem to already got acquainted and I was finding my place.

It was a quiet area which was dark at night and the only thing close was a Spanish restaurant across the street. The food was ok, but I had better. The tacos were thin and the meat didn’t have that fresh taste like Don Nico( my favorite spot in queens right now).

As far as my living space, I ended up boarding in a small room in the staff building. Besides the fact I had to walk outside and go about 150 ft to use the bathroom in the next building because the staff building had no bathroom, I enjoyed it. I also had no kitchen. So I had to go to another building to cook and to shower. This was an inconvenience, but being in this building had it’s perks.

I was close to the staff so I would watch the staff as they worked with their dogs for a competition. I would ask questions and take note to what they did. I remember one staff member specifically training for IPO. If you seen my Instagram you will see photos of the staff yard.

You will also see pics of the loner dog I was given named Phoneix. She was a Belgian Malinois and I fell in love with her. At first she really didn’t care for me. I was introduced to her on Tuesday, the second day of class.

On Sunday we were beginning to develop a minor relationship. On the following Tuesday we were beginning to become closer physically and emotionally. She was a lot more engaged with me in the training room. When it was time to leave, I didn’t want to leave her. If I had a lot of space I would of taken her with me, but then reality hits me.

Now for the meat and potatoes. Class time. You ever felt like you was just made to do something and it was effortless to do it? Well that’s how class felt. It wasn’t like sitting in a boring classroom.

The lectures were filled with practical and useful information and the practical helped us dog trainers there bring the imaginative into reality. At first I thought to myself, “how much can we possibly talk about obedience”?

Little did I know that Michael Ellis breaks it down into little tiny details. “If you give a reward with the same hand you can affect a dogs finished behavior” “You are turning your hand too much to the left that’s why the dog is crooked”. These were some of the sentences he would say as he would correct some trainers who thought they were already doing the correct mechanics, but couldn’t figure for the life of them why they weren’t getting good results.

Eventually everyone realized that it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Michael Ellis was easy going and chill. He is a real down to earth person.

Since I spent my labor day here. I might as well tell you how that went.

First we did have dog training class that day. But like I told you already, I love this stuff so I didn’t want to skip class anyway. We ended up having a Barbeque. Bring your own meats and booze! I brought ground beef and a friend bought whiskey. It is safe to say that I did not miss NY at all as I was having a great time.

A couple of shots in and dog training was all we could talk about. We talked about what we were going to do when we got back home and conversed about various dog training topics. Typical signs of obsessive people. I think we performed better after a shot. Many people felt they could relax under the attention of 30 people and Michael Ellis.

Outside of training I felt horrible. No one told me it was cold in Northern California. I bought shorts, tshirts, a couple long sleeve shirts ( I didn't think I would need), 2 pair of jeans, a hoodie, and a light blanket. I was freezing every night. Not to mention my allergies out there were the worst I’ve ever experienced.

I was sneezing and coughing all the time. I thought maybe it was because I had a loner dog in my room but I was feeling like that before I met her. Someone saw me and explained that their allergies were acting up to. Then came the story of a botanist who decided to plant some weird plants in the area causing that area to be the worst place for allergies. Just what I wanted to hear. I just bared the pain and tried to look on the bright side- this was a great opportunity.

Overall I can’t wait to go back to the Michael Ellis school for dog trainers for other courses. If that's the prerequisite course I can’t wait to be in the other classes.