Nurturing not Coddling

Nurturing not Coddling

I read a recent article on the difference between nurturing and coddling in parenting.  This led me to look up the dictionary definition of “coddling:” 

  1. To treat with extreme or excessive care or kindness; to treat with indulgence; to pamper.

We can easily see the pitfalls of over-indulgence or pampering.  I always recommend to my clients to “not coddle their dog,” especially if they are having behavioral issues.  But what does that mean?  Here are some quick tips:

  1. Limit talking to your dog like they are a human.
  2. Only speak to them using training commands – which means, most of your time with them will be silent.
  3. Don’t make it a big deal when you leave your house or come home (assuming your dog is crated). Be silent during these times.
  4. Don’t let them wander around your house for hours on end looking for stimulation. Teach them the “place” command and make them learn to relax in one place and calm down.
  5. Be calm and gentle when you pet them.
  6. Have boundaries and learn how to enforce them. No jumping on the furniture, no chasing the cat, no digging holes, no barking at the door etc.
  7. Don’t overly pet them or go to them for constant physical touch – they need space too.

To a lot of people this list sounds overwhelming.  People feel they are being asked to go into this rigid bootcamp mode with their dog – which is true to a certain extent (especially if you’re having issues).  But the trick to this is learning how to be nurturing and not coddling.

Can you be silent and still be nurturing?  Can you be a leader and still be nurturing?  This is the ticket.   I think in order to do this we have to dig in a little deeper and use our heart, our spirit and our intentions.  The Monks of New Skete discussed in an interview that these dogs are entrusted into our care.  It’s best to share rules and structure with them, but we also need to remember just how freaking lucky we are to have them in our lives.  They are absolutely amazing and make my life so much better.  My dogs truly are family. 

So I can take that gratitude I have for them in my life and share it all the time.  I share it in my energy.  I share it in my boundaries.  I share it when I feed them.  I share it in silence.   

When I meet people that are high energy, or anxious/nervous, more often than not, I see amped up overly excited dogs.  Sometimes that excitement will manifest as aggression or reactivity.

I want to draw some parallels to healthy human parenting and raising a dog or puppy. The most important concept in “balanced dog training” is working on the dog’s state of mind.  As a balanced trainer, I want dogs to be calm so that they can start to experience more peace, and make better decisions in the world.  What’s a better decision you ask?  Coming when called, not chasing the cat, not jumping on people, not lunging and barking at other dogs just to name a few. 

So here’s the thing, dogs feed off of our energy. 

A parallel between kids and dogs:  “And the developmental experts are in total agreement.  Anxious parents create insecure children.  Indulgent parents raise spoiled offspring.”*

Just like with human parenting, “Intoxicating levels of gratification and stimulation can drain kids of motivation and ambition.”*  This is because life itself is not always easy; it’s not always fair.  We more often than not don’t get what we want – and for animals surviving in the natural world this is especially true.  Survival is hard work. 

This is where I would argue that genetically we are hard wired to experience the ups and downs of life, and hence why I feel pure “pure positive only training” is a faulty ideology which leaves so many dog owners suffering with behavioral issues.

Just like kids, dogs need boundaries and boredom.  It is in boredom that kids can develop the inner space which also helps their imaginations to become activated.  With dogs, they need to detox from our crazy world and practice impulse control.

The mastery is to find that fine line between being a leader and still being nurturing.  It’s possible, believe me.  And just like parenting, you’ll never be perfect at it.  You will make mistakes – and that’s okay because you are human and your amazing dog will forgive you.

Another tip:  Experiment with adding more soft stuff in after you’re getting better results.  It’s a balance you can play with.

If you’re looking for a Portland dog trainer get in touch with me! 



Why I’m Into Kenneling (Crating) Dogs

Why I’m Into Kenneling (Crating) Dogs

In this blog I want to address some key points on the importance of crate training your dog.  I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon and I love helping my clients with getting their dog into a better state of mind.  Crate training is a major part of the puzzle.  Dogs that learn how to be calm and spend time in their kennels usually get into a much better state of mind.  In balanced dog training, calmness is the number one priority to work on even before dog obedience because it’s pretty difficult to train a super amped up dog.  In addition, I am not training for sport, hunting or competition.  I am a dog trainer in Portland that helps people with pet dogs – and usually people want calm dogs inside the house.  I have to, number one, be able to have a conversation with the dog and I can’t do that if they are in what is called a “state of arousal.”

When I get a dog in that has a lot of anxiety issues – it’s often caused or fed by a lack of structure in the home or pack environment. The crate has 4 walls and is immediate structure.  Now add in “being quiet in the kennel” as something we work on and we’ve got a dog “in command,” in their crate learning how to relax and watch the world go by.  I also believe dogs need more sleep/naps than humans – so it’s also good for them to spend time in the crate relaxing, otherwise dogs are chronically overstimulated.

I first want to define crate training, it simply means getting your dog accustomed to being in the crate and being quiet in the kennel (ie: not barking or trying to get out).

Here are some tips:

-Crate your dog at night and in the morning you can start the day with structure (getting your dog to wait at the crate door to come out instead of rushing the door).

-Crating your dog during the day while you are home is an excellent thing for your dog – a lot of people feel their dog should have freedom or be out when they are home, but it’s great for their state of mind to put them in the crate for a few hours during the day even if you are home.

-If your dog struggles with separation anxiety, crating is super important because otherwise your dog can work themselves up in a very anxious state while you are gone. They may be looking out the window, barking, pacing nervously or trying to get into stuff (trash, eating socks/shoes etc.) which is quite dangerous.

-Being quiet in the kennel is a command – it often takes some corrections to let your dog know what behaviors are unwanted and you may need to work with a balanced trainer to figure out the recipe of what works for your dog.

-Always be aware that dogs can also get into trouble in the crate. They can be “crate breakers” which means they try to bust out of their kennels which is super dangerous and could even result in death, serious trauma and/or a huge vet bill.  If your dog is trying to break out of their kennel definitely seek out some professional assistance and take it very seriously. Don’t leave your dog alone unattended at home until you know they can be calm in their kennels without trying to break out (it’s less typical for dogs to be “crate breakers” but I have to give a warning because it is a possibility).

-Also be mindful if your dog likes to eat things like bedding. This can also be super dangerous in the crate and also result in death. If your dog eats things like toys and bedding, don’t put that stuff in there with them.

-There is a cool app called “Presence” that allows you to hook up an old Iphone or Ipad to your current phone which works like a nanny cam so you can keep an eye on your dog in the kennel when you are gone.  I highly recommend this if you are leaving your dog alone in the kennel and don’t know how they will respond. Keep close to the house while you watch them in case you have to come back. You can also use a remote collar (e-collar) and correct them for any non-sense/anxious behavior or trying to get out of the crate while you are outside watching them on your phone.

-FYI I don’t like to crate dogs more than 6 hours at a time during the day as they need a potty break. I recommend getting a dog walker to let them out at the 5-6 hour mark for a break if you are going to be gone for a long time. During the night they can be in there all night, unless they are puppies and need some more frequent potty breaks.

Hope this helps!  It’s a lot of warnings but if you can crate train your dog and get them to spend more time in there it really helps to create a calmer mental state over-all.

If you are having any behavioral issues with your dog and are looking for a dog trainer in Portland, feel free to reach out!

E-collar Training

E-collar Training

If you are interested in e-collar training in Portland Oregon, check out some of my videos.  I use e-collars in all of my training programs as they are a fantastic communication tool to use in dog training.  The collars I use and recommend are some of the best on the market today and are the same technology a tens unit that a chiropractor has (basically it is electrical stimulation).  The best collars you can buy go from levels 1-100 so you have a wide range of stim to communicate with your dog.

With the ecollar we can work the dog on low levels which feels to them like a gentle tap on the shoulder or we can shout at “correction level” if we need to stop any unwanted behaviors etc.  Some unwanted behaviors in dogs are quite dangerous and need to be stopped immediately so the e-collar or remote collar is a great way to do to that efficiently.  As a balanced dog trainer in Portland, I utilize both positive and negative reinforcement in my work. This is really simple.  Basically we reward what we like, and correct what we don’t like.  It’s a pretty black and white system, and it works really well.

Another thing the e-collar is awesome for is re-call (dog coming back when called) which I teach in my off leash training program in Portland Oregon.  The e-collar works like an invisible leash and is a great way to enjoy your dog even more (if you feel your dog is safe in the general public to be off leash and you want to take them hiking or to the beach but need to increase their reliability with the command come).  Using positive reinforcement only to teach the “come” command can only take you so far.  With some dogs that will work, but probably with most dogs, they will at times (or often) blow off your come command for something of a higher value in the moment.  There may be something of a higher value than the treat you have in your pocket – like a squirrel or cat and this is where the e-collar comes in to basically proof your dog and share with them a consequence for not coming back when called.  The thing to think about is – having a dog with a reliable re-call is really one of the things that makes a dog, “a good dog.”  It is also super dangerous to have a dog blowing off your “come” command when we live in a world with cars, streets, other off leash dogs and various dangerous things you don’t want your dog to get into.  With the e-collar you can continue to work on re-call which is also a super fun exercise to teach your dog.

If you are looking for someone that can help you with e-collar training in Portland Oregon check out some of my videos.

If you are looking for a Portland dog trainer for behavioral issues also check out my videos and fill out a contact form if you want to move forward.

The Value of Structure in Dog Training

The Value of Structure in Dog Training

A lot of people call me to get a feel for what my dog training program in Portland, Oregon looks like, so I want to take the opportunity to lay some of this out in this blog.

Everything I do as a balanced dog trainer comes down to the foundational work of laying out a very structured environment for your dog.  Structure means some key things:

  1. Dogs sleep in a crate
  2. We use specific training collars to optimize our results
  3. Dogs have to walk in a heel position
  4. We hold the dog accountable for commands
  5. During the training period, free roaming is limited or eliminated
  6. We reward behaviors we want and correct behaviors we don’t want

These are just some of the basic elements to what I teach in my dog training and rehabilitation program in Portland Oregon.  Some of it may seem really strict but the thing is that it really works to get dogs into a better state of mind.  All of the structure I add in works with the basic idea of pack hierarchy in dogs.  Dogs are constantly looking for leadership and if they don’t have it, things like, behavioral issues, aggression issues and separation anxiety can set in.  We may at first see an increase in the behavioral issues or fear states in a dog when we begin to add in structure, but what we are actually seeing is the dog’s deepest issues underneath all the behaviors we don’t like.  Then we can work the dog through all of that stuff and start to bring in the positive reinforcement training, and clicker training in Portland.

If your dog is struggling with any behavioral issues and you are looking for a balanced dog trainer in Portland Oregon, check out some of my videos.