Yappy Hour at Planet Dog

If you’d like to learn some fun exercises you can use to better communicate with your dog, come join The Evolved Dog and Natural Dog Training at Planet Dog Company Store for Yappy Hour on August 14th from 1-3 pm.

Kevin Behan, the founder of Natural Dog Training, will be demonstrating the five “core” exercises that anyone can (and should!) be practicing with their dog. These exercises build emotional rapport with your dog, creating a lasting bond. They also aid in keeping your dog grounded and well-balanced in any stressful situation.

Planet Dog is located at 211 Marginal Way in Portland, Maine. Hope to see you there!

Sometimes NOT Training IS the Training

IMAG7308

Freya and Eva recently spent some time at the farm (doggie rehab) since I still needed help with Freya, and had also reached some sort of (albeit manageable) plateau with Eva. Kevin’s prescription for us: DOWN. That was basically it. He said, “If you don’t have a down, you don’t have anything.”

He also said it’s going to look like a lot of obedience work. Which normally, NDT is not focused on obedience, although eventually you do get the standard obedience behaviors from working the five core exercises.

The problem I had was that I loved the active exercises: the bite, the bark, the push. But I loathed the collection and could not settle myself long enough to relax my dogs into a rub-a-dub. I believe my nervous system has been fairly out of whack (on screech) for a good many years. That means I’ve been stuck in fight or flight, and in avoidance of the freeze response. Collecting and relaxing feel much like freezing (to me), and the reptilian brain only goes into a freeze response when unpleasant things are happening. So it’s understandable why someone with unconscious trauma may avoid these types of collection exercises. And it’s not that I had avoided them altogether, it’s just that my collection work was way out of balance with my projection work.

As a result, I’ve been overstimulating my dogs. So when we got back home, I set up “Leah’s Sober House For Owner Addicted Dogs” (and dog addicted owners). Eva and Freya were on bed-rest. Meaning, they were crated much of the time. After a couple days of protest to her crate, Eva settled into long naps full of guttural snoring. She was catching up on years of sleep (as was I). But they spent the sunny hours of the day taking turns relaxing in the yard. I’d look out at them in the yard and I’d have to check if they were still breathing, because I’d never seen them so relaxed before. Sometimes Freya would be sunbathing, and if I looked closely, I could see her nose working the air, just the muscles of her shiny black nostrils analyzing her environment.

The little training we did consisted of working the down, walking nicely on the leash, and evening massages before bed. This was the antidote for all the surging I had allowed in the years prior.

And it worked. I was no longer using my dogs to express my unconcious trauma. I was just letting them be dogs. It also reminded me of something I’ve heard Kevin say: “Up fixes down, down fixes up.”

So I would say what I have learned from all this that it’s not neccessarily that the down is the key to all of it (although in my particular case it was) but that if you don’t have balance, you don’t have anything.

And also, if you are a type-A, “too-sensitive,” over-achieving perfectionist, you may be unconsciously over-training your dogs in one way or another as an outlet for your unresolved emotion (which is basically fight or flight energy that never got discharged). You could very well be stuck in a load/overload cycle of addiction, even if your drug of choice is dog-training. Give yourself and your dogs a break. Un-training is the new training!

An Excellent Problem to Have

IMAG5832.jpg

I thought I had created a slight problem with Freya when I recently did a little bit of box-work with her inside the house. I used her crate as the box, and it seemed to have all gone very well, helped her settle and find her “place.” After a few times of successfully settling on the box, I now had an issue getting her in the box when I simply wanted to crate her and not do a box challenge. Whenever we got anywhere near the crate, she was surging upwards to get “on the box.” So I found myself muscling a 65 pound dog into her crate. She was panicky because I was leaving, I was stressed because I was late for an appointment, and it was quite a struggle. This had never been an issue for us before! Ugh…

I pondered my dilemma as I drove away. I was kicking myself for creating this problem, but then the answer came to me: “I need to get the inside of the crate to be the end of the box challenge.” But would it work?

When I got home, I let her outside while I rearranged the furniture in my office. I took my flimsy folding table and put the crate on top of it. As soon as she came back in, I had her hop into the crate, easy peasy! She actually wanted to get in the crate (which was now also a box). As an added bonus, the table was wobbling under her weight, just like a balance board. So she had to settle herself in the crate in order to find solid ground. Cha-ching! I’d struck gold.

Later in the day after she went out again, I invited her back into my office while I was working (since she still needs supervision in the house). The Pergo floor doesn’t offer much comfort for a dog and she had no soft place to lay down. So she actually went over to the table where her crate was and asked to get in! Brilliant. I opened the door and she hopped in. There’s a wool blanket in there, and after rooting around for a minute while the table gently wobbled, she plopped down and had a nice snooze.

You see a video of how this setup works on My YouTube Channel.

When Your Adopted Dog is… Pregnant

And she gives birth to the most adorable puppies, but only one survives and then you have to give that puppy up for adoption. Yeah, it sucks. But, at least we saved two dogs from certain death. And gave the lost pups a proper funeral.

Freya Falcon Wings

Freya, the wonder dog, flew from Miami to Maine to find a home with me.

Preggo Freya

To many this dog would appear obvi pregnant, but me, I thought she was just a bit more oblong than my other females.

She had seen three different vets after being released from Miami Dade Animal Services, and NO ONE guessed she was preggo?! They kept saying, she must have just had puppies. Hello, milk!!! Where are the babies?

Surprise!

Selena My Moon Goddess

My name is Selena and I’m sweet as pie

Cutest Pit Bull Puppy

After I was weaned from mum, I got to go live on a horse farm in Durham, Maine, with a super nice lady named Pam.

This photo essay is just to get you caught up on the drama. You can read a fuller version of the story here: Just Say No To Dogs (Don’t Be a Hoarder).

Training at the Farm

Fond memories are always made in Newfane, Vermont. This is a throwback to last fall when Freya and I were still getting to know each other. Kevin Behan, creator of Natural Dog Training is helping us overcome her dog aggression issues. Photos by my dear friend and fellow NDTer, Melissa Ong. And the one of me and Melissa together is by our friend, Ariel Goettinger, another student of Kevin’s. We learn from the best!