Whoa Doggie!

Loving & Training
Your Teenage Wild (Fur)Child

Dog Possible

July 21, 2020

Who I am

Jen Germann

  • 2017-Present - Owner / Trainer of Dog Possible LLC, a training duo committed to celebrating the dog in front of us and helping their humans create a plan that makes their possible a reality.
  • 2012-Present - Co-founder / Director of Dogs Out Loud, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping medium to large breed shelter dogs with high-level behavior problems succeed in the shelter and find in adoptive homes.
  • 2019-Present - Certified TTouch Practitioner (Level 1)

How to use this presentation:

We'll post a link to this presentation in the chat so you can follow along or refer to all the linked resources afterwards.

  • Use the space bar to navigation the slides in order.
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  • Sections go left to right. Topics within sections go up and down.

What Behaviors are We Talking About?

What behaviors make YOU say "Whoa!"?

  • Barking
  • Mouthing
  • Chewing / destroying things
  • Counter surfing
  • Non-stop energy in the house
  • Jumping up
  • Humping
  • Pulling on leash
  • On-leash reactivity
  • Fence fighting
  • ...

What We'll Cover Today

  1. The Language of Dogs
  2. Management
  3. Enrichment, Exercise, & Play
  4. Focus on What You WANT Your Dog to Do
  5. Catch Your Dog Being Good
  1. Learn Your Dog's Threshold
  2. Even a Wild Child Can Relax
  3. Beware the "Punishment Trap"
  4. Love & Train the Dog in Front of You
  5. My List of Activities

The Language of Dogs

Your dog talks to you all the time.

"We need to learn to understand the language of dogs so that we can understand what our dogs are telling us. That is the secret of having a good life together."

(Turid Rugaas - Calming Signals - The Art of Survival)

Are you listening?

Recognizing Signs of Stress:
"Calming" or "Cut-Off" Signals

Early Stress Signals :

  • dilated pupils
  • rapid blinking
  • elongated eyes
  • closed mouth
  • or opens/closes
  • puffy flews (upper lips)
  • ears back
  • muscle tension
  • scratching, sniffing, or stretching "for no reason"
  • tail lowered/tucked (covering the scent glands)
  • body lowered
  • paw raised (appeasement gesture)
  • body leaning away
  • head/body turned away
  • lip licking (usually repetitive)
  • yawning
  • shaking off

Stress, Intensifying:

  • shut down/frozen
  • Perspiring paw pads
  • restlessness/ hyperactivity, pacing
  • vigilantly scan environment
  • piloerection
  • approach-avoidance behavior (dog may appear friendly one minute and then fearful or defensive the next)

Most Humans Start Listening Now …

  • shallow breathing/panting
  • thick salivation or profuse watery salivation
  • Blowing/shedding fur, dandruff
  • Loss of appetite (food/water)
    • Or perhaps an increase in water!
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive grooming
  • Shouting: Barking, growling, lunging, etc.

Study your dog and learn her "tells"

Spend time watching and studying your dog to learn what her particular body language means. Or after a "situation" occurs, think back to what you saw right before.

If you catch her early stress signals , you can get into management or (even better) training mode
and prevent problems.



It's okay to take the easy way out.

Routine and Structure

Creates predictability and security.

Decreases stress about what will happen next.

Create a predictable, consistent daily routine, with times for sleeping, eating, play, socialization, enrichment, and learning.

Include time for "structured downtime" to help your dog learn to relax on his own.

Make Your Life Easier

Arrange the environment to set your animals up for success.

Sometimes it's easier to train yourself than your pets.

Pick up valuables, set limits on how long old pets interact with young pets or children, block off no-go areas, etc.

Reduce frustration, and form the basis for desirable, lifelong habits.


Enrichment, Exercise, & Play

Use exercise and games to satisfy your dog's mental and physical needs.

Meeting enrichment needs goes a long way towards supporting calm behavior.
Dogs and cats enjoy a variety of toys. Food puzzles and chews help meet their mental and oral enrichment needs.

Provide multiple daily options for mental & physical exercise.

What is enrichment?

"Enrichment is manipulating the environment to suit animals' (normal) behavior
or encouraging animals' behavior
to match the environment."

(Steve Dale - American Zoos)

What does enrichment do for animals?

  • Alleviate boredom
  • Brain exercise
  • Physical Exercise / Burn calories
  • Prevent / assist in treating behavior problems
  • Interrupt progression leading to compulsive behaviors
  • Outlet for anxiety
  • Physiological benefits: exercise > flexibility > balance > muscle tone > strength > strengthened immune system
  • More resources means less competition in multi-pet homes
  • Lifelong learning may delay or prevent onset of cognitive dysfunction
  • Encourages "natural behaviors"
  • Fun

(source: Steve Dale, "Enrichment for Geriatric Dogs and Cats" presentation at the Lemonade Conference)

A Few Types of Enrichment

  • Oral Enrichment (Kongs, bully sticks, Nylabones, antlers, fish skins, tracheas)
  • Olfactory Enrichment (nosework, hide & seek, Find It!, scent gardens)
  • Exercise (Daily walking, jogging, swimming, fetching, tugging, agility)
  • Mental Enrichment (games, training, puzzle & interactive toys)
  • Downtime (Yoga, TTouch, Doga, massage, aromatherapy, cuddles)
  • Social Enrichment (any of the above, but with a buddy!)

Do you play with your pets everyday?

What Does Play Do?

  • Social Connection
  • Physical relaxation
  • Practice trust
    (give and take)
  • Relationship tension reduction
  • Developing "language"
  • Promotes oxytocin, reduces cortisol, lowers blood pressure
  • Play can both help measure if an animal is stressed, and address that stress directly!

(source: Amy Cook, Ph.D. "The Play Way" presentation at the Lemonade Conference)

Play synergizes with most training plans!

Studies have found that play after learning helps dogs perform better when they do the skills again later.

Play with your pets for at least 20 minutes a day, and after every training session.


Focus on What You WANT
Your Dog to Do

and make a plan around that.

There are a million things we don't want our pets to do.

But these are the things we tend to focus on.

The more you have to say "No",
the more you're introducing punishment
and frustration into your relationship.

And the more stressed out you and your animals will be.

Often where a frustrating behavior is happening,
it's in a situation where "training" is not happening:

  • we're tired
  • we're busy
  • we're distracted
  • we just don't want to train

Frustration happens when
the path to reinforcement is not clear.

(source: Susan Friedman, Hannah Branigan, Emelie Johnson Vegh)
(that's a lot of really smart people right there ⌃)

But my dog is driving me crazy!

Focus on "Alternate behaviors":

Build up a little box of pre-trained, non-irritating behaviors you can use in the moment as a shortcut.

Behaviors that are easy to do, well-practiced, high reinforcement history.

Then ask yourself:

"What is causing this behavior to happen?"

"What is the opposite of what my dog is doing?"

Then ask your dog to do that behavior instead.

Smart Skills for Your Toolbox

  1. Eye contact
  2. Nose Targeting
  3. Recall/Whiplash turns
  4. Focus on a puzzle toy
  1. Sit
  2. Wait
  3. Settle on a mat
  4. Down

Catch Your Dog Being Good

(And reward that behavior generously)

With a teenage wild child, it can start to feel like
everything they do is wrong.

Pretty soon, that's all we can see: our BAD DOG.

Accentuate the Positive

When we start focusing on what our pets are doing right,
we realize we're missing a lot of GOOD things our they are already doing - things we want them to do.

And we're missing opportunities to reward those things.


Catch your dog doing something good 5 times a day.

Divide some of your dog's daily food into "treat stations" that you keep around your home.

Watch for your dog to do something you do want - UNCUED - and provide surprise rewards.

You're providing information. It's not fair only to tell your animals what they're doing wrong, and ignore them when they're getting it right.

When you start looking for opportunities to reward your animals, you'll probably find:

They're already doing lots of good, rewardable things that you've been missing out on.

They'll probably start doing those things more often trying to get more rewards out of you.


Learn Your Dog's Threshold

But understand that it can change day to day, or even moment to moment.

High Energy, "Whoa" Doggies Are Often Over Threshold

(or easily pushed over threshold)

To help your dog, you need to understand her threshold, and try to stay under it.

What the Heck Does that Even Mean???

Threshold: finding the sweet spot

"'Threshold' is the sweet spot, the place where learning and thinking occur, where choices are possible, and where behavior changes (good ones!) can happen."

(Suzanne Clothier, "Understanding Thresholds: It's More than Under- or Over")

With fearful dogs, the primary factor of threshold is usually
physical space.
With a Whoa Doggie, "threshold" may be
psychological, emotional, or sensory.

Stress can "stack" over time, affecting a dog's threshold.
When stressors stack up, it triggers reactive outbursts .


Even a Wild Child Can Relax

You just have to teach them how.

Traditional Activities ...

like walks, hikes, agility, ball games, tug, etc. ...

may not be enough to take the edge off your dog's energy.

If all you ever do is go for longer and longer walks, or play ever-rowdier ball games, then all you're doing is turning your dog into an athlete who needs more and more exercise.

Relax the Body

But touch excites my dog too much.

But my dog gets so mouthy.

But my dog just can't stay still.

Practice Mindful Use of Touch

Check your touches - position, speed and pressure matter

Everyone almost always needs to slow down, and either use more or less pressure.

Relax the Mind

Training, play, nosework, puzzle and interactive toys, training classes, socialization opportuntiies.

Muscles you're building: concentration, focus, impulse control, patience.

Give 'em a Choice

When you get to make choices, you feel like you have a say in your situation. This can help you relax and enjoy the moment.

When possible, give your pets a choice:
go this way or that way, interact or walk away, have this treat or that treat, etc.

Listen and respect when your pet makes a choice, especially to avoid a bad situation!

Nosework - Let 'Em Sniff

  • Helps your pets relax
  • Reminds her to use her most powerful sense
  • Uses her mind and her body, and tires her out
  • Any kind of dog (or other pet) can do nosework

Beware the "Punishment Trap"

It's easy to fall into the "punishment trap".
We're tired, we're frustrated, we're irritated. We just want the behavior to STOP.

Maybe a sharp "No" or a loud noise or something more punitive worked in the past.

The thing is, it probably only worked that one time. Or maybe it even backfired.

The negative side effects of punishment, and how difficult it is to dole out a well-timed punishment adequate enough to be effective, have been well documented:

The Problems with Punishment

  1. If the punishment is not strong enough, the animal may habituate to it. You now have to escalate the intensity to get the same result.
  2. But, more intense punishment can lead to injury.
  3. In order to be effective, punishment often must elicit a strong fear response. This fear response can generalize to things that look or sound like the punishment.

The Problems with Punishment, continued

  1. Punishment can elicit an aggressive response.
  2. Punishment can suppress behavior when used effectively, but it may not change the underlying cause of the behavior. The animal still lacks the tools to do an alternate behavior.
  3. Punishment doesn't acknowledge that we as parents probably reinforced the behavior along the way, unfairly putting the animal in conflict (sometimes it's okay, sometimes it's not).

Punishment can suppress behavior.

The question is: what tools are you giving your pet, what alternate behaviors have you taught instead, to point him toward the path to reinforcement, to tell him what to do, and ensure his needs are met?


Love & Train the Dog in Front of You

You may need multiple approaches to working with your dog depending on what you're asking her to do, what's in her nature to do, and what her energy level is on any given day.

Multiple factors can play into how well your dog is going to do today, or how that walk is going to go, or if a training session will be a success:

  • Physical well-being: hungry/sated, tired/well-rested, feeling unwell/well?
  • Mental well-being: bored/motivated, tired/well-rested, disengaged/engaged?
  • Emotional well-being: scared/confident, worried/relaxed, anxious/calm?
  • What's in her DNA or genetic coding to do?

But My Dog is Stubborn!

Is your dog stubborn, or is there a physical, mental, emotional blocker?

But My Dog is Stubborn!

Is he "not very smart", or is he not skilled or coded for what you want?

But My Dog is Stubborn!

Have you given him a clear ask, with a clear path to reinforcement?

But My Dog is Stubborn!

Have you answered his question: "Why should I do this for You"?

Each dog is a unique individual, with her own
thoughts, feelings, opinions, and preferences
that deserve to be respected.

Very few dogs are actually stubborn.

A whole lot of dogs are mischaracterized and misunderstood.

Only when we look at the dog in front of us, and truly see him for who he is right now, will we build a long-lasting, trusting relationship.


My List of Activities

for impulse control and calming

Impulse Control Games

  1. Reward Procedures - how we're going to reinforce.
  2. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation.
  3. Suzanne Clothier's Really Real Relaxation.
  4. Recall/Whiplash Head Turns.
  5. Leslie McDevitt's Pattern Games.
  6. Nosework.

Basic Skills & Cues for Dogs (and Cats)

  1. Eye contact
  2. Mealtime manners
  3. Recall/Whiplash turns
  4. Targeting behaviors - Chin rest, Nose/Paw targeting, extended hold on target, A to B, moving with target
  5. Walking Manners
  1. Husbandry behaviors - hold, lift, touch, nail trims, ear/eye exams, injections, etc.
  2. Door manners
  3. Sit
  4. Stationing - "Go to Your ___ & Relax"
  5. Down

Things to consider when choosing your training techniques and trainer.

Training techniques must:

  1. Get results
  2. Be respectful: humane, fair, honest
  3. Enhance your relationship

Choose a trainer whose advice you trust and training techniques you can espouse.

Ask questions and if you don't get answers, or answers you like, keep shopping!

Visits Ethics in Animal Care to find a humane pet professional in Austin.


Dog Possible | dogpossibleaustin.com

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Resources - Body Language:

  1. On Talking Terms With Dogs - Calming Signals, 2nd Edition, Turid Rugaas.
  2. What is My Cat Saying? Feline Communication 101, Carol Bynes and Jacqueline Munera.
  3. Help for Your Fearful Dog - A Step-By-Step Guide To Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears, Nicole Wilde.
  4. "Doggie Language" Poster, Lili Chin.
  5. "Cat Language" Poster, Lili Chin.

Resources - Management:

  1. Management Magic: Leslie Nelson and Gail Pivar.
  2. Feeling Outnumbered? - How To Manage & Enjoy A Multi-Dog Household, 2nd Edition, Patricia McConnell and Karen London.
  3. "Ain't Misbehavin'" Poster, Lili Chin.

Resources - Enrichment, Exercise, & Play:

Resources - Focus on What You WANT
Your Dog to Do:

  1. Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller.
  2. "What is Positive Reinforcement" Poster, Lili Chin.
  3. "Tsk, No,Eh-eh: Clearing the Path to Reinforcement with an Errorless Learning Mindset", Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D.
  4. Drinking from the Toilet Podcast #105: "They Aren't Puppies Anymore", Hannah Branigan with Emily Johnson Vegh.

Resources - Catch Your Dog Being Good:

  1. Plenty in Life is Free, Kathy Sdao.
  2. "Catch Your Dog Doing Something Good", Jen Germann.
  3. "Catch Your Pet Doing Something Good", Irith Bloom.

Resources - Learn Your Dog's Threshold:

  1. "Understanding Thresholds: It's More than Under- or Over-", Suzanne Clothier.
  2. "3 Threshold Elements" Poster, from this post by Lili Chin.
  3. "What is a Threshold?", The Crossover Trainer.
  4. "5 Things to Know About A Dog's Threshold", Mardi Richmond for The Whole Dog Journal.
  5. "Talking Thresholds", Bobbi Bhambree.

Resources - Even a Wild Child Can Relax:

  1. "Calm and Relaxed? Or Shut Down?, Lili Chin.
  2. Getting in TTouch With Your Dog Revised, Linda Tellington-Jones.
  3. "Boogie TTouch Notes" Posters, Lili Chin.
  4. "The Value of Empowerment to Our Pets", Lisa Desatnik
  5. "Three Important Ways to Give Your Pet Choices", Zazie Todd, PhD
  6. "Nosework: Exhaust Your Dog & Teach Impulse Control (No Shoes Needed)", Kayla Fratt.

Resources - Beware the "Punishment Trap":

  1. "AVSAB Position Statement: The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals", American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.
  2. "The Facts About Punishment", S.G. Friedman, PhD, and Bobbi Brinker.
  3. "Why Punishment Should be Avoided", Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM.
  4. "If We Can Teach Wild Animals" Poster, Lili Chin.

Resources - Love & Train the Dog in Front of You:

  1. Train the Dog in Front of You, Denise Fenzi.
  2. "Finding a Smoother Training Journey", Amy Fitzsimmons.
  3. "Hard to Train?", Suzanne Clothier.
  4. "Your Choice Affects Your Dog's Choice" Poster, Lili Chin.

Resources - Choosing the Right Trainer:

  1. "Be A Smart Dog Training Consumer" Poster, Lili Chin.
  2. Find a humane pet professional in Austin