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)

What Behaviors are We Talking About?

What behaviors make YOU say "whoa!?"

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

Understanding Stress:
Learning to read body language

Recognizing Signs of Stress

Stress Responses:
"Calming" or "Cut-Off" Signals

"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)
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  • dilated pupils
  • rapid blinking
  • elongated eyes
  • closed mouth
  • or opens/closes
  • puffy flews (upper lips)
  • ears back
  • muscle tension
  • tail lowered/tucked (covering the scent glands; I'm not here!)
  • body lowered
  • paw raised (appeasement gesture)
  • body leaning away
  • head/body turned away
  • lip licking (usually repetitive)
  • yawning

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  • shut down/frozen
  • restlessness/ hyperactivity, pacing
  • vigilantly scan environment
  • piloerection
  • shallow breathing/panting
  • shaking off
  • scratching/sniffing/stretching/something that out of the normal
  • decreased, thick salivation or profuse water salivation
  • approach-avoidance behavior (dog may appear to be friendly one minute and then fearful or even defensive the next)

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  • Perspiring paw pads
  • Blowing/shedding fur, dandruff
  • Loss of appetite (food/water)
    • Or perhaps an increase in water!
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive grooming

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  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.

It's okay to take the easy way out.

Arrange the environment to set your animals up for success, reduce frustration, and form the basis for desirable, lifelong habits.

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

Routine, Structure, and Choice

1. Create a predictable, consistent daily routine, with times for sleeping, eating, play, socialization, enrichment, and learning. 2. Structure your home for success: pick up valuables, manage how often your older pets have to deal with your young animals, block off areas where your pets shouldn't be, etc. 3. Structure and routine create predictably and security, avoiding anxiety about what will happen next. 4. When possible, give your pets a choice in the situation: go this way or that way, interact or walk away, have this treat or that treat, etc. 1. Listen and respect when your pet makes a choice, especially to avoid!


1. "Management Magic": Leslie Nelson and Gail Pivar. https://www.dogwise.com/ebook-management-magic/ 2. "Feeling Outnumbered? - How To Manage & Enjoy A Multi-Dog Household, 2nd Edition", Patricia McConnell and Karen London. https://www.dogwise.com/feeling-outnumbered-how-to-manage-enjoy-a-multi-dog-household-2nd-edition/ 3. "Ain't Misbehavin'" Poster, Lili Chin. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/5652847156/sizes/h/

Enrichment, Exercise, and Play

Meeting enrichment needs goes a long way towards supporting calm behavior. Most dogs enjoy toys of all varieties including food puzzles and chews to meet their oral enrichment needs.

Provide multiple daily opportunities for mental and 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?

1. Alleviate boredom 2. Brain exercise 3. Physical Exercise / Burn calories 4. Prevent behavior problems / assist in treating existing behavior problems 5. Interrupt progression leading to compulsive behaviors 6. Outlet for anxiety 7. Physiological benefits - exercise > flexibility > balance > muscle tone > strength > strengthened immune system 8. More resources means less competition in multi-pet homes 9. Learning throughout life may delay or prevent onset of cognitive dysfunction 10. Encourages "natural behaviors" 11. Fun

(source: Steve Dale, "Enrichment for Geriatric Dogs and Cats" 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.

What does play do for animals?

1. Social Connection 2. Physical relaxation 3. Practice trust (give and take) 4. Relationship tension reduction 5. Developing "language" 6. Promotes oxytocin, reduces cortisol, and lowers BP 7. "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)


1.  https://www.dogpossibleaustin.com/enrichment-and-behavior/  2. https://aniedireland.wordpress.com/100daysofenrichment/?fbclid=IwAR2HLClsfy_f95LvWZPpfCdTPx3nLwelPTmh5SDS2ubg0F69yQ10-mn2bTo 3. https://www.stevedalepetworld.com/blog/enrichment-toys-to-keep-dogs-active-and-interested-indoors/ 1. "Play Your Way to Good Manners: Getting the Best Behavior from Your Dog Through Sports, Games, and Tricks", Kate Naito and Sarah Westcott. https://www.dogwise.com/play-your-way-to-good-manners-getting-the-best-behavior-from-your-dog-through-sports-games-and-tricks/ 2. "Play with Your Dog", Pat Miller. https://www.dogwise.com/play-with-your-dog/ 3. "Playing with Your Dog" Poster, Lili Chin. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/7027600081/sizes/l/ 4. "The Play Way" Poster: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7i0mod81iv4z8v7/The%20Play%20Way%20-%20AmyCook-LiliChin.jpg?dl=0

Think about what you DO want your dog to do, and make a plan using positive reinforcement around that.

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

Frustration happens when the path to reinforcement is not clear.

(source: (source: Susan Friedman, Hannah Branigan, Emelie Johnson Vegh)

Focus on "Alternate behaviors" - a little box of pre-trained, non-irritating behaviors you can use in the moment as a shortcut, something you can resort to in case you get frustrated.

1. "What is the opposite of what my dog is doing right now?" 2. Often where a frustrating behavior manifests, it occurs in a situation where "training" is not happening: we're doing something else, we're busy, we're distracted, we just don't want to train.


1. Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller. https://www.dogwise.com/power-of-positive-dog-training-2nd-edition/ 2. "What is Positive Reinforcement" Poster, Lili Chin. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/7420827860/sizes/l/ 3. "Tsk, No,Eh-eh: Clearing the Path to Reinforcement with an Errorless Learning Mindset", Susan G. Friedman, Ph. D. http://www.behaviorworks.org/files/articles/Errorless%20Learning.pdf 4. Drinking from the Toilet Podcast #105: "They Aren't Puppies Anymore", Hannah Branigan with Emily Johnson Vegh. https://hannahbranigan.dog/podcast/105/

Catch your dog being good, and reward that behavior generously.

Try to catch your dog doing something good 5 times a day.

With a teenage wild child, sometimes it seems like everything they do is wrong.

When we start focusing on what our dogs are doing right, what we realize is we're missing a lot of things our dogs are already doing - things we want them to do - and we're missing opportunities to reward these things.

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, and provide surprise rewards.

What you'll probably find when you start looking for opportunities to reward your animals is that 1) they're already doing lots of good, rewardable things that you've been missing out on, and 2) that they'll probably start doing those things more often trying to get more rewards out of you.


1. Plenty in Life is Free, Kathy Sdao: https://www.dogwise.com/plenty-in-life-is-free-reflections-on-dogs-training-and-finding-grace/ 2. "Catch Your Dog Doing Something Good", Jen Germann. https://www.dogpossibleaustin.com/catch-your-dog-doing-something-good/ 3. "Catch Your Pet Doing Something Good", Irith Bloom. https://thesophisticateddog.com/dog-training-tips/passive-active/catch-your-pet-doing-something-good/

Learn your dog's threshold, but understand that it can change day to day, or even moment to moment.

Understanding Thresholds

How does stress affect a dog's threshold?

How does stacking up these stressors trigger reactive outbursts (barking, mouthing, humping, leashing biting, etc.)?

Threshold: finding the sweet spot

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"'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")

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With fearful dogs, "threshold" is often primarily an issue of
physical space.

With a Whoa Doggie, "threshold" may be
psychological, emotional or sensory.

How Do Stressors Stack Up to Affect Threshold?

Stressor + Stressor + Stressor = 🔥🔥🔥


1. "Understanding Thresholds: It's More than Under- or Over-", Suzanne Clothier. https://suzanneclothier.com/article/understanding-thresholds-its-more-than-under-or-over/ 2. "5 Things to Know About A Dog's Threshold", Mardi Richmond for The Whole Dog Journal. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/5-things-to-know-about-a-dogs-threshold/ 3. "Talking Thresholds", Bobbi Bhambree. https://positively.com/contributors/talking-thresholds/ 4. "3 Threshold Elements" Poster, Lili Chin. https://boogiebt.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/3elements-thresholds.jpg (from https://boogiebt.com/2013/05/17/l-a-bat-seminar-boogies-bat-session-with-grisha-stewart/)

Even a wild child can relax, but you have to teach them how.

Add some relaxation stuff here


1. "Boogie TTouch Notes" Posters, Lili Chin. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mbsl92uwjj8azjq/AAC0C1kH53tsBm0R1u5kkRv5a 2. "Calm and Relaxed? Or Shut Down?" Poster, Lili Chin. https://www.dropbox.com/s/bkb1lbpr6820eh7/CALMandRELAXEDorShutDown.jpg?dl=0

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.

1. The adverse effects of punishment and the difficulties in administering punishment effectively have been well documented, especially in the early 1960s when such experiments were still allowed. 1. For instance, if the punishment is not strong enough, the animal may habituate or get used to it, so that the owner needs to escalate the intensity. 2. On the other hand, when the punishment is more intense, it can cause physical injury. 3. Even when punishment seems mild, in order to be effective it often must elicit a strong fear response, and this fear response can generalize to things that sound or look similar to the punishment. 4. Punishment has also been shown to elicit aggressive behavior in many species of animals. Thus, using punishment can put the person administering it or any person near the animal at risk of being bitten or attacked. 5. Punishment can suppress aggressive and fearful behavior when used effectively, but it may not change the underlying cause of the behavior. 6. Punishment fails to address the fact that the bad behavior is occurring because it has somehow been reinforced—either intentionally or unintentionally. That is, owners tend to punish bad behaviors some of the time while inadvertently rewarding these same behaviors at other times.


1. "AVSAB Position StatementThe Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals", American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Punishment_Position_Statement-download_-_10-6-14.pdf 2. "The Facts About Punishment", S.G. Friedman, PhD, and Bobbi Brinker. http://www.behaviorworks.org/files/articles/The%20Facts%20About%20Punishment%202001.pdf 3. "Why Punishment Should be Avoided", Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-punishment-should-be-avoided 4. "If We Can Teach Wild Animals" Poster, Lili Chin. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/8042787688/sizes/l/

Love and train the dog in front of you.

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


1. "Train the Dog in Front of You", Denise Fenzi. https://denisefenzi.com/2016/01/train-the-dog-in-front-of-you/ 2. "Finding a Smoother Training Journey", Amy Fitzsimmons. https://www.dogpossibleaustin.com/smoother-training-journey/ 3. "Hard to Train?", Suzanne Clothier. https://suzanneclothier.com/article/hard-to-train/ 4. "Your Choice Affects Your Dog's Choice" Poster, Lili Chin. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lilita/8676756887/sizes/l/

My list of activities for impulse control and calming.

1. Reward Procedures - how we're going to reinforce 2. Karen Overall's Protocol for Relaxation. https://journeydogtraining.com/karen-overalls-relaxation-protocol/. 3. Suzanne Clothier's Really Real Relaxation. https://suzanneclothier.com/shop/really-real-relaxation/ 4. Recall/Whiplash Head Turns 5. Leslie McDevitt's Pattern Games. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mtn-BeI9lHE 6. Nosework 7. Various types of Targeting - Nose targeting, paw targeting, chin rest, extended hold on target, A to B (go away from handler, target, and return), moving with target 8. Stationing - "Go to Your ___ & Relax" 9. Husbandry behaviors - touch, hold, lift, nail trims, ear and eye exams, injections, etc. 10. Stop and smell the roses - Walking Like We Love Each Other

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 4. 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!


1. "Be A Smart Dog Training Consumer" Poster, Lili Chin. https://www.dropbox.com/s/luhq6xj0fp9ohge/Smartconsumer-dogtraining.jpg?dl=0 2. Find a humane pet professional in Austin: https://ethicsinanimalcare.com/find-a-professional/


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