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Introducing, Summit K9 book and resource recommendations!

So I am going to begin sharing and reviewing some of my favorite learning resources, platforms, and books, as well as some top notch dog related entertainment. And where better to start than with the Monks of New Skete?!

The Art of Raising a Puppy is one of the first dog training resources I remember being exposed to. When I was 3 years old, my family brought home our first dog, Tug, an active Siberian Husky mix from an accidental litter. My dad dove into training with him, and some of my earliest memories were of Tug's training journey. We had The Art of Raising a Puppy in our house for as long as I can remember, and when I started training dogs seriously as an adult, that was the first resource I picked up.

It wasn't until much later that I read Let Dogs Be Dogs, their more recent collaboration with Marc Goldberg, former president of the International Association of Canine Professionals, but I absolutely LOVED it. As I have progressed as a trainer and handler, my appreciation for their perspective on dog ownership and training has only grown. This book offers a much needed view on the importance acknowledging and honoring the true nature of the dog.

What I love about this book:

- It makes a point to honor the dog as a separate species with differing needs and desires from our own. One of my favorite lines, which seems to be a point made time and time again in various ways throughout the book, is "Part of the art of living with your dog is to give yourself unselfishly, and ungrudgingly, to the dog and its true needs, to honor it for the mysterious and beautiful creature that nature created."

- It serves as both a beautiful perspective on dog ownership and a manual for how to structure your relationship with your dog to create a successful partnership.

- It dives into the potential for dog ownership and training to help the handler grow as a person. It challenges owners to dig deeper into their relationships, and to learn how to be a better person through working with your canine partner.

- It encourages owners to use their dogs as a means of connecting with nature, and as a reminder to be more present in the moment.

- It explores the interrelation of emotion and training, which, in my opinion, is an area often neglected in training resources.

- It offers specific case studies of interactions with clients and their dogs, bringing real world examples into the topics that they discuss.

This is a great book for dog enthusiasts, pet owners, pet professionals, and dog trainers alike. There is so much value in this book beyond your usual "how to" guide, and I enjoy it more with each read.

As a taste for the style of the writing and the type of topics discussed, here are some of my favorite excerpts!

"Good training always serves the friendship, creating a level of trust and dedication that is shared by both dog and owner."

"Sometimes it really is kinder to teach a dog, in a compassionate but authoritative way, You're just not allowed." (This one was HUGE for me, and I credit this line to my dive into balanced dog training. This was a major "aha! moment," where I really began to appreciate the difference between what made me feel good in the short term versus what made my dog happier in the long term. There is a kindness to setting boundaries that create clarity for the dog.)

"Learning the value of silence is learning to listen to, instead of screaming at, reality: opening your mind enough to find what the end of someone else' sentence sounds like, or listening to a dog until you discover what is needed instead of imposing yourself in the name of training."

"Good parents don't apologize for accepting that role in the lives of their young children. They understand that it is their responsibility to provide guidance and structure, and they are not intimidated by occasional outbursts of resistance and complaining. They know they have the best interest of the child in mind, and with this resolve they grow more relaxed and confident in their role."

"A dog knows its need for guidance and flourishes when it's given"

In any relationship, trust and mutual respect are important, but they don't come free. Do you immediately trust every person you meet? Of course not. So why would we expect this of our dogs?

Trust is a funny thing. When it comes to our dogs, we often mistake love and trust, and assume if we have one, we have the other. But love does not equal trust. Your dog can love you, but still not trust you, just as you can love your dog, but not always trust them.

Dogs that are nervous or fearful of humans or other dogs are often worried that their boundaries will not be respected. They usually give many cues to indicate that they do not want someone to approach. If subtle cues are ignored, they may "turn up the volume" on those cues in order to better communicate and prevent the person or dog from approaching. These "higher volume" cues often include: barking, lunging, growling, showing teeth, pyloerection (raised hair on neck and back), snapping, and biting. These "high volume" cues often are successful, and once the dog learns this, they will be quicker to default to those behaviors next time they are nervous.

Dogs that are exhibiting these behaviors feel that it is their responsibility to keep others away from themselves and/or their owners. If a nervous/fearful dog is exhibiting these behaviors, it is often because they do not trust that their handlers have control of the situation, so it's up to them to protect their boundaries. These behaviors usually begin after events that confirm this belief. If an owner is out walking their dog and an out of control off-leash dog runs up and harasses the pair, but the owner does not prevent the dog from approaching, they have begun to erode their dog's faith that they will prevent that event from happening in the future. The same goes for allowing a stranger to pet your dog when your dog is showing signs of nervousness or anxiety with them.

Advocating for your dog's space is essential in rehabilitating nervous reactive dogs. If your dog trusts you not to allow humans or other dogs into their personal space, they likely will not feel the need to take matters into their own hands to move other humans or dogs through their own behavior. If you advocate for your dog, they WILL notice, and they will begin to build back trust that may have eroded.

How can you advocate for your dog?

  • Saying "No, you cannot pet my dog." (Reminder, no is a complete sentence!).

  • Saying "No, your dog cannot meet my dog."

  • Asking someone with their dog off-leash to please leash their dog.

  • Asking someone to please give you more space.

  • Asking someone not to baby talk to your dog.

  • Blocking an off-leash dog from approaching your dog. (For most charging or curious dogs, making yourself big, putting up a hand, stepping towards the dog, and saying "NO, GET." in a firm, deep voice is enough to make them pause. If this fails, don't be afraid to use your feet to shove the dog away. It sounds harsh, but your dog will thank you, and responsible dog owners don't allow their dogs to run up to unknown dogs and people.)

What can you to do to help owners with nervous, fearful, or reactive dogs?

  • Ask owners before petting. Wait for an answer. If they say no, respect that.

  • *Or* don't ask, don't pet, and move about your day. Sometimes dog owners just want to enjoy their time together uninterrupted, and saying no can feel awkward and stressful.

  • Don't talk to people's dogs while they are out in public or on a walk.

  • If someone says their dog is nervous, just ignore the dog. Don't make heavy eye contact, don't talk to them, and keep your distance.

  • Don't reach your hand out to allow the dog to "sniff" your hand. Most dogs find this super weird and uncomfortable, and it's a really easy way to get bit.

  • If you have permission to meet a dog, allow the dog to approach you instead of approaching and reaching out for that dog. This allows the dog to have a say in whether or not they want to meet you.

  • Don't allow your off-leash dog to run up to strangers, even if it's friendly. Owners should have the right to say "no, we don't want to meet your dog." Ignoring that right is rude and you are placing your dog in an extremely dangerous situation.

  • Don't have your dog off-leash if they don't have perfect recall.

  • Don't allow your dog to meet other dogs on leash. Some dogs feel trapped, vulnerable, or frustrated when leashed, and introducing a new dog in that situation can create anxiety in dogs that feel they do not have an escape or a way to say no.

Does your dog trust you to advocate for them? How can you tell?

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