"The Peeing Post"

Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature

Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen

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Dear Dog Friend,

A happy announcement

Thank you to all of you who took the time to cast your vote in the contest about the best before/after story from the people who had been training their dogs to walk with manners, in accordance with Don't Pull on the Leash!".

I took all the answers and made some stats, so we could find the winners. Both the winners of the best stories, and the winners of the judges who came closest to the average of everybody's opinion. The full overview for all the results can be viewed here.

I must say that I am impressed - and surprised, in many ways.

First, only one story avoided getting a score of only $0 from at least one evaluator - and got a $1 score as the lowest. I certainly did not expect this... I found all the stories of a value that was greater than that - but there were some evaluators out there that did not think so! There were several stories that some people evaluated at $50 - whereas others gave that same story a score of $0! And, for other stories, those same evaluators reversed the scores...

Second, all stories got a maximum of at least $15 - and several got more than one $50 score! And this too went far beyond my expectations! I did not think anyone would pay $50 - I actually added that option in the questionnaire just to be sure that I did not put any true formal limit on the choices... But with the high number of times an evaluator used the $50 maximum, the stats are actually a bit distorted, as this indicates that some people would have opted higher, if the possibility had been given to them...

This all means that people have different preferences, and very different ways of evaluating the stories. The story that got the lowest average score still got an average of $5.24, quite close to our retail price - compared to the winning story's $18.16, which is almost three times our price! The average of the average scores for the stories was $12.31 - almost twice as much as we charge for the e-book.... It certainly tells me that our price of $6.85 is not too high! It is actually too low to be regarded serious...

Yes, of course, here are the winners:

  1. Lynda with Taz: $18.16
  2. Brian with Emma: $17.69
  3. Danielle, Montreal: $13.73

There were two more scores above $13, and another one at $12.93 - so it was close....

And the judges? Well, they too seriously surprised me! The opinions were very different - almost so much that I first thought it would be impossible to make sense of the data. But, as the results kept coming in, a trend certainly developed, nevertheless.

The lowest average score for a single judge was $2.90 - less than half the price we charge. This obviously is not a person that would want to buy the book, based on these stories....

A total of 16% of the judges valued the stories below our sales price, whereas 84% were above. A whopping 34% were even above twice the price! The average was $12.31 - almost double our price. It tells me that our price is a good bargain for people who have an interest in this kind of training. We are certainly not ripping people off - but it is also not a book that attracts everybody. However, good business practice will have us use a price that will attract about 75% of those interested - and our current price is definitely too low for that!

There was a close run for the winners that had their average judgement closest to the overall average. This is a rare exception of an example where it pays to be average! J

Those that came closest were the following:

  1. Anne P. and Kris W., each with $12.10
  2. Lee S. C. with $12.80, only 2 cents closer than number 4!

Congratulations to the six winners! All six will get a free download of any K9joy publication of their choice - and we accept rainchecks for a year. If they recognize themselves, they can e-mail me with their choice. In any case, they will also get a personal e-mail, confirming this.

Thanks to everybody who participated in this game! I had fun - I hope you did too - and I learned something very valuable....

"Correcting" the annoying symptoms - professional advice...

Anyone heard about Daniel Stevens? He wrote the book "Sit, Stay, Fetch" which is available on-line as a e-book. It is about training a dog to all the standard obedience stuff, which most people find is important (more information about it here!).

I am not particularly fond of his training methods; he is absolutely one of the better trainers around, but I do not see him as the dog's advocate, as he appears to be exclusively focussed on "how the owner can make the dog comply with what the owner wants and doesn't want" - which, in my opinion is borderline abuse... He does have a lot of valuable experience though, and he is good at explaining techniques and procedures, so I will not deter anyone from getting his book, although I also do not want to condone it either. (As a subscriber of The Peeing Post, you are supposed to be able to make your own judgments and decisions - so I will leave that to you!)

However, I wanted to introduce you to him because he also publishes a little newsletter in which he responds to problems people who bought his book might have. His advice is never "bad", and sometimes actually quite good, considering the circumstances. In many cases, though, it shows a fundamental perspective of dog training that I simply disagree with. Not because it is wrong or incorrect advice - but because it is an unacceptable approach for my ethics.

I recently got this example, which I would like to discuss because it hit the "bulls eye" of the majority of problems people have with their dogs (in each issue of his newsletter, Daniel Stevens always gives permission to forward it to a friend, so I will present the text in its entirety):

Our puppy is 17 months old and we got her when she was 13 months. We are her third home as she was abused and the breeder took her back. We have no idea what happened to her in terms of the abuse but she has several issues we are working on.

She is a miniature schnauzer and is gentle and loving and very protective of my husband and me. She has serious issues with people but loves (LOVES) to play with other dogs and does so really well.

We are teaching her that we are the alpha dog as per your on-line book (which was very helpful) and we have seen amazing results in just a few days. She seems much calmer and at peace. She listens to me more now when we are off leash and she actually will follow me on the path versus always having to lead.

Our major concern is her problems with people. This is improving but she still has a tendency to nip or bite. For example, my sister will play with her and they are having fun and all of a sudden she turned and bit her drawing blood. Another example is my mom will sit with her and give her treats but if she tries to pet her, she snaps at her. She is like this with most people. We have advised people to ignore her and we will see how that goes. We have her on a gentle lead and that works well. She tends to pull but I am stopping when she does and she will come back to me. She is very stubborn (is the breed after all) and so this will take time but it is improving.

Do you have any suggestions on how we can work with her to control this biting and snapping? We never let her out of our sight and we advise people not to touch her.


SitStayFetch Reply:

Thank you for your email, it was very well detailed and explained your issues well.

First of all, I think perhaps the best bet for you and your puppy will be taking time and patience, as abused dog's always take longer to adjust to their surroundings and overcome their fears.

One technique to help her overcome her fear aggression may be to fit her with a muzzle and then expose her to as many strange people as possible. Most dogs hate wearing muzzles, so make sure you have her used to it before she meets anyone. Fit it on her and then take her for a walk to distract her, this way she will not associate the muzzle with negative events, or strange people with wearing a muzzle.

She will soon learn this way that, although she has had bad experiences before, no real harm will come to her now. At the same time no one is at risk of being bitten while she receives her "exposure training".

It is also important that you communicate with her what is unacceptable behavior. Sometimes people are too sympathetic to reprimand an abused dog, you can still be assertive with her without being aggressive. If she tries to bite/snap, growl at her and certainly keep up the good work with the "Alpha dog" training too.

Kind regards
Daniel Stevens
Author of SitStayFetch

So, what is wrong with this nice and helpful advice?

"What is in it for the dog?"

"What are the reasons for the unwanted behavior?"

"What is being done to address those?"

Answers: "Nothing" and "Nothing" and "Nothing"....

We are looking at "symptom patching" here... We are looking at an example of "good business": an expert gives advice to a customer and makes sure that the customer (the dog owner) gets the results he/she wants.

I am certainly not blaming Daniel Stevens for doing this. I am commending him for being a smart businessman and for using his knowledge well for the purpose of creating satisfied customers.

The conflict with my ethics is on a different level: "what it is in it for the dog?" To me, that question is more important than any answers to the question about what kind of training can give the owner what the owner wants - when the owner does not even have a clue about what the dog has at stake here!

Let me be totally clear on this: there is nothing wrong with the advice Daniel Stevens gives. It is just, in my opinion, the wrong advice... I say this because I always assume that a dog owner with this kind of problem is seriously concerned about the dog's well-being. And I know that I am very wrong on this assumption in a very large number of cases - probably also more than half of all cases of this nature.... I have several times fired a student from my classes when he/she did not care about the dog, but only was concerned about his/her own convenience (my way of doing that is to write out a check in the amount paid for the course, and asking the student to leave the class for good with that check....)

It might not be "smart business" - but there are things more important to me than a student's money...

Let's discuss "what is in it for the dog" in this case.

A dog that is in the middle of play or is relaxed while being fed treats is not fearful. Fear will always override a dog's desire to play and eat. It is one of the most profound ways you can tell if a dog is truly fearful or not: if it will accept a play invitation or a treat, that fear is nothing to write home about. It might be the reminiscence of some old habit that could originate in some real fear, but there is no longer any production of adrenaline in the blood, so we are only dealing with an empty "behavior shell" with no substance of true fear left inside anymore.

We need to look at the possible reasons for this behavior.

First, as I already indicated, there is a possibility that we are dealing with learned behavior, originally triggered by fear, but now running on habit, due to positive reinforcement. Translated to English, this means that the dog has been rewarded for its fear reaction!

This is, unfortunately, a very common thing. People are not aware of it - but that makes no difference for the learning process. When you try to calm down and comfort a dog that just showed fear, you are rewarding the fear reaction - and it will get worse!!!

I know - it is very hard (in more than one way!) to ignore a dog that is scared and begs for comfort. But you cannot give in on that - unless you accept the risk of creating a problem like this one.

There is a better option, though: instead of cruelly ignoring the dog, you can ask it to work! Give it a command to perform for you. Carry through a few minutes of training, making its brain do something else - and then reward it. This way, the reward is not connected to the fear reaction, so you do not risk reinforcing it - and you do accomplish what was needed in order to help the dog overcome the fear: think of something else.

Also, just for the record: you have to vary the exercises you start after the fear reaction. If you consistently use the same exercise every time, you will, again, create a conditional connection, and the dog will start "automatically" performing that exercise when it gets scared! Although this is way better than a biting reaction, it is still less than desirable.

So, if we are indeed dealing with such a learned "fear" reaction, then Daniel Steven's advice about forced exposure is relevant and good. The muzzle is a worthy protection of the people involved, but it is not as simple to use as he indicates....

First, dogs hate those muzzles. For good reason. It is like tying a person's hands behind their back. The dog feels vulnerable because it cannot defend itself. So, how is this going to affect a dog that is already scared?

Well, the sad truth is that it can backfire - as you can understand without using excessive logic. Let us leave that for a moment...

What other reasons could we have for such a behavior?

A very important one that gets completely ignored, despite it being the major contributor in 90-95% of all cases I know of, is stress.

Stress is caused by several factors. And their effects accumulate. We are used to seeing it as a result of being overworked. But that is only part of the truth. The true underlying reason for stress is unsatisfied fundamental needs. We have a fundamental need for relaxation - and when we ignore that need (or are forced to ignore it), we get stressed.

There are many other important fundamental needs. We need food, water, sleep. We need to move our bodies. We need to use our brains. We need to feel connected with others. We need to feel secure and safe. Any one of those needs will raise our stress level if left unsatisfied for any length of time!

Our dogs are no different. But we tend to ignore all those fundamental needs that do not make much sense to us: roaming, searching, hunting, killing... fundamental needs for any carnivore, including your domesticated wolf!

Let us just briefly look at those needs.

Roaming. Wolves travel 25-100 km a day, in search of prey, checking their territory. Our dogs are fortunately less demanding - but they still have this serious need for "checking the territory"! How many people take their dogs out for regular daily walk? I know - most people take the dog out to pee and poop. But that does not satisfy the dog's need for roaming.... (This is, by the way, a major reason why wolves kept as pets are outright dangerous - nobody can let them wander around 25 km a day, or more....)

Searching. How many people teach their dogs to search? And how many do it on a regular basis? Well, I am sure all owners of "BrainWork for Smart Dogs" will do that - but I also know from my experience that hardly anyone else does - they simply do not know how to do it!

Hunting. Sure, you cannot let your dog hunt deer and chickens. But you can play with your dog! Again, a lot of people are very reluctant to do this, because all "professional advisors" tell them that this can make the dog vicious. Well, that stupid statement makes me vicious! Admitted: if you do not retain full control over the dog while doing this, it is risky. I just don't think anyone should have a dog they do not have control over...

Killing. Here, again, things go wrong when people do not understand how the dog's instincts work. Dogs (or wolves, for that matter) have no idea about life or death. They make a kill in order to transform a fleeing/fighting prey animal into something that will lie still so it can be eaten! They have no moral qualms over that, as you do. And you should! However, the dog's instincts do not call for another living being changing status from "live" to dead" in order for them to be satisfied. They work on a much more primitive level. Anything that moves and is being calmed down represents a "killing" - and will provide the fundamental satisfaction of these instincts. You can use toys for this. But you have to make those toys move, so the dog can enjoy making them stop moving. It is not enough that you buy toys for the dog to entertain itself with them. That's not going to work. You have to engage yourself in the game.

A final stress factor that is extremely important is the one that comes from insufficient leadership. This is a tough thing to explain in all detail (you can get it all from the video "The Dog's Social Behavior"), but let's just, for now, make it clear that if an owner is not acting as a good leader for the dog, then the dog will experience some very serious frustration. "Doing the alpha thing" is not enough (whatever practical technique is covered under that label...). Leadership is not a tool you can bring out and use once in a while. It is a lifestyle and a paradigm for all your interaction with the dog!

There are so many wrong perceptions about this that I could scream. Just this one: why is it important to people that the dog follows behind them? Oh, the leader leads, right? Yes, but not on that kind of low and unimportant level! Dogs are not that stupid that they take it for an expression of leadership who goes ahead of whom. Maybe you can find it in some human cultural traditions. In the dog's world, things are most often exactly opposite: the youngest and lowest ranking brat is in front of the pack, leaving the leader well behind. Just like a general for an army. What matters here is this: who makes the decisions?!

When I had my dog pack of three or four dogs and we went for walk with me on the bike, the dogs always ran ahead of me. In front was the youngest, then the bitch, and, just close to me, my second-in-command, my stud. Whenever we came to a crossroad, the youngest in the front turned around to find out from me where we were going. When I pointed out the direction, he ran ahead again.

This youngster was absolutely not the leader of the pack. He did not even look at the bitch when she was in season! He had no mating rights, and he knew that very well. Neither I nor my second-in-command had any need for constantly telling him that! He remained "the puppy" till the day both his parents were gone - which did not happen until he was 12 years old!

Again: leadership is not a matter of who goes first. It is a matter of who makes the decisions. And this is where people get so terribly caught: they let the dog make way too many decisions! Just take the example of the dog owner taking the dog for a walk. Where do they go? Where the dog chooses.... At least, that is the experience the dog will get when it pulls on the leash to check something out! Hey - the purpose of the walk was to give the dog a chance to check out the territory, right? So, how can I then suddenly contradict myself?

The contradiction is perceived. And it is based on a false assumption that you cannot let the dog check out the territory under your leadership.

Now, if the dog pulls on the leash 50 times during a walk, how much will it matter then that the owner was the first to go our through the door? Hey, the dog has the odds of the leadership - 50/1! So, who gets elected leader here?

Instead, what about it being you who tells the dog where to go and sniff? What about you making 50 "weird" choices of changing direction during the walk? Wouldn't that at least make you an equally worthy candidate?

It sure would! As you have seen from the feedback from the people who got "Don't' Pull on the Leash!", the evidence is obvious: the results you achieve go far beyond just getting the dog to stop pulling - it penetrates the entire relationship between owner and dog in a way that is rewarding for both parties!

This is why I like my camp courses.... On such a course, there is no escape, no hiding in the crowd, no ability for the owner to get sloppy with the leadership! Leadership is to be practiced whenever the dog is awake! It is tough - until it becomes a habit. Once it is a habit, it is easy - and a great pleasure for both yourself and your dog!

It all comes in small pieces. Next step is that you forward this issue of The Peeing Post to everyone you know who has a dog - OK? I would appreciate the help! And I know there are millions of dogs out there that would too....J


Cheers and woof,

Mogens Eliasen


If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!

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P.S. We still have a few spots available for the camp course in Creston, BC from June 4 till June 11. If you want to join us, you should book your spot now. Remember, family is welcome - at no charge. And the Creston Valley is a pearl on this planet, in regards to what you can let your family do while you and your dog have all the fun together that you have been needing for a long time!

The weather is usually nice this time of year and not too hot for the dogs - and we have some gorgeous training areas available.

No matter what stage you are at in regards to training, I can promise that we will find you some great possibilities to improve your relationship with your dog!