The Bitey End of the Dog

Suzanne Clothier

March 15, 2021 Michael Shikashio CDBC Season 2 Episode 2
The Bitey End of the Dog
Suzanne Clothier
Show Notes Transcript

I’ve been wanting to catch up with Suzanne for quite some time, and finally get a chance to chat with her about her Relationship Centered Training approach, and why the relationship between a dog and owner can be so crucial in aggression cases. We also unpack the Treat and Retreat protocol, and some of the common issues that can creep into our progress if used incorrectly. Suzanne never disappoints, and this show is packed with her amazing insight.

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Suzanne Clothier:

It's just that subtle. Hey, man, I'm not here to threaten you, I heard you. And the look in those dog's eyes. Like You heard me. nobody's been listening to me. You heard that. And this is how we try to avoid getting bit.

Michael Shikashio:

I've been wanting to catch up with Suzanne for quite some time and I finally get a chance to chat with her about her relationship centered training approach, and why the relationship between a dog and owner can be so crucial and aggression cases, we also impact the treat and retreat protocol in some of the common issues that can creep into our progress if it's used incorrectly. Suzanne never disappoints, and this show is packed with her amazing insight. And this episode is sponsored by aggressivedog.com, where you can find a variety of educational offerings, with a focus on helping dogs with aggression, including the aggression in dogs master course, the most comprehensive course available anywhere in the world on helping dogs with aggression, and the aggression in dogs conference, a unique three day live stream event happening from October 22 to 24th 2021. With 12 amazing speakers. You can find out more about the conference by going to the loose leash academy.com Hey everyone, I'm Mike Shikashio. Welcome back to The bitey end of the dog, today I've got an amazing guest internationally respected, I might add very witty Suzanne cobia, who is the author of many publications including bones rain from the sky, deepening our relationships with dogs. It's a Wall Street Journal recognize top five dog books twice as she teaches seminars throughout the US and internationally around the world on a wide range of topics. Suzanne's approach to dog training, relationship centered training RCT blend science and heart and a satisfying blend that has helped countless people and dogs create healthy, happy relationships. And I'm really excited to be talking I'm sure are kind of focusing on that relationship aspect. And today's podcast. So welcome, Suzanne.

Suzanne Clothier:

Hi, Mike. Thanks for having me.

Michael Shikashio:

It's really great to have you here. So let's jump right into that I've had previous guests on we get into things like ecology and ABA and the medical model. But we haven't really had anybody on to talk about this this relationship aspect and what can happen, especially in aggression cases, and how that could be fractured, and how much how important that is in cases. So you've got this relation, relationship centered training approach. And you've got three C's in there, and you want to talk more about that.

Suzanne Clothier:

Sure. So RCT, I began to realize as a trainer, having done all the, you know, learned all the jargon and tried everything and learn from a huge variety of people. I kept thinking there was a piece missing, right? So operant conditioning is a powerful tool. But I thought this is not how I live with animals. This is not how I've always lived with animals and worked with animals, there was a relationship aspect that was missing. So I started to think like, what are the elements because other people, other trainers were assessing clients and dogs eventually ended up in my door. And I thought, well, how did you guys miss this part? And it wasn't that I was magical. It's just that I had a different framework for looking at what was happening. So they had a very, you know, strict dog did this, this happened, this is the stimulus. This was the trigger. This was blah, blah, blah. I'm like, but you did notice that, you know, she communicates in a way it makes no sense to that dog and the dog is communicating. And she's not listening or her feedback is inappropriate or choosing to have awareness of the dog or the dog has no awareness of them. So surges play with those concepts, because I've said this to somebody the other day, that I think at heart, I'm a distiller. So luckily for my liver, I don't distill spirits. But I'd like to distill ideas. So I just kept boiling it down to what is it that I'm actually seeing? And it came down to, for me the framework, first of all, is the we call it relationship centered training, because the relationship is always at the center of everything I do. So that's my primary source. If a human and a dog are involved, how will this affect the relationship? It's either going to be neutral, it's going to support the relationship or be detrimental. And then I have to decide whether or not that's that's something I want to pursue. But then we break relationship down further. It's like that's, that word is now bandied about so much that it amuses me when I wrote bones which was published in 2002. So I finished it in 2000. So it's 21 years old. I didn't know what to do with the book because it didn't fit in any category. And it became a bit of an orphan actually, for editors, you know, quit one after another not because of my book, but they kept passing it along like someone wanted child. It survived. But no one was talking about this. They are doing one on one Like how my dogs saved me, there was plenty of those. But the actual concept that there was a relationship to be had with an animal that was rich and nuanced. They just didn't know what to do with it. So that two big reactions, one was loved it. Thank you. This was the missing piece. And the other was, you're crazy. What a nutjob, throw it over the shoulder. It's like it's okay. It's fine. And then I have people that circle back to it. And they're like, I wasn't actually in a place where I could hear that I was still stuck in the technicalities of jargon and science. It's like, that's a good piece. But it's not all of it. It's almost like being a good cook. Technically, you know, technically, your cakes tastes delicious, but they look awful. Is the art. You know, like the Great British baking show, there should be like a great British document relationship show where, Yes, technically that was well performed. But there was no heart in it. There was no spark, there was no beautiful presentation, your icing was clumsy. So I started to boil it down, I started realize there's just three big aspects I look at. And as I assess a client and a dog, I'm looking to see what's in balance, what's strong, and what what needs work. And I don't really have a problem saying areas are weak, we would understand that if someone came in to look at our house and say, they wouldn't say well, your house has some challenges. It's like, no, this is structurally weak, this isn't going to hold strength, and we can dance around it with management. But in a in an animal human relationship. Sooner or later, under some pressure, we're going to step into the hole, if there's a weak spot, under pressure is going to pop up. So what I look at is connection, commitment, communication, the communication pieces is probably the one that people can latch on to easiest it's about timing. Right? It's about it's about the information we provide. It's about the feedback loop. How fast if you nod your head if you start going like this, and I just keep going like this, and I just sail right over you that feedback loop of what you respond to how I responded to you responding to me responding. When it's super tight, it starts to feel like you're almost on the same breath. Like you got it. And we've all had those experiences and we'd love them. It's what I find people want are like, How come? I can't stay in that moment, right? It's because we're dealing with another mind and another another set of perspectives on the world communication how, how does the animal communicate to the person and how do you communicate with them. And the classic example I always give is my friend Daniel and his old Siberian loci, my carrot my temperament assessment tool really looks at the what I call the ethology, the individual. So I want to know Are you a more visual dog? Are you an auditory dog or kinesthetic dog? You know what floats your boat? How do you process things? So Loki, very visual dog, Daniel being an antique bookseller, very verbal, a very verbal animal. He loves words he uses them a lot. So he's standing behind the side maybe up but you know the end of the lease six feet and using Loki Loki well, Loki his ear doesn't even twitch theres nothing wrong with the dog's hearing but he's busy watching something so his brains processing as he preferentially does visually and Loki Loki Loki, didn't register. So people said, Oh, you see how Siberians are unlike? No, I don't. I see that the communication style. Right. So they they would have chosen we're going to have to do this we have to deference put in work to do those. So stop. The simplest thing there is that the communication style is not. That's all. I said just step into his peripheral vision and say his name. Look, he said yes. And Daniel said, Can you then Loki, he said, Sure. I just didn't realize you were asking that piece of it. And that feedback loop if, if the human can't see what the dogs telling them, and an aggression cases, this gets very dangerous very fast. I remember working being brought into a training club where big debate should we kick this dog out a bit of training classes or not? How dangerous is his little Boston? He's standing between his honors ankles. And he's facing the opposite way. So I can see him I can see his face. And the owner says he likes to stand like this. And I thought, fair enough, he's in a defensible position. It's like an odd position for a dog to choose, right. So it's like he's a little anxious. He stands like that. And then when the owner wanted his attention, she would tap him on the butt. So she says watch so she taps him on the butt. And his breathing just stops and his eyes got still everything and I've got very still and then nothing else happened. See the dog relax again. So she taps him again harder. And now he stiffens a little more and I start to see his little whiskers on his muzzle up a little bit and his eyes flat and just air He's like, starting to get a little annoyed, right? And she still says nothing. So it's just this big tap on his Butt a third time, she taps him on his butt really hard, like, Hello. I mean, this is a Boston, right? And she goes, You see what I mean? Like? What I don't understand. What I don't understand is, you know, she didn't if I, if I did that again, he would bite me just like that, for no reason I'm like, but why why would you do it until he, he felt the need to growl at you like, but he really told you from the get go You were annoying him. They didn't see it at all. So this is I think one of the This, to me is one of the scariest parts of watching inexperienced trainers take on aggression. And it must just make you know, you sometimes feel like you're watching a horror movie reading some of the discussion forums like you did what? No, don't go in the basement. You see the dogs breathing change, don't go in there, that feedback loop is broken. And they don't actually understand either how they are accidentally threatening the dog or making the dog feel pressured. And they don't read the signs. So in my experience, when they say the dog bit out of nowhere, you can have dogs that truly are abnormal and will not have any warning signs. And you have dogs that no one's beaten the warning system out of him. But he's learned that it doesn't eat it's not worse the the warning preemptory don't escalate through just go right to the pearly whites because even stupid people get that part. I've got 42 What's your hand and unfortunately gets dogs killed, right? It gets them badly abused in the name. For me when I'm looking at an aggression case, particularly with RCT, then, well, I want to make very sure that that communication piece is clean. And that's the right information is provided to the dog. There's a question of the dog says you should back off, you're kind of upsetting me here. That's kind of threatening to me. I wish you wouldn't do that. And then they escalate. I don't know the choices the dog has. I'm actually astonished that dogs don't kill more people. I hats off to dogs and horses that they let most people live. I am just amazed by that. So that communication piece is big, especially in in an aggression case. But it's important in any relationship. No one likes to feel unheard. I had an interesting chat, my friend Joe Steinfeld, interesting guys, a psychiatric social worker who worked at a maximum security prison. And I asked him once I said, I really believe unless an animal is truly you know, has something really terribly wrong with them, that even drange beings have a sense of when you're really listening to them when you hear them. There's an acknowledgement I get sometimes when I'm brought in and the dog looks at me and he says something and I'm like got it. You know that feeling? Because you look at them, right? And the dog says, You're like sorry. And all you do is you just pull your center back slightly you just you just sink back in yourself. It's not a you know, you don't look like you're on Thorazine you're not looking your lips and curling up in a fetal position. It's just that that subtle. Hey, man, I'm not here to threaten you. I heard you. And the look in those dog's eyes. Like You heard me. nobody's been listening to me, you heard that. And this is how we try to avoid getting bit, in a big way. But what Joe said was, with the exception of some truly deranged individuals, and he said, you know, some of the folks he was working with were, were deeply sociopathic and psychopathic. And they said, they always knew whether you were not listening to them. If you were authentically listening to them. They know it didn't mean they're gonna listen to you. That was part of the problem. But yeah, they knew they knew when they were not being shined on that there's someone was really attending. So that communication piece matters a lot. commitment is about Are you aware of the dog? Are you responsive to the dog and sometimes with you know, aggression, as you know, is such a ginormous label. That's an understatement. And it's used for everything from the scared dog saying, Please go away to the dog who's not joking and says, I will actually do you great bodily harm. And I find that end of the spectrum quite rare, actually. Mostly, they just would like you to go away. The lack of awareness when we have a reactive dog is that the handler is in some other bubble. They're not actually aware of the animal. And I always think it's like it's like when you were a teenager and you had a crush on somebody in class in high school and they were in your math class your like. oh no there they are! So even though you weren't like staring at them like a complete wacko if you were, that's why you ended up in counseling, but you were hyper aware of them to like If they moved, or they dropped their pencil or something, you're just like, it sounds a little creepy. But it's like, I want people to have like this crush on their dog so that they're still doing their thing. But there's an awareness that that animal is with them. And any shift in the animal gets my attention immediately. That one is hard to teach. That is very, very hard to teach. But it comes to be quite necessary. Because if you have a reactive dog, if you've got a dog is going to respond in ways that are not good for him. And they're certainly not good for the people around him, then we have to be proactive. And the pro activity comes from awareness. So when you watch a really skillful trainer, what you see is they might be talking to you, but they're listening, and their eyes that they're always aware of where that animal is.

Michael Shikashio:

Do you sometimes see the opposite where the client has become hyper aware? Doing things that might be detrimental? Or sometimes it's helpful, but sometimes it's detrimental for role programs.

Suzanne Clothier:

So we have this, you know, in all of this cuts both ways, too, I want to know if the, if the dogs aware of the hammer at all. So I want to know, in terms of the commitment, who takes the greatest responsibility, and sometimes the dogs are the ones who are paying the most attention in the relationship. And the handler is just out to lunch, they're just, they're just held to the dog by a bit of leather or cloth. But conversely, I will often turn dogs loose in the in the training field, we've got to see if the dog and bother slipped back through the person is. And some of them are like, whatever. They are very sure their owner will be following them buster, Buster, Buster, Buster. So this is a one way street. And there's not a two way street. And it's a bit of information because I know I've got to balance it, I've got to put some responsibility on the dog. Hey, so social animal part of this is natural for dogs to keep track of their social group. So let's put some more responsibility on you. And say, Well, I think you didn't hear me. Let's give him some responsibility here. So then we go back to the communication piece where there has to be consequences. If I asked you to down and you don't want that I'm not gonna put your football down. So simple as that. It's like work with me or dont, its your choice fog. But there are consequences for working with me. And my goal is always to provide great consequences. Like, oh, that was awesome, wasn't it? But also, in the real world to rebalance a relationship that's gone wonky? It's like, well, I'm really sorry. You know, it's like my mom used to say, he wanted to ride to the barn. So now that I see the vacuum hasn't been used this morning. I'm like, No, no, I can do it. I can back you know, she usually let me off the hook because she wanted me out of her hair, I think but looking back, occasionally It was like, Yeah, you're not going to the barn today. And boy that that's sharpened me up fast, big time.

Michael Shikashio:

You have strategies for winning have that sounds like you're talking a lot about when it's fractured these relationships, the commitment part, the communication part. Do you have strategies, sometimes because of aggression cases, a lot of times that bond is fractured because of what their dog might have just maybe you've been they got bitten themselves by their own dog that can have real significant impacts on that relationship, too. What are your strategies there? We need to repair that Do you have any thing in particular that comes to mind?

Suzanne Clothier:

It's interesting, you use the word fracture, because I think there there's an emotional component to aggression cases that I don't see talked about a lot. There is a really strong sense of betrayal. And I think it's on both ends of the leash. I think the dog feels betrayed. I feel like the dog has been trying to communicate in whatever way and no one's listening. And that's, that's a terrible position to be and whoever you are, it's very much like little kids where they're acting out and no one's no one's recognizing that this is not just a brat or a spoiled kid this this is a kid really in trouble. But there's also a sense people are shocked that this unspoken covenant between dog and handler like my dog loves me my dog would never hurt me. It's like well, he just did. He just sent you to the hospital. And that one, that one takes some some careful work. So how do we work around it one is getting them aware of this is how you're communicates. So we're back to this piece of garden which is that whole connection piece has now been really fractured. So we start with a connection piece is heartfelt. Do you have this emotional attachment and does it go both ways? And the answer is sometimes it does not. And sometimes there's there's weird expectations on the humans part they want to Huggy kissy, lovey dog and the dog thinks I don't know why you chose me cuz I'm a I can see you from here kind of dog. I'm over here. You're over there. It's all good. And they're like, No, I want you to hug and cuddle, the woman who said To me, you know, she called and said that her Welsh terrier had bitter in the face and she needed 21 sutures, said oh, Welshie? A Welsh terrier hit you in the face on the lips. What were your lips doing? You're the Welsh terrier is really hard press how the Welsh terrier got to the lips is extremely athletic dog. And she said, Well, I just she was sleeping and I just went over and I just took her little muzzle and and wanted to kiss her goodnight. I was like, yeah, I'm not impressed. I would have taken more of your face. But I'm 21 cosmetic sutures. I get it painful. But no, that's your fault completely. And to my, to my great delight, that dog just died not too long ago, I think she was almost 17. And they went on a good road. But that dog had learned. So first I had to teach a woman. She is telling you what's okay. And when she walks away from you, you can't go after her and try to make it happen. But she was very hurt. That's a stock she had rescued would bite her in the face. And scared too. If you've not taken a dog bite. It can be scary. And I don't know. Have you ever taken a dog bite to the face? I have.

Michael Shikashio:

I haven't had the pleasure of it.

Suzanne Clothier:

Yeah, don't go there. And the dog actually just meant a big open mouth roar. But he didn't know he was targeting somebody. And I was one of two people on the planet that the dog liked. And I saw him targeting the guy and I thought the owners not paying attention. We have a problem here. It's a big German Shepherd. And I thought oh, and so I just lean forward and like Hey, buddy, and just lightly tapped him on the face, which just annoyed him. So it was just gonna he intended a big leave me the hell alone. You've crazy woman. I'm busy. But what he got was me. And so it was a full open mouth roar. And just canine it happened so fast. The owner. When she looked back, I was like this and she's like, are you okay? I'm like, No, he just bit me in the face. She's like, Don't be silly. I took my head way. This is blood pouring everywhere. She's like, Oh, my God. Like, what? Like the dog. He's realized as soon as he hit me he saw I'm like, No, what is yours? You know, but 80 pound Shepherd comes out. He was forced, he can only reverse engine so fast. He was so apologetic. I was like, I know, buddy, you didn't mean to hit me. But after that I could be near him. But I couldn't handle him safely. Again, it was so visceral looking at his tonsils. I'm very big teeth. So in our and I've been bitten badly by a dog that was in pain. It was there's nothing aggressive. He just had really bad hip dysplasia, right to the bone on my forum. So I know that feeling of Oh my God. And when I was 14, our rescue Afghan tour my sister's ear half off. And one bite half her ear was off, sliced almost completely through her whole cheek. So I was like, I don't want to hold her face together for an hour plus till the adults got home. And yeah. So I have great visceral feeling for how people are when that belief we have he would never hurt me has been violated. So I have to work through that. And I have to help them understand. I can show you how he communicates. And I can show you how to use your own communication, so that you both arrive at the place you want. And I have to show you both how to feel safe. Because if you don't feel safe, this is when everything starts to tip out of balance. I don't know why it's not talked about more in dog training, this this concept that everybody involved in the equation needs to feel safe. If you're not safe, you're unsafe. And if you're unsafe, you're protective, and defensive. And you're certainly not thinking Well, let's see what I can learn with you today. It's not how you go.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, it and you mentioned that kind of that word balanced there and it applies to so many different things we're talking about. And a lot of my clients often are upset because they think about all the things they've done for their dog. I took you to the dog park. I've got some special treats. You know, I took you for that walk. How dare you bite me but we don't think about how much the dog does for us. Right? Yeah. All the patients they have with us as humans sometimes Yeah.

Suzanne Clothier:

In any relationship whenever that card comes out of the pocket after all I've done for you. All right, now we're gonna have to dive a little deeper into expectations and a sense of obligation that of course, that's just not how animals roll. Animals don't say well, you know, she was pretty good about that day that I wanted her to throw the ball 42 more times and she did throw it three more times. It's never enough. Now. This is how dogs work. They work in the immediate moment of I feel safe with you. I don't feel safe with you. I'm annoyed. I have a goal and it's we're not sharing the goal. You need to start doing that, to me, it just is just not banked on history, that can be difficult, I think there is more forbearance animals than we give them credit for. Because they don't find animals as a rule, actually, as a, most of the animals that were, they don't like conflict, they don't get off on it, they would really rather not have that as part of their day. Thank you. We're some humans, for whatever reasons we can't climb into human psychology. It feels familiar to them at the at the very least, if they came from an abusive background, they came out of not feeling safe or not dealing with their own emotions, then this churned up, you know, fighting antagonistic type relationship does feel comfortable to them, because it is familiar, but not a human psychologist, I don't even play one on a podcast.

Michael Shikashio:

So we're talking about safety as well. And that can also kind of shift into the client feeling safe about just the dog's behavior and not having to deal with it in some aspects. And one of your articles that I was looking at on your website is you had mentioned the Stockholm Syndrome and how that can really happen with our cases of aggression, because we're, we're often managing and micromanaging every little detail, because it's reinforcing let's face it to the to the owner, not half not having to deal with those or, you know, having that embarrassment sometimes that come with seeing their dog snarling and lunging at somebody out on the leash. So can you talk a bit further about that with the Stockholm Syndrome is and how that applies to cases, not just aggression cases, but to our, to our relationship with dogs in general sometime,

Suzanne Clothier:

I think. I mean, I got some heat when I first published that article, which was a long time ago, and it came from a workshop I attended, and I use the word he and in the article, but let's just say it could be any number of trainers, just recommending that all the things come from them. All play comes from them, their dog doesn't get to work with anyone else doesn't get to place other dogs. This is not an unfamiliar thing. It's not like I'm singling out one trainer on the planet. It's not this is not uncommon. And it's all purported in the name of you know, the best possible connection or relationship and working performance. And, and I said, doesn't feel right to me. It feels familiar, actually. And I couldn't figure out for a while was like, Oh, that's, that's true. It's called the Stockholm Syndrome. If you take someone hostage, and you are the source of all in their world, oh, yeah, you'll get some pretty interesting reactions from them, including pretty much, much more agreeable to what you have in mind. Because you're the only option they have pure and simple. And I mean, all due respect to the marine mammal trainers, when they say we don't need shock collars. We don't need choke collars, we just walk away. Like you just also walked away from a extraordinarily intelligent being with his food, his water, and his only real source of entertainment for the day. So yeah, it's pretty punishing, actually, when you walk away. So I think we can get into a point where we are micromanaging an animal to such a degree that we've lost sight of the fact that there's no freedom for this animal. You know, he's got his head alternance got his muslin, he's got this, he's in his crate, he's got this is, this is good, this is good. This is this, you micromanage them within an inch of his life. He's created a lot of see lots and lots of confinement, or kennelling. And I think, but that's not actually a healthy relationship. So that's not to say that your goal is to take dogs in aggression or reactivity cases. And your goal is to let them run wild and free with with no muzzle no head halter and go off Lassie, the children are coming to visit the sacrament, we have to be realistic, but they've got a webinar coming up this week, what's you know, what size world what size world is right for this dog. And in some cases, we have to be protective about it. But I think we always have to be very careful wherever there's deprivation involved, as soon as we begin to deprive an animal of some freedom, for choice, why, if we are doing that, in the name of training him, I have to think very long and hard about that, it says the imbalance is set up very wrong. It's all about you know, it's like I'm not a big fan of nothing in life is free. Before I pet you or, you know, speak nicely to you have to do something to me, it's like I don't know that that even makes sense to dogs, frankly. That's not how they interact with each other. But I think why, why are we micromanaging at this level? What why this degree of deprivation. So with aggression cases, I go the other way. I was like, tell you what dog, what you're struggling with is when you're really revved up, you've got something on your mind, your arousal comes up. Whatever I have to say it's just, it's just floating right off your back, like water off the duck. So let's change that dynamic. I mean, I'm going to make sure you understand there's a reason to work with me cooperatively. So be Very clearly, do you want to go out this door? This door does like, do I, oh my god, he's bouncing off the walls and I'm like, great. I asked him for something he knows. He's like, whatever. Like, oh man, my hand comes off the door and like, Oh, I'm so sorry, I misunderstood. The only place I use sarcasm in training and never used this with cats, cats apparently understand sarcasm, and will pay you back. Dogs are missing the sarcasm gene. Some like Oh, Oh, I thought you wanted to go out and the dogs like how? Open the door and they're bouncing and bark. And I'm like this story, you want to go out this door and I touch it again, big production number of this thing that I can do with my thumbs. Which by the way, you don't have the guys like Yes, I'm like, Great sit. That's it. I'm just gonna ask you in a minute. He does. Boom, cheers, though. I was like, Wait, what? I'm not gonna wait for him to calm down. I'm just gonna tell him. This is what you know the answer when I'm going to give you the right answer to the test. You win the magic prize. So dogs catch on to this pretty quick like, Oh, so they dial their own arousal down like, Oh, you mean listen to you? Yeah, there's a reason. So I don't do things like, deprive him of toys and like, I don't care. I don't care. If you have a toy, that if you want me to throw it for you, then we're gonna have to have some cooperative interaction. So there's ways to rebalance without using deprivation. It's just saying, hey, look, do this for me, I'll do this for you. This is a cooperative species. After all, you know, dogs are pretty low conflict among themselves as rule, especially compared to humans. So I want to rebalance it in that way. But as soon as I say, I'm going to withhold food, I'm going to withhold the 10, I'm going to withhold something, so that I can get something out of this animal. And you see it even with performance people, it's like just, you know, put them away, you know, don't let them come out, leave them in their crate. So when they come out, they're all revved up, I'm thinking. If I said, you know, well, if I want to really have a nice dinner with my husband, I lock him in the, you know, in a closet for, you know, a couple hours where we go. So when I do let him out, he's really eager for some conversation. Soon, as you say the way people are like, Wait, what? sound right, that's like, yeah, so you know, this, this airplane pilot, we put him in a little sensory deprivation cell. So when he comes out, he's really ready to do his best flying. It's like, wait, that's not right. It's like, and it's not right for animals either. And yet, we do it to horses and dogs all the time. We're like, let's try to stop this and deprive them. So then we'll get what we want. So like, how about we have a healthier relationship? I don't ever doubt that my dogs will give me their best. You know, other than it's a physical exertion, and I've taken them for a 10 mile hike. And then I think why are you not ready to their Shepherd? So they would actually but you know what I mean, unless it's a physical exhaustion. Why? If they feel safe, why would they not give me their best? And so that's when I say let's step back and look at this relationship. Why is the provision necessary? Do we have to use quite so much management? What skills can we put in place with the animal actually has some freedom and some choice and some agency while keeping everyone safe, because safety still has to be part and parcel of ownership of an animal.

Michael Shikashio:

You put it in such a really, I actually loved the analogy used, you know, putting somebody in the closet and saying that this is a great way of frame that and make it understandable from the human perspective. So I wanted to shift gears here and talk about treat and retreat. And, you know, because it's something that many of us working with aggression cases, again, I'm putting out that broad label of dogs barking, lunging or biting things in the world. We use it often. And we see it sometimes applied in different ways, depending on who you talk to and who's using it. Okay, I wanted to since I have you here, why not go right to the source and dispel some of the myths and kind of clear up some of the misconceptions. So we start with explaining what treating retreat is, first of all, to anybody who might not know that.

Suzanne Clothier:

So treat retreat, I have several things that I've done as a trainer that have somehow become like Kleenex and jello, they've become part of a lexicon where they actually start product. I just totally lost control of it like relationship based training. You'll see that everywhere, and I want to start using that and then I just finally surrendered. I'm like I give up. There's there's other things treat retreat is that same thing. I had heard Ian talking about how he avoided having his butt bitten off by every stop Akita because he said, I threw the treats behind him so that he could do an honorable retreat retreat with honor was what he actually called it so he could save face and the dog could say face because they both got themselves in a in a stupid situation. And I said, Oh, well, that makes sense. Yeah, tree retreat is That's what I just started calling it and develop it to a very high degree it's like so this is actually about social interactions, this is about safety. This is about helping this dog, create his own way to discover how to how to feel safe and interactions with people. When I say it, I'm not using it as a temporary, I went too far, and I have now blown it with the stock, right? It's not rescue technique, although it's a good one to have in your pocket. So that it starts with number one, the dog is going to comes closest he feels safe. If if he's not over threshold, if he actually has enough space, he is not going to come in and closer to us, and he feels safe doing unless he's also in the habit of rushing up to you defensively aggressively saying get the hell out of my space and then retreating all by himself. All of that fear based response says he's over threshold. And I don't want to ever figure trigger fear, right? apprehension, we all go into situations where it's like, I don't, I'm not so sure about this, like, Okay. And I tell people if this was a snake, how close would you get? Some people are like, Ah, you don't have enough space. Like, I'll be across the football field. And I say, well, there's just really giant snakes in South America. And they're like, like, Okay, so that's under your special South America. And then I start saying, Florida, and they're now under your chair, we can move it closer. But what I find people do is, is they're like, Oh, I know, treat retreat. So I'll just throw the food to the dog and then behind the dog, and that'll make it okay, so it doesn't because you're not doing it correctly. First, the dog has to be set up. So he feels safe. And I asked him, How close do you want to come and I meet him where he's at. And then I move him back into a safer zone. This is like so wildly effective. But I wasn't quite sure why it was actually Temple Grandin, who I didn't realize it. I presented this at apdt one year and she was in the audience. And I'm glad I didn't know that because I probably would have wet my pants and, you know, suck my thumb and been like, oh man, grand a new thought. I didn't know she was there. So I didn't have to have the whole hero worship thing. But in her closing lecture that year, she's like, Oh, yes, that young lady this morning. And I think really, she's talking about me. It's like, no one's referred to me as a young lady in a long time. But, okay. And she said, Oh, yes. You know, when the dog is, is after the food that sent back into the safe zone, we're activating the seeking system. I was like, duh. Like, I knew it was powerful. I knew. I knew that it worked. Like beyond most people's beliefs, it works so great. But it's because we don't activate fear. The dog comes to the point where he says, This is as close as I care to get. It's like, nice to meet you. And now go back into your safer zone. So instead of running away, with the fear activated and the tail net scooting, Oh, God, is it following me? No, the dogs move away, their tails come up, they relax, like so that's why it works. And then thanks to her, I dove into all of Ken beverages work on the nucleus accumbens, and then that interview, started to really inform my puppy program and all that stuff. But treat retreat them properly, systematically moves the dog through skill. So it's not just approach. The dog also has to know how to walk away from, right and that's the part we forget. So when we like and I've watched people do this on YouTube makes my skin crawl. They'll use treats like to get the dog closer, or they'll use a gradient of treats. Like that's only worth a kibble. But if you come all the way to me, that's where it's chickens like, this is what I call the indecent proposal of dog training. Will you sleep with me now, will you sleep with me for a million bucks? Never, ever should be used in that way. Should any reinforcer be used in the I know you don't really want to do this. But how about if this is this is the game plan. And so people do this with fearful dogs and they try to lure them or they think they're shaping it. It's like, stop. If the dog is not standing calmly and balance of his own accord. He's not freely moving about, you've done something wrong. So really fine little thin slices. So he has to be willing to approach he has to build up duration in proximity to the person. We have to have the people in various formats, you know, sitting standing leaning, I mean, there's, I don't know, I think I have six different ways in my treat retreat course to even sit on a chair. That can be that shift the intensity for the dog of what's happening. people standing groups of people, we swap stuff out. And the coolest part is dogs generalize this like crazy. People like well, dogs don't generalize. I think of course they do. any animal versus salt generalizes he only generalize is about the things that matter to him, though. So that annoys us because we would like him to generalize stupid stuff like sits dead. But the sound of plastic? Oh, yes, that's easily generalized. I always think you think about the wolf who comes across a bunny in a strange new places. But I don't know, just generalization has a really powerful ecological, ecological advantage. So then we also have to teach the dog how to feel safe around people, moving people approaching people, groups of people moving through, and we actually got to the point where we use people as equipment, the dog can use people's legs as cavaletti, we form human tunnels, the dogs, like, please, I got all this eating off of people's bodies, little dogs, there's footage of me with a Chihuahua. And I was just using my own body is like his little jungle gym, which he thought was quite entertaining. So when people say treat retreat, what they usually mean is they're just going to throw food at a scared dog, and then try to hopefully, if they've got a good sense of the basics, they throw the food away into a safer area. But it's actually very complex. I've got an online course right now that's in progress. And the students entered are like, Oh my god, like, yes, there. There is tons of layers to this. So it's my own damn fault, since it was the early 90s when I worked on this and that I haven't published it and done it, then I deserve what I got, which is a hot mess out here with my list my label on it.

Michael Shikashio:

Training protocols can take on a life of their own, especially if left Left untreated for a while. I wanted to back up to you were talking about Temple Grandin. I also had the same experience. I spoke at ABT a few years back and she knew she was there. Cuz she was sitting almost front center, staring at me, and I don't remember. I don't remember what I talked about during that talk. I just remember her sitting there staring at me. And then stammering over my words.

Suzanne Clothier:

Oh, my nerving isn't listening to me as like, I was running my mouth. I hope I was. Did I say it? Right? Did I sound intelligent? I hope so. Yeah. It's, it's, it's just humbling to have someone that brilliant. She's actually quite, quite kind. She's a good teacher.

Michael Shikashio:

She's wonderful. And you had mentioned also this gradient treat which also made me cringe, you know, thinking about just how many problems I see can happen with that with you know, luring in a sense also also can have so many problems because it poisons the situation, you know, dogs being kind of tricked in the sense, closer, closer, and I got you and then document as well. Okay, when I had that, that hot dog one, that's why they got really close to me and I had to react. And it just it really turns things sideways. So I'm glad you mentioned that.

Suzanne Clothier:

Well, there's the the building, right and you see the dog, cuz I teach people like if you want to see tree retreat, I want to see that dog standing in balance, all for not even leaning. If he does so much as leaned backwards. He's telling you, I feel the pressure. If he's feeling the need to lean forward, he's telling you, I'm not sure about this. So it is driven totally by the dog and his reaction and I teach people to be extremely skilled observers. Because anything else and of course, you know, with aggression, we all see the dog is lad. I mean, nobody misses 42 teeth being you know, clunk, clunk that them and charging them. What we miss is that building of arousal, we assume that there's no big overt signs like growls or, you know, snarls are snapped. He's fun. It's like, No, he's not. No, he's not. And I always say, think about an argument you had with people where you're just they just keep going. You're getting madder and madder. You know, most people have had that in at least in their business careers. And if they remember being a teenager, they remember in their human relationships as well, where you're not screaming or throwing things. But boy, the arousal is building and anyone knows you well would be uh, oh. He shouldn't get no he shouldn't have said that to him. And so you can get dogs who are so torn because they're so driven by the food that they will go further than they would it's like fear factor. You know? What, you know, will you eat pig testicles? I don't know, for $50,000 I'll give it a try. It's like, okay, would you do that for free? No, of course you would not. And so, yes, dog training should never be a version of fear factor.

Michael Shikashio:

What modifications do you make if, let's say you've got a dog that we accept the environment as best we can. But regardless of where we are or how much distance we get, we're not going to be able to talk streets far enough or we're not going to be able to the dogs basically even come out charging, barking snarling at you, regardless of how you set the stage for, do you have you typically have the owner work at a distance? reinforcing behaviors at a distance? And then the dog gets close?

Suzanne Clothier:

It's a bit of a loaded question. So I'm gonna say I'm not gonna accept your premise. First of all, that we have the situation set up, I've worked with way too many trainers are like, well, that's as far away as I could get in that room, like, slip and go outside. You know, I don't have more rooms, like it's a big world, you know, move to Kansas, there's lots of flat fields. So number one, yeah, I actually, you may have to go out of your way to give more room than you think you've got and why people don't just step outside is a mystery to me, but they don't. So number one, yes, that number two. If that's true, let's say even at a great day, I'm trying to think of the longest distance I've worked longest distance I've ever worked treat retreat as far as I could throw half a hot dog, which is a long way actually. And that dog just had so many bad experiences that she came in loaded for bear. But within 15 minutes was off leash and following me around. So you'll figure I would actually probably not use, I wouldn't be using treat retreat, I probably would be using something else I would probably be teaching them the auto check in cause I want the dog to be able to voluntarily disengage his attention from what's worrisome. Check in with the handler. Once he does that, then we have options, there's four options you have one is Nice job, thanks, we're gonna stay here and keep watching that thing. Number two is do this instead, you know, lay down, come here, whatever three is, let's let's leave and four is, oh, I would like you to go by her go get her? No, it's usually a release to a positive reinforcement. I don't release him to go bite me. So you got those four options, if the dog has volunteered his attention to you, you have the dog, this is very different from I'm going to distract you and poke you and interfere with you and try to in some way, get your attention. So it's just like I say, if you're reading a book, or you're watching TV, and someone who you care about comes in the room, you can wait till they're like, hey, im like what? I'm reading like, Hello, this is why I'm here. Or I can choose to stop reading and say, Hey, honey, how's it going? Do you need anything completely different response from I'm going to insist on your attention to versus you gave your attention. And in terms of we talk a lot about the dog needs to learn and waiting for this to catch on self regulation. self control has there's been out there now for a very long time. And I was one of the first ones to write about it. And everybody talks about it. I think all right. So cats just want self regulation where the animal can modulate his own arousal to be appropriate in that situation, without prompting, without cues. Because he monitors themselves, some dogs are better at it than others. But when, a dog can look at something that's extremely upsetting to him, or frightening or scary or threatening. But he can disengage from that shift his attention to the handler. Now I have something because I've already interrupted the arousal, he has to monitor his own arousal to even achieve that. So that one just requires I have to have, I have to have the stimulus gradient set up correctly. And that one in my head, the stimulus gradients, like to the mix report, dog training, you know, and this is just got three basic levers on it. And you should know at any given moment, which ones you playing with?

Michael Shikashio:

Let's dive a little deeper into that this self regulation. Tell me more about how you teach that.

Suzanne Clothier:

So self regulation there is there is an innate setting. I will tell you that as someone who's You know, one of my big specialties is early puppyhood development. So eight weeks and prior with i don't know i think that last count we were over like 15,000 puppies and guide schools and service schools are raised using my program as the basis for what they do. So there is an innate setting we all we do not arrive as diverse as as blank slates. I wanted to throttle him that day. I'm like Ian no, no, no, they are not blank slates are already scribbled on some are this big and some are built wonky and some have holes in them. And they're born that way. Ian actually emailed him before I wrote the article, because I said, You're not going to like what I have to say that to say, you know, no Ian, no. So they come with a template and how well we self regulate does have to do with both the genetic template that we're all born with, and then the actual early learning experiences, so that in a supportive environment, we grew up one way to some animals as their arousal comes up just like some people. It's just like they've got a gas pedal, but the brakes don't work that well. We've all known kids like that. You know, it's like oh, Here he goes, and his mother's like, all right, Tommy. And now the kids who say I'm tired, and they lay down and take a nap versus the kids who cannot self regulate and recognize that they're tired, and they're screaming over their mother's shoulder, I don't need a nap! You put them on the bed and their passed out. And there's dogs like that, if left to their own devices, they just keep escalating. They're not very good at self regulating, so we can help them and say, like, hey, when you're getting a little crazy there, dude, like back it down, now's a good time to get in your crate. Let's just chew on something. And see, it's hard to teach it. But I need to set it up where the dog can actually achieve some goals. And so one of the things I'm always working out with aggression is reactivity is people want to use the unpleasant stimulus, the one that gets the dog in the Ughh I wanted to go away. I don't want to do that. I want to find something that floats his boat, and say, Hey, we get all this pleasant arousal, arousal, still has a generalized response pleasant, or in response to something perceived as negative, it's still arousal, the feelings are still the same. If I say, Hey, Mike, the person you love most is coming and you're like, your heart rate goes up all the things happen. You're similar to what happens when I say oh, by the way, there's a giant snake coming through that door. Yeah, arousal has some generalized effects. So I will use something positive, like wow, you want the cat, you want the kidney, you want your kitty toy, you do I can throw it for you. So I can rev it up, and then teach the animal what to do when you feel this wrapped up. The best way to get this is to regulate yourself, and to down regulate yourself. So if you're just barking and screaming, you're gonna miss one, I'm telling you the magical information that will help you access this. So I let them practice that. And then it's very cool to watch because dogs seem to like that feeling cause they have better control, for lack of a better word, that they actually know how to make a choice. Because you and I can lay awake at night and think, Wow, if I have to deal with sallyann again, I'm gonna, ah, alright, there's got to be a different way for me to handle this. Let me let me try this and talk to a friend give us options. Dogs cannot do that. So our job as trainers is to orchestrate the situation where they get to experience that that choice, that agency, and it pays off for them. Because the brain pays great attention to what scares us. Right? That's how we stay alive. Fear has a really powerful role in our lives. So it's not one we want our dogs lives informed by. But secondly, the brain also pays very good attention to what's pleasant and says, Oh, that was good. How do I make that happened? Again, that's two basic drives in the mammal brain, probably in bird and reptile and bug brain soup, as far as I can tell,

Michael Shikashio:

Do you find that translates well, so you mentioned you were talking about, you know, getting the dog wrapped up last night, a stuffed cat or something like that. And we so we've got to kind of we can argue that there's different systems in play when when we then try to translate over to something the dog doesn't like. So something like that is evoked a fearful response in the past? How do you transition that you kind of just gradually bring in the same type of skills in that new context or the context that dog has issues in.

Suzanne Clothier:

So I want to just give the dog the skill. So when I teach like the auto Checkout, I mean, this is not something where I have to send them home for six weeks to work on. This is lightning fast, I set up a situation where the dog offers the eye contact. So instead of watching me, I don't know, like touching your cheek or your forehead with a hot dog slice equals eye contact through eye contact. dog knows where your eyes are. They're where he last saw them. And he knows what the real deal is. I once took a like a $5 Bill and I put it on my kneecap and I assigned it some weirdo thing and I put it just on my thigh but my kneecap and I gave the cue, you know so the whole audience. I'm like, Okay, you guys ready now? They're like, yeah, so I took the $5 bill away and I gave the cue. And they're like, like, what, what's wrong with y'all? Why are you not doing it? They're like, but the money's not there. I'm like, No, no, that was to look at my kneecaps are like Well, that doesn't make any sense. I'm like, I know. I know. It doesn't. You don't know what this means.

Michael Shikashio:

And I've laughed out loud because I'm so guilty of doing that in my early on my career, like just plopping the hot dog out to my forehead. Yeah, it's such an easy thing for dogs to figure out but yet, I had to lure it somehow.

Suzanne Clothier:

Yeah. So I guess if he has a hot dog on his head, I should look at his eyes. way to do it. Yeah, a friend of mine made me I had banner just had a little photograph of a hot dog slice. I could just wait And then I could just point to it and say, hold, as like, as you knew how much I hated that. I was like, No, let's go. Let's go for the real deal. So what I'm always after as a trainer is, I don't want the appearance of I don't want a dog who appears relaxed. I want to dogs actually relaxed. I don't want a dog who looks like he's sort of kind of maybe shaping towards eye contact like it exists in his repertoire. So if it fully exists in the in the animal's natural behavioral repertoire, why in god's green earth would I shape it? I'm not, good training to me is how do I set up the situation? So I can capture it? So I'm gonna wait till it happens like that right there does exactly what I was talking about. Guys like that. That's so easy. I look at your eyes. And then it's like, wow, just an amazing amount of food. And amazing amount of food, like 10, 15 seconds straight of little tiny reinforcements left to social engagement. Wow, what a genius. You're looking right in the eye. You didn't help Mike, I didn't want to say a word. You just chose that those home and the dogs like, Whoa, seriously. And then yeah, they'll try it again. And by the third or fourth time, they're like, that appears to be what just sets her off and makes her so happy. So then I will then add a mild positive stimulus off the site, it might just be having someone shift in their chair, it might just be you know, I just tap the floor on one little trickle of a bag was like what? The stimulus then stops. So very brief duration, very low intensity. And eventually looks back like, Oh my God, you are a genius. Then I can build it up to not only do I have now I'm using the cat because she's here to hand. But this could be a ball. Right? Right. So I show you the ball and then it's just quiet. Can you still do it even on that? Can you do it when it's out here? Can you so that I build that skill? And but we're talking that that happens? lightning fast. I mean, that's 15 minutes worth of work, then I can put it in play with something that's bad, a big enough distance. So with the stimulus gradient, it's like, what is the duration? What's the intensity? And what's the distance or proximity? Whichever one you prefer? How far away is it? How long is it going to stay there? When they say my dog will react them with all dogs? I'm like really? So if like partially blind, deaf obese, elderly Collie shuffled by that was set him off to like, No, probably not like Okay, so now I know it has to do with some of the intensity of the stimulus. It's not just dog. So if it was one of those, oh, yeah, he goes off on those all the time, like, Okay, so now I'm just gonna say so what if it's just a dog who's sitting with his back to him, and he's 100 feet away? What if he only appears as long as it takes him to appear between two parked cars? He loves using that one of the nicest sweetest setups is a very, very, very brief duration that a great distance in this move from behind one car straight to the other and the dog was. And that's what I want when I say that my next book is going to be what? Okay, approach to dog training, because if the dog can fill in the blank after what is too big a slice? Okay, perfect. Looks like toast turning brown is so boring to watch.

Michael Shikashio:

I'll buy that book. Yeah, sure. I just don't know how to type it so that people read it correctly. What? Okay. Maybe it has to be an audio book. So then I could talk to you all day. But in the interest of time, I'm going to wrap up the show here. But I want to know, where are people gonna want to know where they can find you. So what do you have going on? Where can people look you up?

Suzanne Clothier:

Oh, let's see we've got a Facebook page so you can find me there. And that always has our events and whatever drippings are falling out of my head. We are in the middle of redoing our website. So you will find the website Suzanne clothier calm, but just be patient with it because it's an elderly dying website. And the newborn one will be terribly exciting. But there's I think there's 70 something free articles over there. There's some videos, all of the books and DVDs we have, and then a link to all of our on demand webinars. So we have done a lot of webinars. I think we have 25 that are already available on demand. And then we have a bunch coming we have like this Thursday, we have the what size world is right for this dog? How do we know because we get a dog when we want them to have the best possible life. Well, how do we know what that looks like? And a lot of us take on rescue dogs or project dogs and we think can I, Will he be able to, it's like you have to ask the dog. So that one really looks at that. And then we have a bunch of online courses coming so we have treat retreat. The next one starts in I think April and that really is meant for professionals. It's a very intensive course, carrot, which is my temperament assessment tool, that one starts quite soon. I think that starts in early March. That's a really cool, we say carrot changes everything. Because it is such a different approach to temperament, and dog behavior that pretty much once you go carry it and never go back, like it just changes, how you see does, it'll make you a far more effective trainer. And that's what people say, they just see dogs differently because they see them, what we call the end of ethology of the individual. You just you make different choices, you make better choices, and then rat, which is a relationship assessment tool. So how do you do a rapid assessment on a handler, dog team and see where or what I call the fireflies, there's a great quote from Buddha. Enlightenment is not a sunrise, it's fireflies. So this is, as trainers, I'm always looking to see we're the we're the fireflies, that I can start to collect for people and help rebuild that. But it looks at the dog and the handler as a as a dynamic relationship. And says, Okay, this is on the dogs under the leash, we need to work on this. And this is where the handlers got her stuff, and how do we balance it? And then how do we triage it? How do we know what I'm going to prioritize? It's one of the hallmarks to me the novice trainers, they go in and they're going to teach the following list of things to a handler and the dog. There are people that I don't ever teach him this, this or this, because it's not actually where the that's not where the conflict was. The glitch was like you got the you got that well enough. You guys are fine. But here, right here in this piece, and it all circles back to the RCT of connection, commitment, and communication.

Michael Shikashio:

And I will put a link to all those wonderful resources in the show notes. So, Suzanne, thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on and I hope to see you soon in the future.

Suzanne Clothier:

Well, you know where to find me. Enjoy your snowy day.