Doing Things in Stages

August 30, 2023

As we near the end of August, I hope you’ve been enjoying the remaining days of summer, making the most of the beautiful warm weather.

Speaking personally, I wish I could say I’ve had more downtime. Those close to me know the tremendous amount of time and effort I’ve dedicated since the inception of Way of Life™ Dog Training and especially with the additional commitment of writing and publishing my book.

A few days ago, I sent out an email sharing the book’s publication date. In case you missed it, the book’s pub date is: 

 *** October 19, 2023!!! ***

In my message, I also invited you to join my Book Pack and become part of a revolutionary movement aimed at a deeper understanding of dogs and more fulfilling and meaningful relationships with them. If you are one of the many who signed up to join me, know that I am deeply grateful!

If you haven’t signed up yet, here’s a reminder that as a member of the Book Pack, you will…

    Enjoy free and immediate access to a chapter from the book (the one where I talk about why we’re having such a hard time with behaviour issues…).

    Be able to read the book before anyone else.

    Participate in a live Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) on Launch Day: Thursday October 19 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST on Zoom.

In turn, I’ll be counting on you to read my book during the presale period and to prepare an honest review for when the book launches!

I also have events coming up – two seminars (one in August and one in September), a half-day webinar end of October and two virtual launch day events, an Ask-Me-Anything for Book Pack members only followed by a Facebook Live celebration. I hope you’ll join me at one or more of these upcoming events!

And about the idea of doing things in stages which I mentioned briefly in the last issue, you’ll find more on this central aspect of the Way of Life method here: 

– In Reflecting on Our Bond, I invite my readers to think about their ways of life with their dogs in stages. 

– In Pro Tip, I share another critical and yet under-acknowledged reason dogs become reactive.

– In Ask Way of Life, I apply the idea of working in stages to a client concerned about integrating his new puppy. 

Enjoy this last month of summer and again, don’t forget to join the Book Pack if you haven’t already!

Please hit reply with any thoughts or questions! I sure hope to see you at one or more of the events coming up.

~ Souha & Dogs

PS: Forwarding this newsletter to people in your social networks who might benefit helps spread the word about this empowering perspective and return hope to those who need it! TIA

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In this month’s reflection, I want to invite you to think about your relationship with your dog and your way of life with them as mirroring the three stages of any living being’s development: Juvenile, Adolescent, and Adult.
Thinking in stages is a cornerstone of the Way of Life method, a unique approach to raising dogs and helping them recover from behavioural issues. In my upcoming book, The Way of Life Method: How to Heal Your Relationship with Your Dog and Raise a Sound, Strong, and Spirited Companion (At Any Age), I detail our way of life as it changes across these stages.
Every mammalian specie in the animal kingdom raises their young across these three developmental stages. Wolves, whom I have studied closely and whose approach to rearing their young has inspired my three-stage methodology, do things differently when they are raising newborn cubs versus when these cubs become adolescents who are ready to leave their dens, and when these adolescents become young adults.
As humans, we do the same with our kids, relating to them and dealing with them differently as they grow from childhood to their teen years until becoming what is called in research “emerging adults.” As a university professor of more than two decades, I work with my students depending on their level, relating to my undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students differently.

For some reason, we don’t apply this logic with our dogs and have stages all mixed up. When we bring a new puppy home, we give that young dog the choices and liberties of an adult. Similarly, we treat our adult dogs like babies because we’re constantly telling them what to do, always cuing, asking, and commandeering.
In contrast, the Way of Life method asks that each stage be given its due. When I am first getting started with a dog, I ask my clients to see that dog as a child or juvenile, regardless of that dog’s age. When a dog is new to us, they are like a “child” in a foreign environment, vulnerable and unsure what to do. When we have a dog with behaviour issues, that dog too is to be considered a juvenile because behavioural issues stunt development and keep dogs immature.
Seeing our dogs as juveniles when we are first getting started with the Way of Life method has implications for how we relate to and handle our dogs. Would we expect a child to know what to do? Would we expect a child to have manners and exercise self-control? Would we discipline a child? Reflecting on these questions prepares us to handle our dogs as if they are new, as if they are pups, as if we’re starting all over again. This reset in our perception of our dogs and in our relationship is fundamental to the healing power of the Way of Life method.

Q: We have just recently added an English springer spaniel puppy to our family consisting of my wife, myself, and an existing adult springer. Overall the puppy is pretty good at getting trained and we have been able to potty train him. He has also learned sit, up, down. We are still working on stay and leave but seems to be coming along well. However, he demand barks with our other dog to play and seems to play aggressively with her, biting her ears and tugging. She doesn’t really correct him; she seems to want to play at times and others just doesn’t want anything to do with him. We realize that he is a puppy and will grow out of most of this behavior, however, we would like to be sure we’re on the right track..

A: Congratulations to you and your family on the addition of your new springer spaniel puppy. We certainly appreciate your concern with getting started early training your pup and wanting to find out more about whether his behavior toward the adult dog will eventually change..

The reason I decided to answer your question for this issue is because your concerns are in line with this newsletter’s focus on doing things in stages. Let’s talk about the stages involved in training, socializing, and integrating a new puppy.
Beginning with training, while you are right to want to get started early, I encourage you to read this issue’s Pro Tip where I argue that the premature and early training and behavioural conditioning of our dogs is one of the reasons they develop reactivity down the road. Instead of training early, we need to focus instead on managing early – creating an environment, a way of life, where the pup can grow into a sound, strong, and spirited dog. This means managing and playing with your pup as opposed to training it.
A pup who just left his mother and littermates could not care less about sit, up, or down. All they need at this stage is to sense that you are running things in a way that makes the pup feel safe and see you as a credible authority figure. Once you have trust and a growing teenager on your hands, that is a good time to start formalizing your training using commands and asking the maturing dog for greater discipline.
Regarding the socialization and integration of your two dogs, your adult dog is showing
YOU respect by not wanting to correct the pup. She is right to see that it is our job, and
not hers, to be managing and regulating the new puppy instead of giving him free reign.
She also knows that a pup this young should not be disciplined. By ignoring him, she is
asking that you integrate the puppy more gradually. When you do, not only will the pup be
less aggressive but your older female will also be more willing to take him on.
Create a relationship foundation between you and your puppy first. Let him bond with the humans before you bring other dogs into the picture. Work in stages and you will be rewarded with dogs who respect you and live well together.
For more tips like these for raising a sound, strong, and spirited pup, please consult our free Puppy Primer.

Interested in more answers to client questions?
Follow our 
Facebook pagefor the Weekly Q&A. 

Here are a few highlights from last month. Click for the full article on Facebook:

Sometimes She Bites Dogs

Mystified by Dog’s Behaviour

Giant Breed with Big Issues

Thank you for your excellent questions – please keep them coming!

Paws For The Camera


Australian Shepherds, standard and mini, are one of the breeds I am most frequently contacted about with concerns about behaviour. Complaints I’ve heard about these dogs have included reactivity to people, dogs, sounds, and moving objects, herding people inside and outside, possessiveness and resource-guarding, nipping, grabbing, and biting incidents, and general hyperactivity and restlessness.
The extreme desire to work and perform that is a hallmark of the breed sure can go awry sometimes. Add to that the corrosive effect of being rehomed multiple times and we now have a more difficult situation to navigate. Such is the situation of Skylar, a beautiful senior mini-Aussie we began working with a few months ago.

Despite a serious pedigree, Skylar did not live a pampered show dog’s life. At 10 years old, she’d experienced several different homes with behavioural issues to show for. When my client adopted her, Skylar was reactive to everything outside, people and especially dogs, ran the fence with the neighbour’s dog, and exhibited separation anxiety.
My client’s experience with dogs, particularly rescues, was fairly extensive and she tried all the tools in her toolbox with Skylar, to no avail. After working with another trainer, also without much success, she finally contacted us, feeling defeated and unsure what the future held for them and their new rescue.
Luckily, our Way of Life method immediately resonated and my client dedicated herself to adjusting Skylar’s schedule, socialization, exercise, and overall handling consistent with the first Foundations stage. Skylar is showing

improvements in many areas and sometimes goes entire days being the kind of dog we know she can be consistently. We are not there yet, however. Trusting after so many betrayals isn’t easy and won’t happen quickly.
The Way of Life method isn’t for everyone but for those with the patience and fortitude to see it through, the change in both humans and dogs is deep and long lasting. My client shared that this different approach has made her reflect on how she’d dealt with her former dogs. If nothing else, adopting Skylar has opened her eyes to a new way of seeing dogs and working and living with them.
We will keep you posted on sweet Skylar, shown here on one of her good days, peacefully napping at the cottage.

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