The End of the Way?

July 12, 2023

I hope this message finds you well on this warm Canada Day.

I bring news in this newsletter that I just could not wait to share with you, my loyal and growing Way of Life family:


Working on the cover design was fun but also challenging. We wanted a cover that is unique among dog training publications and conveys the relationship so central to the book’s message. We looked at many examples, went through several rounds of possibilities, and we could not be prouder of the result!

Here it is!!!

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We hope you love it as much as we do and can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Another wonderful update from Way of Life HQ: 

Last month I held my very first in-person group event, a full day seminar with both theory and practice (see pics and testimonials below!). I held the seminar with a group of alums and current students. Alums came to check on their foundations and find out more about shifting to Exposure. Current students got a better understanding of their mission at Foundations and a preview of what comes next. 

Indeed, one key element of the Way of Life Method is doing things in stages. When I am getting started with a problem dog, I do things in a way that I would not necessarily with a dog that’s sound and raised properly. Yet so much in the world of dog training speaks in absolutes – socialize this way, crate this much, start training this early. My position is more nuanced. When I am asked about the value of certain ideas or techniques, my answer tends to be, “Depends on the stage you’re at!”

The seminar was a wonderful success. I kept lecturing to a minimum to make room for discussions, input from the audience, and lots of hands-on exercises with the dogs. My students got a chance to connect and network with others, feel less alone in their struggles, and identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement for their dog.

Because you’ll be hearing more about such happenings, the newsletter will now include a section dedicated to upcoming events. See below for another seminar in Pickering (Ontario) later this month.

(If you would rather join us virtually, you’ll also find a webinar you can sign up for!) 

One theme that came up in our discussion at the seminar was how many different things people had tried before finally landing on the Way of Life Method. If like them, you’ve tried everything but know in your heart that there’s more to dogs than what you’ve been told, then you’ll enjoy this issue: 

  • In Reflecting on Our Bond, I urge my readers to trust their instincts and remain sceptical when they feel they’re not being told the whole story about dogs.
  • In Pro Tip, I share three reasons why dogs become reactive and what can be done from a Way of Life perspective.
  • In Ask Way of Life, I respond to a client concerned about her anxious and reactive Morkie with whom they’d “tried everything.” 

Please hit reply and let me know how this issue’s resonated with you, topics you’d like me to touch on, questions about your dog and how to fix things. Ask away, I love hearing from clients and subscribers more than anything!

Enjoy and I look forward to seeing you at one of the events coming up!

And for my fellow Canadians here and abroad, wishing you and yours a wonderful Canada Day weekend!

~ Souha & Dogs

PS: Care to find out how we fix problems here at Way of Life? Seriously consider signing up for one of the events coming up! There are only three in-person seminars on schedule but also a webinar on July 30 if attending in person is not possible for you. Details below!

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In-Person Seminar in Pickering
July 16, 2023
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM

To find out more and register:

Dogs are welcome at this one-day in-person seminar where you will better understand canine behavioral issues and how to address them at a core level and in a manner that resonates deeply with dogs.
Get introduced to the philosophy and practice of the Way of Life™ Method and get practical guidance on the way of life changes necessary for healing your dog. Ask your questions and take advantage of the opportunity to introduce your dog and practice exercises.

Half-Day Webinar
July 30, 2023
8:30 AM – 1:30 PM

To find out more and register:

Can’t join us in-person? Would prefer to find out more about the difference that the Way of Life™ Method can make for your dogs from the comfort of your office or cottage? Join us for this live webinar to find out more about canine behavioural issues, what they mean and how to address them at the root.
Get introduced to the philosophy and practice of the Way of LifeTM Method, find out why it resonates deeply with dogs, and get practical guidance on the way of life changes you can make to start addressing whatever behavioural issues you could be dealing with.

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My classmate did not appear satisfied with the answer our trainer had given. She’d asked a question about her dog’s behavior and it was clear that the trainer didn’t really know and that the answer she’d produced was not quite resonating.

Over many years of training and sporting with my dogs in different arenas and with different instructors and trainers, I’ve seen that look many times – the look of knowing that there must be more to a dog’s behaviour than what we’re being told.

Here’s how I see it – if we sense that there’s more than meets the eye, it’s because there is. In this month’s reflection, I ask you to trust your instincts and keep a healthy sceptical attitude when it comes to how the mainstream culture wants us to understand dogs and their behaviour.

In the discussion around behavioural issues these days, when trying to understand why dogs are doing what they’re doing, the explanations normally fall into one or more of the following categories:

The dog’s breed
The dog’s background
The dog’s spay/neuter status
The dog’s personality
The dog’s underlying emotional state
The dog’s underlying physical state

Note that we’re making it all about the dog?

Of course, dogs bring their traits, characteristics, and unique life histories to the table. But what about the context and life situation that we provide? The reason the answers to our questions are so unsatisfying is because they completely gloss over the dog’s way of life, and yet there’s so much happening there to explain dog behaviour.

Clients who work with me quickly realize how powerful way of life is and how satisfying and fulfilling it is to experience that firsthand. There’s something terribly empowering about realizing just how much influence we have over our dog’s behaviour in both our attitude and practical day-to-day living. My students discover that all the explanations we’ve given for why our dogs behave and misbehave were unsatisfying simply because they were only excuses and not real explanations. They get to see in their own dogs just how much our dogs reflect their way of life.

Pro Tips

Reactivity has become a buzzword in the modern conversation around dogs and their behavioural issues. Reactivity can mean different things to different people but essentially, we’re talking about an exaggerated, stressed, and potentially aggressive response to a stimulus that a dog meets – people, children, animals, particularly other dogs or critters such as squirrels, as well as sounds or noises.
If you’ve been following me for some time, you know that I look to way of life first as the root cause for any behavioural issues we could be dealing with, reactivity included. Here are three reasons why dogs exhibit reactivity and how the Way of Life Method interprets and deals with these scenarios.

  1. Poor Drive Management
    Let’s start with one obvious reason for reactivity: we have a dog that’s full of drive and energy, possessed with a desire to work and achieve, living a life where these drives are not managed properly. In one scenario, the dog is not challenged enough in their way of life, leading instead a dull life as a pet.
    → Solution: For this dog, reactivity is a symptom of frustrated natural desires and tendencies. Finding healthy outlets for these drives, including researching suitable sports or adventures you could both enjoy, is recommended.
    The other scenario is a dog that is challenged through sport and adventures but poorly managed outside of these spaces, resulting in reactivity.
    → Solution: For this dog, the strengthening of drives and added stimulation through a sport lifestyle means owners have an even greater responsibility to rest the dog and minimize other sources of pressure, lest that energy translate into reactivity.
  2. Rapid Integration and Exposure
    Another reason for reactivity is the speed with which we integrate new dogs, particularly new rescues who are deprived of the chance to decompress and recuperate. Yet again the culture sets us up to fail because we celebrate how quickly we got the new dog to play with the existing dog, not realizing that no one is quite ready for the introduction. I’ve often seen existing dogs deteriorate following such rapid integration only to have their behavior construed as “jealousy.” Meanwhile, the dogs are not acting up because they are jealous but because they’re telling us we’re moving too quickly. Soon enough, we have reactivity or other dysfunctional behaviors in both new and existing dogs.
    → Solution: The key here is to slow the pace of integration, return to foundations and assume we just got the new dog. We spend a little time building what I call primordial socialization between us and the new dog before widening their circle.
  3. Unhealthy Emotional Relating
    A third reason for reactivity is the unhealthy and unhelpful emotional relating that I see many dog owners impose on their dogs – extreme feelings and displays of love and affection towards their reactive dog. “How can there be anything wrong with loving my dog?” they ask. There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving our dogs love is why we’re all here. But too often, we bring a new dog home and shower them with our approval. We have dogs with severe issues but we still love on them and include them. Meanwhile, the dogs construe our feelings as permission and validation for their current attitude and behaviour.
    → Solution: When dealing with reactivity or any behaviour issue,
    we need to look at our feelings and how we express them as part of the problem and therefore part of the solution. In the Foundations stage where we are getting a start on fixing problems, I ask my clients to keep a more neutral and professional stance.

Q: We have 4-year-old Morkie with severe anxiety and reactivity issues. We have tried supplements, medication, and working with several trainers in the past, using different approaches. However, we have as yet been unsuccessful in helping our little girl (and us) with these issues. We’ve tried everything and would love to find out more about what you offer that is different.

A: I am happy to share with you how we do things here at Way of Life Dog Training but first, I’d like to acknowledge you for not giving up on your dog despite, as you say, having tried everything.

Let’s talk about what you did try, for example supplements. One of the first things I ask new clients is whether their dog is healthy and whether there is any reason to believe that a medical issue could be driving the concerning behavior. No doubt, there is something to be said about proper diet and supplementation.
As well, medication is increasingly growing as an option for people who don’t know what else to do or for people who themselves have benefitted from being on medication and therefore have it prescribed for their dogs. I am generally against medication as a long-term solution because it places the focus on the dog being the one with the problem as opposed to the situation being problematic.
You have also tried trainers using different approaches and my guess is that none of these focused on the situation, helping you instead to train your dog. Some of your trainers were probably positive reinforcement folks while other balanced trainers likely recommended various techniques and tools to correct Lexie.
It’s easy to think you’ve tried everything, but you haven’t because everything you’ve done has been about trying to change the dog rather than change the situation. One of the first things I do with new clients is talk about that situation, or way of life.
We define way of life according to five key elements and these include:
-The state and stage of the relationship
-The mindset of the human guardians
-The approach to managing space and boundaries
-The understanding and application of socialization
-The management of the dog’s drives through training, exercise, and sport
You can see that training is a part of way of life, but there’s also a lot more going on. Because we know that behavioural issues stem from all these areas, we work with our clients in designing a way of life that’s stage appropriate and conducive to healing.
Until the way of life is changed, we won’t have tried everything and we won’t have tried what does in fact help – changing the dog’s situation rather than thinking it’s the dog that needs changing.

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

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

New Rescue Dog Running Away

Socializing with Dogs

Obedience Training New Shiba Puppy

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

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People who train with me know I love my ten-foot biothane or leather leashes when we’re first getting started with a dog. The long line gives the dog breathing room and relaxes the human-dog interaction but biothane might not always be the right choice especially in wet conditions or with very strong dogs. That’s why I’ve rapidly become a fan of Wilderdog’s cord leashes.
Wilderdog was founded by a group of friends who love the great outdoors and taking their rescue dogs along. Often finding themselves wanting for durable gear for their dogs, they used retired climbing rope as leashes, which is how their original leash idea was born. Their leashes include big and small carabiner rope leashes, easy-clip leashes, slip-on rope leashes, ultra-light and waterproof leashes. Wilderdog also makes harnesses, backpacks, jackets, and other sturdy outdoor gear for people and dogs.
My favourite rope leash is the Big Carabiner Rope Leash, available in 5- and 10-foot length and with reflective option. It comes in 16 beautiful colour patterns including my personal favourites Sierra, Maple, Cascade, Wildcat, and Camo. The leash is sturdy, lightweight, doesn’t get soggy, provides a good grip, comes at a length I like, and I highly recommend it!
My Malinois Nejra graciously modelling our Wilderdog cord leash 🙂
(black and white, non-reflective variety shown)

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Do you want to know more about transforming your relationship with your dog? Way of Life Dog Training is here to help.

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