Access Asks…Consequences Maintain.

There are mysteries regarding behavior and training and then there is everything else. Let’s focus on the everything else.  I’m called into my clients homes to figure out how to address problem behaviors from one or several dogs at a time.  These range from the usual like jumping and nipping, barking and lunging, to peeing and destroying property. Most of the time the owner and I agree that its a simple case of boredom or frustration, fear or anxiety, maybe even excitement and arousal. While we have labeled part of the problem accurately most often there is a bigger issue.  What really lured the behavior out of the dog was something so simple. Access.

There was access to guests and food for the pilfering jumpy dogs.  There were doors open and lack of barriers and gates for the dogs learning to potty in an appropriate spot.  Dogs are left sitting on couches looking out windows when the owners are away barking at whatever triggers their attention whether they desired it or wanted it to go away. The harness they loved so much was left on offering itself as a lovely chew toy.  The dog bit the neighbor because no muzzle was worn.

All of these situations could have been prevented and if had the owners had understood that the access to the people, food, place to potty, and passers-by was the beginning of all their problems.  Allowing too much access begs for curiosity and heightened senses to lead most dogs into undesired situations.  The consequences there after maintain them. For instance, the social contact and attention for jumping up, less anxiety with the view off the couch, relieving the bladder regardless of location, the taste of the food when found, or the fun that was had sniffing around the neighborhood after slipping out the door.

Remember what to focus on the next time you have a problem.  Where was the access? What reinforced the behavior after said access was granted.  To remedy almost any training situation we can begin by looking to remove the reinforcer or the access to it. Problem behavior often extinguishes itself with patience and consistency and solid communication.  That is the environment that good things grow in.

Be Well and Wag Tail,

Bryndon Golya                                                                                                                           OCcaninecoaching.com

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Rethink Adopting Litter-mates

I should title this post don’t adopt litter-mates but that may be a little to harsh.  There are certain realities in dog training that seem to be fairly consistent across the board.  Between trainers, we would most likely advise to take one dog at a time home and almost never two litter-mates.  Why? There are a few very good reasons.

The first reason being they are likely to bond between the two closer than you will, making it harder to get their attention and train them.  Puppies start bonding weeks before you get to take them home and do so through crucial socialization periods.  Taking two home at the same time leaves open plenty of time for the puppies to continue bonding faster than they might to you.  It’s hard if not impossible to match the amount of availability and attention the other puppy has to offer.  You may also consider that they have to learn our very challenging language and it’s just more work for them to engage with us.  We are inherently confusing to our dogs as it is.  This intense bonding lays the groundwork for real anxiety when they are separated down the road. Walking one dog at a time may be an impossibility.  Taking on a single dog to the vet or to see a friend will make the other lose its mind.  Imagine how hard it would be taking both dogs everywhere together.   It isn’t pleasant and it isn’t easy dialing the emotional behavior back after it’s in place.  Having said all that,  I have seen many pups who are litter-mates adore their owners, and bond well with them. They usually don’t listen well though.  It’s generally harder to get their attention, harder to teach emotional control and harder to teach boundaries.  Getting and keeping a dogs attention and boundaries are most of my business.  Resolving unwanted emotional responses make up a lot of the rest.  

The second and lesser problem is siblings may start to quarrel with each other when reaching adolescence and continue into adulthood.  I see it happen too frequently when working with litter-mates.  It could be over a resource, access to go outside, or just bully like play.  It can happen unpredictably and be challenging to address.  It doesn’t seem to be as prevalent in adopted dogs come into the home at different times. 

If you have to have litter-mates at the same time I would first address why you feel it is necessary.  If you don’t have TWICE  the time and motivation to manage and train them it’s highly discouraged.  Litter-mates should likely be separated a large proportion of  habituate to the family.  They should be walked, fed and taken to the vet and for outings separately.  Typically the decision to get two puppies is an emotional one.  If you already feel guilty or sad about not bringing home a litter-mate friend than you’re likely to have a a hard time with guilt and other emotions keeping them separate for much of their young life.  It is just a lot of work too. 

Be well and wag tail,

OC Canine Coaching                www.OCcaninecoaching.com

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CBD, Do You Know Me?

I love my work as a dog trainer but I equally love finding solutions through nutrition and supplementation that affect the behavior and well-being of my canine clientel.  As of right now, I am focusing on hemp CBD extracts. After hearing stories from friends and colleagues about how cannabinoids helped with noise phobias around the 4th of July, I started getting really interested.  While I already support the use of medical marijuana for certain human ailments, I hadn’t quite taken the leap regarding cannabis and pets.

I’ll skip the scientific stuff as much as I can for this article as I generally want to start a discussion at this point.  CBD is a cannabinoid derived from either legal industrial hemp or cannabis.  While cannabis has its place in this discussion I only want to talk about hemp for now.  Hemp, which is already a great source of nutrition as it’s high in Omega’s is also rich in cannabinoids.  Cannabinoids naturally bind to sites throughout our bodies called CB1 and CB2 receptors.  CB1 receptors reside mostly in our central nervous system and CB2 receptors throughout the organ systems. Different formulas of CBD rich oil have other cannabinoids like CBN or CBG as well as flavanoids and terpenes that many believe give the CBD a fuller longer lasting effect. THC is never a factor with hemp.

CBD (Cannabidiol) is only one of the 85 cannabinoids identified in hemp and cannabis but it is now the sought after medicine that cancer patients, epileptics, and others with anxiety disorders like PTSD are using instead of pharmaceuticals and their excessive side effects.  In pets I have found success using it for similar issues with anxieties as well as some others you may have not thought of.  Here is a list of some of the possible uses for CBD.

  1. Separation anxiety
  2. General anxiety disorder
  3. Noise phobias ( fireworks)
  4. Car ride anxiety
  5. Fear aggression
  6. Loss of appetite (helps with chemotherapy)
  7. digestive issues like (IBS, inflammation)
  8. Joint pain, strains and sprains
  9. Skin inflammation and pain
  10.  Epileptic seizures
  11. Muscle spasms
  12. cancer proliferation

With a list like this you can see why anyone would be interested in this supplement. In the last few months alone I have seen CBD as a great tool for multi-dog households and timid and fearful dogs.  One of my own dogs had a major turn around on car rides and when I went on a long road trip all 4 of my dogs were angels for 5 straight hours. Previously we had problems with some anxiety. My chihuahua had some ankle/foot pain and instead of a a vet visit we remedied our issue with a high quality CBD oil given twice a day.  Five days later she was fine and has been running around great for 6 months with no issues.  I noticed better results with CBD oil in my clients dogs and my own this last 4th of july.  There are no side effects even in very high doses other than mild tiredness in some dogs.  It does not leave your pet feeling drugged.

I’ll have more to talk about regarding CBD in the future.

Be well and wag tail,

Bryndon Golya                                                                                                                                                     OC Canine Coaching                       OCcaninecoaching.com

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When to Rethink that Puppy.

 

I am lipuppy chewingkely to get to flack over this but this is something I have been deliberating on writing about for some time.  I am addressing a few scenarios that in my opinion, are not usually good for raising a puppy.  I have tough training clients and tough dogs but I have an equal amount of normal, typical puppies who end up in homes of people who are ill prepared to handle them. For now I want to separate them into two groups.  The elderly/retired and the busy.  First, I love my Grandma more than you know but I would firmly tell her “Hell no” if she suggested she wanted a new puppy. Likewise, that family of 3 kids under 10 yrs old with busy parents who work 8-10 hr days should also consider other companion options than a new puppy.

Puppies are simple for the most part and even if you get a companion type breed like a Maltese or Yorkie you may be in for trouble if you aren’t prepared.  When I say prepared I don’t just mean you went to the pet store and bought $500 in toys, food and bedding.  I am talking about prepared to get off your butt every hour to take the dogs out, prepared to get on the floor and play with it, prepared to get up when it jumps on you, prepared to adjust your life you love 180 degrees to accommodate a furry toddler.  Seriously, there is nothing drastically different in your responsibility from raising a puppy and a toddler.  Puppies grow up faster but that first year or two is not something to joke about.

Let me just put myself in my clients shoes.  If I was 70 yrs old, retired and alone I may want to get a dog.  Sure a dog but that isn’t necessarily a puppy.  Puppies are fast, they nip, they pee and poo a lot and need to be exercised and be mentally stimulated to prevent problem behaviors.  The problem with many older clients is that they are well, slow and set in their ways. They don’t remember the difficulty of their last puppy. I hear this from their mouths every time.  Heck just getting the treat down to the dog’s mouth is a slow process, now put a leash in the other hand and ask for perfect timing.  It is a challenge.

My job is to find solutions to problems like this and I do, I promise, but this seems like needless pain and trouble when there is a simple option.  Adopting an older dog is such a good choice over a puppy.  They typically come potty trained and require less activity from the owner, assuming they wisely picked a breed that matched their lifestyle.

My other category of pet owners who may want to bypass a puppy is the “busy” family.  Don’t get me wrong. This actually works out ok sometimes but it is that special family and special dog that makes it work.  I am only saying that overall this is a more challenging situation.  From the get go I have more unwanted potty, chewing, nipping, attention seeking behavior than from a family who’s life is more consistent.  With busy family lives and little time because of activities and work, the puppy learns bad behaviors fast.  As much as I loved dogs growing up, I admit I was bit a few times because of my spastic and high energy behavior.  I didn’t get to have a puppy until I was over 10.  I think this was a great decision by my parents.

Now if you have a ton of money to spend on training, daycare, walking, etc. you may have a chance in either scenario but I am not writing this for you.  I am writing this for the average family who wants companionship from and dog and thinks starting from scratch with a puppy is the best option.  Let me remind you that even highly skilled dog trainers get flustered by puppies. These are little lives and when it doesn’t work out, puppies are likely to be re-homed or dropped off at a shelter when they are too much to handle.  Owners may even resort to last chance training protocols that involve unnecessary aversive measures, damaging trust between the owner and the dog, all in the name of having a dog who behaves like you want for your now sedentary or all too busy lifestyle.

Having said all this, I will always come running to the rescue when needed but I would like to see more thought go into the acquisition of a new dog.

Be well and wag tail!

OC Canine Coaching                                                                                                           http://www.occaninecoaching.com

 

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No means Yes? How your reinforcer may be punishing.

donut on dogs head

Just recently I got to sit down and watch Kathy Sdao’s “What not to Err”.  With her unique energy and quirkyness she touched on several things we do wrong when training our dog. This is for trainers and owners since we are both.  The most impressionable part of the presentation was her explanation of improper sequencing and how your food reward can be infected by punishment.  Two separate topics that can ruin training.

In sequencing it can be as simple as having your hand in the treat bag when you are clicking your dog for a finished behavior. I catch this all the time in my clients and sometimes myself if I am reinforcing very quickly.  Essentially you might as well drop the clicker if you are having trouble her since your hand in the bag is your new conditioned reinforcer.  Keeping it there and practicing clicking will make the clicker irrelevant and that would suck.  Another training misstep comes when your are working say with a fearful dog who doesn’t like other dogs or stimuli. You may offer a treat prior to the dog or trigger to help get through the situation and while you will surely distract the dog, you inadvertently tell the dog that the treat mean there is a scary thing approaching.  This happens in your vet’s office everyday.  Many vets give a cookie right before the shots or before any probing.  This is one reason there are dogs who people believe aren’t food motivated.  If you knew the food meant something scary is coming would you eat? This phenomenon is explained like this.  The emotion of the second stimulus always infects (backward in time) the emotion of the first stimulus.  The fear of the dog infects infects the previously good emotion of the food.

Now to address how you can make no mean yes or punishment mean reinforcement we go into improper sequencing and timing of corrections/rewards.  Have you ever seen a leash pop followed immediately by a treat for compliance.  It happens all the time. I have even been guilty.  Well that leash pop eventually turns into the reinforcer since the emotion of the food infects the correction.  So your NO just became a Yes.  I wonder why your pulling harder than ever and correcting more and more without any results?  This is Classical conditioning at its rawest form.  This happens with people too.  Has your bank ever sent a note that says, “Dear valued Customer”?  Well as nice as that sounds you know it probably isn’t going to be good.

So if you are using corrections please leave some space inbetween the reinforcer or better yet learn how to squash the corrections in the first place.  Make sure you are adding the reinforcer after the dog is aware of the stimulus or after a certain behavior because even more importantly you aren’t actually conditioning the dog to accept the scary dog at all unless the food comes after the sound or appearance of the dog.  If you haven’t seen Kathy Sdao talk or read her work I highly advise you do as well. She is full of great info and fun to watch.

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Captain Opportunity

dog looking at food

I’m a week in to a 3 week board and train with a 6 month old GSD and there are plenty of behaviors that I want to work on that aren’t traditional obedience like sit, down, come, etc.  While we are working on these every day, I realized for the thousandth time that its the jumping, encroaching while eating, getting in my way, barking, pacing that drive me crazy.  Well crazy enough. I happen to have my two dogs and two others here as well so I have a lot going on in my smallish two bedroom.  The new stirrings and erratic movements of a puppy shepherd in the home can be irksome when you are used to calm and this is what I am sure my clients feel with their new pups and rescued dogs with poor manners.

Why was I fighting what I new I had to do. It was so easy. I didn’t have to get a clicker out or a leash( although a tether would help), just have some handy treats around which I already did and finally get up off my lazy butt.  Training never stops and I need to be as accountable as I expect my clients to.  What would I tell them if they were in this position?  Of course, the same thing I almost always say. Manage first, look for alternate incompatible behaviors to reinforce and correct last if at all. 

So while I was eating steak and watching TV at the coffee table trying to keep the puppy from hovering I decided to stop using the failing leave it cure that was not proofed and under stimulus control.  I grabbed some really good bacon jerky and sat back down.  Even though the jerky drew the dogs in more (conditioned response to grabbing treats) I was able to reinforce the leave it and walk over and set the puppy into place which we are also learning.  My dogs were fine and listening and now I was actually training.  I started with a big piece of jerky and then randomly tossed jerky on the mat so the pup couldn’t tell when they were coming. When he got up once I shaped him back and reinforced faster for a bit.  Soon he started going there on his own if he got up.  There really is nothing like training in real life anyway.   How else would you expect to get the pup to learn?  I wasn’t using punishment and so he wasn’t going to generalize the behavior without adding the distractions and the changed, more challenging environment.

The same went for the rest of the days training.  I did a lot of work on counter surfing and I did two session on shaping a back up cue.  The down, sit, place and leave it we already worked on payed off but the real training started when I got uncomfortable and got off my butt.  Instead of getting frustrated and fighting with your dog, or yelling or getting mad because your dog is an opportunist and doest know the rules, take a deep breath and think, what would my trainer say?  Be the same opportunist, and reinforce something else that you want.  Set up the environment to make what ever it is easier and when you fail, try again.  Im sure your dog loves you for this too.

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How hard is punishment? A reality check.

brian hits peter

On almost every consultation there is something the client wants me to stop there dog from doing.  Many are normal canine behaviors while others are aggressive, anxious, or fearful  responses.  Regardless, corrections and punishment, which don’t fool yourself, are one and the same, are used to decrease the unwanted behavior.  What I want to impress on you is the difficulty of doing this correctly and why I first suggest you try your damnedest to learn to manage the environment and reinforce incompatible behaviors first and resort to punishment last.

Lets remember not all punishment is physical or vocal or scary.  With negative punishment we can remove something favorable to the dog and keep right along with a positive reinforcement schedule. We can step it up to negative reinforcement even and still I have not harmed the dog.  Lastly we have positive punishment which is adding an aversive/punisher to decrease the likelihood of behavior.

Now here come the hard parts. Timing, consistency, and degree of intensity.                                                                               No matter what kind of punisher you use you need to have all three criteria in order.  First your timing needs to be within half a second! Whoa.  How many times have you yelled at your dog or swatted them off of you after a few seconds of doing something like jumping or barking?  and do you sometimes let it go on longer or ignore completely?  Let me guess.  The barking jumping or lunging is worse that before.  That is because you failed to punish every time, within half a second and at an intensity high enough to stop.   How on earth can you succeed at punishment?  Truth is you will most likely fail and in turn cause the behavior to worsen and possible cause other unwanted behaviors depending on how you punish.  If you knew how intense the punishment had to be you would be uncomfortable and well you should.   Lastly if you want to get even more specific, the punishment should not be associated with you. Now that is a tall order that even I have trouble with.

This is why I love clicker training.  It takes no strength, cost $5, and although it requires the same timing( which you can practice) , you don’t have the same fall out if you fail to click or click wrong.  The intensity is alwaysthe same unless you use better treats or rewards and you don’t have to worry about nasty side effects like anxiety and fear.   Not only that but it doesn’t inhibit learning. It actually speeds up the process by nearly 50%.  Save your strength for the gym and your voice for the big game.  Leave the training smiling and excited to start again and not upset and tense from correcting so much. Punishment takes a tole on you too, more than you know.  More on that to follow.

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A Walk Starts With a Look

 doglookingwalkingLets see how easy I can put this concept of walking your dog and how when your training this “trick”, which it is, you are really training several smaller “tricks” compiled into one.  As the title states, it all begins with a look.

My clients often get frustrated that they can’t get the new puppy or dog to walk to the park or around the block with out weaving or pulling or stopping or barking.  Lets forget about barking or reactivity for now and just touch on the basics.  There is a reason I teach focus and attention first and continuously throughout my sessions.  Everything else I want my dog to do for me is contingent on having this attention.  So before I take that first step or better yet before the leash even comes out or clips on, I get my dogs attention.  Forget how I do this.  There are many ways.  The point is if I don’t my dog is most definitely practicing something else I would prefer them not to do like jump around, rush the door, or take off without me.

So very often I won’t even start the walking in a 6 week training course until the 3rd week.  By that time we have learned how to reinforce properly and we have begun to sit, hand target and offer eye contact by default.  All of these I use on my early walks. So to be even more clear, I don’t want my clients doing much real walking initially either.  What! Yep. I don’t want the dog to practice walking incorrectly either. They can get their exercise out with play and you can take your walks without them.  To socialize is the only reason I want my clients taking them out on leash and making mistakes here.   When we train walking we are generally walking in circles and back and forth, in fact you can do it all in your home in many cases.

Think about this.  All the problems you face on a walk manifest when your pup or dog takes their eyes off of you.  I don’t need them to competition heel but imagine your dog pulling 6 feet ahead and breaking his neck to look back. Doesn’t happen.  How to they sniff pee or eat leaves and look at your face? They can’t.  So why not teach the hell out of attention and focus? I do and I don’t ever take that for granted even as an adult.  Instead of expecting a walk I work on reinforcing your dog with treats about every 2 steps and clicking or marking the look in my eyes.  I walk slow and turn a lot.  I change direction and keep my treats coming right to my left leg which is where the nose is.  If my dog gets ahead of me, I stop immediately and click and treat the second they look back to find me and move on with a turn which puts them behind me again.  As soon as they start to follow I click/treat again.  Remember if they get ahead of you, your reinforcement rate is probably too slow. In between all of these movements I am stopping and getting a sit with eye contact.  The instant I my foot moves to walk I click/treat the dog for not taking off ahead of me and by default paying attention to my face rather than my leg.  Last but not least in this walking training, remember to talk and engage with your dog.  Use his name and make kissy noises, keep their attention or lose it and start over. The leash should be the last line of communication if you are doing this right.  If you are really good you don’t even need a leash but that is not advisable.  For more training info please go to http://www.OCcaninecoaching.com or find me on Facebook.

Happy training!

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What is your dog telling you?

What is your dog telling you?

The more often you know when your dog or another dog is stressed, unsure or nervous, the better your chances for more safe and calm dog interactions.

Recently I have been called on for several concerning behaviors between my clients and there dogs which ended up in bites to friends faces, lunging at passers by and other similar behaviors.  Between the dog who bit and the person being bit or lunged at, there were warning signals in almost all cases.  These warning signals are learned by dog trainers either by chance or hopefully because they took the time to learn them ahead of time.  Having said that, when selecting a trainer to work with your dog, if they said they are used to dog bites, you might want to keep looking.  In 4 years I have had one real dog bite due to redirection from breaking up a dog fight.  Since then only nips from chihuahuas and privileged lapdogs who needed someone with no apprehensions to handle them.  Now let’s get back on track.  There are at least 20 cues a dog may give you that they are stressed or uncomfortable.  If you pick up them you will save a lot of worry about how to handle certain situations and be more confident in further dog on dog/people interactions.

The chart above helps to illustrate these behaviors and an even more simplistic resource is a short book by Turid Rugaas titled “On Talking Terms With Dogs, Calming Signals”.  It is an e-book for under $10.

Essentially, your dog yawning, licking its lips from the front or side, sniffing the ground, turning their head, turning their body, laying down, sitting, softening their eyes or lips, raising a paw and even curving around other dogs approaching is dog communication which predicates the fight or flight response we as humans are naturally conditioned to understand.

You can use these signals to calm your dog or other dogs down just as they do and to understand when to remove your dog from a certain situation.  IF YOU FREQUENT DOG PARKS, PLEASE LEARN THESE SIGNALS.  Talk to your friends about these signals so they can engage your dog correctly if they have a nipping problem or any fear issues.  You will learn how leaning forward over your dog or even putting an arm around the dog can make it uncomfortable by noticing the subtle yawn, head turn and lip lick as you engage it.  To add to the understanding of these natural dog signals learn the behaviors that are customary in humans and less compatible in canines like the afformentioned leaning over to greet and body hugs with close eye contact.

Understanding this takes little time and can save someone from a random 12 stich bite to the face which probably had little or nothing to do with the dog being aggressive and more to do with someone intruding on a dogs space and not noticing the 2-3 signs even before a growl that the dog wasn’t into meeting you that day.

Please find me for help at http://www.OCcaninecoaching.com for more info.  Thank you for following.

Bryndon Golya

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It’s a focus and attention thing, It’s a focus and attention thing, Hello?

We have all been in conversation with someone and just zoned out or possibly been watching television and had someone ask a question only to hear them shouting at us a minute later saying the same thing.  Now, does this behavior sound familiar when you are walking your dog or asking for them to sit or stay?  I am sure it does because even I forget once in a while to get my dogs attention before I ask for something from them.  In almost all my training encounters I experience frustration from dog owners who can’t get their dog to listen to them even though at some times the dog performs the asked behaviors with no problem.  In the majority of those meetings I immediately notice the owner talking to the dog either like a person or without the dog looking in their eyes or even general direction.  I have many training requests to help with walking, staying, coming when called, and solving problem behaviors that I can help with but with owners who want to immediately delve into said problems and not a base concern of lack of attention and focus.  Why do you think I teach this on the first meeting of all my puppy classes? So they have the foundation for everything else you will ever need.  It shocks me that you can go to 6 weeks of Petco/Petsmart training and spend 10 minutes or less on this, then skip onto walking and other work where the dog is supposed to listen to you in order to perform the desired task.

There are lots of ways to achieve focus and attention and if you’re having problems with your dog listening when out and about, then bring it back home with no distractions and start from scratch.  You can do puppy training with a 5 year old dog too.

I suggest if your dog is treat driven to use a clicker to mark with a click every time you notice your dog look in your eyes.  Move treats away keeping your dogs eyes glued to them and wait patiently for even a glimpse into your eye.  Click immediately and offer a treat.

Move out of your dogs view by taking a few steps around them and wait for them to find you and your eyes.  Click and treat again.   Tie your dog to your belt with your leash and toss a toy or treat away from you and wait for them to give up and find your eyes in frustration.  Click and treat again.   Before you walk out your door on a walk or you offer food to your dog, make sure they look in your eyes.  Then give them the go ahead to proceed.   You can accomplish this in with just 2 ( 5 min.) training sessions a day.

So the next time you ask your dog to do ANYTHING, make sure they are looking at you, in your eyes, even for 1 second.  You will notice they listen much more when they know you are talking to them and good things come from it.  My dogs don’t get fed or get to play with a ball or even go outside without focused attention.

Lastly, regardless of your dogs attention, stop saying sit, down, stay, leave it and especially “come” 5-10 times.  Say it once, wait for two second, if no response get attention and firmly ask again with eye contact and enunciate your command.  Keep it to ONE word if possible.

With this basic work and understanding you will be on your way to easier communication and obedience.

Call me when you are ready for focus work and obedience around major distractions 😉Image

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