Discipline and Dogs

MollyLack of discipline, lack of boundaries and limitations and consequences doesn't work with kids, it doesn't work with employees, it doesn't work with collaborative group efforts, it doesn't work for governments, it doesn't work for banks, and it certainly doesn't work with dogs. Structure provides sanity. 

In some circles, it has become emotionally akin to participating in the holocaust to mention the word discipline in the dog world. For these individuals, any discipline whatsoever seems to be immediately equated with abuse. This is insulting and patently absurd, and does an enormous disservice to our interface with the culture of dog. The language of dogs is structure. Everything about their culture is imbued with structural language, boundaries and limits. To pretend otherwise is like trying to speak Amislan (American Sign Language) by waving your hands in the air.

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Brain Food

Brain food is intimately connected to movement food. One key piece of brain food is letting dogs solve puzzles and problems themselves. If you watch a pup, or a child, encounter the world, everything is an adventure. Moving over a toy, or around an obstacles, up, down or all new phenomenon, food for the brain. We want to keep our children and dogs safe, but don't solve all the world's puzzles for them. When the dogs go off leash here at the ranch, whether at the stage where they are still dragging a long line, or later on when all lines have been unclipped, I don't solve the world for them.

There's a great little area in the wash, where we have created a "doggy playground" with soft sand to jump down into, roots to jump over, others to duck under. While I might toss a treat down in, or show some of the smaller dogs an easier point of entrance, after that, they get to interact with the playground on their own. Their look of pride when they figure out how to go down and up, how to jump over something, how to find me again, is just fabulous.

All of that confidence transfers to a greatly enhanced level of responsiveness when I go to take the dogs into town for complex leash work under high distractions. There's a reason the training order here proceeds as it does with movement, distance work, handling, confidence building, and then precision work. I'm building the brain and the body as I go so that this new stronger inside becomes my training partner to build and enhance the behavior of the dog as I layer on the commands.

As I build that brain capacity, then I start to challenge it. So I might have the dog "place" on a raised dog bed here at the ranch, then maybe a stool, then a cart at the hardware store, then the scale at the vet's office, building towards practical everyday uses of the commands. Then I'm likely to add the "stay" command to have them stay in place wherever they've been put. Slowly, I increase what we call the Triple D's: distance, duration, and distraction. Again, brain challenges. The command "stay" is the same, but the farther away from the dog I get, the longer I ask them to hold the position, and the more distractions are going on around the dog, the harder the task becomes. Step by step we increase complexity. The more the dogs master, the more confident they become.

Tricks are a great source of brain food. So are dog sports, or just participating in the family's activities – hiking, going to the lake, down to the barn, out with the horses, to the park for a picnic, or to the soccer field to watch a game. Anything and everything can be brain food. The more commands and confidence the dog has, the more brain food we can throw in the equation. That's never ending. What we do here at the ranch is a start that gives you the foundation you need to provide brain food for your dog for the rest of their life.

It has become an overused phrase that all dogs need a job. Well yes, sort of. What they need is brain food, and brain food can just be the complexity of your daily life, but with your well behaved dog, now included intimately in the details of that life. Dogs who have mental complexity in their life, don't search out the drip system to dismantle. Some dogs require more than others -- I joke that some dogs require you to stay up nights and go back to grad school, but that is what the owner training here,included at no additional charge at the end of every board and train program, is all about is teaching you how to work with your particular dog using their commands and concepts of brain food to keep your "Duke" balanced and relaxed.

Movement Food

One of the primary goals here at the ranch is to build a reliable off leash recall with the dogs and build their ability and willingness to move with a handler off leash. I want my trainees to go for a plain old walk with their owners, and to have a strong measure of safety with a recall in our complex suburban world.

Most, but not all, of the trainees achieve this level. We have some of the teeny, tiny guys with whom I prefer, for safety reasons, to not cut totally loose on the ranch who still build a great recall. Occasionally, I have dogs who are so far behind the behavioral curve that rehabbing them from their internal chaos takes priority with the owner and I over full off leash reliability. But the vast majority of dogs learn and thrive on the off leash work.

There is a magic moment that happens with the dogs when they understand that the price of admission to the tea party, the price of admission to being able to run around the ranch in a paroxysm of happy is coming when they are called. Watching the dogs grow and develop after that moment is one of my greatest pleasures.

You see that movement triggers something we call proprioception. (For more, see the article, Proprioception, Balance by Any Other Name.) Proprioception is a complex neurological system that enables living creatures to orient themselves to gravity by means of sensors in each of the motor joints. But it is so much more than that. In ways we don't fully understand, stimulation of the proprioceptive system enhances brain capacity. As the pups begin to move, really move across terrain, their ability to sequence information, to problem solve, to extrapolate, to generalize increases at a geometric rate. The younger the pups are as they stimulate that system, the more we allow it to develop to its full potential.

So, for me, it's not just the practicality of being able to recall our dogs at a distance, but allowing them to move allows them to flourish in ways they never will without that movement. Yes, I absolutely want to be able to recall Duke from running down the block, but I also want to build the smartest, most well balanced and confident Duke I can for his benefit and yours.

Touch Food

Dogs are tactile creatures, and we love to touch them. That pairing ought to create a great mutual benefit society. You'd think this would be a no brainer. But ironically, I've seen countless problems arise in this realm. How we touch, where we touch, where dogs have conditioned their owners not to touch, all can be significant factors in the overall behavioral balance of a dog.

Dogs who come into training here are touched A LOT. All day long they are taught to stand quietly in front of me, body nestled into my legs, and tolerate being touched from front to back, top to bottom. I want all the dogs who go through training here to relish the hands of their owners. No guardiness, no mouthing, no nipping, no wheeling the head around to threaten, no growling – just soft, responsiveness.

There's a lovely, old fashioned expression in the dog world. We talk about having a dog who "comes soft to the hand." It's that dog who comes confidently but not obnoxiously into our body space, gently soliciting touch and standing quietly to receive it. It's an essential piece of the training here. Owners often remark on how much more intimate , friendly, and confident their dogs are after training which always pleases me immensely. Training is all about enhancing our relationship with our dogs not diminishing it. Touch plays a significant role.

Because our hands can have such a dramatic impact on the animals in our care, and their physical and mental well being, I have spent a lifetime developing techniques to be used by dog owners and handlers. These have been assembled into a system of physical therapy for dogs called Canine Kinaesthetics tm. Individuals who are interested in learning more about Kinaesthetics tm can go to our companion website, for full details on the Canine Protocol.

Nutrition Food:

Nutrition is a key component to behavior.

Negative behaviors that can have a nutritional component include:

  • Hyperactivity, dogs who never settle.
  • Reactivity, dogs who react excessively to every stimuli.
  • Chewing.
  • Mouthing.
  • Destructive behaviors.
  • Aggression.

Negative behaviors can also be a product of physical imbalance and/or discomfort that can have a nutritional cause. The most common seen at the ranch are:

  • Bone growth disorders such as panosteitis or osteochondrosis.
  • Excessive urination.
  • Urinary tract infection.

Physical imbalances create a deficit in learning capacity, including:reduced retention of information, reduced ability to sequence, reason, and to generalize. It's harder to learn if you feel lousy. Physical issues can also drive the adrenalin mechanisms of the body towards extremes, contributing to the classic profile of the hyperactive dog in nutritional deficit. Owners typically report that despite their best efforts, they just don't seem to get anywhere with the pup and/or that the negative behaviors go on and on regardless of what they do. It has been my repeated experience, hundreds and hundreds of times over the years, that shifting the nutrition creates a seismic change in the dog, with concomitant immediate changes in behavior and learning capacity. Where distinct physical problems are observed, dogs are referred out for veterinary consultation in conjunction with discussions with the owner.

Here at the ranch, clients provide the food during training, but I will only feed a 5 or 6 star formula (or the equivalent) as defined by one of the rating sites such as;; or I go over the nutrition program with every dog that enters training to help build a healthy body and a willing brain in an age and breed appropriate way. I am well familiar with raw food feeding as well so that is not an obstacle here at the ranch as there is a dedicated freezer for raw canine foods. Again, we take a look at the nutritional program to make sure it is a balanced one, as well as assisting with practical approaches to feeding raw.

The ultimate goal is a collaboration between owner, trainer and veterinary support to create the very best program for each individual dog. The nutritional needs of a fifteen pound 2 year old maltese with teeth issues are not the same as a 75lb 7 month old Labrador.

Arizona Doggy Dude Ranch Four Foods™ Strategy

All dogs need four "foods" to flourish: nutrition, touch, movement and mental complexity. Here at Arizona Doggy Dude Ranch, we are proud to be at the forefront oftraining strategies that build dogs who are balanced mentally and physically, as well as obedient, and a joy to live with.

Nutrition Food  pawprint Touch Food  pawprint  Movement Food  pawprint  Brain Food

Brody, 5yrs here, was trained at 5 months of age and has grown up in a rich and complex off leash world with his family. The best life I could wish for any dog.

Nutrition food - All dogs need balanced age appropriate nutrition with high quality assimilable proteins without the ingredients and additives that severely affect health and behavior.

Touch food - All dogs are tactile creatures. With others of their kind they are constantly bumping into, nose touching, or curling up on, near, or with another dog. They crave and need hands on affection from us that mimics the constant tactile stimulation they would get were they living in a group of dogs. 

Movement food - All dogs are social creatures whose culture is based on movement. Movement serves as language and commentary, as well as cultural history and context. In addition, dogs live in a neurological context in their bodies which demands movement stimulation for their well being – what we call proprioception. 

Brain food - All dogs require mental complexity to avoid self destructive behaviors ranging from mildly bored and digging in the back yard to somewhat neurotic, all the way to extremes of anxiety, fear and/or aggression. Dogs without mental stimulation will always channel that need into noxious behaviors. 

AZ Doggy Dude Ranch Dogs..

Arizona Doggy Dude Ranch Dogs Learn To:

  • Come when called every time...on or off leash!
  • Sit or down when asked...for as long as you want!
  • Walk like a gentleman or lady on a loose leash!
  • Pay attention when you need them!
  • Be wonderfully well-mannered pets inside and outside the home!


Shellie Ferguson

hot-dogHi there -

Thought I'd send a quick pic and an update on Brody since he has hit his one year anniversary from "boot camp" already.



AngelsThe girls were so good in the car and also at the rest stop....

What a wonderful, exhilerating, educational, awe-inspiring experience we had with you.  You certainly exceeded our expectations with the girls.


Marc Goldberg - CDT

Marc GoldbergMaryna has an amazing touch with both dogs and people. Rarely does one dog trainer ever permit another to work with his dogs. Dog trainers are very particular about how their pets are handled. Maryna has worked with my own dogs at my request.
Even though I have been training dogs for over 30 years, in just a few moments, Maryna taught my pets a few new tricks, calming them significantly and quickly. What pleased me most was how gentle and loving Maryna treats dogs. They respond to her very quickly with trust and love.



EmmaJust a note to let you know that Emma (and I !!) are doing very well....we walk every day and she does a great job in sitting and staying...and quite well at heeling....


Deb Tollefson

Deb Tollefson, Retired
Veterinary Technician
Office Manager, Co-owner--Veterinary Clinic
I am sharing something with you that you may or may not be interested in, but I was so impressed yesterday at what I observed that I just couldn't sit on it.
My friend Maryna, who has been keeping my neck and back healthy for years, has a home full of her own very well-behaved dogs. I was always impressed that they never tried to jump on me and always responded so well when given commands. Mostly, if they were in the house they just looked up from their appointed resting places, and then ignored me.

iacpgoldlogostampCall us to talk about what we can do to help you with your dog!


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