“It is NOT your duty to control the dog – but your duty to teach the dog to control itself”, Henrik Ljungström. Learn more about how we recommend you play with your dog, how to separate dopamine from serotonin, and why one does not do any good for those who want a polite family dog. Learn how we at Onlinehund work towards a calm state of mind in the dog, without stress and constant commands.

Can I play with my dog?

The answer is a resounding YES – of course, you may play with your puppy/dog. You MUST actually play with it, but you must make a cold choice about whether you want to produce dopamine and serotonin in the dog. It is certainly not irrelevant, in fact, it is crucial, for you and your dog or puppy what kind of games are played. If you want a polite and calm family dog that can interact with everything and everyone – a family dog that lives everyday life with you WITHOUT stress, it is, of course, what you should focus on in training. If you want to achieve the above, you should stay far away from wild games such as: tug of war as a reward, bite toys as a reward, shaking games, reward with ball, prey drive, etc. Family dog + drive games is not something you can combine. But why not?

The wild, physical wild games do NOT focus on calmness. To achieve a polite family dog, it is the dog’s calm state of mind that should be rewarded and acknowledged. It is NOT the exercise itself that is rewarded, but the calm state of mind. With the wild, physical games, some of the dog’s 6 innate drives are stimulated, such as prey drive, flight drive, aggression drive, pack drive, hunting, tracking and scent drive, and sex drive. Here, prey and aggression drive are the two biggest culprits in training.

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Research on dopamine vs. serotonin

We call this way of playing with your dog old-fashioned – “that’s how we’ve always done it – the dog gets dopamine from it.” That is indeed correct, but dopamine has only one purpose – to ensure that you repeat the same exercise over and over and over again, to which you then reward by emitting another shot of dopamine. Dog owners experience that the dog looks happy and content, it wags its tail, it becomes extremely enthusiastic and overexcited. In fact, you see all the signals of what is perceived as a happy dog/puppy. And as a dog owner, you are even rewarded with a shot of dopamine yourself. Now the game will never end, you repeat the exercises over and over and over again, you are on the green branch, you are almost happy. Here, you are certainly NOT training/playing calmness – far from it.

Dopamine ensures that the experience, we need to have it again tomorrow and as often as possible – at any cost. Dopamine is an addictive substance, on a par with nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, coffee, medication, sugar, gambling, etc. You feel happiness here and now. The great CHALLENGE with dopamine is that you WILL achieve this feeling – at all costs, even if it has negative consequences for you.

Studies have been conducted with rats, showing how they were made addicted to dopamine. The rats would stand on a metal plate, through which electricity was passed, so they got electricity in their feet in order to reach the dopamine. The urge for dopamine thus exceeded the negative experience of electricity in their feet. One could even add more and more electricity, but the urge was so great that they got used to it – for dopamine, they would have it – at any cost.

The same experiment was done with serotonin. In no circumstances would they approach the serotonin if there was even the slightest electrical current. The conclusion is clear. By using dopamine to such an extent in your training/play and learning, you create a dog/puppy that is addicted to this feeling, a dog that will thus inflict pain and unnecessary stress on itself – in short, a “junkie dog” and that has NOTHING to do with a calm family dog. Serotonin is NOT an addictive substance like dopamine. Serotonin has many of the same properties as dopamine – but without being addictive.

 

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Stop drive- and pull games.

We see a lot of training where there is a heavy focus on drive games, which usually stems from the desire to have a competition dog in the long run. In our opinion, a lot of counterproductive training and incorrect stimulation of drive is happening, which the average dog owner cannot complete and misunderstands the message. In other words, the average dog owner does not need this prey drive.

Unfortunately, the exercises are misunderstood by both the dog and the owner. The average dog owner ends up with a dog that runs after anything in motion, children get chased, the dog goes crazy, and the dog’s tolerance becomes very low. Next, the dog reacts to the energies of other dogs/people. These drive games give the dog dopamine – dopamine is good in very small amounts. If the dog gets too much drive, it becomes addicted – just like a junkie who needs their fix or an alcoholic who needs their daily beer. It feels good now, but later it has different side effects that can be harmful in the long run.

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How to play with the REASOM method

The 6 basic exercises provide a framework for achieving a good and calm chemistry and relationship between the owner and dog. The exercises are a game in themselves, where we expand on training. Traditional or ordinary training focuses on the exercise itself and constant contact with the handler. The dog is constantly under command, and therefore dopamine is used. At Onlinehund, we have taken the next step and work towards “releasing” the dog from this. There is no art in getting the dog to walk nicely by constantly holding a treat in front of its nose – anyone can do that.

In this way, you just keep the dog “under command,” which is what we call phase 1. The art is not in doing it WITHOUT a treat, but rather rewarding the dog with an object such as a ball, chew toy, or tug toy. It will walk nicely, but only until you offer the object, then it is back to being tense and working for dopamine.

So what do we do differently at Onlinehund? We use our three phases in learning – and in play:

Phase 1 – Learning Phase 2 – Patience/Scanning Phase 3 – Calmness

Cuddling exercises and massage quickly replace the edible treats, which are the ones that release serotonin. By using the REASOM method, you achieve a dog that is comfortable in its own skin, is not constantly under command, and can walk by your side without being “on” all the time, where breathing is normal because it is the state of mind that is rewarded and acknowledged.

Here are some games you can play with your dog:

Recall becomes a game by using the target hand. Treat training is also a good game, as the dog must use its sense of smell – here you can increase the distance and adjust the height for where you place the treat. The dog must concentrate and find only one treat and complete its task by coming back to you. There are actually several exercises in this game – sit by me, focus on me, send the dog off, complete the task, find the treat, come back to you, and sit by my side. It requires structure for all the things mentioned above, and the dog must be able to perform each exercise before you put them all together. Only your imagination sets the limits for how creative you can be in your learning games.

Dummy training is a fantastic way to teach the dog to grip and release. You can expand the retrieval by using several dummies or hiding them in some bushes. Here, it is necessary that you have taught the dog “backward chaining” to grip and release. Without this exercise, you have skipped a very important part, and you will never get to the correct end. Again, use your imagination and see how skilled your puppy/dog can become in a relatively short time. Choose good games and avoid your dog becoming dependent.

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