Transformative Dog Training in Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Charleston, SC

Tending the Tinderbox: How Small Habits Prevent Big Problems


In my community there’s a hillside covered in dead, brown grass. There are a few shades of green on the hill, but they’re only there because of the community’s efforts to water this dead hill. I live directly across the street, and every time our guests see the sprinklers come on in the evening, they get confused. “Why waste so much water?” they ask. “Why water a dead hill?”

Well, why does the community do this? Because if they didn’t, then there would be no green on the hill whatsoever. All of the grass would be completely dead—and would immediately turn into a tinderbox. Just over that hill are thousands of homes, where tens of thousands of people live. If this hillside were to catch fire, it could potentially harm many people and destroy lots of homes. The community takes various measures to prevent this from ever happening, such as routinely cutting the grass and watering even the dead patches. That hillside, without the maintenance it receives, could quickly destroy many acres and lives. However, the community puts down water and keeps the soil wet, and as a result it’s much less likely that a hill fire occurs.

Watering dead grass seems like a ridiculous concept, but it’s one that I constantly encourage my dog training clients to do. Now, I don’t care too much about my clients’ landscaping. Rather, I ask my clients to do a lot of little things to prevent their dogs from potentially turning into a “tinderbox.” If I’ve helped a dog with aggression, then I know that if his owner doesn’t get him to perform daily place commands and walk properly a leash, there could be negative consequences.

I know that these measures may seem like watering dead grass most of the time. You might not be sure what lying on a bed for half an hour has do with aggression, but it’s one small measure that makes it less likely for the dog to turn into a problem. It helps the dog stay in the correct mindset. When dogs have problems with destruction, I similarly tell the owners to get him walking properly, which helps keep his mind active and focused on something other than the urge to be destructive. Sometimes, when I make this recommendation, owners ask what it could possibly have to do with their dog’s problem. It’s simple: we’re watering the dead grass. Even though the problem is below the surface where we can’t see it, we invite a lot of issues by not taking these small measures.

What can you do to water your dead grass? There are a lot of options. Make sure you take your dog on proper walks. Give him calm in the house, through a place command or a down stay. Have your dogs wait at the door or the food bowl. Don’t let him pull on his leash. All these little things combine to put water on the dead grass. When you do them well, that doesn’t mean that there’s absolutely no chance that the hill will ever catch on fire. Every dog can make mistakes. But we’re taking daily and necessary steps and doing your best to ensure that your dog won’t fly off the handle and set fire to the village.  Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration—but you know what I mean!

Aggression page DvD Graphics

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