Toxic masculine energy in dog training perpetuates dominance and aggression, hindering true understanding and connection between humans and their canine companions. Nevertheless, it continues to dominate the way we train our best friends. That needs to change. Unravel the intriguing conversation about the essence of masculine and feminine energies in this episode! Join Doug Poynter and his guest, Ranji Singh, as they delve into a thought-provoking discussion about how different energy styles influence not just dogs but also the world around us. From debunking the alpha male myth to embracing the power of collaborative and nurturing approaches, this conversation promises a fresh perspective on creating harmony and understanding in the canine-human relationship. Discover the secrets to long-lasting behavior change and witness a powerful transformation in dog training methods that will leave you inspired and eager for more!
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Masculine Vs. Feminine-What Works With Our Dogs? With Ranji Singh
Welcome to another episode. I’m the Owner of the business Better Dog Behavior. I’m located in Central Virginia. I service the Central Virginia area. I specialize in canine behavior problems. I service all over. I had clients in Nicaragua, Southern California, Atlanta, and Pennsylvania. I’m not going to people’s houses. When I’m servicing someone in Nicaragua, I’m doing that by Zoom. I can do this business by Zoom or live.
I work with behavior problems in dogs. I use marker training, clicker training, and positive reinforcement. I work with aggressive dogs, fearful dogs, and dogs with separation anxiety. I work with dogs that have problems. You know what I always say. If you have been following this show, I say it a bunch of times, “I have yet to see a canine behavior problem that wasn’t also a human problem.”
I always tell folks that I train dogs and people. I help dogs and people. We have a great partnership with our dogs. We had discussed before how dogs were essential to helping us create Western civilization or even civilization as we know it. I look at it as a sacred partnership. That is how I deal with fixing canine behavior problems.
I want to get started with a special episode because I have a special friend as a guest, Ranji Singh, a charming guest and dog lover with lots of experience with dogs. We are going to discuss a controversial topic. I hope this is not too out there for you. It’s not too out there for me and Ranji. I’m hoping you guys will enjoy what we are talking about. Before we start talking about our subject, I like to introduce my friend, Ranji Singh. Ranji, I’m glad that you are here with us.
Doug, thanks for having me.
Tell us a little bit about your background with the dogs. Before she does, I want to tell you something. Everything this lady does, she does great. I have told her over and over again, “You belong out in Hollywood.” She laughs that off. She does everything great. She is so talented. She got a love for dogs. Ranji, tell us about how you got into dogs and what you do with the canines.
It started when I was a child. I grew up as an only child. There were a lot of times when my only companionship came from the family pets. We always had several dogs. We treated them as part of the family. They were always in the house with us and very much loved. That is my first memories of having my dogs around me growing up.
When I turned about 8, 9, or a little younger than that, I started intuitively training the little terrier that I had to do some fun fancy tricks, like stand up on her hind legs and twirl in a circle for a treat. That was born from an innate understanding and connection with dogs that came from the heart because I had no formal dog training at that point in my life.
When I graduated from college, I got my first dog as an adult. That was all mine. It was a Great Dane. I overcompensated growing up. I was only ever allowed to have small dogs. I went to the opposite extreme to prove a point. I bought this Great Dane from a great breeder. I got him when he was six weeks old. That dog was my one true soulmate.
We had twelve amazing years together and many adventures. We moved out to Los Angeles and got an apartment in West Hollywood. He was so well trained because I loved dog training and doing it with him. He is such a natural. He was one of those bombproof dogs who was solid and steady no matter what was going around him in the environment. That predisposed him to do well in set work. He did some commercials. He was on a couple of TV shows. I got to play stage Mom. We did a lot of training and learned a lot out there from the other set trainers. That was amazing. That elevated my training skills to a level that I had previously I wasn’t at.
Was he on any shows that we would have seen?
He did a couple of Chevy commercials or maybe it was Ford. He did a Lifetime movie. We flew to Vancouver and he had some parts in that. We did a pilot for a show that went on to get picked up by a network called I’m Gonna Off the Leash. There was another one, the Greatest American Dog. His resume honestly looked better than mine when we ended up moving back from California.
Sadly, when I lost him, I was devastated. I needed something to fill that hole in my heart. I started volunteering with the local Great Dane Rescue here in Kentucky. I thought, “That was so heartbreaking. I can’t ever have another dog on my own.” I missed the companionship. I thought, “I will have him in and foster him.” I foster failed three times. I ended up with three Great Danes all at once. I had them all trained. I would walk them all. That garnered a lot of stares. It was 450 pounds of dog. I walked it once and I weighed about 110 pounds myself.
That is impressive to be able to control that amount of muscle.
There was no more room at the end. I had to step back from Rescue because I had my hands full there. I would still take on the problem cases. They had some behavioral problems that kept them from being adoptable. I would train the deaf and blind ones. I got to experience a lot with that Great Dane Rescue. I learned so much.
Do you have a dog now? I believe you do, don’t you?
I have one of those three Great Danes I rescued from the Rescue left. He is doing amazing. He is going to be the longest-lived Dane I have. He has always been the healthy one.
Without being in the movies, I guess he hasn’t been in the movies yet. He could be in the movies. I have told you before. He is the GQ of dogs. You do such a great job of videotaping the thing that you put on Facebook, going through the woods in the snow. He got white on his eyelids. The snow was coming down. It was in the woods. That was unbelievable.
He knows his job around here to earn his room and board.
Now that we know a little bit more about you, let’s jump into what it is we have been talking about. Ranji and I have talked about this from all kinds of different angles, not just dogs but we are going to focus more on the dogs. This is where it is going to get out there into the universe. I hope you are ready for this. Ranji, if you remember, we were having a discussion about all the stuff going on in the world. I told you that my theory was what we see in our world is an expression of a massive amount of dysfunctional male energy. You agreed with me when I said that.
Our personalities have nothing to do with gender. It is the masculine and feminine component of the spiritual and psychological parts of our personalities. When we have an imbalance, we have problems. You may agree with me. Tell me if I’m right or wrong here but it is my opinion that we have seen an overabundance of toxic masculine energy. Would you agree with that?
I agree. It is important to define what healthy male masculinity is versus the toxic version because some people may not understand the distinction.
I’m glad you said that because I was getting ready to say that. Don’t think we are against male energy. We are not. I’m a guy.
I love men.
I love women. We got a little bit of defining here to do. My definition of functional male energy is the builder, the warrior in a positive, the protector, and the engineer. An engineer is a male energy that is functional. A builder is functional. A warrior that protects the family or individuals is functional male energy. I always like to look at that building and protecting mode to think about functional male energy. What do you think? Do you have anything else that you want to add to that? Did I miss anything there?
I don’t think you missed anything. If I were to speak to it, I would describe it as approaching situations from a proactive stance as opposed to an aggressive one. There is a difference between being proactive and being aggressive.There is a difference between being proactive and just being aggressive. Click To Tweet
Assertive as opposed to aggressive.
That is an even better way to say it.
What we have been discussing is the rise of functional-feminine energy. What we are seeing in the world is the conflict between dysfunctional masculine energy that doesn’t want to take a step back and functional-feminine energy that wants to take a step forward. If we want to talk about something a little more worldly than dogs, for one, you ladies should be given a chance to rule the world because we men have messed it up quite a bit. You can see that all over the news. Tell me what your definition is of functional or divine feminine energy. The divine feminine is what we hear so much.
Divine feminine energy is a receptive energy where you facilitate a constant flow of receiving and pushing that energy back out. If you are familiar with karate or tai chi, they practice taking the energy in, manipulating it, and sending it back out in a flowing way. Healthy feminine energy is not sitting back and allowing yourself to be told what to do all the time. It is not a weakness. A lot of people mistake it for weakness. You can get the same things done in feminine energy that you can in masculine energy. It is just a different approach. Neither one is stronger or better than the other.
I always look at feminine energy as being the nurturer, developer, and collaborator. I was in a business mastermind that was run by a lady named Lisa Sasevich. She got a very successful business. I told her one time, “Lisa, I have learned so much being in this mastermind. I have learned that you ladies collaborate a whole lot better than we guys do. We guys want to go out and kill everything in our way. You might pick at each other a little bit but you were able to collaborate and work together a whole lot more effectively than we guys seem to do. We guys seem to want to fight everything.” She smiled and nodded.
When I think about how this applies to what we do with our dogs, what we do with our training with our dogs, and how we create lives for our dogs, this is a subject that can create quite a bit of controversy among people who do what you and I do. There is this feeling that we must master our dogs and dominate them to have control. To me, that is dysfunctional male energy.
It is the epitome of toxic masculinity, where you have to conquer, control, and dominate.The feeling that we must master our dogs and dominate them in order to have control is the epitome of toxic masculinity. Click To Tweet
We are not saying that your dog gets away with doing whatever he wants to do, rules your household, and is in total control. We are saying the way you get the scenarios set up so that everybody can work together doesn’t have to be using dominance.
At first blush, this whole masculine-feminine polarity thing would seem counterintuitive that would apply to dog training but it does because there are simply different approaches. It applies to everything in life. Anything that you do in life, it would apply to.
You and I have discussed this before. If you are interested in this, there may be another episode on the subject like this coming in the near future but we are going to stick with dogs in this episode. Here is what I want you to do if you would. We are not going to name any names but you told me about a problem or issue you had with a trainer that was referred to you because you had a little bit of a behavior problem with one of your dogs. Tell everybody what the result of that was or a little bit of the background and what happened.
When I worked with the Great Dane Rescue, we would get in all manner of dogs with issues, which a lot of times is why they were surrendered to rescue and their initial owners were unable to keep them. I had a dog. The dog had a bit of an aggression issue. The trainer that the rescue worked with employed a chain-jerking yank and crank.
The thing is I liked the guy. His heart was in the right place. He loved these dogs. He dedicated countless hours for free to help people either keep their dogs and not have their dogs go into rescue or rehabilitate the ones that did come into rescue so they could go on to find their forever homes. We are not talking about a hateful, mean, awful, terrible person. We are talking about the training method that he employed was aggressive and intense. You have to dominate the dog. Correct me if I’m wrong, is it the Koehler Method?
Will Koehler was the big trainer in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s in the United States.
It was a time when toxic masculinity was dominating over feminine energy. He used that method. In my opinion, it was brutal. Although, at the time, I employed a lot of the techniques because I didn’t know any better. This was the person presented to me as an expert in solving these difficult issues. What I saw in the dog was not working for this dog’s particular personality. I’m of the opinion that you need to have a lot of tools in your tool belt as a dog trainer.
Ideally, you want to customize your training to the individual dog because dogs, like humans, learn in different ways. We have different personality styles. When you take a single approach and blanket every dog with it, you should be wary of trainers like that because that is what this trainer did. He was very adamant that this was the only training method that worked and was worth a damn. Any other techniques or training methods employed were subpar and didn’t work. The people did not know what the hell they were doing.
What did he do to your dog?
He did a lot of chain-jerking. You could see that the dog was shut down. When the dog shuts down, there is no learning happening. Nothing is landing with the dog. From being a kid, I have this innate connection with animals. I can tell what is going on with them without explaining why. I thought, “This is not right for this dog.” It was brutal, in my opinion. I had to abort the mission there and search for other methods. That was the best thing I could have ever done. That is what expanded my repertoire to deal with all different kinds of dogs.
Let me tell you something that is in the Koehler book, the way to stop the dog from digging holes.
This is awful. Say it because people need to know.
Fill the hole up with water, take the dog’s head, and dunk it down into the hole filled with water until the dog is choking. Yank his head out and do that every day for three days. Soon, the smell of the mud, water, and hole itself will be disgusting to the dog. He will never dig a hole again. I find that to be amazing that anyone would want to do that to an animal, much less your pet dog, unless you are angry and full of toxic masculinity. Have we talked about my theory about where this comes from?
I don’t recall.
I believe it comes from our theory about wolves. I have talked about it in this show before. There is an alpha male in the wolfpack who rules with force. As long as he is more forceful than any of the other males who are constantly trying to take over the wolfpack, he will remain the leader. When he can’t get his way physically, he won’t be the leader any longer.
That is something we thought we knew about wolves for many years. Knowing that our dogs are descended from wolves, my hypothesis is that is where all this comes from. If it works for wolves, it must work for our dogs. We must dominate. The problem is it is not true with wolves. Dr. David Mech, who is the foremost authority on wolves, came out on YouTube several years ago.
He said, “I was wrong. I am the person who put the term alpha on a lead male in a wolfpack. The reason I was wrong is until the study that I did on Ellesmere Island. We couldn’t study wolves in the wild. We had to study them in captivity. In captivity, which is like a prison for wolves, there was a bigger and stronger male who did dominate. In the wild, the wolfpack is a family.
“There is a little structure in a wolfpack. There is no conflict. Nobody is trying to take over. It is mom, dad, and the kids.” As he says in that video, “The idea that a male is the lead of a pack because he fights better is wrong. He is the lead because he bred with a female and they had pups.” He is dad. The alpha female is the mom. If we keep that in mind, that can help change the way we look at the way we deal with our dogs.
The answer is not being an alpha male in the sense of the wolfpack or human alpha male. When you think about an alpha male, that brings up a bit of toxic masculine energy in my mind.
Neither of us is saying there shouldn’t be any male leaders and shouldn’t have strong male leaders or female leaders. What we are saying is we need a balance of that masculine and feminine energy.
Healthy masculine and healthy feminine energy have a symbiotic relationship because we need strong, healthy, proactive male energy for female energy to sit back in their feminine and do things from that. If we have weak males in society, what happens is women feel like, “We have to step up to the plate and be more aggressive.” Things get out of balance.
I’m not saying that women can’t stand up, be leaders, and do everything men can do. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of women out there living in their masculine energy and they do so their whole lives. Bringing it back to dog training, more of a feminine approach is healthier for the dog. You are going to get better and long-lasting results cemented into that dog’s brain. You are going to get behavior change at a very base level.
Let me tell you a story about someone I have been communicating with. She has a little dog that is a Jack Russell Terrier.
I have one of those.
Also, an Akita in him. That is quite the mix. I don’t know how that happened. At any rate, he has bitten his owner multiple times. She showed me the scarring on her arm and her son’s leg and foot. The dog’s name is Scout. Somehow or another, she found me online. She called me. She wanted to know if I could help. I did what I normally do, which is to go through a litany of questions and try to find out the background.
It took me 2 or 3 days. The conversations weren’t pleasant because this lady was so wound up. I could hardly get her to stop. She would go on about how this was going to be a disaster. At one point, I went, “Stop. I can’t help you if you don’t listen to me.” It finally came up that maybe I had gotten not complete information. I said, “When did this start?” She told me the chronology of when it started.
I said, “Is there anything you can draw as far as an event that maybe is the thing since this event started?” She was like, “Yes.” I was like, “What was it?” She was like, “We had to take him to the vet and the vet was afraid of it.” I have seen a picture of this dog. He might weigh 30 pounds. She said, “The vet put a noose on him, drug him into the vet’s office, forcefully did the exam, and took him back out on the noose.” I said, “Had he bitten anybody before that?” She said, “No.” I said, “You can thank your vet for this.”
Why wouldn’t the vet have the owners put a muzzle on the dog?
They tried that after the noose but he wouldn’t have anything to do with the muzzle after that experience of hands around his neck. What happens is they can’t pet him on the head. He will bite him if they pet him on the head.
He needs some defensive training.
She has ordered a clicker. I asked her, “Can you touch his collar?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “We got some footing here that we can work with.” The problem is the poor dog is feeling threatened because he was threatened. That is abuse. I said to her, “What kind of vet would do that?” I’m not going to mention who it was but she told me where the veterinary office is and I’m familiar with where it is. I was like, “I can’t believe that.” That is toxic male energy.
Let me tell you what fuels toxic male energy, whether it’s out in the world or dealing with our dogs. It is going to sound counterintuitive but it is fear. We don’t want to admit as guys that we are afraid. When we are afraid of something, we have to get bigger and bad than that thing. You don’t noose a dog unless you are afraid of the dog. I work with dogs all the time.
I talk to somebody. He was telling me that his dog had growled at him. I said, “This would be easy. I’m always working with dogs who want to rip my face off.” The answer to those problems is not correcting the behavior and getting bigger and bad than the dog. The answer to that is behavior modification, desensitizing, and counter-conditioning. That is a more feminine approach, whether it is a guy or a lady doing it. I have seen plenty of ladies who are as abusive with dogs as anything you can find a guy doing. They are the typical old-school female dog trainers. You don’t have to be a guy to have toxic male energy.
Sometimes a lot of women feel like they do need to overcorrect the dog to make up for the fact that the dog might outweigh them or they have a little bit of fear of the dog. It is not just men that employ this.
My theory is if you are going to rely on corrections, you are being intellectually weak here. Here is the deal. None of us are good enough to never have a correction. If I was good enough in a situation, right off the bat, I would never need a correction. My dog is very reactive. She is a rescue dog. I’m getting her good with my brother. She tried to climb the fence after my brother. I had to yell at her to get her off the fence. That is toxic male energy but she sat down. We could do the stuff we wanted to do to desensitize. As a matter of fact, we had a good session.
I want to impress everybody that when you are thinking about your dog, getting a result, and solving a behavior problem, you want to look for a trainer who does behavior modification and focuses on positive reinforcement. Clicker training is good for this stuff. It is something that dogs get into and get excited about. Keep this in mind. If you have a dog growling at you and anybody, the dog feels threatened. I always like to draw this analogy. Feeling threatened means being scared. When was the last time you were scared that somebody popped you, hit you, or screamed at you that made you less scared?
It doesn’t work like that.
Whether we want to call it toxic male energy, functional male energy, divine feminine energy, or toxic feminine energy, there are methods that work. Behavior modification and positive reinforcement work. We have to calm down and get out of our toxic cells.
It is like disciplining a child. You have to have a better grip on your emotions at that moment than your child does for you to correct your child in a way that’s going to work and be kind and healthy.
I always like to stay away from the word correct when I’m talking about dogs. I like to say to fix it and create another better association. What we are going to be doing with Scout, creating a different association for having somebody touch him. I got another client with a tiny dog who bites them endlessly. They can’t put a leash on her. This is what I had them do. I said, “I like you to stand in front of your dog, hold the leash in your left hand, and have it curled up so that it is not hanging down on the floor but she can see it and face her with your right side. When she sees the leash in your hand, hand her a food treat.”
My client said, “She was very hesitant.” I said, “Keep doing it until she is not hesitant. Text me back when she is not hesitant.” A couple of days later, she was like, “She is taking the treat.” I said, “Let a little more of the leash hang out of your left hand so she sees more of it. What we are going to do is get it to where that whole leash is going to be hanging down on the floor and she is going to take a food treat in the presence of that leash.” This is before we even try to put the leash on her. We got to desensitize from that small bit of work to increase it so that the dog learns that the leash is not dangerous. Seeing that leash means good stuff is going to happen. That is how we do stuff.
I learned this in set training in LA with my dog. There were some complicated multi-step behaviors that these set dogs had to be trained to do in succession. You can’t correct a dog into learning things like that. You have to positively motivate them, make them excited, make it fun, and make them want to do those crazy things they have to learn to do for set work, and it works.You can't correct a dog into learning complicated behaviors. You have to positively motivate them and make them excited to do it. Make it fun for them. Click To Tweet
We are coming to the end of our show. It is appropriate that we end it with your Hollywood experience. Everybody, hopefully, this has helped you. If you want to get more information on training with clickers, go back to my episode called The Magic of Markers. It will teach you about marker training. There are all kinds of resources.
I always like to pump up the Kikopup YouTube site. Emily Larlham is a great trainer. She uses clicker training and positive reinforcement. You can learn a lot from her. Will Campbell wrote the definitive text Behavior Problems in Dogs but he also got a book that is not a text. It is for regular folks like us. It is called Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs. That is a great book to read. If you need any references, check those out. Ranji, thank you so much for being with us. I’m glad we were able to do this. We have been talking about it for a while. I appreciate it.
Thanks for having me. Everybody, remember, when you are working with your dog and when in doubt, choose the kinder approach.
Ranji, thank you very much.
- Great Dane Rescue
- The Magic of Markers
- Kikopup – YouTube
- Behavior Problems in Dogs
- Owner’s Guide to Better Behavior in Dogs