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Dog Training

Dog needs a farm! Really?

In how many rehoming ads have you read …’Great dog for sale.  Needs a farm or large property to run.’? Its so common to see this statement in rehoming advertisements.  Unless the dog is in fact a working/guarding breed of livestock such as an Anatolian Shepard or Great Pyrenees and instinctually would probably be happier outside in a large space doing its job, most dogs don’t need a farm or large property. dog-in-field

Its more probable that the dog in the advertisement needs their guardian to spend more quality time with them.

They need more off leash ‘free to run’ time and more mental stimulation.  Or someone to take the time and teach them how to ‘be’ in a human world (training). But either the advertiser doesn’t know this or is just using ‘needs a farm’ to justify rehoming a dog they don’t want. Maybe.

Chances are that dog will go out to do his or her business and then come back to where their guardian is so no amount of land will change this.

From my experience in dogs through owning a dog day care and as a professional dog trainer, I’ve learned that most people are not prepared for a dog and what a dog needs to stay mentally and physically fulfilled.  A fulfilled dog won’t be bored.  They won’t perform behavior that is destructive or obsessive or annoying to their guardian.

People purchase dogs of a specific type for a myriad of reasons but many do not choose a dog breed based on what really matters: life style and experience.

The ‘for sale’ advertisements are full of dogs in the wrong home with guardians who, for one reason or another, have decided the best, the easiest and cheapest option is to get rid of the dog.  Some people care enough to get training/behavior help and see the value but others don’t.  Problem solved by selling or surrendering at the pound or to a rescue.

Dogs’ never do wrong.  They are innocent.  It is the human element that makes their environment and dogs just respond to it. Ultimately thousands of them, pay the price.   Thousands pay with their life.


‘You’re soft’. Thank you!!

I’ve been told a time or two that I’m soft with dogs.  It was meant in kindness but the intention was to suggest that I needed to be harder on the dogs.  I used to be offended and hurt by this comment.  I thought I must be doing something wrong!  But my instincts told me I was doing just fine and doing right by the dog and following what was right for me. When someone recently commented ‘you’re soft’ I said “Thank you!”

Since when does being soft on a dog a bad thing?

Lets be clear: soft doesn’t mean permissive. Being soft doesn’t mean I don’t get what I want.  It means I DO but I don’t have to use punishment, punitive tools, physical or psychological pressure or negative reinforcement to get it.  Soft is the way I move, speak,(if I speak) guide, prompt, reinforce and ultimately, build behavior.   I still get what I want and the dog gets trained.  The misunderstanding by those that accuse me of being soft is that they think I can’t train all dogs using this style, approach or attitude.  There’s where they’re wrong and I have many clients to prove it including my own dogs when they were alive.

My personal belief is that it’s upon me, the higher intelligent being in this training equation, to rise above such old and archaic methods. To employ empathy and at the very least, a sheer feeling of responsibility to do right by another and teach with compassion, patience and to reinforce what is wanted and not make life miserable for the dog.

Its a sign of a good teacher and human being; one that doesn’t need punishment to teach.

Oh, a punitive trainer can be a great trainer but Im talking about their attitude towards dogs. What motivates them emotionally to use punishment to train?

There is also the belief that certain breeds or personalities need punishment and thats all bs too. The ‘some dog’s don’t respond to positive reinforcement’ is a fallacy spoken by someone who doesn’t know what to do next so they stop searching and trying, give up and choose the quick and dirty way to change behavior. If its a trainer telling you this, I’d run away fast. All of us, all animals, fall into the realm of learning theory. The grey area is how it applies to all of us. And keep in mind that changing behavior can be complex and sometimes, takes time… lots of time. When was the last time you changed, for the long term, over night?

I get what I need to help the dog but sometimes its not in a way that others will understand or believe. Therein lies the difference between them and Me; I know I can get it. I don’t have to prove to anyone but the client that I can and I’ll never go to the other side because change isn’t happening fast enough for someone else including the client.

So go ahead and call me soft!  THANK YOU!

Pressure on +R Dog Training: Don’t give in to it.

In 2001, I wasn’t as knowledgeable about  dog behavior as I am now or as confident so during a visit with a friend’s dog, a dog that had gone after my puppy on more than one occasion, I caved into the pressure of others around me; I allowed the dogs to visit without me in the vicinity.  What I thought would happen did happen and it was me who was breaking up the one sided attack while my friendly puppy Quinn, wanted to continue playing.  He turned out to be a great dog in spite of these early problems.

As a positive reinforcement trainer, I’ve experienced my share of pressure and doubt from outside sources and still do on occasion.

In the early days of having brought Sadie Mae in my life, I had people around me offering opinions and advice. I was in the ‘middle’ many times; the ‘middle’ being keeping my dog feeling safe and my guests happy.  It was a social ‘dance’ of keeping everyone from being embarrassed and pleasing them and honouring my dog at the same time.  A very difficult dance to say the least.

Everyone has an opinion on dogs and how to teach them and the pressure to use punishment can be great.  It makes us doubt ourselves sometimes, especially when the problem behavior isn’t ceasing and you’re feeling embarrassed, frustrated and angry.

My advice: don’t cave to the pressure but follow what your heart and your gut are telling you. When you bow to outside pressure, you put others before your dog and her needs when she needs you to be her advocate and teacher.

Quinn's 1st night home

Quinn & Catherine 2000

If you know better BUT you choose to listen to others and ignore that ‘inside’ voice,  don’t blame those that pressure you.

A big part of life is how we choose to react and you have a choice to respond and follow their suggestions or NOT.  Positive reinforcement training is not fully understood by many if they’ve never used it to train an animal so you’ll have to forgive them for their ignorance and educate if you so choose.

That day, I was furious with the people that I allowed to pressure me.  But that soon changed to anger with myself for not following what I truly felt was best for my dog. I realized it was my choice to cave to the opinions of others.   It exposed something within me and I didn’t like it; lack of belief in myself.  Hence, it became a learning experience.

I made the decision, the commitment, to never cave into pressure again if I felt it wasn’t what I truly wanted.

Move away from the pressure, tune it out, explain why you are choosing another way (if you wish too) but do not give into the wants of others who are NOT in your shoes, who do not know your dog. You know your dog better than anyone, than any trainer and always, always do what you think is right, what is best, based on your knowledge at the time and your experience. Its all we have at any given time.

Address your dog with a do no harm approach and you won’t go wrong.