Just One Casualty, Isn’t Bad
I have recently moved.
I find myself living in the confines of the city again; and with that I find it easier to get back into in home training.
Being successful doing in home training in very rural areas of Virginia was difficult at best. I spent more time on the road just getting from place to place, that it didn’t make much sense to see clients on a regular basis.
But city living makes in home training more successful.
So, recently, I was invited to the home of 4 Labrador Retrievers of various age.
They ranged from 1 year old to 13 years old and each has an assortment of problems.
The problem is that I am not the only trainer to visit this furry household.
They had a previous trainer, who trained in a very odd manner, and so they were very apprehensive of my arrival.
Thankfully, they had looked me up online and did a bit of a background check prior to giving me a call.
I am always happy to answer most questions over the phone, and am more than happy to describe how I train.
I think of my training as common sense training.
It’s not purely positive (because I don’t think anything in life is) but I certainly don’t center around the negative.
The best case scenario is to train in a manner the dogs love and to make training feel like a game and I reward behavior I already like, so I can communicate to my dogs what behaviors that they show that I like.
Everyone loves a game right?
Unfortunately, This Was Not the Motto of Their Previous Trainer
They explained how occasionally the dogs jumped up on people (I was mauled when I came inside).
And, they complained how the dogs would occasionally fight.
Next, they described how the former trainer recommended prong collars.
And, he insisted that they keep water balloons strategically placed throughout the house in case the dogs argued or did something they didn’t like.
They were also to make and keep shake cans all over the home so that they could be easily grabbed and tossed at any dog that might choose to do something they found offensive.
They discovered that while these things seemed to work on their dogs, by stopping them from continuing those behaviors, it also made one of the four dogs run and hide behind the bed shaking for hours at a time.
When they shared this information with the “professional” trainer they had employed, he explained how one casualty out of four dogs was not a bad thing at all. Either the dog would learn to cope, or he would just have to hide in the bedroom if that is where he is comfortable.
I admit, I was surprised that anyone would actually say that; “one casualty out of four wasn’t bad”.
And, I laughed as I drew the same conclusion with how teachers teach children.
What if “one casualty” was okay?
What if we taught public school like boot camp or prison camp? And, what if one out of every 4 children would be a casualty and need to be locked in a mental institution after school? Would that be considered successful?
I think it is preposterous when we use the same mentality on the human race or children.
I think we should teach in a way that is fun, and is conducive to learning; whether it be for dogs, children, or adults.
And, I think if we find a child or a dog that doesn’t learn the way in which we are teaching; then perhaps we should cater our teaching to the way that they will learn!
But, the problem with this mentality is that you have to be a good, ingenuitive and intelligent teacher in order to change your teaching to meet the needs of your pupil.
And let’s face it, not all dog trainers are created equal.
I Can’t Even Imagine
I can even imagine living my life with water balloons all over my house. Do you have to refill them everyday… or do you just hope one doesn’t puncture and get everything on your tables wet?
And, how much of a wet mess does that make when you must chuck one at your dog?
And, what must your dog think?
I bet he thinks you are completely untrustworthy and you have lost your mind.
I have used a squirt bottle on occasion (although I don’t recommend it often), but I have never thrown a water balloon at a dog.
I don’t mind a good water fight, but I don’t want to get hit by a water balloon every time you don’t like something I did.
Imagine your spouse hangs the toilet paper wrong, or perhaps squeezes the toothpaste from the wrong end; now imagine hitting him with a water balloon each time he (or you) do something the other doesn’t like.
I can’t imagine that I would stay in this little relationship very long.
How about instead, you ask me to hang the toilet paper over and not under, or you tell me how much it bothers you when I squeeze the toothpaste from the middle.
How about you buy me a new pair of shoes if I change my ways and do things the way you like?
You see, dogs are simple people, actually, they are more simple than us!
They like to be rewarded.
They like getting things they want.
They also like making us happy.
You simply have to teach them what you like and what you don’t.
So How Did I Solve Their Problems
I told them to work on each dog’s obedience through the week, because we would be calling on that later when we come to changing bad behavior.
I also told them to put leashes on the door jumpers, and instead of allowing them to jump; command and work with them to lie down at people’s feet when they come through the door.
Instead of jumping, lying down will be the default behavior which can then be rewarded with a toy, a treat or affection from the owner or the visitor.
To Stop the Fighting
And, to stop the fighting, I asked the owners to get more involved in paying attention to their dogs.
I taught them to watch their dog’s face changes, how they give each other dirty looks, and how they stiffen and growl.
And, I taught them how to defuse the situation before it got to the growling and threatening behavior.
With the introduction of obedience at regular intervals throughout the day, comes more adherence to obedience commands and respect for their owners.
After all, why should they have to wait until the dogs start fighting to intervene? In fact, wouldn’t it make more sense to teach them to get along and not fight and to teach the owners how to diffuse and not fuel a bad situation!
Always do your homework when it comes to the background of your trainer!
And, never do anything you will regret?
What crazy things has a trainer asked you to do?
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.