In the dog training world there is a fascination with methods. There's "force free", "balanced", "positive reinforcement (+R) only" to name the ones you will hear the most.
Before becoming a trainer years ago, I researched for a year trying to figure out what all this meant. At the end of that year I knew dogs required both positive reinforcement (+R) and a consequence.
Once finding my feet, after going to school and continuing my own studies, I haven't spent much time taking notice of the who's who, or what other trainers are doing until recently (who has time?). I have been recently to find answers as to why so many of my clients came to me as "a last resort" after spending thousands with no results or worse. Sometimes, more harm had been done. Also why there was a noticeable shift in the amount of dogs being medicated and so readily. Then how it was dogs are being euthanized for behaviours, how it is that those trusted to protect our friends, are also euthanizing unnecessarily. Why behaviourists are recommending euthanasia for young healthy dogs that are not only rehabilitatable, but are actually caused by relational issues with the owner. These dogs more often than not have no reason to be killed!
I have never been more embarrassed to be associated with such an industry.
I predominantly focus on behavioural issues, my favourite being human aggressive and very nervous dogs due the new lease on life these dogs are afforded. Regardless of the behaviours, 98% of the time dogs got to where they did due to a lack of understanding of dog language by owners.
The rehabilitation lies in the relationship with the human and the dog.
Just like in any relationship we choose how we want to be treated, we choose how we show up. We reinforce what behaviours we will accept or not. Unlike most other relationships this one is unique in the language barrier. Different to other language barriers i.e Japanese to english, there isn't a translator - for dogs.
There is yet to be a dog who can speak to give us a true look into their language.
After working with, observing and living with 100's of dogs, I do my best to translate what I see, know and understand. I teach humans the basics of dog language in order for the humans to ensure the message being received match those intended inside the home. This is where it all begins.
Psychologically dogs and humans show a lot of similarities. Especially in the changing of behaviours. For example, if our emotions are suppressed eventually there is going to be a negative outcome. Dogs are no different. Stopping a bad behaviour does not surmount to suppressing the emotions, once we remove the action we are able to build confidence in the areas required should it be a behaviour driven from fear. If you continuously avoid the triggers, and reward the dog for "look at me" each time the trigger arises you are not allowing the dog to move through any of their feelings, or helping them learn what actual behaviour is ideal.
If a dog is not challenged emotionally or mentally they will not grow.
What is also similar is how different every person/dog is from the next. You treat your second dog the same way as the first, you will see a very different outcome, just as you do in two kids growing up.
Did you know, they was a 'rescue' dog acts in your home will be different to the next? This is caused by the difference in how one human functions in the world to the next. What is important to you may not be as important to me. For example, whether a dog is allowed to follow you into the bathroom can differ changing the dynamic in relationship. It's in the small things, just as it is in human/human relationships.
Rehabilitation requires teaching humans dog language so when we create the shift out of the undesirable behaviours, they don't return due to incorrect messaging.
In the dog world today, there are people making thousands, sometimes 6 figure salaries based off methods that don't work or work sometimes. Or maybe there is some peace gained with certain methods because the owners are told to change their lives/houses/patterns/plans around to accommodate their dogs fears and anxieties. All to make sure we don't unnecessarily stress the dog. Blacking out your windows to stop a dog barking for any reason should not be accepted, but not only is it being accepted, more and more are doing it.
Dog's are more stressed in today's world with more anxious and fearful dogs and more dogs acting out. We need to change so our dogs can be happy again, to experience life fully. Dog's that aren't even comparable to the dogs I rehabilitate here are being reduced to fragile, incapable victims that have no ability to process.
Where humans and dogs differ : dogs do NOT hold onto the story. They have the action or emotion potentially, but they don't put the past to it. So the ability to shift emotionally and behaviourally is not as tedious or lengthy as the typical human experience.
Ok, so the humans understand, now what? Now, we use dog language to re-educate the dog.
Clear yes or no communication, just as they do. By establishing communication, teaching what is desirable and what is undesirable with out pain or fear. Once we know for certain the lines of communication are clear and tested we can then add consequence that is fair. The consequence being a correction.
Correction does NOT equal abuse. Correction does NOT equal dominance. .
The dog has a choice, do or not. Sometimes, the correction will be high enough to create discomfort but the level is decided by the dog. Each time the behaviour is practised after they understand, the level of consequence increases. They are choosing, and sometimes dogs have a high pain tolerance, especially if the reward itself may seem worth it to the dog.
There is an obsession in today's dog training world regarding suppressing behaviour. Also, dominance. The only kinds of behaviours I am known to suppress are ones that are dangerous to them or others. For example, if a dog attempts to cause harm by biting, yes I may suppress this in order to be able to work with the dog. At this point I will be working backwards. Meaning, no you can't bite me, but now you know you are not allowed too, let's look at why you are doing so.
As for dominance, I do not believe this should be used in training or as a tool.
Leadership and dominance are being thrown together in the training world, and I disagree that to lead your dog you need to dominate.
To lead you need to understand who you are leading. From personality to genetics. You then need to understand what you are communicating to your dog intentionally or otherwise. You need to respect that they are dogs. Then you need to establish clear boundaries, clear expectations, fully understanding that they have no ability to navigate our world.
To lead is to be consistent, to have fun and to ensure they can relax knowing you have it covered.
If you do not lead your dog effectively they will not trust you, and if they don't trust you they will do dog. And sometimes dog comes with consequences bigger than what you can correct.
So what's my method? To educate, advocate, rehabilitate and do what ever it takes to ensure a better world for our best friends. I hope you will join me.
One day I hope that I am not needed, because that would mean that humans are respecting the needs of our four legged, toothy friends. That would mean that dogs are not being given choices and responsibilities that are above their pay grade. That would mean that these beautiful creatures are being honoured.
I dedicated my life to my dog so he could live his best life. And to me his best life is a life full of adventures, freedoms and more love he can sometimes handle. For him to live his best life, I had to figure out the balance of his best life, my best life and our best life.
Leadership, understanding dog language and relationship, that's key. There is no method. To say I have a method would suggest I am incapable of helping those who do not fit said method. I am capable.
Advocate, Educator, Translator, Rehabilitator
Science of methods, click HERE