April 1, 2014
Last weekend I had an opportunity to travel up to Madison, WI to attend a seminar with Pat Miller. Dog nerds love this woman. She has a cult following and I get why. She’s super smart, comes with a great story, and generously shares amazing takeaways.
If you’re unfamiliar with her, Pat’s a “cross-over” trainer. There was a time she used tools and techniques that relied on the application of pain, intimidation, and force to teach a dog that the safest course is to do nothing unless they’re told to do something. Pat’s dog Josie gently showed her the error of her ways one day by hiding under the back deck when Pat brought out the dog’s training equipment. Josie’s quiet eloquence made Pat realize the damage she was doing to their relationship by forcing her to obey. She threw away the choke chains and began her journey toward a more positive perspective on training. She eventually founded her own business, Peaceable Paws, in 1996.
As more dog owners see the light, clickers, treat bags, and positive reinforcement replace metal collars, shocks, and dominance theory. Peaceable Paws’ mission is to foster harmony between people and their animals through dog training and animal behavior consults that promote a respect for life philosophy.
Rover-Time pet parents more often hire professionals that work with ethical responsibility than ones that do not. They select trainers that “get” that all living things repeat behaviors that are rewarding and know the significant reasons for not using physical punishment or force with dogs. (To better understand different training methods check out this post from the archives.)
This is the best. I’m rarely biting my tongue or searching for the right words to respond while I work with my clients. I truly appreciate the ways in which they work with their dogs. So while in seminar I remembered how many times a client called, excited by their decision to work with “so and so” but wondered, “How should I get ready for them? How do I explain what’s going on with my dog?”
Pat had some great answers for this. You are responsible for gathering all the information for your future trainer. And this can take time! So where to start?
First, rule out any possible medical issues by making a visit to your vet. For example: Lyme disease, urinary tract infections, arthritis, hypothyroid, or allergies can all contribute to behavioral problems and a lack of interest in training because pain and discomfort are major stressors. And aggressive behavior and anxiety are caused by stress.
Then, collect your notes (and video footage!). Your descriptions should be observations, not interpretations. Note when the undesired behavior happens, where it happens, and how frequently it occurs. Be prepared to admit what you’ve already done to try to modify the behavior. And a quick disclaimer on shooting video for your trainer: don’t put your dog under intentional stress to get footage. Just start recording your dog more often; you’ll likely catch a good example or two without pushing them.
Finally, know your needs and goals. Outline your capabilities and limitations for your new trainer. You’re the client, not the dog. So be sure they create a realistic program for you that can be implemented and integrated into your lifestyle and environment naturally.
In the weeks to come, our blog will address more on non-aggressive, undesired behaviors that are actually pretty natural for a dog but just don’t fit into our culture well. Adjusting your perception on behaviors like barking, digging, escaping, prey drive, and house training could ease frustrations you’ve felt towards your dog. It might even help how you communicate and train.
- So what’s your dog up to?
- What are the undesired behaviors you’re hoping to curb?