I have received quite a few calls from distraught dog owners lately; not because of their companions` bad behaviour, but because they have received some disturbing advice from some professionals.
There was advice like: .. If you want your dogs to do what you want, you must use a shock collar … if your dogs recall is bad you must use a shock collar …. you must never praise them … you must not show them any affection … you must put them in a cage when you are not working with them … you must never have them sleeping in your room … you must never allow them on the sofa … you must not allow them to lean against you when you call them back … you must not give them a pat on the head for a job well done … and never ever give them a treat…. and so on.
Yes, you are right, all dogs can be bullied into doing what you want, but you will never have a trusting and balanced relationship with them. You will have dogs who work through fear, with this comes stress, and through stress come physical and metal ailments. All in all not an ideal situation.
I do not know about you, but I would not work for free or even £2.00 an hour, we all need to get a good incentive to do our job. Sometimes a payment is just someone smiling at us, a thank you, a written letter or a hug, but it is a payment none the less. It is this payment that gives us the drive to do more. So this is the same when it comes to working with, and training our dogs, teaching them manners and giving them strong boundaries. We are everything to our dogs … we provide their food .. we provide the roof over their head, and hopefully a good bed to sleep in .. we stimulate them mentally and engage with them in play. If we have a good relationship with our dogs, by treating them right, we will have loyal companions` who want to work with us !!!
So I might put myself out there to be ridiculed, but I stand by my belief. I have 5 happy rescue Border Collies who came with huge behaviour problems, I spend many hours, months and sometimes years rehabilitating them. I trust them .. they trust me. The proof is in the pudding!
I am glad to see that more and more people are more open minded and have become aware of different approaches. This keeps me going and I will never stop to promote positive, and rewarding dog training.
Some insights for the upcoming classes
I know you are all here for different reasons, your dogs are all unique and are in need of different mental and physical stimulation; that is the reason why I want to make sure that I will address each of your requests during the upcoming classes. I am open to suggestions and questions.
No doubt it will be stressful for everyone, being in such close proximity to other dogs is not something dogs would chose themselves in the wild. Dogs are pack animals and you are their pack, they would never get close to other packs unless they are defending their territory or fighting over food resources.
Socialising is important when they are still pups, but not all dogs will have had that opportunity, and some are as unsociable as they come. We need to remember that we do not like everyone we meet, so why should our dogs.
So when we are all meeting here I need you to keep your stress outside and be calm, patient and consistent with your dogs` so they know that you will keep them safe and are in control of the situation.
There will be no doubt some growling, barking and showing of teeth, that is why you need to make sure to keep a good distance between your dogs and give them time to make some sort of sense of the situation. Try to keep your dogs focused on you … and do not panic.
It will take a while until everyone will find their feet or paws for that matter.
I am here to help you to realise that special relationship you are having, or hoping to improve with your dogs, one of trust and commitment. Everything I do will be regarding the safety of your companions, this means that I am not an obedience trainer, I will encourage you to teach your dogs to walk on both sides of you to keep them safe when walking on roads etc. Although I am happy to support you if you feel that is not what you want to do, or you taught your dogs` in a different way.
I will never encourage bullying to get the desired end result, I will only encourage positive reinforcement training, and of course assertiveness and boundaries play a big part in this also.
I will do my best to get to know everyone’s names, humans and dogs alike, and learn a bit about your background.
We will also need to look at the breeds of the dogs to be able to work with their instinctual and inherent behaviour and psychology.
All this has to be fun for you and your dogs though, it is not supposed to be a chore for either of you, so please come with an open mind and leave your stress behind. Don`t expect too much and just enjoy the journey.
All the rescue dogs out there, all the sad faces and scared eyes, all the broken bodies and emotional scars. How we all want to go and rescue them all when they pull at our heart strings.
We are only humans after all, and it is quite normal that we get emotionally involved.
We hear so much, and see so much of the heartache on social media, which of course is a wonderful tool to spread the word.
It is important to educate people about puppy farms, bad breeders, dog fighting and so on, and I am all for it.
But .. and here is the but, we should not allow ourselves to get pushed into rescuing a dog, it is not for the fainthearted. I feel that there needs to be more transparency ... there needs to be more background information about the dog in question ... there needs to be a backup plan .. there needs to be someone who is able to guide us along when when things don`t turn out as we expected.
I am not here to put you of the idea of rescuing a dog, that is the furthest thing on my mind. What I would like is for you to have a look at your situation, your environment, your work commitment and have a clear understanding about the things you can commit to. Once you rescued a dog he is and should always be a part of your family.
So I would like you to be honest with yourself, and encourage you to go for help if, and when you feel that there are problem behaviours you do not know how to address, deal with it right away, make the most of the time in the beginning, it will make for a better relationship when your rescue is calm and balanced.