Humility in Dog Training – Who does the work?

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Some of you who follow my blog may not know I was a Police Officer for 23 years. 5 years part time while I was at University and 18 years full time after I graduated. During that time I was fortunate to do some really cool stuff which most of the population is not even aware goes on. Regardless of my experience, there was always someone who had done more than me and this always kept my ego in check. I performed various overt and covert roles in the Police. Of my best friends in the world has about 100 times more experience in one particular role that we both did. A close friend of his had operational military experience and had performed for many years in an advanced role which we had done the foundation version of. There is always someone who has done more and knows more. Be humble.

How does this apply to dog trainers? We are in the amazing position to change our clients’ lives (both human and canine) for the better. If we don’t keep our egos in check, this can affect us into thinking that we are bigger and more knowledgeble than we are. We must remain humble. Yes, our clients rely on us to show us what to do, but even if we have two one hour sessions a week with a client, that is still 6 days and 22 hours where we are not there. Good teachers acknowledge the work their students do and allow the student to enjoy the success of their toil. We take pride in being instrumental in those successes but a good teacher never thinks that it was him or her who put in the hours of effort.

Recently, one of my former students, and now friend, Innes passed his BH in IPO with his Dobermann, Kuro. Innes trains postitively in a sport which has a long history and culture of harsh training. I see Innes several times a week putting in the hours training his amzing dog, His effort is admirable. The results are his, not mine and not the other trainers he now works with, to enjoy. Yes, we can enjoy them with him but they are his efforts, not ours. We would never think that a gold medal at the Olympics belonged tot he coach (not unless you are the husband of a gold medallist swimmer but that’s for another time).  A great coach knows the efforts belong to the athlete, a great athlete acknowledges the coach’s tuition.

I have a woman and her Collie I am working with just now. We have been working together for several months now and we are seeing great changes in this little dog’s behaviour. She has gone from being confused in many environments to being really confident. It is a wonder to behold. Fiona and Breagha did this, I just helped put them on the right path.

I was at The IMDT conference at the weekend outside London. I caught up with some people I haven’t seen in ages, one of whom was my friend Mus, who is one of the best human beings I have had the pleasure of knowing. I posted a picture of us on social media and a trainer we both know and have taught commented saying that we were two of the people who have been intrumental in his learning. Mus replied saying “It’s all you mate”. This made me like him even more. Humility. At the conference I heard some information presented which was either new or presented in a way I hadn;t heard before. Steve Mann spoke of releasing tension in dogs, a concept I had never thought of consciously. I thanked him for it, this keeps us grounded.

Yes, we do change our clients’ and dogs’ lives. Yes, it’s very likely they couldn’t do it without us or certainly not in that way. But be humble, stay grounded, none of us know everything and there is always more to learn and different ways to look at things. Have what martial artists call a white belt mentality, it keeps you hungry and humble.

Be well and happy training.

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Too cute to Teenwolf – what happened to my dog?! Part III

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Writing this has felt organic and super reinforcing. I had the idea that maybe I could use my experiences to provide some people with a little help when struggling with their dogs; I hadn’t anticipated the warmth, support and surge of human relief that came back or the international community of animal lovers and trainers going through the same things, all represented in the blog responses.

In this chapter – having previously covered some of Quillan’s adolescent behaviour and what I’ve been doing to address it, I’d like to write about the stage we are at currently; how to gently steer through management, to improvement and having the balance of good days far outweigh the bad.

From trainer Tess Erngren I heard the phrase “play dates with play mates” and I have used its implied strategy with success. Observing my own mentor, John McGuigan, employ BAT style technique with hundreds of dogs and seeing significant improvement inside of hour long client sessions has invaluably augmented my own approach.

Thoughtfully, set yourself up with the right equipment and environment. If you can access a decent facility, a private garden, local secure field or dog run try to organise supervised, controlled meetings with “safe dogs” where you can reinforce calm behaviour, gradually reducing distance in approximations depending on their responses. I always start with Quillan on a line. Depending on the other dog, they can be leashed or free and always able to self determine the level of interaction they are comfortable with. This has the benefit not only of, ethically, not subjecting the ‘stooge dog” to unacceptable behaviour but establishes in Quillan’s experience that softer body language and polite greetings yield a greater choice of interaction. He learns “rudeness” will result in the removal of his particular reinforcer here.

Repetitions of this will lead to interactions where you can freely allow appropriate behaviour (even play) and interrupt/block anything else.

Be prepared to take your time here. First meetings may need to be less than a few minutes long and each subsequent interaction kept short enough to allow you success without it wearing thin or letting it “go bad”. My own journey with my friend and colleague, Bruce Whitelaw and his Shiba, Oshi, has entailed many months of careful, thoughtful, small interactions and I learned the hard way not to not rush the process in my enthusiasm. Plan for the long term and as always, be grateful for the thin slices; the little markers of progress in the dog that you know so well make the bigger picture.

Regarding the vital matter of community and support – as well as the obvious benefit of engaging a (well researched) professional Trainer or Behaviourist – online communities and forums can be a fantastic resource. The positive, ones which promote non-aversive training I am part of are supportive, informative and engaging. For the many introverts out there, they offer the added bonus of choice in when and how you interact. “Naughty but Nice”, Caitlin Coberly’s “Dog Training 101”, and Laura Spackman’s wonderful “Canine Principles” page are to name a few groups I have found particularly useful. Remember as you gather resources how important it is to assess your personal code of ethics and how their stances align with your own in terms of advice being traded and protocols you are preparing to implement.

The overall feeling I had been hoping to leave you with in this chapter was that your perseverance, patience, kindess and sense of humour at times will lead you and your dog both back to a place you can enjoy life together again.

Unexpectedly and unlooked for I have been gifted much more in return; messages from people who had been having a bad day/week/month or more felt bolstered to continue training kindly with their animal, empowered by the simple but beautiful connection from other people going through similar times and seeing the other side of it in their results and relationships.

This confirmed for me the belief I am amongst good people, who are looking to do the best they can each day for their dogs. Thank you all very much.

 

 

A question of ethics – part 1

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I was at the office today (our local park) doing a consultation with a man and his Labrador, working on recall and loose lead walking (connection). We have a really nice community at the park on weekday mornings, the professional dog walkers, the power walkers without dogs, the recreational cyclists and the dog people walking their own dogs.

There is a fella who I see who has two GSDs who he has trained to a high level from the brief glimpses I get of him (I see him several times over the month). He appears to use positive trainng methods from what I can see. He uses food to reinforce the behaviour which he likes and I’ve never seen him physically correct his dogs. When he asks the dogs to do something though, he’s not really asking, he’s telling.

This fella knows I’m a dog trainer and from reading his body language (he never says hello to anyone etc) I get the impression that’s he is trying to show me how it’s really done. Today (and every other dog he sees me), he put his dogs in a sit stay in the middle of the path and walked away. There were other dogs and people around walking past his dogs. The dogs were transfixed by him and then he called them, they raced towards him and then held a heel position targeting his hands for about 50m or so. They were then reinforced with food. Impressive? Yes, maybe. Ethical? I’m not so sure. If this had been in competition for a dog sport, then yes, it’s impressive. If it had been in preparation for that dog sport competition, then yes, cool also. My issues is that it’s done for the benefit of all those watching and at the dogs’ expense to boot.

For me it would be far more impressive if his dogs were walking with him off lead, moving forward in front of him, sniffing, moving with him when he walked on and behaving in an appropriate social manner with dogs and people. But they’re not. The appear to be automatons, with little choice and not allow ot behave like dogs (I’ve never seen them sniff when out)

Training with positive methods isn’t enough. We need to train with an ethical mindset too. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Until next time, have a great Christmas.

John and the Glasgow Dog Trainer Team

Kay Laurence – Scotland Training Thoughtfully

If you’re a dog owner or dog trainer then this will be of interest to you…

Why should you attend?

Maybe you’re a curious  Dog Trainer who wants to learn advanced skills & train dogs properly.  Staying well away from e-collars and aversive training, but you might be frustrated at the results you’re getting?

Perhaps you’re a Dog owner who wants to be able to have happy, well behaved dogs.

Ideal for people who have respect for the dog, who show compassion and care about the welfare of the animals.  They don’t speak our language and are essentially our captives – they have no choice.

If your dog’s confused then you’re not doing your job properly.  Dogs are often forced by “shock jocks” to perform or comply.  You’ve maybe said to yourself “There has to be a better way.”

What will be covered?

“Scotland Training Thoughtfully” – training people to train and treat the animals well

3 day seminar November 11-13th.   A 1.30 Friday afternoon start then 9.30 – 4.30 Saturday and Sunday.

Dunblane Hydro so it’s central to all of the major cities.

Friday – “Why we train THIS way, not THAT way” considerations of training, ethics, philosophy. Why we make training choices, why other choices are excluded.

Saturday – Error-less Learning. How to manage the environment to set up the dog and owner for success

Sunday – Future Focus. How will you train tomorrow? Become a trainer of the future – a skilful trainer.

Investment £175 [the equivalent of a week’s worth of client sessions]

Room holds 75 people

Taught by Kay Laurence from Wagmore Dog Training.  Kay was in search & rescue, has competed at Crufts and now trains the trainers.  She’s on the Faculty of the Karen Pryor Academy [Karen is the author of “Don’t Shoot The Dog” which is often the first book Dog Trainers are told to read].  A regular speaker at the Institute Of Modern Dog Trainers, she runs the TAKL training school, she’s written four books and has produced numerous DVD’s.

It’s like PhD students going to listen to Steven Hawking.  Kay is one of the best in the world and won’t be back in Scotland for another year.

How does it work?

This is NOT a traditional dog training course.  The entire event will be guided by the needs of the delegates, making it a unique and tailor made event that is unavailable anywhere else.

Kay will deliver the training in a direct, no nonsense manner that is effective and gets results.  Her manner is ethical, unique and gets results.  You’ll learn hands on tools that you can use immediately.

There will be an Open Panel Q&A on Sunday where you can get all of your questions answered by a panel of experts.  Joining Kay will be:

Clare Russell DipCABT. Fully qualified pet behaviour therapist, highly experienced in rehabilitation of rescue dogs and dealing with aggression. Over 15 years’ experience of class teaching. Coached and mentored by Kay Laurence since 2009 and currently a staff member of Trainer Accredited by Kay Laurence accreditation scheme.

John McGuigan is a qualified dog trainer and is on staff with The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers. He has a wealth of experience dealing with aggressive and reactive dogs with a very high success rate. He teaches easy to follow, practical solutions to helping your dog overcome aggression and reactivity.

What if I do attend?

If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll find this to be a very satisfying and effective training.

Picture yourself doing the right thing, upping your standard of training and keeping bang up to date with modern methods that work.

Imagine the “aha’s” and insights you’ll get from such a high calibre trainer.  Many of Kay’s students have had breakthroughs after experiencing her first hand.  Your ability will soar!

You will need to book well in advance as this could sell out.

You’ll get inspiration, you’ll make connections and you’ll have a deeper level of understanding.

 

What do I do next?

Book now at

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/kay-laurence-scotland-training-thoughtfully-tickets-25108479137?aff=es2

For more information please email Clare Russell  – cl.russell64@outlook.com

Special rates from accommodation will be available at

Hilton Dunblane

Dunblane Hydro Perth Road, FK15 0HG

http://www.doubletreedunblane.com/

Living with a dog in pain

Guest blog from Lindsay Docherty. Lindsay first came to me as a client a few years ago with Millie. Since then she has been studying both with the IMDT, and with Clare Russell and myself. She has been doing some work for me over the last few months.

 

Living with a dog in pain.


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Living with a dog with a chronic pain condition can be difficult. There are two types of dogs, those who will suffer through the pain without any change in behaviour and those who suddenly feel under threat from their world.. The change in behaviour can range from a slight reluctance to perform tasks to the drastic who’s behaviour can change completely.

We currently have a dog who falls under the last category.

Millie is our 6 year old rescue dog. At the young age of 1 year old she had a bad fall and suffered internal injuries similar to those of a high speed impact in a car. Collapsed lung, bruised heart and a torn liver not to mention a huge amount of muscle damage.

Our happy friendly pup was now on a long journey of pain management and behaviour change. The changes didn’t happen over night. As her world suddenly became filled with danger and potential hurt to her she modified her behaviour to try and control it. Previously she was every dogs friend and used to love nothing more than a full on sparring session. This was now her idea of a nightmare. Her “friend” dogs were suddenly hurting her. In her mind it wasn’t that she was experiencing discomfort and the other dogs happened to be there it was the dogs themselves that were hurting her.

She’s now really sensitive to changes in her environment. A break in her routine unsettles her and can last for days.

People approaching her in the street spooks her. Visitors to the house is really difficult as she doesn’t want to be touched and that’s what most people want to do with a dog.

When travelling in the car she won’t lie down if she’s having bad pain day.

After a year and a half on and off medication and us making pretty much every training mistake you can during that time the pain had eased off enough to begin behaviour modification training.

Us learning the right approach to take and how to make her feel safe were the first steps.

She’s predictably unpredictable so if we work with the thinking that she’s going to react to everything we can set up the environment to help her make the right choice even in the toughest of situations.

 

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As a puppy Millie was Mrs sociable though still a bit nervous around dogs that were quite full on.

After the fall the pain made her completely change in these situations and rather than removing herself she would lunge and bark and tried to get on top of the dogs that she was afraid of. In fight or flight terms she was definitely using the fight method to get the dogs to go away. Luckily she never progressed any further than a lunge and a bark.

Our initial goal was teaching her to remove herself from situations around other dogs that she previously would have reacted to and helping her when she couldn’t do it on her own.

Millie likes to control her own environment and the movement of dogs within it. We haven’t stopped her from doing this but instead heavily reinforced lower intensity behaviours. If she doesn’t want a young bouncy dog to jump on her that’s fair enough so strong eye contact with the dog or a low grumble are far better than a full on lunge, bark and pinning the dog to the ground.

We have to come up with a compromise with her where she can keep herself feeling in control and more importantly not be hurt but also that the other dogs we meet are kept safe.

We spent a long time teaching her avoidance before we let her start meeting other dogs. Only through persistence with the avoidance training and setting this up as the primary behaviour to perform around dogs were we sure that if she felt unsafe she would disengage and come to us for reinforcement for doing so rather than feeling she had to deal with the situation on her own.

If she isn’t happy with a dog’s presence and the dog doesn’t leave we ask her to come with us and we will take her away to a distance she feels safe whilst heavily reinforcing the moving away.

She’s now at the stage where she is able to make some pretty amazing choices in previously highly reactive situations. This can however change depending on the intensity of her pain from day to day.

If she’s having a bad day we take a few steps back and ask her what’s the best behaviour she can give us that day and work with that. Doing so she learns that we can ask her how she’s feeling that day and we won’t put pressure on her to give more than she can.

Something as simple as lying down in the front of car is too much for her some days. If we ask her to lie down and she doesn’t after a couple of requests we don’t get mad. She isn’t disobeying us she just simply can’t do it at that time.

As well as being on the initial stage of my dog trainer journey I am also a part time dog walker. Knowing Millie and how she feels about strange dogs I was able to introduce her to the new dogs whilst keeping her feeling safe around them and I’m happy to say that she now has a bunch of great K9 friends that she can run, play and wrestle with when we are out on our walks.

The first time she initiated play with one of the dogs I was I was in floods of tears whilst trying to video it! A real turning point for us as it had been 3 years since she had initiated play with a dog other than the other dog in our house Leo.

Living with a dog in pain isn’t easy. It’s a full time job especially if they are reactive. We are very lucky in that our good days are so good they make up for all the bad times. We love our girl, and by understanding her body language and what she needs from us to be successful, help to build the dog and owner bond every day.

Depression – something personal

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I’ve thought long and hard about writing this blog as it’s been a personal struggle which I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share. Then I looked at the stats. Depression kills. It kills far more men than it does women and it kills more men in my age group than in others and is avoidable in many cases. I am in a privileged position through my work to reach a few thousand people so for me I need to try to help anyway I can. So here goes.

I have probably suffered from depression for several years and looking back have had several episodes over my adult life. Up until the last year or so, I’ve been able to bring myself out of most of them most of the time, with the support of loved ones and exercise. This last year has been different.

Andrew Solomon, who is a psychiatric expert on depression likens the mind to an iron structure. When we get deressed, the rust sets in. It eats away constantly at the structure and then sometimes parts of the structure collapse. These are the acute episodes. During these episodes everything is difficult, no, it’s not, everything is extremely difficult and some things are impossible. For me as well, I think it’s like when you have a bad cold. You know thet there are times in you life when you’ve not had a cold but you can’t remember what it feels like. That’s depression too.

I’ll not go into the full details of why I became ill but this is what some of what I experienced and if you are suffering from it you are not alone. Some days I could not get out of bed. I still have days like that but work forces me to get up as does needing to get Watson out and take care of her needs. At the weekends my brain and my body need time to heal so there are times when I don’t get out of bed until 1pm. At first I would get annoyed with myself that I had spent so much time in bed and not been more productive and this would make me feel worse. So I started to give myself a break about it. A few weeks ago I came in from work and went to bed at 5.30pm and slept til 7.30am the next day. My body was telling me something and I listened. I need to rest. A lot. So I do.

Up until last year, I was working full time and doing my dog training on the side. My physical fitness then dropped off due to constraints on my time and I few strains and niggles would creep in. I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as my hobby and it has been an absolute tonic in my life for the last 11 years. My injuries meant I couldn’t get off the couch when I came home after class and getting dressed the next morning was a huge physical struggle. I could harldy get out of bed or put on my clothes. Tying my shoe laces was very painful. So I stopped going.

I felt bad. BJJ, which made me feel better was now no longer available to me so I felt worse. It spiralled down. I needed to do something about it as I am not depression. It is only a part of me and something I am trying to make a temporary part of me.

So, I started yoga and saw and osteopath to help make my back better. I tried to do one thing very day which I didn’t want to do, one small thing which might be as simple as shaving (no, this wasn’t the reaons for growing the beard; my neckline and cheeks still needed attention). If I became overwhemed when out I would try to centre myself in the moment by concentrating on 5 things I could see, 4 things I could hear, 3 things I could feel, 2 things I could smell or taste. This works well. Depression is about loss and anxiety is about uncertainty of what will happen next. One is in the past, the other the future so mindfulness brings you into the present. Sometimes I still get overwhelmed and need to go home. I feel ok about it as these episodes are lessening but they are still there. Ride the wave, it passes.

I previously worked in an extremely male dominated, macho bullshit environment. I’ve grown up in the West of Scotland where men needs to be men. We don’t talk about our feelings. So talk. Especially the guys, talk to someone, please, if you feel like this. It helps. A lot. If you think you are being unfair to your wife or girlfriend by burdening them with it, talk to someone else. Talk to the dog, call a helpline but for fuck sake please talk about it. It might help but it most often doesn’t make it worse. You need to get it out in some productive way.

Find the tiny little things which give you pleasure. Anything you can, you need to redress the balance. Engage as much as you can. Our industry can be very isolating so we need friends and a support network. If we practice positive reinforcement with out animals we need to practice it with each other. Stand up when you see others being bullied or harassed as you don’t know how it is effecting the recipient. A couple of months ago I defended a dominance based, balanced trainer who I recognised as being emotionally vulnerable against an immature campaign of online harassement from a so-called positive dog trainer. We need to do this. We need to try to practice it in all aspects of our lives.

Find something you are good at and can be successful at. Practice it. Everytime we are successful at something we start to redress the brain chemisty. Help your body and your brain out, you have the power to do something about it.

GO AND SEE YOUR DOCTOR!

I know this has been a bit disjointed but we are not defined by our depression. It is not who we are it is only part of us. There is still such a massive taboo about mental health issues in our culture that we don’t talk about it. This needs to change. Depression kills us if we don’t. Ask for help if you need it.

http://www.samaritans.org/

http://breathingspace.scot/

Love and peace.

John

Positively Excellent Dog Training Workshop 5

Workshop 5 of 6 today. When we started Positively Excellent Dog Training a few months ago, Clare and I envisioned bringing quality, up to date dog training to both trainers and owners in a way which was easy to access and understand. It has been a massicvve success and is just the start of things to come.

Today we looked at behaviours, skills and outcomes. Behaviours can be described as a specific thing the learner does, such as moving a cetain muscle or joint. Skills are where the dog generalises, so “walk beside me” can mean in a varietyof situations for example. A skill humans would have in this example would be having the skill to open most doors of similar design once the skill of door opening is learned. Some doors open by pulling, others by pushing (depending where you are in relation to it). Once the skill of door opening is learned, we can then apply it to many situations. The outcome for us would be the open door, the outcome in the dog example would be the dog walking with you on a loose lead.

Students had to teach me how to open a door when I was at the other side of the room. They were asked to break down each behaviour into very small steps. Each time they asked me to do something I wasn’t in a position to do, I told them I couldn’t do it and then they had to break it down further. This extended to putting my weight on one foot rather than the other, moving a specific distance forward etc. All these things teach us to be very careful in what we are describing and reinforcing, if the learned jumps ahead of us then we can go with it. If they get stuck then we need to break it down further into something they can do.

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We then looked a little more closely at certain drivers for reinforcement. Can we mimic the hunt for a dog and then put this on cue so the dog gets to hunt but only when we ask for it? Can we mimic a sheep’s movment with a ball so that a collie can herd the ball, give him an outlet for that daily and put it on cue so we get less herding of people and traffic? The answer is yes, we can.

Next workshop is the 4th June in East Kilbride.

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