Some advice for dog trainers from Steve Mann – part 2 – Bad Owners

Steve is the founder of the Institue of Modern Dog Trainers which I am honoured to be a member of. I joined the IMDT 4 years ago and am now in the very fortunate position for help with training the new trainers who attned courses and assist with assessing prospective new members. It’s one of the highlights of my year working with the IMDT

Bad Owners

Everyone is doing their best with what they’ve got: –
Don’t label an owner as ‘bad’ when you could attribute the issue to any other possible explanation.
When an owner seems ‘bad’ or a ‘nightmare’, they very rarely are. They’re usually anxious, desperate, tired, ill informed, stressed or worried.
Help them.
It’s your job.
To the owner that feels the need to dominate.
Don’t go head to head with then. Neither of you will win and the dog will lose.
Simply ask – ‘what behaviour would you like to see that may change your mind?’
Then simply do your job.

Some advice from Steve Mann, IMDT

Steve is the founder of the Institue of Modern Dog Trainers which I am honoured to be a member of. I joined the IMDT 4 years ago and am now in the very fortunate position for help with training the new trainers who attned courses and assist with assessing prospective new members. It’s one of the highlights of my year working with the IMDT team.


Steve recently offered some advice to dog trainers and I’ve posted it here with permission.

‘Head down, bum up, get on with it!’ – Buddha.

Realise that the criticism is often from people less informed than you
Every, EVERY Dog Trainer that has ever existed started out as a rubbish Dog Trainer
Every good Dog Trainer knows they need to improve
They don’t build statues of critics
Don’t beat yourself up for caring
Smell the roses.
How do you celebrate what you do well?
(it’s not always about ‘next’)
‘wash the dishes to wash the dishes’ – Venerable Master Thich Nhat Hanh
(basically means be in the moment and give 100% concentration and appreciation to what you are doing now. Don’t race ahead in your mind to the next job or concern yourself with what others might think or do in the future)
If you can do something about it, do it, then you have nothing to stress about.
If you can’t do anything about it, why is that stress on your ‘to do’ list?
Do you genuinely have endless *quality time to worry?
(*ALL time is ‘quality’!)
(the answer is “no”!)
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
What does successful actually mean to you?
Look at the stars, where would your problem sit in the universe?
Make a list of who’s proud of you
Avoid Emotional / Physical Burnout
If you only had 5 hours per day for work, what would your work-day look like?
How would you break-down the other 19 hours?
Each night write a list of 3 jobs (max) to do tomorrow.
Confirm that if the top job is completed (whether it’s 5 mins or 3 hours), then you are in credit for the day.
Make the ‘top job to do’ the one that’s presently creating the most stress
End of day: write down 2 things from work that were good today and 2 things you’re grateful for. (one big, one small. Eg: Family, seeing a kestrel*)
*seeing a kestrel is a gift!
Have one day a week offline.
Deal with emails twice a day, 8am and 3pm. That’s it.
( you don’t do your laundry one sock at a time! )
Look at social media once a day if you can justify how it’s adding nourishment to your day
Have a muse.
Talk to someone about your day. 5 minutes.
(if you have no-one, email me
Do your work in blocks of critical mass to create space for ‘creating’ or ‘generating’.
If you need “more hours in your day’ (and you don’t!), then you need to create the slack elsewhere for yourself. What can/should you live without?
Work effectively. Go 1 metre in one direction rather than 1 cm in 100 directions.
‘Busy’ can sometimes mean ‘Lazy’ or ‘Avoiding’. (soz!)
Do lots of what you like doing.
Do lots of what you’re good at.
If, at any time you’re struggling with ‘yourself’, wish the very best for someone else, even if it’s in your head
(see a stranger and spend 60 seconds hoping they have an amazing day…)
pass it on, buy a coffee for the person in line behind you
What does it mean to you to ‘appreciate’ your opportunity to work with dogs?


Teaching your dog skills as well as behaviours

This is the type of exercise we do at Positively Excellent Dog Trainers workshops. Please watch the video carefully. You may need to watch it several times.

1. Identify the types of activities the dog is doing, how many are there?

2. What skills does the dog need to have acquired to be able to do the types of activities in the video?

If you’d like to take part, please comment below. I’ll ask more questions as the thread develops.
Please keep all comments civil and no comments on comments please, as it makes it too difficult to moderate.

If you have attended one fo our workshops and have done this assignment, please don’t comment but do read as you’ll learn from what others observe.

If you are interested in this style of learning about dogs, subscribe below. We will be offering online training this year.…


The activities I’ve identified are

1. Chasing
2. Retrieving
3. Listening
4. Responding to cues
5. Tugging
6. Waiting
7. Searching
8 Settling

The skill set I am testing for here is that she is able to switch from one activity to another, then another. When I started training Watson to be able to do this skill, I used two activities shes knows how to do well, chasing and tuggin for example, then asked herto switch between the two. Then I would do two other activities, ask her to switch between the two and then mix more in.

What this teaches your dog is the ability to settle after activity, e.g. a visitor comes in, your dog is active, now ask them to settle again onece they’ve said hello.

Leo’s Tale


Lindsay is one of the Glasgow Dog Trainer and Behaviour Consultant team and Leo is her awesome wee dog.

Leo turned 5 last week meaning that we have had him for 4 years.

How we met has a bit of a fairy-tale vibe to it!

We got Millie in the summer of 2010 and knew from the start that we would like to have a second dog.

As first time dog owners with a high energy dog we decided to wait for a while before introducing a second dog to the family.

After Millie’s accident and her resulting behaviour issues we had put the idea on the back burner but some things just seem to happen at the right time.

Before I started out on my dog training adventure I worked as a photographer and we were exhibiting at the Girls Day Out event at the SECC in Glasgow in 2012.

On the second day I happened to spot this small brown dog with a curly tale as it disappeared into the crowd.

Telling the other girls that I was “off to find that dog” I headed for the SSPCA stall.

There he was, a wee staffie cross saying hello to passers by. I knelt down and let him come to me, as he stood on his back legs to get a better face licking position I knew he was the dog for us!

We took Millie to meet him on the Monday and by Friday he was home. (a bit of a record apparently. Think they were fed up of my daily phone calls asking how the rehoming process was coming along!)

We were all prepared. Toys and food put away. No dogs on the furniture. Feed them separately. All the usual protocols. Prepared for squabbles and upset.

It couldn’t have gone any better.

We definitely found Millie’s perfect match.

They are completely different in so many ways but are totally compatible.

He’s the ying to her yang.

Over the past 4 years we have learned so much about our boy.

In regards to training he isn’t the most confident so we do a lot of activities to help build on this. Searching for the catnip mouse is one of his favourite games.

Leo is pretty sensitive to noises in certain environments so we have been working a lot on his assessment skills lately and building on investigating noises rather than running away. He’s coming on great.

His favourite activity is snuggling on the sofa and I wonder if he would ever want to leave it at all if it wasn’t for his big sister dog demanding daily adventures!

Taking on a new dog is a life-changing event and should have had a lot of consideration put into it.

Leo has enriched all of our lives since the day we brought him home and we wouldn’t change him for the world!

2016 Review – Glasgow Dog Trainer

A good year for us here. Bruce and Lindsay have been doing well as part of our training team and Gillian has come on learning with us.

Clare Russell and John started Positively Excellent Dog Trainers this year. Initially it was started as a means to develop our own team but soon morphed into something which we hadn’t expected and was very welcome. The students now range from established trainers, new trainers, dog walkers and owners who are enthusiastic about learning more about dog training. We have even had a one of our students embark on a career change due to attending PEDT workshops. The PEDT year culminated with us hosting Kay Laurence, one of the most respected dog training speakers in the world, in Dunblane in November with over 60 people attending each day over the thee days.

John taught on two IMDT 4 day practical instructors course this year. March was in Hertfordshire and September was in Dalkeith.
John will be continuing to work with the IMDT in the coming year.

We also were able to provide proprioception workshops run by Sam Turner from Holland twice this year. This will also be continuing next year.

On to 2017. We have online training in the planning and will be ready to launch in the new year. More big seminars are planned this year and we have two big names who we are hoping to host. Details to come. John is planning his first international teaching engagements also.

This year, as always, we were committed to offering excellent one to one training within our local community. Bruce and Linday’s appointment schedule has increased as well as John’s and this shows that there is a high demand for the excellent training we provide. This is where our business started, and offering the best possible, up to date, ethical training we can will always be the back bone of our business.

We thank you sincerely for all your continued support. We recognise that this year has been extremely hard for many both locally and globally and we will continue to be a positive influence in our dog training, and wider, communitiy where we can.

All the best for 2017.

John McGuigan and the GDT team

A question of ethics – part 2


I heard Kathy Sdao talk about this clip and ClickerExpo last year

Let’s look at this video clip for a few seconds (please ignore the annoying sound effects) and think about the following questions. Magnussen is the bad guy and John Watson on the right is the good guy.

Is this aversive to Watson?
Is Magnussen abusing his power?
Does he know Watson is powerless here?
Is it painful to Watson?
Would Watson rather he wasn’t in this postion or subjected to this treatment?
What is the relationship here?
What is Magnussen trying to achieve?

Although this is a scene from a TV programme all these points are worth considering when we apply them to dog training.

If we are using a tool or technique where the dog is either working to avoid the application of the tool or working to have it’s application removed, it is, by very definition, aversive. Pain shouldn’t be the entire barometer of whether to use a tool or not.

Years ago I had a boss who used to micromanage and nit-pick everything. When he was around, our actions were constantly subjected to the most detailed scrutiny. Nothing he did was painful to us but it was very stressful working under him. The results were that some of us started to push back against his authority and other shut down. Productivity went up hugely when he was on holiday. His very presence was aversve to the team and his absence was a huge relief.

If you are going to use any training tool, these are things we need to consider and consider with much thought rather than using the bog standard “it doesn’t hurt” response. I once heard an e-collar trainer describe the low level stimulations (shocks) as being like an insect bite, nothing more, just a bit unpleasant. Would you rather not be bitten by an insect. Have you ever been in your bedroom at night and can hear a mosquito buzzing around? Do you leave it be or do you get up and try to remove it? Even the slightlest unpleasant consequence can accumulate to something very stressful. A stone in your shoe? Remove it or walk around with it all day? It doesn’t hurt, right? So it can’t be that bad.

We hear e-collar and prong collar trainers justify the use of their tools by saying it doesn’t hurt the dog, it’s merely information to the dog. Would the dog rather you didn’t apply the stimulation (shock) in the first place?

To quote Dr Susan Friedman – “Effectiveness is not enough”


Oh, Magnussen gets his comeuppance in the end.

A question of ethics – part 1


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