Friday, January 28, 2011

But my breeder says....

But my breeder says…  If I had a dollar for every time I have heard these words followed by an inaccurate statement about canine behavior I would be a millionaire.  Before breeders everywhere start raising their hackles, let me just start out by saying that I am a breeder myself and I know that there are many caring, informed and compassionate breeders out there.  Those are not the breeders I am referring to here.  My concern is with breeders who are using outdated or simply inaccurate information when discussing behavioral problems in dogs with the people they sell their puppies too. 

The majority of breeders out there are not trained in canine behavior or learning theory.  Many are experienced and knowledgeable about the characteristics and structure of their breed, but most know little about how to treat behavioral issues in dogs, particularly serious issues such as fear or aggression.  Many still believe that the only way to train a show dog is to put a choke collar on him and jerk him until he does it right.  This is training from the dark ages and unnecessary when training simple show ring behaviors.  Using these methods with fearful dogs is not only unnecessary it is inhumane and unethical. 

Many of my clients are show dog owners who are living with dogs with fairly serious behavioral issues associated with showing such as fear.  The owner is seeking professional help from a qualified trainer and specialist in order to help the dog overcome the fears and learn to be happy and comfortable in the show ring.  Meanwhile, they are dealing with a breeder who says the dog needs to “deal with it”, “get over it” and are recommending that the owner force the dog to show despite their fears and before they are ready for it.  Many will try and encourage the owners to “pop” or physically correct the dogs for “misbehavior” when the dog is truly fearful and simply unable to perform in the show ring.  This is, in my opinion, extremely unfair to the owner of the dog and even more unkind to the dog at the end of the leash being forced to deal with his fears in a very inhumane way.  Many times the breeder wants the dog finished despite what the dog might be put through to obtain that title.  Other times the breeder may truly not understand that the dog is experiencing fear and that it needs a lot more work than just “making him do it”.  Fear is a complex and delicate issue.  Owners of fearful dogs must follow a sound humane training plan if the dog is ever to improve.

So, what do these owner handlers do when they are trying to keep their breeders happy but still want to protect their dogs?  The best thing I can recommend is that they stick to their guns.  If the end goal is for the dog to truly be comfortable then you must take your time and move slowly when you are dealing with fearful dogs.  It can be helpful when the owner finds ways of helping the breeder to understand why you are doing what you are doing and that it is to protect the dog and your relationship with the dog.  These are more than valid reasons for insisting on a science based, humane, dog friendly training protocol.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dog Shows are Fun!

I spent last weekend at Clicker Expo in Long Beach.  It was the first Clicker Expo I have attended and I had a great time.  There was a lot of great things about it, like seeing great speakers and meeting people that I have only corresponded with on Facebook or via email.  The other thing that I really liked was the general promotion of positive reinforcement, not only to animals in training but to people as well.  For instance, in your registration packet you were given a bunch of raffle tickets then you were asked to distribute those to people when you saw someone do something, anything you liked.  It could be giving their dog water, helping someone with something, or just anything in general.  Both your name and the recipients name were put on the ticket and they were turned in and people were given prizes. 

I thought it was such a great idea and it made me feel good to be able to reward people for nice things.  As I sat around a table with a couple of friends (Stacy Braslau Schneck and Daphne Robert Hamilton) and a bunch of strangers, we started brainstorming ideas.  I decided to create Dog Shows are Fun (  The idea is that I will bring a collar charm which is an inexpensive but cute trinket to give to people along with a card explaining why when I see people at dog shows doing something I like.  I really just wanted to promote the use of positive reinforcement to dogs at shows and in training but Stacy pointed out that she likes that it will encourage me to look for good things at dog shows rather than focusing on the nice so nice things I observe.

Feel free to check out the website and join in the fun! 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My new blog!

It seems that I always have so much to say on the subject of dog training, behavior and of course, using positive reinforcement methods to train show dogs.  I have already published a book and have a DVD out on the subject, but there is always new stuff to say and things to add!  This is my way of getting information (and my opinions, of course) out there without having to write another book!  So, here it is!  Welcome to my blog!