My notebook is a collection of words about my work, but it’s also a reflection of the two people who have influenced my life working with animals. John Tanner taught me from the get go, that you have a relationship with every animal in your life. And you take the ups and downs and work through things together.
And George Adamson. I originally saw BORN FREE when I was 4, cried buckets, and I vowed to move to Africa to find Elsa, and possibly raise baby chimpanzees. He has shaped how I see animals, as living beings, like us, on the same planet, that we share together. He taught me that relationships are natural, and kindness counts.
What I’ve learned is that training is teaching, and teaching is about giving information. And information should be inspiring, to encourage good learning. Training domestic dogs is always about working with TWO species. The person and the dog. I work with real people and real dogs, not the mythological perfect version.
And the information I give as a trainer, is applicable to any species. How we all learn is the same across the board, whether you are a dog, horse, bird or person. Which makes life pretty cool and less mysterious. The methods I use can transfer to any species, even your own children. The only difference is what an animal considers rewarding.
Training happens 24/7 365, there is no off button for gathering information. Our dogs are learning from us, but also the environment. So choosing experiences is important, because once an animal learns something, it cannot be unlearned. Try to unlearn your ABC’s, for example. Once it’s there it’s there.
Training sometimes gets confused with the word CONTROL. Control is merely an illusion. Ask any parent with teenagers! Training starts with trust and safety. If a dog trusts you, and feels safe with you, there is an agreement, an opening. Training at its core is cooperation, not control.
Working together creates a TEAM. Dogs are the rational and thoughtful side, humans are the emotional side. The trick is to maintain balance, and learn from each other. Balance in training comes from social, emotional, physical, and nutritional well being. When these are in place Team remains upright & steady.
Behavioral science, what I study as a trainer, is not an exact science. Behavior is not static, but rather fluid and dynamic, And just like everything good – music, dogs, food, wine, skiing, if you want to dig deeper, you become a student, you observe, you practice, and you enjoy!
So what’s the first thing to teach your dog? It’s how to play… Do not fear getting dirty, because you will! Play is vital to a healthy relationship with your dog, it expresses who we really are, no armor. We need it, and our dogs need it. Playing lends itself to healthy social interactions, and trust. And it’s communication we all understand.
Play has purpose too. There is more freedom of expression, and less social pressure. It teaches us how to have patience and understanding while training. And it allows our dogs to feel safe with making choices. Play encourages problem solving, reasoning, and working through new concepts, while enjoying time together.
And turns out we should focus on this type of training, because there is a place in our brain called the reticular activating system. Simply put , Where your focus goes, attention flows. For example, if you are in the market for a RED CAR, you will start seeing more of them around town. Whatever you’re interested in, this part of your brain will find more of it.
If the focus is on barking and pushy behavior, that is all you will see, and you will see more of it, and it will negatively impact how you feel about your dog over time. So, as a trainer, I always look to see what a dog is doing that I like. I watch and observe, and when I see something, anything, a deep breath, a
softening of the eyes, picking up a toy, a twirl, a play bow, maybe prancing around, or laying down. I always acknowledge this, always. I have met more diamonds in the rough over the years because I focused on what I liked,and in turn saw more of it, and the dog was brilliance just waiting to happen. It just needed to be acknowledged.
Touching can communicate emotions to our dogs more accurately than words. Touch is the first language we primates learn. Touching influences our dogs behavior, and has the potential to heal or break down, nurture or abuse, guide or mislead. My hands are my tools, they are for comfort, safety, and throwing toys.
Part of training is understanding the use of SPACE. The best way to describe space is COSTCO on a busy Saturday afternoon. You learn that there are those that give it, those that take it, those that try to make more of it, and those that get so close, you think they might crawl inside your skin.
Dogs are masters at the use of space. Dogs can guide the movement of others, by using, giving, or holding space. They can also be influenced by others use of space. Becoming fluent with these nuances and subtleties takes 1000’s of hours of observation and practice. You start to see the world quite differently through the negotiation of movement.
Training is play, and play is training. Just because it’s fun does not mean it’s permissive, on the contrary. Professional handlers and dog sport competitors take their goals seriously, have a plan, and train with play. It’s all good, if everyone is enjoying the ride. Good management, safe environment, purpose, and inspired play. An awesome combination.
I don’t give guarantees, I don’t have a crystal ball, but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t share in insiders training secret tonight. I learned this when I was competing years ago, and it holds true today… If you want to build more focus with your dog, you simply need to be more interesting than dirt.
In everything that I do, it is hearing a dogs breath, and the sound of paws moving across the earth that affect me the most. It is a deep reminder to me to be respectful. And as I was preparing for tonight, France has announced that they are passing a law that will change dogs legal description FROM ‘moveable goods’, TO ‘living being’ with rights.
As a trainer I have learned that our dogs have ideas, thoughts, and dreams, all of their own, independent of us. They are in our life for what seems like a fleeting moment. To quote Dr. Roger Foutes ~ “Plato and Socrates had it all wrong, man is not the center of the universe, merely a part of it.”
Here I am with the other presenters getting use to the stage, the lights, and the Mic …
As you can see, the way your slides are displayed is LARGE and has a big impact. Reading this last part with my Franny Girl, larger than life beside me, did put me in tears. But it was a good way to end, and I felt the love …
Check out some of the other photos I took of the other presentations. They were all amazing, and I learned and laughed with each one of them! Just click on one photo and it will enlarge and you can cruise through these beautiful images.