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I recently returned from a week in Las Vegas where I was working for Dogtra Company helping out at their booth at the SHOT Show. For those not familiar with this venue the acronym stands for Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show.
The show is billed as the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries. It attracts buyers from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. I heard that attendance was over 55,000 this year. It is a big deal and I’m very grateful for the invitation to help host the booth and talk to prospective buyers about the wonderful line of products Dogtra has to offer.
What I want to share is the amazing experience of spending time visiting with so many great people in the training industry. I finally got to meet Tom Dokken which was of course WAY cool, and I also chatted with one of my personal business hero’s Steve Snell from Gun Dogs Supply. Two super accomplished men in the industry, check out their sites.
Also, a number of canine handlers stopped by the booth to visit. I was able to help one handler in particularly by going over in detail how to train the Out command without creating the conflict that had been occurring with the previous advice he’d been given about electronic training. Rather than just putting an e-collar on the dog and trying to blast them off the sleeve and helper we discussed the systematic approach of TEACHING the dog to out off of alternative objects of lesser value first (tug/KONG, etc) and then upping to the sleeve and offering a back bite as a reward for the out. (be aware; there is more involved in the process but for the sake of brevity, that is the short description)
It was a wonderful opportunity to clear up some of the myths surrounding remote collars and help someone understand how to apply them in a way that would reduce frustration for both the dog and the handler.
Chatting with Chad James was another highlight. Chad is a man who has been in this industry almost longer than I’ve been alive. What a wealth of information and insight. We both share the common passion of understanding how low level stimulation can be used to teach and create clarity between canine and human.
If everyone could view the use of remote collars the way that we do, the days of the word “Shock collar” might finally come to an end. But there is still much education to be done as I was reminded each time someone stopped at the booth to inquire, albeit jokingly, if they can “get one of those for their spouse, kids, employees, etc” Sadly it is too often the prevalent thought that stimulation be used as a punishment for undesirable behavior. While I can’t deny that punishment works in some circumstances, it is the more effective approach that modern e-collar trainers are taking to help others learn how tactile cuing can be used to redirect a dog’s attention to more appropriate behavior. That of course was part of the discussion Chad and I shared.
Perhaps the greatest high of the week though was that all of us from Dogtra, Sport Dog, Garmin and DT Systems had a bit of time to visit and talk dogs. It was, well, it was fantastic! These are some incredibly kind and generous people who all share the same passion for helping people enjoy a better relationship with their dogs.
It is always impressive to see a group come together with a shared goal of what is in the best interest of dogs and the industry. The fact that major competitors can reach across lines to do so gives me hope that perhaps individual dog trainers can do the same. When we quiet our preconceived notions about one another, learn to ask questions and listen more than we speak the focus is allowed to shift to find common ground.
It is there that the real and larger problems can be addressed. We can make strides to help those thousands of dogs who lose their homes and their lives daily because owners simply don’t have the tools or knowledge to make the relationship work. Whether it is through remote training, lure and reward training, clicker training or any other methodology we do share a common ground of helping dogs and their owners enjoy a better life together. That is a goal worth working together on. The SHOT Show reminded me of that and I’m already looking forward to next year.
As a side note to making a relationship work; my partner, Ron, and I decided 7 years was enough of a relationship test drive and we decided to make our status more official. Thanks to Graceland Wedding Chapel and Elvis for being our witness.
Viva Las Vegas!