Are the Stars aligned for you and your dog?

I’d like you to answer the following question with the FIRST response that comes to mind.

Do you have a stubborn dog?

Over the years, it has been my experience that many people respond with an affirmative, yes. Many times, the yes is accompanied by either a sigh of frustration or a defeated sense of acceptance.

I celebrated my birthday recently and it got me contemplating the mindset we have about personalities that are “stubborn”. A friend of mine wished me a happy birthday and noted we were fellow “rams”… meaning we both fall under the astrological sign of Aries.

Please, don’t stop reading! I promise not to go down a deep rabbit hole about birth signs and their perceived impact on our personalities. However, the perception that the Ram personality type is quite fitting isn’t lost on me.

Some people might describe me as stubborn, aggressive, or obsessive. I know, at times, I can be brash and quite headstrong in getting my way. In fact, as I think this through, I realize that I gravitate toward those same qualities when picking my personal dogs. The old adage: “dogs resemble their owners” rings pretty true, at least in reference to personality!

The good news is, there’s a flip side to the negative connotations that go along with my character traits. If we play with some synonyms, I’d say that persistent, bold, and determined are some of my best assets. I’m certain those traits are keys to the success I’ve had in helping others better understand their dogs and build stronger relationships.

So what if we switched the adjectives we apply to our “Stubborn” dogs to have more positive connotations? How much easier would it be to stay the course in training if we understood our dogs to be persistent in their pursuit of the cat, rather than stubborn in their resolve of not listening? Perhaps our dogs have their own motivations for chasing small animals (or herding the kids, or barking at the intruders in their home, etc) and they aren’t deliberately disobeying you.

What if you began to look at behaviors from your dog’s point of view? Try to be in his head for a few minutes and consider what he was originally breed to do? What might his perception of the world around him be? What motivations does he respond to and what does he tend to tune out?

Now evaluate how much time and effort you’ve honestly put into teaching the dog exactly what acceptable behavior you would prefer to replace the ones you don’t like. Have you taught your dog how to simply observe the cat and let it pass by, rather than stalk and chase it? Have you taught the barking dog how to Be Quiet? Let me point out that standing across the room hysterically yelling “Quiet” is probably just convincing the dog that you are in full support of his behavior and you’re joining in the noisemaking!

I don’t want to draw conclusions for you. After all, only you know how much effort you’ve invested in training and whether or not you’ve really taken time to understand behavior from your dog’s perspective. I do think it is fair to say that most of us draw conclusions about our dog’s behavior based on human perceptions and experience, because, after all, we’re human and it is the experience we are most familiar with! Just be mindful that human perception and experience is not the same as a dog’s.

So perhaps your dog isn’t so “stubborn” after all.

Perhaps they are determined, persistent, or feisty because prior to us acquiring them to fill our own needs for emotional support and companionship, they actually had a purpose. Perhaps that purpose is part of who they are. Perhaps those character traits are built into their DNA. You can either decide to fight against those traits or change synonyms and start channeling natural behaviors in a direction that will bring you both satisfaction.

….or you can start subscribing to your dog’s horoscope and hope things turn out for the best! 😉

Donald Trump, Shock Collars and learning to curb the yapping.

The upcoming inauguration of President Elect, Donald Trump, has me thinking about many things, including dogs (I’ll get to that in a moment).

For the record, I did not vote for Trump. He doesn’t impress me as possessing the character traits I value in a leader. That said, I’m not one to assert the “Not my president” message. I value our collective history, those who fought to build our country and the rights I often take for granted too much to display disrespect for the process and those who do feel he is the right choice.

Donald Trump was elected and will hold office. History will judge him based on what is or isn’t achieved in the coming years. I will simply continue on. I’ll involve myself in things that matter to me and do what I can in my community to be part of the solutions I’d like to see.

What I have been most frustrated by during this election is societal behavior in general. In the media, on social networks and often, even in personal conversations. The growing trend of making sweeping generalizations accompanied by rigid, emotional judgement.

We live in a time when finding information is easier than ever, yet we seemingly only accept the bits of it that coincide with our own already held conclusions. We prefer to stay comfortably entrenched in our sense of righteous indignation rather than take a deep breath and step into another’s shoes for a tour of what it might be like in their world.

And that brings me to dogs or more accurately “dog people”.

It seems a whole lot of dog people have strong, all or nothing opinions on dogs, on their training and certainly on training tools. I received an email recently that contained one persons view of bark collars and the people that would choose to utilize such a tool.

Here are a few of the key sentences from that exchange:

“This is an absolutely cruel and inhumane device.”

“Anyone who loves dogs would never use this device.”

“Anyone who uses this product is cruel and shouldn’t have a dog in the first place…”

While I agree there may absolutely be situations where those statements hold true, I also know that there are equal or greater number of situations where they bear no resemblance to the truth.

Let’s take a deep breath and examine these sentences that are filled with strong emotion and absolutes.

First off, the word, inhumane. According to one definition, inhumane is defined as; without compassion for misery or suffering; cruel:  The example given for using it in a sentence was; confining wild horses is inhumane.

That sentence certainly stirs some emotion. It sort of makes me want to say; “damn straight! Confining wild horses IS inhumane!!”

But then again, maybe the use of emotion laden adjectives should always be subject to examining context. Would confining wild horses be considered inhumane if they were rounded up and confined temporarily to get them out of range of an encroaching wild fire?

Is it true that anyone who uses a bark collar is cruel and should not have dog in the first place?

Well, yes, I would agree, in the context that said user did nothing with their dog in terms of exercise or training and simply strapped the device on in an attempt to shut up noise that is coming from the dog as a result of boredom, isolation and pent up frustration. In my book of judgement, that person is an asshat. They should find the dog a better home and not get another one unless they can develop awareness of how to meet a dogs physical, mental and emotional needs.

But what about the dog that is well exercised, well cared for, and well trained but has a low threshold for tolerating noise or surrounding activity when away from the influence of their owner?

I’ve used bark collars on e-stim conditioned dogs over the years. Sometimes it was the dog wearing the collar that benefited the most and sometimes it was the dogs adjacent to the barking offender that got more relief.

When you run a boarding kennel or other high volume dog situation, barking is an expected part of the environment. However, if a dog cannot settle even after adequate exercise and being offered toys and chew bones to keep him entertained, the options for establishing a calming environment become limited. Sometimes segregation can work and a dog will settle with a bit more space between himself and the others, but sometimes he won’t. One thing that is certain is that constant, repetitious, non-stop barking is not good for the offender nor the others subjected to the ruckus.

And while the idea that extra staff could be devoted to the care of one special needs dog sounds ideal, it isn’t always possible. Sometimes more practical management solutions have to suffice.

One outcome that has resulted from the proper use of bark collars in my facility is that stress levels are reduced for the dogs and for the humans. That is win/win.

The key of course, is proper use. Let’s assume not everyone using a bark collar is an asshat.

Some words from a former President, George W. Bush seem appropriate to keep in mind when we are deciding on how strongly to define our opinions of others.

“Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

Whether it is political affiliation or dog training ideologies, I think we all benefit if we stop being so judgmental and get back to the idea of stepping into the other persons shoes before making blanket statements.

Although, I will admit, I wouldn’t mind if Donald got a small zing every time he tried to access his Twitter account. 😉

E-Collars for Dog Training: In the Spirit of Valentines Day

E-Collars for Dog Training

 

Using e-collars for dog training is often a common debate among dog owners and trainers. I have seen a few petitions in the past about banning e-collars and prong collars, a shop owner being targeted at Crofts in a campaign to slander and harass his company for even selling such tools. I saw a petition to not allow dogs wearing certain tools such as e-collars, be allowed at a dog event in a public park in Indiana. I read a piece written by a YouTube dog trainer lambasting “shock collar trainers” (his words) and calling one individual by name saying he  “deserves to be corrected very publicly.”

Is it just me or does it strike anyone else as ironic that some of the self proclaimed all positive types have so much venom in them? Their own professed ideology doesn’t seem to hold up when it comes to interacting with human beings.

I mean if you really, truly, in your heart of hearts believe that the MOST effective way to modify behavior is to reward what you want and ignore what you don’t want than how come that latitude is not extended to your own species?

After a bit of surfing I scratched my head, took a deep sigh and then proceeded with my usual course of action when I’m disgusted by the lack of common decency that is so often present on the internet. I clicked off the computer and went out to work with the dogs and our clients who love them.

That is when reality set back in. The internet is just a whole lot of noise. My life is about the dogs and their people. About trying to create a relationship that works. It is what I will continue to focus on. I don’t care what tool any person or trainer chooses.

I care HOW a tool is used and I care that ultimately we are helping dogs stay in their forever home and strengthening the bond between owner and their companion animal.

I am going to continue to chose a loving approach to my dealings with my clients, their dogs, my fellow trainers and even those of you who hate me.

Yes, I get your e-mails and your You tube comments that call me all sorts of ugly names.  I’ll continue to respond by inviting you here to my facility to see things for yourself. And you can continue to ignore those invitations. You can continue the war, for apparently you get some sort of reward from the feud itself. Not me my friend, the fight isn’t worth it. My rewards are far, far greater. Here are just a few of them from this week:

shock collar for dogs
Chupa

remote dog collar
Harley

dog training collar
Zoey

shock collars
Lincoln & Sawyer

remote collar dog training
Masey

Everything was summed up pretty darn clear early yesterday morning when I was out shoveling the parking area and one of our clients arrived to drop off his dog for our Day School program. We exchanged a few words of greeting and he said “this is so amazing, I love my dog now. We were both so stressed before, now we can actually enjoy each other.”

I don’t care how you travel that path folks. As long as you get their humanely. If that kind of dialogue is the outcome, then we are all playing for the same team.

Happy Valentines Day.

Woof!

*Updated 2/1/2016

Teaching a Dog to Retrieve

Teaching a Dog to Retrieve: A Rewarding Skill to Practice 

Teaching a dog to retrieve is one of the most rewarding skills you can work on. I’m not talking about the game of chasing a ball and bringing it back to you. While that is certainly a fun activity and good exercise for your dog, I am speaking to the task of deliberately retrieving specific items and delivering them into your hand.

Many dogs will chase and pick up something like a ball or toy that we toss for them, but few can be directed to pick up the car keys or remote for the television and bring it to us.

The difference between chasing and grabbing a toy that is moving (which stimulates prey drive) and picking up an object that is still and possibly undesirable, like metal is significant.

Teaching a dog to retrieve is not an easy task, and I do my best to prepare those who sign up for my retrieve workshop to understand that it will likely be the most challenging skill they teach their dog.

However, it will also be the most rewarding.

It is rewarding for several reasons, the obvious being that you will have a great helper around the house! My dogs perform all sorts of little tasks on a daily basis that make life with some physical limitations a whole lot easier. My dogs retrieve my shoes (insert Video of Shoe Retrieve) and pick up things that I’ve dropped, like my keys or a pencil. They can help me carry groceries to the house and can hold their own leashes when I have to stop to tie my shoe.

The flip side of my appreciation for their help is that the dogs LOVE having a job to perform. I believe it builds a sense of accomplishment in them. The tails wag furiously when they deliver some prize to me. They love it so much they will compete to be first to the item if I am not explicit in WHO is supposed to get the retrieve. A dog that has a “job” to perform on a routine basis is far less stressed by boredom and more fulfilled with daily life.

The other, but subtler, outcome of teaching a trained retrieve is what it does to enhance the relationship between dog and dog owner. Going through this training process will bring to light gaps that exist in how well we understand our dogs behavior. Teaching the retrieve will improve a handler’s ability to know the difference between the dog being confused about the desired task and the dog flat out refusing. That is a key piece of knowledge that anyone wanting to enhance the human-canine relationship through training must learn.

The difference my retrieve workshop has from other forced retrieve methods is that we work from beginning to end using the e-collar. From the start, it is a pressure on, pressure off guidance system that builds clarity in the dogs mind and does not require any significant discomfort to the dog to learn to hold, carry, open the mouth or go out. It is still a “forced” retrieve process but surprisingly gentle on the dog in comparison to other forced methods. So much so, that I can teach in a group format, and my audiences are primarily pet owners, rather than professional trainers.

Intriguing huh? ☺

Enjoy the photos and videos from the most recent weekend workshop and if you are interested in learning more watch the That’s My Dog! Newsletter for announcements of the next seminar.

Retrieve Workshop

 

Otis: The highly intelligent Airedale Terrier

An Airedale Terrier can be a handful and Otis is no exception.

But his owner is the one who really causes me to smile. Charlie is a retiree taking his young charge through my current class to learn a few manners. He’s doing the work and making good progress, but he’s also a guy who’s got enough years under his belt to understand not to sweat the small stuff. His wry sense of humor keeps me guessing what he might say next.

There are eight dog handler teams in my current basic obedience class. We have a Lab, a Golden, a Yorkie, a GSD, a GSP, a Pit mix, a Rottie and the Airedale Terrier. It is a fantastic group and a great mix of personalities.

The course teaches some basic manners like loose lead walking, sit-stay, down-stay and place behaviors. I teach Place to mean “go onto your bed or mat and stay there until you have permission to get up.”

For all of these active breeds, including the Airedale Terrier, the behavior is extremely useful around the house for teaching the dogs to chill out in one spot for a while. It is a great option rather than having to crate the dog when you want a little down time.

It is also valuable for use outside the house. It is nice to be able to go to the park and ask the dog to place on a bench or boulder for a moment if you want to be able to step back and take a photograph. Or it is great to drop a towel in the back of the car and have the dog place on it so they aren’t constantly moving to and fro causing a distraction to the driver.

But in order for the dog to generalize the concept of place from the dog bed or mat to other locations we have to go through the practice time of teaching other possible items.

This was the challenge I gave to my group class last week. “Go out and find one unique or new object and teach your dog to place on it.” I figured it makes the work more interesting as we add some challenges to the training course and it is great for the dogs because it actually builds self confidence to move up and onto weird or unusual objects.

I also told the class I wanted photographic proof they’d taught a new place to their dogs. I got back pictures of dogs on chairs and step stools, old tree stumps and park benches.

But the photo I got back from Charlie made me laugh out loud. It was titled, “Self taught place”

Given the fact that we’ve had mostly negative temps all week here in Iowa Charlie decided that Otis’ new behavior of taking over the couch counted as a new place and he was pretty content with Otis’ initiative of teaching it to himself so he didn’t have to travel outside to learn it!

Plus, he sent me the photographic evidence to prove it.

Leave it to the Airedale Terrier to outsmart me! 😉

 

 

A week at SHOT!

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.

remote dog collar
Robin & Chad James

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.

remote dog collar
me & Brian from DT Systems

remote dog collar
Clay, Me & Chris from SportDog

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! 🙂

Woof!! and Happy New Year!

We’ve been pretty bogged down here in Iowa with cold, COLD weather and LOTS of snow….but it didn’t stop my 10 year old Malinois, Tommy from wanting to go out and play! A good reminder for me to just keep moving forward and making the best of what ever comes. Dogs are fabulous for being that constant ‘in the moment’ presence in our lives.

So what ever your New Year’s resolutions or hopes for self- improvement include this coming year  here’s my reminder to add a little something in there designed especially for your dog.

In fact I came up with a few possibilities for your consideration:

Learn a new trick or two.

Take your canine pal on a monthly visit to someone who needs their spirits lifted.

Include walks that allow you both to ‘just be’ and sniff out all the wonders of the woods, the beach or the quiet park at the end of the street.

Commit to a better weekly grooming routine (fur, feet, teeth and ears) so Fido looks, smells and feels good.

Upgrade to a healthier diet. Yes, for both of you! 🙂

Donate some time or resources to a rescue or shelter in your area.

Find a weekend get-away where you both can have some fun. (like our Dog Camp in June!)

More exercise. Yes, for both you! 🙂

 

robin macfarlane

 

or as the sign in my office says: Bark Less, Wag More & Play Often!
Happy New Year to everyone.

Robin, Tommy & Diva

 

This dog understands Tap = Attention!

Just wanted to share some photos from this weeks video shoot. One of our regular day care attendees, Sam got into the act while shooting some short clips for the  iQ Pet training collars.

 

If you think the idea of Tap = Attention doesn’t work then you need to have a conversation with this Golden Retriever!

 

photo 1

He nailed it by very effectively  interrupting our shooting numerous times.  When the director called “Action!” and we went to roll, he gave me the gentle paw nudge as soon as I started to speak. And it worked, I laughed, lost my line and we had to start again! He is most certainly, Tap literate!

 

Tap = stop that,this human needs to focus!

So, I pulled the tried and true move…hand on his collar to stop his interruption…but apparently couldn’t keep my eyes open and talk at the same time. 🙂

Tennis ball saves the day!

And finally we found the magic green orb. (note the tennis ball in director’s left hand) to solve the problem. Sam sat mesmerized for the total minute, we got the shot, he got his ball. 🙂

 

 

 

Remote collar training is really not that scary

Diva and I wanted to wish you a Happy Howl-O-Ween, we didn’t plan a big photo shoot like previous years since she is still in her orthodic for the achilles tendon injury back in March. But we will share a bit of video we shot a couple weeks ago when she finally got the green light to run off leash again. Her doctors at UW. Madison are pleased with her progress from such a serious injury and credit her remarkable good manners and behavior as a major contributor in the healing process.

We still have a way to go before we are cleared to be “nakked” again but at least she can move and run without being attached to a leash. That ability to be safely off leash is one of the major reasons I pursued an interest in remote collar training so many years ago. Being able to provide people with the security of knowing they could let their dog run and still get their attention when needed is enticing. That lure of freedom and security draws many people to learn more about adding an e-collar to the training bag o’ tricks.

Of course there are many other reasons that we’ve covered here over the years, but the main message that this blog intends to spread is to not be afraid to seek information about training your dog with this tool. If it is not for you, no problem, but don’t let others use dread and doom tactics to deter you from simply inquiring about alternative opinions.

Becoming the subject of an inquisition just because you’re talking to someone about a remote training collar is a witch hunt you don’t deserve…so at least here on TASC know you are among ghouls who will do you no harm! 🙂

Here is Diva back to work. A bit sloppy and we’re going to have to do a lot of clean up to precision once this orthodic comes off, but not too bad after 7 months on injured reserve. And certainly no worse for wear after a few years of having remote collar use as part of her learning repertoire.

and the Winner is:

Happy 4th of July!

America’s Independence Day seemed like the appropriate time to unveil the winner of our Bling Your E-collar contest. For many people and their dogs e-collar training has added a level of freedom they did not think possible.

Thank you to Caitrin and her dog Tulip for the inspiration to start this contest and to everyone who participated. We had some awesome entries!! You can take a look at the pics on the I Love My E-collar and So Does My Dog Facebook page. A very creative bunch of folks out there! I’ll be sending a goodie box to the pooch who sports the winning entry.

Thank you also to those who donated to our prize package: That’s My Dog! Inc. On The Ball K9, Michigan Dog Trainer, K9 Transformations, Follow Me Dog Training, and Dogtra Company. Because of your generosity a Non-profit Shelter of the Winner’s Choice will be receiving $700.00 to help with their homeless animals.

With no further ado: