The road ahead…

I recently sold the dog training company I founded in May of 1998.

That’s My Dog, Inc was a great run for nearly 24 years. Now, there is a new owner, with new visions for the future. I’m happy to see my baby in good hands and thrilled with the transition. Since the announcement of the sale, many people have reached out to either congratulate me on my retirement or ask what’s up next?

Because I believe that for every person that asks a question, there are usually others wondering the same thing, I decided to share a few words here on my blog.

First of all, I don’t consider myself as retiring, I’m transitioning. I’m no longer the “buck stops here” person at the top of a company. Instead, I am gaining flexibility by living a “less is more” concept. I can put more attention toward priority projects rather than trying to juggle them against the backdrop of owning a very busy training company with multiple employees.

Most of the projects are still in the dog training arena so I won’t be sitting by the pool sipping umbrella drinks…at least not for a while yet. 😉

Here is the short list of what I’m planning for 2022: 

  • More writing

Watch this space for musings on dogs. I intend to travel down memory lane with stories of dogs and people that helped shape what I believed in the past, what I believe now, and where to expand my knowledge as I move forward. I’ll also share easy tips for pet owners to implement. Plus, I plan to pose questions, hypothetical and at times, perhaps controversial. I’ve got a lot to say and it may not all be easy to hear…but then again, I may be off base in my opinions. My hope is that colleagues from around the globe will chime in for thoughtful discussion so that many will weigh in on what is best for dogs and the relationship we share with them. 

  • More travel

I’ve traveled and taught a lot of workshops over the years but rarely stayed on location long enough to enjoy the scenery. This year I’ll be moving about the country meeting with other professional trainers. Many for consulting purposes, helping expand their knowledge of business and remote collar training. Some just to hang out,  have fun and enjoy our dogs together. Pet owners interested in booking private lessons can keep up with the travel itinerary and reach out if they want to connect while I’m in the area. 

  • More time with my own dogs

Professional trainers often fit the narrative of “the cobblers children have no shoes.” Yes, we usually have decently behaved dogs, but we often don’t get to enjoy them nearly as much as we’d like. Or we may not be achieving the goals we’ve set for ourselves. Too often the demands of helping everyone else with their dogs leaves us exhausted at the end of the day. The tagline for That’s My Dog! has always been “Super Training for Everyday Adventures”…I plan to start living that a bit more!

  • More awareness of responsible dog ownership

I started a non-profit in 2020 but it got sidelined due to the pandemic. There were too many time constraints that came from worrying about keeping my primary business afloat at that time. This year, I’ll devote more effort to Aware Pet Owner to spread the message about responsible dog ownership. 

Donations are always welcome. (and fully tax deductible!)

There are a lot of “mores” planned for the year ahead. I want to chat about my Puppy Preschool so new puppy owners can get started off on the right paw, and re-share free dog training advice articles written to help pet owners live more successfully with their dogs. Plus, I’ll definitely be plugging this ultimate e-collar training dvd that follows three shelter dogs from early collar conditioning to enjoying off leash freedom in a few weeks time. It is one of my proudest works to date.

I have plans for adding new stuff this year…we’ll see how far I get, but that’s the current overview for now. It is all about helping others become their dog’s hero.

I look forward to seeing many of you as I make my way on this new journey. 

Happy New Year!

Robin Macfarlane

Farewell To Another Good Dog

A friend and colleague of mine lost his beloved Malinois last week. I asked permission to write about him because his passing hit closer to home than many of the other dogs that have crossed my path in this career.

It was personal because at one time, this dog had belonged to me.

I honestly don’t remember what his name was when he first came to me. I only recall that I’d been through a string of Malinoises over the course of 18 months or so in search of the “perfect” (for me) dog. This young male was the final in a string of dogs that eventually gave way to me getting Tommy, my heart dog.

But for a while, he was mine. When I first acquired him I was frustrated from searching for the right dog. I was hard pressed to even put much effort into naming him, I just wanted to figure out if he would work for the job I intended him for.

But having a name behooves the building of a relationship so I requested input from a group of students that were attending my professional dog trainer program. One of those students happened to be a police officer. He shared the inside joke that when a new kid came on the force he was referred to as the “Funewgy”, an acronym for the New Guy…and yes, you are correct when you guess what the Fu part of the abbreviation stood for. 😉

That story resonated with my appreciation for sarcasm and the name “Newgy” got put into use. It was never intended to stick but it did and he carried that name for the duration of his 15 years.

As the new guy, he got put through the paces. He was learning the basics and being challenged to excel. I worked with him for a few months but ultimately decided he wasn’t the perfect fit. Once again, I was in the situation of having to find the right home for a dog.…

And that is when Matt showed up. A student that also attended my program for trainers. This guy was young, funny, kind, good with dogs, and laidback. Laidback being one quality I didn’t possess that Newgy would benefit from. He needed someone that would give him the outlet and activity that a Malinois needs without the pressure for performance that I would require.

It was a match made in heaven. From time to time Matt would check in with a photo or a quick story. I’m sharing those here because it is important to witness relationships as they should be. Newgy had a good life. A full life with an owner dedicated to fulfilling his needs.

When we fulfill a dog’s needs before our own, we’ve done right by them. My heart is content when I know a dog is with the right person and Matt was Newgy’s right person.

I don’t know if Matt would refer to Newgy as his heart dog, but from the outside looking in, it was self-evident. God speed Newgs.

Hugs to you Matt. Relish what you had and know a part of him is always with you.

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! 😉

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

Professional E-Collar Dog Training Classes

Professional E-Collar Dog Training Classes: Education and Implementation

Angie Scharpf is a fellow trainer who attended our That’s My Dog! E-cademy Professional E- Collar Training Classes created specifically for dog trainers.

Angie signed up for our professional E-collar training several years ago and has been successfully implementing e-collar training into her dog obedience programs ever since. We chatted recently and she was telling me of a compliment she received from a client so I asked her if we could share the story here on my blog.

Professional E-collar training done right provides that ability to maintain control because tactile cues gain attention reliably even when the surrounding environment jumps into full throttle energy. And that gives everyone more peace of mind.These words seemed like the perfect short and sweet summary of why e-collar training is so popular among pet owners and trainers.This also proves to me the importance of offering professional E-Collar training classes to dog trainers around the world, emphasizing proper education and implementation.

“I have done obedience training with my 115-pound puppy before, but as soon as we were faced with any distractions, it was nearly impossible to get his attention. The ability to adjust the intensity of the e-collar depending upon the distraction level was fantastic and made us feel like we had options when things got chaotic! The ability for Alvie to understand what we want from him makes our relationship with him so much better. We love our puppy more than anything, and are so happy to be able to communicate with him effectively : Thank you.”

-Rebecca Dirks

If you are interested in chatting with Angie about training for your dog contact her at Pack Leaders Dog Training in Marion, Iowa. Angie is one of the many talented e-collar experts listed on our referral page. Angie has attended and graduated our E-Cademy Professional E-Collar Training Classes and now shares her expertise with clients in Iowa.
To learn more about finding an E-Collar trainer click here and you can find an E-Cademy Graduate near you here!

*Updated 1/31/16

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! 😉

 

 

Dog Aggression rehab? Commitment is the keyword.

Dog aggression is not a fun topic.

I know some dog trainers probably see it as sort of sexy and seem to take a lot of pride in repeating the phrase “I work with aggressive dogs” There has been a good deal of television culture and drama built around the buzz concepts of dog aggression, dogs that bite, and rehabilitation.

There is nothing sexy or exciting about it, IMO. It is sad. It breaks my heart a little bit each time I have to respond to a client inquiry about a dog that has bit someone.

The reality is, at that point, the dog human relationship is going through major breakdown and the real, day to day work that needs to be done to fix it isn’t all the glamorous.

The process of changing the behavior can be draining and often tedious. I don’t like to sound like a Debbie Downer because most of the time dog aggression CAN be changed. However, I like people to realize up front there is no quick fix.

Changing the behavior of a dog that is having problems with aggression means changing the behavior of the human(s) who live with the dog.

I want to introduce you to Si, a white GSD that some of you may remember seeing on the That’s My Dog! Facebook page back in the fall of 2014 when he came to us to start working on changing his mindset about the world he lived in. This is a picture from his first week in training.

white gsd

Si was under socialized, anxious and reactive to any sudden change in the environment. He had 3 bites in his short history when his owner found us and committed to a training program to try and help him.

I’d like you to focus in on the word committed in the sentence above. That has been the key to the story I’m about to tell. Si’s owner didn’t just commit to spending the money to have someone “fix” his dog aggression. She committed to doing the work and making the changes that would be needed. Without that firm intention being in place, we would have been doomed to fail.

A talented dog trainer can get most dogs to behave perfectly for them, but there is no magic pixy dust we can sprinkle or put in the animals food that will keep the improved behavior in place. The owner must learn to replicate the process and behave in a way similar to the trainer if we are going to succeed. And the commitment must last for the lifetime of the dog.

Si spent a couple weeks with us in a board and train program. The B&T program provides us a clean slate to start new routines without the interference of the dog being in his comfort zone at home where the inappropriate learned behaviors started. It gives the trainer an advantage because the dog is off kilter for the first few days. He doesn’t know the people, doesn’t know the terrain and doesn’t know the daily routine in this new place. That means he’s often a bit more hesitant and doesn’t react as confidently as he would on his home turf. It is the same reason kids are often better behaved at school then they are at home.

So, with an insecure dog who has learned to use his teeth to take care of anything “scary” the first things he learns with us is; if you want to eat, you eat from us, if you want to pee, you pee while out on a leash with us, if you want to walk and play, you play with us. You want an enticing treat, you must tolerate being touched before we will release it. Through successive approximation of closer and closer proximity, we build the dogs trust in humans by not giving the dog an option to do the daily necessities on his own.

Then we layer in obedience. We teach the dog that if: You want to go out the door, you must sit/stay first. You want us toss the ball, you must come when called and sit nearby before we will sling it again. You want to go for a walk, you will walk nicely by our side. Obedience builds the foundation for taking direction from humans.

Next we begin to take the obedience skills and expose them to more pressure in the real world. Pressure is the one thing an anxious dog has never been taught how to cope with. It is pressure when a dog who has never been off the farm, goes into the city.It is pressure when a dog that lacks confidence is approached on the sidewalk by a passer-by. Exposure to the ‘real world’ with the guidance of a calm, stable leader using obedience to communicate how he should respond in the moment actually takes the pressure OFF of the dog for making his own decisions. If I insist the dog sit when someone passes, he can discover that the bogey man in the big winter coat just passed on by, or maybe the bogey man even dropped a juicy tidbit to be enjoyed.

The other thing that obedience can be used for is to build exploratory behavior and confidence. I want an anxious dog to become more comfortable in his surroundings, not by using his vocalizations and teeth to drive everything away, but rather by learning to explore and trust more of the world around him.

Using obedience for “urban agility” is what I’ve found to be one of the best ways to get this task accomplished. Taking an insecure dog and teaching him to sit/walk/down/place and recall, all while going over, under and across obstacles in the world (picnic tables, downed trees, retaining walls, park benches, etc.) brings a dog out of his shell in the same way that teaching a kid to swim, bike and climb trees creates body awareness and confidence in oneself.

This was the essence of Si’s weeks with us at That’s My Dog! Each day was the layering on of just a bit more learning and confidence building. I took these pictures on Si’s first field trip away from the training facility.

si3 si4

You can see how difficult it was to get him to focus on me with the camera. His tight facial expression and his head was on a swivel concerned about any possible new thing or change in the environment. There were days of frustration, for both of us. But we kept at it. Each day, new outings, new experiences and we also used integration with other stable dogs to help expedite his processing.

In a few weeks we felt he was ready to go home. The key would be that his owner now follow through with all the new expectations. Once Si walked back onto his familiar turf, mom needed to make sure that the rules had followed him home and not allow him to fall back into old patterns of behavior. This is the critical stage.

We believe it is only natural for a dog to revert to behavior that was once acceptable. The solution is the human becoming aware and intervening before those patterns emerge again.

Si’s mom did her best not to let that happen and the photo at the beginning of this article is a testament to her commitment. He is so improved and you can see it in his face and expression. This is a dog that is learning to be comfortable in his own skin. A dog that is learning to trust more and react less. It is the visual reminder of why we do the work we do.

We are so proud of both Si and his owner!

It is so important to remember that commitment to change is the biggest factor in resolving dog aggression.

 

Dog Obedience Matters

Dog Obedience : High Expectations Needed

Dog obedience is important for both the dog and owner to fully understand. I wanted to share video from a recent training class at That’s My Dog!. Well, truth be told, it is more like a fun outing we do with our clients a few times a month rather than an actual class.

We invite our clients to participate in our traveling classes once they have completed the basic introductory course of dog obedience. Our classes are called On The Go! because the goal is to get out and about in the community to help ensure that our pet owners are comfortable fully integrating their dogs into their lives.

It is the skill set of obedience commands we teach that allows this full integration. Once a dog  understands the meaning of words like Heel (which means to remain on my left side whether I’m stationary or walking) or Down, (which means keep your belly to the ground regardless of what exciting things you might want to participate in)…THEN the dog can become a welcome guest in most environments. These simple skills, when truly understood,  enhance the human-dog relationship by providing us a means to communicate in a clear and concise way. It is that kind of communication that allows us to develop a greater partnership with our dogs.

Here are the steps we adhere to.  First, TEACH the dog a behavioral meaning that is attached to a cue. For example, the word Sit means put your rear to the ground and keep it there until further notice. Next, PROOF the meaning of the words so the dog comes to understand commands are not just situational or optional. The words have a purpose and are not something to be ignored just because there are other exciting things distracting the dog’s attention. Once that process is well underway UTILIZE this language and the new skills so that dogs can be welcome members of society and not a nuisance to others around them.

So back to the video…we had a large turn out for our recent On The Go! class.  After a short walk and a bit of practice we made our way to an outdoor cafe for dinner and drinks. Several in our group grabbed a table to socialize and get a bite to eat. They had their dogs politely lay down next to them for the duration of their meal. I got engaged in conversation a few yards away and was pleasantly surprised when I turned around to find several of our group were still practicing with their dogs. 🙂

Such great follow through from everyone in our group! It is that kind of commitment that makes these dogs perfectly welcome canine citizens in the community.

Take a look.

It was also impressive because it demonstrates exactly what is possible for the average dog owner who is willing to do the work.

That level of possibility should be the goal for all pet dog training professionals. So I’ll also pat myself and my staff on the back because we adhere to a philosophy to never sell our clients short.

I think this kind of expectation is being lost in the pet training world. Too many pet dog trainers have watered down the standards for themselves, their clients and what the dogs are capable of.

Fortunately this belief is shared by a number of other individuals and some are beginning to speak out about it.

I recently attended two days of workshop and seminar time with Ian Dunbar, who has long been considered the backbone of lure -reward training. While he and I may not agree on everything regarding dog training, I was nodding my head in full agreement when he expressed dismay at what has been occurring in the pet training world the past 10 years.

He and numerous others I know are frustrated by the lack of standards. It is a shame that there are fewer and fewer trainers who believe it is important to have a higher degree of expectations from their clients and their dogs.

I believe many ‘professional’ trainers need to step it up. Using the excuse of “just give em the minimal of what they want” is selling the future of dog obedience short. The average pet owner doesn’t know what is possible until they have witnessed it. I’ve yet to find watered down versions of anything to be admirable in terms of effort or outcome.

Woof!

A Hero’s story

We lost a friend today. His name was Hero. A Belgian Malinois of 13 years and 5 weeks. It doesn’t seem like he got to stay with us long enough, but it was enough to turn me into a different person and enough to help two kids grow up.

He came to us on a flight from California in July of 2001. A young pup who’s future I envisioned would be full of all sorts of ‘greatness’, thus his name. He was my first Malinois and I expected he would fill big shoes transforming me from Podunk dog trainer into a name that would be noticed in the industry. Perhaps I should have been more concerned when his shipping had to be delayed because he had Demodex, but I had high aspirations and started right out from 9 weeks old taking him everywhere, including on his first of many family vacations. We even made it to the Leinenkugels lodge by the time he was 12 weeks old. 🙂 That was also a flash moment in time I noticed more than average apprehension about noises and ‘strange stuff’. The fluttering of a ‘buried wire’ flag marker was pretty disconcerting and we made a game of it to help him realize it wasn’t much to be bothered about.

And we continued on and trained and traveled and within his first year he’d been to several workshops and learned to retrieve and started bite work. But those trips were never without some event, some car backfire or other disruption that caused him to quiver or begin to pant. He’d carry on but always with some concern that maybe, just maybe the sky Would fall.

By two years I was a bit beside myself that somehow I had ruined this dog that I had intended for greatness. Why could I not overcome this issue of quivering when ever there was environmental stress?  So I traveled to Long Island New York to a seminar given by Bart Bellon, someone whose work I admired and who probably knew Mals better than most anyone on the planet. On day two of the workshop Hero and I had our turn in front of the audience to discuss my struggles…just as a plane took off from the nearby airport and my Hero turned to jello! Imagine my shame. And after the noise subsided Mr Bellon announced to the audience, ” I observed this woman and her dog training in the parking lot last night and she may think she caused this but she didn’t. The work was sound. This is a Beta dog.” And he looked at me and explained if you want a top dog you must start with a top dog and explained the importance of genetics and how nerve is inherited and then built upon.

And after that both Hero and I were free. I was free to find another ‘demo’ quality dog and free to allow Hero to have the life he was intended to live. The life of family companion, nanny to children and holder of secrets. He could lick away tears of disappointment or send them streaming from laughter. His animal impersonation tricks of Be an Alligator or Be a Kangaroo were party favorites and his gentle demeanor allowed him to accompany my daughter trick or treating when she went as Red Riding Hood and him as the Big Bad Wolf in grandmas cap and nightgown carrying her basket through the entire town and collecting the candy.

He was my go too for teaching young pups the rules of behavior. A playful bow if they were shy and a gentle squish if they needed to be brought down a peg or two. Always fair and always patient. Thunderstorms made him shiver but he could hunt and swallow shrews and other small rodents in a single gulp. He grossed us out with his occasional explosive diarrhea but astonished us with his ability to get even the most dog phobic folks to warm up to him. He taught many foster dogs the ropes and held the tears of children’s burdens as they grew into young adults.

He was a Hero to this family that loved him.

And such is the life of a dog. A simple life that touches so much.

Hero was not a dog of strong nerve. He was a dog of enormous heart and the words that “You don’t always get the dog you want, sometimes you get the dog you need.” could not have rung more true. His heart is what ended up teaching me what I really needed to know about this profession. That it isn’t about greatness, or flash or even fearlessness. It is about perseverance and giving your best and remembering each day to be there with a smile and support for those who need you.

It is about heart, and that was the embodiment of a Malinois named Hero.

Hero:robin

From Germany to Singapore, Golden Retriever finds training solution that works.

Another dog owners experience with remote collar training. The following note is from Susanne who recently relocated to Singapore and began training with Jeffery Ong. Jeffery owns K9 World and is a graduate of my program for Professional Dog Trainers, That’s My Dog! E-cademy.

To begin with, I am Susanne and my dog’s name is Buddy. We have started our remote collar training with Jeffery Ong from K9 World in December 2013.

Our story is quite simple. Buddy is a 2 ½ year old Golden Retriever from Germany. Before we came to Singapore in April 2012, we had dog training in a group of 10 other dogs, and that only for two months in high winter season with snow and ice. In Germany, remote collar and prong collars are not allowed by law. So what they teach you there is training your dog with pulling the leash at the right time. I found it very exhausting, especially if you have a dog who is really stubborn and strong, even as a puppy. Still I went out with him 2-3 hours per day, always meeting other dogs on a huge nature reserve area. Buddy had fun.

Coming to Singapore things changed. So did Buddy. We took training lessons where the trainer used the prong collar plus clicker. At the beginning it was quite promising. We continued even with agility, but somehow got stuck after a while. Buddy became negligent towards the prong collar, the clicker and me! My back was getting worse. Recall was also a problem, as it was not really on the agenda of the training. And then, one day I was watching one of my friends dog training sessions with Jeffery. I was surprised and impressed, how fast dogs learn with this tool.

I have read a lot about remote collars and at the beginning I was skeptical. Will it hurt my dog, will I be able to use it properly? But then I saw the progress of my friends dogs and was determined to give it a try.

After almost three months dog training (and that also with some interruptions in between) my opinion on remote collar is very positive. Having tried different other tools and methods in dog training, remote collar is the best tool ever! Why? Because you can give the dog instant feedback of his behavior. You don’t have to raise your voice, you don’t have to pull the leash harshly. Remote collar requires only two things from you, which are right timing and setting the right level. For that you have to know your dog of course, his good habits and his bad. When tapping the nick button at the right time at the right level, it makes your dog paying attention to you, so that he learns to take the right decision. This is something which would have taken me otherwise at least 1 ½ to 2 years with Buddy, and that only with tons of treats, if at all.

 

remote collar for dog
Buddy in Group Class

 

Another advantage of remote collar I feel is, that you can give your dog more freedom. Off leash running in designated areas is no more a problem, as you can get his attention any time, also from far distance. I feel safer with the remote in my hand, and that is what Buddy feels, too. Even certain fears which dogs sometimes have, can be kept into limits. Buddy for example is very reactive towards German Shepherds. God knows why…I think they look scary to him and we have three (!) in our neighborhood. Meeting these dogs has always been difficult, as holding Buddy tight with all his 34 kg is a challenge, believe me. Plus I was always tensed, as I knew what would happen again.

With the help of the remote and keeping my dog busy, at least one of these dogs we can pass now from some distance without barking. Once even close by. That was not like this before. What a success! It’ll take some time for him to learn, but the stress we had before remote collar is gone, because I have a tool now, which is really reliable. And that makes me more confident, if it comes to situations like that.

Of course there is still quite a bid of work ahead of Buddy and me, but I do think that remote collar under the surveillance of a good trainer is an excellent  tool to bring the best out of your dog in a relatively short time. My goal is a well behaved dog in near future and maybe we will be able to pass all three Shepherds one day.

If you would like to reach out to Jeffry he is at K9worldsg@gmail.com For other trainers in our community, look here.

Thank you to Susanne for sharing her story and thoughts on remote collar training.