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! 😉

Get your dog business sailing again!

Professional Dog Trainers, is it time to hit the refresh button on your career?

Have you been struggling with burn out and you’re ready for some vacation time?

Do you feel like your business could be doing better but you’re just not sure how to get there?

Then join me for this Education at Sea event! This is the second time I’ll be cruising the Caribbean with the goal of helping you realize your true potential in the training profession. The last time we sailed, we accomplished some amazing things. Yes, we went zip lining in the rain forest, shared camaraderie over food and drink and snorkeled with the sea turtles, but we also dedicated ourselves to focusing on how to build a better business. The feedback I got as a result was pretty astounding. Here is just one example:

I sailed with Robin on her first voyage aboard the Celebrity Constellation. The ship was amazing, and the amount of time we had to enjoy it was perfect. The seminar Robin put on was well thought out and useful in helping me realize ways I could set goals for my business that would help me to stay on track and succeed.  After the cruise, I was able to achieve my financial goals in 6 months!  I was also able to finally make a decision on an idea I had had for my business for at least two years, but kept waffling on. Shortly after coming home from the cruise I set the idea in motion and it came to fruition a month later. 

Now, I’m again looking forward to continued success in my business thanks, in large part, to Robin MacFarlane.    

Carolyn Weinbaum – The Developing Canine, Columbus, GA

dog trainer workshop
Creating Big Plans

If you are ready to create similar results, then join me for this training event; Charting a New Course: Creating Success on Your Terms. We will be departing from Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Nov 5th for a 6 night cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean ship, Freedom of Seas. Our two mornings at Sea will be spent in a workshop setting laying out YOUR individual plan for growth. The ports of call will provide opportunity for adventure as we visit Grand Cayman, Puerto Costa Maya and Cozumel.

dog trainer workshop
Our snorkeling guide!

dog trainer workshop
Chatting with other dog people in Cozumel!

Afternoons and evenings are free time for you to enjoy with your traveling companions or network with the other dog pros embarked on this journey. You will have time to relax, rejuvenate and explore what the next steps should be in your business strategy.

Bill Wittrock is our host. As a retired dog pro and experienced traveler, Bill is the perfect person to guide us on this excursion. Cabin fares start at $361.00 per person based on double occupancy so this is a very affordable get-away. Contact Bill via email at w.wittrock@dreamvacations.com or 440-567-1082 for all details regarding the cruise and associated fees.

For any questions about the workshop sessions email Robin@RobinMacFarlane.com. If your ready to register for this exclusive continuing education event, sign up now! I’ll see you on board!!  Deposits MUST be made by end of April in order to reserve a cabin on board the ship.

dog trainer workshop

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. 😉

Place Command | The Most Valuable Dog Training Tool

The Place Command

Second, only to a really solid recall, the Place command is one of the most valuable things you can teach your dog.

A place command, in case you aren’t aware, teaches the dog to place his body (all four paws) on (or in) the object you designate. The dog has free choice as to how they wish to position themselves. They can sit, lie down, or stand plus are allowed to change position if they desire. The only hard and fast rule are that they keep four paws remaining in or on that area.

Why is Place Such an Awesome Thing to Teach?

It is awesome because of the versatility. There is so many day to day applications of this dog training skill that make life more enjoyable and easier to manage.

Let me illustrate some examples of the versatility of place training by sharing a few personal photos of my dogs.

One of the common uses for the place command is an opportunity to enjoy a meal without having the dogs underfoot. On a recent camping trip, we laid out a small blanket (an Insect Shield Blanket which keeps the bugs from bothering the dogs!)
The dogs remained there until we gave them permission to get up after we had finished our lunch. It made eating stress-free with no begging or having to manage keeping them out of other mischief.

place command car

When traveling, my dogs understand that “in the car” is the equivalent place command that allows them free range of movement in the vehicle BUT they should not jump out when I open a door or put down the tailgate. Not only do they load up willingly when told, they understanding they need to keep all paws in the car. This keeps them safe because they won’t jump out until they hear the permission cue that allows them freedom to go.

Sometimes we even have a place within a place. An example of this is having a designated area inside the car to keep the dog from roaming freely from seat to seat. My Duck Toller, Diva, decided to settle in for a nap after I told her to place in one of the seats of our RV.

When you are teaching a concept like this it is important to remain aware that you did give your dog a command. If Diva had jumped out of the seat it would be my responsibility to have her get back up there immediately. If we don’t notice our dog’s mistake within a few seconds of them breaking the command, the timing (and thus the meaning) of the lesson will be lost.

place command nap

There are also occasional uses where you might find the Place command to be of significant value.

When visiting the veterinarian, “Place” can be very handy in getting the dog to willingly step onto the scale to get their weight. I wasn’t mindful of getting a photo on our last visit to the vet, but I did grab a good picture on a recent outing after I had asked my dog to hop into a kayak.

She balked at first but once I pointed into the bow and asked her to Place she obediently hopped right in and we were soon off and enjoying some time on the water!

place command kayak

The uses are limitless, but before you begin to generalize the place concept to all these varying uses, remember to start simple with a raised platform that is stable and easy for your dog to learn on.

We use dog cots when we start because they are the perfect teaching tool, plus extremely durable and provide years of service as a comfortable dog bed.

If you’ve found some unique uses for your dog’s place command, I’d love to hear about it! Please share here in the comments section or on my Facebook page

Dog Camp 2016

Dog Camp 2016

If you love spending time playing with and training your dog, then this Dog Camp is for you.

For some time, I have wanted to create a diversified training event geared solely toward the needs of pet dog owners. The goal was to come up with a curriculum that addressed multiple aspects of dog ownership. That intention gave birth to the Dog Camp concept.

This camp does not just focus on training but takes a look at the whole dog. From personality profiling to nutrition, training and problem solving and, of course, lots of fun and games, it is an activity filled three-day event that leaves owners better educated and dog’s lucky to have such owners!

We will also cover the key components of obedience training with a remote collar.

If you’ve been curious about remote collar use and your goal is to have better off leash reliability with your dog this is a great time to get started! If you do not own a remote collar, don’t worry; we’ll help you select the right equipment for your dog. Remote collar training done our way means more fun for your dog and less stress!

Here is a peak at what you can expect if you join us for Dog Camp.

Last year our first camp was here in Dubuque, Iowa and then a second event was hosted in Kelowna, Canada. Dog Camp can come to your location too, so if you are interested in hosting an event contact me robin@robinmacfarlane.com for more info.

This year we will be kicking off our Dog Camp camp on Friday, June 10th here in Dubuque. If you want to join us for this 3-day adventure, register now!

*Space limited to 15 dogs, so my staff, and I can give you the personalized attention you deserve.

Register & Sign up now!

Dogtra E-Collar ARC Review : Love at First Site

The Dogtra E-Collar ARC: Advanced Receiver Concept (ARC) Review

 

The new Dogtra E-Collar Advanced Receiver Concept (ARC) arrived and it was as I had expected…sleek on the dog. It drew a hallelujah from me immediately. A package I’ve been waiting for finally made it into my hands today.

Take a look at the new e-collar on my boy, Tommy.

Dogtra ARC dog collar

 

The training community, particularly the pet training community, IMO, has been waiting for a streamline receiver for a very long time.

The Dogtra E-Collar ARC receiver is the biggest step in the direction of streamline and still affordable that we’ve seen, ever.

Now, I’m basing this preliminary opinion of the product mostly on appearance. If that makes me shallow, sorry but looks do matter. Anyone who tells you otherwise is denying a very real piece of the challenge in gaining acceptance of this tool in the broader marketplace.

I already know Dogtra Company’s ability to create durable, reliable products. And of course, as is my standard for testing, with receiver in hand, I took the rheostat up to see how smooth the transition is as you climb the stimulation range. Smooth is important and one thing I won’t compromise on with the dogs I work. The ARC did not let me down.

dogtra ARC

They also did well with the transmitter (TX). Very similar to the SureStim unit (my current personal favorite) with a few tweaks to the molding. It fits well in the palm which allows me to work the TX single handed. That means I can easily keep the other hand on the dog, the bumper, the treat pouch, the long line or whatever other pertinent piece of the training puzzle needs attending too. I like the ergonomics of slimline transmitters. Dogtra seems to recognize that women are comprising a larger and larger segment of the training market and having equipment that fits our needs as well makes good economic sense.

That is enough of a review for now…time to go train & play.

Let’s find out if this little gem is more than skin deep…
Woof!

*Updated 1/29/16

Just Right! Remote Collar Dog Training Guide Two-Volume DVD Set

Your Own Personal Remote Collar Dog Training Guide

If you are looking for a remote collar dog training guide to help start the training process with your dog, here are some suggestions:

First off, if you can, find a professional trainer in your area that has experience with this tool. An experienced pro can help  you through the remote collar conditioning process and get you on your way to enjoying off-leash adventures with your dog.

If you are trying to find a pro in your area, check nearby E-cademy graduates near you hereAll of these dog training professionals have dedicated time and effort to spend ten days studying at the That’s My Dog! E-cademy Program.

Since 2002, I  have been teaching the “how-to’s” of using a remote collar for training dogs to other professionals. However, since not all trainers make it a priority to learn these valuable techniques, you may not be able to find a skilled trainer in your area.

If that is the case, pick up a copy of my Just Right! DVD set and get your dog started on the right track. Remote collar dog training in a safe, efficient and humane way to train with my step-by-step approach.

Just Right! is a two volume DVD set that provides dog owners a remote collar dog training guide starting with the basics. You will learn everything you need to know as a remote collar beginner such as, properly fitting the collar, and determining the just right level of stimulation for your dog and understanding how that varies according to the distractions present.

You will be able to teach your dog to:

  • Walk nicely on a loose leash
  • Come back when called
  • Learn to Sit and stay
  • Learn to Down and Stay
  • Learn to remain on a Place (dog bed or mat)

You will also understand how to use the remote collar training to stop nuisance behaviors like:

  • Jumping up
  • Nipping and mouthing
  • Inappropriate chewing
  • Excessive barking

 

 

With the 2-volume DVD, you will have your very own personal remote collar dog training guide to reference whenever you like.  Both you and your dog will be less frustrated by ineffective training methods and on your way to more freedom and off leash fun!

 

Remote Collar Dog Training Techniques

Remote Collar Dog Training Techniques: Toys and Tricks

Learning some basic remote collar dog training techniques will teach you that your dog can have fun while learning commands and discipline.

I bet that feels like a pretty big deal, especially if you’ve tuned into much of the propaganda that is out there about “shock collars” also known as remote collars. I’m sure it sounds like “rubbish” as Victoria Stillwell might say. (Victoria the actress that portrays a dog trainer on the television show, It’s Me or the Dog.

But the truth is, it’s not a big deal if you know some basic remote collar dog training techniques whether you’re focusing on training techniques to include toys and or tricks.

Knowing what you are doing means understanding that the sensation is just that, a sensation and it can be conditioned to mean whatever the trainer decides they want it to mean.

The e-collar stimulation can be “too high” and that might mean whoa, stop that right now, get away from there or any other reason to create an avoidance response in your dog. I’d say that sort of use is generally when people refer to the tool as a shock collar. Or the e-collar stimulation can be “too low” and you can push the button till you’re blue in the face and the dog won’t seemingly mind or even notice. Or the e-collar stimulation can be “just right” and you can use it to prompt your dog’s attention into a behavior you would like.

It is up to the person holding the tool’s transmitter to decide if it’s a shock collar or a remote training collar.

I prefer using a remote training collar and it’s what I’ve taught my staff and what many other professional trainers around the world are also doing. (click here if you want to find help in your area)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so perhaps a video is worth even more. Here you go, you can decide.

This is typical toy dog training protocol at our place, you decide if it looks this little one is having fun or not?

*Updated 1/11/16

Electric Collar Dog Training: It’s More Than Just the Tool

Electric Collar Training: Good Dog Training Is More Than Just the Tool You Choose

Anyone who spends more than 10 seconds on this blog can figure out that it’s primary purpose is to explore ideas and concepts surrounding the use of electronic collars.  A bit of browsing and you can find advice on some of the basic concepts for successfully using an electronic collar, read about other peoples experiences with this training and enjoy a guest post from some of my professional colleagues.

But when trying to resolve behavior problems it is important that we are also aware of possible underlying conditions contributing to the issues. Electronic collars are great tools, but  I want to make certain that we all understand that training and successfully solving behavioral issues is a complex process. There are a myriad of tools and techniques that are helpful in providing solutions, but IF there are underlying health issues that are unresolved or other foundational issues, no amount of work and practice is going to make a significant difference.

There are so many considerations to take into account when you are trying to resolve problems with your dog but I’d like to offer a foundation to consider before you move forward on deciding what direction to go. With that in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself;

Do I provide my dog with adequate exercise?

Having a big yard does not fill a dog’s need for exercise. Just because the dog has a large amount of space does not mean they will take advantage of it and diligently ‘work out’ on their own in order to release pent up energy. A dog who does not have an adequate exercise routine will generally work out their frustration in ways that we find unacceptable. Inappropriate chewing, whining, digging, and general restlessness are often resolved with an increase in exercise.

Do I feed my dog a highly nutritious diet?

The advertising on T.V. isn’t all what it is cracked up to be. Most of the slick ads you see in print and other media are for foods that range from barely adequate to lousy in terms of the nutrient requirements for our dogs. What you feed your dog is what fuels their body and mind. Junk in = junk out. Need to brush up your knowledge about dog food? Check out this site to see how your dog food rates in terms of quality. For those who are curious, here is what I feed my dogs.

Have I created structure and leadership routines in my daily interactions with my dog?

Dogs flourish best in environments that have clear leadership protocols established. They don’t get bored with routine and structure. They actually feel secure and exhibit far fewer behavioral problems when they have someone else (ie. the humans in the household) making the decisions about what is and what is not allowable. Our dogs don’t need us to over think their level of ‘happiness’. They need us to be fair, reliable leaders they can trust to keep their best interest at heart. That means rules, structure and consistency in their daily lifestyle.

Have I explored possible underlying health issues that may be the root cause of my dog’s behavioral problems?

In my experience this is commonly overlooked by many trainers and even many veterinarians. Too often, we leap to assumptions that the dog is ” very dominant”,  “just shy” or “fearful and reactive” or some other personality trait we label them with when the fact is there IS something physically wrong at the root of it all. A blood chem panel, a Complete thyroid test, a physical and gait analysis are just a few of the things to look for when evaluating many behavioral problems. Quite often dog-dog aggression has some root in past injury to the hind quarters that leads to the dog learning protectiveness when approached by other dogs. I’ve also seen tail chasing, OCD behavior resolve when the dog has realignment of the spine through chiropractic adjustments.

I’ve seen dogs labeled with “unprovoked human aggressive” behavior who are suffering ear or mouth infections that likely create such discomfort it is no wonder they bite someone who has tried to pet them. We’ve found dogs labeled by other trainers as “stubborn” to have Lyme disease with titers so high I can only assume their reluctance to do as told lies in the fact they are indeed in pain and have sore muscles. Shyness, odd fear reactions, unprovoked aggression problems, are just a few of the host of behavioral issues that can be related to thyroid disease, which according to Dr. Jean Dodds, a leading researcher in the field,  is often under diagnosed. Our dogs are not good at telling us they don’t feel well, at least not until the problem is so severe that it  becomes readily apparent. We need to be better detectives at exploring the possible underlying causes to some of these problems.

What I LOVE about training with an e-collar is that it is a fabulous tool that can truly enhance a relationship by supporting a solid training plan. What I HATE about promoting the use of an e-collar is when people jump to conclusions that they just have a bad dog and thus need to run to the store and purchase an electronic collar so they can take it home to “show the dog who’s boss”. That mindset needs to change. Do your dog a favor when you run into problems, hire a real professional who will help you rule out underlying causes and set you on the path of a solid training plan so you can build a better relationship together.

Whether it is a head halter, a clicker, a handful of treats, a leash, a prong collar, an electronic dog training collar, or a piece of rope…it is the tool between your two ears that is the most important, use it well.

 

*Updated 1/10/2016

Reasons or Results – Which Will You Choose?

Dog Behavior Problems and Solutions. Will You Choose Reasons or Results?

I recently wrote about 5 ways to mess up your dog. The list included obvious mistakes in dog ownership like not providing enough exercise or structure, but it also mentioned, “letting sympathy rein” regarding how we often view shelter dogs or dogs with anxiety issues.

To make my point about how useless sympathy is in helping rehabilitate dogs that have behavioral issues, allow me to share with you a bit of my personal story.

Years ago I had to go through some significant physical therapy after being involved in an auto accident.

On Halloween of 1997, I found myself careening down the side of a California mountain in a U-Haul that lost its brakes. Through deft maneuvering on the part of my sister driving, we opted to take the truck into the hillside rather than “off” of the cliff edge. It was the best choice available, and we both survived the impact. The challenge for the rescue team was extracting us from the crushed cab of the vehicle. Both of my legs got tangled and crushed into the wreckage, and it took the crew about 3 hours to figure out how to get me extricated. As a result, I had numerous broken bones and a cracked vertebrae.

There were a few months spent in a wheelchair before I proceeded to crutches and eventually to walking free of assistance (which the surgeon at the time of the accident wasn’t sure would be possible). I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the rescue team, the talented crew in the operating room and enormous credit to my physical therapist, Tony. He never really bothered to hear much of my story or invest time in lamenting what had happened to me to get me into that situation. He just pushed me forward day after day to learn to walk again and regain every bit of physical ability that I could.

So how does this tie into to helping a dog improve their behavior?

Well, as the title says, you can have ‘Reasons or Results,’ but the key word in that statement is OR. You simply cannot have both. You have to choose which direction you want to invest your time and energy into.

Unfortunately, I often see people who are more locked into the reasons their dog does XYZ (whatever behavior is of concern) than in actually working to create positive change.

The reasons are numerous and typically emotionally charged: “He’s a rescue dog,” “she was attacked by another dog,” “he never got socialized as a puppy,” “she came from a puppy mill,” “he lived outside tied to a tree,” or “we think he was abused.”

These reasons may be perfectly valid, but all too often owners allow those reasons to get in the way of helping the dog. The sympathy takes over and becomes an excuse for not doing the work needed to make the situation better.

Words have tremendous power. They influence emotions and emotions are what influence us to take action. For this reason, we should be conscious of the words we use to describe our dogs. Those descriptions create a fine line between simply becoming reasons or actually turning into results.

For example, how do you think about a training problem versus a training challenge? While they could equally be used to describe a situation, one feels more daunting while the other inspires us to take action.

This is what I meant when I referred to the mistake of letting sympathy rein in the 5 mistakes article. All too often dogs described as “rescue dog” or a dog “we think was abused” have been handicapped by owners who can’t put the sympathy aside. It simply does no good to keep that thought prevalent in our mindset. Whatever happened is in the past. It should not determine the dog’s future.

When I first met Tony for PT, he never asked me “what happened?” we just started working on the goal of getting me walking again. There was never a single moment of “poor Robin.” There was only the continual push of persevering toward a goal. I am eternally grateful for that.

Stay focused on the results you want to create with your dog. Don’t let speculation about abuse, rescue, neglect, etc. overtake your thinking and limit your expectations of what is possible.

Change your words and thus your thinking. Try exchanging “rescue” for “adopted,” switch “scared” to “shy” and drop abused altogether. I am not encouraging you to deny what was, but perhaps it is time to move on. Your dog has more potential and resilience than you likely give him or her credit for.

You can have reasons OR results. Which one do you choose?