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

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! 🙂

Proper Fit of a Remote Dog Training Collar | Robin MacFarlane

Rule #1: Proper Fit of a Remote Dog Training Collar Is Essential

Proper fit of a remote dog training collar is one of the most over looked reasons for poor results. Viewers write and tell me the e-collar “didn’t seem to work” or it didn’t seem like it was working so they kept turning the level up and then the dog startled. When I’ve had opportunity to witness these problems in person I generally find that the e-collar is just not fitted properly and thus the dog is not feeling the sensation consistently

So I decided to make a little video tutorial to help paint a clear picture of what a well fitted remote dog training collar looks like.

Why is proper fit of a remote dog training collar so important?

Simply put, if the contact points are not touching the dog’s skin the remote collar will not work. Skin contact is what completes the circuit to allow the e-stim to move across the skin surface from one point to the other. (Note: the stimulation only emits from ONE contact point, not both)

Remember that good fit happens through 3 key ingredients.

1. Properly sized contact points.  Length and thickness of the dog’s coat affect how the e-collar will fit. Dog’s with heavy or long coats (German Shepherd Dogs, Malamutes, Akita etc.) need longer points placed on the remote collar. Most manufacturers create collars that have interchangeable contact points. Length of the contact points can range from 1/2 inch to 1 inch, with varying sizes in between. There is also an adaptation called a contact pad that works well for dogs who are sensitive to long days wearing the e-collar particularly those with very short, white coats on the underside of the neck or those dogs whose neck is small in diameter and don’t fit as well in the standard contact point set up.

2. Snug fit.  In general, people tend to keep most collars too loose on their dog. I’ve often seen basic flat buckle collars that slip over the dogs head as soon as the dog backs up or applies a bit of pressure. A loose fit with a remote dog training collar means that there is inconsistent contact which will lead to inconsistent results.

3. A clean and well brushed coat. Dead hair, matted fur, dirt and debris can all build up and create a mess under any collar. It is important to brush and inspect your dog’s coat on a daily basis. Regardless of length of hair, your dog will benefit from a few minutes of grooming attention each day.

If you are having problems start at square one and check to see if it is fitted properly. For more info on training check out my recent interview about using a remote dog training collar.

 

I Love My E-collar and So Does My Dog!

I recently posted a request for cover photos on our I Love My e-collar and so Does My Dog! Facebook page. Whenever we post these requests there is a good response and often stories accompany the photos.
Such is the case with Oliver and his owner Kimberley. I appreciate being able to share these stories because I think it is so critical that dog owners understand there are options for tools and methods for training dogs. That concept really needs to be driven home in regards to dogs that need special behavioral assistance finding a forever home.
Kimberly is right on when she speaks of rescues not being able to take dogs that have issues. It is a common problem because they generally are not equipped to deal with behavioral problems. However, it is an issue I feel would be less problematic…

IF more rescues and shelters knew of the possibilities that e-collar training can provide.

Stories and myths seem to abound about e-collars causing behavioral problems. Many rescues and shelters have a policy eschewing anything other than a flat buckle collar and a bag of treats as the behavioral remedy that fits all. The reality is, e-collar training solves far more behavior problems than it causes. There are rescue organizations who know that truth and some who will work with e-training…but public perception keeps them silent about it and believing they need to “keep it quiet”. For those folks I say “we need you to speak up on behalf of the dogs, come on out of the closet!”

I firmly believe if more people understood the proper techniques for e-collar conditioning and how to use the tool as an informational training system…there would be fewer dog IN rescue and shelters to begin with.

So thank you to Kimberley for sharing Ollie’s story and offering some inspiration to others in similar situations:

“This is our newest addition, Ollie (Oliver).  He’s the fourth in our pack and the 3rd dog to be trained using an e-collar.  

We saw Ollie’s picture and story circulating on FB.  His owner was moving and couldn’t take him with her and because of some serious issues that he displayed she was having trouble rehoming him. Most local rescues only take in dog friendly, child friendly dogs,…and Ollie was neither of those things.  If nobody took him in, he was going to be euthanized the next weekend.  Fast forward….(two months later) thanks to his e-collar training he’s now a happy and social dog that loves going to the park and meeting new canine friends to play with.   We can’t imagine not having him in our lives and he impresses everyone that he meets. They find it hard to believe that he was once labelled aggressive.  He went to his first group class this weekend and impressed everyone.  He even stayed after class to play with two boxers he met in class that day.  We’re so proud of his progress,…he’s come a long way.”
This is a photo of Ollie practicing “place” in our local offleash dog park.
Kimberley
Halifax, N.S.
* If you have a story about e-collar training you’d like to share, please send the dog’s photo and story to Robin@ThatsMyDog.com

Thankful for Dogs

Here in the US we will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. It is a day to remember all that we are grateful for. With that in mind, I did not want to over look extending my gratitude here.

So, for those of you who read this blog and comment regularly, thank you for sticking beside me on this topic. As prickly as it can get from time to time I appreciate your wear-with-all in helping others understand the true nature of what we do and that we’re not “just shocking dogs.”

For those of you who read this blog and disagree with my viewpoint and take the time to comment, thank you for reading and expressing your opinion. I choose to believe that despite our differences our mutual goal is always to act in the best interests of the dogs and clients we strive to help.

Thank you to my staff at That’s My Dog! Without you all doing your jobs so well I would not have the available time and resources that afford me the ability to maintain this site.

To my professional colleagues, thank you for the things you share with me and the inspiration you provide. I have deep gratitude for our friendships.

Thank you to my many clients over the years. Since I chose to embark on the path of discovering all the possibilities this tool can afford…you’ve validated to me time and time again, it was the right thing to do. For your trust in myself and my employees I am eternally grateful.

To the dogs, my personal dogs past and present and the thousands I have worked with over these 20+  years in the animal profession. I owe you most of all.

You’ve taught me to be humble, because just when I thought I knew it all, you show me something new. You may drive me crazy one minute but you always leave me laughing the next. Perhaps most importantly you always remind me to stay present and in the moment. I am thankful for that.

…oh, and I do appreciate when you clean up after yourself when you eat too fast and end up puking it all up. I’m a bit of a pansy about that, so thanks for taking care of it! 🙂

 

 

  Is there anything your dog has taught you that you are thankful for?

What Do Electronic Dog Collars Feel Like?

 Electronic Dog Collars: “Will it hurt my dog?”

The question of what do the electronic dog collars feel like comes up a lot. Or at least speculation about it comes up a lot! I’ve heard people make statements, usually negative ones, about what they imagine the collar to be and how it feels. Then those statements are typically followed with emotional assertions that they would “never use one on my dog!” So I’d like to share a true story from today. If you have a negative idea of what an electronic dog collar feels like, I hope you’ll ponder this.

shock collar
Ms. D’s first day back in the water 2012

I took my dog Diva swimming today. I didn’t really plan on it, we just headed to the park for a walk and a couple tosses of the frisbee. But when she saw the ice was no longer on the water….she wanted in!

It is March 15th in Iowa and the weather we are having this week is record breaking, in the 70’s actually. It is crazy, just less than 2 weeks ago the pond was iced over. That means the water is not a whole heck of a lot above 32 degrees Fahrenheit right now.

and my dog wanted to swim.

and swim and “toss the floppy disk again mom”….

That temperature water would of put me in the hospital (if I had survived it) but she didn’t seem to mind. When I finally said “Let’s go”, she got out, shook herself off and trotted down the trail with a contented look on her face.

Now what has this story got to do with how electronic dog collars feel? Well, it just got me thinking…How logical is the oft heard comparison some people make that if they find a particular level on an e-collar “painful” then it is of course also painful to a dog?

Since when do we perceive things the same way as our dogs do? For that matter, when do we perceive things the same as all other humans? I, for one, am not a big fan of Rap or Heavy Metal music…doesn’t mean that others don’t find it relaxing and enjoyable.

There are those who can not fathom the possibility that a Just Right level of stimulation is nothing more than a tap on the shoulder for the recipient dog.

Which is fine. Those folks can continue existing in that paradigm.

But, if someone is going to live by the credo “how it is to me, is how it is to my dog”…well, then I suggest they sample a mouthful of cow patty and explain that “this tastes bad Fluffy” to the dog who is grinning from ear to ear with it.

Or please explain to Diva the water was utterly unbearable today. 😉

Successful e-collar training gives dog and owner new freedom

Being an advocate for education regarding the e-collar is not always an easy path. Disparaging remarks and harsh judgment come frequently to those of us who choose to be outspoken about a toolwe believe is unfairly labeled as inhumane.

Some days it is down right disheartening when constantly subjected to the personal attacks

BUT Continue reading “Successful e-collar training gives dog and owner new freedom”

Hey Canada, so you want to ban shock collars?

Libby Davies, MP Vancouver East is supporting this ban shock collars petition and presenting to parliament.

I have a question for you Ms. Davies and the 1400 who signed this petition…can you please explain your decision to Cindy who has MS and has already tried 3 other trainers and just about gave up on her dog before she found a humane and effective solution with a remote dog training collar.

shock collars vancouver, BC canada

Granted, I understand Continue reading “Hey Canada, so you want to ban shock collars?”

Electronic collar training: The click that built a reliable recall!

 

When it comes to teaching a reliable recall their is little doubt that the electronic collar is the fastest and easiest way to do it.

Unfortunately all too often people don’t learn of the e-collar option until they have exhausted all other tools and techniques first. Even more unfortunate is the fact that few trainers are knowledgeable about the use of electronic collar or worse, some shun their use and the unknowing owner never learns of the possibilities that exist for off leash freedom for their dog. Continue reading “Electronic collar training: The click that built a reliable recall!”

Electronic training collars; One woman weighs in.

Opinions abound about electronic training collars.

Actually, opinions are plentiful about dogs and training in general. A quick search reveals  loads of information to read and sift through.

But it always nice to hear opinions about “stuff” right from the horses mouth. If you’re considering purchasing a breed of dog isn’t it nice to talk to people that live with that breed? Or if you’re wondering about a medical procedure for you dog, it is nice to hear from others who have traveled that path with their pet.

So, if you want to hear opinions about electronic training collars how about asking people who use them? After all, doesn’t that make a little more sense than asking someone who has little to no experience with the tool?

Well, here you go. Continue reading “Electronic training collars; One woman weighs in.”