As a dog trainer who travels the country training dogs, hosting seminars, working with 20-30 families a week, training at my Training Center, and Board & Train, I know it’s so important for folks to understand how a dog thinks. When there is no authority figure present, I know the kind of chaos and bad behavior that can happen. Remember the bad behavior of your dog is not the problem it is just the outcome of a breakdown of leadership in your home. The way your dog is today, doe not have to be the way your dog is tomorrow.
My friend and Halifax Dog Training colleague Ted Efthymiadis is located in Nova Scotia, Canada. His passion for rehabilitating dogs resonates in his blogs. This message is so powerful and important, it needs to be shared by all. Enjoy the read and feel free to also follow his blog here.
Fast making them furious!
By Ted Efthymiadis
About ten years ago I adopted my first dog from the local SPCA. He came with several serious behavioural issues. He is thought to be an Australian Kelpie Mix. Who really knows right? He could be 92.34% Dingo for all I know. Upon adopting him, it was mandatory for me to sign up to a dog training program before adopting him. As I was brand new to owning a dog, I didn’t know that the training I just paid money for would be very in-effective in the real world. They gave me a list of trainers, all of whom were pure positive which sounded awesome. Being a dog lover, positive sounded great! I went to all 8 lessons. Did all of the homework religiously and my dog was often used as a demonstration dog for the rest of the class.
I was taught clicker / marker training with food. In a church basement. We excelled! In the church basement with hotdogs as rewards. On the 7th lesson we covered leash walking. I was taught to lure my dogs nose with treats so that he would walk beside me. After finishing the program, I attempted many times with many different tools in conjunction to the food luring to walk my dog nicely on the leash outside. Unfortunately he was still terrible on the leash. So I progressed from the head halti to the harness, the pulling got even worse. Next I tried the stopping method. Basically it’s the most ridiculous dog training advice ever given. Stop when the dog pulls, the dog should figure out that his pulling stops the dog from moving, and that is somehow going to solve the pulling issue. I was open enough at the time to try using a feather duster if a trainer asked me to. I gave it a shot, nothing was working. Even with a head halter and food he was pulling against the tool and trying to get it off. At the time I felt like I had tried everything.
I can still remember the night. It was 7:15pm on a Thursday about three months after I adopted him. I was so frustrated with him. I sat on the sidewalk during our walk, looked into his eyes and told my dog words I never thought I would ever say. “Phoenix, you’re are making my life a miserable, I don’t know what to do anymore dude. Please stop pulling because I am literally about to take you back to the shelter you just stayed in for 4 months.” He obviously didn’t understand what I said, he is a dog. We walked home, he pulled me the majority of the way home. I felt like a complete failure. I sat down at my computer when I got home and started researching dog training methods. I found a video that showcased the use of a pinch collar. Upon looking at the video, I was blown away to see the before and after video of its use.
After seeing the tool, I was extremely conflicted because it looked like a medieval torture device. I wanted so badly to use one, knowing that it could really help me enjoy my dog, and to keep him in his current home. Again I was torn because the shelter I got him from told me that under no circumstances was I to use any “negative tools” like pinch collars or ecollars. The next week I bought a pinch collar at a local pet store. I called around to all of the local stores, only one store of about 20 stores sold them. They also told me to ask for them when I got to the store because they hide them under the cash. I felt like a rebel, a villain, an abuser when I was buying a legal dog product. I put it into a bag as soon as I could so that no one would see me buying it. Like a 13 year old boy walking into the bathroom before knocking only to see his aunt coming out of the shower. It was extremely awkward.
I watched a few videos and started some training. My mind was blown. blown. blown. blown. My life changed that day. Months of my back pain had given way to easy walking. I laughed at the top of my lungs walking down the street, so happy I had done the unthinkable. Within 15 minutes he was walking like a dream, no harsh corrections, slight pressure a few times and my life was changed. I started walking him 3-5 times a day, instead of the dreaded daily pulling event that was a “walk” previously.
The reason for this post is to shed light on something I often hear from other trainers. ” fast is not good, it’s force, the dog has to pay the price because you want to take shortcuts. “
Fast forward to today. I have taught over 700 dogs to walk on a leash in real world scenarios. Is it taking a short cut? YES. What in God’s good name is wrong with fast effective dog training? Am I advocating the use of pinch collars on every dog, for every situation? No. But I am a realist. People call me with problems. Often the problems are really bad because people have let things go for a long time. Sometimes I see dogs come to me having trained with 4-5 other trainers who can’t even walk nicely on a leash, not to mention off leash. I OWE it to my clients to do what’s needed to help them find the right tools for them and the dog, and to give them personal training for the safe use of such tools and techniques.
I am in no way an advocate for the general use of bark collars. Excessive barking is a symptom of a greater issue. A need for more mental or physical stimulation. But let me ask you a question…. How would you answer a phone call I get often. “Hey Ted, so here’s the deal. I live in an apartment and my dog barks all day when I am at work. My land lord just informed me that I need to stop the dog from barking, or I will be kicked out of my apartment in two weeks. How can we stop my dogs barking so that I don’t have to give him up?” I literally get these calls often. I wish I didn’t , but I do. Would you tell him to try a process with no correction? In two weeks? I consider it more loving to correct a dog who is about to get a dog owner put out on the street. I personally know of several people who have not wanted to use a bark collar, got evicted, and had to move. Others who have surrendered their dog to a shelter. Fast can work, is it a shortcut? Yes. Is that always a bad thing. No. Sometimes it’s a life saving thing. I am not above using a manners minder and lots of mental and physical stimulation to fix the problem if the clients have a 2-6 months and are patient, however as dog trainers we are often given terrible time restrictions.
Two months ago I had a lady come in with a problem. She was about to be kicked out of her condo because her 10 month old puppy would bark for hours when she was at work. She had worked with several positive only trainers with little success. When the last trainer could not fix the problem, she did something I absolutely can respect. She told her client to try a citronella bark collar. “It would be more gentle than a bark collar, negative reinforcement, but a more gentle approach.” She tried the collar for several weeks with minimal results. Against the advice of her doggy daycare staff, dog trainers, she called me. She had about a three week deadline remaining. We started by upping her walks, giving her mental games, and the use of a dogtra bark collar. Problem solved. The client was able to stay in her condo, the dog still had a home and all is well.
Was that a terrible thing my client did? I don’t think so, I think it was a choice she should have made a lot earlier, which she has agreed with.
I have been called a Nazi for using a pinch collar. Lovely. If that is what I need to endure to save dogs from a needle, or to keep dogs from being brought back to the shelter, I shall continue to endure the bullying from other trainers, shelters, bloggers. I care more about people and dogs than to bend to the pressure they put on me for my completely legal dog training practices.
If you find yourself reading this post needing help, and you are going to use aversives in training, please consult a professional trainer to help you during the process. If you don’t have a great trainer in your area capable of helping you we recently launched an online video portal that can be of great value. We have hours of amazing information, and step by step video to help you with your dog. You can get more information here.
If you would like help finding a qualified trainer in your area, email me and I will help you find one.
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