These past few weeks have been very busy, hence the delay in blog posts. Unfortunately, since I want to keep on top of blogging about events, when I fail to do so in a timely fashion, events compound and I’m faced with trying to summarize everything that’s happened over a two-week time period whilst trying to not write a thesis in the process. So I’ll do my best to recap major events and leave out the fine details. If any of you are curious about hearing specific details, feel free to contact me.
Two weeks ago I started another round of training classes. One is Puppy Kindergarten and the other is Basic Manners. I decided to change a few things for these classes. I’m always tweaking my curriculum and advancing my teaching skills each time I run a new class, I think that’s par for the course for any good teacher to do so, but this time I really changed things up. In the past, I’ve always had people bring their dogs with them to the first night of class, but this time, dogs stayed home and I had people work on their own skill sets and timing before adding dogs into the equation the following week. Sure, I would love to be there the first time a person incorporates a marker signal into their dog’s life, but if the person’s timing is so completely off, what’s more damaging? Even though this is the first set of classes I’ve done this way, so therefore I don’t have much in which to compare, it seems like people walked away satisfied and with a better understanding of what non-force based training is, why it’s endorsed by the scientific community and what marker signals are, along with their importance for accelerated learning.
Which brings me to my next hot topic…animal trainers, more specifically dog trainers. The more I learn about animal behavior, learning theory, training and how to bring it all together, the more it bothers me that there are no regulations for people calling themselves dog trainers or animal trainers. Any John or Jane Doe can claim to be an animal trainer without having any education or formal training. That would be like someone claiming they’re qualified to be an elementary school teacher because they went through elementary school themselves. Or someone claiming they are a doctor and can treat people because they’ve watched ER on television and read web M.D. Taking dogs through classes, seeking training advice or hiring trainers privately plays a very important role in how that animal is shaped and viewed by its people. This in turn, leads to how the animal lives its life and whether it’s a healthy & enriching life or a life full of fear and uncertainty. So I urge people to find trainers that are professionals and have a certification to back up their knowledge. Two reputable certifications for people seeking help with their companion animals are Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists and Certified Professional Dog Trainers. Each website lists current members of their organization by state and location. Also, both organizations require continued education units (C.E.U.) to stay certified. This means members are attending lectures, seminars and conferences to stay current with humane and ethical means of working with companion animals. Unfortunately, since there currently are no regulations when it comes to people calling themselves trainers, many people still promote out dated training methods based on falsified dominance theory. This often involves force based training and the person showing their dog who is “boss” by controlling their dog in a forceful manner, such as, use of “alpha” roll overs, scruff shakedowns, use of choke chains, prongs and worst of all, shock collars. (On a side note, shock collars have recently been banned in the country of Wales due to them being deemed as inhumane and cruel. APDT supports the ban on shock collars). It saddens me to think of how many dogs fear their people because of the owner’s lack of education. And that the people think they’re doing right by their dog because that’s what their trainer said to do. I also find it disturbing when veterinarians give out behavior advice if they’ve never taken any courses on behavior. It hasn’t been until very recently that veterinary schools have incorporated basic animal behavior courses into their curriculum. So, veterinarians that have been practicing medicine for over five years most likely did not study animal behavior when they were in college, that’s not to say certain vets don’t seek out continuing their education in the area of animal behavior, many do. It simply brings up a concern when vets offer behavior advice; are they really skilled in that area or not? And if they’re not, they could be potentially putting an animal or people at risk, since most people will not question their vet and will take the vet’s word as though it were written in stone.
I am not saying people should only follow my training style or advice, that’s not it all, I would love for people to find competent trainers & animal behavior consultants that follow that same code of conduct and learning principles. Each trainer has their own unique style and offer animals and people alike a variety of training tools to choose from, which is important, since, every creature learns slightly differently. So it’s necessary to have many tools in your tool box to handle an array of issues. As one friend of mine cleverly named her business Collected Wisdom, that’s exactly what it is, a collection of thoughts, methods and principles universally accepted by the scientific community and always changing due to new advances in research, testing and findings.
So much for not having this become a thesis! In other news, Miss Bella Babe came for a visit last weekend and it was splendid to have the little peanut back in the house for a few days. It didn’t take long for Bella and Steve to resume their wrestling matches, although now Bella may have the upper hand, er, paw!
Bella Babe now weighs slightly over seven pounds. When she first arrived at the end of March, she didn’t quite weigh two pounds. Even though she’s still small, she’s grown by leaps and bounds, literally and figuratively 🙂
This past Monday, we acquired a new foster puppy. I’m still pondering on a name for her. For humane society records, she was named Taffy and her brother was named Tator, but Taffy doesn’t seem to fit her personality. Three puppies were found abandoned in a culvert. A good Samaritan found the pups and took them to a local vet clinic upon which time WAHS was called in to take them. One pup stayed with someone at the clinic and the other two came back the shelter with me. The boy went into foster care with a family that will be adopting him and the female came home with me. Both puppies were fairly shy, not socialized well with other animals, but seem comfortable with people. They are roughly twelve weeks old and appear to be German Shepherd mixes. The female already weighs 18 pounds, so I think she’ll be a fairly decent sized dog when full-grown. Over the past week, she has slowly come out of her shell. She is starting to play with toys and run after Chance and Emma. This is a big improvement from her first two days where she was basically a pancake and wouldn’t move unless the human that she was “Velcroed” to did.
I’m happy to announce Emma made her debut as my side-kick, training assistant. I had a client and his dog that were on their forth training session, working on dog-to-dog arousal issues. We had already used Chance for two training sessions, so it was time to bring in a new face and smell. Emma, who has had her own dog selective issues, was wonderful. We were able to bring both dogs into close proximity of one another while keeping their focus on us and having them be appropriate with their body language. Yay Emma!