Monday, October 21, 2013

Manners of local dog walkers

While walking our dog(s), whether it's a leisurely walk round the streets or a hike in the country, it should be a time where we can enjoy a precious moment with our much loved companions and possibly take some time out to reflect on the day and all of it's triumphs and downfalls.

Unfortunately, it is all too common to have these rare moments of inner peace and bonding time spoilt by the distinct lack of manners shown by other local dog walkers. Whether it be someone with an aggressive dog who lacks control of their dog and doesn't apologise when it reacts to your dog and just laugh it off like one big joke or the dog walker(s) who's middle name goes something like 'It's alright he's only playing.' or 'Don't worry mine's alright with other dogs.' When their dog has hurtled across the field and pesters your dog who has been walking quite contently on his lead and their owner's stood on the other side of the field either reassuring you that their dog is friendly (or just downright rude, it depends on how you perceive it) or making a fickle attempt to recall their dog for 10-15 mins before they realise all of the convincing statements and, quite frankly, poor attempts to become assertive with their dog has failed and they must come and get him.

There are probably some of you who are reading this and suddenly realise either recently or in the past you have been one of those owners that watches their dog run away to try and make friends with a strange dog on a lead and doesn't take a blind bit of notice of what you're saying. The question I pose to people in my class who admit to being this person is...

 "You know that your dog is OK to mix with other dogs quite happily off the lead, BUT, how do you know that the dog they've just run to go see that is on the lead is as friendly as your dog??"

9 times out of 10 my students reply is they do not know how friendly that strange dog is. For all they know it could be a perfectly friendly dog, a dog that dislikes other dogs and is quite nervous or in a worst case scenario another dog who is severely dog aggressive and will grab hold of another dog at any opportunity. How many of you would be prepared to take that risk?

In my eyes it simply boils down to common sense, if you have a dog that runs off to see other dogs and doesn't come back then you do not let it off the lead when there is other dogs around and if you see another dog on the lead take your dog to a different area where he cannot see the other dog, or, an easier solution is just to put your dog on the lead.

I think it would shock many people if they knew how many of the dog-aggressive cases that I work with were all caused by this once very friendly dog running over and being attacked by another dog, leaving it with a serious mental scar. Or nervous dogs being so overwhelmed and frightened by overly friendly dogs while they are on the lead and having no choice but to react and bite.

Laws are now getting stricter on dog attacks and according to the, newly reformed, Dangerous Dogs Act all a dog has to do is invoke fear in a person of being attacked or being intimidated by a dog and that is more than suitable enough to make a prosecution. We all need to take on a stronger sense of responsibility for our dog's actions and become a lot more aware of what consequences their actions can have on yourself, other people, other dogs and, obviously, the dog itself.

Worst case scenario being that your dog is ordered to be destroyed. Its about common sense, responsibility and an awareness of other people's dogs and what they could potentially be capable of.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The tools of the trade.

Through the years styles of dog training have been and gone, some have stuck around longer than others, but the with those styles has also come new equipment/tools being introduced. Barbara Woodhouse, for example, and many other trainers of her time and beyond were/are huge promoters and users of the 'check/choke chain' as a tool for producing loose lead walking among other behaviours. American trainers promote the use of the e-collar to train an efficient Gundog and has been widely used in other aspects of training and various dog sports. These are both examples of 'controversial' tools that are being used in the present day whether they are right or wrong is purely down to your view on dog training and how it is conducted 'correctly'.

Examples of other training tools are:

  • Long Line
  • Regular Lead
  • Flat Collar 
  • Half Check Collar
  • Pinch Collar
  • Slip Lead
  • Toy
  • Food
  • Clicker
  • Target Stick
  • Touch Pad
  • Training Disks
  • Throw Chain
  • Whistle
  • Harness & Non-Pull Harness 
  • Remote Collar (Vibration, Noise, Electric or Spray/Citronella) 
  • Slip Collar (Fabric, Chain or Leather)
  • Headcollar
  • Muzzle
All the above listed are examples of equipment (rightly or wrongly is entirely your perception) that can be used to correct or shape various problems and behaviour, but, what we see as correct or incorrect to use is entirely down to what your 'style' incorporates.

It is also our interpretation of how we use them that also contributes to the effectiveness of how a dog learns the exercise we are trying to teach. 

Our interpretation is very unique to ourselves and ourselves alone and we must learn to respect and appreciate that everyone interprets how we educate dogs very differently and the tools used aren't necessarily 'wrong', it is just another way of getting the result. Remember anything becomes abusive when it stops being constructive and becomes destructive to the nature of the being and the learning process.  

The perception of tools available to us also comes from the influence of others and other stigma's attached through society. I am not trying to justify the use of any of the tools above because, as mentioned earlier, this is down to our perception of how we wish to educate dogs but we must also learn how to use these tools to our advantage to gain the results we want while also leaving the entire nature of the dog and its bond with the handler in tact, this can prove to be harder work but you only get out what you put in. 

Think of your pre-trained dog as a big block of marble, there's a statue inside but as the trainer (sculptor) you need to chip away the rough edges to find it and to chip away those rough edges you need the right tools.