As Trainers and Behaviourists we here this a lot!
What clients don’t often see is what we have put in to ensure we offer the best possible service, we spend most of our careers doing courses and ongoing CPD. It doesn’t just end at doing a course and then never having to learn anything again. We often can spend a fortune building our skills to bring the best possible service ongoing!
Many Trainers and Behaviourists don't just take a couple of courses and set up shop. Many of us shadow and learn from others mostly through volunteering for years before we are comfortable in going out and Training others. These are the Trainers and Behaviourists you want to employ rather than someone who offers a quick fix or cannot prove their qualifications or experience.
Even once we are set up working alone we are still learning, we still pay for courses which aren't cheap and when accredited we have to do a minimum of hours of Training just to keep our accreditation. Just like Teachers.
As Behaviourists not only is CPD a lot heavier and more expensive but we also read, research and study case studies to continue to keep up to date and deliver the best service possible.
There is no standard way to teach a Dog and their handler as each are unique and individual and what may work for one won't work for another. There is no one size fits all approach.
It is also unethical for us to give advice over the phone or the Internet especially social media unless we are specifically signposting for example to the Vets, Canine Chiropracters, Colleagues etc
Sometimes the answer isn't simple to the behaviour you are seeing or don't like in your Dog there has to be an holistic approach as well as understanding all of the circumstances and we cannot rely on what we are told as we are qualified and trained to see what's going on and we have to observe the dog and their handler and family in order to identify the issue.
Many times we are told that the Dog is aggressive for example and upon meeting the dog this isn't true and for this exact reason this is why we simply can't give out advice over the phone or Internet.
For Dog Trainers and Behaviourists it isn't as simple as doing an hours session and then leaving like a 9-5 job going home and enjoying the evening and the weekend.
For Trainers and Behaviourists it is writing up the day, making notes, discussions with Colleagues, CPD, training our own Dogs and setting up lesson plans. This is time unpaid for that we do. Teachers in schools are still paid for Training days. We do this voluntarily to keep our services and knowledge up to date and there is no Governing body which pays for this.
You wouldn’t go into the hairdressers and ask for them to tell you how to cut and colour your hair and then just walk out, you wouldn’t hire a electrician and just ask them to show you how to fix the problem and not pay. We are no different we offer a service.
There are hidden overheads in which Clients do not see and its not that Trainers don't have shops and therefore can't be seen because the studies, the travel, the phone bills, the accreditations, the fuel, the insurance, the Venues, the stationary and so much more it all adds up. Many Trainers and Behaviourists don't make much of a profit at all or none at all and are lucky to break even.
As Trainers and Behaviourists it’s not always about just the dogs we are often a counsellor and shoulder to cry on! Sometimes we can spend hours and hours trying to find different solutions to problems and we have had sleepless nights to make sure we can help you.
So please bear in mind when wondering why Trainers and Behaviourists appear to be expensive think about this and our running costs to offer you a service.
When working with canine behaviour we often get asked how long will it take and how many sessions?
The reality of that answer is we don’t know every dog is unique for various reasons such as genetics, environment, upbringing, life experiences and breed!
It also depends upon how much you are willing to put in. If you expect the Trainer or Behaviourist to come and work with the dog and you do nothing and don't do homework then you won't make progress. This lack of progress and lack of change in behaviour is not that the Trainer or Behaviourist or even the Dog failed. It simply demonstrates you did not invest the time and energy into your Dog.
There are also some learning roadblockers that we need to consider that can slow down the learning process:
STRESS Has the dog had any changes that could be or is causing stress it might be they have recently been adopted or rehomed, we might as owners be asking too much from them, has something happened that is causing pre-existing stress this could be in relation to genetics or negative life experiences or poor socialisation. Have you moved home. Ended or began a new relationship. Have you had a baby? Has the dog been attacked and you've took them out for yet another walk within the 72 hour decompression period?
MOTIVATION We need to evaluate are we asking too much with too little of a reward, would you work for free? No so the same applies to our dogs. It might be we need to explore and create a hierarchy of rewards for our dog find what they love! We also want to create variety when it comes to treats you wouldn’t want the same sandwich every day. Don’t hold back with the rewards – we want it to be re enforcing and for them to know they have done a good job. Lots of people that they don't want to give the dog treats. Why? Would you expect a reward for work. Did your parents reward you for good school reports, homework completion, chores etc. Your dog is no different. If there is no incentive there for an intelligent being why should they work with you to only be corrected, told off, shouted at or worse. Question your motives for not rewarding your dog. Weight isn't an excuse with either human grade food such as chicken which doesn't contain fat or low fat option treats at pet shops.
HEALTH it is vital we consider a dogs health before implementing behaviour modifications as this can be the cause sometimes for the behaviour. We often advise a full vet check to ensure there are no underlying pain, discomfort, injuries, allergy’s. When looking at a dogs health it is also important to look at nutrition and diet – often what food we are feeding or way of feeding can be influencing their behaviour. This isn't a myth or a fob off. Lots of people follow Karen on Facebook or the media. The most expensive product on the shelf ie Pedigree or Bakers is actually the worst food you can give your Dog. Also research the damage of Grain free food. Big money for pet shops and your wallet but research why the FDA only want Vets to give Grain free food via prescription and not a shelf. If you suspect an allergy only Vets can diagnose this by skin tests which is costly but is mostly covered on Insurance this will determine the true allergen for your dog and it might not be grain at all.
ENVIRONMENT when doing training consider your environment is there a lot going on lots of distractions, smells, guests, family members this can make learning harder for our dogs. This is why it is always good to start training somewhere quiet without distractions and building it up to where there is more going on this is proofing the behaviour! Do you have a multidog household? Is another dog likely to cry or distract the other dog. Is there someone who can occupy the other dog whilst your Training and they are waiting their turn and vice versa?
We need to set our dogs up for success not failure. We need to think like a Dog. Would you succeed in the conditions you have created? Would you have succeeded as a child in these conditions? If not then maybe you should consider these points further and adapt for the success and relationship of your Dog!
We always see the bad, as trainers and pet owners we rarely hear my dogs ace at that and look what they can do!
It’s usually that we have a problem whatever that might be barking, toileting, anxiety it could be anything that is causing upset and distress and often it can become a barrier to our relationship with our dogs.
We should make a stance to focus on one good thing every day our dog has done and praise them for it it doesn’t have to be ground breaking take a step back it could be as simple as been calm when you watch tv or sitting before you put there meal down.
In turn your relationship will be stronger and you will worry less about the bad things you see. We can find bad in everything in humans and item and our dogs but we need to turn the table and focus more on the good!
Like us not all dogs are perfect and we wouldn’t want them to be that’s what makes them unique and special. Implementation of behaviour modification can help with the issues and problems we see but embrace the good points.
When all we do is focus on the bad compare to past dogs we have had or compare to other people's we set them up for failure and we won't enjoy them and they won't enjoy us. You may even notice your dog pushes harder for your attention or affection.
The most commonly seen one is puppies being compared to adolescents or older dogs. It's not fair to compare an adolescent dog to a puppy or an elder dog.
The puppy is still learning about the world and alot of the nice behaviours or easy handling of puppies is because their hormones have not yet developed. Elder dogs have gone through their adolescence and are slowing down, they know boundaries, most will have a good sleep routine and exercise.
Adolescent dogs don't yet have that they are still maturing physically and mentally and they are still learning routines, bonds and trust.
Most dogs rehomed are adolescents because people didn't realise how hard it would be.
But when we work with them rather than against them we can enjoy them. Many Trainers or Behaviourists work with others to improve their Dogs and not just through adolescence. There's no shame in this either.
Natalie has had one to one's with myself and I host others for workshops. We both attend workshops and continue our CPD to learn more.
Theres no shame in needing help and your relationship with your Dog is not a race. We have them for such a short period of time in the grand scheme of things.
Rather than "no", "get down", "time out", "they're trying to embarrass me", "so and so's dog can do x, y, z" every day just enjoy one thing that your Dog does and praise them for it.
As time goes on add another and another and start letting the good and the quirks outweigh what you don't like about them. The dog doesn't choose to live with you but loves you unconditionally for all your faults.
Isn't it time we did the same for them? Go enjoy your Dog! 🐾
Brilliant classes again today and was a huge honour and pleasure to have PocoDogs Debby Lucken and Winnie with us too for Tricks it's so nice being able to work with colleagues and of course the lovely feedback from Debby too 💜
Online classes are a great way to learn and to be able to control your own environment too.
Due to the lockdown and risk assessments for in person classes at the end of the month I do not feel it would be safe to return until mid September. This isn't only due to the social distancing, one way system and dogs having to be kept on lead at all times and the new protocols that need to be in place. But the venues and I do not feel it would be safe to return yet and to be able to produce a one way system or sufficient social distancing. As well as this Orby Hall also will not be opening their doors until mid September depending on whether there are any more lockdown restrictions. On top of this opening at the end of July for classes would not be possible if it was lockdown or not due to the inevitable extremes of heat we endure throughout August and sometimes the first couple of weeks through September so for this reason in person classes will not be returning until September and I'll post updates as necessary closer to the time. This is for yours and your Dogs safety rather than keep waiting to see what temps are on Classes days and those of you who have worked with me through the summer months before know that I constantly cancel classes through the summer.
Online classes are on Saturdays 4pm for Obedience and 5pm Tricks
Sundays 6pm is Parkour
Online classes help with not just controlling your own environment but also your Dogs comfort and temperature as well as being able to work without distraction. Online classes have been a huge success in the only way that we have been able to teach throughout the lockdown and a lot of fun.
If your interested please either message myself or NK9 Dog Training & Behaviour Specialist
Adolescent Dogs or Teenage Dogs can be hard work.
Speaking to Natalie from NK9 Dog Training & Behaviour Specialist and Ruby from World Online Dog Show (Ruby, Betsy and Milo too) recently and both was saying how it's a struggle raising an adolescent Dog and how you go from having a super puppy who seems exceptionally talented to having a complete unpredictable lunatic pup on your hands.
I have three adolescent dogs and those who work with me know that I talk about adolescents all the time and how the wonderful puppy will soon give behaviours you might not want or are shocked by and the relationship can become strained.
People get upset that their puppy changes in their behaviour and show different behaviours which can be difficult to manage or come as a complete shock.
Some people even compare their adolescent dog to puppies or much older dogs in their Dogs competency and behaviour or Training abilities. I always explain this is an unfair comparison and it wasn't so long ago the owner of the adolescent dream was the smug puppy owner.
Adolescents don't have to be nightmares they can be a dream. For me adolescents and their behaviour teaches us so much. They teach us patience and acceptance. They make us more alert and less complacent, they help us to become better handlers. They teach us about management skills, they teach us to be aware of their communications their sleep deprivation, their arousal and frustration levels. Their fears and their joys as well as their interests in the world.
Puppies tend to be easier to train as the world is scary and staying close to us provides an unspoken safety. As adolescence comes so does courage and curiously and hormones and new fears and development and maturity.
Some days you might have a training plan in mind and your adolescent might have other ideas. That's OK. They might be communicating that they are over tired, over aroused, frustrated, uncomfortable or just having a bad day. We all feel like this from time to time and that's absolutely fine.
When humans struggle we say self care, take a break, you deserve a rest, go relax.
With dogs we don't we want to push through it and without humanising them we need to understand they have their own needs and agendas. They have their own personality and emotions.
My guys had an off day the other day and we worked on boundaries and settling and encouraging much needed sleep instead of winding eachother up, stealing each others toys for attention from one another or grabbing each others legs to get another to play who wasn't interested.
You can also work on things like snuffle mats, Kongs, puzzle games, freework, play with flirt poles or tug toys, paddling pool games or even ball pool pit games. Or you can just cuddle and enjoy your dog.
Dogs aren't in this rat race humans are in and dogs have a totally different view and focus of the world. When humans are teenagers human teenagers aren't particularly fun to be around or wanting to follow rules. They push boundaries, can be rude, slam doors and blast out the music.
When Dogs are being adolescents and giving adolescent behaviour this is completely natural and normal they are slamming the door and blasting out the music.
Its up to us how we handle them and what we put in place for them to get through these times and when we do this we have a much more harmonious and enjoyable relationship with them. This video is the day after a full on adolescent day. Great things can happen when we can work with them rather than against them. They enjoy it more and we enjoy it more too.
Adolescence is temporary and some days may feel really hard but it's about what we put in place during these days to help them. But adolescents also teach us and make us better and that is a gift in itself 💜
Another post that me and Miyagis Dog Training and Behaviourist Services have put together!
A hot topic at the moment that most places we will have to wear face masks so it is important that we get our dogs used to people in a mask, we are seeing more people wearing face coverings when out and about so it is good to start desensitising our dogs.
1. It is always best to start training in a place with low distractions such as in the house to begin with make sure you have some rewards handy. When they look at you, give them a reward, so they know something good is going to happen and the conditioning can begin.
2. Cover your face (but not your eyes) with your hand, without uncovering your face, reward your dog immediately, using your other hand (the one not covering your face). Then uncover your face and let your dog see that it’s just you under there and nothing scary.
3. Cover your face again, but this time, give your dog praise from behind your hand, and reward them, before uncovering your face.
4. Find a scarf or similar that you can wear around your neck and pull up over your face (again, keep your eyes uncovered). Reward your dog and speak to them whilst your face is covered, then pull down the scarf again so they can see it’s still you!
5. With your face covered with the scarf, chat to your dog, move around, and give rewards every few seconds, before removing the scarf
5. Play with the face mask and twiddle so your dog can see the item is none threatening. Hold it to your face and speak to your dog whilst rewarding with the other hand.
6. Hook the face mask over one of your ears, reward your dog and then put the mask over your face. Reward and talk to your dog for a few seconds, before removing it again.
7. Put on the mask and move around, chat to your dog and have a little game, then remove the mask again.
Remember!!! If your dog looks uncomfortable at any point take a break go back a few steps this can take some time for our dogs to get used to so we don’t want to rush the training.
Make sure everyone in the house has a go at being the covered-up face, starting from the beginning, so that your dog understands that anyone wearing a mask can still be their friend. Depending on how confident your dog is with different family members, this step might take more or less time than when you started right at the beginning, covering your own face.
If your dog growls or scrunches in their body language, ears pinned back or runs away. Stop! Also make sure the dog has an escape route too. Leave the session there do not try to go further.
Once your dog understands about face masks, remember to reward calm behaviour when you see people outside the home wearing them.
Natalie and I have Co written this article together NK9 Dog Training & Behaviour Specialist