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Focusing on Our Dogs' Needs: Shifting the Perspective on Dog Training

A couple of things happened yesterday; things that made me think. The first was I saw a dog trainer in the park wandering around with what looked to be a guardian and their dog. The dog was moving carefully and didn’t have relaxed body language. It seemed like the trainer was showing the lady how her dog could walk (creep) with the right kind of treatment.

I thought about it for hours afterwards. I wondered why some dog trainers take peoples’ dogs off them for an entire walk. I completely understand showing techniques momentarily as examples, like marking a check in. But what would be the point of taking someone’s dog off them for any longer than that?

The next thing was some (confident but wrong) guy on a Facebook video telling people what to look for in a dog trainer. In his opinion dog trainers should have very well-trained dogs and show off well trained dogs on their social media all the time. There were a few other things that made me cringe too, but I didn’t watch for long and won’t go into them.

On reflection.

Neither of these approaches or people seemed to place any focus on how the dog feels.

Both of them focused on what they can make the dog do. This to me is where full focus on training to change behaviour breaks down, and causes welfare issues.

It’s like the expectations on Victorian children.

You will be seen but not heard.

Can you imagine living a life where you’re the only one who is expected to change in a relationship. Where changing you is the priority of everyone around you. Everyone you love unconditionally fills your life with conditions.

Never asking you how you feel about things.

Never wondering what it is you might want and need.

Always just pushing you to be different.

To fit better into their expectations of you.

Imagine if your entire life was filled with people who didn’t acknowledge your personality, your fears, your aches and pains. People who didn’t know that trauma which dictated your behaviour now. People who didn’t help you to feel safe or didn’t even recognise when you felt unsafe.

It's time to shelve this idea that dogs should be seen and not heard.

I saw an excellent meme yesterday from the amazing “Heal the Dog” it stated very clearly that the opposite of obedience is not disobedience.

And that’s true.

Without rigid and forceful training dogs are not going to run wild eating people.

When we meet their dog needs our dogs need less training.

Then with the training they do need, because we have built a wonderful trust between us, it’s more like coaching.

It’s a dance of unique individuals.

It’s a friendship.

A healthy relationship.

Let’s zoom out from the idea of nicely trained dogs.

And instead look at the entire dog.

The glorious dog.

Their full potential.

They don’t live very long, let’s fill that few years with safeness, respect, happy learning and fun times.

Not being walked around the park by a stranger for ego’s sake.

Not wearing a chain collar that threatens them not to move at their natural walking pace. I promise you all, one day you will see how bad it is to overlook a dog’s needs and instead employ a trainer who gets results.

Don’t let that day be even a day too late for your dog.


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