Looking after a dogs mental well being is just as important as looking after a dogs physical well being,
That looks slightly different from dog to dog home to home, but the core values remain the same to ensure that well being is running at it’s optimum.
Healthy consistent boundaries, that ensures every household member is comfortable with day to day living habits and routines.
feedback and guidance that builds and strengthens skills and understanding of the world around them especially their people and how best to connect and “plug in” to them.
Healthy outlets of fulfilment PLAY structure is one of the most over looked elements in a dogs daily life but is a huge game changer when done right.
Solid easy to read and communicate with fellow family members for connection to help satisfy natural social instincts.
And if you don’t put mental well being high on the care checklist of your dog, stress and disconnection can impact on your dogs long term health, stress and anxiety can alter gut health, immunity, and impact on/burn out the nervous system.
Mental well being = physical well being.
It goes hand in hand.
Find your vet important in ensuring physical well being when you need the guidance?
What about a trainer when it comes to your dogs mental well being?
I recently found out that not too long ago 80’s to 90’s it was common practice to believe dogs didn’t feel pain or feel intense amounts of pain, including after surgery, broken bones etc
It actually blew my mind to learn that.
Fast forward to now, it’s standard procedure to administer pain relief before the animal has woken and to send the animal home with roughly three days worth of pain relief just for desexing.
How crazy is that??
And it got me thinking, if we were once in a place where our experts of a dogs body had no real understanding of how much pain they were in,
Can’t our experts in mental wellbeing and behavioural training miss the mark a little as well?
My clients get to get to know their dog on a whole new level, understanding their emotional cues better, to better recognise when their dog is genuinely having a hard time, when they are frustrated, throwing in the towel or simply trying to “win” in the game of who can be more stubborn/patient than the other.
And how that plays a huge part in how the dog interacts and reacts to the world around him.
“traditional” dog training disregards a dogs emotions quite a lot “dogs a dog don’t humanize them”
And yeah I agree don’t make them something that they aren’t but that’s not what the people I work with are aiming for, they are aiming for their dog to have the opportunity to be themselves whilst understanding the boundaries to keep them safe and happy.
And hell even newer aged veterinarian behaviourist work is missing the mark too by heavily working on shifting the brain chemically, by relying quite heavily on meds to “fix” issues, almost completely ignoring the fact that the brain is an ever evolving organ, neurons change, strengthen and weaken all the time, medication can have it’s place but it’s not THE answer.
Nothing is THE answer, like the body the brain is a complex thing, if you want to teach your dog obedience or tricks hell go for gold doing that work on your own,
But behaviour, emotions, reworking the brain,
communication, developing and strengthening bonds?
How good are you at solving rubix cubes?
The more you have going on the more behaviourally with your dog the more different pieces are at play
and this is why after all most 6 months my advanced clients are still seeing shifts and changes in their dog realising that whilst things are getting waaaay easier, and they are doing the things they have always wanted with their dog, the process of having a good relationship with your dog is an ever evolving thing, just like our relationships with people you get back what you put in.
and sometimes we don’t know all the right things to put in to get that return, and that’s ok, it’s more than ok to need help with this stuff, it’s hard and it’s complicated and our professionals in the field of working with animals, medically, behaviourally etc are STILL learning themselves, it’s still progressing and evolving.
When you hire help in that way you’re hiring a head start to get up to scratch with what we understand right now about dogs, but I can bet you in another 10-20 years time it will be different AGAIN.
So do you feel confident that what you know about training, working with and moving through the issues you face with your dog is up to date?
Prong collars – that and e-collars have to be the two most misunderstood and controversial pieces of walking/training equipment.
Prong collars has been a topic that has come up a few times in my program groups and 1 on 1 chats of late and its had me thinking about you guys, and how much or even how little you may actually know about this bad boy.
So I wanted you guys to be apart of the conversations we have been having behind the scenes this past week.
I have had many people assume I am a purely positive trainer.
For you guys as a dog owner you may not even quite understand what that means, or you may have some of an idea, heard that reward based training, positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to train a dog.
And to look for a trainer that does that instead of harsh methods, dominate ways of training.
And I agree.
But that doesn’t make me a 100% positive, reward only trainer, if that’s what you are looking for you have stumbled onto the wrong dog trainers.
However despite that fact I am an absolute softey, and I have found myself sharing with my clients this week a “back in the day” story of when I was looking for answers for Bundy.
I was criticised about how gentle I was with him, I was too soft, too forgiving, too nurturing and motherly with him and I needed to be harder on him. I was the reason why he was so f’d up and if I got it right things would be fixed.
I knew with Bundy after 12 months that only rewarding his behaviour and ignore the bad wasn’t enough, I could see it was leaving out some of the picture and basically he just didn’t get how to life outside of what I was teaching him was good,
Ignoring “bad” behaviour, which was him just really struggling in knowing what the bloody hell to do left him out in the open floating with no guidance and no idea what to do.
But when I worked with balanced trainers, I felt the emotional gap between Bundy and I grow.
He understood more, but we as owner and dog, we who were meant to be best buds, didn’t come closer through that work. Admittedly it worked with the fact he was easier to handle, I didn’t feel so stressed and anxious about him especially taking him out of the house.
I stopped doubting myself as his trainer, but as an owner I still felt a disconnection between us.
It absolutely sucked, and I had no idea how to fix it, maybe it was just a thing that happened with some dogs and not others, maybe this was just always going to be us.
I spent years avoiding training with a prong collar, I wasn’t that sensitive that I thought they were barbaric.
Although when showing people I do tell them I agree it looks like a medieval torture device.
Keeping in mind LOOKS and IS are two very different things.
I had tried all other pieces of walking equipment, he found a way around all of them to pull and lunge at people and he was hurting himself on them.
I remember years before that when I was promised a head halti was the best way to go.
I spent hours getting him comfortable with it at home I even watched the DVD it came with TWICE.
The first time out of the house he was triggered several times, by the time we got home his nose was cut and bleeding I was like f’ that and didn’t use it again, and yeah I still came home with blisters on my hands. That was a regular occurrence for at least the first couple of years.
It was roughly 4 years in and honestly not enjoying using a check chain which was what I found to work the best but I still wasn’t happy with using it, I finally tried the prong collar.
Which funnily enough it was the prong collar that brought us closer together.
The thing is this the prong wasn’t what fixed things.
There isn’t a single tool that magically fixes anything.
But because of the way it looks my mindset changed and I knew we needed to work as a team instead of looking for tools to just fix them dam problem.
I knew there had to be a greater structure put in place so that this whole weird walking thing that we make dogs do – because lets face it a leash is just not natural in any way for a dog.
It motivated me to get really serious about it to dig more into connection, team building, working together not just I say and you do kind of attitude whether that be for treats or not
but to be honest I could have had this mind set with ANY tool I put on him.
It changed how I structured our training, that I didn’t want it to be formal and bossy not only did I want that team work feel when walking I wanted it every time I spent time with him.
And thus began structuring exercises and concentrating on training methods that carried out into our every day life so I could just be in the moment with him, relax and enjoy him and his every quirk without having to be switched on and demanding on him.
It stopped being about positive vs balanced, harsh vs soft, it became about me getting to be who he is and him getting to be who he is and us learning to work together to move in and out of the house more harmoniously together.
Because of that I am happy to say 6 years in I finally had my best mate, it finally came together.
For my clients who do use them – keep in mind we have clients spread across Australia and the laws differ in each state on both e-collars and prong collars.
They feel the same.
But heres the thing.
That started forming before the prong was introduced.
I often refer to our training especially our leash skills element of our program like a dance.
All be it an awkward dance at first – even for me with every boarding dog I work with sometimes I even stumble and get the steps wrong as we learn to work together.
And not all of my clients use it. I have one badass client who is in a wheelchair and she handles her two large breed dogs like an absolute boss on a flat collar and a halti.
It’s such an individual thing but the tool is such a small part of the whole picture.
If you came to me and said “should I buy a harnerss” “would a halti work for me” “should I go get myself a prong”
My answer would be hold up, we need to work out whats going on, how much your dog actually understands about what the leash and whatever it is the leash is attached to actually means to the both of you.
If you have been around for a while now you know with me, we dig deep, I don’t have a quick fix, this will do it answer for you, so I don’t encourage to just go out and get a prong collar, or throw your halti in the bin because of my bad experience.
What I would LOVE for you guys to do is question, try to step into you dogs paws, try to see it from their perspective, try to see how much they truly understand about the world around them especially that darn leash, those things that trigger them.
That’s where the solutions are born in getting a deeper understanding for your dog and where the gaps in communication, in your relationship and team work lay.
And if you are like my clients and you don’t want to have to wait as long as I did to discover the methods that really dig in and help not just now but long term.
One of the most common problems people struggle with,
Which is funny because EVERYONE seems to have to answer as to why a dog barks and how to fix it.
Which usually goes something like you’re dog is most likely bored, you need to do more with him, he needs more environmental enrichment, he needs more toys.
Meanwhile, the people I speak with – their dog has ample toys, works out treat dispensing toys in a flash, if they work their dog for the food i.e sit, drops and tricks the dogs nail them quickly and both owner and dog get bored fast with the same repetitive tasks, they walk or play with their dog frequently.
Buuuut he is still barking at the neighbours movements, passer byers, at the fact that a bird farted.
They feel frustrated, like they aren’t or can’t do enough for their dog, that everyone makes it sound so god dam simple and they just can’t get it together.
Truth is there are LOTS of reasons why dogs bark.
Boredom is usually on the bottom of my lists of why.
When speaking with people they usually have a dog that is either or both highly anxious and highly energetic or high drive.
It’s usually misplaced energy, frustration or an attempt to realise emotions that are making the dog feel tense or wound up.
Sure you can call that boredom throw toys, treats, training, and heaps of exercise at the problem but if you don’t know what you are doing and why, how is that going to actually dig into the core issue and start to fix it?
So what DO you do instead?
I think all but one of our currently clients was or is currently struggling with barking being ONE of the issues their dog actually has, it’s one we get caught up in and zero in on because it bothers the neighbours, it bothers our peace and quite and we can also receive council complaints and warnings.
But when we assess what’s going on around the dog we find that the communication between the owner and dog isn’t great, the connection isn’t as strong as they wished it could be, they don’t do the things they wished they could with their dog because of the way he behaves, and when they are really honest, they love their dog but they find him tiring he just seems like yet another chore they have argue with themselves about doing training, exercise or play because none of it seems to work anyway.
We have carefully designed our programs to heal those things, to bring back the connection, with that comes motivation, they feel closer to their dog then ever before, they begin building the foundation they need to truly get in and fix the problem of barking and once we do address that issue, it’s already improving on it’s own, it seems like no effort at all to get a handle on the issue, and usually owners like the fact their dog barks, they just wish he could understand when it was appropriate and when its not, and that’s why we teach them a system that clearly shows the dog this.
This TAKES time.
Something I say often to people.
We are not a take away business.
We are not cheap, easy or fast.
We want to build results that are long lasting that address all aspects of the dogs and owners lives, to ensure that the work matches them, can be moulded to suit their lives and the changes that will occur in it.
Because at a guess having 10 plus years with your dog shits going to change, life doesn’t stand still, people go through injuries, moves, expanding family, loosing family, all things that can impact on you, your dog and how things appropriate in the household.
I love management strategies, having things to lean on during those rough patches or changes in your own life or your dogs life, which is what those solutions that are so frequently given for barking are
But they aren’t sustainable, they can’t be kept up forever, I have lost count the amount of people who have rang me with injuries, who were walking there dog up to twice a day to keep the bad behaviours at bay to have everything fall apart and all the things they were keeping just under the surface spring up, now on top of an injury they have to deal with say – a lot of barking.
“it’s because you aren’t walking him as much any more”
No sally it’s because people like you keep pumping out the same old story people don’t realise that they need to take into account that walking doesn’t fix an issue like that, it just puts a band aid over it and helps make living with the dog easier.
It doesn’t solve the dogs coping skills, yes you should walk your dog, it’s nice to get out of the house but you shouldn’t solely rely on one thing to manage an issue, and there is a huge difference between management and teaching your dog how to cope when shit changes.
Dig in and do the hard work and you get the long term, sustainable results.
Do the “easy” work and watch how quickly all that time and energy slips backwards because you couldn’t for what ever reason sustain it any longer.