Why I became a dog trainer.
His name was Fredrick. He was quite handsome, creamy white skin, expressive eyes, black and yellow stripes and all those cute little legs. I fell in love.
At some point I got the idea that Fred may like to be free. Perhaps it was my Mother's voice echoing off the garage walls “Put that bug outSIDE!!!”
"But Mom!!!!" I cried, then decided, (on my own), to let Fred free. I took him out of his box, set him on the garage floor and told him, "The choice is yours Fred." Honestly, he looked back at me once before he inched toward the open garage doors.
As he crept pass the threshold, time slowed as the biggest, ugliest wiggliest drop of water from the current raging Midwest storm, hit him square on his head. He turned and ran (compared to his regular walk, ran) back to me.
"SEE MOM! He wants to stay!" Mom made a rasping noise and returned to the house.
After Fred, there were many others, spiders, flies, butterflies bunnies it was back in the day when bugs and wildlife were abundant, or maybe it was the just from the soybean field across our country road but I don’t see as many bugs and bunnies now and yes, I still look.
Watching animals became my favorite pass time. Thank goodness there were no computers to distract me from things that were real.
It became clear that animals had lives just like us and they talked to each other about what to do next, or where to build their nest.
Just trying to help
We had a boat in the drive way. In the tongue of the boat trailer, the hollow square metal connection to our truck, housed a nest of English Sparrows, I watched daily as birds flew in and out building their nest. I was ecstatic when I heard little bird peeps echoing through the metal frame.
One day, a baby bird fell out onto the concrete driveway. I flew into action, scooped up the baby and began to put it back into the square metal entryway to the nest.
A noise behind me got my attention. As I turned my little 8 year old body, panic struck. I was surrounded. Best I can remember there were 8 to 12 of them. Angry squawking sparrows on the ground with eyes narrowed and brows puffed up. They were about 4 feet away from me and moving closer, one little sparrow step at a time. I could feel my heart pound and my face flush as I realized I was in violation Sparrow protocol and the peeping evidence was right in my little hands.
“I was just trying to help!!” I said to them, pleading for them to not hurt me. By that time they were making little jumps toward me with their wings flapping at my shoes. One flew over my head touching me with her wing. “Put our baby down and walk away, they said”. So I did and ran into my house crying as I flung myself onto my bed, causing my 22 toy stuffed animals to bounce into the air.
Wow, just writing that story made my stomach tighten up and caused me to take a few deep breaths. Emotion can stick with us for a long time. If you've had real trauma that effects your quality of life talk to me about how dogs can help get you back on track.
The point? Animals Think and Feel
and I don't need scientific proof to believe it.
To a child not conditioned to our unnatural money driven society it was clear that animals, like us, have lives, personalities, ability to communicate to each other, and ability to communicate to us, when we take the time to listen. Communicating to a species other they their own seems pretty incredible to me. Especially since we "intelligent" humans have such a difficult time exchanging honest clear thoughts with each other, never the less to another species. Now I concede, perhaps Fredric the caterpillar didn’t have emotional ties to me but it did put me on a path to listening to animals more closely and with an open mind.
Then there was the ice-cream cone discovery.
I’ve mentioned it on my web page a few times about how Dixie my mini-Dachshund put her little butt on the drive way and raised her body straight up to enjoy her side of my ice-cream cone. I thought I had discovered the meaning to life and the secret to training animals. "Ice-cream" method of training went on for years.
Sending Lucy Lu, to a trainer.
I’ve forgotten the reason why, but as a young adult, I decided to send my dog Lucy to a dog trainer. It was a two week or so training situation where she stayed at the training facility.
I was to pick her up along with all the other dog owners who were full of anticipation to see what their dogs had learned.
I arrived first and when I saw my sweet Lucy she was clearly stressed. She was panting, stepping back, her breathing was rapid and her eye shifting. I became panicked. “What’s is wrong with my dog? Why is so she stressed?”, I demanded.
Their response was:
“Training is stressful”.
I was outraged that my sweet, kind, loving dog was in such distress and it took a bit for them to convince me to get in line with others who had arrived and continue “hand-off” to complete the program.
Lucy did do everything they “taught” her to do, stay, sit, down, heel by my left side on a loose leash. Still, she was stressed the whole time. I very reluctantly paid the hundreds of dollars fee and took my Lucy home.
Lucy did always walk by my side on a loose leash, never pulling. Lucy was always stressed on walks and her demeanor changed to a stressed state when I ask her to do the commands she was taught. She never seemed to actually enjoy outings on leash and panted the entire time during walks. Point is, the trainer used pain to train my dog.
I never sent another dog away to training, always used my “ice-cream” method as I had since Dixie and all of my other Dogs. I did spend a great deal of time thinking there must be a better way to train dogs for people who needed a little help. A nice way where dogs had fun and were not stressed. By the way, “ice-cream method” was just the label. Dogs like food and using their own dog food worked just fine.
Years later I did save enough money to quit my engineering management/process improvement techno Corporate America job. I went to school to become a real professional dog trainer. I do train dogs for people in their home and my own home. I use "stress free", love, respect, treats, communication, understanding, step by step learning, brain building, clear communication and give the dogs ample time to figure out the best solution to problems I design for them. The answer to the problems just happens to be what I want the dogs to do. Dogs can learn and be happy at the same time.
My chosen career may not save the world, but to me, it's important and it keeps a lot of dogs out of shelters. Plus it helps humans communicate a little more effective with the dogs they live with. It might even help humans be more comfortable with the thought or in my world, "the reality" that animals, think, feel, have friends and meaningful lives, just like the rest of us.
I know "you", most likely already know how much individuality and personality animals have. Lets just call it a truism, that is, something so self evident, it's hardly worth mentioning. So lets accept it and get on with helping your animals figure out how to live with us in peace and harmony.