I am going to break slightly from the regular format. While out for a run one day, I came across a woman rehabilitating her dog, using clicker training.
Behavioral problems are the number one cause of dog relinquishment to shelters. Behavioral issues, not infectious diseases, are the number one cause of death for dogs under three years of age. Preventing the development of behavioral problems is what spurred us on to create our web site.
It is not common for people to rehabilitate a dog, so seeing this young woman clicker training was an opportunity I could not pass up. I was interested in talking with her about the work, but we end up talking about a variety of things.
Jacqueline’s effort and commitment to helping Cooper are really commendable. Our conversation follows (over a number of posts).
Cooper is her 2 year old Labrador/English Setter mix and has recently developed a fear of cyclists, joggers and skate boarders.
How old was Cooper when you got him?
…and how has he changed you?
“I love my dog. I love having a dog! I honestly can’t even imagine my life without him now. He’s so much a part of it. I don’t know, he’s literally my little buddy. I love him.
“This is it. He is so good. He’s house trained. He’s so gentle. He’s really great with children, people and other dogs. That’s why this behavior was particularly alarming. So yes, this has been the biggest challenge.”
Were you ready for a dog?
“Actually, to be quite honest, I should have put more thought into it. Simply because I saw his photo on Kijiji and thought, I have to have that dog! Then, when I got him, I thought it would be a lot easier than it was…because I grew up with dogs. But you don’t realize how much work your parents actually do. When I look back on the dogs we were raising, I probably had very minimal involvement in their care. So I got him and he doesn’t know his name, he doesn’t know what a collar is, he’s running around the apartment going crazy! I had this brief moment of panic where I was… oh my god, what did I get myself into?! I’m not ready for this. But then I was like, no, no, I can do this. I then did as much research as I possibly could. I enrolled him immediately in puppy socialization classes and brought on a trainer. We were really fortunate because he was so easy to train. ”
So you knew to go and get some help…
“I thought it was the appropriate investment to bring in a professional. And it’s funny, when you first get a dog and you don’t quite know what you’re doing, your impression of the best training is Cesar Milan. He is the most famous dog trainer. People who don’t even have dogs know who he is. So if you don’t really know what you’re doing and you get a dog… probably you will go that route. And she, [the trainer] immediately was like, no, no, no… you need to actually watch and go beyond his accolades and just watch what he is doing. You’ll see that his training methods are punitive. They are quite forceful. They instill fear in a dog. And if they do respond to him [Cesar Milan], they are only responding out of fear.
“I really had no idea this other method of training existed and that it could be so effective. Rather than her saying something that made me want to do it, it was seeing it. Within 30 seconds Cooper knew how to sit! And we had to bring the trainer on so soon because crate training proved to be a bit of an issue with Cooper. She clicker trained him in one session to like his crate. Very quickly she not only brought this method of training to my attention but she also showed me how effective it was. I quickly saw the power of this type of training.
“After that, I focused my searches on positive reinforcement training methods. When I was enrolling him in puppy socialization classes, I focused on classes and instructors that employed that method.”
[this journal continues in the next post…]