Beliefs & Approach
Whole Dog - Relationship Based
Overall we want your relationship to be great because your dog's behavior is great. And we want their behavior to be great because they feel great. And getting to that point looks different in every situation because every dog is different, every person is different and every relationship dynamic is different.
Because it is unique and customized to every dog and family our approach doesn’t have a name and I’m not in any training “camp”. I think for myself and have your dogs needs and experience as my foundation.
Belief Statements (Core Values)
We want you and your dog to feel and be your best.
Our Belief Statements
Your dog deserves the very best quality of life they can have
You and your dog deserve the very best relationship you can have
The human animal bond is one of the most powerful and special on earth
Methodology, Approach, & Philosophy
Every client will be approached with welcome, non judgement, empathy, and a passionate desire to understand and help.
We passionately minimize aversive use FROM THE DOGS POINT OF VIEW. Not from what a manufacturer or other human decides is humane or inhumane. And I for the life of me can’t figure out why everyone doesn’t do this.
I want dogs to feel: Joy, Connection, Safety, Comfort, Relaxation, Excitement, Happiness and Exhausted in a good way
I do not want dogs to feel: Physical or emotional pain, distress, fear, insecurity, anxiety
This is always what we are aiming for in all decisions we make about what equipment to use.
We are always looking for the way we can have the dogs and humans emotionally feeling their best and having their needs met.
We can help build mutual understanding between dogs and their humans.
I do not believe any training is humane if the dogs exercise and enrichment needs have not been met.
My ultimate goal is not to keep every dog in their original home but to ensure the dog and family are living the best life they can have.
Most humane possible on the dog's terms
There tends to be a lot of arbitrary perceptions about what equipment is and isn’t aversive. And very narrow definitions of what even is and isn’t equipment. And it is always astounding to me how much the dogs’ reaction to the equipment is disregarded in determining if something is aversive to them.
The main equipment we will all be using in working with is our brains, our compassion, our passion, and animal behavior expertise. As far as manufactured equipment I divide these into two categories:
Restrictive - Inherently aversive
Expansive - Builds behavior and relationship by increasing possibilities and meeting needs
Needless to say we want to be as heavily as possible on the “expansive” side. But there is no getting around some restrictive equipment. Dogs can’t unfortunately just run free and do as they will in our society. And if you are using the restrictive equipment correctly it isn’t necessarily aversive or minimally aversive. And it can have big payoffs for their quality of life. For instance a leash is obviously restrictive. But a dog who can be relaxed on a leash can come with to a brewery or a restaurant which may be much more fun than sitting at home alone.
Expansive Equipment -
Chuck its, toys, food, bait pouches, hiking boots and other outdoor gear for various weather conditions, enrichment toys
Restrictive Equipment - Leashes, collars, harnesses, fences
We do use these. Every trainer does. And if you do it right, you often will see happy relaxed dogs making great strides in feeling better.
Dogs have evolved alongside humans for 2.5 million years. And leashes have only become necessary in the last 50. It is not surprising that they cause a lot of problems. Leash pulling is the number one reason people seek dog trainers. And leash reactivity is a very common symptom of a dog feeling emotional distress and/or fear.
Whenever possible we avoid leashes. If they can’t be avoided we use a long line vs a short lead. (And when you open your mind, you will see how much more often it is possible than we would think.) If we can’t use a long line, we use the longest leash that is realistic.
Our leash training approach involves meeting off leash needs first. And using the longest leash possible to begin to build relaxed happy behavior on leash. We typically work our way down to a 4 or 6 foot leash so the dog can go on outings. But always encourage the longest leash possible for any given activity. For instance a nature walk can usually be done on a 20 foot leash.
These are typically a great answer but more dogs than you think run and hide from them. Sometimes the aversive experience is just getting it on, and then the dog trots along happily. But some dogs really don’t like them. They aren’t “humane” or “non aversive” to every dog so sometimes alternatives must be found. But in the majority of cases the right harness is your best bet.
Without a leash attached to them, collars do not appear particularly aversive to most dogs. Whether you are using a flat buckle collar, a pinch collar, or electronic collar you are putting pressure on the dog's neck to provide guidance or control behavior. A flat buckle collar and a leash can be extremely aversive to a dog who wants and needs to run. Using food to keep the dog at your side might make it less aversive. But you are still ignoring the underlying need. It isn’t humane or “non aversive” just because you are using food rewards and a flat buckle collar. And not getting that reward can be just torturous to a dog who isn’t capable of the requested behavior. An electronic collar used at a low level can provide tons of off leash running and enrichment. This is what the dog really wants and needs and will lead to them acting better because they are feeling better.
Head Collars -
This is the number one piece of equipment I see dogs shut down and express extreme physical and psychological discomfort with. They do give you hands down the best control. So in a situation where control is the number one priority (usually for safety reasons) I will sometimes use them even though I hear what the dog is saying to me. I train about 50 dogs between group and privates on an average week. And I would say about once a week I put one on a dog and they happily prance without leash pulling. So they ARE a great tool for a minority of dogs. I always tell people to buy one and save the receipt. We will give it a try and you might get lucky. You might be the 1 in 50 that it is almost a magic answer for. If not, it was worth a shot and you can take it back. If you are desperate for control most dogs show less distress in a pinch collar than a head collar. But you’ll have to experiment and see what your dog is telling you.
Fences and other barriers
Invisible or physical, these are inherently restrictive but in most cases provide less restriction than a tie out or leash, which are usually the alternatives. Every dog and situation is different but figuring out the best barrier for your dog in the situation is key.