So, I was watching a Ted Talk by Johann Hari, where he was exploring the idea of inclusion instead of exclusion for addicts within society.
Lots of what he was saying actually made pretty good sense and goes along with my way of thinking.
If we exile damaged and vulnerable people, how on earth do we expect them to ever heal and become fully functioning and contributing members of society?!
The day after watching this video, I met a lovely pup and her mum. The pup was just 6 months old and had recently been excluded from her Doggy Day Care centre for well, being a pup.
Lots of idealists set up dog care businesses without having any knowledge of dog behaviour or how to handle it.
Dogs must conform to a certain way of behaving otherwise they are labelled as “bad”.
Us humans are all different, that’s what makes the world an interesting place and it’s exactly the same with dogs, some just need a little more guidance and help than others.
When I was first studying animal psychology many years ago, my tutor at the time explained that some forms of puppy socialisation classes were actually doing more harm than good.
There was no structure, no focus on training, it was just pups in a room left to “play” and here the animal instinct would kick in, so it became survival of the fittest.
The bigger stronger puppies, would effectively beat up the smaller or weaker pups and so began a cycle of behaviours that we are left to unpick and retrain as these pups get older.
We automatically assumed in the past, if owners had their dogs since puppyhood, then if, in later life they began to demonstrate behavioural issues, then it must be a bad dog or have come from a bad line.
No one really stopped to consider the possibility of every day issues, like being forced to do things they don’t like or enjoy or recalling the stress of those puppy socialisation classes.
For example; my own dog Zane hates crowded spaces and lots of people / noise.
Zane needs a calm quiet environment or his default mode when he is scared is to bark loudly and lunge like a lunatic.
This doesn’t make him a bad dog, it makes him terrified of situations which he can’t control, so he behaves in a manner which he thinks will stop any bad or scary things coming near him.
At first we found this behaviour difficult to manage and as I was not long into my own training journey, I wanted to understand how we could help him.
I therefore sought out various trainers who all made us march round a hall with lots of other dogs, which only made Zane worse.
Some even shouted at him and made us use aversive training methods, which I was completely against.
I was utterly heartbroken and frustrated at not being able to fix things for my boy.
I so wanted to help Zane but didn’t know how and then I met The Glasgow Dog Trainer!
John explained to me that, I needed to be trained just as much as Zane, as my own anxiety was transferring to him.
The training was all positive reinforcement which we both loved, based outdoors and although we met many dogs along the way, Zane didn’t have to go near them or engage with if he didn’t want to.
I was learning what he wanted and needed from me and Zane was learning to understand properly what I was asking of him.
Fast forward a number of years and we have a beautiful, loving and crazy boy, who has the best quality of life from me seeking out that inclusion is better than exclusion.
Zane isn’t a bad dog, he just needed a little more help and support to become a fully functioning member of society!
I could not be more proud of him and what he has achieved. He’s still learning all the time and it’s amazing to observe.
Thankfully working with John started me on my own journey into positive reinforcement training and I’m well on my way to becoming a positive dog trainer.
I practice on the gang weekly, which is lots of fun and very rewarding when I can see the training paying off.
Pretty soon, we will be offering dog training sessions within our services but for now if you have a dog who maybe needs a wee bit of extra help navigating socialisation, play or learning some manners, please get in touch to see how we can help.
See you on the next Blog.