We recently had the opportunity to talk with Dog Behavior Specialist Dianna M. Young. You may have heard the saying “There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner”. While no pet owner would want to think of themselves as “bad”.
Dianna’s insight opens up the positive possibilities of a happier healthier relationship with your canine companion.
Q-A lot of people think training is only for professional purposes, K9 or seeing eye dogs that kind of thing. What are your thoughts on this perception?
A-Yes, many folks think this and many of them come to see us when their relationship with their canine friend goes off the rails. Humans naturally approach relationships coming from a humanistic point of view; it’s when we deal with our canines with that same point of view we run into trouble. On average, we have at best a 12-14 year relationship with our dogs, if we’re lucky. We can choose to settle for a mediocre relationship for that period of time, or with some professional help, we can have a companion of a lifetime.
Q-How can someone who has no experience approach training his or her dog?
A-The bottom line is whether we have experience or not, we all ARE training our dogs. The question is are we training our dog to do desirable things or are we inadvertently teaching and reinforcing bad behaviors? In my businesses, the majority of my clients are doing their own training with their dogs, they just come to us for coaching. A small percentage of my clients are looking for us to do all the training which we are happy to do. There are many valuable benefits to our clients doing their own training. During the process of training, the dog human pairare bonding and relationship building. They are forming a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. When we train our client’s dogs for them, their dogs are dismayed to see us leave as we just finished building a strong, meaningful relationship with one another.
I suggest folks read books like the one I have written, or watching educational videos can be tremendously helpful as well as some one-on-one coaching. Asking your local veterinarian for a referral for a skilled trainer or behaviorist is a great place to start.
Q-What kind of education or experience does someone need to do this?
A-When looking for a dog trainer or behaviorist I would suggest someone with aprofessional dog training school background or lengthy experience involved in professional dog training apprenticeship programs. That is what I would want to see on a trainer’s resume, as well as a long list of happy satisfied clients and referrals.
Q-If done wrong, what are repercussions and how can they affect a person’s relationship with their dog?
A-I meet very well-meaning people on a daily bases. I also meet dogs that I feel sad for the things they have endured on the other end of a leash of a well-intended person. The first and most obvious possible repercussion would be physical harm. Many well-intended people are using training equipment improperly or equipment that is incorrect for the particular dog that they own. I can’t tell you how many people buy training equipment based on the advice of a cashier clerk at a pet supply store. Perhaps if these folks selling the products were professional trainers or behaviorists, a customer could rely on their help, but in most cases these folks are cashiers with no professional knowledge of training. The not so obvious repercussion is dog owners unintentionally damaging their relationships with their dogs as a result of not knowing what they are doing. Building trust, or in many cases rebuilding trust takes time, that is a process that cannot be rushed.
Q-Can you give an example of how a dog owner can have good intentions and still be encouraging bad habits?
A-A popular problem we deal with is dogs that have a fear or phobia issue. Humans often feel the need to console their dogs’ fear, which for a dog is counter- intuitive. A fear that began as a minor problem can quickly be conditioned into a phobia with the help of the well-intended owners. Humans using an anthropomorphic approach with their dogs create more problems.
Q-What are some other things that are supposed to be quick or easy training methods, but can actually hurt your chances of success?
A-One of the first things that come to mind is I hear a lot of novice dog owners talking about using or wanting to use an electronic collar on their dog, thinking they will get fast results to what they believe is their problem. That is certainly not what I want to see a novice person using. That would be an example of a type of training that needs a professional with skilled experience and knowledge not to mention, not all dogs would do well with this type of training.
Q-Besides dog training and behavioral modification, what other services do you offer at Camano Island Kennels and Stella Ruffington’s Doggie Daycare& Training Facility in Seattle?
A-Aside from training and behavior modification we specialize in the Canine Hospitality Industry. We offer boarding and grooming services as well as transportation for your pet. We encourage our clients to inquire if there is a service they may need. We recently assisted two of our clients with their wedding. They needed their dogs to be transported to their ceremony location and they requested our assistance in managing their dogs behavior for pre-wedding photos as they wanted them to participate. They also requested we train their dogs to walk down the aisle and to be present during their ceremony. After the nuptials and photo taking, we transported their dogs back to one of our boarding locations where their dogs stayed while the couple left for their honeymoon. We enjoyed being part of their special day. I would have to say unusual requests sometimes are the most fun.