I love it when people have a light bulb moment, especially when it comes to how they interact with their dogs.
I’m a vet tech, so I deal with people and their animals all day, every day. Sometimes I get to chatting with them in the exam rooms before the Doctor heads in. Well, a client was about a half hour early for her appointment and the Doc was still on lunch. She saw my business card up on the front counter in the lobby and said “OH! You’re a dog trainer! Have you ever heard of Don Sullivan, The Dog Father? His literature has been a HUGE help to me and my dog!” I had no idea who she was talking about. I told her I was more a Patricia McConnell, Ian Dunbar, Sophia Yin and Karen Pryor student of thought, who she’s never heard of any of them. She then said “Well, Don shares a lot of his methods with Cesar Milan.” OH. I said to myself “That’s why I’ve never heard of him!”
We head into the exam room and I can’t help but ask her what kind of things have helped her so much that Don taught her. I’m kinda curious by nature and want to know about all the methods that people like to use. Just because I don’t agree with them, or follow certain techniques doesn’t mean I should turn a blind eye…heck I gotta know what NOT to share with my clients!
She’s telling me all about the alpha rolls, prong collar and dominating system that he supports. She said it worked well on her pushy, Terrior mix. And then she goes into talking about all the problems she’s had with her. I told her that I use positive reinforcement methods and that I like training “thinking dogs” who access their environment and make the right choices on their own. She was puzzled, and got this “ick” face on and said “Well, I have no interest in using food to train my dog, that will only get her to beg and she wont listen if I don’t have food.”
I had to clear her mind about what positive reinforcement methods really are. But how? How do I get this all across to someone who’s so shut down to the very mention of it? This is how.
I asked her how she was managing her dog’s resources. She again looked puzzled. I broke it down further. Food, space, time, attention, toys, games, activities, etc. Does she give all these resources to her dog for free? Answer was in a round-about way- YES. She didn’t want to admit it but as soon as she did….LIGHT BULB. She realized that she was giving her dog EVERYTHING in life for free.
I explained to her by simply managing her resources and making her dog earn her food, space and attention that would be FAR more powerful than any alpha roll. And that being “dominant” over your dog doesn’t mean being a bully, doesn’t mean being mean, doesn’t mean showing her who’s boss. It means you CONTROL her life by controlling her resources in a fair and dignified way without being pushy, rude or mean (kinda like her dog’s personality LOL- like dog, like owner). Ding, ding, ding! It was a pleasure seeing the “ah-ha” spread across her face. It definitely made my day.
After her appointment with the Doc was over, she came back over to me and said “Do you mind writing a book list down because I want to learn more about this…positive stuff….you told me about.” HA! I wrote them down eagerly and handed it over. A week later she came in for a recheck exam and told me she was half way through “The Other End of the Leash” already and is LOVING it. Hearing that made my day!