Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2013 Blog Post #2 - Force Free and Meaning It


Cleo, bully pup, attacking two dogs before seven months old. She doesn't get along with other dogs?

One of my favorite things about the dog/behavior training and consulting business is the role we get to play in so many of the special moments in our client's lives. The moments when their challenging dog changes. My husband always asks me who I made cry today. There is some truth to that,  but I certainly didn't make them cry, but what they witnessed did. Change is an emotional event and when a result is so visible it gets an emotional response from the canine's owner, that is a priceless moment.

For example, in the recent Maryland Canine Emotional Detox, May 17, 18 and 19th, 2013 there were two emotional moments that elicited happy tears from dog owners. The moment a human fearful dog completely relaxed and started to ask for attention and rewards from workshop participants. The moment a very active, dog reactive and resource guarder achieved full, deep, REM relaxation. There have been many such moments over the years from the lady who hadn't touched her dog for two years and in one force free session we were both able to touch and pet this dog, a GSD mix on a prong.  The prong is history, the improvement of the relationship and bond is the present.  What about the moment a fearful dog comes out of its shell to show bursts of confidence or the day a small Shih tzu mix stops biting his owners and starts to be the dog they knew he would become. There are many such stories from extreme cases to mild.  As trainers we know, the transformations or transitions from one stage of behavior to the next  - whether in a well-created session or in a real life context -and those are great moments. A moment the dog and owner stretch, grow and start to change all in the name of force free training.

There is much work to do and there are many comments to overcome. Comments such as force free trainers don't work with extreme behavior. Comments by trainers using pain devices simply become irrelevant, as we get it, we know what force free means, what it does and how the most challenging cases respond to it.  To say things like "I use whatever the dog needs at the time," simply means one will use aversive techniques and for lack of a better expression, where knowledge ends, aversion begins. These are the semantics of aversive and balanced trainers, as they use a clicker alongside a shock collar. The joy of being truly force free, is knowledge and the knowing that you will have many more tools to take you well beyond ever having to use pain devices. That is reassuring and life changing. It speaks volumes to the owners and canines who see those changes. The difference is between reinforcing the RIGHT behavior versus punishing the WRONG behavior.  That is the difference in one sentence. If you aren't doing the first, you are doing the latter.

What does force free mean? It means no shock, no pain, no choke, no fear, no physical force, no physical molding, no compulsion-based methods to train or care for a pet as described by http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Whatisforcefree. As a founding member of this organization and a steering committee member, this is the way I and those I work with, my colleagues, my friends, my clients, take very seriously.  Why? We see it in action every day.  We see it making big differences in lives of those who need it most daily.

The only question that remains to be answered is which way will you choose to go? If force free, then truly amazing transformations will occur.  Working with challenging dogs and getting results force free is just another day in the life of this behavior trainer. Commitment is not just a word for clients. It is a word for those seriously using force free methodologies.

Would you work with a dog with an eight bite history? Force free is changing lives. Posing for a quick photo on a woods walk is Duncan in the middle. Behavior extreme fear of people carrying objects or going through doorways. Today, bites no more, no reason to do so.

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