Dog trainer life.
The Academy for Dog Trainers is excited to announce the launch of Harness The Love, an initiative that highlights the benefits of no-pull harnesses.
Starting today, Monday September 19, 2016, use the hashtags #HarnessTheLove, #HTL and #academyfordogtrainers to help us flood the interwebz with images of happy dogs and people enjoying walks without the use of precise heels or painful collars. (See below to find the logo and how-to for adding it to pictures). If you are a blogger, find a post about no-pull harnesses and share it, or write up a new one. We will be monitoring the social channels that are using those hashtags and sharing content.
There are many benefits to using no-pull harnesses, not the least of which is that many dogs need little to no training for the harnesses to work: pulling decreases as soon as they realize that it gets them turned around and facing their owner instead of closer to the hydrant they were heading for! No-pull harnesses do not put pressure on dogs' necks and throats, which is safer for your pet (read more here and here). For the human end of the leash, no-pull harnesses can be a gift as soon as you step out the door: decreased pulling means less chance of injury to you.
Loose Leash Walking is a skill that dogs learn, and no-pull harnesses are a great tool to help move the process along. As dog trainers, one of the complaints we hear most often is "how do I get him to stop pulling?" Here's a couple of neat videos if you need some guidance on how to get started!
There's quite a few options to choose from and we're big fans of the Freedom Harness, the Easy Walk Harness and the Sense-ation Harness. See a full list of front-clip harnesses on the Harness The Love page on our website.
You can find the logo to download, our easy-to-use picture Harness the Love picture generator, and other instructions for adding the logo to your picture here, on our the Harness the Love page.
We'd love to see your dog or your client's dog stylin' in some no-pull gear! Use the generator and the hashtags #HarnessTheLove, #HTL and #academyfordogtrainers and you and your dog may be featured on The Academy's Facebook page. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible to help them understand why the switch to a no-pull harness is the way to go.
Check out this great video by our friends at the San Francisco SPCA about the use of harnesses, other training tools and the effectiveness of rewards-based training in general. Join us this week and Harness The Love!
My training as an archaeologist prepared me well for my work with dogs. Archaeologists tend to be consummate generalists. We learn some biology (How do bones grow?), some physics (How do percussion waves through volcanic glass make razor-sharp flakes?), and some chemistry (How does radioactive decay tell us how old stuff is?). Of course, we also learn a lot about humans, our culture, our society, and our fascinating history as primates.
Dog trainers have to be generalists, too. We need to know how to teach, how to counsel, and how to use modern applied behavior analysis techniques to change a dog’s behavior and emotions. We must have a solid understanding of evolution, genetic and environmental effects on behavior, and of ethology.
I once worked in a bone lab as an archaeologist, reducing animal carcasses to skeletal material for a comparative bone collection. This cemented my ability to handle really gross stuff, a skill I’ve found useful with dogs who aren’t motivated by the usual fare.
But I think the best gift I received from my archaeologist past is a tolerance of uncertainty. (Did modern humans float from one continent to the next during the last ice age, exploiting the rich marine environment at the ice’s edge? Who knows! Who do we share our branch of the hominid tree with, really? Who knows!) Some questions do get answered as time and science marches on. Some questions, though, seem unanswerable, at least without time travel. But here’s the thing: not knowing the answers to these questions has not stopped the archaeological juggernaut. Sites are excavated, artifact collections are assessed and re-assessed, and archaeological papers are published.
This comfort with uncertainty has been a great boon to my ability to help my dog training clients. Beyond the broad strokes of motivation (Is the dog scared or upset? Or is he feeling fine and just being a dog?), it often really doesn’t matter why. In fact, getting stuck in a loop of asking why, why, why, is a common reason that owners and new trainers falter. Yesterday, an owner asked me why her dog buries pieces of chewed-up hose in her rose garden, only to immediately excavate them, then re-bury. (Is he angry at me for putting him outside? Is he communicating something?) An answer starting with “Because...” would likely delve into dogs’ fascinating position as a domesticated canid with remnant food caching software, made ‘buggy’ through generations without selection pressure. Despite my own love of evolution, and her use of the seductive why, I knew that a long-winded explanation was not what this client was asking for. My suspicion – soon confirmed – was that what she really wanted was simply to get the dog to stop digging in her rose garden. We decided on a digging pit, I pointed out how cool it was to watch her dog showing off some of his wolf ancestry, and I was able to quickly move on to another issue she was having with her dog.
A comfort with uncertainty allowed me to make the best use of my client’s time and money, which is no small deal. But much more importantly, it opened up time in my consult to create a more enriching environment for this dog, and allowed us to tackle other behaviors which were interrupting the peace in their home. Time spent on a discussion of what, if anything, the behavior communicated (or how the hose may have mimicked ligaments from a caribou’s leg) would have detracted from our session. In other words, there would have been a real time and money cost to the client, and a welfare cost to her dog.
Why is a seductive question. Uncertainty is a frustrating state. So I tip my hat to my archaeological studies for the comfort I now have side-stepping the why why why, accepting the uncertainty inherent in dog training (we really do not know what dogs are thinking! Really!), and allowing me to spend the most time doing what I really want to do: helping people, and helping dogs.