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Sarah Wilson
Award-winning Pet Expert
Teacher, Trainer & Author

Holiday Show 2007

In this pet podcast... Find the perfect gift for your dog in this edition of Teacher's Pet. It's not a leash, it's not a toy, it's not a bed, it's not a treat... what is it? Tune in and find out! See Sarah in action on Comcast Cable (Video on Demand - Life and Home - Pets - Children). Send questions and comments to . Now - go have a wonderful Holiday with your loved ones - two- and four-legged.


Sarah Wilson: Welcome to the holiday show of Teacher’s Pet on Pet Life Radio. This is Sarah Wilson. So I’ve been thinking, what is the perfect holiday gift for your dog? And I’ve been pondering it ‘cause there’s some great new equipment out and wonderful dog beds, and of course there’s all the stuff I can tell you about safety and not getting a pet over the holidays and all of that. But I don’t think that’s really what your dog would want. I think if your dog could be interviewed, what they would want is more time with you and better communication during that time. In that spirit, this episode of Teacher’s Pet is about looking at ourselves, and we’re going to look at ourselves by hearing from other sorts of animal trainers. Often when we take one step away from what we’re doing, we get a better view back. I think you’re going to enjoy it. So lets listen to the sponsors and then we’ll be right back and we’re going to get started.

Sarah Wilson: Welcome back to Teacher’s Pet. This is Sarah Wilson on Pet Life Radio. Whenever we talk about training our dogs, we’re really talking about teamwork and education between two different species, and that is not easy. Most of us have a hard enough time between our own species. Anyone who’s married or has kids or has good friends or has family knows this, its complicated. Then lets add in a species that we will never truly fully understand. We’ll never understand how they think about the world, what they see or hear or contemplate if they contemplate things at all. We can guess, we can project, but we’ll probably never know for sure. What we can do is be respectful of the process of teaching them and trying to communicate with them. So lets hear from a few wonderful authors that are speaking about horse training. But it doesn’t really matter because training is training and communication is communication, and I think you’re going to find these richly interesting with lots to ponder. The purposes of our work, I’m going to say animal training, not horse training, animal instead of horses because I want you to keep your mind open and hear what these people have to say without being distracted by species. This is from Chris Irwin in Bob Webbers book ‘Horses Don’t Lie’: “So the hard part of animal training isn’t really about the animal at all. It’s all about knowing who you are while learning about who the animal is and figuring out who you need to be to bring the two together in mutual respect and trust. To teach your animal to stop resisting and be calm, responsive, trusting and brave, you must acquire those qualities yourself. You must let go of your masks and conflicts and fears and simply be competent and in control. Nor can you apply the rules you read in a book, even this book. You have to find the parts of yourself that will tell you at a level below conscious thought what you have to do and how you have to act. Everything we can teach an animal we can teach ourselves. And you may discover that when an animal sees you relaxed, balanced and centered, so does everyone else. It really doesn’t matter what sort of animal you’re teaching, these rules apply.” And I love how he talks about our side of the table. One of the questions I ask other professionals when I teach them is “Tell me about the clients you find difficult”, and everyone’s hands will go up and they will say somebody different; the pushy client, the shy client, the quiet client, the distracted client, and why is everyone’s answer different? Because we’re all different. Those people are not inherently difficult. They’re difficult for us because of how we react to them. Somebody else may not have trouble with a client we find difficult or a neighbor or a friend or whatever, and the same thing goes for your dog. Just because you find your animal to be difficult in a certain way or at a certain time, doesn’t necessarily mean he is. It could just be you. It could by your annoyance at a certain thing or your embarrassment, or maybe you don’t have enough tools in your box yet. I will tell you that after years of doing this I find fewer and fewer dogs difficult. And either there’s been an evolution in dog breeding and now dogs are less and less difficult, this I don’t think to be likely, or more than likely I have more experience, I have more tools in my box, so I just find less things troubling. And you’ll find that too, but it’s really important to keep that in your mind and in your heart as you train, that maybe this isn’t limitation in myself. Maybe if I could communicate this better my dog can pick it up faster, and if my dog could pick it up faster then my dog’s not being difficult. My dog’s doing the best it can in the situation. And the other thing to contemplate from this is how he says, “You must let go of your masks and conflicts and fear and simply be confident and in control.” Anytime you hear someone talk about showing a dog who’s boss, you already know they’re lost, because a real boss doesn’t have to show it. A real boss is simply the leader. Almost everyone’s had a boss at some time or another who tried to show you who was boss, and you know what, they were obnoxious and they were ineffective, and most of the time the employees start trying to work around him or her the minute they leave the room because they’re overbearing, over controlling, micromanaging or negative approach makes them so unpleasant, that you spend all your time waiting for them to leave so that you can just do what you were going to do in the first place. They don’t get your mental participation, they certainly don’t get mutual respect. So anyone who has to show an animal is not in fact the real deal. The real deal is the person who walks in and says, “Hey, I’m in charge because I happen to have opposable thumbs, and that’s it. And I’m not going to beat you up with my being in charge or trying to control you. I’m going to use that responsibility that I have to keep you safe and to show you joy and connection.” That’s what a real leader does. It keeps the one they’re leading safe and in connection, and it makes their life better for that connection. And if you can do that, put a bow on it ‘cause that’s a gift for your dog. Lets hear from another training professional. This is John Lyons from Sinclair Browning from a book ‘Lyons on Horses: John Lyons Proven Conditioned Response Training Program’. John Lyons is amazing. But I’m going to read from page 22, Motivation: “Coupled with the learning process, we should consider motivation. Motivation is the basis for all learning, for all change. Everything starts with motivation. Motivation gives you a reason to change. The reason to change precipitates change, and once change is accomplished you’ve learned. If you’ve never built a house before and I put you up on a Colorado mountaintop and said ‘Build one’, you may shrug and say ‘He’s crazy. I’ve never built a house before in my life’. Now if I take you up to that mountaintop and say, ‘You might want to build a house before the first snowfall because you’re not coming down until Spring, and I’ll bet in spite of you never having built a house before, you’ll be out gathering materials with which to construct shelter’. That’s motivation. The animal too must be motivated to learn.” We’ve all got to be motivated, which is why so many of us who are into training have had really difficult dogs, because they motivated us to learn and to figure things out. One thing to think about is in motivation if your dog lives the life of Riley, gets all the attention he could ever want and possibly more, get all the food he could ever want, and possibly in today’s world more, gets all the exercise and time with you and access to you he could ever want, then what’s motivating him? What’s motivating him? You have control of these things, and you want to think about that when you think about changing your dogs behavior. If you were teaching a child who had a behavior problem something, you wouldn’t give him access to everything in the world. What’s the time honored way of dealing with behavior problems in children? We remove them from society, send them to their room, we limit their access to the things they enjoy to motivate them to work harder, take away TV, ground them from going out with their friends, take away their skateboards, whatever it is. We remove access to the things they enjoy to motivate them to change their behavior. And how many of us in relationships do the same thing? Right, you give your spouse the cold shoulder, you may remove access to something they enjoy to motivate them to change their behavior. This is classic marital human social relationships. And what is one of the ultimate societal punishments? Banishment from all society. You take away access to the people entirely. So think about that with your dog. We often are asking them to change in an environment where we provide no motivation for them to do so really, and I think that’s somewhat why so many people rely heavily on food reward these days, because they don’t want to limit the access to other things. They enjoy giving their dog everything. So then giving them treats to motivate them is great, and I use a lot of food in training, and I love using food in training. The problem with strictly food training is that you train the dog that pay attention to the most rewarding thing in the environment, that’s functionally what you’re teaching the dog. And if the food you have is the most rewarding thing in the environment at the moment, then you’ve got your dog. But if something else is more rewarding to your dog, you will not have your dog, because really good training is based on the connection, the relationship between you and your animal. It’s not based simply on food. Food is a supplement to that. But if food is compensating for weakness or flaws in the relationship, then food won’t get you as far as you hoped it would, you’ll find huge limitations. But if it supplements the relationship then you can use it really wonderfully. So food is not good or bad, it’s just either used appropriately or not used appropriately, and either the relationship you have with your dog is functional or it’s not functional. So you think when you want to change your dogs behavior, “What motivates my dog?”, and I promise you it’s not just a cookie. The biggest thing you’ve got with your dog is your relationship to your dog, your connection with your dog, and you start to realize that and find power in that, and you’re going to find a responsiveness and a connection and an attention from your dog that you’ve never know was even possible, and that will be such a gift to both of you this season, when you find the thrill of having a dog look to you, not because of a cookie, not because of a toy, not because of whatever you’re going to do in a second, but because of who they see you to be, now you’re on it, now you’re getting there, and they will be so thrilled and you will be so thrilled, because that’s why we got our dogs, to feel that mutual connection and respect and joy in each other, and it is there in every dog. The question is are we enough of a person to find it in that dog? That’s the challenge and that’s the fun. And we’re going to go on to the next professional after we hear from our sponsors. So stay tuned.


Sarah Wilson: Here are some words from Dominique Barbier with Mary Daniels ‘Dressage for the New Age. This is from page 35: “I can give you a lot of don’t to be aware of in this process. Don’t involve your ego or get tense in your mind or body or be impatient to do too well too soon. Don’t allow yourself to worry or ask too much. Don’t force the animal or bore him with a lot of unnecessary stuff. Don’t kill the freshness and desire to please in your animal. Don’t lose your own sense of humor or make what your doing look like work. Don’t take yourself too seriously.” This quote makes me think of Pat Perelli’s line, “Your animal is recreation for you, are you recreation for your animal?” That’s not a casual line or thought. Both these men are asking some very profound questions. Don’t make it look like you’re doing work. Why? Because when we do work we get serious, we get quiet, we get concerned often that we’re not going to do it well, and our animal picks up that tension. Someone will tell me, “My dog growls at guests”, and I say, “What do you do?”, and they say, “Well I correct him and I tell him no”, and I say, “Okay, so now we’ve convinced your dog that you’re aggressive around guests too.” Because when we tell our dogs ‘no’ and ‘bad’ and ‘stop’ we’re assuming that they have other options. Often they don’t, so instead of getting into that headset, ask yourself, “What else can I give my animal to do? What can I tell my dog to do instead of this?” We get so intense around growling ‘cause we’re worried that this is going to lead to a bite and in fact it could, but it could also be a questioning growl, it could be a confused growl, there are all kinds of sorts of growls, and if you’re not sure what it is, don’t ignore it, don’t dismiss it, but don’t convince your dog that you’re aggressive too. Step up. Step up, give him something else to do. Don’t let them repeat that bad behavior. So if you know he growls when guests come over, put him away when guests come over, and when guests get calmed down and settled and they’re in, then bring your dog out on lead with treats, use a head halter, whatever you need to do, and stay the distance away you need to stay to be successful. Don’t walk your dog straight up to a guest and try to make him like the guest. That’s a good way to get your dog growling again. Stay at a distance, work him up, but the point is think about solutions, don’t think about the problem. And think about, “Am I helping? Am I modeling tension or relaxation? Joy or doubt? Concern or confidence? These are the things you need to think about ‘cause your dogs only reference point in situations is you. Really mull on that; your dogs only reference point in many situations is you. Case in point: for the last couple of weeks we have had our house being resided, which is absurd because it’s December, but that’s how it worked out and these poor guys are out there working in the cold, but I have men all over my house hammering, ripping things down, walking back and forth by the windows. Our dogs haven’t barked once, and that even surprises me. But because I’m not concerned that anyone’s there, they’re not concerned. But if one of them comes up and knocks on the door everyone’s up and barking because that’s the normal queue to bark. If I was anxious, if I got tense, I’m sure that I would have my dogs picking up on my anxiety too. Now I don’t expect this to work all the time, but I know that my best chance of having it work is for me to model the behavior I want from my dog. Act the way you want your dog to act. That is such a simple sentence and it is so hard to achieve. When in doubt be joyful. And that’s why I do a lot of laughing during training. Now when I’m doing laughing during training, that is both to model a relaxed behavior to my clients, and to tell my dog, “This isn’t a bid deal, don’t worry about it.” Now I am not laughing, making eye contact, chucking them under the chin, throwing them a cookie when they make a mistake, but this is not crises, this is not a felony. Your dog makes a mistake think to yourself, “Is this an honest error?” I remember watching a videotape of some trainers and it shows the trainer working a dog on eye contact, and he’s pointing to his eye and he’s going, “Watch me, watch me”, which I personally don’t do but okay, a lot of people do that, “Watch me, watch me”, and he’s walking back and forth in front of this dog, “Watch me”, and anytime the dog’s eyes look away he gives a little collar correction and “Watch me, watch me”, okay, so he finishes that and he decides to do ‘sit, stay’. So he says, “Sit, stay”, and he starts to walk around the dog and the dog’s trying to keep eye contact ‘cause that’s what they’ve just been doing for the last you know five minutes, and he got corrected for not keeping eye contact, and then the guy walks around, and what does the dog do? He sort of scoots around to keep eye contact. What’d the dog get then? He gets corrected. Oy, roll it back. That is not fair. That is not fair. And of course your dog is going to get confused by that. Now is it fair to ask your dog to hold a ‘sit, stay’? Of course it is. But you want to introduce it in a way that makes sense and you don’t want to do it right after you’ve been practicing “Look at me, look at me, look at me”, and now when you look at me “No, bad dog” and you yank on him. Stay ends up being one of those behaviors that a lot of dogs hate and this is one of the reasons they hate it. I also was watching a class years ago and this woman was working with her English Springer doing a step-off with her when she stepped forward on heel and she did it with collar corrections. So she would step forward, pop, step forward, pop, step forward, pop, she did that for five minutes or so, was no fun to watch, but I go to these classes anyway and watch just for my own reminder to see what’s going on, and then she worked ‘sit, stay’, and she does “Sit, stay”, and she steps away and she’s not careful with her leash and she puts slight pressure on the leash, which causes the dog to what? Shoot forward ‘cause that’s what she has been practicing for the last five minutes. Now when the dog shoots forward, what does he get? He gets yanked back to sit and yanked back into position. Now these people aren’t mean people. They’re doing what they’ve been taught to do. And also they’ve been taught to think that any mistake that happens is the dog’s mistake. And I am here to tell you that most of the time when mistakes happen in training it has its root in you. So before you get angry or frustrated or get auto arm going on your dog, I want you to really look at everything you’ve been doing and to make sure you have not confused this dog or been unfair with this dog ‘cause this is how dogs start to hate obedience. They hate it because it’s no fun. Not because obedience can’t be fun, it can be, but because we humans start to treat it like work and then we’re not aware all the time of what we’re doing and we blame them and they pay the price and that is no fun. So I want you to play training like a game and have a game attitude with it. I often go into houses where the dog won’t ‘sit, stay’ or won’t ‘down’, won’t do any of that, but it has a great trick, and I say, “Show me your trick”, and the dog will roll over, the dog will give a paw and the dog is joyful and the people are so proud and they laugh and they clap and they say, “See”, and I’m like “Right, now I want you to train everything else like that”, and why does the dog do it? Because the person doesn’t think a trick is important so they don’t get tense. They just cheer the dog on, the dog makes a little effort, they laugh, they think it’s great, they have him do it again, and this is proof positive by the way that laughing in and of itself does not destroy training. Sometimes there are times when I’m really careful not to laugh ‘cause I don’t want to confuse the dog, but if you watch people teach dogs tricks, dogs love to do them, and usually that training is full of laughter, and the dog does not mistake that. They still learn to shake or speak or roll over, and they do it with such joy, often with their mouths open and their tails wagging and they’re like, “I know this is going to be great, she loves this”, and you’re like, “Yay, this is a great dog, woo hoo”, and your dog nails it. So if your dog does tricks better than he does obedience, do more tricks and just call ‘sit’ a trick, call ‘down, stay’ a trick because the problem with that is not the dog, the problem in that is the attitude of the teacher. So get joyful. It’s the holiday season, joy to the world, joy to your dog too. Lets hear from our next training professional. This reading is from Jane Savoie “It’s Not Just About The Ribbons: It’s About Enriching Riding In Life With Innovative Tools and Winning Strategies”. This is a great book. If you want to compete with your dog you should read this book. Anyway I’m going to read from page 24, The As If Principle: “In that winning feeling I explained that by acting as if you possess a certain emotion eventually you’ll feel that way for real. Part of the reason that acting ‘as if’ is just as effective as actually feeling a positive emotion is that as far as your physiology is concerned, the chemistry of faked emotion is identical to the chemistry of real emotion. In fact, if you are hooked up to machines that measure biological function such as brain wave activity and heart rate, you’ll see that the readings on these machines are the same when you are pretending to feel an emotion as they are when you are actually feeling the emotion. So if you want to be confident, act as if you are confident. It doesn’t matter whether you actually feel this way or not. Pretend that you’re self assured and brimming with confidence and eventually you will be. If you struggle with assuming a positive emotion do some roll play. Act as if you are a person you really admire. Since you’re no longer you, you can go beyond yourself and pose limits. If you think you don’t know how to mimic the physiology of confidence, think of a trainer who is the epitome of confidence and act like her or him as the case may be.” So many of us are faced with dogs or situations with dogs that make us feel uncomfortable, incompetent, out of control, and you better believe your dog knows those things.

So when you start walking into those situations, I want you to start to behave as if you had control and confidence. I want you to behave as if you enjoy your dog in these situations, that you stay connected to your dog, that you are whatever defines a wonderful, happy, successful team to you. Often we become frustrated because seemingly our dogs are not capable of learning certain things in certain situations, and that frustration leads us to be angry or lead us to give up or leads us not to try. But if you don’t try and if you give up and if you don’t practice, guess what, you won’t be successful. So ‘as if’ is a gift that you can give yourself, and in giving it to yourself, you give it to your dog too, because your dog will start seeing you as someone who is confident and in control and reliable and trustworthy and someone they can count on, and when they can count on you to be that confident, consistent, reliable leader, they will start looking to you, and when they start looking to you for direction and you are there for them, you’re going to see wonderful things happen. Trust me on this one. You’re going to see wonderful things happen. And when you do enjoy it because by behaving ‘as if’ you have gifted yourself and in gifting yourself you have gifted your dog, and that comes back to you again. And that’s the best part of working with the dogs, is that when we make effort on their behalf and they respond, that response is a gift to us and makes us happy; therefore it’s a wonderful holiday exercise for everyone.

And now we’re going to rap up this tour through different trainers by hearing again from Dominique Barbier on page 36 of his book: “Ask for a lot, expect only a little and reward often. Be patient and explain over and over again if needs be. When a problem arises, stop and start again. New animal, new trainer.” “New animal, new trainer”, what a wonderful phrase. And by that I think what he means is don’t bring your frustration or disappointment or confusion from five minutes ago into your situation now. One of the things I tell my clients all the time is you have to train the dog you have right now, not the one you had last week, not the one you had yesterday and not the one you had two seconds ago. And what do you mean by that? You mean you could be walking along on a loose lead having a wonderful walk and then a squirrel shoots out and your dog yanks and you get yanked and you get frustrated and a bad situation happens. You get yourself together, now go forward. New dog, new handler. The new dog is the one who is stimulated and might rush off. The new handler can’t be quite as relaxed as they were a second ago. Needs to be really attentive, needs to be actively directing the dog. By staying in the moment with your dog, not having expectations for the future, not having baggage from the past, but staying in the moment which is really hard, it’s challenging, but when you’re there you’ll feel yourself in the zone and you will dance with your dog and they will dance with you ‘cause they’ll look up and go, “Oh look, they’re right there with me. They’re right there with me.” That’s a wonderful mutually fulfilling feeling, and when you start getting that feeling during teaching and training, your dog will beg you train and you’ll think, “Ooh, you know I can get this done, I can probably get five or ten minutes of training in”, because it’s such a joy to do. It’s such an addition to your life.

You’ll find that experience of making an immediate difference and having that joy come back to you in a way that can be so hard to find in other areas. So I hope that this journey through some minds of horse trainers gave you food for thought, something to ponder over the holiday season. There will be not just a gift to you and not just a gift to the dog, but also a gift to other people in your life and to your way of being in the world. I hope you enjoyed this holiday edition of Teacher’s Pet. I’m Sarah Wilson and we’re on Pet Life Radio. Now, go out, have a good time with your dog, and remember any dog can be a Teacher’s Pet. Happy holidays.


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