You'll probably hear me say "I'm not a dog trainer, I'm a dog teacher" and "I'm a Family Dog Mediator®" but nobody is going to Google "dog teacher" and since not too many people know what an FDM® is, my title remains (for now) Dog Trainer. However, what I really try to achieve is a balance between what makes sense for the dog to learn, versus what most people believe is appropriate to train a dog to do. For example, some people like for their dogs to sit at curbs and believe that this shows that their dog is "well trained", "obedient" or "listens to commands". Whilst this might be a neat trick....what benefit does this serve the dog? It might be too cold or too hot on the dog's bottom. It stops them from exploring. It may hurt them if they have joint issues. Whilst I understand that some people believe that making a dog sit at every curbside will keep the dog from running across a street or proves they've trained their dog to listen....what does it really mean from the dog's point of view? The dog certainly won't stop from running across the street at a curb should it get loose from it's house. Can you imagine? That would be a sight to see! But that's not real life so what I teach at MGF is what your dog needs to learn to feel safe, confident, enriched, and happy! I don't teach obedience. I teach humans to understand WHY a behaviour may be happening and I teach the dog HOW to fulfill their basic fundamental needs in our human world. Just like we are born knowing nothing, our dogs are the same and we need to teach them the basics by giving them a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning and growing together!
Let's be honest....we all love our dogs. They make us smile, they make us laugh, they're great to snuggle with, they prompt us to get out for some fresh air, even if we don't feel like it, they love us unconditionally... there are just so many reasons why we love our dogs. What we sometimes wish, though, is that they would "behave" like we want them to. Or we label them as "aggressive" or "reactive". We want them to listen to us, do as we say (some say "command", I prefer "ask / invite / cue"), respect and trust us. We may have a problem or problems with what they do. What we need to understand is that what is a problem for us, isn't a problem for our dog(s).
The most common complaints that I hear from caregivers are: their dog pulls on the leash, barks a lot, doesn't listen, jumps on people, isn't people / dog friendly and doesn't come when called. The key to knowing HOW to change the behaviour is by figuring out the WHY it's happening in the first place. As a Family Dog Mediator®, I focus on the L.E.G.S® of not only the dog in front of me but of their caregivers as well. By looking at all parts of the Learning, Environment, Genetics and Self of everyone involved, we discover the WHY so we know HOW to help. Education and common understanding is the key to helping everyone involved.
There are some common misconceptions when it comes to "aggression". First, there is no aggressive dog, there is aggressive behaviour. But what really IS behaviour? One definition is " the way in which an animal or person acts in response to a particular situation or stimulus" and another is "the actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, in conjunction with themselves or their environment". I like both of these two but mostly the phrases "acts in response" and "actions and mannerisms....in conjunction with themselves or their environment". This is important because when we talk about behaviour modification, we HAVE to look at it from the dog's point of view first and foremost!
The second thing is that "aggression" doesn't just mean that a dog bites / has bitten anyone. Using the above definitions, a dog can display aggressive behaviour around their food, their bed, their caregiver, etc. The dog might use all kinds of body language to tell us that they're not comfortable, in pain, want us to move away, etc. We have to look at everything from their perspective, think about WHY they're displaying this behaviour and "listen" to what they're telling us through their body language.