A Dog Trainers Tail
by Jamie Muir
People (especially clients), often ask me what got me into dog training in the first place. Well, the honest answer is it was kind of by accident. I’ve always loved animals, particularly dogs, and I’ve owned (or I prefer to say: shared my life with), quite a few. My first few, I had from pups, and I was able to shape them from day one. I of course made the odd mistake, but had pretty problem free pooches, and the younger dogs learnt a lot by example from the older ones.
When I started rescuing dogs however, it was a different story. When you take on a “second hand” dog you almost inevitably take on some issues, and unless some rehabilitation takes place, you may both end up with a difficult life, and in some cases the dog ends up back in the kennels.
Anyway, when I came up against reactivity in my dogs I was a little out of my depth. I had split up the odd dog fight or two over the years (and still bear the scars!), but never had to deal with a dog that was habitually aggressive. I tried the usual shouting/jerking the lead, techniques I learnt from books and TV dog trainers. I was never really comfortable with this, it sometimes temporarily stopped the dog barking or lunging, but I felt it was only because the dog was more afraid of me than the other dog. It therefore didn’t really fix the problem – the dog was still uncomfortable around other dogs, it just masked the issue.
By this time I had been getting a bit of a reputation locally of “having a way with dogs”, as people had always seen me with my original well trained dogs, and noticed my apparent progress with the new ones. Folks started asking me to help with their dogs – thus began my journey into becoming a dog trainer.
Increasingly dissatisfied with some of the results of my Traditional Training methods, I started researching and discovered Modern Dog Training techniques, which aim to minimize punishment by using Positive Reinforcement – motivating the dog to do what you want by using what “makes the dog tick”. This led me into a book reading frenzy (when I get into something I REALLY get into it!), and this lead me into attending courses with some of the best trainers in the world. The more you learn, the more you learn how much more there is to learn, and I continue to train and study with the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, and the Canine Behaviour Centre, for example, where I have completed courses such as Canine Aggression, Body Language, Puppy Training, Advanced Training and Behaviour, Nutrition…..
Since I started using these methods, I have successfully helped many people with their dogs, and solved a lot of problems with my own – all without the use of force, which keeps training fun, and really helps you to have a great friendship with your dog! I am looking forward to a lifetime of learning, and helping out people and their four legged friends achieve harmonious relationships.