How I got into dog training
I was reminded the other day how and why I got into dog training when I recieved a postcard from my vet, Max is ready for his yearly visit. Max is a 10 year old male GSD who is my 1st "official" dog, the first 2 years of his life are quite similar and even much worse than most of my clients with there dogs.
Max had the same problems that I address every day, he pulled on the leash, jumped on people and counters, was not housebroken, broke all of his commands after holding them for just a minute or 2.
What is even worse was his "aggression", he would lunge and bite everyone in his site, even run across the beach, the woods, my property to bark, lunge and even bite people. I could not have people over the house, could not bring him to work I would always have to put him away when someone came to my house.
So I went to 6 different trainers in RI/MA and they all told me to KILL my dog, since he cannot be fixed. Up until they made that statement I learned how to use a clicker, head halter, tons of treats, and even yummier treats, I was told that when someone came to the house that I should have them throw him treats when he barks and growls, this way he will associate the person with something good.
This suggestion is given by hundreds if not thousands of Pure Postive trainers every single day and is one of the most harmful things you can do to a dog in an agitated state, reinforce the dogs aggressive state of mind with food. WOW, that is how attack dogs are trained and should not be used for family dogs.
I was constantly told to AVOID things that my dog did not do well with.
I was told to always ignore the bad behavior and praise and treat the good behavior.
I actually was never told how to walk my dog on a leash properly after all of those classes he still could not walk on a leash. This is probably the most upsetting since this is the foundation of what we do with my clients dogs, this is the first thing that all dogs learn in my program is the structured walk.
Everything was geared around making the dog Sit and reward when it did something it was not supposed to do. I worked hours and hours a week working on what I was told, I had regular treats and yummy treats and extra yummy treats. I made no progress.
Then I heard about a very famous dog trainer that has a facility in NH this person has written many books and speaks around the world on her dog training which is all postive w/clickers and food. I was going out of the country at the time so decided a 2 week board and train was a good option.
I got a call after 5 days(while I was in Europe), to tell me that they had not been able to get Max out of his kennel yet since he growled at everyone that went up to his kennel. I was in shock, how could it be that someone that says they are a dog trainer and can handle any issues cannot even get my dog out of a kennel. They wanted me to come and pick him up, looking back compared to most dogs that I work with at my Board and Train facility Max would be considered the easiest one to work with and for some reason, myself and my staff have never had a problem getting a lunging, barking and growling dog out of a kennel before.
That was the last straw, I tried week after week at the cost to over $6000.00 on my dog and hundreds if not thousands of hours of training week after week.
Then I found someone in Boston who works with dogs and does not use food, I remember when he told me "Jeff, its okay to tell your dog NO", it is okay to correct your dog, to let your dog that what he has done is wrong. I signed up for his classes, and would drive the 60 minutes 3 times a week to them to absorb everything he had to teach, I noticed an incredible change in Max. He not only stopped behaving badly but his commands were rock solid.
For so long I was told that if I said NO to my dog that he would be afraid of me, not trust me and that would ruin our relationship.I was told that if you don't use food that you are just punishing your dog, instilling fear into your dog and your dog will get worse. Well the same people also told me to kill my dog does that not also ruin the relationship?
After a few months when I was out and about with Max someone approached me and asked if I would train there dog, I immediately said yes and the course of my life has changed.
Since that day I have built my business to the point of going to 30 homes a week to work with families, having an award winning Board and Train facility where dogs come to me to be better balanced and trained. I have started a non-profit whose mission is NO DOG WILL BE KILLED FOR ANY BEHAVIORAL PROBLEM EVER, called Jeff's Pack Animal Rescue Foundation where we practice my 4 R approach to saving dogs lives, Rescue, Rehab, Rehome or Retire.
I am currently looking for land to build my dog sanctuary so I can take my mission to a larger audience and we can rethink how animal sheltering is, dogs will be worked every day, they will live in packs with strong pack leaders (staff), all of the dogs mental and physical needs will always be met before our emotional needs are met which is the secret to the success of the dogs.
I have come to realize after training and rehabbing thousands of dogs is that dogs need a balanced training program. They need boundaries and consequences for bad behavior. Dogs look to us for leadership and if we only reward them for good behavior and if we ignore them for bad behavior or even worse if we avoid or remove them from the situation the dog will never learn.