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  • Lexi Preisser, Ph.D in Ethology

Training vs rewiring

I have always had an issue with dog "trainers'. These people are usually robotic in their methods and have little to no idea of how a dog's brain works. Trainers say that people like me, canine behaviorists, never actually touch a dog, which is untrue. We spend years, not only interacting with canids, but do a great deal of research as well, not only with dogs, but other canines. Plus we are more in tune with canines, we are not just "dog lovers" we have spent our entire lives observing dogs. Which is why I studied Zoology, Animal Behaviour and Ethology specializing in canines/equines. I understand the way canines think, why they react how they do, how to rewire them to react differently but each dog is unique and there is no recipe to "train" all dogs . Each is a unique individual and while some techniques may be the same, the behaviourist studies the whole family and usually knows why the dog is acting the way he does and devises special techniques for that dog. Those trainers who leave brochures at groomers, veterinarians, etc. have little to no education and can be dangerous to your dog. Some are very abusive so your dog may come back in worse psychological state than before.


My puppies stay with their mother till they are 12 weeks because they need her guidance and training which is why all my puppies, when they go to their new homes, become acclimated very quickly and none of my pet parents have had complaints. I also talk to my dogs/puppies. They learn commands from repetition and hand signals and my puppies learn from imitating their mother. I don't use treats, toys, but I do use praise and am always calm and peaceful because dogs feel what you feel. Look at your friends' dogs. I am sure you will realize that if your friend is neurotic, her dog is too. If one is fearful, so is his dog. So how are you with your dog? How do you treat your dog? Like a child or a dog. Correct answer is DOG.


I love my dogs and I spoil them but I am very disciplined and my dogs are very well behaved in spite of never having been officially "trained". Getting a puppy from a good, reputable breeder who has the dogs in her house, and plays and takes time to teach them manners and respect is easier , in spite of having to puppy proof your house, to deal with than one from a puppy miller, i.e., all pet stores, no matter how expensive. These dogs come from inbred parents in horrific conditions. Getting a dog from a rescue is sometimes better than a shelter, because rescues use fosters and you can speak to the foster parent to find out the idiosyncrasies of the dog. However, many fosters are paid to foster so they are not really knowledgeable or don't much care. Not putting you off getting a rescue pup, I truly believe there are no bad dogs, just bad handlers. If the dog seems happy, stable, respectful, you will probably have a long and wonderful life together. If you have issues, you can always email me and I will be happy to help.


There are things you normally shouldn't do if your dog is a rescue because you have no idea what he/she has been through. Being dumped, tossed aside affects dogs deeply creating insecurity, fear, etc. Aggressive behaviour is not aggression: it is fear. Human bullies are cowards, they are living in fear and therefore abuse smaller, weaker beings. Not saying not to adopt shelter dogs, I have several, but you need to learn several key points, especially if it is a bigger dog , only because, physically, you need to be able to handle the dog in certain situations. The following advice is for all types of dogs. Small dogs, like mine, can also become difficult but if they do, you need to look at what you are doing.


When you leave/arrive home, it is better to walk in and ignore the dog until he/she is CALM. Then praise and pet. This goes for any unwanted behavior: You ignore bad behavior unless it is very bad behaviour and you can say in a loud, military type voice "NO" to the unwanted behaviour, and praise wanted behaviour. When walking your dog, if you are fearful, so is the dog. Your emotions go right down that lead. Try the following: Walk your dog and stay focused on your walk. Your dog will be the same way. Now start looking all over and weaving slightly, your dog will do the same. He feels you have lost your position of command. Dogs are extremely sensitive and they are emotional beings , just like us but they can overcome whatever baggage they may have been carrying and you can help and be successful in helping your dog without a "trainer" who basically teaches the dog nothing worthwhile.


Ensure socializing your puppy and adult dog with dogs that are stable and secure. Dogs are SOCIAL beings. They should NEVER be relegated to a dog house in the yard. Why have a dog? Get a cat if you don't want to be with your dog.


Like humans, dogs need their space in the sense of being able to chill out and relax but also, like humans, when someone gets too close to us, we take a step back. Dogs tend to do the same ;you need to respect their space and vice versa. Do this test, put your hand in front of your dogs muzzle. If he moves his head away, he doesn't want to be petted. If he does nothing, pet away, tummy tickle the whole bonanza. My dogs sit in front of me and just wait. If I want to be with them I pick them up and cuddle them, otherwise I say "another time, baby" and they walk off. Respect and remember to talk to your dog, they do understand much more than you think.


If you ever take your dog to a safe doggy park, that is a very good time to watch him/her interact and you will see if your baby is a bully, shy, fearful (aggressive) or plain happy.


This is just a snippet of behaviourism but I hope you will do more research or you can email me with observations, questions or concerns. I get a lot of post so bear with me. For now, love your dogs because nobody loves you as much as they do.


Namaste

lexi@starlightbolognese.com






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