I will never forget the day that my dog escaped.
It was a beautiful sunny day and we were headed to the park. My husband was driving and my dog was in my lap, enjoying the breeze from the open window. We pulled up to a traffic light at what is normally a busy intersection, and suddenly our dog jumped out the car window.
Yes, you read that right, he jumped out the window and ran across the street.
I froze and braced myself for the worst. My husband yelled “get out, get out, get out!” We were so lucky that no cars had been approaching the intersection when he ran across. Once I got to the side of the road I saw a man was playing fetch with his Golden Retriever at the top of the hill next to the road – ah… the motivation for the window leap. I could not get my dog back to me as he ran around next to the road that was now filling up with more traffic. My husband had pulled over and luckily had some treats in his pocket so he was able to help me lure our dog safely back to us. It was brutal.
We decided it was time to seek out a dog training class to get help with recall for “real life” situations.
Knowing nothing about the finer details of the dog training industry we were referred, by the rescue that we adopted from no less, to a local trainer who advertised “treat-free training for the real world.” This of course sounded right up our alley. If we hadn’t had treats that day, we wouldn’t have been able to get him back to us, so we enrolled. Despite moving between feeling kinda icky to more icky during the training course, I ignored the little voice in my head and kept doing what the trainer told me to do. After all, they took my money in exchange for their service so they must know what they are doing, right?
I ignored the little voice in my head and kept doing what the trainer told me to do.
I bet you’re wondering how it worked out for us? Was it this experience that generated my interest in dog training and the rest was history? Well…. yes and no. In the end, due to the training methods we used to teach our dog to be “obedient” under the instruction of this trainer, we ended up with more issues than when we started. My dog, who was previously confident and relaxed during leash walks, was now reactive. Of course there is the chance that genetics had taken over the wheel, or that a one-off bad experience coincided with his secondary fear period, but the style of training we put him through certainly didn’t help.
It was this experience that led me to dive deeper and seek credible sources to make sense of what had happened.
This exploration led to my interest in animal behaviour and training coming to the forefront. Before I knew it I was a weekly volunteer with the dogs at the Calgary Humane Society, was enrolled in a hands-on rewards-based dog trainer apprenticeship program, and that’s when the rest was history.
Over the years I’ve learned and studied with some of the best in the industry and gained respected credentials. I’m proud to practice reward-based training methods that involve lots of treats, toys, play, and affection to teach skills and build habits that will help dogs and their people enjoy their lives together. So, after 6 years of heavy involvement in this industry and establishing myself as a certified professional dog trainer, I want to take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of my profession.
I apologize to all the well-meaning pet parents who over the decades have done the best they can with the information they were given at the time.
To those who discounted the little voice in their head upon instruction that they had to be forceful with their dog, otherwise they’re not exhibiting good leadership, the dog will never listen, and therefore they shouldn’t have one.
To those who noticed the fear in their dog’s eyes when told they must push the dog over onto his back and hold him there until he stops fighting it, otherwise he won’t understand who's the boss, or his place in the household hierarchy.
To those who, despite feeling extremely uncomfortable, followed the instructions they were given to use a special collar and continuously jerk on their dog’s neck with increasing amounts of force to teach their dog they are not to ever walk in front, otherwise the dog is dominating and they don’t have what it takes to train their dog.
To those who, when no one was around to judge them, let the dog up on the couch to cuddle, shared their pizza crust, and tried not to jerk too hard on the leash.
And to those who were fed tales of vindictive agendas due to misinterpretations of behaviour, confirmation biases, and pervasive militaristic dogma.
I’m sorry. It wasn’t your fault.
I apologize that my profession is not regulated and you were sold a lie.
You didn’t know better.
But when we know better, we do better. And now you know. It’s my mission to be a credible resource providing a safe space where sound education, compassionate coaching, and steadfast support (with lots of fun) will always be found to help raise Fido well. Thank you for trusting me to be your guide.