The How to Tell When Someone Claims to, but Doesn’t Actually Understand Dog Training Starter Kit:

✔️Won’t use “corrective” tools in dog training, but yells at their dog constantly for not listening.

✔️Allows their dog to pull on a “gentle” leader with the strap almost in the dogs eyeballs, but touts that prong collars are inhumane.

✔️Gives unsolicited advice on the internet and says things like: “Try humane ‘science based’ dog training instead,” implying that only positive reinforcement is science-based.

This is the age we live in. We live in a sea of experts simply because people have a keyboard and Google. Believers in positive reinforcement (+R) only training, from my experience are some of the most critical, confrontational folks out there. I’m not writing this to draw a line in the sand. I actually think that the more people talk about +R versus balanced, the more of a divide it creates in all of us. But because I see so much of this nonsense, I need to speak up. Aren’t we all in this for the same reason, to help dogs and live a happier life with them? But here’s the thing. It’s all bullshit. It’s a fear mongering façade that certain personality types like to force onto others. I’m here to give some much needed clarification on this topic.

All of science works: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment. It’s ALL science and it ALL works to increase or decrease the likelihood of a behavior happening again. The next time you hear someone refer to +R as the only part of the four quadrants that is “science-based” laugh, and then ignore everything else they have to say.

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Oh and here’s the kicker. There’s no such thing as positive-only training. In order to achieve that your dog would have to live completely off leash, free range. The second you have a leash on a dog you’re using negative reinforcement. If you tell your dog “no”, or use your leg to quickly block them from bolting out of a doorway, you’re using positive punishment. Dogs are ALWAYS being trained by the cause and effect patterns that take place within our homes day to day, whether we realize it or not. Let’s stop the madness and not have such harsh opinions or choose sides on topics we don’t thoroughly understand. 

Aren’t we all in this for the love of dogs anyway? And if we respect dogs for who they are in their most pure form, WE WON’T BE AGAINST THEIR INNATE WAYS OF LEARNING; as Mother Nature isn’t exactly keen on positive reinforcement only.

E collar training has tremendously helped strengthen my bond with Kiana...

Kiana and I had spent 30 weeks in dog training classes, hoping that with time we could work on her leash aggression, nervousness, and protectiveness around stranger dogs and humans. It got to a point where I dreaded going on walks around the park or on hikes with her because her reactivity was out of control and it wasn’t getting any better. After doing extensive research online I stumbled upon Flash Dog Training and read some of the reviews of other dog parents who had the same issues I was having. I finally reached out to Kerry and Bre at Flash Dog Training to see if they could help us and committed to a 4 week Board and Train.

Not going to lie, at first I was slightly skeptical, but also desperate. I had tried for 8 months to work on her reactivity and nothing had worked, so what could they really do in 4 weeks? Turns out 4 weeks at Flash Dog Training made a WORLD of a difference. 

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E-collar training has tremendously helped strengthen my bond with Kiana. She now trusts me to be in control and have her back, so she doesn’t feel the need to take control of the situation herself. It’s been an incredible tool that has enabled me to communicate with Kiana in a way that that she understands. We have been able to have an absolute blast off AND on leash on trails and around parks and ensure that we and everyone around us is safe. I can’t thank Kerry and Bre at Flash Dog Training enough for helping us through this and I will be forever grateful!

Zahra gained so much freedom through her e-collar training, and I gained a sense of safety and control over my dog...

Zahra and I were referred to Kerry from another trainer in town who told us she was THE expert in e-collar training. At the time, while I was head over heels in love with my adorable new border collie puppy, I was also losing my mind trying to manage her incessant energy on my own. While I consider myself a pretty active person, Zahra came in to the world like a lightning bolt of nonstop energy and engagement. She was whip-smart and ready to learn/play/work ALL DAY LONG - and then some. I knew that I needed to find a way to combine Zahra's exercise with mine if I was going to continue managing my busy work schedule and her needs, so I wanted to take us both on long hikes every week. Fortunately we live in gorgeous Colorado, so the mountains are literally our playground!

Last year I enrolled Zahra in Kerry's 3-week e-collar board and train program while I was traveling over the holidays, and I honestly am not sure I've ever spent better money. Zahra gained SO much freedom through her e-collar training, and I gained a sense of safety and control over my dog. Today, when she sees me pull our her e-collar, she starts leaping with excitement because she knows it means that we're going outside on some kind of adventure, and usually one that involves her getting to run at top speed to her little heart's content. Watching Zahra run and leap in the mountains is one of the most beautiful things I've seen. She's like a blur of white fur - practically flying and barely touching the ground! 

I Iive in a VERY busy part of Denver, but with her e-collar on I can also let her off-leash in the middle of a nearby city park, and have full confidence that she is safe to play Frisbee with me without EVER running towards cars or other dogs. She just gets it. It's amazing. I can’t even feel her recall level on the e-collar! We do this a few times a week when things are busy and we can't make it to the mountains. 

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Kerry also installed a much-needed 'off' switch in Zahra - and my favorite of all commands, "Place!" I can't even say enough about how much this changed our lives. Having the ability to tell Z to calmly stay in place while I have guests over, or need to work, is amazing. She also helped Z learn to LOVE going into her kennel, where she can also rest and turn off. Z screamed in her kennel for the first 2 months of her life so again, I can't express how much relief it brought us both for this to stop being such a challenge.

Finally, Kerry helped me learn a ton about feeding Z a raw diet - and we're now forever fans. Several vets were unable to fix Zahra's sensitive tummy issues and 2 AM diarrhea episodes - once we had her on a the raw diet recommended by Kerry, her fur got shinier, she started liking eating, and she hasn't has ANY tummy troubles since!

Kerry will forever be family to me and Zahra and I'm so grateful to call her a friend as well as an incredible resource.

Jen K.

Denver, Colorado

“Insecurities are loud, confidence is quiet.”

This statement is CERTAINLY true with people and it’s absolutely true with dogs. The catch is that dogs, like people, are not one thing or the other. They’re not simply insecure or secure. We are all multi layered. We all have things that make us feel less than and we have things about ourselves that empower us and make us feel confident. Some dogs and people are consumed by their insecurities. It takes over their life and makes them act out. Kiana’s insecurities began to slowly take over her life and her owner’s.

Dogs that struggle with stranger-danger issues or fear-based reactivity in general are typically lacking confidence in some department. With that insecurity comes a “display” of behavior that is an expression of how the dog is feeling about that situation. Dogs do what works and the insecure dog over time becomes empowered by their reactive display because it’s highly effective at making stressors go away. Soon it becomes an auto-pilot reaction for anything that is bothering them. Meanwhile, the confident dog is secure in its own skin and the scenario. It doesn’t feel the need to try to control the situation and has no motivation to vocalize or react in any way, other than just be accepting of the situation that is occurring.

Kiana has come so far during her stay with us. Thanks to the training, new tools and techniques, Kiana understands that her humans will alter the the environment for her to make her feel better; she doesn’t need to do all of that “talking” to make herself feel better. She is gaining confidence knowing that when she subtly communicates she is understood by humans. She doesn’t need to go ham to get her point across. This is something that all pet dogs struggle with. Dogs are constantly trying to tell us how they feel but a good 90% of the time we don’t heed that communication and we actually make things worse for the dog.

Every situation and new experience with your dog is a chance to prove to them that you can make them feel better about the things that make them fearful and insecure. However that does require clear communication and an understanding on both the human and dog’s part. Knowing all of your dogs layers is the best place to start. Knowing what makes them insecure and knowing what brings out there confident side is so important. Working with a professional trainer can really help you clarify these individual characteristics in your dog and how to work with them. We are now confident that Kiana and her mom are going to be able to navigate her moments of insecurity using the training Kiana has received here during her board and train.

Kiana looking bold and confident thanks to the training she has received.

Kiana looking bold and confident thanks to the training she has received.

Taking the Bite Out of Bark Collars

The bark collar is a tool that doesn’t get enough credibility or exposure when dog trainers talk about all the tools in their training belt. Years ago before I knew anything about bark collars, intuitively I thought that if you put a bark collar on a barking dog and they got corrected, it would make them more anxious and frantic. What bark collars do is actually the stark opposite of that.

When dogs bark continuously they adrenalize themselves, essentially working up into a frenzy. That frenzy can lead to very dangerous behaviors, like breaking out of kennels, lighting up at other dogs or even attacking other dogs. Also, the barking leads to pacing, whining, stress panting, dilated pupils, hyperactivity and a general “cracked out” state of mind of full blown stress. If the dog cannot bark, the stress is exponentially reduced. They stay in a healthier state of mind where they are more likely to take food in crate training exercises and actually rest in the kennel. This keeps the environment much safer, as well as calm and peaceful.

Before putting a bark collar on a dog there are a few things you should know. Proper fit and placement are essential. Read the directions. Don’t just slap it on the dog. In a perfect world we like to condition dogs to the E collar first. What this means is we like to familiarize the dog to working with the stimulation in a hands-on training context. However, sometimes dogs come in so out of control that we have to put a bark collar on them day one. This is how we do that: we set the collar to the automatic setting, not a number on the dial. We only use collars that have an automatic setting. What happens is when the dog barks, they will receive the lowest level stimulation correction. If they bark again it will go up one level higher, increasing the level with each bark. This way the dogs can learn the cause and effect of the tool without being flooded by a high level correction off the bat. 

Bark collars are not only essential for maintaining a calm environment so dogs around the barking dog are not stressed, but for safety. I have to emphasize that again. I have had dogs come in, going hysterical barking in a kennel, biting at the door, throwing themselves from side to side, trying to bend the door with their head and/or trying to chew their way out. As soon as they cannot bark, the next time I check on them they’re laying there peacefully, looking like an angel. I’m serious. Worst case scenario the dog will be panting, but more often than not, the majority of dogs will be laying calmly without any signs of stress. This is how relevant bark collars are to stopping that toxic surge of adrenaline in unstable dogs. Typically, after only a few days, we don’t even need the bark collar anymore. Because of all the structure the dog is receiving in training, they quickly morph into a more balanced state.

Like anything else the tool has to be introduced properly and it cannot be abused. It should not be left on for extended periods of time and dogs with different fur and skin issues will have different needs for contact points.

Bark collars are beneficial in many other contexts outside of using them in a board and train program. Do you own a dog that incessantly barks when you leave the house whether it is crated or not? Can you not have your dog outside in the yard for more than 30 seconds without him barking like crazy and disturbing the neighbors? A dog is much more likely to make good choices when they can not spiral down an adrenaline rabbit hole by barking.

Bark collars are not a replacement for training. They are a tool just like all the other tools that we use when working with dogs. But if an owner  doesn’t have time to exercise their dog that day, using a bark collar to keep their dog quiet at times is far more humane in my opinion, than letting a dog bark his head off constantly with pupils the size of quarters.

Again, a bark collar isn’t a permanent solution to your dog’s barking. This tool helps a dog become more stable because of EVERYTHING ELSE we are putting into the dog training-wise. They help keep the dog far away from unhealthy, aroused states of mind. Dogs learn to settle faster and even dogs that are not crate trained will learn to not only accept, but enjoy the peace and comfort of being in a kennel with the help of a bark collar.

Like any other tool in the world, it can be used correctly or incorrectly, humanely or inhumanely. When used properly the bark collar is an incredible tool that can facilitate relaxation even in the most stressed and excitable dogs.

Consult a balanced trainer in your area to help teach you appropriate contexts for using a bark collar to help your dog.

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The Solution For Difficult Dog Nail Trims: The Grooming Sling

This is a step by step tutorial of how to use what is, in my opinion, the most effective tool for helping dogs who are fearful of nail trims. I have tried every technique out there with my dog Mudd, who developed a phobia of foot handling due to a chronic, brown nail. The nail ultimately had to be completely removed. In addition to that he has had to be put under numerous times for ripped nails. His nails grow like weeds. My attempts to trim them over the years led to a build in Mudd's distrust of me when it came to doing anything to his body. This was heartbreaking and I knew that there had to be a solution that he would be comfortable with.

The result you will see in this video took months upon months to create. Mudd was not one of those dogs that you see in some videos where they put the dog in the sling and magically they just hang there and allow the clipping. First of all, he would not even wear the sling. He would only let us put it on him as a jacket. You can see the other video of me conditioning him to wear the sling on our YouTube channel. Even after getting him to be comfortable wearing the sling, once we actually had him hanging, he would still thrash and try to bite. Long story short, this took essentially months of consistency to accomplish this result. Hopefully most of you out there don't have a dog as difficult as Mudd and that using this sling will really be a game changer off the bat, but you also must prepare that it may not be that simple.  

I consider Mudd's case to be the worst of the worst. Therefore, I am so happy to share these little tips and tricks of the trade that have taken us from worst case scenario, to an easy-breezy five minute procedure.

How Dogs Help Me Cope with Hedonic Adaptation

So you have a great job, you’re making decent money, you hang out with friends on a regular basis and things are going well. But sometimes it all just feels like, blah.

On paper you should be happy, but it just isn't that way day to day. You have everything you need and most of what you want, so why don’t you FEEL as happy as you think you should?

You loved your job in the beginning, but now you’re bored and sick of it. You are in love with your partner, but the relationship just doesn’t have the same thrill that it used to its first couple of years. You feel like you should experience euphoric feelings more frequently, but you just don’t. Why?

If you can relate to any of this you are experiencing what is called hedonic adaptation. Essentially hedonic adaptation, or “pleasure adaptation” is the ability to adapt to changes in life, either good or bad. It’s also a theory of a survival mechanism in the brain. If you experienced a traumatic event, like the loss of a loved one or a car crash, hedonic adaptation helps us go back to relatively normal level of contentment, a “set-point.” Every person’s set point or baseline is different, thanks to genetics. It helps balance us after a traumatic event so we can go on living life and function day to day. So what happens when you don’t have a traumatic event happening weekly in your life? Hedonic adaptation is still at work, so things just start to feel boring. What was once exciting is now mundane.

This feeling has plagued me so badly over the years. It bothered me so much I started researching why I felt this way. Once I found out that hedonic adaptation is actually a thing, it really helped me get a grasp on my feelings. Just having the understanding that we are programmed to adapt to our routine and environment really helped.

I consider myself a gypsy and I have enjoyed living in different places over the past 15 years. The biggest motivation behind these moves has been boredom of my environment. I get sick of the state I’m living in and seeing the same place every day. The things that the location has to offer don’t fulfill me anymore. Where I work and where I live by far made me feel like I was on the “hedonic treadmill” so many times throughout my adult life.

Using a treadmill as an analogy helps paint a picture of how HA makes us think. Essentially you can go through life accumulating all the material items/personal goals you want, only to remain stuck at your natural state of happiness. The riches you gain and goals you accomplish will only raise your expectations and leave you no better off. SEE-WANT-OBTAIN-HAPPY-ADAPT-BORED. Does this cycle sound familiar?

Because human beings have the remarkable capacity to grow habituated to most life changes, almost any pleasure can become monotonous overtime. We are prone to take for granted pretty much anything positive that happens to us. Whether it’s a brand new car or reaching a personal fitness goal, that initial boost of happiness fades over time.

So how do we combat these feelings? The number one thing we can do is to acknowledge that adaptation exists. Just understanding that we are biologically programmed to return to a baseline of happiness in order to survive trauma was probably 50% of helping me feel better. Secondly, be grateful. Look at all the things in your life that you have to be grateful for that you take for granted every day. I bet that list is really long; I know it is for me. Lastly, and I would say most importantly, dogs can greatly enhance our happiness. The way dogs’ view life is the antithesis of hedonic adaptation. Dogs see everything through new eyes, everyday. Every morning is like Christmas morning. Every game of fetch is the best game ever. Surrounding myself with dogs and making them not only my career but my lifestyle has helped me snap out of that humdrum, daily-grind feeling so many times. Dogs spark the zeal for adventure and lust for life that I know is always in me, but don’t feel everyday.

Naturally, there are days where I just don’t feel happy at all even though I love where I live and what I do for a living. Now when I feel those emotions, I take a break from what I’m doing and go walk in nature with my dogs, or simply observe them. The pure joy that they experience from something as simple as a stick, recharges me. The more time I spend watching them in their constant state of bliss, helps me put everything into a different perspective. I re-experience the pleasure of smelling the fresh mountain air. I re-experience the joy of just being. I re-experience gratitude for my health and my life.

As if dogs couldn’t do any more for us; they are our greatest role models of how to truly LIVE.  Happiness is infinite from their perspective. It’s always there just waiting to be tapped into; we just have to be mindful to get off the treadmill and enjoy it with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerry Hall is the owner of Flash Dog Training in the Denver, CO area. She is a Certified Canine Specialist and Behavior Consultant who specializes in behavioral issues and off-leash training. 

http://www.flashdogtraining.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stubborn? Not Your Dog

Why are people so quick to call dogs stubborn? Stubborn implies that the dog understands what is wanted by the human and then refuses to comply. As a trainer, I know that dogs are rarely stubborn. They truly don’t understand what is being asked of them because they’ve never been properly taught. If one of my dogs blows off a command, it’s likely because there is a competing motivator in the environment, not because they are being willfully defiant. Just because a dog will sit for a hand lure with a treat, does not mean that they understand sit while riding in the car. When the dog refuses to comply with the sit while riding in the car, he is not being stubborn; he doesn’t understand. He has never truly practiced that behavior in that context with a handler that is going to ensure success by using the correct and precise timing of reinforcement. Why do we presume dogs are just going to “get it?”

Trainers know that it takes hundreds if not thousands of repetitions for certain behaviors before the dog truly understands what the word-cue means. Additionally, the average dog owner can be incredibly inconsistent when it comes to the cues they give the dog and is typically not the best at follow through either. Trainers know not to expect a behavior when a dog is in the learning phase. It will take quite a while before that behavior becomes reliable in different environments and for different handlers. 

You control all of your dog’s resources. You are literally the hand that feeds, so how and when you choose to feed your dog will directly impact how willing your dog is to LEARN a behavior and also perform it reliably around distractions. If you are not using food to your advantage, it's likely your dog has little to no motivation because they’re used to getting everything for free. With intentional feeding, you can create an awesome boost in their motivation and engagement.

Dogs will forever be living in a world they will never understand; a man-made confusing world where they don’t speak the language. Engage your dog with empathy and ask yourself if you have actually taken the time to not only teach the command, but generalize it to different environments for reliability. For example, does your dog understand a release cue? If not, you can’t expect him to hold a down- stay if he doesn’t understand that the command has a beginning and an end. Also, ask yourself if you have the knowledge to really teach the dog by communicating in their language. Remember, dogs are a non-verbal species, so you cannot rely on verbal commands until he has been taught the sound’s meaning and context. If you want more reliability and confidence in your dog’s behaviors, seek help from a professional so you can understand how dogs learn and the importance timing, consistency and motivation in training. Your dog isn’t being stubborn or defiant, he just hasn’t been taught with the proper communication. 

2018: The Year of YOUR Dog

I think most of us know that a typical New Year’s resolution may be dumped in a matter of days or weeks with little thought about it a few months from now. My intention with these few paragraphs is to inspire you to commit to one very specific type of New Year’s resolution; not so much for you, but for your dog. See here is the thing, the dark scary thing that I don’t like to think about, yet I do almost every single day; Our beloved dogs simply do not live that long. We forget this painful truth daily as we are overstimulated with world around us. Here’s why you should think about it. What if you only had 10-15 years to live? Or less?! You would likely choose to only allow certain things to occupy your mind, time, and life. You would savor the little things that go unacknowledged and unappreciated in a world where time was abundant.

There is something that I see on a daily basis that hurts my heart. People are out walking their dogs and they're either texting or talking on their phone. There is no connection whatsoever between dog and handler. I can promise you with every cell in my body, that when your dog’s time is up you will regret not squeezing every single moment of joy out of the time you had together. The hours upon hours we waste on social media and other things may seem fulfilling at the time, but you have the greatest gift right in front of you that can make you laugh, feel accepted or “liked”. Just look at them. Look how resilient and happy they are, for no reason. I get emotional thinking that my dogs are not going to be here forever. But instead of dwelling in sadness, I use it as motivation. The only time I am on my phone when I am out with them (within reason) is to record or photograph their most adorable moments so I can cherish them forever. Of course we need to work from our phones to communicate and your dog doesn't need attention 24/7. But let’s be real; we are mindlessly looking at dumb shit on the internet too frequently. Save that for the toilet and be present when you are with your dog.

Dogs innately know how to relish every moment here on earth much more so than we do. They know how to let an uncomfortable incident go and move on from things that stress them. They are so eager to explore, adventure and learn. They don’t complain and they greet the same day-to-day things with boundless enthusiasm.  Worrying about the future is not something they are even capable of and I envy them for that. They are our greatest teachers, personal comedians and companions. They are our ultimate cuddle buddies and mood enhancers. They improve our quality of life on earth so immensely that it’s impossible for us to picture life without dogs. Make your New Year’s resolution to live your best life with your best friend. Enroll them in that obedience or agility class you’ve always wanted to take. Start running or hiking with them regularly. Teach those tricks. Make your daily walks a bit longer and more adventurous. Call a dog trainer for help with behavior problems you have been struggling with so you can live a more fulfilling life together.

I am endlessly thankful for the simplistic, meaningful moments they share with us on a daily basis. They would take way more of those moments if we were more aware of creating them. We pass up so many of those opportunities because our brains are enticed into focusing on other things. Prioritize. Give your dog more time and be more present in the time you are sharing with them this year and your entire lives. You will both be better for it. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerry Hall is the owner of Flash Dog Training in the Denver, CO area. She is a Certified Canine Specialist and Behavior Consultant who specializes in behavioral issues and off-leash training. 

http://www.flashdogtraining.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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