Am I the only one to wonder why owners and trainers appear to be obsessed with getting dogs to sit? Surely there are other, more useful skills they can learn!
I have adopted two lurchers and teaching them to sit has been a challenging and frustrating experience. It took me over six months to teach my first one, and eight months in I am still working on my new boy. He will now sit - but only by luring from a down!
But, luckily I am not obsessed with getting him to sit. He will do it eventually and progress is being made. He is a sensitive boy who worries about getting it wrong and so is more inclined not to try at all if I use conventional methods.
So, having established my credentials - as, "not a dog trainer", how can I offer training with a difference to my clients?
Let's go back to when I first started working with dogs and taking them to basic obedience and puppy classes. Here, I learnt that the 'sit' was an essential skill for dogs! Over the years I have taken my dogs to group classes as a way of providing them with social skills and enrichment. It was also a useful way for me to learn ways to teach my dogs new skills. I love to learn, and so I have decided that my dogs love it too!
But as a therapist, working with many traumatised dogs and dogs in pain I have become an expert in reading a dogs emotional state.
I have learnt to work with a dog and within their acceptable limits rather than on a dog.
I have found this approach to be; safer for all concerned, more ethical, more rewarding and ultimately more productive.
In recent years I have attended many dog training groups and have become increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable with what I was seeing:
I have seen dogs and young puppies forced to sit without any consideration as to why the dog may not want to
I have seen exhausted dogs (because training is tiring) being traumatised because trainers and owners are failing to see the dogs mental and physical exhaustion and continue to push for obedience
I have seen owners expect their dog to 'work' for the full 45-60 minutes of a class and get frustrated when their dogs (often puppies or very young adults) are simply unable to 'obey' and learn for this length of time
I have seen 'trainers' telling owners that the 'disobedient' and exhausted dog is just trying to push boundaries
I have been to many 'fun' training sessions that were fun for neither the owner nor the dog
I have seen trainers doing all the above whilst advertising that they are 'force free' and that they use 'positive' training techniques when clearly this is not always the case.
You won't get any of this in my classes. Your dog is my number one concern, but my number two priority is helping you to better understand what your dog is telling you so that you can respond appropriately.
So what is so different about my training?
My classes are aimed at teaching you the skills you need to work with (and not on) your dog. Learning should be fun and empowering for everyone, including the dogs.
In my classes I promise that:
I will help you teach your dog to move in different ways
I aim to boost you and your dog's confidence
I will explain fully why we do each exercise
I will correct and tweak your dogs form and explain what good form look like
I will explain why form is so important
I will be giving your dog lots of breaks - whilst I am explaining things to you
Completing one of my courses (including the homework set) will literally and measurably change your dogs physique. They will be stronger, more balanced, faster, more confident and hopefully happier.
In addition you will understand them better, be able to read their body language more reliably and be able to identify a possible injury sooner.
The programmes I teach are not complicated, but your dog will need to be able to focus and be under control on a lead when we are asking them to work.
You will not need expensive or bulky equipment. For instance, for one of the exercises you dog merely needs to be able to sit and stand!
So, I have just said it - there is a benefit to teaching your dog to sit!
So, at last, all that training you have done to teach your dog to sit will come in handy! But don't worry if they can't sit yet because we can work with a dog that understands a down command instead - which is lucky for my new boy!
Getting back to the obsession with teaching your dog to sit. Whilst I don't really understand why everyone appears to be so obsessed by it - there are some really good things that can come out of it! From my perspective and the point of my training programmes the benefits of teaching a sit AND a stand include:
strengthening the back legs
engaging the abdominals
getting the back end doing something different to the front end (you will be surprised how little this happens in your dogs normal day)
allowing you to assess your dogs physical condition and monitor changes over time
So just to be open and honest with you! I am not a dog trainer. I am a human trainer and by teaching you the exercises I am handing the dogs training back to you! I will provide advice, suggestions and support but it is you who will be training and working with your dog both in class and when completing your homework.
I cannot wait to welcome you to my way of dog training - improving fitness, building resilience and enhancing your relationships. PLUS visible, measurable changes in your dogs physique too!