Welcome to my new Pet Expertise dog training blog. My name is Shane Windatt, and I'm a dog trainer"¦
That sounds a bit "AA"ish, which may be appropriate, as I do intend to confess all my dog-training mistakes to you, the readers. (I write "readers" hopefully. I wish to attract more than one!) But unlike a 12-step program, you won't have to keep my stories to yourself.
I have a lot of stories. Every dog has its own tale and I've had many, many dogs. Besides my own, I've fostered hundreds of canines for the BCSPCA, and I board and train dogs for a living. Each animal has contributed to my education.
I don't mind admitting that, when I first became a dog owner, I struggled with training and behavior problems. There were no positive dog training websites like Pet Expertise at the time, and I received little help from others and notable bum steers from the dog training manual I'd purchased. Thanks, Monks of New Skete. "How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend", indeed. What I was doing wasn't working, and because I wasn't sure where to turn, I just stopped doing any intentional training. That the behavior problems I'd been working on got better after I stopped is an indication of just how far wrong I had been going.
It was years later that the light went on for me. The public radio station was hosting a call-in show featuring a professional dog trainer and as I listened, I realised I was hearing something new. The trainer's strategy for dealing with every problem was from the perspective of motivating the dog to *want* to cooperate with the owner. That was revolutionary for me. Up until that point it had all been about how to *make* the dog do what was wanted, usually by brute force and intimidation.
I needed to know more, and I sent off a letter to that trainer pleading for more information. Thankfully, she took the time to write back, sending me a list of recommended books. That led me to reading "Culture Clash", which lead me to searching out the author, Jean Donaldson, who had started a dog trainer's school at the San Francisco SPCA. Despite the forbidding description on the website of the intellectual, mental, and emotional rigors of the program, I enrolled. I've never learned so much or had such a blast doing it. I came back home with my head full of new information, eager to apply it to the dogs I'd left behind.
The culture of dog training and ownership in the city of San Francisco, however, differed markedly from what predominated in my home community of Haida Gwaii. For those of you who have never been here, picture a group of islands 80 miles off the west coast of Canada, closer to the Alaska Panhandle than Washington State. Forest, bald eagles, small communities originally supported by logging, fishing, and a military base"¦ and lots and lots of dogs. Let's just say that there's not much interest in dog training here, and that force-based methods are more readily embraced than "cookie training".
But there is plenty to keep me busy; I'm seldom short of customers, even if I do have to board dogs to supplement my training business. There is a seemingly endless supply of animals coming into our SPCA who require training and rehabilitation. And there is public education needed to increase empathy and understanding toward dogs.
I am hoping that this blog can contribute a little bit toward that last goal. But I don't want to get overly serious, here. Because dogs are FUN, and reading about them should be entertaining. Let me know how I do.
Shane Windatt, CTC, CPDT
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