Megan’s Musings – Divide

Many of you are likely aware of the divide in the dog training industry. There are two camps: one who is considered ‘treat trainers’ and focus on rewarding wanted behaviours, and others who follow more of the ‘pack theory’ and use of physical force with dogs to correct unwanted behaviour. I was planning to write a series of articles that cover all of this in more detail and we have many seminars in the works. However, a recent email I received changed the steps I was going to take. I am still going to work on my previous plan, but I felt like this email was a sign that I needed to do more. First off, I have part of the email below for you to read (parts have been changed so there are no names included).

“We took our dog to a training class when he was about six months old. He was a crazy puppy and alot to handle. We got him at almost 7 weeks old, which they said would cause us some trouble because he was not with his mom long enough. Anyways the first class was over and we were getting ready to leave I was taking off his collar and he was chewing on my hands, the trainer came over and said this was very bad and tried to correct him, he started to go a little crazy then the trainer came over with gloves on and started to push his lips into his teeth while holding him to the ground. Now our dog was really freaking out this went on for an hour before he fully “submitted” by this time he was completely shaking which they said was a good thing. We were told he was never to put his teeth on us and everytime he did we were to put his lips into his teeth. We only had to do that a couple times he never did after that. However now he is terrified of stangers. He will not let anyone pet him he just pees everywhere. His fearfulness is getting worse as well as his nipping with other people. I hope you can help as we love our dog very very much and it breaks my heart.”

We receive countless emails and phone calls from dog owners with similar stories. They are all extremely upsetting for us, but this one really bothered me. I like trying to find ways to take my anger and turn into something positive. However, this one just made me feel at a loss at first. This is happening all over and especially in our city. This is not an inexperienced or new trainer. These people are well known and there are many in the city who take this approach. We have always kept these situations internal and are just happy that the owners eventually found their way to us. This is just no longer acceptable. While it is great to have a good reputation for helping dogs like this one, it is becoming increasingly frustrating at the growing number of dogs I am seeing that are coming to us with severe behaviour problems that can be directly related to the previous training they have received.

I have been dealing with this frustration for years. Wanting to stay professional, I have taken numerous steps to try to protect our dogs from this treatment. I opened dogma. I educate and certify myself and team. I started the apprenticeship program to get more educated trainers out in the city. I require the graduates of the program sign a code of ethics to ensure they are only using modern, science based training methods. I start free puppy classes to try to get people off on the right start and avoid heavy punishment at a critical age. I continue to expand our education programs to better educate the public on dog behaviour and communication so that they can better understand how their dogs are responding to this type of training. And yet, I still receive emails like this constantly.

So, in thinking about this, I realize that most of us positive trainers are a fairly well-mannered group and I have always appreciated that. But, I sit and reflect on the trainers that do not take a reward based approach and how quick they are to publicize some inaccurate and harsh criticisms against our training. Why are we so quiet? Do you as the public feel like you have the right to know about this? Do you want to know about this?

Then I think about how some dog owners are so quick to go to this training and are so quick to defend. We are often made to be the bad guys. We are jealous. We are using gimmicks. And I just can’t help but sit back and wonder why we even are in this place to begin with? Do people honestly think this is ok? Is it because we just trust people who call themselves the experts? I don’t want to get into a big argument, but do want some dialogue. I strongly believe that it will be the dog owning public that really force the change that needs to happen in the industry.

I have always tried to be proactive. I want us to lead by example. I am not sure if I am just being impatient with the change that is taking place, or maybe I am just tired. But, we need to stop this from happening. This is not about business and competition. There are an amazing numbers of qualified and wonderful trainers in this city. We are all working towards the same goal and want to see each other be successful. This is not just about differing opinions. This is hurting our dogs – these dogs don’t just need training; they are emotionally damaged. I don’t want to see these trainers just end what they are doing. I want to see them change. I know that ultimately they care about dogs, otherwise they would not be working with them. They have maybe not been given the same opportunity to get started within the industry learning from the right people. We all need to grow. We all love dogs. We get them as companions and they do so much for us.

I would appreciate some feedback. How do you feel about this? What do you think needs to change? I will continue to write on more of the specifics on this topic.

I will end with one of my favourite quotes.

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”
– Author Unknown

25 Comments to "Megan’s Musings – Divide"

  1. November 4, 2011 - 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Megan, this was lovely. It was passionate, honest, it was sad, it was so very much of everything I feel every time I see a client whose dog was a wonderful little puppy, with wonder in it’s eyes about it’s new life, it’s world and who having been to a class based on punishment, ridiculas and false leadership rules and down right inhumane, brutality has become a dog with behavioural issues. These families don’t deserve this, their dog didn’t deserve this. It is cruelty not only to dogs, for sure, but also to people. Please people, respect your pets, don’t let anyone do anything to your dog that you 1) wouldn’t want done to you and 2) feel uncomfortable about having it done to your dog. Stand up for your dogs, protect them, provide them with safety. You do not need to hurt your dog to have a well mannered dog. Thanks for your post Megan.
    Kirsten Rose

  2. November 4, 2011 - 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting Megan. Our society has for centuries been built around a paradigm of control by various forms of coercion and force. I believe there have always been people who knew a different and better way was available, but paradigm change to a society takes a very long time. The rising awareness about animals, their own intrinsic reality, and the value of a relationship built on understanding, mutual respect and trust is a sign that change is on its way. How wonderful that you are an agent of that change! Keep up the good work.

  3. Lilia's Gravatar Lilia
    November 4, 2011 - 9:28 pm | Permalink

    As for me, you’re absolutely on the right path: peaceful revolutions and dialogue can lead us a lot farther than anger and violent responses. You’re already setting a great example, together with the all other positive reinforcement trainers in the city. I’m sure most of the dog owners who follow the advice of adverse training simply don’t know any better. They also love their dogs, of course, and think they’re doing the right thing for them. So, my 2 cents is, let’s keep informing and educating the people, and maybe let’s invite the adverse trainers to a meeting-event and help them find their way to a positive change.

  4. Tracey's Gravatar Tracey
    November 5, 2011 - 9:00 am | Permalink

    Megan – Society needs to hear about the dangers of dominance training. It is a battle we encounter every day as people don’t understand how ineffective it is and how a dogs behaviour can turn out for the worse – through no fault of their own. This story like so many break my heart. How would we re-act if we were terrified or threatened! Unfortunately due to the hype from tv about dominance training, people buy into it and often don’t even see it as a danger to the well-being of their dogs. You continue to be a voice for our animals and we are so proud of the work you do. With the message you keep giving, the training you provide to get people to understand appropriate training and the seminars you facilitate to help people understand the differences – we can’t thank you enough. We need to stand up and be heard and not be so passive about this. Arguing doesn’t get the message across but we all need to make our point in a constructive manner every chance we get. If we can change one person at a time, then we are getting the message out there. Megan – we now that you do that every day so THANK YOU!

  5. Danielle's Gravatar Danielle
    November 5, 2011 - 10:39 am | Permalink

    If it weren’t for positive reinforcement training and people like you my family would not have the wonderful, silly, loveable dogs I have today! Both of my fur babies came to me with a bit of “crazy” but the methods learned from you, we have learned to work with our dogs and have found the changes in them really amazing! I always get compliments on how well my dogs behave and how well they are trained! Thank you for all your hard work and please keep it up!!!!!!!

  6. Kathryn Dyler's Gravatar Kathryn Dyler
    November 5, 2011 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    This is going to be a long comment so I apologize in advance! As I sit here being weepy here is our training story:
    So my Husband bought me a puppy who is of course the greatest thing in our lives and then the puppy started eating the walls, furniture and was terrible on walks. He told the breeder he wanted the alpha female of the litter and boy we were totally unprepared for that. So when it came to training we had one of two options (or so we thought) the ‘treat training’ people over at the pet store or the approach that we had seen on TV from the dog whisperer and that Brad guy. We chose to go with a local dog training company that was similar to the methods on TV. To make a long story short the training worked for a short while but we were never ever able to get her to walk well. Plus any time we used any of the training methods (squirting her with water, throwing things near her to stop a behaviour, flipping her on her back when she disobeyed us, and possibly the one that I hated the most, the violent techniques used to teach her to walk behind us) she would meekly respond or fight us tooth and nail but when we got home boy did we pay for it, or she would avoid us. My heart was breaking daily as she would look at us with questions in her eyes. 4 years later she still wasn’t any better and was getting worse especially when it came to other dogs. The trainer told us that she was un-fixable and I refused to believe it.
    Then a turning point happened. My Mom who maybe loves our dog just as much (and maybe more) as we do was on her daily bike ride in fish creek park and she came across a couple walking a very well behaved french bulldog. She stopped and asked if she could talk with them about their dogs and they said yes. She started asking them about where they took her for training and they mentioned how they went to Dogma and she responded really well to it. So Mom told me about this ‘new training place close to our house’ and we signed up for a class. The rest is history.
    My husband is a hard sell on what he perceives to be ‘treat training’ but after a few classes and seeing improvement in the way Holly acted at home he was sold on it too. When I think about the training we subjected Holly to in her puppy years it makes my heart break and makes me feel sad and like a terrible person. The fact that she still loves us unconditionally even after what we put her through is tantamount to how people really misunderstand dogs and what they are capable of. They aren’t lost ‘wolves’ looking for assertive leadership. They just want love and protection like the rest of us. They just need to be shown in a loving way how we want them to act and it will be rewarding for everyone.
    Is Holly 100% better than she was? No, but its a process that takes work and everyone has their moments (even people). For the most part she is 95% there and its all thanks to the wonderful people at Dogma. Going to dogma changed my life and most importantly our house is now full of love rather than yelling and barking. I think the most empowering part of the training that you guys do is the fact that you are giving us tools on how to create harmony in our human/animal relationship rather than ways to react to bad behaviour. Your type of training doesn’t shame owners into feeling they must be the leader and show that dog who is boss. Perhaps for me that was the best part of it. I am now confident I can handle most situations and before I was filled with fear every time we left the house with Holly. You teach through love and as hokey as that sounds it works. The other training methods make you feel less as a dog owner and make you feel like you are doing something wrong all the time. Your methods make people feel like they have the solution and that they need to work together.
    Glenn and I will forever be grateful to you for bring the love back to our family. I always wonder how different Holly would be had we found you guys earlier but I can’t change the past so the fact that we found you is enough.
    I blame the training TV shows for making the more cruel training techniques the more popular option. They make it looks like a quick fix and unfortunately that’s what people want. Do the kinder methods take a bit longer, some would say yes, BUT I would say that while it seems that progress can be a bit slow you are actually easing your dog gently into a new way of thinking that will last a lifetime. The other training method is only temporary and you will always be asserting your power over them which makes everyone miserable.
    I’m sorry for the super long response but this is just something that hits really close to home for us. Our hearts were in pieces thanks to the old training methods and you made our family whole again.
    People like me who have had such experiences with both forms of training have a loud voice and I tell everyone I know about how great you are. Through education and stories like mine I do feel that there will be a shift in the training world.

  7. Mary's Gravatar Mary
    November 5, 2011 - 4:06 pm | Permalink

    What do I think of all this, saddened at humanity that can ‘believe’ that cruelty is an option (although humans seem dedicated to killing each other in wars in the name of freedom or religion. I don’t get that either. So what to do?? The people reading this I expect r those who understand the long term benefits of working w dogs rather than ‘making dogs do things’. To reach the masses perhaps getting local TV channels to carry programing like ‘Victoria Stillwell – It is Me or the Dog’ programs would supply some balance to the adversive personalities that so many dog owners r exposed too. Positive trainers need to take the stage and be as visible as the ‘ quick fixers’ on TV r today. Just my 2 cents worth.

  8. Kathy Hall's Gravatar Kathy Hall
    November 5, 2011 - 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Megan, please keep doing what your doing, If Arf didn’t recommend you I may have headed down the wrong path with my dogs. I have always had Cats my whole life and the only thing I new about dog training was what I saw on TV. Yikes! I think It’s wonderful that you offer free puppy classes, It shows you truly care and I wish there were more people like the trainers at Dogma in this world. Your on the right track and I recommend Dogma every chance I get. My dogs make me so happy becuase they are happy. They listen and do things because they love me, not because they have been forced into it. Maybe you should get your own TV show :)

  9. November 5, 2011 - 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I have had the unforgettable journey of living with a rescue dog that had suffered many ‘aversives’ – to the point where he wanted no human contact – none – no touching- no looking – nothing. This journey caused me to rethink my ‘training’ methods- I couldn’t physically control him- I couldn’t get close enough to touch him, never mind put a leash on him, so I set my mind to ‘training an elephant’ -there was no way I could ‘make’ him do anything – I needed to convince him that he wanted to. First I had to build trust in a dog that had none – thru rewards and gentle encouragement – in time, he learned to trust, he learned to love and love attention, and he learned to ‘listen’ – because he wanted to. I learned to train with patience, understanding and rewards – yes food- it was the one thing I had that he did want. We worked thru leashwalking skills, confidence building -( he was afraid to leave the yard), and thru reactivity to other dogs – all with positive reinforcement. Through positive reinforcement training we have built a loving, trusting and happy relationship and I could not ask for a more obedient and loyal friend.
    At that time I was not aware there was actually a name for that type of training – positive reinforcement – it didn’t need a name – it worked! It is this journey that proved what I had known in my heart – that dogs do not need to be physically ‘corrected’ to learn.
    This dog was not born afraid – he was made that way – punishment broke his heart, eroded his soul and almost cost him his life. If positive reinforcement can repair a dog’s broken heart, convince him to trust and obey because he wants to – it can without a doubt, work for a dog that has not been through such trials. It is beyond my comprehension why people still believe they must force respect and compliance from their dog when truly a dog will give it freely, when treated with love and respect and trained with caring and kindness.

  10. February 6, 2012 - 2:21 am | Permalink

    Megan, thank you for this wonderful article! It really resonates with me and my experiences. I have worked with dogs for a long time – at a vet clinic, as a groomer, and in rescue, and most of the people I worked with had very negative things to say about ‘treat trainers’ and ‘clicker trainers’. I actually bought a book called ‘Don’t Shoot The Dog’ by Karen Pryor about 15 years ago, and didn’t read it because I found out that it was about clicker training, and the people I worked with that were ‘experts’ said that clicker training was a gimmick and didn’t work. I believed them, after all they had been training dogs for 20 or 30 years, they must know what they’re talking about, right? Sigh. If only I had read that book back then!

    When I adopted Ollie, my black lab, 13 years ago, I started looking for a training class. I was recommended one by several people I worked with, and signed up. I was so excited! That excitement didn’t last though, after my first class, I went home and cried. I felt awful, choking my puppy, forcing her into positions, punishing her when she didn’t do as I asked – even though there was no way she could possibly know what I wanted! By the second class, she was starting to lose her trust in me. I would reach for her,and she would shy away. She was jumpy and stressed out, and she was not enjoying her training. I think I only made it to the third class and I stopped going. I ended up on the receiving end of a lot of snide remarks from my coworkers, but I couldn’t stand that awful feeling, losing her trust, and neither of us were enjoying the class. I ended up training her on my own, with no real idea of what I was doing, and she turned out fine – luckily she is a typical lab, smart and eager to please!

    When we adopted our second dog, Brody, 5 years ago, I had a lot of stress about finding a training method. Brody is disabled, and I had my doubts about whether he could keep up with a class. I also knew that I couldn’t use a ‘choke chain’ method with him because he is so unstable on his feet, a correction would probably knock him right over! My vet recommended a trainer to me, a clicker trainer, and I was very skeptical. I had heard so much bad stuff, I was convinced that clicker trainers were some sort of quackery, or witch doctors, LOL! She convinced me to give it a try though, and I arranged for a private session. Working with that trainer, along with reading books (I finally dug out that old copy of Don’t Shoot The Dog – what an amazing book!) and watching videos, changed the way I work with dogs! My dogs are happier, our relationship is very strong, I can communicate better than I ever thought possible, and it’s so much FUN! My old lab, who was so turned off by her original training, adores positive training! Even at 13, her eyes light up and she gets so excited when I bring out my clicker! I’ve even dabbled in training with my cats (and I’m tempted to use the theories on people sometimes!) I talk to many people about training, and I’m always surprised at how many have never heard of positive or clicker training, and how many will choose a trainer based on price or location, with little or no regard for method. I also find it very frustrating that many aversive type trainers are very vague about their methods in their advertising and on their websites. That only serves to confuse people more! If you’re proud of what you do, why be misleading? And if you’re not proud of what you do, why not do things differently? I do think that if we all work at it, we can change things – it would definitely help if the media would present both types of training rather than focusing on aversive methods. I also believe that the things you’re doing at Dogma are doing a lot to raise awareness, like flash mobs, and free puppy classes. I love that you’re so dedicated to raising awareness and changing perceptions, as well as helping out rescues. Positive reinforcement is not only a great way to train dogs, it also works wonders in everyday life – you really can accomplish a lot by focusing on the positive rather than the negative :)

  11. Jenna's Gravatar Jenna
    July 4, 2012 - 10:06 pm | Permalink

    With all due respect to Megan & Dogma, I don’t completely agree with this positive reinforcement methodology. That said, I’m here, reading this blog with an open mind. I’m leaving this comment to share my opinions, successes and failures, and hopefully get some helpful feedback as to how I can proceed with my dog. I want to share with you my opinions, because I feel that the “aversive” methods do have merit. To me, it’s not about being dominant, it’s about communicating that there are consequences to disobedience, and doing so in a way dogs understand.

    Let me start by saying, I agree, that food & praise is the kindest and most effective way to teach dogs new skills. I use it every day to teach and reinforce the obedience skills I’ve taught my dog. He is intelligent and eager to please, and thus teaching him new skills is a breeze, and he clearly loves being mentally challenged. When teaching a new behaviour, positive reinforcement is definitely the way to go (just as long as the dog doesn’t come to expect food every time). However, when dealing with behavioural issues (removing or modifying a behaviour), I believe there needs to be more discipline, to create boundaries, show there are consequences, etc. I do not mean that it is okay to hit, yell at, or otherwise scare, punish or harm an animal. I never have, and never will use a tool or technique on a dog that I wouldn’t want used on me (yes, I tried the shock collar on myself). When interacting, dogs use body language, including nips, shoulder checks, etc, to influence those around them. As our dog’s leaders, I feel it makes sense to communicate with them using language they understand – there are rewards (food, praise, etc) and there are consequences (physical touch, like in the animal world).

    My dog, Simba, a one year old Belgian Malinios mix, always has choices, and I’m always calm, clear and concise. I’ve used a technique known as the “alpha roll” – but certainly not as it is often portrayed. I’ve never thrown him to the ground, or forced him to “submit”. I simply guide him to the ground, where I hold him using just my finger tips (or no touch at all). Simba is released when he is calm, (usually less then a minute) and afterwards, he is more responsive to my cues, and generally seems more respectful. Never has he reacted with a tail between his legs, or other body language that would suggest he is fearful or that I’m “breaking his spirit”. I feel that he understands I am his leader, and everything, including his freedom, is controlled by me. When he is calm and obedient, he gets what he wants.

    When teaching him recall, I started out using only treats & other positive reinforcement, and that got us to a point where he would come about 70% of the time. The remaining time, the distractions were too much, and no treat would get his attention. I felt I needed to carry a steak in my pocket just to have his attention. That is where I used the shock collar. I would tell him “Come” and if he kept running or didn’t come, he got a zap (on the lowest setting, might I add). Instantly, he’d turn around and come to me, where he received lots of praise. Using this method, I feel I’ve taught Simba there are consequences to disobeying, and now, he’s eager to come to me when called.

    Another skill we’ve mastered using what you might call “aversive techniques” is walking “loose leash”. I found using treats too inconsistent – he would only walk beside me if I dished out the treats in large quantities. I also tried umbilical leash training, which didn’t work, as he’s a huge dog and I’m a small lady. After these techniques failed, I used a choke chain to start, and now he wears a martingale collar. The leash corrections are light, JUST enough to get his attention. I also use my hands or feet to touch his flank, just matching the severity of his pulling. He walks happily beside me, without treats, and I never had to intimidate or force him to do so.

    However, as a rescue dog, Simba has many “kinks”, everything from over-excitement greeting people he knows (minor problem) to lunging, snarling & barking at new people and some dogs (major problem). These issues are most severe on-leash, where he feels trapped. He’d much rather flee than fight. Also notable, his behaviours are always much, much worse in my presence. With other handlers, or when alone, he seems much calmer with new people, and less prone to aggressive outbursts. If we’re in the car together, he’ll bark at anything and everything. Alone, someone can get into the car next to Simba, and he doesn’t utter a sound. How can it be that my dog shows nothing but trust and respect to me, but acts like he needs to protect me from everything that moves?

    I’ve tried using leash & touch corrections and the shock collar to stop his aggressive displays with no success. With more research, I realized I may be reinforcing his negative opinions of people by correcting him in their presence. I’ve looked into using rewards to desensitize him to the presence of his triggers, but haven’t had much luck finding a method that makes sense to me. Some say to constantly feed him, regardless of whether he’s reacting poorly to the trigger. Others say to only feed him when he’s displaying the wanted behaviour in the presence of the trigger. I’m drawn to the last approach, but this is very tough to execute with Simba because he’s so reactive, he immediately tenses up when he sees movement – not a behaviour I want to encourage.

    The main problem is a lack of confidence. I believe he’s unsure about new situations, so he charges at them, hoping they’ll go away. Unfortunately, it works. Most people can’t stand their ground with an 85 pound shepherd lunging their way, so he gets his way and his aggressive behaviours are reinforced. I’m looking for ways to help his confidence and self-esteem, but nothing seems to work. We’ve consistently done obedience skills and tricks from day one, and he seems unaffected by those little successes. I’d love to do tracking or agility with him, but he’s too reactive to work with such a trainer.

    A behaviourist I consulted suggested that there is something inherently wrong with our human-dog relationship that I will be unable to rehabilitate him. He was only willing to work with my dog if I were to pay him $2500+ and give him my dog for 6+ weeks, and get a “fixed” dog. Some trainers refuse us, saying he’s too aggressive. Others are willing to try, but warn me he’ll never be normal. I refuse to accept these statements. From day one, I’ve worked to make myself his leader, and show him the world is a friendly place. I believe any dog can reach a calm, balanced life – I just need guidance to get him there.

    Another thing I wanted to discuss was something Megan mentioned in a recent seminar – the concept of over-exercising a dog. My struggle with Simba is that his reactivity increases with too much stimulus, but he’s completely unmanageable without at least 1.5 hours of exercise. I’ve tried avoiding the dog park, and using a backpack, but on-leash walks are simply not enough. We’ve done 2 – 3 hours of solo walks, and he acts like he still wants more. When we’re out camping, where we go hiking and he can run around to his heart’s content, he’s a great dog – very calm, affectionate and sweet. In the city, with all the stress, he’s a different dog. Any suggestions as to how I can drain his energy without stressing him and making his reactivity worse?

    At the end of the day, I’m really torn. I want a mutually trusting, fulfilling relationship with my dog, and I’m not sure how to get there. I believe that dogs (any animal, really) should do things for humans because they want to, not because they have to. I’ve read about Liberty Horses – taught to perform dance-type routines, without so much as a halter or rope. Surely, if we can teach horses without touch, we can teach dogs! But then I realize that I’m not just instilling a new behaviour in my dog, I’m trying to overwrite an old one, one that has been engrained and reinforced in his mind, by all the people and dogs that shy away form him. If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading my story. I sincerely appreciate any and all responses.

  12. Lilia's Gravatar Lilia
    July 10, 2012 - 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Jenna, I have to say your story really touched me. I always get touched when I get to “meet” someone who loves her dog so much, as to only want what’s best for him, doing everything she can for him to be a good and happy dog. I also want to tell you, you couldn’t have fallen in better hands than Megan’s. I myself have a reactive-fearful dog, Camilla. She was rescued in Italy, where I’m from, after someone put her in a plastic bag and threw her in a huge garbage bin. She was about 6 weeks old, and I guess that’s mostly where her fears come from. After adopting her, I, too, of course, wanted what’s best for her. I only had a previous experience with another rescue dog, who was literally the perfect dog. Camilla was totally not perfect :) Crazy is a euphemism to describe her as a puppy. I used to say she could bark in 10 different languages, lol. High energy? Basically restless. She loved people, but if we happened to see a cat or another dog when she was on the leash, she turned into a monster, lunging, and srceaming, and she hackles everywhere (and now I know all that was based on fear as well). I ended up walking her only late at night, but it was all very frustrating, because I wanted a good dog, not one who jumped on everyone she met, never stopped barking and looked like she wanted to kill all the cats and dogs we met (and maybe she would have, had she had the chance to). In Italy I didn’t have all the resources I found here available, so I just read all I could read and tried many different methods, including weird collars, and I was also advised to use aversive methods. As a result, I had a dog who kept doing all the things she did, but even worse than before, and I was exponentially more frustrated, as well.

    Here in Canada I met dogma by chance. I was looking for a job and they were hiring. I never thought of working with dogs before, but I love them so I decided to apply. I believe nothing happens by chance, because after starting to work there and talking a few times about Camilla with Megan and Hailee, the manager of dogma and a trainer as well, I started feeling there was hope. I still felt my dog would be really hard to “fix”, but when Megan told me to take Resolving Reactivity with Camilla, I remember she said “What do you have to lose? You’ve tried everything else, so far…”. She was right, so I did enroll.

    You won’t probably believe me, but already after the first night I saw huge improvement. Camilla then got better and better, with every class, and after she graduated, I could finally start taking other classes with her, which would have been impossible before, with Cujo on the leash. On this proud mom’s wall hang Camilla’s graduation diplomas in Basic Obedience, Tricks and Games and Finding Focus. Once I received the right tools and began to use them, a positive cycle started, and now I can even walk Camilla in the daylight :)

    I don’t know you, and I know we’re probably different, and so are our dogs and our stories, but we have something in common: we both love our dogs and want what’s best for them, and we want to have a good relationship with them. You tried lots of different things with Simba, so why not try the Resolving Reactivity classes? :) What do you have to lose, after all :)
    I’m sure you’ll be very happy if you decide to take them.

    Thanks for sharing your story and being so open-minded.
    Best of luck to you and your furry kids, and keep us updated, if you like :)
    Lilia.

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