Training decisions

If you know anything at all about dog trainers the one thing they all seem to agree on is that the other one is wrong. I know, its an old joke but sometimes so true. If you are on FB you will see long divisive threads on the topic of dog training. Just like in politics lately – it seems as though you must take one side or the other or be damned. There is no respecting those who do things differently. I feel strongly that having the respect of your dog, listening to their needs, learning their body language and giving them a voice is super important in the long term relationship. I don’t think the use of shock collars, prong collars or choker chains are needed. I have Made those mistakes in my past before I knew better. We all learn and evolve . . . well not all of us. But all that being said – if that is how others wish to train that’s their business not mine. I can only concern myself with what is in front of me, my responsibility, my own values.

Training dogs the way I have been evolving to over the years has also taught me much patience. Using positive methods takes longer but its kinder and lasts forever. The dog doesn’t fear me – they aren’t ‘obeying commands’ but rather working with me and communicating a desire to learn and do things together. You can see it in their expressions and body language when they see me get out training equipment. They are eager to begin a session. There is no fear. Instead there is excitement!

I’m no expert. I don’t claim to be a trainer….or a behaviorist….or anything other than a student. I enjoy watching the dogs learn. I enjoy watching them interact. I have learned to let the dogs just be dogs. Accepting them for what/who they are instead of trying to ‘train’ them into being little obedient doormats. Work with the dog in front of you. They are individuals. Accept their quirkiness and their habits and work with that – see if you can live with one another respectfully. Maybe adjusting your expectations will allow you to have more success and a more enjoyable life with the dog you have.

#petpeeves

Today’s blog entry is just a short #petpeeve list.

STOP using phrases which anthropomorphize your dog! Seriously. Stop.

Some of the phrases which really rustle my feathers are ‘pet parent’, ‘fur baby’, ‘nanny dog’ and referring to owners as ‘guardian’.

These animals are our pets. We own them. They are not children. We may spoil them and love them very much – but they are not tiny fur covered human children. You are doing your dogs a huge disrespect by not understanding that they are animals whom we choose to allow to live in our homes. Respect them as animals. Respect them as individuals.

And I have written before about how much I detest the ‘nanny dog’ phrase. It’s terribly misleading. Staffords can be quite tolerant to abuse, sadly. And it is because of their patience and reliable nature that kids who aren’t respectful can get away with abusing them. By abuse I mean – climbing on them, laying on top of them, pulling fur, ears, tails, lips, hugging them and basically using their dogs as furniture and toys. They try so hard to put up with this but as the dogs owners and as parents its up to us to train our children NOT to treat the dogs this way. Not only is it disrespectful to the dog, its harming them mentally and sometimes physically. Learn to understand your dogs body language and you will see – they hate this. Look at the eyes, tails, body posturing.

Don’t allow your kids to hug your dog. Don’t allow your kids to sit on the dog. Dogs hate that. Offer your dogs the choice to get away, always. Not all Staffords love kids either. Most do. Not all. Dogs are individuals.

As someone who has worked in Stafford rescue I can tell you the #1 reason Staffords are surrendered is due to the misunderstanding of one of two key Stafford behaviors. Number one is the misunderstanding by the adults in the home of how ‘nanny dog’ doesn’t mean Staffords will put up with EVERYTHING forever. It doesn’t mean you can leave your Stafford alone with your kids all day long without supervision. Doesn’t mean your Stafford will always tolerate being teased.

Train your kids. Supervise always. Treat your dog with respect. Using the nickname ‘nanny dog’ or ‘staffy’ is confusing and misleading. This breed is a gladiator not a teddy bear. Yes, of course they can be super soft and loving and wonderful with children and adults – but they also are dogs. They can only take so much. Every single Stafford bite case I have seen ends up being a humans fault. Let’s help this breed succeed.

Let’s begin by understanding how these cutsie phrases need to go away.

What in the world are they thinking?

Lately I am receiving a lot of puppy inquiries, rescue requests and questions about getting a Staffordshire Bull Terrier to add to a family. I noticed that many…most…of them seem to not exactly understand this breed at all. People are asking for ‘calm’ dogs and all refer to them as ‘staffies’ and many also are asking for a protective dog, calm and trustworthy around young kids, and most importantly people seem to think Staffords will be totally fine around other animals. Also, somehow people think ‘its all in how you raise them’ and I get people saying things like – ‘I know they are stubborn but I can train them to behave how I want them to’ and I have to wonder WHERE IS ALL THIS TERRIBLE INFORMATION COMING FROM?????

And then it hit me. American Kennel Club website. Who is responsible for this terrible information? Who wrote this stuff? No wonder I have been so overwhelmed this year helping people re-home their Staffords. People read this stuff and go to the first pop up breeder advertised in the Marketplace or FB and buy a puppy and they think (or perhaps even told) they will have a calm, easy to manage but stubborn, protective dog they can leave alone with their toddlers…..then they are shocked when the ‘staffie’ turns out to be a NORMAL Stafford! Easily excitable, boisterous, full of energy, mouthy, jumpy, clingy, busy bowling ball who doesn’t always get along with other animals.

When I tell potential buyers or adopters the truth I get told my dogs must not be normal. This makes me chuckle. I try to get people to meet Staffords (not staffies) in person before they decide on the breed. They are NOT the right breed for everyone.

Staffords are not dog park dogs.

Staffords are not dog day care dogs.

Staffords are not what I would call a calm breed. They are energetic terriers. If you want a doormat get another breed, not a terrier.

I would NEVER leave ANY breed alone with young children. Always supervise. ALWAYS. Kids can be very overwhelming for dogs. Lots of loud noises, quick movements, grabbing, tugging, climbing, pulling – all things dogs dislike. Staffords are more tolerant of these behaviors and that’s what they are known for – BUT – please do not think they can put up with this forever. Also Staffords can and will bowl down young children. Heck they bowl down adults! Be prepared for your kids to be knocked down, mouthed and sat upon by normal Stafford activity.

Let me also mention – Staffords require POSITIVE training protocols ONLY! Stop with the prong and shock collars already! Stop with the chain choke collars. Stop the old fashioned ‘dominance’, pack leader crap and roll over theories. And FFS STOP following that ‘TV personality man’ whose name doesn’t need mentioning here. Just stop. Instead – seek out certified Fear Free and +R training to become a happy, positive, confident teammate with your Stafford. LEARNING SHOULD NOT HURT.

I don’t know who can get the terrible information changed from the AKC website but it really needs to be changed as soon as possible. This breed deserves better.

Are we truly preserving this breed?

We do not breed often. We do not show in conformation as often as we used to. We mainly travel to the bigger specialty shows to show to breeder judges and breed specialists when possible. We also never require a puppy we sell to be shown. If we sell a show prospect, we may encourage the dog to be shown after full review between 10 months and 2 years. We always offer to show the dog ourselves and we offer to pay the expenses as well as mentor and teach ring procedures and handling skills. We help find classes and shows if the owner is interested. It’s not in our contract as mandatory.

That all being said the rings today are filled with pet quality Staffords. Yes, I said it. Many are thinking it but nobody speaks out. We must be choosier if we wish to truly be preserving the breed as we like to say we are. An American CH title means much less than it once did. It means so much more if the title is earned mainly from the large specialty shows. It means even more if ALL points earned are from breeder judges and specialists. And it means even more than that to me personally if the title is also earned from the BBE class at specialties, against a lot of competition.

So often today breeders require new owners to show their new puppy to its title under contract. This means some owners have the added expenses of paying handlers if they are not interested (or lack confidence) in doing it themselves. Staffords are paraded around rings 2-4 days a week for months on end in order to fulfill these contracts. This also means that oftentimes these dogs lack the temperaments, structure and type which makes a true Stafford champion. Once the title has been earned….well awarded….as earned means its deserving…then these contracts require the dogs to be bred and puppies often going back to (or names added as breeder/owner) the breeders. And the cycle begins again . . .

How on earth do people NOT see how this is damaging the breed, not helping it?! How can they get on FB and watch a live video each week and see all the out of balance, soft toplines, low on leg, overweight, out of condition, roach, no breed type, terrified, timid, sad or out of control dogs being strung up and sculpted into position to win that ribbon? Seriously? How can you not see this is a farce? And now AKC judges see so many of this type they think it’s correct. You cant even have a conversation with many of them these days to help them see the error of their ways. You cant even offer them a copy of the SBTCA Illustrated Breed Standard or the TSK Illustrated Breed Standard because they think they know all there is to know about this breed! How insulting!

Many of us have worked hard over many years to educate, learn, teach, read, study about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. We live with them. We get hands on 100’s of them. We travel great distances to see as many as we can. We study pedigrees, we do rescue, we understand correct temperament, we own libraries filled with books on the breed. We live and breathe Staffordshire Bull Terriers . . . and yet the arrogance of some judges (and handlers) sadly now shapes the future of this breed.

Sad. Pathetic. Shameful.