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.

AKC CH Title – what does it mean today?

I used to love showing my dogs in conformation. In the beginning I went to the dog show just for fun and to spend time with my pet. I attended handling classes every week for many years. I went to handling seminars. I watched professional handlers and picked up tips. I went to UK and AU and watched how people there presented their Staffords I helped friends in other breeds to gain more experience. I showed to any judge without caring what they normally preferred because I was working on honing my own skills. My first show win I was told by other exhibitors that I won because I simply out handled them. It’s true. My dog was a pet. That is the point of this blog entry.

As time went on I became a lot pickier what I would walk into the ring with. I first stopped showing other peoples dogs if I didn’t think it could win BOB. Then I decided not to show dogs I had bred unless I felt they were worthy of a Specialty win under a Stafford breeder judge. I know where my dogs meet or fall from meeting our breed standard. I see all the nuances. I feel no need to ‘hide’ or ‘cover up’ faults I am not keen on just to win a ribbon or fake congratulations from other fanciers. It’s not important.

I feel strongly that unless you can dissect and see these faults and virtues in minute detail in your own dogs then you honestly have no business breeding. The exception is if you are working with mentors and you are learning still and if this is the case then you MUST have an open mind. You must be willing to see the issues pointed out to you, research those for yourself, determine whether or not they do exist and then work to change these faults in the future. None of that is done in a show ring.

In the show ring the best you can do is to understand how to present your exhibit to a judge who hopefully knows and understands the breed and how it relates to the written standard – and is willing to actually JUDGE to that standard. Most of the time the judge has 2 minutes to do that and many of them aren’t willing or able too. It seems it is easier for them to go with what they think is ‘safe’ and assume the professional handlers must have the best ones – right? That was in sarcasm font by the way.

There are times when a handler has a good dog. Sometimes it could be the best dog in the show ring. Many times it is not. There are other breeders like myself who only present their very best. Its not often these dogs are rewarded on a consistent basis. Oftentimes they are overlooked for handlers dogs. Handlers have a lot of skills. They get to practice 4-5 days a week all year long. They are skilled at showing statues and generic movement and flashy handling – ever see them hold the end of a long lead by two fingers while the dog stands perfectly still at the end of it? Looks so pretty doesn’t it. But…..how does that meet that dogs standard? Maybe it does. Maybe not. Maybe it’s just pretty.

Many of us serious Stafford breeders are growing weary of wasting our time, energy, education, and money on bringing good dogs into the ring. I personally have attended shows and looked around seeing a couple very competitive dogs and (wrongly as it turns out) thinking – that’s my competition – and more than that – that’s a dog to follow and he could be a good prospect to keep up my high standards in my breeding plans…..but most judges won’t find these superior dogs. They seem blinded by flash.

Why are entries down? Why are breeds going downhill? Why are poor temperaments rewarded? Why is fat and soft rewarded over fitness and strength? Lazy judges and political games. Thats why. Never mind the general lack of knowledge of canine structure. never mind the serious disinterest in learning breed type. Never mind not understanding good powerful effortless movement. What is the point of showing our best dogs? We already know what we have. We don’t need a stranger who lacks this knowledge to know what we already know.

I show because I am expected to show. Puppy buyers expect me to only breed from Champions. Champion titles in America mean nothing. NOW in sharp contrast – making a champion from ONLY showing in HUGE classes under only other breeder judges means a LOT and this is what we do. HUGE difference to beat 100 dogs under breeder judges and a handler dragging a dog show to show to show barely beating 5 dogs a weekend to title. Think about that.

AKC is a joke. There I said it. Most of us understand why I would say this too. What will it take for AKC to also see this and GREATLY improve their judge education and requirements? I suggest ongoing requirements of judges to continue to meet breeders and visit kennels and talk with breeders and find out the nuances. Most judges simply do not care and I have even been told condescending opinions by judges such as – “You don’t get where I am without knowing the breed” when I look at the dogs they selected and shake my head….walking away wondering what on earth they DO know.

Worse than that recently I overheard judges talking about how Stafford specialties bring over judges from UK and AU and how in their opinions this makes the Stafford breeders snobby. Worse than being called snobby (who cares, more sarcasm font) they went on to then say how these overseas judges don’t know anything at all and how they are terrible at judging. Why do they pick up feet? What are they doing with the coat? What are they doing with their hands on the head and muzzle and shoulders and rears? Why would they kneel down to watch movement? Why do they need to watch the entire down and back? Why are they making funny noises or dangling keys or dropping a ball? OH do you mean why do they ACTUALLY judge the dogs to the written breed standard? Is this the question?

I heard one judge say how breeder judges don’t even know movement or structure and only award heads and friends. 😂 Okay, so to you all breed judges who only award friends and handlers (don’t forget many judges were also once handlers) that’s different why??? Soo you mean for me to believe that a breeder judge from UK who has lived with Staffords for their entire lives, many of their parents also lived with Staffords, they see Staffords daily in the street, at ringcraft and at shows where the entries can get into the 100’s at times – you mean to tell me those people don’t know this breed? Seriously? Sorry – I simply cannot stop laughing except its not funny.

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.