A Special Message From Sam The Dog Trainer
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]
Dogs should be a source of fun and enjoyment in your home, not a source of strife and frustration. Yet for a lack of training and supervision become miserable to live with. I receive calls from people all the time, who are so frustrated with the way things are going, that they are at the point of making a decision to either keep or to give them away to an uncertain future, or even to put them to death. As a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, I am often the deciding difference so I take what I do very seriously. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be, which is why I can relate to the predicaments that my students get into.
A NEW PUPPY!
I have a close-knit, large extended family. Every Christmas Eve, we get together, have dinner, visit and open our Christmas presents (we can’t wait until Christmas morning).
I fondly remember the Christmas Eve that I brought Benny home. I had been shopping for for nearly a year. Kate, my Bouvier, was getting very old, and I knew that she wouldn’t be around much longer. So, when I picked up my new puppy, Benny, from the breeder’s earlier that day, I was so excited I could hardly stand it. Part of the thrill was that my secret hadn’t been revealed (except to my Mom and brother): that I had purchased a puppy.
Normally, we would have met at my sister’s house, but we had arranged that everyone come over to my house that night. We had everyone sit down in the living room and told them to close their eyes. I then carried Benny in my arms into the room, sat down in a chair across the room, and told them that they could open their eyes.
I’ll never forget my brother-in-law’s reaction. His eyes brightened up, and in a state of pleasant astonishment and surprise, said “Ooh, it’s a puppy!”
It was a wonderful night. We visited, opened presents, and spent time getting to know Benny. He was our new family member.
You are going to have fun getting your new puppy. When I was a young man, I was into fast cars, stereos, and other types of entertainment. But, after I got a dog when I was 25 years old, I came to realize that they are the ultimate “toy.” They are more fun, involving and interesting than any other thing that you might own. They are almost like having a good human friend. In fact, I’ve known dogs that were better friends than some people that I knew.
My one hope for you is that I can help you and your pet enjoy one another. For that’s what this is all about. I’ve done a lot of right things over the years. I’ve also made many mistakes over the years. I want to teach you what I’ve learned so you don’t make the same mistakes that I’ve made, and to help you not make the same mistakes that I’ve seen others make. My goal is to make fewer and fewer mistakes, knowing that I will still err from time to time. My goal for you is that I can help you get a good one, and raise it right, so that you will both enjoy living together.
There is an abundance of information on how to train a puppy or adult dog, but not much of it is any good. Most training books are out of date and most trainers and breeders have only read those out-of-date books. These old methods often times doom our pets to death. Breeders continue to breed poor quality stock because they don’t work with competent trainers to help them choose their breeding animals. The books are usually just re-writes of older books. The average trainer has never read a scientific paper on behavior. And then there’s this new trend, starting back around 1990, when new fads came into vogue, and even now some are completely fanatical about them… and that’s bad, too.
Consider how things really are:
Studies indicate that up to 90% of all owners report some behavioral problems, with an average of about 5 problems. Of animals taken to shelters, between 50% to 70% are euthanized because of behavioral problems, mainly because of biting. Pet owners have a great need for information and are interested in getting answers to the problems that they face. Many problems are left untreated.
That’s why you need to work with a really good professional trainer to really do things right.
Millions upon millions of normal and healthy pets are put to death every year. Most abandoned dogs end up in shelters because of behavioral problems that could be easily solved by a competent trainer. You don’t want your loved one to be one of those that will be eventually put to death. Every pet deserves a good home and good training. Every owner deserves a good, healthy, trainable pet.
This web site was written to help you do the right things. I’ve written all of this to help you better understand, and to help show you the way to have a good relationship.
What little I remember of Silver, I think he was probably a pretty good German Shepherd. I was 5 years old when our family purchased Silver. At 5 years of age, he was supposed to be mine, but I was too young, so Silver really became dad’s. My mom fed and cared for, and my dad trained, Silver. Unfortunately, like most people, we didn’t know anything.
We weren’t the kind of family that should have owned a dog. First; we didn’t know how to pick a puppy. I think I was the one that picked Silver out of the litter. That was too much responsibility for a 5 year old kid. Looking back on it, I probably picked the most dominant one in the litter, which is a much harder to train and own. Second, we didn’t live a good lifestyle. A German Shepherd needs a family that owns a home, or can guarantee that wherever they live, the pet will be welcome. Since my parents were professional musicians living a life that such a profession creates, we moved a lot, and were always renters in the suburbs of Chicago. One time, Silver went into our neighbor’s yard, and the neighbor hit Silver over the head with a Coke bottle. That started a feud between my dad and the neighbor. I remember another time when Silver came home on a very cold Chicago night with a very frozen rabbit. I have no idea how he got out, because we had a fenced yard. The rabbit was as flat as a pancake, probably because it was run over by a car. I remember my mom, in the kitchen, taking the rabbit from Silver and throwing it away. I think Silver thought it was a great prize. Third, I was too young. Kids are kids. Children can’t control themselves, much less train and control a protection dog. For example, my little brother purposely drove his tricycle over Silver’s tail. Fourth, my dad wasn’t the type of person that made a good dog trainer. He was abusive to our family and an alcoholic, and he was abusive to Silver. His goofy perspective on life made him think that rough treatment would make him a better protection dog. I have never understood dad, why he was so paranoid, aggressive, insecure and so forth. Even after all these years, and a lot of reading of psychology books and talking to people familiar with mental disorders. One person summed it up like this: he was a musician, and a lot of them are just wired to be troubled people. Maybe like Vincent Van Gogh. I really don’t know. I hate to imagine the rough treatment Silver received at the hands of my father. Eventually, Silver started to fight back. I remember him getting on top of the bed, baring his teeth at us, and refusing to get down. My parents, with the help of my grandfather, found a new home for Silver on a farm. Even through all of that, I still have fond memories of Silver. I loved him, and I think that set the stage for me being who and what I am today.
I was 25 years old in 1985 when I started to think about getting another dog. By that time, we had moved to the Seattle area, my parents were recently divorced, I was fresh out of college, ready to start out in business, and I was living at home. I had just graduated from the University of Washington. Just prior to my graduation, our household had been casually talking about getting a watchdog for the house, partly because my dad had threatened that if my mom ever left him, he’d come back and kill us all. It wasn’t an idle threat. I liked the idea and it sparked my interest. There was never any doubt: the dog would be mine. So after I graduated from college, and just before Christmas, my mom asked me if I’d like to get a dog. I don’t know if it was an hour later or a week later, but do remember I told her, “Yes!” It was to be my graduation present and my main Christmas present for that year. It was through Kate I that was going to learn my first lessons. I will always remember her.
It became my job to find a breed of dog. I am an analytical thinker. I do my research, I read everything, I talk to people, and I figure things out. When I was a kid, I was the one that was always taking apart the radio, or some other gadget, and then figuring out how to put it back together. At 5 years of age, I gradually sawed off the legs of a table in the basement! I was interested in making my tools do things. (The table got shorter and shorter, and it took everyone a while to figure out what I was up to!) I’m also very analytical with respect to dogs. I try to understand all of the individual pieces of a problem by taking them apart, then I try to put them back together in a logical and understandable manner. So, when it came to selection, I started reading books.
I wanted a Personal Protection Dog that would be good with the family. After some research, and a lot of family discussions, we started visiting local breeders. We saw a lot of horrible operations conducted by a lot of backyard breeders. There was this weird German Shepherd breede who had these weird elevated pedestals in his driveway, with dogs in them, surrounded by chicken wire. The dogs looked extremely uncomfortable. Then there was the Doberman breeder in Puyallup, WA; all of them were dirty and fearful, barking up a storm at the garage window. Then the Rottweiler breeder with imported dogs… all very somber… all too serious. There was the Mastiff lady who was such a drama queen that we couldn’t even get an appointment to see her because she had to see if we were the “right” kind of people. She was a nutcase, and not someone you’d want to do business with. We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we knew awful when we saw it. We saw a lot of dogs in horrible conditions. We also met a couple of good breeders with good dogs, but they just didn’t seem to have a breed of dog that I wanted. We couldn’t decide on a breed or a breeder.
My mom sells real estate and she had a customer with a Bouvier des Flandres. She was extremely impressed with their dog. He was very territorial and wouldn’t let you enter the house without the owner’s OK. Once you were admitted, the dog accepted you. The dog didn’t shed, but you had to have the coat groomed. And all of the books indicated that this was a great family protection dog (though, I later learned that she was really only a Watchdog, not a Personal Protection Dog). After some prompting from my mom, I decided to look at the Bouvier. We found a local breeder of Bouviers. One look was all it took to convince me that this was the dog for us. They were everything that we thought we were looking for, and the breeder had the best breeding kennel that we had seen. Even so, some stuff was a bit weird, but I’ll leave that for another article. We started to make some mistakes. The mistakes we made, and what I learned from them, taught me a great deal. I owe a lot to Kate for the things she did right and the things I did wrong.
You are going to hear a lot of ideas on how to raise a puppy and train a dog. HOWEVER, you can overdo it, and you can’t just implement everything that everyone says. You are going to have to learn how to read your puppy. You are going to have to discern when your puppy is ready for some focused lessons and socialization, and when to back off and let your puppy rest or play. And you are going to need to sort out fact from fiction, because there is a LOT of false stuff out there.
Most of the problems I see with dogs revolves around neglect or goofy training. Many people do not invest enough time or energy into properly raising their puppies. On the other hand, you can also overdo it. I see people doing way too much and way too harsh or permissive work with their pets, especially after all these TV shows have come to be about “dog whispering” and such. Much of what you will learn will come through appreciating, not rushing, your puppy’s development. Much of what your puppy needs to learn will come through 3 years of just living and playing with you. If you do things properly, hire a professional, and do your homework, it will turn out fine. If you blow it you’ll create your own heartache… all unnecessary.
Injury, pain, disease and death are always lurking around the activities you will do with your puppy. You are going to have to be very careful that they don’t come and claim the life or livelihood of your dog. Even with modern medicine, we still can’t cure everything. You have to be protective of your puppy. You’ve got to watch them like they were little babies. You also have to let your puppy grow up to know the real world. Many people neglect their puppies, and they grow up to be fearful and/or aggressive. So, you’re going to have to do things properly. And that also means doing things safely in public. I can’t believe the number of pups I meet that have been injured before training commenced… broken legs, broken feet especially… because someone tripped over the puppy or it got hit by a car.
People have a tendency to expect untrained dogs to behave like trained dogs. They just figure that the dog will KNOW what to do naturally, that the owners don’t have to do anything in order for the dog to grow up properly, and they can just hire any trainer to work with their dog. I see people think they can watch a TV show, mimic what they see there, and get magic results. Sorry it doesn’t work that way, it isn’t that simple. They also have a tendency to expect immature dogs (puppies) to behave like adult dogs. It just doesn’t work that way, either. EXPECT YOUR DOG TO MATURE VERY SLOWLY, AND DON’T RUSH THINGS. In addition, you are going to have to make a decision that you will never get angry at your dog. EVER. Dog’s can’t handle rough treatment. It wrecks them, and it wrecks your judgment. You are going to have to put in the time to properly Housetrain, Socialize and Train your puppy or things are NOT going to turn out right.
You must always approach every situation as an opportunity to teach the correct way of doing things. Whatever happens, it’s a direct reflection of what YOU have taught up to that moment, and an indication of the level of training and natural development. If your dog isn’t going right, it’s because training isn’t complete.
Most of our dog problems are really people problems. Poor breeding is a people problem. Poor puppy and adult dog training is a people problem. It’s going to be harder to train yourself than it will be to train your dog, WHICH IS WHY IT IS A GOOD IDEA TO HIRE A COACH TO HELP YOU. I see or talk to students every day. I find the work very easy because of so many years of experience and study, however I’ve found it’s a lot harder to train the owners. People have a lot of misconceptions about behavior. Some of this is because of outdated books, poor quality writers who wrote those books, and because of the misconceptions that are taught through the mass media. And some people have incorrect beliefs. It’s my job to lead them out of their psychological jungle into a new way of thinking.
There are five things that you must do right
First, you have to teach according to sound behavioral principles. I can’t overemphasize this point. Most of the books you will find are out of date, and even abusive. Or they are promoting fads that won’t work.
Second, you need to learn from someone. Some of the best advice I have ever learned never came from a book. It came from working with people that knew animals – experts.
Third, there must be something good in your training for the dog. Books and trainers that are against using food or toys for obedience are obsolete. Dogs need Positive Reinforcement. If your boss stops paying you, you will find another job. If you stop paying your dog, in the form of praise, treats, attention and activities, then you dog will stop working for you, too. You have to get a good relationship going.
Fourth, you must be very consistent in what you do and what you teach. The rules for everything must be the same. It can’t be a guessing game. You can’t just give commands, saying what not to do and expect it all to work out. In addition, the family must be consistent in what they do and what they teach. The rules can’t change from day to day or from person to person. That’s unfair.
The fifth, and most important, thing your dog needs is love. This can’t be overemphasized. Dogs can’t handle neglect, rough treatment, lack of companionship, lack of leadership, impatience, or a lack of love. It will wreck them.
A lot of the good stuff doesn’t come from books, videos, or from listening to other people. It comes from listening to the animals and people. You are going to have to learn to “listen” if you are going to do a good job. You are going to have to learn to think and talk, love, play, and forgive like a dog. This will come through sharing your life, and allowing your pet to share itself with you.
SOME HARD LESSONS
Who would have known back in 1985, right after graduating from Business School, my Christmas present would lead to me becoming a dog trainer?! I learned a lot through the “School of Hard Knocks”.
One of the many hard lessons I learned was about Separation Anxiety and destructive chewing. Kate ate a couch, 2 chairs, ate holes in my walls and carpets, ate a pair of dress shoes, and shredded many Sunday newspapers. I remember one time where she swallowed 2 tube socks. It took a couple of days for them to come out the other side. She destroyed thousands of dollars worth of household items. (One of my customers told me that before they hired me, their Dalmatian ate a whole stack of hundred dollar bills… oh man!) Back then, no one really knew much about Separation Anxiety. All the trainers and training books treated it as destructive chewing, and the remedies generally revolved around harshly correcting the dog when you came home. That kind of advice backfired.
I learned so much, from the simple to the complex. I learned about a whole range of things you’d never expect to have to know, including, but not limited to, house training, nail clipping, aggression, barking, allergies (her allergies cost me a couple thousand dollars in vet bills over the years), interactions between a variety of people and animals, and what happens when they get very old and when it is appropriate to let them die. I learned why I should have picked an 8 week old puppy instead of one that was 4 months of age. I also learned about how NOT to train, ironically through the many poor quality group classes I took her through. I learned over time that the right answer was oftentimes exactly the OPPOSITE of what they had taught me! I was in a tough spot. I had to learn because of all the problems I encountered. But it wasn’t all bad. I also learned how to love and how to receive love. It was my love for Kate that made me stick with it, and to seek answers for her problems. I have owned other dogs that also had their own training difficulties. Before Kate died, I apologized to her for all the rough treatment and stupid things I did to her (much of which I learned from these other trainers and from the poor quality books that had I read). And I swore to her that I would never make the same mistakes with my next dogs. It motivated me to want to become a better trainer.
I KNOW how you feel as a pet owner. I know the joys and frustrations. I know what it is like to own a dog, and I have learned how to live with one successfully. Mine are with me every day, all day long. I spend an inordinate amount of time with them and I take them everywhere I go: when I am on a date, they will be there too; they are with me all day when I go from house to house to give lessons; they are my “business card” when I give a seminar or need to show a customer how to do a certain exercise; they are my advertising when I want to show people my skills and knowledge; they often will sleep on my bed; they will climb in my lap when I am typing away at my computer; they will go on every vacation I take (at 2 years of age, Dillon, my Doberman, had over 50,000 miles on him, going everywhere, from Seattle to Mt Rushmore, Yellowstone, British Columbia, Banff and Jasper, Los Angeles, and all points in between… and about 200,000 miles on him when he passed away at 6 years of age). Yes, I know how to make a pet/ owner relationship work. And I can help you realize that for your pet, as well.
So, it is really up to you now. Are you going to give up on your pet? Are you going to go the cheap and dirty route by hiring a poor quality trainer, or are you going to try the quick fix and send your dog away to a board and train facility or electric collar trainer? Are you going to continue to put up with all the hassles you are experiencing?
Or, instead, are you going to see if your situation can be resolved through some responsible and thoughtful lessons and behavior modification? I just wish, when I first brought Kate home, that I had known someone like the person I have become today. Life would have been much better for the both of us, and I could have avoided all the mistakes I made with her – mistakes that weren’t her fault, but mine.
Not all problems can be fixed, but I can fix most of them.
Give me a call or email me today and let’s see if we can straighten out the problems you are having.