Back in February I had the privilege of attending a training weekend run by Janet Finlay of Canine Confidence which focussed attention not on “behavioural issues” or “problem dogs”, but on our own observation and understanding of our dogs as individuals. Janet led us through general observations of a dog’s posture, balance, coat etc and what these things might tell us about the well being of the dog.
She then went on to teach us some basic TTouches, lifts and slides and how to use pressure to reassure a dog or help it to become more aware of its own body. We looked in detail at the signs of stress and calming signals that dogs commonly display, and followed everything up with practical ‘hands on’ sessions with the lovely canines who attended the sessions. We then moved on to practical skills involving lead work and a confidence building course, plus a little bit of Behavioural Adjustment Training (BAT) which can be helpful for dogs who may be reactive to strangers or other dogs.
Favourite quotes form the day include:
“All (dog) behaviours are just behaviours that have worked for a dog in the past.”
“Mental state is heavily reliant on physical state – how the dog feels matters.”
“Recognise when you can train and when you can only manage.”
“There is a fine line between making sure a dog is comfortable and never challenging them outside their comfort zone.”
“Avoid labelling your dog as this makes problem behaviours a characteristic of your dog.”
The weekend was an excellent mix of theory and practice and terribly useful for me in the work I do. Since attending I have used a number of the techniques with dogs in my care – from stroking the lead, to get a strong minded retriever to ‘move on’ when he was rooted to the spot, to circular touches and avoidance techniques with a lovely adolescent German shepherd who sometimes finds life completely overwhelming. I have also been able to recommend equipment like the thunder shirt and xtra dog harnesses/double ended leads (which incidently I use myself and find invaluable).