I don’t easily get overwhelmed with shyness. It did happen once before, way more than a decade ago, whilst working for a well-known Private Member’s Club. There, I met Kylie Minogue, and whilst I thought I was super cool, telling her where she could find a lovely spot to have lunch in the House that day, my colleagues told me afterwards that I actually said something along the line of: “bla bla bla, blabla… and moumima, blabloubli.” Tragic!
This happened to me again this week, when I met Chirag Patel during his Seminar: "Giving Training Back to the Animal".
Now, Chirag is not a Pop Princess, and in fact, some of you might not have heard of him… yet. But if you work in the animal world, then, Chirag Patel is in fact, a bit of a Legend. World famous, he has a BSc in Veterinary Sciences, PGcert in Clinical Animal Behaviour, and the list goes on… he is even a certified Parrot Behaviour Consultant… casual.
So when I introduced myself, and try to tell him how much I was enjoying his Talk, I recognise the look on Chirag’s face… the same Kylie gave me all those years ago. Tragic!
Chirag is smart and witty; and made me question the whole Dog Training Ethos again. He introduces us to ways we can use training to actually make the dogs’ life easier, as opposed to just our own.
He insists: “dogs don’t chose to live under human care. They don’t come with a contract and promises. Even if we rescue, we shouldn’t see this as a favour to the dogs… other humans put them in this position in the first place.” So what do we owe our dogs? Makes you think no?
I also love the fact that whilst doing this, he moves away from finger pointing speeches (often prominent in the dog training world), and instead insists we should all have an open discussion to truly make a difference to our dogs’ lives.
So we (all dog owners) should endeavor to train dogs with skills that will make their lives easier such as wiping paws without stress, filing or clipping claws without “tears”, happily being checked by the Vet, etc.
Chirag also made me re-think: Is Positive Reinforcement good enough?
So far I always thought: “Well yes, I only use Positive Reinforcement techniques, I’m amazing! Right!?” But actually, does the dog even want to be trained in this instance? Wouldn’t he rather be at the park playing fetch, or running around with his mates? If so, how do you know? Think: there are so many reasons why a person could be smiling; so if one single behaviour can have so many meanings, surely dogs can do the same. How do you know for sure your dog enjoys training? It’s so easy to anthropomorphise.
So he generously gives us multitude of ideas on how to be even more attuned to the dogs around us through ethical training. And starting now, I will be doing the same with all my clients, who I know want the best for their dogs.
I leave you with one thought: “Does your dog have a truly safe place in your home? A place where no one will ever bother him, where no one will ever ask him to move from? A place where no kids (or overwhelming and loud visiting friends) can solicit his attention? A place where your dog can say: I love you human, but I want to be alone.” Remember, this safe place, could be you.
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