About Good Dog Training


What makes a human being keen to interact with another species:  is it a natural born instinct, curiosity, or our individual personality? Or perhaps it is the environment we have grown up in.

I want to share my experiences of dogdom from early in my life, to see if others can align themselves with my experiences.

I am 60 years old and was born in 1952 and now find myself being a dog trainer.  I always thought everyone else knew what I knew but as I went through various dog training systems, I discovered that maybe not too many people had a sense about or could find a way through to the real dog.  And so the journey into dog training began for me.  As time went by I developed a training program that I call 'Control'.  Why control, because it is the one thing that human beings do not seem to be able to put in place to protect their canine family members.  In modern society human beings do not seem to understand that their dog is the ultimate servant and companion and wants to be led by a strong and fair system.

My first awareness of dogs came in a bundle called 'Sandy'.  He was a second-hand pig dog. My father who considered himself quite the shooting sportsman was a newcomer to pig hunting and could ill-afford to buy an expensive pig hunting dog or two.   Fortunately in Mangakino in the 1950s there was a great hand-me-down dog system which worked well among the hunting community, and 11 year old Sandy came from that system.  As a Labrador cross Mastiff you would probably not think of him as an aggressive worker but he was a natural finder, bailer and holder of wild pigs.  He had been stitched up many a time using the equipment hunters carried with them, and he had the scars to prove it.
So much for the introduction, what did Sandy teach me and what can a child learn from a dog?

During those years with Sandy as a very young child he taught me lessons that shaped my love of dogs and my understanding of them - lessons I’ve never forgotten.  He was strong, brave, soft, gentle and loving - he was my hero.  With all the traits my beloved Sandy possessed he was not considered a pet, after all he was a pig hunting dog and was expected to be tough and strong not the big softie he was with me. 
We had moved from the wop wops  of Mangakino to Hamilton.  I was born as deaf as a post and remain that way in spite of remedial work done on my ears as a child and even with wearing hearing aids.  I went to Whitiora School in Hamilton, and when I was about six years old the school decided to have a Pet Day for the juniors.  I was so excited when I discovered that a pet day meant that you could take your dog or cat or mouse or bird to school and introduce it to your friends and teachers and everything.  I announced to my parents that I was taking 'Sandy' to the pet day which was about three weeks away.  My parents were very doubtful but, I persisted, I nagged them day and night.  I had this wonderful dream that my beautiful golden dog and I would walk through the school gates where everyone would be excited about my pet, and I would feel sooo good.  In the end parents relented.

A picture of Sandy and me when I was 18 months old, he was a worker in his prime then aged about 12 years old.  He died when I was six and a half when he disappeared during a thunderstorm never to be seen again. 

I was told to take Sandy's chain from his kennel and lead him around the house section.  So I did, about once, he seemed okay with it and it bored me to tears.   The day before the Pet Day, my Mother, who in all sincerity thought this was the stupidest  thing she had ever heard, washed the dog.  He had never been bathed before in his life.   We tried to brush him and get out the excess hair.  He had also never been groomed.   So the morning dawned.  I hadn't slept the night before so much was the excitement that it eclipsed Santa coming.

My mother had decided the best thing would be to walk Sandy to the School.  She took time out from the Family Business to walk him with me to the School.  She had to get someone to look after my little sister and altogether it was a completely massive undertaking that upset the whole family schedule.

I was ecstatic.  However, as we walked along the road, it became obvious that Sandy was becoming more and more bothered.  He started to pant, and then to stop walking and refuse to budge.  We were slowing down to a tedious pace.  Given that all I wanted to do was get to the school and show off my best friend, things were not going according to plan.   Sandy had never walked along a road before, he had never seen cars and trucks before, or large numbers of children all heading along the footpath ahead of him, alongside and behind him.  He was constantly trying to check who was where and what was going on.  He was by now drooling with nervous panic, his tail was down , his ears were back and he was trying desperately to escape.

I was starting to panic as well.  Never had I calculated that my beautiful brave friend would turn into a shivering frightened mass, but we made it finally to the school gates. 

There were 200 kids going through those gates at 8.45a.m.  There were kids with cats, cages, dogs, you name it they were there.   One of the children from my class was holding a red lead with a beautiful fluffy white dog looking like a toy thing wagging its tail.

I looked at my dog and I saw that he was 15 years old, moth eaten with a drooping scarred ear.  He was cowering on the ground panting profusely and there was no way he was going through the school gates.

Children were running up to him so he changed his tactics and was actively trying to pull my Mother's arms off to move away from the trauma he was experiencing.  My Mother was holding the chain for all she was worth which was tearing at her hands.  She told me to go into the School Grounds, she turned around and walked him back home.

I was devastated at first, but after a couple of hours at school it had largely faded and the Pet Day was just another glitch in the system of life.  When I got home that night my father took me aside and gently told me that what had happened had been too hard for Sandy and he hoped I understood.  I almost  didn't remember what it was all about such was my child's mind moving on, however, all that I have here is from my own memory of the event and it stuck with me.

What does it mean in training terms - my dog will play frisbie, stand on it’s hind legs and dance, retrieve anything I ask at home.  What will happen when I take that dog somewhere else to do those same things.   Dog goes 'Nah'  - Why?   Emotional Overload.   A lack of feeling secure in a new space.  That lack of security makes it impossible for the dog to do anything except function at a basic level.   Can we train a dog out of this and make it feel secure and safe and able no matter where it is, you bet we can.   Do dog owners realise when they are taking their puppy or dog out of its comfort zone that they are putting their animal at risk of extreme behavior which might end up in the dog being put down.  When will dog owners admit they have no idea how to read their dog and its needs, or how to reverse the emotional response the animal is having to stimulii beyond its control.

That is why Dog Owners need to go to training, why dogs need their people to get their heads around their emotional needs.   I was told at aged 6 years old in no uncertain terms that my dog would not function where he felt  under threat.  It has stuck with me ever since and while I have still fallen down occasionally on future proofing my dogs opportunities, I am ever aware of the Sandy lesson.

Raewyn Saville and her dogs (from left to right) Fay, Midge, Becki-boo, and Chan. and Sam the donkey.

My present dogs are:

Midge:   13 years found on the side of the road as a puppy.  Staffi X Whippet Pigdog.  she was my second agility dog and she tried hard, managed a trophy for 4th place in the summer champs in Taupo a few years ago, got to 44 points in flygility before doing in a cruciate ligament and actually won Special Beginners Obedience at a Rotorua Dog  Obedience Club Champs.   Really not ideal for those sports but a great ratter and easy companion.  Good at training other dogs to behave themselves.

Becki-boo:  7 years.  From the SPCA.  Over her whole life with me we have spent time building her confidence and helping her to cope with daily life.  Fox Terrier x huntaway.  Fearful of everything.  Large trucks, gunshots, fireworks.   Anything unexpected.  Guests arriving.  Generally if things go bad she runs away but just lately she has decided to stay home, so maybe it has just been time that is solving the problem.   Extremely fast when chasing a Rabbit or running away from home.  Great sheep worker, loves rabbits - that is some of her best friends are rabbits.  Very good at getting under the bedclothes when things are a bit funny to her.

Chan:  5 years.  His original owners brought him for lessons at 5 weeks old.  An amazing puppy who became too much for his owners.  Sharpei x Whippet x Terrier.  They kidnly felt  I would make the best owner for him.   Great to work at Flygility and Agility.  Wonderful companion, loyal and true.  One of the best dogs I have ever owned.


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