I have recently been given the title of Dog Whisperer by some lovely ladies who I have been fortunate to meet through my Reiki Practice. This is not something I have ever called myself as I think it was a shameless copying of Monty Roberts, The Horse Whisperer for whom I have a great deal of respect. It seems to me that most of the people who call themselves Dog Whisperers are in actual fact dog trainers some of who fail to use, kind, hands off training methods which is really what the term Whisperer refers to, my understanding is that it is about connecting with an animal in a way that it understands. So I suppose those ladies were right in a way as this is exactly what I do!
I have always called myself a dog trainer, but perhaps I could call myself a Dog Speaker or a Hound Harmonizer? My whole working life with dogs and their owners has been about helping them gain more effective communication with their pets. It is my opinion that the majority of training problems are down to one simple factor and that is a breakdown in communication between human and canine. Methods and scientific research in dog behaviour has moved on over the last 20+ years that I have been doing this and that only serves to make the work easier as the human race gains greater understanding of what makes our canine companions tick.
Living with a dog should be about mutual respect and understanding rather than one species dominating, punishing or abusing another. The way dogs learn is quite simple and it is up to us as a species to understand this. If a dog finds something rewarding it will be highly likely to repeat it (not too different from us really) if it is not rewarding the dog is less likely to repeat it, if it is dangerous it will avoid if it is safe it will not. Here is where the communication break down kicks in, this seems a perfectly simple and logical state of affairs until you begin to understand what is rewarding and not rewarding for a dog. Here is an extreme example to illustrate my point:- take the cases of several Border Collies who live in rural communities and have access to the country lanes where they live, being a herding breed with a hard wired chase instinct, in the absence of ‘official work’ these Collies love to chase cars, many of them have been hit by cars and even lost limbs – not rewarding and dangerous I hear you cry and you would be right UNLESS you are a Border Collie who has a very strong genetically programmed urge to chase. The reward they get from the chase is greater than the possible consequences and therefore if the behaviour is not redirected to something safer many of these dogs will continue to chase vehicles.
So if your dog keeps repeating a behaviour that doesn’t work with your lifestyle ask yourself what reward is he or she getting from it, when you have established what is ‘turning the dog on’ you can then work to redirect the behaviour to a more suitable activity.
For complex behaviour and training issues please always seek professional help.