Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A. DOG TRAINING IS NOT MAGIC
There are no secrets. Just about everything you want to know is out there in one form or another. You can be sure that every dog trainer you talk to will tell you that they can help you train your dog. Some of them can. Some of them cannot. But don't forget; they want your business and for the most part they are going to tell you only what they think you want to hear.
If at the end of this course of training you feel that you need to call in other help, please evaluate all the trainers in your area first. Talk to the person that will be training you and your dog. If you feel comfortable that he/she understands what you need and will treat both you and your dog respectfully, then ask for references. Be careful doing business with anyone that is not willing to give references. Your dog is counting on you to make a good choice.
PUT YOUR EGO ASIDE
Not knowing how to make a dog behave is not a reflection on your intelligence. Dogs want what they want and they want it now! This is the only thing they are thinking about. All of their thought and energy goes into getting what they want without concern for what anyone else thinks about them. Because of their dedicated focus on right now, they are better at training us than we are at training them. Every second you are with your dog one of you is training the other. If you do not consciously accept the role of leader, then by default your dog will.
Not being able to train your dog yourself has nothing to do with how educated you are, what kind of car you drive or where you live, nor does being a good dog trainer. You can excel at everything in the human world and still know nothing about being a good dog trainer. You can also be good at teaching dog obedience behaviors and know nothing about dog social interactions. Most pet dogs are ill mannered and in need of training, so you are in good company. I have dealt with thousands of dog owners from all walks of life and the only thing they all had in common was they each had a dog.
Dogs live in the present moment. They interpret their reality according to the information given them, and their reactions are based on their understanding of what will keep them alive and safe. They do not plan for the future, and although their bodies can store memories of past experiences, particularly bad ones, that memory bank can often be overridden through good experiences.
As the months and years progress with your dog, purposefully create a consistent and powerful positive energy in order to attract a positive response from him. Project your intent, create the space and possibility for change to occur. Pay attention to what you are expecting, because your expectations are what you are attracting. Thought sets energy into motion.
Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?
A. Why We Use Games and Play To Train a Dog At Seize The Leash
“Play is training for the unexpected.” Marc Bekoff, Contemporary American biologist
Play does so many positive things for us in terms of learning. When we play:
• We build skills like confidence
• We strengthen relations with others
• We develop creative skills
• We problem solve and tinker
• We learn to be flexible
People who play learn to question something, predict an outcome, and evaluate their predictions through the process of play. When we play, we persist through challenges -- and we even enjoy it. Play builds excellent social and emotional skills and helps create an atmosphere where those skills are valued. Probably one of the most important aspects of play is the way it treats failure and mistakes as non-punitive, ensuring that we have opportunities to learn from whatever went wrong. Yes, play makes failure fun. I love the use of the word "tinker" to describe play. It's serious work, but it's also fun work. Play values the process of learning as well as well as what has been learned.
The ideal of interactive, highly-engaging training and education is ancient. A Chinese proverb says: "Tell me, and I'll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I'll understand." However, the gap continues to grow between antiquated, passive training methods and methods that engage not just the dog but the owner in an easily learned, fun system of learning. With game-based learning tools to bridge that gap comes the promise of vastly more behaved and engaged dogs and educated owners—ones who embrace learning rather than view it as a disruptive burden.
Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?
A. Since we specialize in service dogs, we are fully aware of all the necessary training that goes into creating a dog who not only can be a exceptional citizen, but can also problem solve, assist owners in novel ways that were never trained, protect and be an awesome friend.
My favorite recent story is from Boswick who was trained as a seizure alert dog. He came to us at 5 months old and stayed with us for 3 months learning all about seizures and how to predict them. When he first met his owner, he already knew him from all the smells he'd been trained to recognize. Two days later, at 8 months old, Boswick alerted his owner for the first time to an impending seizure. This was later verified as a true alert of a pending seizure.
Months of obedience training, outings into public places, teaching Boswick how to act in all situations and he and his owner finally board the plane and go home to Kentucky.
A month later I get a call. Boswick has saved his owners life doing things he was never trained to do as a service dog or even as a cute trick. The meds that prevent the seizure did not work. Boswick seeing that something is wrong, opens the front door, runs 2 miles down the road to the nearest neighbor and brings them back.
We only trained Boswick to alert, not what to do if a seizure happened. But what we did do was teach him how to think, how to problem solve and how to manipulate the environment to get what he needed.
Q. What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?
A. The dog's intelligence, social nature and adaptability make him an excellent companion and also make it easy to train and educate him to ensure he fits comfortably into the human world. Today the dog is more companion then working partner and various theories have emerged to explain his behavior - and mis-behavior - and how to make that behavior more amenable to us as humans.
Since the advent of the Internet, the availability of information about everything you could possibly know about anything has grown exponentially. Dog training is no different. You can now find the "secrets" of the Hollywood dog trainers, dog trainers in general and the ways of canine whichness on National Geographic and Animal Planet. Don't get me wrong, I've benefited tremendously from this availability of information despite decades of experience and college studying animal behavior, biology and genetics.
Before the information age, one had to either go to school and become a Veterinarian or an Animal Behaviorist. There was no university education in becoming a dog trainer or even just a dog behaviorist. You had to have the whole ball or nothing. Or, you could apprentice under an existing trainer. Canine behaviorists didn't actually exist before the last few years that didn't have one of the above two degrees. Trainers however, learned about behavior as it applies to dogs, and learned how to train a dog.
Training dogs is fun for me and for the dog, as it should be. It is through play behavior, and the social rules that all dogs and wolves learn as pups, that a "pack" or "family" of canines is ruled. Further, it is fun to play with our dogs even if none of us learn anything. It will certainly make more sense to the dog than to be jerked around on a leash or sent to the corner for a timeout.
I've found through the years that all that's really necessary is a knowledge of and continual use of communication signals to and from the dog, the willingness of the owner to change how they view their dog and how they interact with it, and a rehabilitation period for the dog to discard the behaviors that were driving everyone (including the dog) crazy. Play is an important aspect of this process because it is how dogs learn to be dogs as puppies. The rehabilitation process is basically just informing the dog, in a language and format that he understands (what momma did when he was a pup), what is acceptable, where the boundaries lie, and what the rules for future behavior are.
Q. Tell us about a recent job you did that you are particularly proud of.
A. Testimonial from JK
An amazing thing happened in November 2012. I was at a local vets office, not one that I usually go to but that is close to the UPS store where I go and I just happen to stop in. I wanted to talk to the receptionist to see if she knew anyone who is a trainer for Service Dogs and if she knew of any dogs that were available that might be usable as a Service Dog. This lady, who just happened to be there with her dog, but very excited and started telling me about Jamie Robinson and her training facility: Seize the Leash. She even had her phone number. She spent about 20 minutes telling me how wonderful Jamie was in all the terrific things that she could do in training and that she was very likely to be able to find me a dog as well. After exchanging phone numbers I went home and looked at the website for Seize the Leash and was very impressed by the site.
After thinking about it for a while, I called Jamie and spoke to her for quite a time about finding a dog, what my needs were, what are facilities were like what she could offer to me. I arranged to go out to her place the next day. It was wonderful! The facility was terrific, very large and it had everything you could possibly need in a training facility. There was a full agility set up, obstacle course, a hay bale course, and a large arena for groundwork with a big tree to provide shade. There was also another area off to the side that would later be a small and close training area (more about that later). It also had Jamies home in a fenced in area in the back of the home that was shaded on all sides for dogs that were being worked at that time.
I met all of Jamies dogs and immediately homed in on Stormy. She seemed perfect to be my service dog. I needed a mobility dog because I have MS, Parkinsons disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, bilateral replaced knees and Ive broken my back and pelvis twice. Stable is not my middle name :-). Stormy and I seem to get along well and Jamie thought the match would work out. I told her I wanted to think about it for a day or two, but I also wanted to take Storm to the vet (I always take my animals to the vet before I get them) mainly because I thought I noticed something off on her left hind. Jamie called me a couple of days later to give me the bad news: Stormy had a torn ACL. Major disappointment! But, she did tell me that she had talked to several rescue groups for me and asked them to look for dog for me.
A few days later she gave me a call and told me one group and found several dogs that might be workable. They were all young, but that would be great because then we could grow up together, training wise. I ended up talking to Jennifer for the rescue group and we decided to meet at PETSMART the next Saturday. They had six dogs they wanted me to look at, I thought that would be great, a wide selection to choose from. Jamie told me not to rush into it, I didnt find what I was looking for, there would be more available soon. But when I got there and looked at the puppies (they were all between three and five months old) I knew Brittany was the one for me. She was a beautiful brown and white with some black brindle. Half of her face was brown and have her face was white, she was gorgeous! She was three months old and just perfect. Unlike the rest of the dogs that were awaiting adoption, she was perfectly calm. She was just resting in her pen and occasionally sleeping. After walking around with her for a while and carrying her for a while I decided that she was the one for me.
That night I called Jamie and told her what happened and who I had decided on. Jamie said that if I had not gotten Brittany she would have. I took her out to Seize the Leash a few days later and started her training. She was amazing and so was Jamie. I was very impressed. Ive trained horses for about 25 years professionally and done some dog training years ago to work with cattle. So Im no stranger to training techniques and Jamies training techniques were very similar to how we train dressage horses, which is what I was used to. There was no coercive training involved, it was simply play training, letting the dog choose what she wanted to do after making the situation comfortable for it to make the right choice. I thought this was terrific. Ive seen too many other trainers use choke collars, prong collars or electric shock, and thats just not something that I can do or would put up with. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to the system, but Brittany learned faster than I did so she did wonderfully. As she grew she got used to the different apprentice trainers, Beth, Tammy, Lizzie and April. I had several really great pictures of Beth picking up Brittany from the time she was very small until she was 75 pounds; its a great series of photos.
The last few months Lizzie has been doing most of the assisting training with Brittany and myself, for which Im very thankful. The first week of June 2013 I took a bad fall when going into the main arena. I just tripped on some steppingstones and did a face first dive into the gravel. Not a good thing! I broke a rib right at the spine and wrenched my neck, so for the next several weeks Lizzie had to do most of the handling Brittany. Fortunately, the week before that happened Brittany passed her Bachelors with Honors. By the end of June, I was able to start working Brittany myself again and she was ready for her Masters test, on 30 June 2013, Britney passed her Masters test with Honors. Jamie is wonderful, not only can she train dogs in a very safe and fun manner that they enjoy and that the owners feel comfortable in dealing with, but she also can train her apprentices to continue on in her absence. I felt fully confident in working with Lizzie when Jamie is busy and I know that Beth is running her own training facility at this time. This wouldnt be true without Jamies excellent teaching methods. Brittany is getting ready to go for her PhD test next Monday, 15 July 2013, only seven months after we started training. I think thats just amazing and is a wonderful credit to Jamies teaching ability and dedication.
I know that Jamie will be moving her facility soon to be near Benson, and I will definitely be going with her to continue Brittanys training as a service dog. Seize the Leash is the best training facility anywhere around Tucson, Arizona, bar none. And Jamie Robinson is the best trainer you could ever ask for as well as the best friend you could hope to find.