DOGS! And the value of a great trainer

Feb 16, 2022 | 0 comments

In the newest episode of The Animal Guide podcast show, we discuss one of the world’s most popular pets – dogs. 

Our guest is dog trainer Helen Prinold from the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers.  Helen has a Masters degree in Animal Behaviour, is CPDT-KA certified (Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed), a CDBC (Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant), and a Certified Fear Free Animal Trainer.  

In our conversation with Helen we focus on puppy and dog training and the value of retaining a well-qualified dog trainer who is skilled at using humane science-based techniques to help educate and train dogs and their human family members. We also talk about some of the important foundations for all dogs; that they are healthy, well-exercised, well-fed and in a positive environment.  

Helen, who is the Immediate Past Chair of the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers (CAPDT), explains that CAPDT has made it a priority to apply humane strategies when working with dogs.  The Association’s members comply with a strong code of ethics that includes humane techniques recognized by the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants (IAABC).  

CAPDT and sister organizations in other countries are working towards better regulation for the industry to ensure those working with dogs are well qualified using humane and science-based practices.  As Helen says, “I’ve been running my own business for over 15, 20 years now and I compete against somebody who can just put up a shingle tomorrow after training their own dog to sit”.  

A little more about Helen.  She is the owner, lead trainer, and behaviour consultant for Dog Friendship Inc. – a dog training business in Guelph, Ontario.  She also presents the internationally recognized dog bite prevention program Doggone Safe, and also “Be a Tree” for school-aged children and is a pet First Aid instructor.  She is also a champion carriage driver, loves horses, and has worked extensively with behaviourally challenged dogs, rescue dogs and service dogs.  She currently has a YorkiePoo who is changing Helen’s mind about how effective small dogs are at dog sports.

Episode Links and resources:

Other associations of professional dog trainers: 

Show links:

Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Animal Guide for Curious Humans, the podcast that explores the vast world of non-human animals and our relationship to them. I’m your host, Maureen Armstrong. For more information, please visit us at theanimalguide.com.

Hi everyone. On today’s episode, we’re talking about dogs, one of the most beloved species of animals in the world, and one of the most popular pets for sure. A particular focus for the episode is on puppy and dog training, and the value of retaining a well-qualified dog trainer who is skilled at using humane science based techniques to help educate and train dogs and their human family members. Our guest is Helen Prinold from the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers. That association’s mission is to further the concept of dog friendly and humane training techniques across Canada, and they do so by offering really high quality education and support to professional dog trainers as well as providing some really valuable resources to those of us living with dogs. The association, there are similar associations in many other countries of the world, and we’ve put some links in the show notes to not only CAPDT, the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers, but some of the others that Helen mentions throughout this interview as well. Helen herself has been training animals for over 20 years, she holds a master’s degree in animal behavior and has multiple certifications as animal trainer and a dog behavior consultant. So here we go with Helen Prinold on dogs and dog training.

Maureen Armstrong: 

Thanks again, Helen, for joining us on the show for this, what I’m sure will be fascinating conversation about dog training and effective means of dog training, they’re such important animals to the world. Just as we start, how did you become personally interested in this line of work, dogs and training them? 

Helen Prinold: 

Well, I’d always been involved in training and competed with horses, and I love building a real partnership of trust and respect with horses. They’re flight animals, and they have a lot of enemies in the wild, so unless they trust the person they’re working with, their tendency is to leave scary situations fast. Right? So building trust between the animal and the person is really a key to the great partnership, and then, I found that it was similar with dogs, which are also more portable. Dogs really respond exceptionally well to being in partnership with someone they trust. And the good thing is that I entered dog training a few years after the usual practice of herding dogs, to make them more afraid of their people, so that they would ignore other scary things, had given way a bit to building trust and good partnerships between the dog and human in a better way. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Interesting. And how long ago was that? 

Helen Prinold: 

I got into dog training in the late 90s. 

Maureen Armstrong:

Great. Good for you. So now you have just stepped down as the chair of the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Can you tell us a little bit more about, and, do you normally call it C-A-P-D-T or is it CAPDT or all of the above? 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, I initially called it CAPDT for short, so if that’s okay, if I forget, that’s what I’ll call it. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Okay.

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, the association was created in 1994 by some fantastic Canadians and Dr. Ian Dunbar, who was a veterinarian who started in England and then he came over to the University of California, Berkeley, and he did a doctorate in animal behavior and started researching how dogs communicate with their nose and their olfaction it’s called. And also, he looked at hierarchical social behavior and aggression in domestic dogs. And when he started doing that work, he realized that we’d perhaps been using methods with dogs that didn’t give them the best early socialization and make them good sort of members of urban communities. And so, he brought the idea that puppies really need socialization, and to the front by doing public large scale puppy parties all over North America, so that people could see playgroups in action. And he did one in Toronto and connected with trainers here, and that’s how the Canadian APDT was formed. And also, a number of APDTs around the world, so there’s one in US, there’s one in England, there’s one in Australia. So that’s sort of how we were formed, and right now we’ve got over 400 members, they network in a private Facebook group, they get discounts on a bunch of products and services, and then they have a private area of our website where they can access free videos on how to do good positive reinforcement training, curriculums on how to teach dogs and so on. So, yeah. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

That’s great. Sounds like it’s grown well over the years. 

Helen Prinold: 

It has, and we’ve done a lot of work these last few years, needless to say, on issues around coronavirus, but more broadly around infection control to make sure that it’s a safe place to take dogs to train. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Yeah, and that’s important, isn’t it? I know from just reviewing your website that CAPDT puts a lot of emphasis on humane training techniques. And this must be a source of a lot of diversity within the dog training community, even in Canada, let alone around the world is what are the most humane ways of effectively training dogs. Can you tell us a little bit more about that emphasis that CAPDT has placed on being quite humane in the techniques that are used? 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, we started in the 90s. We started doing things like banning the worst, most cruel techniques at the time. So practices like hanging a dog in the air off the ground by all four feet with its collar – like, really, some very difficult practices, like, that was called helicoptering. And no, that’s not okay. So we developed a really strong code of ethics, which talks to not only how to treat dogs, but people and colleagues, and how to, you know, that we have to be obeying all the laws of the land, even though there’s actually no regulation for dog trainers. So I’ve been running my own business for, oh gosh, over 15-20 years now, and I compete against somebody who can just put up a shingle tomorrow after training their own dog to sit and call themself a dog trainer. So we are really working towards regulation and in the process of developing a national curriculum, so that colleges and universities can teach that, and we were going to be emphasizing humane training techniques. But in the interim, what we’ve done is develop an approach for members to use – well, actually, we worked with a girl named Dr. Susan Friedman, who helped developed a procedure called the humane hierarchy, and least intrusive, minimally aversive method. So basically, what it says is, if you’re going to start working with a dog, before you even jump into training, there’s some foundational things that have to happen so the dog is okay. You have to make sure that their environment and their health is sufficient that they can do training. So let me give you an example. I consult for Humane Society sometimes, and I went in to see a Great Dane that had been out in a foster family and had bitten the foster dad in the family who was petting it. So I came into the room with the dog to do the assessment, and the dog was super nice and friendly, very, very sweet, lovely, young female. But I noticed that every time I walked towards her, she very subtly shifted her back end away from me and presented me with her front. And after I did the assessment, I asked them to take her to the vet and to do an exam of her rear end to see if there were any issues, and they found out that she had early hip dysplasia. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Oh boy. 

Helen Prinold: 

The bite occurred when the guy being really friendly with his lovely dog pulled her butt towards him when he was sitting on the couch and started petting her butt quite strongly. And so, she said I am in pain, don’t hurt me and bit him. And all the training in the world is not going to fix a dog who’s in pain and is biting because they’re being self-protective. So we start off by making sure they’re healthy, they’re well exercised, they’re well-fed, they’re healthy, and then using positive reinforcement as a first line; and then if it doesn’t work, you can use some other techniques that are helpful to it, but good skillful trainers can usually solve, well, in my experience, significant problems with good solid positive reinforcement techniques. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. Okay. Go ahead. There’s more steps to the hierarchy, I’m sure, but you’re starting with the – so physical health, obviously, is the foundation to it, and then positive reinforcement from there. 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, and making sure the dog has a great environment, so it’s getting enough exercise and mental stimulation. And then from there, positive reinforcement, occasionally, using things like taking away attention for jumping up. But we have a real stop sign on using positive punishment that is adding something to reduce behaviors we don’t like. We have an internet list that’s on our website of methods that CAPDT members are banned from using, because they are strongly aversive to dogs, and unnecessarily so, because we can fix problems without it. So I can certainly send you some links that you could put up after the podcast, if you like, to that list. But there’s things like using bark collar sprays with scents like citronella and so on that dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do. That’s why they make great diabetic alert dogs and bomb detection dogs. So for us, we might think citronella candles outside with mosquitoes smell okay, but for a dog, it can be really horrible to them to have their scent taken away by this great big smell. So, looking at things like that, we’ve said, okay, there’s some things you can just stop using now, and we hope that that word gets out even to people who are just dog training on their own, who start up and put up their shingle and don’t know any better. We invite them to come and join us and then they can access all of this how to train stuff that we have in our internet site available to them for free. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

That’s excellent. You mentioned earlier least intrusive, LIMA, I know is the… 

Helen Prinold: 

LIMA yeah, minimally aversive, it’s designed to give the dog a choice of how they receive the training, because just like with people, having choice for a dog is really important, they’re more willing to cooperate if they’re given a choice about cooperating, and their cooperation is with a big heart instead of reluctantly. And so, we want to pick, if we’re going to train, we want to pick ways that are going to give them the most choice possible that they find the least uncomfortable or painful, because they’re learners. If you think of what we used to do to kids in school 75 or 100 years ago, don’t talk, don’t say anything, rap you across the knuckles with a ruler, take you up for the back for the strap, and we’ve learned a lot about how to teach people, I know our young people know are smarter at a younger age than they’ve ever been, and the teachers are doing amazing things, even online these days in COVID. So that’s what we’re trying to accomplish with the dogs is give them the least intrusive, least painful, least aversive to them learning environment so they can make great choices. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Adding to your list of some of the practices that were quite common once upon a time was, of course, forcing children to write with their right hand instead of their left, and tying their hand behind their backs or, as you say, rapping their knuckles for doing something that is just kind of inherent to that, or was inherent to that child as a child. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in, to a certain extent, in a relatively short amount of time in human history. 

Helen Prinold: 

It is, and as we learn more about dogs and how their amazing abilities to sing can react, and they’re different from us in their physical being, but they have many similarities because they’re mammals, so they may have a better sense of smell than us, but, like us, they find some things smell bad. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. Yeah. Well, and like humans, there is wild diversity amongst them, isn’t there? I was pulling some figures, certainly, very large population of dogs worldwide in Canada and the United States, where – those are two countries in particular that have very large population of dogs per capita, and most of those I think, here in North America, would be companion animals as opposed to strays. There are many countries of the world where there’s probably an even larger population of dogs who are just strays, but certainly companions, but the diversity of dogs in terms of breeds is really breathtaking. Can you just give us a bird’s eye view of that, like, do we know how many breeds of dogs there are in the world – presumably, some of them are probably easier to train than others are, but maybe that’s a false assumption on my part. 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah. So it’s really interesting, because part of learning about dogs, I’ve spent a lot of time studying their genetic ancestors, which we think are gray wolves, and the free living, wild living dogs that are out there, because that can tell us a lot about sort of what natural dog behavior looks like. But there are almost I think 500 different breeds of dogs that kennel clubs worldwide recognize. And here in Canada, there’s, CKC, the Canadian Kennel Club recognizes over 200 dog breeds. So that means when I say recognizes, that means the kennel club allows breeders to register their dogs as purebreds, and register the puppies, so that buyers, if they get a puppy, know that they’re getting a dog with a specific set of physical characteristics. But the breeds like that we’re talking about here, they’re relatively recent, because dogs have lived with people for thousands of years, and been hunting companions and home companions, and it’s only in the last couple of years that there’s been such a fierce amount of purposeful breeding to create specific breeds who have specific physical and behavioral characteristics. And some of those breeds were bred for purposes that aren’t around anymore, and it’s, or, at least not in a Canadian urban setting. Right? So, getting a herding dog in downtown Toronto, who’s been specifically bred to run after small things and nip at their heels is an interesting choice to make for family with young children. Because I get those calls to say, I don’t understand why my little puppy is running around behind my kids biting their heels. And that’s because they have a specific behavioral characteristic of herding has been specially bred for in dogs like Australian shepherds and Border Collies. So there is a bunch of, usually breeds, mostly people think of them as being specific physical, and then just assume that all dogs should have a lovely temperament, but when dogs are bred for specific behavioral things, that affects their character. Right? 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. Makes sense. Are there resources that you would consider effective ones to assist people before they adopt a dog in figuring out what is going to be a better breed for that person or that family? I know there are sort of quizzes and things one can take online, but do you have any specific suggestions or recommendations as to how one chooses the breed of dog that is going to going to best fit with the person or family? 

Helen Prinold:

Yeah, I always think people don’t tend to buy based on a plan, they tend to buy puppies based on seeing a puppy with two eyes, on impulse, unless I’m thinking through how a dog’s going to impact their lives for the next several years. So I say if you see a puppy with a description, or you look online for a brief description, that you should read that brief description as if you were reading a house for sale ad. So, for example, if you go out to look for house, a real estate agent might say, the property has multiple water features, and that’s in the ad, but when you show up to see the house, all you see are ponds full of mosquitoes and you can’t go outside at night to picnic because you’re so busy swatting the little buzzing things. So if you see a characteristic noted in a dog breed description, you might want to imagine the worst, and think about what it would be like to live with that. So if a dog is described in the description as will readily alert you to strangers, then that could mean that you’ve got a barker on your hand, so you might not want that in an apartment. Or a dog who needs extensive socialization to be comfortable letting visitors in your home might be described as a good family guardian. Well, I’m not sure you want a dog who attacks the FedEx guy or the Amazon courier. So you want to think about reading the breed description with a little bit of a jaded eye, no offense to breed descriptions, and then, maybe focus on socializing your puppy in a good puppy class using positive reinforcement, because that minimized the chances of poor behavior in the future anyway, and helps you become a better dog owner. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

And I would think there would be fairly significant differences of levels of exercise required for dogs, right, that must be a critical feature, is it for a potential person who wants to bring a dog into the family, how much time are they going to dedicate to ensuring that the dog is getting enough exercise? 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, so a lot of that stuff is controlled at the genetic level, but to make a really big generalization, small dogs are generally fine getting exercise walking with people, but medium and large sized dogs, in general – and there’s no firm guideline on this because it depends on the dog’s age and physical shape, but, in general, medium and large sized dogs need at least 30 minutes of off leash or long line sniffing time every day just to be seen, to be normally stimulated. So if they don’t get that, that’s where a lot of the behavior problems come from, and that’s why it’s such a fundamental thing we address when we’re doing behavior problem solving using the humane hierarchy. Okay? So, and then, of course, you look at what they’re genetically likely to be programmed to do herding, pointing, and tracking, and they need to get some of that activity. But any dog’s activity, any level, any dog’s temperament is influenced by their genetics, yes, but also other parental inputs, like their experience in their mom’s womb. So as trainers, we generally say that genetics, the sort of breed that you buy provides the loaded gun of what could happen with a dog, but the environment the puppy lives in helps shape how that raw material is formed in a dog’s character. And just like people, and we’re saying dogs are kind of like people in many ways, a dog’s character can be very different from that of its parents. So if things like intelligence and temperament were easy to guarantee, then every dog within a breed would be just the same, but that’s not the case, there’s a lot of fearful German Shepherd dogs, and brave miniature poodles. Right? So I just think it’s a matter of doing your best to get some good genetics to meet the mom and dad of the pup and understand the temperament that they may have inherited from their parents. But then also to get the dog to a good puppy school and get them well socialized in a safe fashion, so that they get the best chance of having you learn how to be a good dog owner. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Which is all [inaudible 00:23:58] what it’s all about really, isn’t it? 

Helen Prinold: 

Right. Yeah. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

So do you have any specific thoughts, I mean, obviously we’ve been talking about puppies in particular, and getting training for them early when they join your home, but are there any specific tips or tricks for, say, the first couple of days or the first week that you’re bringing, particularly a puppy home, because oftentimes if they have come from a breeder they’re, you know, it must be fairly traumatic for them to go from being part of with their mother and all the other littermates to a completely new environment with a whole bunch of new sights and smells, etc., are there key things that you would recommend people do in the first couple of days or week? 

Helen Prinold: 

For sure. It is really stressful for the puppy, and I’m glad you notice that. Having said that though, it’s at the time in a puppy’s life when they’re open to new experiences, so that’s what does make them so adaptable and makes so many puppies successful with people. So it’s not all bad news, they’re bred to live with and work with people. But I guess, even the day or two before a puppy comes into a family is really where success starts; and the first best thing puppy parents can do to get ready is literally lay on their tummies in the areas they plan to have the puppy in and think about the puppy – the fact that the puppy doesn’t have hands, they have teeth. Right? So everything in the home is going to be new to your puppy, including you and they’re going to come and explore that by putting it in their mouth to taste it; that involves nipping you. But, I mean, if you don’t want your computer cord eaten and your puppy electrocuted or your cable on your TV pulled out of the wall, puppy proof, get everything safe for them, set up a safe play area, and a place where they can pee in that safe, in that area where they’re not going to get in trouble, because they’ll make some mistakes. The next thing that can help with the transition is being prepared for the behaviors that a puppy is used to doing in its mom with the litter. So young puppies sleep with each other in a big pile, and they chew on each other and pee and poop where they want. So even if the breeder is great and has done some early toilet training, the stress of the move from their family might cause the puppy to have an upset tummy, to not know where to go to the bathroom, and to cry when they have no puppy pile to sleep in at night. So we used to tell them, just like they’re hitting kids with a ruler, we used to do some weird things, and we used to tell dog parents to let the puppy cry it out, if the puppy cried at night. But now we recommend that they be created right in the bedroom with their people even putting the crate right on the night table beside the bed so they don’t feel so alone so that they can hear somebody breathing and taking the puppy during the day out every hour on leash to a boring place and rewarding when it potties, and then letting the pup off leash to romp in the yard or the house safely. So I always tell people that going to the bathroom is their ticket to fun, and then, if that becomes the ticket to fun, the dog will be more likely to pee where you want it to and when you want it to. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Those are great suggestions, really excellent recommendations. Does it vary considerably if someone is adopting a grown dog – of course, you want to encourage people as much as possible, there’s so many poor souls that are in shelters, and a number of people do want to just, you know, they’ll go to a shelter and look for a mature dog – how much does your advice change if the dog new to the family is actually an adult? 

Helen Prinold: 

Well, sure, a full grown dog or a rescue might have some outgrown their puppy needs, obviously, but some of the issues are the same. The stress in moving to a new home, well, just like with people, moving to a new house is one of the top 10 personal stressors out there. Right? So with dogs, it’s the same, and this can mean that for the first three weeks, you don’t really see the dog that you have, it’s called the honeymoon period, and the dog is just getting used to the environment and they’re a bit less full on than they normally would be. So be prepared for, in three weeks, your dog’s starting to act a little differently. But also being under stress might mean that this is a time where some unwanted behaviors might show up or health conditions might flare that are normally under good control, because stress does aggravate health problems. So it’s really important that to understand as much as possible about the dog that you’ve got, and think about what you’re willing to work through, so I would rather get an adult dog from a reputable rescue who fosters the dog for several weeks, who got a good history on the dog, and who know how they behave in a family home, maybe rather than a rescue that picks a dog up off the street in a foreign country and drops them fully adult into an urban Canadian setting with no training or preparation. And then get a good trainer on side – just like for puppies, with an adult dog, a good trainer during transitional times can help give you some direction specific to your living arrangements and to that dog’s character; and then they can be, that trainer can be a resource for you that really can provide you great tips based on all the dogs they’ve seen. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Well, that’s good advice. So you would consider getting a trainer really immediately upon bringing a dog into your family? 

Helen Prinold: 

Absolutely, a good trainer will be able to provide you with a couple of pointers on any specific behavior. It’s like a doctor, you’re not going to call the doctor and expect to have a full hour long visit, when you don’t have an appointment. But if you say I’d like a 15-minute or a half an hour appointment to talk through some of the issues I’m having with my dog, lots of trainers are doing online, and I’m sure they’d be happy to help you out with that, and our CAPDT trainer members, in our code of ethics are required to do a lot of support of people. And so, I’d say call one and ask your question and set up a relationship, find somebody that you’re comfortable in a relationship with as a trainer that you can use as a resource forever. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. Yeah. 

Helen Prinold: 

My puppies, my kids who know that they brought their puppies to the free puppy classes that I offer, know that they can call me for the life of their dog after those classes if they had some issues. And it’s great, because I’ve seen them come in with when their dog has become a senior and passed on, and I’ll see that two or three families in the same – two or three puppies in the same family, and it’s really amazing. It’s a great relationship to have. It’s like a relationship with your doctor.

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. Yeah, very critically important, and, of course, qualified trainers, as you were referring to earlier, right, you want to make sure that you’re seeking out people who have been properly certified. Obviously, the members of CAPDT would be very high quality trainers, not just the folks who, as you say, train their own dog, and now want to kind of put it out there to the rest of the world. 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, I mean, those folks, bless their soul, they’re doing their best, but it’s, for example, this is where training with food gets a bad rap, because they think if they train their puppy to sit by putting a piece of kibble on their head that they’re qualified to be a trainer, and they never learn that there’s actually science behind how to wean a dog off so much food, and to just reward it with things in their daily life. Yeah, so get to a qualified trainer for sure. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Yeah. Great. 

Hi everyone. It’s Maureen, host of the Animal Guide. How are you enjoying the show so far? I’d love to hear from you, get your questions and comments and perhaps guest recommendations, if you have them. Please contact me at theanimalguide.com. And now, back to our interview. 

So this question I know is probably a difficult one to answer, because the behaviors that may lead one to feel like they need the additional expertise of a dog trainer is probably as vast as the number of species of dogs out there. But can you just talk a little bit about some of the themes, the common themes of behaviors that are most likely to lead people to be looking for additional guidance and how to make sure that they’re accessing guidance that is humane, and they’re using techniques that are humane for addressing those behaviors, whether it’s jumping up on people or too much barking, or whatever the case may be? 

Helen Prinold: 

Sure. As I mentioned already, any dog can have issues of character and the patterns, ways that they react to the condition they’re in. In the industry, we generally call problems, unwanted behaviors, because most of the things that we call unwanted behaviors are typical in normal dog behaviors that all dogs have inherited from their wild ancestors. But it’s usually the impact on people that make a behavior problematic and unwanted. So, for example, if dogs don’t get adequate mental stimulation, they get bored. A bored dog might chew up a couch cushion or raid the garbage or bark when they hear strange noises outside, when the guardian is at work. And that, sometimes people consider that separation anxiety, but it’s not true separation anxiety, but it sure can be a problem for the homeowner and their neighbors. Right? Or a dog who uses aggressive behavior to explain that they don’t like what’s happening in their world – dogs, even the friendliest ones, just like people, all have the ability to be aggressive. If you were sitting calmly on a park bench, and I came over and sat too close to you, you’d probably give me a subtle signal that you were uncomfortable, and I should give you some extra space; and if I didn’t, you might take more direct action and move over; and then, if I followed you and leaned on your shoulder, you might at that point push me away. I would call that being appropriately assertive and self-protective. You might call that being aggressive. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. 

Helen Prinold: 

So this is the kind of bind that our dogs are often in, they often use appropriate communication to tell people that these are their wishes, body language, which dogs use much more often than us, like, a quick glance or lifted lip. But then humans don’t notice or ignore them, and then the dog takes it to another level and the people find out they don’t like the results of that dog’s self-protection, or protection of their items. So that’s dogs mostly aggression, jumping up, that kind of separation anxiety that we’ve seen a little bit more of during the pandemic. And then in puppies, mostly what we see are potty training, nipping, jumping up; and as puppies age into teenagers, we see typical teenage issues like continued mouthing, leash pulling, risky teenage behavior like taking risks and not coming when called; and then in adults, like I said, separation anxiety, aggression, also more noise sensitivity and other fear and anxiety, becoming leash reactive, because they’re afraid or not sure what would happen during an encounter with another dog or person on leash. And sometimes, the people tighten the leash and tell the dog not to do it, which makes them more worried. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Interesting. 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, in terms of my recommendations to manage this, I think that where people go wrong in looking for solutions is thinking that there’s a single, universal answer to solving their dog’s behavior, and that they can find it online, or by talking to a friend. And often these really easy first answers are very damaging, and they’re based on punishment. So the saddest case I ever heard of this was a little puppy who came to me who was biting anyone who came near him, and he had wounds on his nose, because the people had decided, had read on the internet that they should put an elastic band around his nose to keep his mouth closed. And then when the puppy managed to get wide enough mouth to nip them anyway, they rubbed a fresh lemon into the puppy’s mouth. And they were confused the puppy was still biting and nipping. And when I said, imagine if you were a baby, and you were teething, and you just lost a tooth, and I grabbed you, held your mouth shut and rubbed lemon juice into your raw wound, would that make me like you a lot, no, probably not. Right? And so, when they understood that they were actually causing problems and it hurt their puppy and made the puppy afraid of them, then we were able to sort of change things and use positive reinforcement to say to the dog, hey, I really like when you do this, instead of licking me, if you bonk my hand with your nose, you get treats, and the puppy went, well, that works for me. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Exactly. I think probably also realizing that the dog behavior is, I’m assuming, not ever really random, is it? Usually, what they’re doing, there’s a purpose for it. So this is a simple illustration, I have a little miniature labradoodle, and she started – she’s seven now, but a few years ago, she started sitting, if my husband and I were talking, she’d sit between the two of us and stare at one of us, usually me, and I tend to be the one who feeds her morning and night. Or if we were watching television, she would sit between us and the TV staring at us. And we eventually realized, I mean, at first, it was just like, why are you sitting there, why don’t you go sit somewhere else, but we eventually realized it isn’t random, she’s trying to get our attention. And then, we’re into a query, and she’s good, she’ll give us a little huff if we say do need to pee or do you need to poop, she will sort of alert us to what it is or, are you hungry. But it was so fascinating to me that initially I was just thinking, why is the dog sitting there staring at us for no particular reason. It wasn’t for no particular reason. She did have a reason. It’s just we had to figure out what it was. 

Helen Prinold: 

Yeah, so there’s very rare cases where there are some neurological issues like cross wiring in the brain that makes people do really awful things. And just like, for example, a schizophrenic who gets his wires crossed, there can occasionally be something wrong like that, but usually, you’re right, dogs have a purpose. And if I was – if my dog was doing something I didn’t understand, I might look it up on the internet. Or, here’s a better example – if I had dark skin spot on my own skin, I might look up pictures of skin spots on the internet and get an idea of what kind of spot it might be. But then, I wouldn’t diagnose myself and start medicating myself. I’d probably go to a well-qualified doctor, just to make sure I’d picked right, somebody who is experienced and had seen lots of skin spots, and who was up on what the latest treatment was. So using the internet, following the humane hierarchy, which is available on the internet, it can give you some clues on how to help your dog, but then, rather than choosing any of those things as a specific thing to address the issue, I would then go to a qualified expert and check in with them and make sure that you’re picking a treatment that’s going to set them up for success in the future. Because some of the things that trainers who aren’t well qualified maybe recommending, for example, a choke collar, they’ve been shown they will solve your immediate problem quite often because the dog will work really hard for you to avoid being strangled, but in the long term, they’ve been shown to cause more aggression in dogs, and potentially, they’ve been, well, they’ve been – studies have made a strong correlation between aggression towards the owner and aggression in dogs and the use of choke collars. So if you’re going to choose a method, why go there? Why not go to a trainer who could steer you to methods that are going to give you the best chance of a good outcome? Then a CAPDT trainer is a great place to start, member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants in Canada a great place to start to really up your game to know what to do for your dog. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. Do trainers, you know, professional trainers specialize in, some doing puppies versus adult dogs or some specializing in certain breeds over others, is that a phenomenon you see?

Helen Prinold:

In general, pet dog trainers tend not to specialize in breeds, but they can specialize in things like some will specialize in puppy classes. Most trainers will do puppy and basic obedience classes if they’re typical trainers. And then, some will specialize in sports on top of that, so you’ll find that a dog trainer who does puppies and general obedience, but then maybe also specializes in agility or hurting or scent detection. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

I see, yeah. What kind of credential, specifically, when it comes to retaining a dog trainer should people be looking for – I know it’s a hard question to answer because it depends on where in the world you’re living, we’ve got listeners all over the world – but can you just give us a bit of an idea of what credentials you – I think you touched on a couple there, but anything else that we should know about that? 

Helen Prinold: 

There are a variety of credentials in the dog world, mostly because a lot of dog trainers have decided to set up their own schools and self-certify their graduates. So if I take a course with Susie Trainer, Susie Trainer can then charge me $3 or $4 or $5000 to learn how to be a dog trainer from her, and get a piece of paper from Susie Trainer saying this person’s graduated my program and they’re certified a Susie Smith Dog Trainer. There’s no regulations that spell out what the content of that training has to be. So what you’re getting is, if Susie Trainer was any good, you might get a good program; but if Susie Trainer didn’t know her stuff, you might get a crap program. So what I would start looking for is a really well respected for profit school. We have a list on our website, on a page called becoming a dog trainer; we have a list of schools that we consider fairly decent, and we lay out what’s the tuition, what they include and so on. So I’d start looking for a good school and then I’d look for a good third party certification where so, for example, you can get from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, you can get a credential called the CPDT, which is Certified Professional Dog Trainer credential, and what it says is you’ve passed a third party exam where it’s done by nobody who’s got a financial stake in you passing, and it’s an exam set up by the same people who do exams for all of the traits. And then, you could also look for something like the Certified Dog Behavior Consultant credential from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. This is, again, an organization with a really excellent exam administered by people who don’t know the person that they’re examining. It’s all third party. So I’d look for them because, and then, of course, I’ve got a little bit of a soft spot, as a CAPDT board member, for CAPDT members, because on top of whatever certifications they have, our members have to follow a separate very strong code of ethics that includes things like providing people upfront information on costs, helping people who can’t afford dog training get it, and not using other kind of shady advertising practices. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Yeah, it’s an excellent source, your website’s really got a lot of great resources and a good search function in it. You just touched on the issue of cost – is there, like, generally, what does it look like, what is the cost associated with retaining a dog trainer? 

Helen Prinold: 

Sure. Well, it takes some space to train dogs, usually, unless the person’s coming to your home. And a lot of startup businesses will come to your home because they can’t afford a hall. But the cost will vary by where you are in the country, so some trainers offer free or low cost puppy classes; but then if you’re in an urban area where the cost of renting hall space is higher, the prices are going to go up. So if you’re in Toronto or Vancouver, the cost of a good set of puppy classes might be a minimum of a couple of hundred dollars. But that’s a pretty low investment compared to the cost of a dog over its lifetime, and it can really help lower having to do expensive interventions later on, so I think it’s a great investment. Personally, I would encourage people getting a puppy or a dog to either buy pet insurance that includes behavior treatment or to put aside a set amount of money like $50 or so in the bank every month to save for your dogs in [inaudible 00:47:26] health issues, whether their mental health or physical health issues, because every person ends up with a physical or mental health issue at some point in their lives, and your dogs are going to be no different that way either. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Right. Yeah, that’s great advice. Training in groups seems to work particularly well for puppies, I guess, when the dogs or adults are group classed, because, of course, they would generally be more cost effective for people than one on one training. Are they generally effective for adult dogs as well, or, do you find that the group classes is more effective for puppies? 

Helen Prinold: 

I’d say for 90% of dogs, group adult classes are great, but there’s a 10% of dogs who they’re not going to work for, and these are the dogs who react badly to other dogs on leash, or are so afraid of their environment that they tend to shut down. So your dog is not going to learn well, if they see three other dogs in a classroom and immediately start barking and screaming and lunging. Because that adrenaline will prevent them learning, because it puts them in self-defense mode. And when they’re in that mode, nothing’s coming in, it’s all going out. And not only that, that can then become dangerous or scary for the other people in the class, so that doesn’t help your fellow learners either. So if you have a dog who either is super scared of everything, is very noise sensitive, or is barking and lunging and screaming at other dogs and people on leash, you want to take some private lessons first to get them back into better shape, so that they can come into a group class well. And I’ve done that with dogs where they’ve come in and done two or three or four private lessons with me, and then they can move into a group class after the owner’s practiced a bit. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Makes good sense. Obviously, you’ve dedicated an awful lot of years and your life to this work, Helen, do you have a particular vision of what you would like to see in terms of the relationship between humans and dogs? Do you have a sense of what our optimal space might be going into the future for relating to these very, very important animals in our lives? 

Helen Prinold: 

That’s a great question, and I think my first inclination is that it makes me think of exotic species, there’s some animals that were just not meant, I think, to be pets in urban environments, it’s not a really kind of thing to do to them. But with dogs, there is a centuries’ old, long standing relationship between people and dogs, and that brings both species benefits. And I think dogs enjoy being with people, and in that partnership, and their needs can be met well within it, as long as the people take care. So I think I’d like to see that relationship continue, and the partnerships be great, but knowing that puppies, and human babies obviously, aren’t born knowing everything about modern life, I’d hope each puppy, each dog gets a chance to bond with and learn to trust the family it lives in, and then gets safely taught about how to work with the world around it, so that its training helps it succeed in the environment it’s being placed in. And then if the dog encounters things it’s not sure of, or it’s got some physical or mental health issues along the way in its life, it’s got a trusted partner who will help them navigate things well, get them out of a place they’re not able to cope in, or get them the treatment they need, so that they’re not with somebody who’s first instinct or who learned how to train dogs by hurting and scaring them more to prevent them showing a behavior that they don’t like. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Very nicely said. Is there anything you sort of hoped that I would ask you or any other information you wanted to, you thought would be important for the listeners to know that we haven’t had the chance to cover? 

Helen Prinold: 

I could talk about dogs all day, and quite happily so. Maybe what I should say is to just encourage people to find out more about CAPDT and get a trainer or some good resources on their dogs maybe at our website, which is www.capdt.ca. And also maybe sign up on the website, fearfreehappyhomes.com. It’s a website by a vet who has given us permission to use and link to all of their material, and it’s got some excellent material on raising a dog curated by some dog experts I really respect. So if you’re going to go on the internet to find how to solve your dog’s problems, I would highly recommend fearfreehappyhomes.com.

Maureen Armstrong: 

fearfreehappyhomes.com, we will add that to our show notes as well as the website for CAPDT, and I thank you so much for taking the time to chat today about this subject, it is absolutely fascinating. And the passion that you have, obviously, for CAPDT and for dogs is really apparent, and I appreciate all of the valuable information you’ve shared. 

Helen Prinold: 

It’s been great talking with you too. Feel free to give us a shout if you have anything that you would like to follow up on, because you do good work as well. 

Maureen Armstrong: 

Great. Than ks so much. 

Thanks again to Helen. We have put the links that she mentioned in the show notes, so I hope you will check those out. There are a lot of really good resources available that she mentions. Until next time, all the best to you, your dogs, and all the other animals in your life. 

This episode was produced by podmotion.co. Our theme song is Umlungu by John Bartmann. Please reach out to us at theanimalguide.com. We can be reached by email at info@theanimalguide.com. 

[00:54:30]

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This