New Year Challenge

I have been thinking.

Instead of a New Years Resolution I want to set a challenge. This challenge is to make a difference this New Year.

During this week Facebook, in particular has thrown up some interesting comments, among these have been……

A trainer who told an owner that his dog had “too many choices”. This same trainer also told the owner of the dog that this was why the dog had separation anxiety. The same trainer also advised that walking was for walks, no sniffing or dallying during the walks should be allowed

Another dog trainer who told an owner that the dog shouldn’t be walked if the dog showed any excitement when the harness was shown to the dog before the walk

People advised to ride their horses even though they showed signs and symptoms of pain.

Trainers advocating short reins to make sure the horse took up a contact.

This kind of advice should have no place at this point in this century. Our horses and dogs should not be ignored when they are showing signs of distress, discomfort or pain. I have no words for trainers who think their word is final, and who never listen to what they are being told by owners, especially if the owner has a wish to approach a situation in an empathetic way.

Just because some people have labelled themselves “trainers”or  “behaviourists” does not mean they should force methods onto owners that are basically unethical. They should not be able to justify the use of “negative punishment” even if it seems to fit the scenario in front of them.

Negative punishment has been dressed up as being kinder and fairer. Well I have news, it is not. Just because you are not physically chastising an animal, does not mean that this “other side of the coin” is in any way justified.

The challenge then, is to teach everyone that their beloved horses and dogs should be treated with consideration and care. I  am not saying that I think everyone is charging around and dishing out this kind of training but I am saying that I would like people to select trainers that mimic their own mindset, this would go a long way to avoiding these horrible situations where dodgy and inappropriate advice is given. The trainers should not only be prepared to listen to their clients but to actively strive to become more empathetic. If so this would start a real seed change throughout these areas.

Training should never be harsh, should never involve taking things away from your dog or adding discomfort into training. If you want your horse to work with relaxation and with rhythm this cannot, and never will be, achieved by shortening the reins and adding more pressure into daily schooling sessions.

Neither should dogs be denied choice-in fact a major factor in anxiety is due to dogs not having enough choice-as for the idiots that advise dog owners to refuse to allow their dogs to sniff and enjoy their walks, can I say here and now …..please all of you dog owners…..wise up….sniffing does not make a dog disobedient, whatever that may mean, and it certainly should never be advocated if your dog is worried about other dogs.

Can we please make a pact this New Year to act more humanely and to begin to seek out people who have the right attitude towards the animals we love.

If you want to build a bond and a stronger connection with your dog, or horse, then search and learn. We are out there- and sometimes (should I hasten to add) we are not taken as seriously as the trainers who put increasing pressure onto owners to be harsher and less considerate towards their animals.

This is my challenge to all of you.

Happy New Year everyone

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