How I got here!
Let me tell you a bit about my journey. I had been living in the United States for 42 years, growing up with family dogs and raising three children along with a loving canine companion. During this time I worked with Newfoundland’s in water rescue training, using positive reinforcement methods.
I moved to France with my family in 1998. I became interested in different canine education approaches. Positive reinforcement was just in its early stages at this time in France. Most canine education methods still used traditional constraint as the basis for training. I became involved with a dog training club that touted using positive reinforcement methods, which was thrilling for me. I became a monitor (trainer) in this club, passed my required French government and FCI (International Canine Federation0 exams and received a diploma as an official dog trainer.
I felt so many contradictions in my work methods and regularly was at odds with what I felt “just wasn’t right”. I worked a lot with the puppies wanting to help the owners get off to a right start and it became quite evident that though these owners meant well and loved their dogs, something was missing: communication while respecting canine culture!
I began to feel many contradictions in my own work methods and the training techniques of the dog club. After working with many puppies, dogs and owners it became quite evident that though these owners meant well and loved their dogs, they weren’t always acting in the best interest of the dog; something was missing. It was revelatory for me when I realized it was communication while respecting canine culture!
There are situations that change you forever, for me there were two: bringing Gem our Pyrenees Shepherd (so very fearful of everything) into our family and meeting Nadine Chastang, counselor in dog behavior. Everything became clear and fell into place! Her years of work with M. André Escafre the founder and creator of “À l’écoute du chien” – Let’s listen to the dog . This method is based on observation of the canine world but insisting on the work and investment put in by the owners: he must be coherent in his demands while respecting the canine world. There are situations that change your life forever, and for me there were two. I brought Gem, an extremely fearful Pyrenees Shepherd into our family and then meeting Nadine Chastang, a counselor in dog behavior.
Everything became clear and fell into place! Ms. Chastang worked for years with M. André Escafre, the founder and creator of “À l’écoute du chien” – “Let’s listen to the dog”. This method is based on observation of the canine world as well as insisting on the work and investment put in by the owners. Creating a relationship man/dog based on mutual confidence and respect is possible! Without physical restraint, with thought out reinforcement taking into account the whole context and not just the request or more precisely: knowing how to adapt ourselves to the request and in all circumstances according to what the dog is showing us. We can learn to educate our dog so that he is properly integrated into our society without necessarily using coercive methods (Halti harnesses or collars, prong collars,…). Through our body language, our words and taking our emotions into account as well as our incoherences, we will establish a relationship of complicity with our dog. We will seek to understand his behavior and will then easily live in harmony on a daily basis. Method: (your method needs a name!!) if separated from history, will have to tweak this a bit. Creating a relationship between man and dog based on mutual confidence and respect is possible! This can be accomplished with thoughtful reinforcement, taking into account the whole situational context including the dog’s responses, yet not relying on physical restraint. It requires knowing how to adapt ourselves to whatever is occurring in the moment according to what the dog is showing us. We can learn to educate our dog so that he is properly integrated into our community. We can choose to do this education of our animals and ourselves in the most humane way possible, avoiding painful alternatives. Through our body language, words and emotions as well as our inconsistencies (?), we can establish a relationship of complicity with our dog. With this understanding, we can easily live in harmony on a daily basis. I suggest being there for you upon the arrival of your puppy ( even before the arrival so as to prepare a gentle and pleasant experience for all); to assist you with the adoption process and integration of your new family member; to work individually on issues you may have with your companion. Our dogs need interaction with canines of all ages and starting at a very young age so they may learn the proper “codes” but through out there lives as well even as they get much older. I propose dog walks along with other dogs for a different interaction than dog parks.