Saturday, September 28, 2019

Trolls and Bullies

You sit at your desk, turn on your laptop, "ping, ping, ping" your social network notifications start coming through and rather than be happy that someone got in touch or wanted to speak to you, your heart sinks. There is no getting away from it. Bloody trolls are everywhere and it feels like they are coming after you with pitchforks and the world is watching. It makes you feel sad, alone, stressed, embarrassed and if they are trolling something you worked hard on it can be soul destroying.

"Trolls"... they used to be green fairytale things, with warts, wonky teeth and bulgy eyes, that lived under bridges, yelling "Trip trap, trip trap" at various Billy Goats Gruff, and other passers by, but lately they seem to have emerged and taken on the role of online bullies, who have nothing better to do than make other people feel like shit. Sometimes they hunt in packs, sometimes they are alone in their world of insulting people for the hell of it.

I wasn't used to being trolled, or how rude and mean people can be just for the sake of it and I certainly wasn't expecting this type of little side stress when I started in the doggy world. I thought that kind of thing happened in school, but I seem to come across it so much more now! You would think doggy - centred folk were all nice people, sensible and caring adults, what with caring for the animals and not wanting to use aversive or punishing methods... and for the most part thankfully most are... But crikey there are some horrible buggers out there too. Oddly enough, I have never had to worry about trolls online, until I found myself  running a business page and helping on others.

It's not just in the dog world, it is everywhere. Just look how many horrible gits have started on Greta Thunberg, or who make nasty xenophobic, racist, homophobic and any other kind of bigotty comments on things from behind their laptop screens.

I have found myself taking things personally before now, nasty comments really upset me! I can't understand why people have to be so horrid! I can understand how people with thinner skin than mine might get very unhappy because of online trolls and bullying. There is no getting away from it, from school age to adulthood, from work or school to home - you can't just shut the door like when I was at school, as the trolls and bullies are there in your laptop, in your phone, on your tablet, and so they chip away at you if you let them. I know - I have seen what they did to my daughter. Its bad enough that children behave like that. How sad that adults feel the need to do it too.

So what can people do about it? Well sadly, a wanker will always be a wanker, and no amount of being  polite or asking them to be nicer will stop them from being a wanker. In fact it often fuels them as they get off on knowing they have got to their victim and then they act like even more of a wanker. However not all people are wankers, especially those that you know personally, so often just telling someone politely by private message they have hurt your feelings a bit will be enough to illicit an apology - they may not have realised they made you feel like that and will probably feel mortified by it.

Reporting to the social media platform, blocking and deleting are my best allies when it comes to true trolls - it takes bravery the first time you press the report button and you are crapping yourself the whole time incase they find out it was you, or they notice that you have disappeared and then they tell everyone... But like all things practice makes perfect and after a while it becomes a lot easier just to rid yourself of the virtual arseholes before they ruin your day too much. The world is a much nicer place when you are not having to put up with some troll you have never met, who has seemingly drawn your name out of a hat filled with random names of people to piss off.

Now I am not saying surround yourself in a house of mirrors, where everyone thinks and feels exactly how you do about things - that is neither healthy or normal. People can disagree with each other or talk about things with each other without being disrespectful, or sharing nasty stuff or generally acting like dicks. Discussion and research are how new ideas are formed, and part of that involves testing ideas with other people and seeing their reactions and input. Just be respectful and mindful of language and the way you portray what you are trying to get across. The written word can be read in many ways and it is easy for rows to start because of things getting lost in translation in comments on Facebook after being "read the wrong way".  Screaming at each other in sweary caps lock just puts people's backs up. Being insulting just puts people's backs up. Slagging people off just puts people's backs up. Being rude or nasty just puts people's backs up. There really is no need for it.

In the dog world, there are many methods of training, and people can get very nasty with each other about terminology, let alone the actual methods of training. As a positive and force-free trainer I would hope to only ever promote positive and force-free methods, but this can illicit some nasty responses in others. Similarly, not all positive and force-free trainers use the same methods with people, and can be quite nasty too. I try to lead by example, being kind and hopefully well mannered, or even discuss rationally, rather than indulge the trolls in most instances, but sometimes that block button is just begging for a little tap, and sometimes it is for the best to tap it.

If you feel you are being bullied or abused by another dog professional and it is getting worse, it may be worth looking to your professional body to see if they can help you, or even the troll's own professional body, as a good professional body, like INTODogs, Pet Professional Guild British Isles or ICAN, will have certain expectations of their members and may take action if they feel their standards are not being upheld.

When you are feeling upset by the actions of another person in the "real" world (as opposed to online), sometimes it helps to have someone to talk to about it. Tell your partner, or your best friends - don't bottle it up. If it is at work and someone is bullying you and speaking to them directly has not helped, perhaps speak to the supervisor, or if they are the one that is bullying you, go above their heads and report them. You might not have been the only one who has had problems of this kind with this person - and you might not be the last either. The problem will not go away by itself, no matter how much you keep your head down.

Whether it be online, or in the workplace (or even if you are at school and reading this old lady's ramblings) trolling and bullying is not acceptable. You are not at fault, even though you may feel as if you are. If you feel you have nobody to talk to and are being affected, please do consider clicking some of the following links and getting some advice. You do not have to put up with it and there are ways to make it stop.

Gov.UK Workplace bullying and harassment
Acas Advice leaflet - Bullying and harassment at work: Guidance for employees
National Bullying Helpline
Anti Bullying Alliance
Stop Online Abuse

Don't let them get you down. xxx
F x

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why trainer's dogs bark.

I always thought that dog trainers would automatically have the "perfect" dog. You know the sort, the ones that can dance the waltz on Britain's Got Talent, can do agility with their eyes shut, know 9007 different cues and can perform them across a field using just the sound of a whistle, and never, ever chase anything except their guardian's dreams.

No. This is definitely not the way of it.

It seems that these amazing dogs are everywhere. There to make us feel like serious failures in our dog training abilities, and to give our clients ridiculous expectations and to let them know just how shit their own dog guardianship and training abilities are too. Obviously we/they are not shit, in fact most are far from it. Coping with the emotions that come with a dog with issues while trying to work out how to manage them and make them feel better is really hard. But they can be made to feel that way - and the more conscientious among all dog guardians find it even easier to compare them/ourselves and their/our dogs with these "perfect partnerships" as we want to do our best by them.

What people do not always see is that although many people who work with animals knew that was what they wanted at an early age and went to University to learn about it, many trainers or behaviourists find their way into training and behaviour completely by accident, while learning how to help their own Reactive Rovers and Anxious Annies. We have watched our own dogs trying to navigate their way through life, reacting at other dogs, or hating men with beards and hats, or trying to make sense of their lives before rescue or coping with illness and pain. We learned about how to help them, and found a passion for it, so we then want to help other dogs and their people too. 

Most of us then spent £1,000s on education and have spent pretty much our every waking moment ever since, learning how to help dogs. We continue to learn to keep ourselves on top of our game and we continue to work on our own dogs while we are at it.

The barking dog, or the dog with a lack of recall does not reflect the skill of the trainer/behaviourist. OUR DOGS ARE NOT ROBOTS.

What the trainer is doing about it DOES reflect the skill of the trainer.

The methods of training being used reflect the skill of the trainer. A good trainer does not need to use aversive methods, and knows there is nothing that can be trained with punishment and aversives that can't be trained with rewards, fun and kindness. This trainer knows the pitfalls of punishing methods, even if they appear to work quickly. They know also the relationship building, confidence boosting buzz of training with force-free and positive methods.

Where the dog has come from and where they are now reflects the skill of the trainer.  How was the dog when the trainer first began working with them? Has the trainer worked out what the dog's issues are? How long has the dog been undergoing behavioural modification and have they changed/began to change their response to some things? Miracles do not occur overnight, and neither do lasting behaviour changes (apart from fear responses). However progress in the right direction, done with the right methods is a gradual and ongoing process that becomes a way of life, making everything better for the dog and guardian and their life together.

The trainer's ability to judge what the dog can cope with and respond accordingly reflects the skill of the trainer. Overwhelming a dog or expecting too much can be very counter productive. Training ineffective and unsuitable solutions to a dog's issue will be either counter productive, or simply make no difference at all. Far better to train the dog in front of you, tempering expectations to a realistic level and going at a speed that suits the dog, keeping them below threshold - preferably training FOR the situation rather than IN the situation. A dog might never learn to be the one that can play fetch in the park with 800 dog friends, but he might be able to learn to walk down the road comfortably on his lead and go past another dog without panicking, taking a treat from his trusty human as he goes.

Our dogs with problems need to work on their emotions and will often need to undergo a behavioural program for a long time - they can still have ongoing problems for some time. Just because their guardian is a behaviourist, well, it just means that their human has been lucky enough to gain extra knowledge, in order to help them make progress with their issues. 

They are often not the dog that we started with. The dog you see barking at another dog when they go down the street, may have once been too afraid to even leave their house. The dog running with wild abandon through the leaves in the park with little recall might once have been curled up in pain and unable to move for days on end. (A good trainer will have them on a long line for safety, but still....). 

The ability to make that dog's life better, to help them make progress and to have patience while doing it is reflective of the trainer's/behaviourist's skill.

Like any living creature, we are all a work in progress, and trainer's and behaviourist's dogs are no different. Those dogs you see on TV? They are the exception, not the rule, They are fantastic to watch, and brilliantly trained, but just like people do not look like those air brushed models on TV and in magazines, not all dogs will look like the dogs on TV. Not even trainer's dogs. 

Sometimes, especially not trainer's dogs.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

30 days of sausage.

We have all now done four days of our 30 Days of Canine Science challenge, and it is certainly proving an eye opener. Great fun though! My colleagues and I have been really enjoying the challenge and it certainly is giving us all food for thought, as well as highlighting areas we are each good at or could improve on.

People get comfortable in their training methods, all trainers from those owners just training their own pet dogs for fun, to professionals who are training for clients. We find what works for us, what achieves the desired outcome for ourselves and our clients, and we then practice it until it is second nature to us. 

The whole point, it seems, of this course so far is to have us re-examine our techniques and discover things we wouldn't usually think of trying, to stretch our abilities even further. It pushes us just outside of our comfort zones, while allowing us the room to adapt and take from it what works for us.

Moo is very much enjoying the sudden influx of sausage, and is trying his very hardest, being the good boy that he is. He has always been taught using concept games as these seem to come the most naturally to us as a partnership, so using cues, props other than toys, lures and even some shaping - apart from basic obedience training - is a new thing for him to get his head round, definitely something I will be doing more of with him as he seems to be relishing the chance to use his brain. By the end of his 30 days of sausage he will be the weight of a St. Bernard. 

It's good to do things like this with your own dog as a trainer, as you can get so wrapped up in other people's animals and the world they live in, that your own dog can get left behind a little. Couple that with the fact that most of us get into training in the first place because our own dogs might have needed a little help and you have a situation. An electrician will not very often go home and begin rewiring their own house for fun. But - give them something new to do and they are in their element fiddling with their pliers and fuses. This kind of thing, when entered into in the right frame of mind (ie. for fun, not because you want to put pressure on yourself or your pet) and taking any positive training methods you wish to utilise from it, is a great relationship builder and a brilliant reminder as to why we took up training in the first place. That delighted little body waggling about and that happy, smiley face you get when your own dog realises that you are doing something special together with them is priceless.

Absolute Dogs Geek is pretty awesome too - very sciencey but understandable for dummies like myself. Many, many lightbulb moments to help out my behaviour clients and their dogs and we are only in the first week.

In other news, Aedan has college beginning tomorrow and as part of his studies he has to learn to write a blog, so his blog will be at - I know you will all wish him luck - but can you all please wish me luck too as I have to be up at bloody 6am to get him on the bus! It is going to sting pretty sodding badly after having lay ins for half the summer holidays, and no rushing about even on the days I had to get up.

Mornings are shite. It's a fact. Thats why dog trainers do not tend to run dog training classes at 6am, we are still tucked up in our baskets dreaming of fleecey gilets with lots of big pockets and clickers that have a nice soft click, if we can help it. Those of us that are very energetic might be walking our own dogs - but these are the ones who are in bed by 9.30pm, and with teens in the house that is just impossible.

Suppose I had better go and make sure he has some clean clothes to wear and that his homework is done. It is 7.15pm the night before college starts - that's enough time to catch up with six weeks worth of homework in a panic.. right??

F x