Trainer Teaches Owners, Not The Dog

FOCUS ON PETS

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A professional dog trainer visited Payson recently, leaving us with valuable information and inspiration for establishing more and varied dog training programs.

Ali Brown lives in Pennsylvania, but is interested in a move. She stopped to take a look at Payson on her way to the Valley where she presented a dog training seminar.

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Professional dog trainer Ali Brown recently visited Payson, and demonstrates how to teach the "touch" command using a clicker and some yummy treats.

"I don't teach the dog, I teach the owner," Brown said. "I do not want to be tough on the dog. It is not fair."

She uses the clicker as a positive training tool. The sound of the clicker tells the dog that what he did was correct and that a treat will be forthcoming. Brown's primary focus is reactive dogs.

"Reactive behavior, such as growling at other dogs, lunging at people and barking nonstop, is often mislabeled as aggression," she said. "Most aggression is fear-based and should be treated as such."

Brown recently published a book, "Scaredy Cat, Understanding and Rehabilitating your Reactive Dog." She is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, provides non-force training methods for dogs and their people. Visit her website at http://www.greatcompanions.info/scaredydog.html.

A most annoying behavior is a dog that jumps on you or your guests. The simple solution is to turn your back to him and ignore him until all four feet are on the ground. Then praise and treat.

Another annoying dog behavior is barking. Brown said that excessive barking means that the stress level is way up. And then it becomes a habit. Exercise is the best stress reliever. Teaching a dog the simple task of touching your hand is a good distraction and it reduces stress. You can teach the dog to touch your hand on command by putting a wonderful treat between your fingers and saying "touch."

Brown mentioned several ways of removing the stimulus which encourages the dog to bark. Make your fence so that he cannot see out. When he is in the house, block his view of outside activity that encourages barking. But the underlying cause of barking is generally due to the dog not getting his needs met. Exercise, attention and training all reduce stress and reduce the need for barking.

Brown said there are choices between positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment. Punishment causes stress and it also diminishes the relationship. Punishment creates learned helplessness. This is true for children as well. Too much punishment leads to the feeling of "I give up. I cannot do anything to please this person." Dogs want to please and work hard at figuring out what makes us happy.

Having Brown in town stirred up some talk as to whether we need more dog training classes in the Payson area. Therefore, this is kind of an informal poll.

We would like to know if there is an interest in training classes and if so, what would you like to learn. The possibilities include puppy classes, basic obedience, clicker training, Canine Good Citizenship classes and certification, agility, musical freestyle, flyball and the new event, rally. Rally is a combination of basic obedience and precision moves which is challenging and fun for both the dog and the handler. It is a new AKC event and points are earned toward titles just as they are in the other dog sports.

Please respond to my e-mail address below. Would you take part if a variety of dog classes were offered in Payson? Do you have a particular area of interest? Do you have a specific dog problem that you would like help with? Please specify areas of interest or need. From your response, decisions will be made so please let us know what you would like.

Fifty pets, the maximum allowed, were spayed or neutered at the recent mobile clinic. That means fewer homeless and neglected puppies and kittens. Everyone who gets their dog or cat spayed or neutered is doing their important part in reducing the horrendous pet overpopulation problem and as a result of this routine surgery, their pets are happier and healthier. This clinic was sponsored by the Payson Humane Society and the Rim Country Animal Sanctuary and was held at the Mazatzal Casino.

About 150 pets were vaccinated at the recent rabies clinic sponsored by Gila County Rabies Control, Payson Animal Control and Dr. Jacque Rosholm of Main Street Animal Clinic.

A "hiking with your dog" group has been formed. It started in Pine and Strawberry but turns out several Payson and Star Valley people have joined and we are hiking all around the area. So the invitation is being extended to anyone interested in hiking with your dog. The only requirements are that your dog is not aggressive and is under your control. For more information or to get on the list, send an e-mail to Lori Chandler, mtrider@cybertrails.com, or phone her at (928) 476-2633.

Lots of great plans are in the works including a possible overnight. Hikes are designed around the wishes of the hikers and generally are about three miles in length. The dogs love it and so do their people.

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