About Fran- Applied Animal Behavior Specialist

Freddie-Foster-BeachSo who am I? I’ve been asking myself that question for a while. I’m a human who has loved animals for as long as my memory. What I’ve learned is that loving an animal and knowing about them is not the same. I grew up with dogs, cats, horses, reptiles and birds. Looking back on all the animals over the years in my care, I can tell you I have made lots if mistakes, but my mistakes are good news for you so you don’t have to make them; not such good news for my animals, although I promise none were seriously injured during my formative learning!

I continue to grow professionally and personally, so I’ll share few things I’ve learned along the way…

Because someone has credentials, doesn’t mean they like animals. Often times they like bullying animals to make themselves seem powerful.

Because your trainer (friends, neighbors, the guy/gal at the pet store) are knowledgable, they are NOT veterinarians. If your dog is ill, please seek advice from the appropriate experts.

Because your veterinarian (friends, neighbors, the guy/gal at the pet store) are knowledgeable, they are NOT trainers. If your dog has a behavioral issue, please seek advice from the appropriate expert.

Because someone says they’re a “dog trainer”, doesn’t mean they are educated. Today everyone holding the other end of the leash is allowed to call themselves a dog trainer!

Because a trainer uses words like positive reinforcement, force-free, balanced, rewards based etc. doesn’t necessarily mean they have your dog’s best interest in mind. So regardless of the label they’re using to market themselves, they should not be hurting your dog or teaching you how to. If you want to know if a technique hurts, try it on yourself first. And by the way, if your trainer pinches, chokes, yells or shocks your dog and then give the dog a “cookie”, he is NOT a positive reinforcement trainer; he is just another aversive trainer who unwittingly has conditioned  your dog to tolerate abuse because the pain is followed with a treat!

Because a dog is barking and lunging doesn’t mean he’s “acting out” and deserves to be chocked, shocked, pinched or yelled at. Barking is a communication; often this behavior reflects his fear and no amount of aversive techniques (abuse) will change the dog’s emotional state from fearful to friendly!

If marine mammals, zoo animals, human animals (ALL ANIMALS) can be trained without hurting them, so can your dog be trained. Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is home to a variety of wild species and now domestic dogs, all of which are trained THE SHEDD WAY.  The show at the Shedd is a wonderful way to be entertained, and also to learn about training and enrichment for your own animals.

Because a dog evolved from a wolf, does not make him a wolf. He is NOT a pack animal, an animal that likes being locked in a “den” (crate) nor is he a wild animal. Thousands of years of evolution has produced a species that likes humans, reads and responds to human gestures like no other animal, and is capable of solving problems unique to the individual ways dogs view their world. It is only in the last 10 years or so that scientist have bothered to study canines and this groundbreaking work will hopefully replace myths, folklore and other made up stuff so that we can begin to understand who the dog really is.

Because a dog walks out the door first and or pulls on his leash, doesn’t make him “dominant”. In fact the label, even if it were true, does more to divide the human hound relationship, rather than recognize the behavior for what it is: He’s excited to go out for a walk with his favorite person!

Because you can reinforce a dog’s attention seeking, (voluntary) behavior such as barking and jumping on you, does NOT mean you can reinforce his fearful, (involuntary) emotional state (which may also produce behaviors such as barking and jumping on you.) In fact if you could reinforce fear, you could punish fear, and I promise you that petting and soothing your fearful dog is no more going to increase his fear level than slapping him and thinking that the fear will decrease.

Because you rescue dogs for a living doesn’t mean you have actually saved the animal from a horrible fate. If the animals in your facility are living in cages, are ill and not receiving timely veterinary care, and or are not being mentally and physically enriched, then the animals are living a horrific existence. The question then becomes, “Who is going to rescue the dogs from you?”

They say that dogs are relinquished to shelters because of behavior issues; I believe dogs are relinquished to shelters because of bad information on how to resolve the issues.

Some people are reluctant to adopt an adult dog because of possible behavior issues, so they instead opt for a puppy with a “clean slate”. What they don’t consider is that the adult dog you see in the shelter was most likely somebody’s puppy at one time so if you don’t raise your puppy right, he’ll become another adult dog in a shelter too!

Shelter dogs are not born; they’re created!