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Past Present and Future

Working with dogs within the Working Trial environment, we became elitist and I we ignored the majority of dogs in their normal environment of pets in the family home. Being so focused on our dogs and though passing information freely between ourselves we rarely passed this information on to ordinary people. We did occasionally do corrective work where someone had a problem but we never considered regulary transmitting this, as we were just too busy.

Our environment demanded such a high level of training it turned us into a closed group in so many ways. We never advertised where we were or what we did and certainly, in running competitions advertising the fact we actually existed was detrimental to running a good trail. Much of the competition included tracking and searching that required so much land; we never considered it beneficial to invite spectators.

It was only when we ran a Police/Patrol competition did we let it be known that they could come and watch. The public loved to watch the criminal work section. This they found the most interesting even if they viewed it like a Lassie or K9 film. Because of their interest and more fun for the handlers, we started changing these into incidents rather than simple reaction tests.

I believe John Rogerson was the first top competitor to venture into the area of teaching outside of the trails circle. He started as a professional dog trainer and then went onto Teeside radio answering questions on the air about dog behavioural problems. He then began writing articles, books and began travelling all over the world promoting our level of dog handling, training, and understanding. John has set up Working Trials clubs all over America and the standard of their dogs is now improving every day. Our hope is that this will now influence the American professional dog handlers because they remain focused on using enforcement training as the only way to train. When they see that the civilians have better control with higher standards than the professionals they may start re-evaluate their method of training and to change as they did in the UK.

I asked John would he have his books reprinted but he replied that with more experience he would now write his books differently. The other problem is he has so little time to sit writing again as he lectures all over the world teaching non-enforcement training and dog behaviourism.

It is a shame, as even in his early days, he thoughts on training were not only new but we proved they worked by the successes in competitions. I did tell him one day that someone had been following one of his methods for over a year and it had not worked but he had followed someone else’s method and it worked in two weeks. John just turned round and said he must have been doing it wrong. John has no doubts in his mind that his training methods are correct.

I do have a book written by John that anyone can borrow. Two teachers have translated this into children’s language. You may find you child reading this will have a better understand dogs. Another excellent book written by Gwen Bailey called The Rescue Dog is based on the training she recived from John when he taught at the Blue Cross. This again is a very useful and informative book to read.

I do also have some Roger Mugford books also worth reading. For those dogs that do not like the sound of fireworks etc, I now have his noise rehabilitation CD. This helps dogs to become desensitised to a long list of bangs, Transport, household and people noises. There are four levels of fireworks from the garden type to a professional display. Not certain if you would classify it as relaxing though. The instructions are in English, German, French and Spanish but the noises need no translation.

When I look back at my first full year in Spain I wonder has there been any improvement in dog training and understanding. The answer must be a yes but the improvement is still not fast enough for me. Established trainers still misinterpret Socialbility as only to train dogs to play with one another in a class. The training sessions must extend out into the real world but instructors never attempt this. This is what handlers need but instructors never try it nor think of ever risking it. Dogs trained in a field are not equipped for the outside world; you must train them there. This is socialbility training.

Many owners still protect their dogs from such environments, yet, that is where owners live their lives, and a dog should become part of that life. Dogs should not become a jail sentence or a ball and chain.

One change I would like to see is training not to remain optional. I would rather see all dogs have to reach a reasonable level of control. We owe to our non-dog owning neighbours that at least.

I recived an e-mail the other day from Mrs Theresa Villiers EMP from Strasbourg informing me how her work in the EU against the trade in cats and dogs fur trade may hopefully lead to and EU ban on this trade.

I also noted she mentions some of her other works being standing up against the Anti dog “breed specific” legislation. There is so much we are not aware of going on in the European Parliament. We came so close to loosing all the big breeds over 30 kilograms on the basis that big dogs do the most savage attacks against people. Politicians could have passed this law without any consultation and few people knowing about it until it was too late.

Such power does worry me but if I discus this with people most think it cannot happen or it will not happen in their lifetime. So long as they can have their dogs now the future is to the young people. The world has enough problems so dog law comes low down on the political agenda and not even worthy of public discussion.

We think we have a right to own a dog even if they are a little restrictive but we must recognise not everyone likes dogs. We all have to enjoy our space together so those that do not wish to have a dog should not have to put up with our aggressive or unruly dogs.

To own a dog we must accept responsibility we owe not just to ourselves that the dog does not rule us but is not trying to rule other people by bad behaviour and aggression. Whilst many people may put up with over playful dogs for a while aggression is the problem uppermost in peoples minds and in particular those that rule us. Politicians feel they have the right if not the duty to protect its citizens. In particular, children’s safety from dog attacks unruly dogs that may cause an accident and dogs fouling areas frequented by children.

The main difficulty is that only a minority of dog owners are the cause of these incidents. If they will not control their dogs then everyone could loose their most popular pet.

I meet many people who just do not care so long as it does not happen in their lifetime. I recived the same advice for me to just enjoy my work with dogs in Spain and let the rest of the world get along as it usually does. It does worry me though that gradually we will loose the right to own dogs unless we can show we accept our responsibility to other people not to have unsociable dogs.

Socialbility is the title of all these articles and covers everything we do with our dogs making them acceptable to everyone else. Just obedience training in some field is not going to help you to be able to sit at a café and drink coffee knowing you dog will not charge after someone or a dog that passes causing mayhem. Dogs have to live in our world not us live in theirs or dog may find they cannot live in it at all.

So, what do I see for the future? More control from the EU and more laws and restrictions for dog owners throughout the EU. This is and will be inevitable. I just hope the laws become more appropriate than and not as Draconian as they have in the past and could be in the future.

Here in the Costa Blanca I do now see improvements. I am particularly interested in Pet training now becoming part of the school curriculum and this will bring about the end of passing on bad methods of previously accepted training.

I see more and more emails coming in now with owners having tried something and it worked. I find others who have tried something but got it wrong and I have only had to correct them. At least they tried.

Even owners with dogs with problems now send me e-mails with more informed descriptions as to their dog’s problems. This makes it so much easier for me to diagnose the problem and suggest the correct methods of retraining.

Some people I never hear from but who read the articles and successfully use the information. There was a lady the other day that wanted her dog to come back to her as it was playing with another dog. She took from her pocket an empty packet of crisps and scrunched the bag and the dog returned like a rocket. I said that was very impressive and she replied she had read it in an article in the CBN.

Vets are now beginning to refer me to see their patients to sort out doggy problems so behaviourism seems at last becoming established here. I am also pleased to read other writers now promoting socialbility training like using destabilising techniques and to suggest the correct books to read that I have previously written about here in the CBN.

I also see people gradually moving away from protecting their dogs and wanting to positively train their dogs out in the real world so they can enjoy life with their dogs and not imprisoned by them.

I now receive many requests asking if their dogs can meet Winton to see if he can control their dogs aggression or just to see what will happen if they let their dog play with another dog. Winston now thinks he is entitled to meet every person and dog that he sees.

I am pleased to hear of more people setting up walking groups to encourage the reduction of dog-to-dog aggression as well as meet other like-minded dog owners.

I do see many changes for the better and hope I have contributed to this change. If more owners will only face the situation and embrace socialbility training, this will make dogs and handlers more sociable. It is better than keeping them away from people just in case they might cause a nuisance or attack some dog or person then we can all enjoy sharing our life with our dogs and neighbours again.

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