In this season-ending episode, I walk with Ashley, a dog trainer who manages TheChaosCanine on Instagram, and her dog, Rogue One. We discuss Ashley's journey into dog training, the importance of understanding a dog as an individual, and the misconceptions surrounding obedience training. Throughout our conversation, Ashley emphasizes the need for responsible dog guardianship and the significance of building a solid relationship with our furry companions.
The Journey into Dog Training
Ashley's love for dogs began at a young age, and she had been asking for a dog since she was four years old. After three years of persistence, her mom and grandma surprised her with a dog from the local rescue for her seventh birthday. This experience taught Ashley the importance of understanding a dog's background and behavior, especially when adopting from unknown sources. She observed her first dog's resource-guarding tendencies and learned to respect his boundaries, which laid the foundation for her future approach to dog training.
Viewing Dogs as Individuals
Ashley's perspective on dogs as individuals stems from her natural curiosity about animals. She has always been empathetic towards animals and recognized their likes and dislikes, just as she has her own. Growing up, she referred to her dog as "uncle," reinforcing the idea that dogs have unique personalities and preferences. This understanding of dogs as individuals shaped Ashley's approach to training, focusing on cooperative care and positive reinforcement.
The Importance of Relationship Building
Ashley emphasizes the importance of building a strong relationship with our dogs rather than solely focusing on obedience training. She compares obedience training to mathematics, where repetition and refinement are necessary. However, the essential aspect of training lies in teaching dogs how to manage their emotions and navigate daily life. Ashley believes that dogs should be viewed as livable companions, and the primary goal should be to meet their needs and ensure a healthy relationship.
The Pitfalls of Board and Train Programs
While board and train programs can benefit certain situations, Ashley cautions against relying solely on them. She believes these programs should be used to provide a head start or address specific issues rather than as a substitute for ongoing training and relationship building. Ashley emphasizes the need for pet guardians to be actively involved in their dog's training and seek out trainers who understand their dog's needs and behavior.
Understanding Behavior and Circumstances
Ashley encourages pet guardians to observe and understand their dog's behavior in the context of their circumstances. Dogs, like humans, can experience stress and exhibit different behaviors based on their environment and emotional state. Rather than blaming the dog for their behavior, Ashley suggests considering the circumstances and how they may affect the dog. This empathetic approach allows for a deeper understanding of the dog's needs and helps foster a stronger bond between guardian and dog.
Raising Dogs on Purpose
Ashley challenges the notion that dog training is solely about obedience. Instead, she advocates for raising dogs on purpose, focusing on their overall well-being and emotional development. This approach involves understanding and meeting the dog's needs rather than trying to change their innate behavior. Ashley believes being a responsible dog guardian requires ongoing education and a commitment to building a solid relationship with our dogs.
The Role of the Guardian
Ashley introduces the concept of being a guardian rather than an owner, emphasizing the responsibility and care required to meet a dog's needs. Viewing dogs as sentient beings rather than property challenges the prevailing cultural mindset and encourages a more compassionate approach to dog ownership. Ashley believes being a guardian involves guiding and caring for the dog, recognizing their individuality, and providing them with the best possible quality of life.
The Impact of Responsible Dog Guardianship
By promoting responsible dog guardianship and education, Ashley aims to improve the well-being of dogs and their guardians. She believes that providing accessible information and resources, matching pet parents with knowledgeable trainers, and encouraging a deeper understanding of dog behavior can lead to healthier and happier relationships between humans and dogs. Ashley's vision is to create a community of highly educated trainers who can guide and support pet guardians in their journey.
Ashley's journey into dog training and her perspective on responsible dog guardianship shed light on the importance of understanding dogs as individuals and building strong relationships with them. Focusing on a dog's needs, emotions, and behavior rather than solely on obedience training can create a harmonious and fulfilling bond with our furry companions. Ashley's commitment to education and her vision for a more informed and compassionate dog training community offer hope for a future where dogs and their guardians thrive together.
As we continue to explore the wonderful world of dog ownership, let us remember that our dogs are not just possessions or sources of entertainment. They are living beings with emotions, needs, and unique personalities. By embracing the role of a guardian and investing in our dogs' well-being, we can create a world where dogs are loved, understood, and allowed to live their best lives.