If you’ve read my blogs before, you may remember that in addition to being an AnimalSense dog trainer, I am also an animal wrangler. Basically, I provide suitable animals for different commercial projects and then handle them on set, having the animals perform the required tasks while maintaining their comfort and safety. This is a job I truly love, as I never know what animals I’ll be working with next or what the project is that I’ll be involved in.
For my last project, I was involved in a video shoot for a major brand of dog food. This project required several well trained dogs to perform various tasks that would end up looking as though they were a focus group sitting around a conference table discussing the merits of this particular canned food. I couldn’t think of any better dogs than those that belong to my fellow trainers at AnimalSense.
Not only were the dogs a cute group, but they were well trained, focused and managed by a knowledgeable group of professionals. Although it was one of the more complicated shoots in terms of what was required and where we could be in order to direct the dogs, it was also one of the easiest, because I knew I had a crew of handlers and dogs I could rely on.
Besides the fact that I really enjoy working with my colleagues and their adorable dogs, I picked them for this job because of the way the dogs were trained. I knew that each of these dogs that I had submitted for this job, including my own girl Khaleesi, had been trained using positive methods. These dogs wanted to work, because “work” meant toys, treats, praise and all sorts of wonderful things. These were dogs who weren’t afraid to attempt new tasks, because they weren’t concerned about being punished or yelled at. As I mentioned, this project was one of the more complicated ones. Dogs were required to sit at a table with other dogs, look in certain directions, move their mouths, and do a wide variety of tasks that they were never specifically trained to do. Yet, because training and working was fun for them, they all adapted quite easily and eagerly performed what we needed them to do.
Sure, having an animal that will perform tricks and tasks on set is critical to my job. But, having an animal that is clearly enjoying this is what makes me a successful wrangler. Having a dog that clearly enjoys this is, to me, what makes me a successful owner.
Sure, there are a million ways to train a dog to sit, but do you want a dog that does it out of fear, because he must, or because he wants to? Give me hotdogs, toys and dog treats as training aids any day over prong collars, shock collars or domination. At the end of the day, I’d much rather have a relationship with my dog that is built on trust and a willingness to work for a reward rather than fear or being worn down.