I hate to say this, but Lassie was a boy!

Its that moment we all dread happening to our kids…. The realisation that Santa isn’t real…. I know, I know… some of you will be reading this in shock… go get a stiff drink, because there is more bad news on the way!

Did you also know ‘Lassie’, the gold standard by which all dogs across the world are measured, wasn’t a girl!!

That’s right people… Lassie was a boy! In fact Lassie was several boys!! All identical in appearance, and trained to perfection but none of which were female!!

I can sense the disbelief and hear the sound as childhood dreams are shattered!

So the icon on which we base our standard and ideology of what and how dogs should behave is in fact a ‘lie’….. well not a ‘lie’, but certainly not ‘reality’.

The irony is, that this has caused so much damage across the world for dogs of all shapes and sizes.

See, so many dogs are expected to adhere to a fallacy created by images, and illusions in the media. And if they don’t, they are labelled as problematic, weird, odd, dangerous, or discarded.

The fact that one of the most iconic canine stars of the silver screen wasn’t even as depicted, is ironic to say the least.

We have been conditioned to believe and expect unrealistic ideals of our dogs, and as a result our dogs are labelled as problematic when they don’t ‘conform’.

Lets take the simplicity of dog to dog interactions.

The imagery we have been flooded with is dogs meeting, frolicking in long grass, bounding happily with each other, with out a single incident, or cross word.

Now that is most definitely the thing of a Disney film!! It just isn’t reality. Don’t get me wrong, we can ‘teach’ and build our dogs confidence and experience up, so they ‘learn’ to have well rounded social skills, but it is perfectly normal for your dog to take a dislike to another dog… and even show a level of anxiety, concern or aggression! It’s perfectly ‘normal’. And as a result we can teach and educate our dogs to behave perfectly ‘abnormally’, by learning to meet random strange dogs and show disinterest or in difference. But to expect or be disappointed when they don’t have these skills is grossly unfair.

Additionally, the dog that walks on a loose lead, or chooses not to chase wildlife, or come back when you call, or settle in your home, or get on with your cat… the list goes on and on.

Of course there are dogs that do have these innate skills and bombproof temperaments, but they aren’t the norm, they are the exception. And whilst we can discuss the need to select and breed dogs with these attributes above other traits, this is probably unrealistic. There are literally billions of dogs on this planet, and I suspect the smallest percentage bred with these as a priority.

See Lassie was a product of training… he was ‘taught’ to do do the behaviours as depicted on screen. As are the countless dogs seen in movies, television and media.

When I was approached to be part of a television series which wanted to take 12 rescue dogs and teach them the skills and behaviours needed to fly a plane, in the sky series ‘Dogs might Fly’, the first priority was to teach the basics…. Recall, sit, down etc and then prepare the dogs for the plethora of situations they would be put into.

These were dogs from various backgrounds, who had been in rescue kennels. Even the simplicity of learning to relax and remain calm, was not ‘natural’ to them.

One of my 3 dogs was a malinois! Settling and relaxing was most definitely not natural!! But to be able to be on ‘set’, this was a mandatory requirement.

So, Tess was taught… educated and trained to ‘settle’. She was exercised and stimulated mentally so she found it easier to ‘chill’. She was given an outlet for her energy, and taught to be focused on me. Her confidence was nurtured and built so she could cope in any situation. She trusted me and flourished.

These skills meant she was not only able to take everything that was thrown at her in her stride, the real ‘Disney’ ending was that she was homed to one of the crew!! Now that, is a story worth telling!

The sooner we dispel the myths created by movies, and tune into ‘reality’, the better chance of helping create happy, well adjusted dogs across the world, rescues won’t be over run with discarded unwanted perfectly ‘normal’ dogs, and there would be more acceptance, compassion and understanding for those that are dealing with ‘normal’ dog problems. There would be less stigma and more success!

Blue pads, garden sheds and mental gyms!

I recently did a training day, and the plans for the day were altered by the random British weather…. As per typical UK summer, we had rain, rain and more rain! LOL. Two days prior it was like the Bahamas!

So the planned session had to be adapted.

I decided to do a simple session of shaping everyone’s dog to stand on a blue yoga block. Easy right? Well, yes… but I wanted to use this to examine the process of training and competing.

Each person was asked to shape their dog to place two paws on the block, but due to the rain, we used an open shed as the training space.

Each person was given 2mins exactly to train their dog. They could end the session before that time, if they felt they achieved what they wanted.

On the first cycle, every person ended their session comfortably within 1minute.

Each session was videod and we discussed the ‘process’.

The first question I asked was ‘How did they feel about, the session?’. The group were all avid agility competitors, so shaping a two foot target on a yoga block wasn’t exactly what they anticipated. They were candid and honest in their responses. Some said they were instantly apprehensive, because they dislike shaping as they always feel they don’t know what to do, others said they felt confident as their dogs knew the behaviour.

The second discussion was about what was their ‘process’ for the exercise. Did they consider anything that could affect the dog?

The environment?reinforcement? placement of reinforcement? Marker words? Release words? On or off the lead? Possible distractions within the environment? The dogs feelings towards the behaviour?

You could see the thinking happening… and the aha moments occurring.

See, the session wasn’t anything to do with the target behaviour as such, it was about the trainers process, and the competing process.

I solemnly believe on so many levels, that our thoughts manifest everything around us. That sounds a bit hocus pocus, but what I mean is, where and how you focus your thoughts, dictates how and where you use your energy, which in turns, creates a return on that ‘thought’.

Your mental ‘muscle’ needs to be worked regularly in order to get stronger.

Often people wait for competition, to practice their mental preparation and mental game, however this is way too late.

Your mental game should start in your training, and specifically the process.

Are you present? Are you focused on what you are doing? Do you have a plan? What are your physical movements going to be? Have you rehearsed this prior? Have you got the right equipment, and tools? Have you got some data to guide you? Had the dog acclimated to the environment? Did you feel pressured?

All of this is exactly the same process when you step into competition.

The last 18months has seen many let their mental muscle go weak… and the place to start working it out is at home.

In the session we shaping our dogs to step on a blue perch, in a shed! But if we substitute the perch for ‘weave’, or heelwork, or an A Frame, or retrieve… or any other sports specific behaviour, and we see the shed as ‘the ring’… this is the perfect metaphor for competition.

Being present, mindful and connected are the foundation of competing with another team member, especially the 4 legged type.

There is nothing wrong with training for the sheer fun of it, and the same is applicable to competing. Go in there and have a total ball! But often the pressures and challenges of the occasion can cause you to underperform, and ‘Luck’ is when preparation and opportunity meet…

Here are 5 keys times for mindful training and competing.

1. Mechanics, mechanics, mechanics!! Practice your mechanics without the dog so many times, until it feels comfortable. Then, and only then…. Bring the dog into the mix!

2. Think, plan, do review! The Bob Bailey mantra should guide you if you want to ensure you are at your best when needed.

3. Collate data. Use video or record keep to note progress. Numbers, distance, time, reps. Keep a log of how much, how many, how long, how far etc, so you know what you can and can’t do, and when you are moving forward.

4. Train your mind to see, say and hear what is helpful. Self doubt and negative talk are what we literally do to ourselves! Stop it! Stop it and put those demons to rest.

5. Learn to tune into the task and the moment. Quieten all the outside influences and focus! This is your superpower! Use it!

Seen and Not heard?

Did you ever hear the phrase ‘Children should be seen and not heard’….. I definitely did! LOL. My mother was big on the notion that, children should be seen and not heard, and that ‘big people’ are talking….

I think this was a very common held belief system that a lot of children were brought up with, and maybe still are…. 

And I would say that is a similar belief system that many expect of their dogs….  To be inconspicuous, to be constantly calm despite the situation, to ignore all other dogs people and things…. But like children, is that realistic…. And more importantly, is that fair? And even more importantly, how are we going to teach them to be ‘seen and not heard’??

Firstly, we need to ask ourselves how was ‘being seen and not heard’ communicated and taught’ years ago? Was it done with a steely glare? Or was it done in a way that had an underlying fear attached to it? The repercussions of not adhering to the ‘rule’, being a veiled threat…. Or was it done in a manner that set the dog/child up for success? A huge amount of reinforcement paired with appropriate behaviour, and value being built for the correct responses? I am sure that for most of us, over 30… it probably was more of the former, rather then later. But can you imagine the difference it would have made if it was taught in a different way?

So for example, I like my dogs to be able to be used for demonstration (when the world was open, that is!), so they will often hang out in a bed, until I need them. 

This is a taught behaviour. They have been initially taught to want to be in their crates as puppies, this is a place of safety, security and comfort for them. They are then taught to want to stay in the crate, until they are released…. So this then can be modified to a bed, or a bench, or a seat…. Anything, that I ask them to position themselves on, becomes the ‘crate’. 

They are taught that, in that situation… they are to remain ‘seed and not heard’. 

Another example is around dogs and people. I like my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’ around people. I do this by viewing socialisation as a lesson in itself and ensuring that I set them up on ‘play dates’ with dogs and people that they are going to have a positive experience with, or a productive experience with. This may mean learning to play appropriately with other dogs, or learning to ignore other dogs. Both are valuable life skills to teach your dogs. 

Or it could be, out on a walk when I see someone approaching. I want to be able to recall all my 11 dogs back at once, and have them ‘wait there’ whilst they person or dog passes. This is again taught. I build a desire to want to come back when called, and a desire to ‘wait there’ until I release them.

These skills allow my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’ in situations where it keeps them safe and ensures they are not a hindrance to others. 

However, I am also realistic that they are dogs. Not robots. Its their unique personalities and antics that make me LOL, that keep me owning dogs after 30 years!

Adolescence is a notoriously challenging time, when hormones take over, and your once angelic pup, changes into demon spawn! I don’t expect my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’, so I manage them and ensure that I don’t put them in situations that they cant cope with. I manage their interactions, and ensure that I work extra hard at our relationship.

If a dog acts inappropriately to one of my dogs, and my dog air snaps at them, when they jump on their back or become too intrusive, I don’t expect my dogs to be ‘seen and not heard’. This is an appropriate response to an inappropriate social interaction on the part of the other dog. Now this doesn’t mean my dog can tear the other dog limb from limb, or cause damage to them, but saying ‘GET OFF MY HEAD!!!!’ Is most definitely an appropriate response. Thats a realistic behaviour of a well adjusted social dog, who is educating another dog about social etiquette. 

I don’t expect my dogs to be ‘calm’ at all times. If they are watching something exciting happening, and they show interest and get excited at the prospect of having a go, thats a fair response. However they also understand that they can’t get involved, leave they beds, or leave me. They also understand if I ask them to focus on me, whilst that interesting activity if going on, that supersedes their desire to focus on the other dog. But I am not unrealistic in my expectations of them. They can watch, but they cant vocalise. So in a way they are ‘seen but not heard, but not being a hindrance of danger to others. 

Often, we as dog owners, bring into our relationship, our stuff. Unrealistic expectations of our dogs, often influenced by the Disney-eque standard of what dogs should be, rather then what they are… Or at least what they are without education or information. 

It is absolutely possible to teach your dog and your child to be ‘Seen and not heard’, but how you teach them and therefore the long term impact of ‘being seen and not heard’ is critical to their overall emotional well being and overall confidence. 

A fearful dog that is ‘see and not heard’ could equate to a lack of confidence… an introvert chin who is ‘seen and not heard’ could equate to the same. 

I want my dogs to ‘WANT’ to be ‘seen and not heard’! I want them to have so much desire to focus on me, that they don’t have interest in other dogs, or they have so much value for their bed, that they ‘WANT’ to stay there, despite the distractions. 

Creating this ‘WANT’ is the key… They say, you can make a dog do almost anything, but getting them to ‘WANT’ to do it, is the secret!

Do you have a dog that is far from ‘seen and not heard’… I don’t mean a robot, devoid of personality and joy, but a dog that sees ‘good behaviour’ as an opportunity to be reinforced… and ‘good social skills’ as a way to get all the things they want? 

Well, I may have not he solution for you… I have been working on a HUGE project, to create all the above for owners who’s dogs are anything but ‘seen and not heard’… 

I have written many blogs, delivered seminars, and helped countless dogs with ‘Reactivity Issues’ to grow into confident, well adjusted family pets and so much more… 

And now I am at the cusp of sharing with you aimed at helping dogs labelled as ‘Reactive’, to overcome challenges and lead a more fulfilling life! I am so exciting about this project and all the work that has gone into it… I can honestly say, it has been a passion project after seeing so many people struggling with their dogs behaviour and in desperate need of help….

Well its on its way! Keep an eye out over the coming week… more to come! And some REALLY exciting news!!

Kamal Fernandez

Feelings… nothing more then feelings…

Have you ever thought about how your dogs feels? I can imagine a sea of dog owners and trainers across the globe, all responding in unison ‘Of course I do’….

However, lets take this a stage further…

Have you ever though about how your dogs feels about the reinforcement you have chosen? Have you created the ‘right feelings towards the reinforcement?’

Does the dog have the appropriate feelings about the reinforcement and the way in which you deliver it?

This may sound somewhat cryptic, but as with all life lessons… I am having this one reaffirmed to me at present as I train my three (that’s right…. I said three) puppies!

Foundations for any sport is like building a house, without it being solid and firm your house will likely topple down. So often people are thinking about the colour of walls, rather then foundations, and risk the whole building falling down! For my dogs, how they respond and react to the reinforcement is part of this foundations.

At the moment I am training three young dogs, two Border Collies and my Malinois, Jungle. My primary focus is building foundations and creating the correct feelings about and for reinforcement.

My 10month Border Collie Puppy Hottie was a phenomenal tiny puppy! Amazingly clever and bright, played incredibly well, food driven, clear headed and had a super temperament… perfect! What more could I want! Things were going remarkably well… until she started teething.

The first indication that she was having a tough time teething was her loss of appetite. She went from a dog would eat with the appetite of a labrador, to a dg that would walk away from her food or pick at it.

In herself, she was well and as I raw fed, appeared to love frozen treats. This made complete sense with the discomfort she clearly felt.

I could see her gums were swollen and sore, and her sibling appeared to have issues teething too.

At this time, I generally stop training my puppies and let them be ‘dogs’. This isn’t unusual for a pup, and often when left alone, they come through teething and swiftly revert back.

However, Hottie was different. She became ultra sensitive to food and toys, and hands moving around her mouth and face. Whilst she wasn’t worried or frightened, she was definitely reluctant to tug or take food when I offered either long after all her teeth had settled.

This affected her desire to train and engage. Even though she hadn’t had any negative experiences within the training itself, because she understood that this were available as reinforcement, she became reluctant to train because of the potential of them being presented.

Imagine going to your favourite restaurant, where you normally have your favourite meal but on this occasion, you order that meal and get food poisoning. Would you want to go to that restaurant again? Or would you go and avoid that dish? Either way, your experience of that restaurant has been tarnished. The service may have been excellent and the atmosphere perfect, but the feelings caused by the meal made all the difference.

This was essentially what happened to Hottie.

She associated training with how she felt about food and toys… and she felt a great deal of discomfort and pain.

As a reinforcement based dog trainer, this is a huge concept to embrace as pain and discomfort are not things I utilise with my dogs. Yet, here I was with a puppy who ‘felt’ both of these associated with training.

In contrast, Jungle my malinois is SO aroused by toys and even the prospect of them being on offer, that she instantly spikes in her arousal if I incorporate them in her training. This instantly creates changes in behaviour and loss of accuracy. So we have had to address her ‘feelings’ towards the toy. Her desire for a toy, borders on obsession but without the ability to think and listen in their presence, this obsession is counterproductive.

The ‘feelings’ your dogs has towards reinforcement bleeds into the work, in both a positive and negative manner. If the dogs ‘feelings’ towards the reinforcement hasn’t been as trained as the behaviour itself, you risk having unwanted ‘feelings’ developing towards the work.

This is particularly apparent with sports dogs, where frustration is a common technique to build desire for the reinforcement. This ‘feeling’ of frustration can bleed into the work… and this can easily create a ‘stacking’ of frustration if the training or teaching, in itself is creating frustration. This is typical seen in dogs that don’t willingly release toys on cue, the conflict about the release can bleed into their ‘work’.

How your dog ‘feels’ about the reinforcement will affect the dogs ‘feelings’ about training and therefore competing. This, coupled with the challenges presented in competition can be a cocktail of tension!

Working on clear skills and understanding of reinforcement strategies and criteria, BEFORE using them, is a crucial often over looked component to preventing unwarranted frustration and confusion.

It can prevent over arousal issue, displacement, shut down, frustration… the list goes on.

Feelings matter. Plain and simple.

Feelings… nothing more then feelings…

Have you ever thought about how your dogs feels? I can imagine a sea of dog owners and trainers across the globe, all responding in unison ‘Of course I do’….

However, lets take this a stage further…

Have you ever though about how your dogs feels about the reinforcement you have chosen? Have you created the ‘right feelings towards the reinforcement?’

Does the dog have the appropriate feelings about the reinforcement and the way in which you deliver it?

This may sound somewhat cryptic, but as with all life lessons… I am having this one reaffirmed to me at present as I train my three (that’s right…. I said three) puppies!

Foundations for any sport is like building a house, without it being solid and firm your house will likely topple down. So often people are thinking about the colour of walls, rather then foundations, and risk the whole building falling down! For my dogs, how they respond and react to the reinforcement is part of this foundations.

At the moment I am training three young dogs, two Border Collies and my Malinois, Jungle. My primary focus is building foundations and creating the correct feelings about and for reinforcement.

My 10month Border Collie Puppy Hottie was a phenomenal tiny puppy! Amazingly clever and bright, played incredibly well, food driven, clear headed and had a super temperament… perfect! What more could I want! Things were going remarkably well… until she started teething.

The first indication that she was having a tough time teething was her loss of appetite. She went from a dog would eat with the appetite of a labrador, to a dg that would walk away from her food or pick at it.

In herself, she was well and as I raw fed, appeared to love frozen treats. This made complete sense with the discomfort she clearly felt.

I could see her gums were swollen and sore, and her sibling appeared to have issues teething too.

At this time, I generally stop training my puppies and let them be ‘dogs’. This isn’t unusual for a pup, and often when left alone, they come through teething and swiftly revert back.

However, Hottie was different. She became ultra sensitive to food and toys, and hands moving around her mouth and face. Whilst she wasn’t worried or frightened, she was definitely reluctant to tug or take food when I offered either long after all her teeth had settled.

This affected her desire to train and engage. Even though she hadn’t had any negative experiences within the training itself, because she understood that this were available as reinforcement, she became reluctant to train because of the potential of them being presented.

Imagine going to your favourite restaurant, where you normally have your favourite meal but on this occasion, you order that meal and get food poisoning. Would you want to go to that restaurant again? Or would you go and avoid that dish? Either way, your experience of that restaurant has been tarnished. The service may have been excellent and the atmosphere perfect, but the feelings caused by the meal made all the difference.

This was essentially what happened to Hottie.

She associated training with how she felt about food and toys… and she felt a great deal of discomfort and pain.

As a reinforcement based dog trainer, this is a huge concept to embrace as pain and discomfort are not things I utilise with my dogs. Yet, here I was with a puppy who ‘felt’ both of these associated with training.

In contrast, Jungle my malinois is SO aroused by toys and even the prospect of them being on offer, that she instantly spikes in her arousal if I incorporate them in her training. This instantly creates changes in behaviour and loss of accuracy. So we have had to address her ‘feelings’ towards the toy. Her desire for a toy, borders on obsession but without the ability to think and listen in their presence, this obsession is counterproductive.

The ‘feelings’ your dogs has towards reinforcement bleeds into the work, in both a positive and negative manner. If the dogs ‘feelings’ towards the reinforcement hasn’t been as trained as the behaviour itself, you risk having unwanted ‘feelings’ developing towards the work.

This is particularly apparent with sports dogs, where frustration is a common technique to build desire for the reinforcement. This ‘feeling’ of frustration can bleed into the work… and this can easily create a ‘stacking’ of frustration if the training or teaching, in itself is creating frustration. This is typical seen in dogs that don’t willingly release toys on cue, the conflict about the release can bleed into their ‘work’.

How your dog ‘feels’ about the reinforcement will affect the dogs ‘feelings’ about training and therefore competing. This, coupled with the challenges presented in competition can be a cocktail of tension!

Working on clear skills and understanding of reinforcement strategies and criteria, BEFORE using them, is a crucial often over looked component to preventing unwarranted frustration and confusion.

It can prevent over arousal issue, displacement, shut down, frustration… the list goes on.

Feelings matter. Plain and simple.

A road well lit…

This is a ‘Birthday Blog’, and whilst not about ‘My Birthday’, it is ‘My Birthday’… so what better way to celebrate then to blog… (I’m a bit old for Birthday cake and bouncy castles….)

I was thinking about what are the most important factors to effective dog training, irrespective of what the intended purpose is…

Well there is ‘confidence’… The dogs and yours…. There is ‘understanding’… There is motivation…..both outlined in my book ’Pathway to Positivity’…. But there is actually one major factor that intertwines all these factors….

Communication. Our ability to communicate what we want to our dogs, and from our dogs.

All too often, we look to our dog to carry the burden of responsibility for deciphering our information, be it a different language, dialect or even agenda! We forget how amazing our dogs are to even be able to function in a world that is totally contradictory to everything that they are, and yet despite this conflict, they still manage to flourish.

And all too often, if we are honest, our dogs do decipher our poor information and learn despite us, and not because of us.

Dogs, and arguably Horses have been subject to ‘our’ miscommunication for centuries, and yet they still ‘learn’. Other animals have been some what less accommodating… anyone that has owned a Cat, will nod in appreciation!

Dogs have allowed us to pull, yank, check, click, fed, tug, shout, smack, stroke, yell, hit, rewarded frivolously, rewarded scarcely….all in the name of ‘training’ and yet still figured out what we wanted! In fact, some have even anticipated what we have wanted! They truly are amazing!!

Dog training has pillars on which all understanding and clarity is built.

They are ‘Timing’, ‘rate of reinforcement’ and criteria.

Hell mend you if you fail to acknowledge the impact of any one of these being under par. The dog may still learn, but surely we want to do better for them? Surely they deserve that?

Often, we are blindly ignorant of our miscommunication, and it takes a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ level of deduction to determine that your dog simply doesn’t understand. They aren’t ‘being naughty’, or ‘doing it on purpose’ or ‘being thick’ or ‘doing it to wind you up’. They just don’t understand what you are trying to communicate. And whilst you may think you have explained it to them in plain English, try another language!

Common signs of Good communication are:

⁃ Fluency

⁃ Relaxed and joyful expression

⁃ Engaged throughout

⁃ Focused

⁃ Prompt, fast responses

⁃ Accurately meeting criteria.

Common signs of poor communication may be:

⁃ inappropriate levels of arousal

⁃ Displacement/disengagement

⁃ Avoidance

⁃ Vocalisation

⁃ Frustration

⁃ Stress signals (yawning, shaking, sniffing, lack of eye contact)

It is our responsibility to ensure that we communicate our intentions and agenda with blinding clarity. We expect so much of our dogs, but not enough of ourselves!

We need to be aware of OUR role and the importance of OUR influence on our dogs behaviour.

These are not issues beyond our grasp if we ‘THINK, PLAN, DO, REVIEW’, as Bob Bailey says.

Think what you want to train, Plan what you want to train, Do the training and Review the training.

Look at the following:

⁃ consistency

⁃ Mechanical skills

⁃ Preparation

⁃ Empathy

⁃ Patience

⁃ Timing

⁃ Rate of reinforcement

⁃ Criteria

⁃ Overall enjoyment

⁃ Your input, are you connected? Are you present? Are you giving?

⁃ The dogs response. Are they engaged? Are they responsive? Are they focused?

WE can influence our dogs behaviour substantially, IF we hold ourselves accountable to the same standard we hold them.

At the moment, I am raising three amazing puppies… that’s right, 3!

Jungle, my working line Malinois…. Hottie, my Border Collie pup whom I bred, and Reset, her brother whom I had back after going to a home as a puppy.

They are all so uniquely different and present different challenges, and therefore forms of communication and clarity for each.

Jungle is prone to frustration and gets over stimulated by even the sight of people… Hottie has an intense desire to herd and chase, and Reset I have only had a few months, and our challenge was building a bond with an older pup and forming a relationship.

For each dog, I have to think about creating a way for us to understand each other. Its a two way street, and it’s one I have to figure out first and then explain to them.

It is this process I find most joyful, and where I believe we truly forged a ‘bond’ with our dogs.

From today, I am ‘Opening The doors’ to be a fly on the wall, as I raise these three puppies in the first year of their life…. I show you the ups and downs, the challenges and the way in which I overcome them… how I create a clear communication systems with them, how I raise three High drive intense dogs into model citizens and amazing sports dogs!

If you want to join me on on this journey, click the link below to join my exclusive Facebook group ‘The Jungle Book’ where you get to see regular updates on my puppies, plus numerous other special ‘guests’ pups that I have trained for others. See webinars and exclusive lectures, not available anywhere else!

www.kamalfernandezonlinetraining.com/the-junglebook

Communicate clearly and reap the rewards!

‘Communication with our dogs is the beacon of light which dictates the path of travel, ensure your light is bright, your path well lit, and just in case…. have a dam torch!’ Kamal Fernandez 2020!

Time to reset…

Man this has been a crazy year! And it’s not over yet…

Do you feel like you could just hit ‘reset’ on the world, and start over. I mean, like you do on your phone or computer when it’s acting crazy… Just reset everything back to square one!

I don’t know about you, but there is no way in my wildest dreams, I could have anticipated this year…. and all that it has been! CRAZY!

Its been filled with challenges, tests, the unexpected, the unknown and so much more…

The choice could be to give up or give in. To succumb to the crazy that we are in, and hibernate. To decide that you can’t take another step forward. I know so many that feel that way, and have struggled to find a new normal and hold onto hope.

Like all things, I relate this back to dog training.

When you get a puppy, rescue, rehome or older ‘new dog’, its not dissimilar. I look back at each of my dogs, and I couldn’t have anticipated some of the lessons, experiences and challenges they have presented to me. Being honest, there have been countless times when I have thought, ‘I can’t do this’….. I want to walk away, I want to give up… BUT there is something inside me, that pushed me on. It is at this point that I just have to ‘Reset’.

That dares me to dig deeper.

Thats my choice. As a professional dog trainer, I believe in having the ability to relate to ANY dog, and experience ALL the many variations dog ownership, dog sports and training presents. How can I relate to my students if I haven’t had the challenges that they may have?

There are always genuine circumstances when walking away is the wisest decision for all, and putting the needs of the dog first, but for me, as a professional who teaches others, educates and has a platform which others look to, I choose to persevere and take the lessons sent to me.

Well in the spirit of crazy times, I didn’t expect a puppy from my last litter to come back to me. ‘Smartie’, a male pup from my last litter had been homed to an experienced home, and started off brilliantly. It all seemed to be going swimmingly well… but in true 2020 fashion, something changed.

A clash of personalities, a mismatch of circumstances. It doesn’t really matter, but as his breeder, I felt responsible for him and his future. Smartie’ came back to me.

Like with all dogs that come into my home, be it one of my own, or a clients dog, I allow them time to settle and gain confidence. This may take seconds, minutes, hours or days… it doesn’t matter. Leaving them to ‘Reset’.

I did the same with ‘Smartie’ and gave him time to settle and allow him to find his place with my dogs.

I credit my dogs with so much influence on dogs that come into my home. They give them exactly what they need, be it space, confidence, boundaries, nurturing…

He didn’t know how to settle or relax, or just chill. He was like a hyperactive child, and as they say ‘the devil makes work for idol hands’. He was a pup, full of energy but not knowing what to do with it.

Within a short space of time, I could see ‘Smartie’ settle and start to find his place.

I could see him start to ‘Reset’.

A key turning point was when all my other dogs were settled and chilling, and he took himself next to Punch, and curled up and went to sleep.

He simply needed to ‘Reset’.

Well 2020 has been full of the unexpected, so why not continue in that vain.

‘Smartie’ is here to stay… but he needed a new start… and what else could it be…

Welcome ‘Reset’ to the family. Get comfortable son, you’re not going anywhere.

Smartie aka ‘Reset’

Are we there yet???

Parents can relate to these cringe worthy words… ‘Are we there yet….’

5mins into a hour journey, the phrase known worldwide, chimes from the back seat, and at that moment you wonder if leaving your child at a services, with a bag of clothing and a label, is a justifiable option… For those reading, apparently it’s illegal… I’ve looked into it…

Isn’t it frustrating to be traveling with someone so focused on the destination that they aren’t stopping to take the sights surrounding them? Or appreciate the extensive array of snacks and games you’ve prepared to ease the inevitable monotony or a journey that doesn’t always bring instant gratification?

Well, imagine how your dog feels? Are you constantly asking ‘Are we there yet??’, to your dog, who is going at the speed that is appropriate for their learning and progressing on the journey YOU choose for them, as fast as they are capable?

I am a huge advocate of having goals. I have goals for my life, year, dogs, daughter, business, students… BUT I have learnt that goals need to be flexible. A good friend and students says, ‘Goals should be set in stone, and plan’s should be in sand’.

This mantra truly resonates with how we SHOULD be approaching our grand and extraordinary ambitions, but often we are so focused on the end, that we forget to observe the process, and take stock of ‘wins’, along the way.

The other pitfall that can await, is trying to rush or force the process. I shared a meme this week, which read ‘A novice handler want to work on intermediate training, and intermediate handler wants to work on advanced training, but an advanced handler works on basics’.

This is one of the biggest lessons that newbie handlers to any sport can slip into. The enthusiasm to reach the summit of the mountain, they glance over fundamental pieces that will inevitably haunt them further down the line.

We have all been there… the basics can be, in truth… boring! Lets be honest. They aren’t often sexy or flashy, they are sometimes bland and laborious. But, as with anything, its all about your foundations.

The simplicity of training a solid ‘SIT’ that can be cued, anywhere, anytime and no matter what you do, may sound simple but is a skill often over looked.

I train a ‘settle’ which is a cue that means ‘hang out there’ whilst I do something. There is nothing eye catching or ‘wow’ about this cue. It just is my dog waiting for me. Thats it. Waiting patiently, and calmly, whilst I talk to someone or wait for a dog to pass, or before I go to compete, or whilst getting feedback from a peer… without constant reinforcement, without repeating cues, without consideration that my dog will leave that position. The list is endless to its uses. But its basic. Its boring to ‘train’ in comparison to flashy heelwork, or independent weaves or bitework… but underpins all the above.

The thing to remind yourself is, just work on the pieces. Train them thoroughly, so that your dog has so much confidence and clarity, that they can do it despite you… stop asking ‘Are we there yet?’ Stop thinking about ‘what is the next step’ before mastering the first….And pay attention to the sights in front of you. By doing so, the journey will fly by and when you reach your destination, you’ll be ready to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Not ‘working’ for a living!

This is somewhat of a weird blog for me… a trip down memory lane!

I can remember vividly the first night I ever went dog training… This was now 30yrs ago! I know what you will all be thinking… how can Kamal Fernandez have been training dogs for 30yrs, when he is only 21!!!! I get it all the time 😉 I shall be 20 next year, so you guys do the math…

I was a mere child, literally and I had my first dog ‘Scrunch’, who due to my families naivety, and ignorance, had a plethora of standard behavioural issues that we needed ‘saving’ from. Resource guarding, separation anxiety, no recall, no loose lead walking, ‘stubborn’, disobedient (even though we hadn’t actually trained her….) and a lot more.

I had badgered may parents for years to get a dog, and my ideology of ‘Lassie’, Scrunch was most definitely not!

I stumbled into the prospect of actually training a dog, long before owning one, after watching agility at Crufts, and the former Kennel Club Junior Organisation. I watched a young ginger haired kid named ‘Greg’ win the KCJO with his cross breed, and thought to myself… ‘well, if he can do that, I can do that… how hard can it be….’

A seed was sown. One day I would be at Crufts. I knew it then, before I even attended a class or even had the dog!

I rang up the local Agility Club (which was ironically called ‘Barking Dog Training’… I

am sure the irony isn’t lost on my readers ;)) and was duly informed that I couldn’t attend until I had done a basic Obedience class, and my dog was over 1yr.

So begrudgingly, I contacted the local Obedience class….

I attended the Newham Dog Training at a local hall, and were met by the club Secretary…little did I realise how influential this lady would be!

The class and structure were standard for the time, there was no use of food or toys, but primarily compulsion and praise. The first night of training, Scrunch was subjected to a 45min class, combined of walking in a square around a hall, recalls, sit stays and down stays… all ‘taught’ as we went along, with her newly fitted check chain…. I look back now, and shudder but at the time, this was standard practice. Years later I would actually start my own classes at the exact same hall, with somewhat modified methods 🙂

We muddled through and I fell more in love with the process of dog training. I would stay and watch the training after. The first person I ever saw train ‘Obedience’ was a lady with a beehive haircut, that would repel a drop of rain, on sight alone. She had a mixture of border collies and German shepherds, and I watched in awe as they walked glued to hear side, looking intently up at her, and how she would leave her German Shepherd, Samba on the stage at the top of the hall, and give him a series of cues, as if controlled by remote or magic! I was mesmerised and in awe!! Her tri coloured border collies would execute everything she asked with speed and drive, they were bursting with enthusiasm and desire….

I remember asking a million questions, a trait that I became well known for, about what, why, when, how…. I was hungry to learn!

Joan’s dogs were the first ‘trained’ dogs that I ever ‘handled’. I was ‘allowed’ to train them, and knew one day I would have a dog that did what they could.

My parents used to travel to the class, and initially sit and wait patiently whilst I trained. However, with my interest growing and theirs depleting, they progressed to dropping me off and picking me up…. Which grew into me getting a lift with Eileen in her camper van…. Every Wednesday night, without fail, I would attend the class absolutely obsessed with this strange and unique world.

I handled other peoples dogs, and my interest and passion were abundantly clear.

Eileen saw my enthusiasm and hunger, and suggested I come to a ‘dog show’ with her…. I can still recall the excitement and anticipation… it was like waiting for Christmas! I was in heaven! Dogs everywhere! I soon extended my infinite amount of questions and handling other peoples dogs, to numerous dogs at shows! I must have been one of the few people that had worked all classes in obedience, before having my own dog to train! In this time, I was doing the very thing, I advise any up and coming dog trainer to do… get your hands on dogs! As many as you can… There is no other way to develop feel, and skills without getting your hands ‘dirty’. I would work and handle any dog that I was given, and I was developing my skill set and ability to read and adjust to the dog I was training. Little did I know, how well this would serve me in the future. All I knew is that I had found my ‘passion’ and was set to follow it!

I continued on this tactic of borrowing, handling and training other people’s dogs until I was able to get my ‘first proper’ obedience dog…. Tai entered my life, as though fated for me and he took me on a journey and ride, that I was honoured to have had. I shall save his story for another day…

The one thing I will say, is he fulfilled that dream of getting to Crufts that I had in my mind, from first ever seeing

But little did I envisage how ‘big and grand’ my journey would be as a result of taking Scrunch to that hall, all those years ago. Who knew it would lead me down this path!

I have been able to help countless others achieve their dreams, in not just obedience, but many other entities. I have helped train dogs to fly planes, and spoken at conferences across the world. I have written books, and trained dogs for TV and film, even making appearances myself with ‘spider dogs’ and ‘flying dogs’, unruly pets and ‘Underdogs’…. I have competed at Crufts, judged at Crufts, helped teams from across the globe compete at Crufts, my students have competed at Crufts, winning and achieving their dreams… I have helped people on the brink of despair, turned their nightmare canines into perfect pooches, and helped dogs on death row become model citizens.

I have trained thousands of dogs, every shape, size, colour, issue and problem you can think of, yet no two the same, and I know there is plenty more to come!

I have travelled the world, and continue to follow my passion.. and after 30yrs, I still feel the same passion and joy when I am training and working with a dog.

I am entirely grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and the eternal blessing of living a life where I follow my passion.

‘Find a job you’ll love, and you’ll never work a day in your life again’…

This is a thank you to all those that have been part of my journey, past and present, 2 and 4 legged…. and for all those to come. Here’s to another 30yrs of following my passion, and where it will take me…

Mountain Climbing!

I have been involved in dog sports for 30yrs, training numerous dogs of my own to the highest level, and competed in various disciplines. In addition, I have coached numerous people to the top level in their respective dog sports, including Crufts, World Championships and International competitions…

But let me tell you. 

That prospect of starting that journey can seem like climbing a mountain!! I have two young puppies at the minute, Jungle my 9month old Malinois and Hottie, by 4 month old Border Collie, and when I contemplate all the lessons that they need to learn it can be quite daunting! 

EVERY time I get a puppy or new dog, I visualise being at the base of a HUGE mountain, so tall I can’t even see the top.. but I can see how steep it is, I know how harsh the terrain is, and how challenging the altitude will be… I may not have been on this exact mountain before, but I have climbed up many others, so I know what is to come.

I know there will be days, when I want to turn back… I know that there will be days when I feel like I cannot walk a single step… and days when I am so out of breath, in tears and at breaking point… I know there will be days when I feel like giving up. There will be days in the rain, sun, sleet and snow! When I mentally and physically feel like I am going to break.

BUT, I look at the mountain in front of me, and I smile. I smile because I know, that in the deepest part of me, I am going to gain more than I can ever envisage. The sight from the summit will take your breath away, and leave you in awe of what the climb has taught you about yourself! 

Make no mistake about it, it’s not going to be easy. BUT it will so be worth it! Trust me… 

When I say this, some people may view this as a negative, but I always offer to them, what in life worth having comes easy’? It takes work to get what you want, whether it be a job, a relationship, financially or a dog sports goal. Its the ‘work’ that makes the goal worth achieving!

And whilst ‘the dog’ may be willing, able, and talented… it is the ‘tests’ along the way that make the view from the summit so empowering. It can be an emotional process to partake in dog sports. 

When my Boxer, Punch was injured and has to undergo surgery and a lengthy rehab process, I am not ashamed to say that it was an emotional time. I went from having a puppy with a future ahead of him, to a young dog that couldn’t even walk without being in immense pain and discomfort. The outcome didn’t look promising…. 

This was definitely a point on the climb up my mountain where I was faced with the prospect of having to concede defeat, and whilst I would have been grateful at that point just to have a healthy dog, I will also admit that, the cruel blow that had been dealt, really left me drained. 

When started the rehabilitation, I took this as another mountain ahead of us… and I reframed this in my mind. I took one step at a time, and Punch did literally and we climbed together. Step by step, day by day, we climbed. We had set backs and diversions, but we go there. We got to the summit of this mountain and I don’t think I have ever seen a view to amazing! When Punch entered in his first competition, my heart was in my mouth…and I have to say it wasn’t the Disney out come you would hope for. It was another mountain to climb. But we did it! We over came! We succeeded and we triumphed. It felt like we conquered the world! The certificate, the rosette, the obligatory selfie were a small mark to acknowledge the Mountains we had climbed thus far! And boy did it feel good! 

I was recently watching the docu-series about world famous Basketball Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, and it really reiterated this point.

His success wasn’t just down to talent, it wasn’t just down to luck. It was largely down to perseverance in climbing the mountain! Or Mountains! People don’t necessarily see the hours and hours of work that goes into that jaw dropping shot as the final buzzer goes, or that gravity defying slam dunk… They don’t see the numerous times, he slipped down the mountain, or was on his knees, or his heads covered in blisters from clawing at the rocks…. 

See ‘The Mountain’ isn’t unique to dog sports. And now more than ever, we are seeing Mountains all around us. 

The ‘Mountain’ has a way to show you, who you are. It shows you, how hard you can push yourself and how deep you can dig. 

As a Dog Sports Coach, I have been able to help others as they climb their mountain, and reassure them that we will gets to the summit, that this rough terrain is just temporary and taking the longer route, isn’t a failure, as we are still gaining ground. Let me tell you, there are tantrums, tiaras and tears on the climb up that mountain! Sometimes, I am the person pushing them up the mountain, or pulling them up, or a shoulder to lean on when they need a rest, or even carrying them, when they get tired… I have to say, that being able to help someone else achieve their dreams and ambitions, is one of the greatest privileges I have ever had in my career. There is nothing more rewarding then being able to sit at the top of someone else’s mountain, and share the view, with them! 

When I started my online training, little did I release how impactful this medium would be for connecting with, and helping people on their journey to climb the mountain…

I have been a dog sports coach for years, where I worked with people in person, but working with people online has definitely grown beyond what I had anticipated! I have had so many people contact me about joining the VIP groups, but we after its initial launch and re-opening in 2019, we are only now in a position to re-open again!

SO… over the next few weeks, I will be giving out more details of how you can become part of my VIP groups…. And become part of a community where I can help you to the top of the mountain!!

In joining, you will become part of a community where the energy is supportive and where everyone is rooting for you, makes the prospect of climbing The Mountain, more achievable. We all need that!

Keep your eyes open for more information to come!

For now, stay safe! And enjoy your dogs!

Kamal Fernandez