The power of genetics…

Recently a pupil and friend, got a ‘new’ dog. He is new to her, but an older dog that was to be rehomed. He is a Giant Schnauzer from really strong working lines.He came to be rehomed because of various reasons, but for the sport that he is hoping to be trained for, he will be required to do bitework. He had done some work in his previous home, however his owner decided to start as though he had done nothing, and set some new foundations.

In his first few sessions, she was dubious about what she had taken on as there were some ‘issues’ which could be a huge concern later on.
However, in the next subsequent sessions, the diamond in the rough, she had taken on… really started to shine.

In just a few sessions, you could see what potential this awesome dog had….

So why was his progression so quick? And such a difference in a relatively short space of time? Well, partly from the right approach but a more valid factor was quite simply, good genetics.

Good dog training will often improve or ‘mask’ issues, and bad dog training will often create issues, however the affects of genetics cannot be underestimated.

In the litter that I bred between my own two dogs, it amazes me to see genetics coming through.

Physical and mental traits from parents, aunts, uncles, grandfather etc…. literally clones of predecessors!
It even amazes me, how genetics can assist your dog training! 

I’ve repeatedly said since the second I got him, my smooth coated collie ‘super’ is a complete gift. He just has a natural aptitude to do anything I ask, and seems to ‘know’ what it is…. when there is in actual fact, no way he should! I literally train him one day, and then can leave him for varying amounts of time and he just has worked it out! Now, if I had less experience in training dogs, I would be patting myself on the back as to how great a dog trainer I am…. when in actual fact, its the dog!
I know when I first started dog training, there were several distinct lines of dogs, that all had a very strong ‘type’.
This type would be looks, attitude, temperament and even characteristics.

The power of genetics cannot be underestimated! And as such certain techniques to train them consistently worked, not necessarily because it was good sound training, but because it suited a type of dog… however when the occasional anomaly didnt confirm, they were often labelled a ‘reject’, ‘thick’ or dud. When in reality they needed a different approach.

Genetics can be positive and negative, when you place a dog in an environment which is unsuitable or the person doesn’t understand nor honour the dogs genetics. It doesnt make it a bad dog, just a mismatch. I see this constantly when you have people who want the dog they think will be the quickest and fastest route to success, vs the dog that would suit their lifestyle and ability. Its not a failing to say you’re not the worlds best driver, as its lucky you aren’t racing in a Formula one grand prix! 
A really good friend of mine, who is a extremely competent dog trainer would always say to me, when I had my large malinois Strut, she could admire him but wouldn’t want him, as he wouldn’t suit her. And she would be right. Does that make her a ‘bad dog trainer’? Absolutely not! It makes her a smart dog owner!
Genetics are a powerful force, literally running through your dogs veins… both the good bits and the bad bits.

Understanding them, embracing them, channelling them and working with them will ultimately lead to joy and peace for you and the dog! The key is dog training…..
Enjoy your dogs!

Socially responsible and a moment of inspiration….

Social media has a lot to answer for, it can be a powerful tool and a lethal weapon all at the same time. What it is used for can be both a help and a hindrance. 
As a professional dog trainer and dog sports coach, I utilise social media on a daily basis… I use it to connect with people, engage with my pupils and audience and a platform for my work. This will problem intensify over the coming year, with the development of an online community and teaching tool.

However, after reading on various forums on various discussion, everything from raw feeding, to jump height, to obedience issues, to rules and regs, it occurred to be that, social media and the use it, from a personal perspective, comes with a responsibility.

The question I ask myself when I post a message, status or video, is always… what is your intention? By asking myself that question, I use it almost like a barometer for the tone and message.
The post others make, that truly resonate with me, all have a reoccurring theme. They set an example to others, and leadby that example…. or in other words, They inspire in one way, shape or form.
Inspiration or being inspired, is such a profound and powerful concept, and can literally steer your life’s direction…

Personally, I can recall vividly throughout my life, when I have been inspired by en event, a teacher, a moment or simply a ‘thing’. It hits you like a tonne of bricks, it evokes emotion, excitement, thought and many more movements within you. And of late, as a new father, my daughter inspiring me to do better, push harder and strive for more from myself.

For someone who has been training dogs for more time then I haven’t been training dogs, its these moments that act as reinforcement for me.

It may come from a student, who has overcome a struggle and worked through an issue…

It may come from a dog, whose enthusiasm and tenacity for life, puts a smile on my face just watching them run and play.

It may come from someone competing, whose training resonates from their performance.

This was exactly what happened recently when I watched both the 1st and 2nd place dogs in a championship obedience class. The quality and standard of both teams was inspiring, both combining style, accuracy, drive, teamwork and an obvious attention to detail endorsed by smart handling.

It doesn’t esnt matter if its obedience, agility, IPO, working trials on any other dog sport, such performance transcend the boundaries of the individual sport and anyone with even an untrained eye, can appreciate the beauty.

Often, in this weird and complex world that is dog training, we look to highlight the difference between us, one method better then the next, one path more ‘correct’ then the other. However, it would be far more beneficial and have greater impact, not to focus on the differences but rather concentrate on being and doing the best you can, and let that be an example to others. In doing so, you may inspire someone to follow in your footsteps, and that is where the greatest impact will occur.

What inspires you to get up each day, brave the weathers, travel the length and breadth of the country, or the world, chasing accolades and achievements? What creates that burning desire within you, to start the Everest like journey that is in front of you? Are you lacking inspiration? Or are you searching for it? Who has sent an example for you, by their actions?

Irrespective of the answer to the above, start being an ‘inspiration’ to others. In your actions, your attitude, your interaction and your dogs…. send out that energy into the universe and see what comes back to you….

Caring is sharing….

Recently there was a video that largely went viral, discussing the risks of raw feeding…. Whilst this is not what this blog is about, it did give me the idea to write a post about the products I believe in and recommend….which just so happens to be a raw food…. So I accept I run the risk of this blog being trolled by those stating that I am bound to go to hell for feeding my dog a chicken wing… it’s a risk I’m willing to take…

It really isn’t the purpose of this blog to be controversial or judgmental, it really isn’t ‘me’…. So I thought I would write a post and take a slightly different take on things, and talk solely of my experiences with two fantastic products, and share them so others can benefit.

Raw feeding vs kibble divides opinions like Moses and the red sea, people standing by their views as though they are religious beliefs. My take on this is somewhat simple…. Do what suits you and your dogs are happy with.

No need to justify it, no need to enter into an argument about it, no need to pass judgment… just do what you are happy with.

Which brings me onto the products that I use and recommend, and the experience I have had with both….

The first is Natural Instinct, a pre-made raw food, from a company based in Surrey.

My experience of Natural Instinct has been from several years of feeding their food, but recently I have been fortunate enough to be sponsored by them. I cannot sing the food’s praises enough, and I have commented on Facebook on how much I rate and believe in this food…. So no surprises there….. I just love the food! I love my dogs reaction to it, the quality of it and the variety. Even Fire, who is a terribly fussy eater, cleans the base of her bowl! That says it all. You can ‘feel’ the difference in my dogs, their muscle tone, coat texture and shine…. I would share a pic of my 8 dogs all waiting for whilst I dish up their latest banquet, salivating at the sight of the little white tubs… Its almost Pavlovian! But I think the image of drooling dogs could be a step too far…

The second product is called Aptus, a joint supplement and rehydration drink from a Finnish company…. I was approached by Aptus to sample their product, and have used it for the last few months…. Again, I cannot sing praises of the results any higher. My two oldest dogs, Thriller and Scooter were both out with injuries all last year, and whist they had gone through extensive rest and rehab, I had resided myself to the fact they both had lasting affects. Since using Aptus joint supplement in their diet, they have both been visibility improved in their mobility and flexibility. Scooter in particular, is a dog that has always been prone to lameness and niggling little things, which has taken a lot of management and awareness…. However he is like a new dog! My Scooter has never been one for doing anything at a pace above a brisk, purposeful walk…. However, he’s been charging round like a spring lamb (when I say charging, if you knew Scoot, you would know the term is largely for dramatic affect….but he is definitely exuberant).

The benefits of both these products on my dogs are literally visible…. HIGHLY recommend!

However the other factor which makes these two products stand out, if the customer service I have received from both companies…. This has been AMAZING!

For some reason, I think that customer services is a lost ‘art’ or so it seems…. With all the methods of communication, available it amazes me that people don’t respond to your emails, enquiries or interest. All anyone wants is a professional service, and having a personal touch is the icing on the cake. Its almost like we have been accustomed to picking up the phone, and being put through to ‘Roger’ from Mumbai… and whilst you curb your over riding yearning to question is ‘Roger’ a traditional Indian name, you filter through the infinite sequence of numbers that you have to select and choose from… Making a simple phone call to your bank, becomes a numerical crystal maze…. Perhaps secretly they are subliminally giving you the lottery numbers for next weeks jackpot?? In which ‘pressing 1 for customer care’ may inspire a bit more attention!

However with both Natural Instinct and Aptus, my experience has been nothing but positive, and what really makes them both stand out, is that they genuinely love dogs….

It’s ironic that these are attributes that I would like to think are paramount for anyone working in an industry especially when producing a product for dogs… but this isn’t always the case.

So take a look, here are links for both products….

https://www.naturalinstinct.com

https://www.aptuspet.co.uk/products/

 

 

Does it always have to end on a good note?

Whilst teaching one of my regular groups yesterday, the conversation came up of the need to reward their dogs at the end of the session, irrespective of what they had been working on or the relevance of that last reward.

The notion of having to leave your training on a ‘good note’, is something that is often advised and still endorsed.

Where does that expression come from? I remember reading an article written by a world renowned agility competitor who discussed this exact point.

Her comments were really so insightful.

She discussed in this article, that one of the reasons she believed the concept came to fruition, was when training utilised more compulsive methods, and leaving your session on a ‘good note’, was in the hope that your dog wouldn’t necessarily remember the negative aspects of the session so when you next trained them, they would come out with a upbeat attitude to the training. I can definitely see how she drew that conclusion.

However as a trainer/coach and teacher, who uses reinforcement based methodology, I still see this concept coming up. Yet the people that I teach couldn’t be further away from compulsive training, if they tried.

So why do people who subscribe to a reinforcement based system, feel THEY need to end their session on a ‘good note’?

I believe there are several reasons.

A) Dog training is a culture, and whichever sub section of that culture you subscribe to, seems irrelevant. The cultural traditions and norms still run through all facets of the ‘culture’. So ‘ending’ your session is a concept that is cultural.

B) People who gravitate to a reinforcement based system of dog training, largely want to reinforce their dog, or in more simplistic terms, be ‘nice’ to them. So if a session involves challenges or struggles, or some failure and no reinforcement delivered, the moral obligation is to reward the dog at the end, or engineer the dog getting reinforcement. This is regardless of what the dog is learning.

C) Being flippant in their delivery of reinforcement, rather then mindful and strategic. The Bob Baily mantra ‘think plan do, review’, resonates in my mind constantly and allows for mindful and purposeful training with intent, rather then casual practicing or rehearsing.

D) Failing to acknowledge the effective and timely delivery of reinforcement as information. So petting your dog in attempt to pacify them, when they demand bark at you, is actually reinforcing them for exactly the behaviour you want to stop.

Reinforcement based dog training heightens the need to ensure your communication is ultra effective. As a cross over dog trainer, the amount of awareness, thinking and analysis I now have to do in comparison to how I initially trained dogs, is like night and day. Dont get me wrong, I’ve always been a trainer that ‘think, plans and do’s….’ but now I have to be aware of the smallest nuance of behaviour, placement of reinforcement, differential reinforcement, schedules of reinforcement, generalising the smallest detail…. the list is endless. But for me, there in lies the joy. Although it sounds overwhelming, really it isn’t once you have that light switch turned on to this approach to training.

So, the not receiving a reward or the specific reward they may want, isn’t necessarily about being nice or nasty… its information to the dog. And ending your session and the dog not getting his best toy or favourite food, is information to the dog. Or even walking out of a competition ring and asking your dog to do more, isn’t being ‘mean’….it would all depend on your dogs capability, whether their performance was average or better and what schedule of reinforcement they have each behaviour/behaviour chain on.

I am also very much aware of classical conditioning and the power of the dog wanting to play the game, so this concept should again be implemented with thought and consideration.

So next time you want to end your session on a good note, ensure the ‘good note’ is appropriate. Reinforcement builds behaviour…. just ensure the behaviour you are building is the behaviour you want 😉

Who’d have thought I’d be a blogger…

Well this is a strange one…. my first ever blog! I’m kinda excited about using this platform to talk, write about the conversations that I want to have and find interesting and stimulating….. Primarily this will probably gravitate to dog training….but as as new father, with a gorgeous baby girl… I expect I might write the odd post on nappy rash, weaning and the challenges of teething 😉

So, best I introduce myself…. My name is Kamal Fernandez, in case you haven’t guessed LOL, and I am a full time professional dog trainer… I live in the stunning South of England, in East Sussex and share my life with my gorgeous Girls, my girlfriend Lois and my baby 7month old Neave…. I have 8 dogs, of varying breeds, including border collies, a boxer, a Malinois, a German Spitz and one of those ‘designer’ breed, my little Jack-a-poo… Sugarpuff!

I have been training dogs for 26yrs…. it makes me feel incredibly old to think there are people able to vote, who are younger then that time span! Life just literally whizzes by….

Before I was a dog trainer professionally, I was a Police Officer and did a variety of roles within the Police…

I currently compete in Obedience and Agility, and I am training my Boxer for the sport of IPO.

My passion is most definitely training dogs, and has been an obsession since the day I discovered this weird and wonderful world! I have been blessed to travel the World teaching and lecturing on Dog Training and Behaviour….

Currently my time is divided between my work, which mainly involves being a dog sports Coach. My students have competed at the top level in Obedience, Agility, Working Trials and IPO. I advocate and follow a reinforcement based approach to training dogs.

Additionally, I have been involved in providing Animals for Television and Film…. one of the TV productions I was involved with included the Oxford Scientific Production ‘Dogs Might Fly’, the crazy concept to teach a dog to fly a plane!

This blog will have information, ideas, opinions and possibly some humour….