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A client’s perspective on training

by | 7 Oct, 2020

Dog Tricks Trainer, Liz Chamberlain, Johannesburg - Brown Dog

One of my long-standing clients, let’s call her ‘Anna’, came to me on advice from a friend who was already coming to my trick classes. She has a cross breed Brown Dog of unknown ancestry who she described as “smart but stubborn and lazy”. We have a habit of labelling our dogs instead of their behaviour, but this client looked deeper. She sensed “that he wanted to learn more and understand the human world that he lives in more and interact with us better.”

Anna’s previous dog had worked happily in a traditional dog training school, but the Brown Dog didn’t. “He was just not interested in having a leader in the traditional sense and/or executing a string of commands over and over again. His response to “no” or even a punishment was to sit in the corner, sulk and stare at me with absolute disdain. Not a chance of trying harder or feeling bad for having disobeyed or misbehaved.”

Anna realised she needed “an alternative way of interacting and teaching him things that would stimulate him and also be useful to him and myself. I was also looking for some fun and due to physical limitations, we could not do things like agility or dog dancing.”

So Anna and Brown Dog ended up coming to me. I’ll let her tell her own story now:

“Liz has a completely different approach to dog training. It involves interacting with the dog in a positive way and encourages learning in a safe environment. Liz is able to adjust her classes to the handler’s and the dog’s abilities. This is absolutely great, as for me a standardised approach was not suitable.

We started with the basic tricks course in 2015 and our world changed for the better for ever. Our dog loved the classes, the safe environment and learning and watching from his classmates. His confidence grew immensely and he quickly became used to trying new things and learning exponentially. We learnt so many cool things and went on to do intermediate tricks. This was more challenging and much more homework, but by doing a little bit every day we persisted and slowly our repertoire of funky tricks increased – we could now sort laundry by colour, open doors and drawers, find hidden treats to name but a few.

I then did a shaping and clicker training course with Liz – this was interesting for me as it introduced me to a new concept of how to train your dog. I never quite got the hang of it due to a serious lack of coordination, but I think for a “nerdy” dog this is definitely something I would try again.

After the initial courses, it was time to have some private lessons. We also have a much older dog who was feeling left out, but who was not going to be able to partake in the group classes.

We started once a week with the two of them. Liz would tailor the class to each dog’s needs. Our 13-year-old dog blossomed. She had always been quite shy and also not interested in traditional obedience as she had not been exposed to training from a young age. Now she was climbing into boxes and climbing on things and balancing on Bosu balls. She would get so excited when it was time to go to Teacher Liz, she could not wait to get into the car and her whole body would be shaking with excitement. She has learnt to find hidden objects and we have also worked on playing games which she now loves and cannot wait for her turn.

I have found the approach of engaging the brain invaluable when working with our dogs. One of them had to undergo cruciate surgery and then had to be kept confined for 3 months. Using the techniques that Liz taught me has made all this bearable and even during lockdown or those extended rainy days I am able to entertain and engage our dogs. As a result, they do not dig or scratch or misbehave in any way. The training has brought out their individual personalities and they have both become so much more a part of our daily lives. Most importantly we have oodles of fun together.

On another note I have found Liz’s knowledge and willingness to help invaluable. I have had issues with feeding, illnesses, torn cruciate ligaments and many more. Liz is always only a phone call away. She has a wealth of knowledge and such a broad network in the dog world that she has been able to assist me so often, I have lost count.

I hope to keep training with Liz for many years to come!”

Anna is, for me, a dream client. She recognises both her and her dog’s limitations, but wants to continually improve communication and increase their repertoire. Clients like this encourage me to keep learning – to find activities that we can all enjoy.

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Liz is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer and offers private and small class dog training. She uses force-free training methods and believes in developing the handler's skills as much as the dog's. She has worked with many different breeds, ages and ability of dogs. Liz doesn't use a cookie-cutter approach to training – each dog and their human get what they need to meet their goals.