Turid Rugaas Workshop Brisbane 2015

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In 2016 Dr Renee attended a workshop hosted by Jenny Golsby of The Complete Pet Company, who had invited Turid Rugaas here to speak with Australian dog owners seeking a better relationship with their dogs.  Turid has been training dogs for most of her life, and has developed a method over many decades that is respectful and compassionate, working with dogs instead of commanding them.  She has trained more than 60,000 dogs to date and so certainly has the experience to state unequivocally that her method works.

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Her method is based on the dog’s basic needs, their social drive, and their communication.  I see no fancy dog training tools here, no head halters, puzzle toys, clickers or check chains.  Turid simply works with the dog, using a long slack leash, a comfortable harness, a calm, patient manner, and a few treats in her pocket for extra motivation now and then.

The weekend workshop started out on the most basic of topics – Walking Your Dog.  And right from the get-go, Turid blasted most beliefs out of the room with her years of experience, depth of understanding, and assured manner.  She explains the point of a walk for a dog is simply to express their curiosity and learn about the world, sniffing, exploring, building confidence with new experiences and coping skills for the next adventure.  She states that teaching dogs to walk in the heel position is completely unnatural for a dog, and that they feel in competition with you.  She points out that walking your dog on a collar, especially if your dog pulls, or you pull your dog, puts pressure on sensitive structures in the neck including the circulation, windpipe, nerves, muscles, skeleton and thyroid gland, and can lead to structural issues, muscle and skeletal imbalances, even hypothyroidism.  She recommends all dogs be walked on a well-designed, comfortable harness, such as the Haqihana, her own design, and a long (3 metre minimum) loose leash.

She continued to blast through many other beliefs the entire weekend, making thought-provoking statements all backed by research, years of experience, observation, and a deep understanding of all dogs.  Puppies should remain with the litter until at least 9 weeks, ideally 10-12. Puppies don’t have a ‘socialisation window’ that closes at 16 weeks, they can learn and experience new things their entire lives. Puppies should never be left alone.  Puppies should not be crated.  Puppies should sleep with you.  Puppy whines must always be responded to.  Puppies should not be walked for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, they need to develop muscle slowly. Puppy classes should be avoided.  Obedience training is unnecessary. Walks should be SLOW at the dog’s pace, allowing the dog the freedom to explore the world around them.   ‘Aggression’ is simply fear and a lack of understanding of the dog’s signals and coping level.  Dogs should be allowed to choose where they sleep.  Dogs need to sleep for 14-18 hours every day.  Prolonged daily exercise wears dogs down.  Agility classes are physically damaging.  Dogs should not be left in a yard when you are out, but inside the house (their den).  Stressed dogs needs less stimulation.  There is no such thing as a ‘high-energy’ dog.  All dog communication signals, including body language, verbal, and gestures, should be listened to, accepted, respected, and responded to.  And dogs should not be taught to sit!

By putting all of these things into practice, Turid ‘trains’ dogs to become happy, stress-free members of their human family, able to communicate their needs, and be at ease in the world around them (or really, she trains humans to relax and just let dogs be dogs).   She calls her method of raising puppies ‘Vaccinating Against Calamity’, meaning you will raise a well-adjusted dog who can cope with everything life can throw their way.  All dogs will benefit from the depth of understanding that comes from this style of communication, where we learn with our dogs, instead of fussing, training and commanding them to do things their entire lives, which ultimately just stresses them out on a daily basis.

This is what we are seeking in our relationships with our dogs, and Turid is a rare ‘dog trainer’ who has been able to deliver.  Most dog training techniques are said to be ‘positive’, but as soon as you scratch the surface you realise that they are just another authoritarian approach to the relationship with your dog.  Come when I call you, walk here, keep up, sit when I tell you to, don’t bark at me to come inside, or say hello, or because you are hungry, stop barking at that, don’t do that, do as I say, when I say it, and every now and then I’ll give you a pat or a treat or some praise to let you know you have made me happy.  What about the dog?  What makes them happy?

Well according to Turid, it’s simple.  Company.  Short, slow walks, at their own pace.  The freedom to be curious.  Social contact with other dogs.  Lots of sleep.  Choices.  Good food.  And a calm, relaxed, patient owner who understands and responds to their needs and requests.

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It’s time to build a relationship based on trust, understanding and patience with our dogs.  If you would like to learn more about Turid’s methods, come in and see Dr Renee at The Natural Vets. You can also attend K9 Communication workshops based on Turid’s methods run by Jenny Golsby from The Complete Pet Company in Brisbane.