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I Started Here...
Zoe & Cis;
They Started It.

Cis & Zoe

These are 2 of my many dogs over my lifetime... they are the 2 who started my search to learn more about training and behavior.  My thought process was that I would be in a hell of a fix if I couldn't control their behavior (or their response to my own behavior).  I learned that I didn't have to control them... all I had to do was find a way to enjoy them, and all their quirks.  It's been a life-long process, and it's been a wondrous journey.  I love what I do, and I hope to teach you the same!  Brenda

 Have Fun!!

Why the Commitment to Non-Force Training?

In 1998, I got my first Really Big Dog, and as often happens with new pet owners, I started to wonder (after the fact) how I'd be able to handle a Really Big Happy Dog, which would likely outweigh me.  That's when I started researching, and learning... and that led to working with Rescue.

Here is my thought process, back then... I couldn't imagine that I was the only one in the world who didn't have a clue how to control all that bulk and enthusiasm.  So, I started at the beginning, learning from the most acclaimed (at the time) books on dog behavior and training... books that used dominance theory as the basis for what dogs did, and why they did these things.  Unfortunately, these books also touted ways of communicating with dogs on the 'wolf = dog level'... using the scruff-shake, alpha roll, and lots of other punitive methods to 'show them who's boss'... I am horrified to admit that I did these things.  My guilt knows no bounds.

I started out in rescue with a dog that came to me at 125 pounds, one year old, from an abusive situation. She was so aggressive that I couldn't touch her from the shoulders back. I drove 9 hours to pick her up from her owners, she growled at me menacingly each time I reached toward her, and I wondered at the level of abuse it took to make her that way (her owners had explained that "they’d only beaten her when it was necessary")… I thought I'd have to euthanize her, and I cried all the way home, wondering how I’d be able to do that.


18 months later, I could take her into public, and anyone could pet her -- she BEGGED them to pet her. I had taught her to trust that I wouldn’t allow anyone to hurt her, ever again.  I used a lot of different methodologies to achieve this, but by this time, I was well on my way to becoming a truly positive trainer


That dog was our Zoe, and that's the power of this method. If I could do that, then you can teach your dog to sit, without using force.


At the same time, I had another dog that, at the age of 7 months and at 90 pounds, developed such a profound sound sensitivity that she couldn’t be walked while someone was doing construction work with a hammer on the same BLOCK… she couldn’t be walked when the crickets were chirping… she had to be sedated for fireworks… God help us if a fire truck or ambulance sounded their whistle while we were walking downtown.


It took about 2 years, all told… but I could then walk Cis in public, with confidence. I’d taught her to trust that I won’t allow scary things to "get" her… that she could come to me for comfort, and I’d provide it, and give her the tools she needs to be able to function through her fears.


That’s the power of this method. If I can do this, then you can teach your dog to walk on a loose leash, without using force.

When I started working with these 2 dogs, I knew very little about this "non-force" training… I was starting from scratch, just as you are. In fact, I often think that I was even further behind than most beginners, because I was already schooled in traditional, force-based methodology… I had a lot to "unlearn", in the process.


At the time, that was 20 short years ago – a lifetime, when I compare my "mindset", then and now. All I knew about dog training were the methods I’d used up until that point (choke collars and prong collars, dominance theory)… and I knew I couldn’t use that to fix the problems I had with these 2 dogs… they would have been made worse, and I know I would have had to euthanize them both, ultimately – after tormenting them with the methodology.


The methods I’d used up until that point were traditional, force-based methods… and my "track record" in working with aggression cases was pretty dismal, compared to what it is now.

And, it was very important to me, to be able to ‘fix’ these 2 dogs… Zoe is the dog who won my husband’s heart. Johnny (my hubby) wasn’t raised with dogs… he had no clue what to do with them, and (if I’m honest) really didn’t like them very much. To his credit, he tolerated them, because he knew how much they meant to me. They were messy, they were noisy, they were inconvenient, they were expensive.  But they were mine, and he never once complained... even when we ended up with 5 adult St. Bernards and 2 mixes living in our house at the same time.  Several were supposed to be  fosters, but ended up staying with us.  I'm a sucker.


When I brought Zoe home, she immediately fell in love with him, and glued herself to him… and he was forced into the role of my "bridge" – he had to care for her, because she wouldn’t allow me near enough to her to be able to really work with her, and he helped me to gain those first few tentative interactions with Zoe. Not only would she not allow petting, but she wouldn’t take treats from hands, and if you picked up a toy, she would "crab-crawl" around the outside perimeter of the room, urinating.


In the process of acting as my "bridge", Johnny fell in love with her, too. She’s the one who taught him why I care for dogs the way I do. And, Cis… Cis is my "soulmate" dog. She understands me when I spell words. She knows my moods, and what I need from her, in almost any circumstance. We’ve been through a lot together…


When I started out in the behavior/training field, I was only working with rescue groups, teaching them what I had learned about clicker training… but I was a babe myself, and didn’t realize that there was so much more I could be doing, and so much more that I just didn’t understand, using the old methods! I learn more every day... it's a life process!


I didn’t realize, then, that what I was learning was an entire life philosophy… not just dog training. I was working solely through rescue, at that time… so I felt that all I was doing was helping to put a band-aid on the REAL problem: people were still surrendering their dogs to rescue, rather than being given the information they needed to work with their dogs! When I realized that I needed to reach the pet-owners directly, I started to widen my horizons… having the rescue groups refer owners to me for free behavioral counseling, rather than giving up their dogs.


From there, I was hooked… I started working much more intensively with owners who had been counseled to euthanize their dogs for profound behavior problems, mostly aggression. I was researching constantly, finding new creative ways to manage and modify behavior, and taking courses to help me further understand how all of this fits together.


I educate constantly, through email groups for rescue and pet-owners, in online classrooms, in pet supply stores, in the park, at the bank, and even when I’m "off duty" playing my favorite game. {grin} I love what I do.


So… I’m here to teach you a little about non-force training philosophy, with a basis in clicker training. What you'll learn will help you to be better able to train your dog... but, ultimately, it will also help you to gain the cooperation of others in your life.  This stuff is not just about dogs.


First, understand that I’m teaching you how to teach your dog wanted behavior, without the use of force… the methods that you’ll learn from me aren’t "permissive". I don’t advocate "chaos" and "anarchy"… I advocate non-force methodology and acceptance of species differences. There’s a difference. {grin}

Brenda Rushman CCBC

Not Just Dog Training...
Commitment to Positives....


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