BARKS from the Guild January 2018

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advocacy

The Continuing Education of a City

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Kathy Wolff relates the initiatives she has undertaken in her local

community to spread awareness of the Shock-Free Coalition

have been a “teacher” here in the small city of Watertown, Wisconsin for as long as I can remember. Way back in the early 80s I was an aerobic dance instructor, then a mind body movement teacher. Now I am a certified professional dog trainer. It seems like I have been guiding the good people of Watertown in one way or another for many years. My philosophy has always been to help folks understand the “why” of what we do together. I found this created an environment of collaboration and cooperation between myself and my clients. Fast forward to present day and here I am, a certified professional dog trainer, graduate of distinction from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy. I espouse the training methodology of force-free positive reinforcement dog training techniques. And, I am a crossover trainer. Back in the day I was one of those trainers who would leash pop, yank, push and pull my dog and others’ dogs around in the name of training. Rather like the aerobic dance classes, it involved much pain, little gain. I started to think about it, there had to be a better way. And I found it. I began to research training methods that were gentler, safer, and well, just made sense. I joined Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin, a local group dedicated to education and training using science-based, force-free techniques, and I joined PPG. Through these two resource groups, I have come to learn and grow in my knowledge of force-free training, science-based methodology and techniques to bring this valuable information to the dog owners in my city. Recently, PPG rolled out the Shock-Free Coalition, a monumental undertaking to educate the dog owning public, dog professionals, and veterinarians alike about the dangers of using aversive equipment and methodology. What an amazing tool to share with our clients and to have at our disposal! Just before this initiative was presented, I was invited to have a booth at our local pet store’s grand opening and was happy to accept. As I was gathering my display boards, raffle prizes, and various giveaways, a thought struck me. Why not put up a signature board for the general public and a handout about the Shock-Free Coalition to get this party started. Let’s get the word out now! And that’s exactly what I did.

PPG member Kathy Wolff initiated a public signature board to promote the ShockFree Coalition at her local pet store

I was very pleased at the number of people who came over and shared their feelings about aversive training tools such as shock collars. Many signed the board, while some just wanted to talk and take the handouts. Others told horror stories and asked forgiveness, but we don’t know until we know. What counts is we know better now, and we can do better. Knowledge powers advocacy. All were happy to have some concrete quality information to pass to friends and family who did not yet understand why aversive training is dangerous for our dogs. The click/treat for this trainer is when I hear someone say, “That makes sense.” When I hear that phrase it means they have understood the “why” of what I am telling them. They now have a safe skill set that can be applied to achieve their goals with their dogs and with others, no matter where they find themselves. The education of my city continues. I strive to help the dog owning public understand force-free, science-based training methodology in a way that will create an environment of collaboration and cooperation between myself, the dogs, and the owners who love them. Thank you PPG for always being the quality go-to resource I can use to help my community make sense of it all. n

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