BARKS from the Guild November 2017

Page 30


The Best I Can Be

David Shade is a United States military veteran whose boxer Lulu saved his life – twice. Here he details his journey, which started out using aversive methods that, ultimately,


led him to becoming the force-free dog trainer he is today

nfortunately, I have seen firsthand what happens As a crossover trainer, author David Shade sees himself in a to a dog when a misinformed or unaware unique position to empathize owner practices what one might politely call with struggling dog owners because he has been on both questionable training techniques, such as alpha rolling sides of the fence and positive punishment (a.k.a. aversives). As professional trainers and PPG members, we are aware that many dog owners have good intentions but simply do not realize that the application of outdated dominance theory can be incredibly damaging to a dog’s psyche. Indeed, when owners try to establish so-called dominance over a dog to prove themselves to be the “alpha,” the long-term effects can be disastrous. I know, because that’s the kind of dog owner I used to be. At the age of 18, I enlisted in the United States Army, where I was immersed in a deeply masculine culture. It was all about being a “man’s man” and within a matter of weeks, I was firing weapons and blowing things up. It was fun, but I also felt a true sense of purpose for the first time in my life. I became a cavalry scout (reconnaissance infantry) and after completing basic training, airborne school, and readiness training, I was shipped to Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freevised explosive device (IED) hit my vehicle. It was a long and dom where I spent 15 long months serving my country on fortreacherous journey, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because eign soil. There were many boring, slow-moving, and cold periods it shaped me into being the person I am today. (literally – the mountains of Afghanistan get very cold). However, After a four-year stint in the Army, I was honorably disduring my tour there were also some very intense, kinetic firecharged and decided to set out on my own, but transitioning fights and battles. I witnessed horrible things and lost some close back to civilian life was challenging. While I served, I had everyfriends. I was even injured myself at one point when an improthing I needed in terms of a support network, but now I was on my own, trying to find my way. I made it home, but sometimes it Shade (pictured with Otis) realized through felt like I hadn’t left the battlefield. In fact, I was in the deadly grip direct experience how of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While driving, I was damaging dominance theory can be to a often plagued by the thought that my vehicle might be hit with dog’s psyche another explosion at any given moment. And no matter where I was, I felt like I was constantly looking around, 360 degrees, to make sure no one was sneaking up on me, ready to attack. But hey, it was just a Tuesday at the grocery store. For me though, it was a dark and dismal place. I was struggling. My road to recovery began when an 8-week-old puppy named Lulu came into my life. A purebred boxer, she quickly became my partner in crime. As I began studying biological sciences at Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, we did everything together. We went for long walks, I taught her to play fetch, and took her to dog parks. Everything was perfect. Unfortunately, however, that would soon change. Growing up in my household, dogs were viewed as lesser members of the family, and as such, were treated as “subordinate” to their “masters.” This background, coupled with my


BARKS from the Guild/November 2017

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