Lynn Valley is a place where some days it seems like the trails are filled with just as many dogs as people. With the luxury of green space and yards there are many, many furry members of the community. With more families welcoming canines into their homes Lynn Valley dog trainer Valerie Barry is leading the charge to make your transition as smooth as possible, especially if you are moving from a couple with a dog to a family with a dog.
New resources for owners
Unlike many professions, those related to pets in B.C. are unregulated (some do have licencing). The BC SPCA AnimalKind launched its accreditation program in 2018 to offer some guidance to owners on humane, science-based training programs.
“No dog professions [walkers, trainers, boarders] are regulated, which is a concern,” said Barry. “And the appropriate ways to train are not the the most popular ways to train. The SPCA’s initiative is important because it raises public awareness. Prior to this there were no standards. Having never experienced a dog, you can get some business cards and buy a google ad and get started.”
The rise of pop-culture adoration for “leader-of-the-pack” training, à la Cesar Millan, has lead to popularity of punishment-based training, said Barry. She also cites a popular 1960s wolf study that does not pass scientific rigour that falsely promote dogs as pack animals. She also raises concern about balance training, which Barry says is deeply worrying because they will do anything to train dogs.
“They have great marketing techniques and terms that sound good,” said Barry. “Positive trainers will say they are positive trainers and we will use food to train your dog. Punitive trainers won’t tell you what they are going to do, they just give you magical sounding buzzwords.”
Without a program like the SPCA, people have to turn to Google and are surprised to find the trainer is going to use a shock collar and not knowing anything about dogs you’d be surprised what people go along with, says Barry.
“If my dog is barking and I use a shock collar it appears to work, however there is that reinforcement that causes the dog to associate children, or mountain bikers, or joggers or whatever with pain because they are continually hurt in the presence of that something,” she said.
Positive training or rewards-based training are humane and based in science, said Barry.
“It’s interesting when I go to visit families, often I will get the response of ‘That is what I do with my kids.’”
Families, neighbourhoods and dogs
A walk in Lynn Valley is bound to encounter a dog or two, we love our four-legged friends here.
“We have got fantastic trails, most of the spaces are dog friendly – you are allowed to bring your dog on leash – even the fantastic square at Lynn Valley Village,” said Barry. “On the trails people are friendly and willingly to help accommodate you as you work with your dog to train it.”
However, one common source of conflict in Lynn Valley Barry hears about is trail interactions – especially between unleashed dogs and families. She has two big tips: always ask owners to call back their dogs – something the dog should respond to, and carry dog treats in your pocket.
“Dogs respond to energy, so if you are scared or your kids are scared, the dog is barking – I would throw food in its face,” she said. “An owner may ask why you are feeding their dog, and explain if the dog had respond to its call or been trained you wouldn’t have but you are allowed to stop the dog from barking at or jumping on your children.
“It can be good to ‘train’ your kids how to encounter a dog. Ask your kids to walk behind you and explain you are waiting to see if the dog is friendly. Running around and screaming will get a dog amped up – asking your kids to maintain stillness with you will calm the situation down. Asking a dog to sit can also work – especially if you have treats.”
She also suggests being aware of the trails most popular for dog walkers and the times they frequent the trails. This time of year it is busiest from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. she said.
A personal passion for Barry is supporting families as they add a dog to their household or young dog-owners who are parents to be.
“One of the things I am most concerned about is children and dogs,” said Barry. “I am concerned when I hear from a client that they are expecting a baby in three weeks and they have a dog that has been biting people for seven years. We need to get the information out to people who are going to have children that they need to prepare their dogs or prepare children for the addition of a dog.”
Her blog has a wealth of information on these topics – with the ultimate goal being to have happy kids and a happy dog.
Photos courtesy of Dogpartners.ca.