Friday, February 10, 2012

So Your Dog Needs Some Training...

I had a friend ask me to do my next post about training since her doggie needs some training.  Of course, I couldn’t wait to recommend Rachel Bowman, so I texted her immediately.  Still, I feel like I’d be doing everyone with a dog a disservice if I didn’t post about training immediately. 

As not only a first-time dog owner, but a first-time pitbull owner, I knew that I wanted to get Chief into training as soon as he was old enough (which ended up being about 3 months old for us).  I wasn’t sure where to go, how much it would cost, if I could even afford it, and if they’d be able to handle a pitbull.  Now, granted, Chief isn’t aggressive or anything like that, but pitbulls have a bad reputation connected with them.  If I took him to a group class at Petco, where he was training with Pomeranians, I was worried I’d get some glares, or that if anything happened during socialization or during the training that the group would automatically blame my pup because he’s a pitbull. 

So I found a San Diego Pitbull meetup group and scoured their message boards for recommendations about trainers.  I found a few and did some research; one of the few that were recommended was Rachel Bowman.  I checked out her page and saw that she not only ran a rescue as well, but also specialized in issues ranging from dog-dog reactivity to fear based human aggression.  Knowing what I know about the public’s perception of pitbulls I decided that she was the one for me.  Like I said, Chief wasn’t dog reactive or human aggressive; he was just a normal, happy puppy (and he still is).  However, he did seem to be pretty timid when he was out in the world.  So I sent her an email and said I was interested in private half hour sessions (since he was still too young for a group class).  We booked an appointment for that same weekend and I’m SO glad I did.  I can’t say enough great things about Rachel; in fact, I wrote a client testimonial for her not too long ago.  Here it is!

Reason You Started Training: I wanted Chief to learn some basic commands as soon as possible.  I figured the younger we started on obedience training and socialization the better.  As a responsible pitbull owner I wanted to instill confidence, as well as obedience, into my pup.

How Has Your Dog Improved Since You Started Training with Bowman's Canine: Chief is a wonderfully behaved puppy.  He does so well with "sit" and "watch" that it is very easy to get and keep his attention when there is chaos surrounding him.  Not only has Rachel helped with training but she's given me a ton of insight into dog behavior.  With her help I am constantly in tune with Chief's body language.  I am able to spot his stress signs so that I can remove him from stressful situations and/or praise him when he removes himself.  We also work on his confidence a lot since he tends to be a very timid puppy.  Working with Rachel has helped Chief blossom and he looks to me as his leader which makes our relationship very beneficial to each other.

Would You Recommend Bowman's Canine To Others: In a heartbeat, over and over and over.  Rachel not only provides easy to follow training methods, but she provides real insight into dog behavior.  As a dog owner, I'm not just learning commands, I'm learning to spot stress signs, read dog body language, understand methods of play, and overall learn how to be a better and more responsible dog owner.  Rachel understands and has experience with bully breeds, as well as understanding that not every dog learns the same.  Her training isn't the cookie cutter training you would get at a huge brand name store; it's personalized to your dogs personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.   Rachel doesn't just bring out the best in a dog, she brings out the best in their owners as well.

Update: Chief is now also pretty good at “come” and “stay”.  When we are out and about I always keep him on a leash for his safety, as well as others.  Like I’ve mentioned, he isn’t dog or human reactive, but as a new owner it’s tough to tell what situations make him uneasy, so for now I keep him on a leash unless we’re in the backyard or on a hiking trail by ourselves.  I strongly believe that in order to help change the public’s perception of a pitbull (I’ll blog about this one day for sure), I need to be overly responsible.  I’m ok with that.  I don’t want Chief to spot a squirrel and run out into traffic.  While I’m confident about his ability to “come” and “stay”, we haven’t yet tried it with distractions.  But that’ll be another thing I’ll have Rachel help us with.  I don’t believe in just training your dog as a puppy, I think training should be a life-long learning experience.  Just my opinion =)

Ok so that’s my recommendation in a nutshell.  However, I love so many other things about Rachel, I think I’ll just bullet point them.  If you want more information or want me to rave about her personally, then please feel free to contact me.  Otherwise, visit her website and see for yourself!

Things I like about Rachel Bowman
    ·    She owns 3 gorgeous pitbulls of her own
    ·    She rescues pitbulls (PS: she has two up for adoption, if you’re interested check out her page—they’re beautiful dogs, I’d take them if we didn’t already have 5)
    ·    She rescues chickens and roosters too (I don’t know why but I weirdly love this)
    ·    Her hubby is a tattoo artist (Good Neighbor Tattoo)
    ·    She has a killer sleeve
    ·    She loves little Chiefster and he digs her too (sure, she’s the lady with the treats but he’s not responsive to everyone)
    ·    She’s super knowledgeable about dogs and dog behavior
    ·    I can write her an email or a facebook message with questions and she always gets back to me
    ·    I bring her lists of personality traits, questions, habits, etc of all the dogs we own and she helps me with them also
    ·    She introduced me to Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth, which is a WAY cheaper method of preventing parasites and deworming dogs (as well as many other health benefits).  We just can’t afford Sentinal for 6 dogs.  Oh and the dogs freakin’ LOVE it
·         Her training methods are easy to learn and convenient.  I say convenient because I don’t always have treats on me (although I’ve learned now it’s best to just keep treats on me all the time); but all I have to use with Rachel’s style of training is my words and my hands.  I can tell Chief ‘Yes, good boy’ and press my palm against his nose with no treat and he still associates it with doing something right.  Of course, every so often I have a treat, or kibble, or just a bunch of pets to reward him with (he LOVES to be loved—trust me, it’s the top tier reward for him).
·         She doesn’t just work with my dog on “sit” and “stay”, she helps with his shyness, his separation anxiety, his tendency to growl when he’s unsure of things, and his need to finish his food as fast as possible so he can eat the other puppies food.
·         Rachel is passionate about her work.  It’s obvious that she loves dogs, she loves pitbulls, and she genuinely loves what she does.  Her passion comes through in her conversations and her training sessions.  It seems to me that she never stops learning so she can continually be an amazing trainer and up-to-date on the latest and greatest methods.
·         On top of ALL of these really awesome traits, Rachel is just a cool person.  I don’t know the last time someone offered me a service that I paid for and I thought to myself “omg…I want to be her friend!”.  No really, I want to like…hang out with her, and have doggie dates with her.  That’s how cool she is. 

So that’s it.  If you need training for your dog or puppy, go to Rachel Bowman.  I can’t stress it enough.  Trust me…I drive an HOUR from Julian to train with her, that’s how worth it she is.