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January 9, 2012

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Training Tools Strengthen the Human-Animal Bond

By Mandie Sweetnam

I enjoy what I do. For those who don't know me, I'm the Training and Behavior Education Specialist at Premier Pet Products. Most people aren’t aware that this job even exists – I know this because I get the *confused puppy look from people I meet after they ask what I do. When I elaborate into further explanation, I tell them that I assist in developing and producing products that make the lives of people and pets a little easier. The intention is to ultimately increase the strength of human-animal bond…in a nutshell.

Simple behavior problems in a pet – such as inappropriate chewing or pulling on the leash – can lead to the demise of the human-animal bond. Once this bond is damaged, it’s difficult to rebuild. A staggering 5 to 7 million companion animals enter shelters each year, according to the ASPCA. It is estimated that about half of them are relinquished by their owners.

It is difficult to know the exact reasons for the surrender of these pets on a national level because there is no specific organization responsible for keeping track of all of these statistics. Most shelters keep track of their own independently and I'm sure if you checked with your local shelter, one of the reasons cited for surrender would be "behavior".

This is why I'm an advocate for training. I'm not talking about 'shake' and 'roll over', although tricks make training fun - I'm talking about the type of training that is going to save lives. 'Leave it, Come, Heel', proper socialization, house training, walking on a leash, etc. In order to save lives, we all need to find a way to give our companion animals a little more time, a little more patience and a little more training so we can preserve the human-animal bond.

Products like the Gentle Leader® Head Collar and Easy Walk Harness have helped so many people take their dogs on an enjoyable walk – including me! Anyone who knows what it’s like to have a turbo-charged and ready-to-go dog on the other end of the lead can relate to the feeling of success when human and dog can both enjoy the walk thanks to those fabulous no-pull devices.

Making walking your dog enjoyable also makes it easier to house train your dog and give them exercise, eliminating problems further down the road.   I'll have to admit, the first time I discovered a pair of my favorite heels chewed up and ruined, I could have cried.

I quickly forgave my dog, realizing as a sole custodian of a dog for the first time at age 20, that it was my fault. I had given Tombie - a puppy - extremely poor chewing options. I also had to re-examine why I left my shoes all over the place.

Seven years later, I'm now happy to be involved in a line of toys that has something for every dog - Busy Buddy®. Check out a past blog by Michelle Mullins, CPDT, Training and Behavior Education Department Manager,  "Toys, Toys, Toys" to help you chose the right toy for your dog.

Of course, then there are our training and behavior tools, like the Clik Stik®, Clik-R™ and MannersMinder®. Not only is this one of our most valued categories, but these products are backed by their very own department to ensure the products meet the high standards of our reward-based training philosophy. (That’s my department!)

It’s fulfilling to be passionate about your work. To be involved in creating products that promote solutions and cause happiness in people and pets around the world is a great feeling. I know that there are far more noble occupations out there that save animal lives every day and I have the utmost respect and admiration for everyone in a position to do so. I think it's important that we all find our own way to improve the lives of all animals.

There are many different opportunities out there. What are some conventional or unconventional ways that you impact the lives of pets?    

*Confused puppy look – A look of confusion, usually given by a puppy, when they tilt their heads to the side, perk up their ears and look at you like you’re crazy.

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