Speaking up for positive training

Several of us in the positive training community were distressed a few months ago when a company that sells shock collars courted dog bloggers to convince them of the virtues of aversive training. It felt like we were backsliding. Were these methods coming back into style?

I’m happy to tell you that at least one organization is moving in the other direction. Amazing Pet Expos, which has put on nearly 100 events across the country since 2009, is now an all-positive event.

In 2013, Sheila Rilenge, president of show development for the expo, announced:

… we made a major change this year by prohibiting companies and trainers who use aversive techniques from participating in our event. Trainers or behaviorists (or any other type of exhibitor), may no longer sell or demonstrate pinch collars, choke collars, heavy chain collars/leads or electric/shock collars at the (St. Louis) Pet Expo; this also includes invisible fence products. We also won’t tolerate Alpha rolls, hard neck or body ‘pokes’ and leash jerks.

I met Sheila last year at BarkWorld, and upon hearing their policy, knew I wanted to participate. On Feb. 21, I will take the stage at the SoCal Pet Expo at 1:45 to speak about positive training.

My Pet Naturally

Reading at My Pet … Naturally in Los Angeles


For this installment of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, I’d like to share a bit of my presentation for the SoCal Pet Expo… except I haven’t prepared it yet.

Since Bark and Lunge came out last summer, I’ve had four readings where I talked about aversive training, the damage it did to my dog, and why I now advocate for force-free training. I tailored my speech for each group: at the Humane Society and Village Books, I spoke about my first failures with chain and prong collars and the realization that the “corrections” were exacerbating Isis’s reactivity to other dogs. At My Pet … Naturally in Los Angeles, I sprinkled in a bit of our experience with raw feeding. My most recent reading was at Sunny Lane, one of my positive trainers’ facilities, where I read the first scene that took place there.

The SoCal Pet Expo will be the first audience that isn’t there specifically to see me. I only have 30 minutes. I’ll have to introduce myself and explain that I’m not a dog professional, just a regular ol’ dog guardian. (I hope no one walks away at that point, thinking “Why should I listen to what this chick has to say?”) At my other events, I’ve started out by reading the prologue from my book, then skipped ahead to some training scenes. This time, maybe I won’t read at all, but instead summarize the overall experience and lessons learned.

I remember how inspiring Victoria Stilwell was at BarkWorld 2013. Here’s an article about her talk there a few years earlier. That’s what I’m going for. I may not have a TV show, or an accent, and I won’t be wearing boots, because I’ll also be standing at a booth the rest of the day. But I know I can match her passion.

Positive TrainingFebruary is Responsible Pet Owners Month, and this is part of the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier, and My Rubicon Days. You’re invited to share your posts about how responsibility relates to training, or any other positive training topic!

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