Victoria Stilwell is the famous face of positive dog-training and the star of Animal Planets show Its Me or the Dog.
At a recent lecture in Pittsburgh, she shared some tricks of her trade. Stilwell believes that children and dogs should be raised in a force-free way. Positive training does not mean we do not say no to a dog. It does not mean there are no boundaries, she said.
If you like a dogs behavior, reward it. Positive training is about motivating a dog to love learning. Whatever your dog likes, use it – food, toys, praise and petting, she said. When you go to work, do you get paid? Food is not bribery. Its powerful. Just dont use it all the time. Use it sometimes.
Confrontational methods and abusive handling dont work in the long run, she believes, and they may make dogs behave aggressively. Training tools she dislikes include prong and shock collars, electric fences, long hours on a chain or tie-out and the alpha roll, in which trainers force a dog down onto the ground and hold it there to prove they are in charge.
I am skinny, she said. I cant overpower an aggressive 120-pound dog, but I can train that dog.
Snarling dogs biting other dogs and threatening to bite people were featured on clips from her TV show, which she showed to the audience. Also featured were a bunch of Chihuahuas peeing all over their house and little pet dogs that barked nonstop day and night. By the end of each episode, all of the dogs were behaving nicely and wagging their tails.
Its important to know you do not cure a dog in 42 minutes, she said.
She generally spends four days with families and their misbehaving canines, and 50 hours of footage is edited down to an episode of Its Me or the Dog.
What we see on the show is just the beginning of the training process, she said. Stilwell gives homework and comes back to see if dog owners took her advice. Most of them did it. Some did not.
Here are some of her tips from the lecture:
In most of the homes I go to, the dogs have not had enough exercise. She recommends a daily one-hour walk, but some need more.
Spending long hours home alone is not good for dogs, but she said two products are revolutionary and sound therapy for dogs: DOGTV on DirectTV (shes on the board) and music CDs available at www.throughadogsear.com. Both were designed for dogs. She said classical music that is soothing to people has too many instruments and the frequency is too high for dog ears.
Other fun facts:
I love pit bulls! she said, showing multiple pictures of her with representatives of the oft-maligned breed.
Dogs arent color-blind, but most colors are gray to them. They really only see blue and yellow, and yet so many dog toys are red, which is why they may have trouble finding a red dog toy thrown into green grass. The grass and the toy are both gray in the eyes of a dog.
Her website, which includes a Q&A forum, is http://positively.com.
She has written multiple books, including the newest one, Train Your Dog Positively.
Stilwell devotes lots of time to helping rescues and shelters, where many dogs ended up because their owners could not deal with their behavioral problems.