Behavior & Training
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We’ve been enjoying the Daily Dog Tips  from the trainers of National Geographic’s hit show DogTown. So we decided to chat with John Garcia, a trainer from DogTown’s Best Friends Animal Society about the new book Dog Tips from DogTown and the importance of building a relationship with your dog.
The Best Friends Animal Society has been rescuing animals for well over 20 years. What prompted you to share your stories and training advice through the show and the books?
Sharing information with the public on training and sharing our passion for animals has always been important to Best Friends. None of us can reach this ideal of No More Homeless Pets alone—it’s going to take nationwide change to get there. Those of us who love animals all need to do our part. Having the opportunity to reach more people via the show and the two books has just been great. We hope to always be sharing stories and inspiring people to make a difference for animals.
What is the key thing you hope readers take away from the book?
That your dog—and any pet that you bring into your home—is a member of your family. You wouldn’t give your child away for bad behavior or poor communication skills and you shouldn’t do that with your dog either. The relationship that you have with your dog is just that, a relationship—and we all know that relationships take work. Even if problems develop later in the relationship, those problems still need work—not a throw up your hands and give up approach. It’s not always possible to succeed, but when your pet is part of your family and you see them that way, then you’ll do what you can to help keep your pet in the home. AND that your relationship with your dog can be a rich and rewarding one for both of you. And that dogs rule.
What advice do you find surprises people most?
Believe it or not, it’s the very simple fact that your dog doesn’t automatically know what you want from him or her. It’s up to us to work so that our dogs know what we expect from them. That is part of the communication it takes to have a great relationship with our dogs.
The other thing is about how your actions influence the dogs’ behavior so much, and how you can incorporate so much training into your daily routine. So many people think they have to take soooo much time out of their day to train their dog when all they have to do is think about how they interact with him or her.
Have you gotten a lot of feedback from dog owners who have applied your advice to their relationships with their own dogs?
People are great, actually. We’ve gotten a lot of emails from people letting us know that they have learned from the book and if we’ve helped keep one dog in a home then we’ve done a good thing.
What is one small thing that each of us can do to improve our relationship with our dogs?
Take a deep breath and have patience. One thing I’ve learned over the years is by working with dogs I have become a better person by having more patience. Whenever you are trying to improve a relationship with a dog or human, it takes effort on both parts. It may sound like a lot but the rewards are well worth it.
The book is subtitled “A Relationship Manual for You and Your Dog.” Why is it so important to think about the activities you do with your dog as relationship building rather than training?
I think as long as we look at training as relationship building, then we are on the right track. Training isn’t a one-time thing—or an isolated thing. It should last throughout your dog’s life—but even if your dog is 12 years old, it isn’t too late to begin. Everything we do with our dogs, whether it is feed them their dinner, take them for a hike, teach them to sit or lay down or even reinforce something we taught them years ago, is building on each other thing—and that’s really about relationship.
It takes time to build a relationship. So often are we asked to “solve the problem” or to “fix” the dog, but it doesn’t work like that. If my dog were a car I would be able to “fix” it, but it’s not and by having a relationship, I can rely on the dog just as much as they are relying on me. Respect is mutual and so is training.