We just got a new puppy in our house, an eight week old cocker spaniel we have named Hattie. Since it has been 15 years since we had a puppy, my husband bought a book entitled “You and your Cocker Spaniel Puppy in a nutshell” by Carry Aylward (2021). In reading the book I was amazed at how similar this was to much of our Mandt training. When you think about the big topics in Mandt, the list would include positive relationships, de-escalation training, positive behavior support, and trauma informed care. All of these are equally important when working with animals as well as with people.
Regarding positive relationships, here are a few quotations from the book to highlight. “. . . so the time and effort you put in now to building a positive relationship will be worth buckets of good behavior over the months and years to come” (p. 69). “It is imperative though that . . . she feels safe as well as having fun” (p. 77).
De-escalation training appears frequently in the book. Phrases used include things such as don’t yell at her, it will only confuse her; and “be alert and sensitive to her feelings so you will know when you can approach and when to stay away” (p. 78).
Positive behavior support is easy to see in this puppy book. On pages 69-70 Aylward wrote “Don’t punish her or show aggression in any form. Instead, 1. distract her, 2. encourage her to do something good instead, 3. then reward her for listening.” “You want your puppy to be happy and optimistic, looking forward to everything, rather than fearing it. So how do you achieve this? In a nutshell: you gain her trust by focusing on things she does right. By encouraging good behavior and rewarding it” (p. 97).
Finally, trauma informed care is also touched on. “If she hears angry voices or senses a bad mood, she won’t understand that it has nothing to do with her (whether it does or not)” (p. 78).
I find it comforting that the skills we use when working with people are the same skills I should be using in working with Hattie. While the author never says “affirm the feeling and choose your behavior” she does mention that there will be many times that you have to summon all of the patience you can muster to get through some time periods.
Dr.Dale Shannon – Director of Instructional Design