Interview with Jill Guin, Dog Trainer and Founder of Underdogs Long Beach
This year has brought on a lot of change for the entire country, but one thing that won’t change is that Pet Waggin’ Pet Care continues to make friends and develop relationships within the Long Beach community… in the safest ways possible, of course!
One of our new friends is Jill Guin, a dog trainer who we’ve been partnerin’ with to improve our own dog training resources. Jill Guin is based in Long Beach, California and is the founder of Underdogs Long Beach. She offers both canine obedience training as well as behavior modification therapy. Her goal is to empower the lives of dogs through the use of positive reinforcement and building a relationship that is based on two-way communication.
Jill is committed to the use of methods that are research-based, the most positive, and the least intrusive.
To tap into her well of wisdom, we video chatted recently and had the opportunity to interview her. So, without further ado, here is what we learned!:
PW: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your dog training journey?
JG: Absolutely. I have been sneaking animals into my home since I could walk! Somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to have humans in my life who also loved all animal species. I’ve been working in animal rescue, fostering and volunteering for 25 years. I’ve had many situations where I’ve needed help with the dogs that I was fostering, so I sought guidance from well known aversive dog trainers. Before you know it, I was hired by these trainers and using these well known aversive methods, which, at the time, I felt were effective techniques.
As time passed I started questioning the intent behind the methods. Did they really work to help the dog, or did they work to just help the human? Thankfully, a friend invited me to the Chatt Conference in Seattle called The Convergence of Human and Animal Behavior. This is where I made the commitment to leave punishment behind for all beings. I can say this is not as easy as it sounds! It is so ingrained in us to use punishment with each other and it’s something that I work on every day. I then signed up for the Karen Pryor Dog Training Academy. I’m now taking Living and Learning with Animals with Susan Friedman. I am obsessed with the world of science-based training!
PW: What does the term “Force Free Training” mean? Why are you committed to this form of training?
JG: I could write a book on this one! I believe that giving the animal choice builds confidence and a stronger bond with them. We can teach a dog that walking away from another dog rather than barking at them is a better choice. Most fearful dogs will choose to leave the situation, rather than lunge, bark, and growl. Using force will lead to a science-based term called "learned helplessness.”
PositivePhysiology.com defines “Learned Helplessness” this way: “Learned helplessness is a phenomenon observed in both humans and other animals when they have been conditioned to expect pain, suffering, or discomfort without a way to escape it. Eventually, after enough conditioning, the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain at all—even if there is an opportunity to truly escape it.”
Once you know what using force does to any sentient being, you can no longer use those methods. Education is everything!
PW: In the world of dogs (and cats too), what does “Enrichment” mean?
JG: Enrichment to all living beings is doing what is most fulfilling, what feels good to us, what relaxes us, and what brings inspiration to us. Science has proven that what we humans need to live our best lives emotionally and physically is exercise, consuming real foods (not processed), learning, creativity, and social activity. This is the same for animals. They need to do what is natural to their species, like scavenging, sniffing, chasing, fetching, digging, ripping, shredding, dissecting, chewing, and licking… just to name a few! Engaging in these activities is normal but also essential to their physical and emotional wellbeing.
PW: Why is Enrichment so important? What happens if we don’t provide Enrichment for our pets?
JG: To have a happy, healthy, and well-rounded pet, they need to experience enrichment that allows them to engage in their innate behaviors. Innate behaviors are in fact natural to the animal—no one taught them to do it. Enrichment activities allow the animal to engage in natural curiosity to prevent boredom and behavioral problems, build confidence, and develop problem-solving skills.
PW: What are a few examples of Enrichment activities that pet parents can do at home with their dogs?
JG: There are so many ways to enrich your pets' lives within the home. Training is #1. All of our dogs need to use their brains to learn and problem solve! You can search YouTube to learn how to teach tricks using positive reinforcement. I also never feed my dogs out of a bowl—it's a wasted enrichment opportunity. My dogs love to learn and problem solve, so we use mostly DIY puzzles, empty plastic peanut butter jars, egg crates, and pet food puzzles. We also roll food up in towels, snuffle mats, and so much more for feeding time. We play find-it games with treats, agility, hide-and-go-seek and nose work.
PW: Is walking your dog Enrichment?
JG: Yes! The #1 problem I see is humans walking their dogs on 4-6 foot leashes, with no chance to sniff the ground. I can’t encourage pet parents enough to let your pups sniff. Can you imagine that the only time you get to leave the house, you are on a military and tight leash at your owner's side, with no chance to explore? Take your dogs on Decompression walks. Get a 10-30 foot lead and regularly go to a park to let your dogs explore and “Google” the environment. They need to decompress and this is how they do it. These walks in parks should be 45 minutes to 1 hour of letting your dog engage in the outdoors.
PW: It seems like all dogs would benefit from Enrichment but are there dogs with specific behaviors where Enrichment would be especially beneficial?
JG: Enrichment is great for all dogs and they all deserve to have enrichment. Most of the work I do is with reactive, fearful dogs. This is how I've learned the benefits or enrichment activities. Dogs who are fearful and reactive struggle with relaxing, engaging, and controlling their environments. Enrichment allows them to problem solve, teaches them to use their nose, find food, engage with nature, control outcomes, play, and relax. Many fearful dogs don’t know how to engage outside of their homes. We want to teach them that it's safe to engage in their natural behaviors. If you have a truly fearful dog, you may want to consult a trainer for help getting started.
PW: What are your favorite tools and equipment to use for Enrichment activities?
JG: I will start with decompression walking equipment like the Balance harness or Freedom harness, a long 20-30 ft lead, treat hip bag and lots of treats and toys. For home enrichment, use food puzzles, Amazon boxes, egg crates, plastic peanut butter container, agility equipment, old socks, towels, snuffle mats, lick mats, stuffed animals that are torn, treats, treat bags, plastic cups, cupcake tins, tennis ball, wobble feeder… I can keep going! Once you get started on this, you will get creative!
We LOVE an enthusiastic, passionate, and science-based trainer, and Jill is no exception! We are so thankful to Jill for taking the time to sit and talk with us and share her expertise.
We’re thrilled to begin the planning stages of utilizing her recommendations in our own future enrichment walks with your pets. But, of course, our dog walking services will help provide the much-needed Enrichment your pup craves. Check it out and book your walk today!