About the Trainer
Cherie began training dogs back in 1989, after her dog, Amanda took off after another dog and she watched her get hit by a car. It became clear that she needed to seek training for herself and her beloved companion that she nearly lost. While attending dog school in a prominent Sacramento facility she quickly excelled with her on leash skills. She became a demo dog and an assistant instructor at the dog training school going to all the classes. Everyone thought she and her dog were quite the team. However, back in 1989, the primary method of dog training was the old "yank and crank". We put a collar on the dog, corrected for being wrong, and gave praise when they did it right. That was super, and no doubt on leash they were quite the team. But the instructor and Cherie had a bit of a secret, and that was that no matter what techniques they used to get off leash, Amanda would take off every time. On leash her skills were impressive, but off leash was not an option for them.
After three years with this company, Cherie had to take a break to pursue graduate studies, but as soon as the Boards were over (nearly 4 years later) Cherie was back on the dog training field. The change-up in philosophy was astounding. Suddenly we were talking about clickers and dolphins and how Sea World trained dolphins and whales without choke collars and equipment. Instead they used a marker based system and focused on benevolent leadership, not dominance based theories. Cherie quickly started over in this new program (without any equipment but with an ever-growing understanding of promoting what was important to Amanda and having her earn things, not expect them as a matter of right). They quickly began assisting other students as well as they were working on their own training issues. Within 4 months, she was able to take Amanda off lead after 7.5 years of Amanda taking off every time she was let off lead. What a huge difference in their life. What Cherie learned is that Amada respected the equipment, but before she had not respected Cherie.
A Change in Philosophy
This led to a philosophical shift in training methodology for Cherie. While equipment can work, it can also mask problems that are best solved through smarter training methods. In 1997, she got her first well bred German Shepherd from working lines (from Jim and Julie Barnes of Wenatchee German Shepherds) and began her career in Search and Rescue. She continues to work detection dogs today. She also began competing in the sport of IPO (formerly Schutzhund). Within 18 months of starting in the sport, she and her dog had earned a Schutzhund 3 with a qualifying score for Nationals (quite an accomplishment in a pretty fast time frame!!). Since then she has titled 7 other dogs in the sport, some with only a BH, but 3 dogs to a Schutzhund 3 and one dog to a Schutzhund 2. She is currently training her next generation of competition dogs.
In her journey through that sport she encountered the old school culture of a lot of use of equipment and trained with people were extremely versed in those methods. She initially fell into that habit as that was what everyone else did. However, through time, she still remembers the lessons that Amanda taught her. She recognizes the time and place for the use of equipment and she has sought skills to master the use of all equipment in a thoughtful manner. However, she first looks at what she can do to motivate in a positive manner to get the desired results. To the degree possible and to the degree the owner is willing to put in the time, we use equipment as a last resort, since most of us want our dogs to listen to us whether we have equipment on or not, doesn't it make sense to train without it from the beginning? There can be a time and place for thoughtful use of equipment, but it should be just that, a thoughtful use, not a habitual automatic response.