Ashley Starling’s Philosophy On Dog Training

My Journey into dog training actually started when I was 5 years old. That’s when I started to learn horsemanship. I rode horses for pleasure and for competition until I was 15 years old. No sooner did I start to enter competitions when I was slapped in the face with the financial realities of equine ownership. Think sail boat with a main and tail.

What I learned about horse training was the wasn’t anything “whisperish” about it. It was all very straight-forward. What it took was repetition, lots of repetition. Constantly going in circles on horseback connected to a lunge line with my trainer attached to the other end barking out orders. We did this for years until I did it on my own without thinking until it became muscle memory.

Eventually I stopped riding horses because of financial reasons and as a 15 year old kid if your parents aren’t completely on board that’s pretty much it. The rest of my years were spent going to school, not going to school until I graduated–barely.

I got my first real dog when I was 21 years old from a guy who was going through a wicked divorce. He even lost his dog. It was a 2 1/2 year old Rottweiler named Rex. At first I was kinda freaked out just because of the look and the size of him. He was huge and scary looking. But wow was he full of life. At first he was kinda thugish, always growling at someone or lunging at some poor little dog. As we got to know each other he started to mellow out and got really friendly with everybody. I figured Rex was so big and powerful that I should get a dog coach. It didn’t take me long to find Marve Gangloff.  We learned about obedience training, protection, scent work even search and rescue. The biggest thing I learned was dog training was a lot like training horses. They move toward things that make their life more comfortable and away from things that make them uncomfortable or stressed.
To be an effective dog trainer you have to be fair, consistant and balanced. I don’t mean balanced in a Ceasar Millan kind of way. I mean that you have to be able to lead your dog all the way down the road, not just half way.
Today dog training is super popular. There are as many different training philosophies as their are dogs. If you ask 100 trainers for their opinion, you will get 100 different answers. Here is the two major schools of thought. School 1. Never under any circumstances force your dog to do anything. Use food always. Compulsion is never to be used. No choke chains, no pinch collars and for the love of God NEVER use a remote training collar. Head halters maybe. All you have to do is go to one of those big box pet supply store to find one of these trainers. Walk down the isle of Barns and Noble and look for yourself. What I just described is the politically correct way to train your dog. Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of good came out of that stuff. Stay with me now.
School 2. Be the Alpha. Show that dog who’s the boss. These people are usually of the yank and crank variety. If the dog doesn’t listen, then make it hurt until it does. Don’t ever use food, just praise.

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