Cindy Scott founded Dogs Etc. Dog Training in 1997 with the simple mission – to enrich dogs’ lives. She practices and teaches positive, reward-based training techniques that are based on scientific learning theory.
With over 25 years of professional experience, she is a Certified AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the author of 2 books, The Zen Chien (shen): Enlightened Training For A Fabulous Dog and & 7 Steps To Successfully Selecting The Perfect Dog For You.
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Cindy Scott founded Dogs Etc. Dog Training in 1997 with the simple mission- to enrich dogs’ lives. She practices and teaches positive reward based training techniques that are based on scientific learning theory. With over 25 years of professional experience, she is a Certified AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the author of two books, “The Zen Shen Enlightened Training for a Fabulous Dog” and “The Seven Steps to Successfully Selecting the Perfect Dog for You”.
Hey, Cindy, Welcome to the show. Hey, thanks for having me, glad to be here. Yeah, I’m excited to have you. So I want to know a little bit more about you and how you got into this industry. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you and what your company is all about? Well, that’s the number one question I get asked, How did you get started in this crazy business? And first of all, I am a trainer, owner of Dogs Etc Dog Training. And my company has been around since 1997. I started it with I know that it’s been 1997 because my youngest son was six weeks old when I started the company. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. And I started the company because I wanted to be home with my kids. Before that, I had worked with another trainer, did my apprenticeship with him, etc. And then when my youngest was born, you know, they’re the center of my universe, what can I say? Everything revolves around them.
But how I got started, it was actually way back a 1,000,002 years ago, I think dinosaurs roamed the Earth, when I was in college. And the love of my life, my little dog, who I was never able to have a dog, as a child, I was in love with them. I could never have one. My younger brother is severely disabled, and my mother was afraid that, you know, because he wasn’t able to walk, that having a dog around was dirty and that, you know, she didn’t want him on the floor with the dogs, etc, so I could never have a dog. So that only made me love them even more and obsess about them. And then when my family moved from Minneapolis to Orange County here, my dad, I think, just felt sorry for me. And he was like, just get her a dog. He looked at my mom, but I didn’t have any friends.
So anyway, my little dog, my little Pepper, she’s a little black Cockapoo, love of my life. You can imagine when you are told you can never have something, then when you finally get it, they’re everything. And she was my everything And she was 10 years old and she ran out into the street and got hit by a car, and was killed instantly. And I was, I believe I was a senior in college at the time. And just heartbroken. I’m like, how did this happen? I took her through training. We did all of the old school, you know, choke chain stuff. She did multiple classes and my thing, I kept coming back to was this didn’t save her life. What good was it if it didn’t save her life? That’s what matters.
And I happen to be finishing up my minor in psychology at that time, learning about offered conditioning and classical conditioning and ding ding ding light ball moment. Why aren’t we doing this for dogs? Why are we still using choke chains? Why are we still doing fear based stuff? And why are we still doing stuff that doesn’t help save their life? That’s what matters. And so I graduated from college, make a long story short, I actually worked for Fancy Publications. I thought I wanted to do a desk job and have an office and all of that. Right? As we all do after we finish college.
And so Fancy Publications, they did Cat Fancy, Dog Fancy. I never worked on Dog Fancy. I was actually in Cat Fancy and Birds USA. So I was editorial staff and I am not a desk person. I got claustrophobia sitting in an office, and even though we were still working with animals, it just wasn’t the same. And I was still researching behavior and training and trying to figure out how can I save dogs. That’s like the theme of my life.
So anyway, long story short, I met a behaviorist serendipitously, as the universe works and did an apprenticeship with him. He introduced me to world famous behaviorists. I did apprenticeships with just amazing people. Got some real world experience, worked for him for a while. And then, like I said, after I started having the kids, it became about them. But I still had vet’s going. Can we just call you? Can we give out your number? We, you know, have a client… And so that’s why I started my own business.
Yeah, I think it’s really cool. And I think the educational background that you have, you definitely have a knack for that behavior and that science side of things, which makes sense how the training and behavior side kind of work together. So talk to me a little bit about, do you like the training side, or do you like the behavior side, and tell me a little bit about how that ties in? Such a good question. Such a good point. Because honestly, I think they’re both the same thing. They go hand in hand, they’re just layers of the same onion, because how we quote unquote train behaviors like sit and come and down and tricks, and all of that is offering classical conditioning. You know, they exhibit the behavior that we want, and we reward it. And then we put it on que. So training a dog to sit is really the same as training them to speak or having them come or anything like that. And it’s a behavior. A behavior is how an organism interacts with its environment. That’s the definition.
So training them, having them do different behaviors. I’m still coming from a science based perspective. To me, it’s all about that, not just so that I understand what I’m doing and I can get duplicateable results. But I want to help the owner get duplicateable results because it doesn’t help them if the dog comes to me or sits for me, they need to get the results from the dog. So coming from that science base, that’s what’s going to get your consistent, reliable results, whether your training or the behavior. And the behavior aspect of it comes from when I look at something the dog is doing, a behavior that we don’t necessarily want, like barking or chewing and separation anxiety, something like that. I look at, okay, how do I train this out of them? I don’t go, how can I train the dog not to do this? I look at what’s causing them to do this because there’s 200 reasons a dog barks. You know, there’s alert barking. Learn barking. There’s attention seeking. There’s so many different reasons that they do aggression. There’s 1000 different types of aggression, you know, separation is what’s causing it. And then we want to alleviate not just the symptoms, but the disease.
So, like if a dog has separation anxiety, for instance, and it manifests itself, you know, in destroying the house. So if we train them not to chew things well, we still haven’t alleviated the anxiety. So now maybe the dog’s gonna start barking or even peeing and pooping. I’ve seen that sometimes where the dogs destroying the house, so they put him in the backyard. Well, it’s still anxious, so now it’s destroying the backyard. And then they put him in like a cement run and to give them so they don’t have access to destroy the backyard. Well, they still have that anxiety. So now the only thing that they could do is how, or self mutilate, you know where they pace in circles or pick their fur off, you know. So we want to get to the disease. What’s causing it, not just training out the symptoms. So the difference between quote unquote training and behavior, the way I look at it, training is about those obedience commands. The sit, the come, the down, the walking on the leash, like a formal heal, those types of commands. And then the behavior is manners, teaching them how to behave or, if they’re doing nuisance things, stuff like that. But they really go hand in hand. They’re really the same thing. I attack it from the same way.
Do you enjoy training and teaching the dog, or do you enjoy the person, your client and educating them about the behaviors and the trainings and their situations? Which do you enjoy more? Yes, both. I guess the honest answer in the vague answer, it depends. Of course. I really enjoy working with the people and some of my best friends. I met at puppy class. Seriously, people I hang out with, I met in class. They become my friends. So I really do enjoy that. And I really do enjoy seeing them have a better relationship with their dog because we can get the dog something that’s easy to do for me, but they were struggling with how to get them to stop peeing on the floor. And now they truly love the dog. And they have a really great dynamic with the dog. But I also really love that Ah ha! moment of seeing the dog connect the dots. You know, you can see behind their eyes, where they are like, Oh, this is what this crazy woman wants me to do? And then they do it. Well, why didn’t you tell me that? I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking, but so know that I really do enjoy both. And sometimes depending on the client, I enjoy it more with the people and depending on the dog, I enjoy it more with the dog.
Yeah, I can see how it’s a 50/50 split, right? That’s why I put you on the spot a little bit, cause it is interesting to me. I feel like a lot of people in the animal welfare world, in general, really either claim to be animal people or they claim to be people people. And there’s never this mix. And so what I appreciate about your response is that it was a really well thought out response in why you like both. But I do feel like you have to be a little bit of both in order to be still excited after 27 years. I mean, that’s a long time. It never gets old.
You know, I was just working with the puppy the other day and I forget what we’re doing with him. But you could see in his eyes he was like, Oh, this, and I was jumping up and down like it was the first time I’d ever done it. It’s so exciting, but that’s an excellent point because I do work with a lot of students. I have a lot of apprentices that come to me and want to train with me. I have other trainers that come and train with me. That’s what you get for doing it for so long, I suppose. And that’s when I think that I try to emphasize with them is it doesn’t matter how well you can get that dog to do it for you. You need to be able to communicate to the owner how to get those same results because dogs are really bad at generalizing and they catch on really quickly. The handler, they’ll listen to the handler, but then they go home, and they’re not going to do it for the owner unless they’re consistent with what you’re doing. So it doesn’t matter how well a trainer or handler can do it with the dog. It matters how well you can transfer that to the owner. That’s where the results and the success lie. Yeah.
I want to pivot us a little bit because I definitely want to talk about this next thing. I know you do a lot of work with rescues and shelters and organizations, and rescue animals hold a place in your heart. And so I want to talk a little bit about what that means to you? How you got into that, why it’s so important and, you know, just talk to me about what the difference is between working with a puppy, first time versus maybe a rescue, who has been through life and been through some challenges, and why you’re so passionate about rescue dogs and then what the difference is. Well, I love working with rescue dogs. The biggest loves of my life have been rescue animals. And again, it’s so rewarding taking a dog that had such a rough start and happy endings. It’s all about those happy endings. Let me put it that way. And seeing the change that a little bit of love, good food and consistency really plays into somebody’s life. Yeah. You know? And I’ve also again seen the changes that one dog can make on a person. So many times one dog changes a person’s life, so I love working with rescues. It’s so rewarding. It’s very frustrating at times because it doesn’t matter how many success stories for every one success story, we’ve got 1000 that are waiting, and it’s like a damn that’s bursting that you just can’t plug up, of unwanted animals. And it’s so heartbreaking. But all we do is save the ones that we can save. At least that’s what I remind myself.
Yeah, what would you say the biggest challenges are in working with rescue dogs? The biggest challenge is most of these dogs didn’t have the benefit of early puppy training. Ideally, developmentally, the ideal time for a dog to learn is up until about 4.5-5 months. So even before their eyes and ears open at three weeks, the breeder should be touching them, handling them, working with them, teaching them those skills. As soon as the eyes and ears open, be doing sit, potty training. Basic recalls. If a person is buying a dog from a breeder, that dog should come knowing the basic skills. Because otherwise you’re losing.
It’s just like a little child. That’s when their brains are sponges, just soaking up information that’s so easy to learn new things. But what happens with rescue dogs is a lot of times they didn’t get the positive interaction. A lot of times, you know, they start peeing on the floor, so then they’re just relegated to the back yard. So then they don’t get anything. And sometimes, more often than we’d like to think about, negative stuff happens. You know they’ve been punished. They had, you know, lived on the street, lived in shelters which could be traumatic. They’ve been hungry, starving, been attacked by other dogs, been attacked by people. So not only do we have to go back with rescue dogs and make up for the lack of positive socialization and learning, but now we also have to make up for any negative stuff that potentially could have happened. And, yes, trauma, just like with people. You know, that early trauma, that’s what’s in there, the deepest. And that’s what’s at the core of behaviors. It’s so easy for them to go back to those old behaviors. What do they say? Old behaviors die hard or whatever that saying is. And it’s certainly true for dogs to. It’s so easy for them to grasp. And then, just like with us, the older the dog gets, they can still learn. It’s just more challenging. Yeah, it takes a little bit more time and attention for sure. Exactly. More consistency to rehabilitate that six months, six year old rescue dog, then to work with a six week old puppy, that can catch on to something like that. So that’s the challenge.
In your work with rescue dogs, what’s the top one or two questions that you get from rescues and shelters, that they’re coming to you asking for help with? And what would you tell those organizations who might be listening today, if you could give them a tip or two to help guide them down the right path? The number one thing I see is fear. Far and above anything else. Again, lack of socialization, dogs will have some fear issues. Rescue dogs will have some fear issues. The number one fear that dogs have is kids. Toddler’s scare me a little bit, too. So I understand that. And the number two fear they have is men, and I see this a lot. Because care providers are typically women, most breeders are women. Most rescue people are women, most vets are women now. So they just kind of organically get socialized with women as puppies. So they become standoffish and afraid of men. And you become afraid of what we don’t know and so fear, lack of confidence, those are the number one things I see in rescue dogs.
And so how we combat that is building their confidence with again, positive association. Lots of fun things, classical conditioning. If they’re afraid of men, you pair men getting them good treats. So what they learn is oh, I love men. Men give me food. This is fantastic. So classical conditioning, positive association, those types of things. Zero punishment training. I mean, if you put a choke chain on a nervous, afraid dog, let alone a pinch collar, a shock collar, they’re just going to completely shut down and probably turn aggressive. So lots and lots of positives. The more positives, the better. Building confidence, teaching them basic obedience, making it fun. Games. I use a lot of play training in games because I always say, nobody gets a dog because they need more poop to clean up in their life. You know, you get a dog to have fun, and games are a great way to teach certain things. But also, if you have a fearful or nervous dog, it helps to boost their confidence and bring them out of their shell. So that’s definitely something that is the number one thing.
And then the number two thing I see is potty training. No pun intended that number two is potty training. Because a lot of dogs again become rescue dogs because they weren’t potty trained successfully as puppies, and people over time get tired of cleaning up the mess. And that’s why they end up at the shelters. So potty training is really, really important, to be sure. That has to be a little difficult, right? They get turned into a shelter because of that, and then they are put in a cage and only let out a few times a day. So you’re not giving them that positive reinforcement because of their situation, and everybody is doing their best. But that’s hard. You go from a very hard situation to another hard situation. And you know, luckily, now with COVID and everything we’ve been through, shelters specifically are moving into this fostering space, which is great, not just for the people. And we get that unconditional love from those cute dogs. Which we need right now, especially. Yeah we do need that. But they also need it. And so I feel like this COVID is as crazy as it is, there’s a lot of positive that’s coming from it. And, you know, I didn’t really think about dogs being turned in due to potty training issues. But now that you mention it, you kind of talk through it and explain, it makes sense. So I think a lot of this really goes back to the education of dog owners. And I know that’s one thing that you’re just really big on is educating, putting the word out there, giving it to one person who can share it with 10 more and then 10 more from there and kind of building this network of resources.
So tell me a little bit about why that became so important to you? Oh my gosh, you hit the nail right on the head. It’s all about education. I don’t think you can have too much information about anything. And right now it’s so confusing for dog owners and rescue people and just people in the dog industry. Because I know you Google dog trainers or YouTube dog trainers. And you know, you ask 10 different dog trainers, you’re gonna get 10 different answers and different schools of thought and theory, and everybody’s so adimate that their way is the only way. So it’s super confusing. They don’t know what to do, and they have the best of intentions. They’re doing what they think that they may be following something that maybe isn’t right for that particular dog. So, you know, the older I get,age comes with wisdom, I suppose, trying to be positive about it. But, you know, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’ve seen stuff. I’ve seen stuff. I love that line from GroundHog Day. Bill Murray’s GroundHog Day, where he says that he doesn’t think God is omnipotent and he just thinks he’s been around so long he knows everything. That’s how I feel. That’s how I feel. I mean, I’ve just been around so long, I’ve just seen xyz. And yes, it all comes back to the education. And the more that we can educate people on simple little tweaks that they can do, make all the difference in the world, you know? And I’m such an advocate about the positive because I have seen so many times, you know, using a choke chain is not easy. Using it properly is not easy. I’ve seen people use them so incorrectly, pincher collars so incorrectly. I mean, I’ve seen horrible things and once you start using them, incorrectly the fear, the punishment base, it’s difficult to come back from that. But with the positive, if you make mistakes and your timing is off, you’re not doing any harm. You just work on your timing and the better your timing gets, than the dog’s going to connect the dots and you’re good. So I firmly believe in harm none and do no harm. That’s our first and foremost thing, and getting as much information out there for the people. And now that we have the technology that, yes COVID has pushed our hand with that, to really get that information out there and is accessible to as many people as possible, so that they can help their dogs. And yeah, that’s how we keep him out of the shelter. Because a dog that is not jumping and is well behaved and not peeing on the floor and not barking and not being aggressive, they’re not gonna get turned into the shelter. Yeah, it’s the dogs that have those behavior problems. So anyway, that’s my little rant.
I love it, Cindy. I have so enjoyed my time with you and before we get close to wrapping things up, I really want to know, what’s that one thing that they can take away from this? Perfect. The big takeaway is catch your dog being good. Catch your dog being good. Nobody is naughty, 100% of the time. Truth. I’m come close, but not 100% of the time. So what you want to do is be ready to reward the good. Counter conditioning. If a dog is doing the right thing, they’re not doing the wrong thing. And this is what it all comes down to is teaching a mutually exclusive behavior. If they’re sitting, they’re not jumping. If they’re quiet, they’re not barking. If they’re walking nice to you, they’re not pulling or nicely with you, they’re not pulling. So we stupid humans tend to take the good behavior for granite. Somebody can do 1,000,000 wonderful things, we ignore them. So true. One time they screw up, man, that’s what we remember about them. Remember that one time, way back when, that’s what we remember. That’s how we were raised. That’s how I was raised. Okay? They didn’t teach me the rules. But once I screwed up, man, you knew it. You knew when you screwed up, so we want to flip that on its head. We want to do the opposite of that is we really reward the good. Yet if they screw up, there’s punishments that we can do, I wouldn’t say punishments, reprimands that we can do to let them know they’re doing the right thing.
But the more we reinforce what we want, the more they’re going to be doing that. That’s the basis of behaviorism. That’s Lauren Dykes law, right there. Behavior that gets rewarded is going to get repeated, and it’s going to occur more frequently. So think about us. I mean the things that we do. If you don’t get a reward for something, you’re not going to do it, you know. So it’s the same thing with the dog, is catch them being good. You have to catch yourself, ignoring them to catch them being good. Does that make sense? Yeah, makes total sense. You almost make it sound too easy. It almost sounds like why have we not been doing that all along? Right? It’s so counterintuitive to how we were brought up. It’s our culture. And my hope, honestly, I mean the microcosm of what I’m doing, obviously, is helping dogs and working with dogs evangelizing, prophesying about positive reinforcement. But the macrocosm is I really want to see people do that in a larger scale with people. I probably shouldn’t say this, but the one thing I noticed with my kids is how horrible other parents talk to their kids. It just made me just almost nauseous. Rather than talking nice and teaching them, it’s all about the punishment. So I really want to see people be more positive, more positive reinforcement with all species.
No, I love that. Honestly, I’m not even gonna water that down. That was so perfect. And what a great way to end this conversation. Cindy, I just loved my time with you. I think it’s been wonderful, a lot of fun. You are a beautiful soul. I love what you’re doing with the dogs, The rescues, your clients. I think it’s all perfect and just thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. Oh, thank you for inviting me. This has been a lot of fun.
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