Episode 10 – Laurel Rose

Laurel Rose

Laurel Rose

Laurel Rose is the founder of “Such a Good Dog” in Huntsville, AL and has nearly 20 years of experience training dogs and their humans. In addition to being certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, she is also a Certified Mentor Trainer to Animal Behavior College Students and an AKC Canine Good Citizen Instructor and Evaluator.

Laurel is also the Founder and President of Huntsville Got Your Six a registered 501(c)3 organization providing PTSD service dog training for veterans and their dogs.​

Such a Good Dog Website: https://www.suchagooddog.org/

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Laurel Rose is the founder of Such A Good Dog in Huntsville, Alabama, and has nearly 20 years of experience training dogs and their humans. In addition to being certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, she’s also a Certified Mentor Trainer to animal behavior college students and an AKC Canine Good Citizen Instructor and evaluator. Laurel is also the founder and President of Huntsville Got Your Six, a registered 501C3 organization, providing PTSD service dog training for veterans and their dogs. 

Hey Laurel. Welcome to the show. Thank you very much. Yeah, I’m really excited to have you. You are with Such A Good Dog in Alabama, and I am really, really excited to kind of learn more. So get me started and tell me a little bit more about who you are and how you got into this industry. Well, I started around 2000. I had always had an interest in dogs and trained the family dogs and things like that. But I became a puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, which was a completely different methodology in training. And it was fascinating to me. I really enjoyed it. And it kind of started me down that path and doing a lot of research, going to a lot of seminars, a lot of webinars, a lot of all that kind of stuff over the years and then started officially a couple of years after I moved to Huntsville, started Such A Good Dog. That was about 10 years. 

So started as a puppy raiser. 10 years in the industry. And what was that one pivotal moment that you were like, Yep, this is what I want to do? I think it was actually a friend of mine when I was living in Memphis, who had a dog that was very timid of people, of dogs, of the world and the dog I had at the time. My Labrador, Ivan, was fantastic with people and dogs, and I thought, well, you know, let’s look at a mentorship. So I had a bigger dog over and was pretty rough in the beginning and then got better and better. And, you know, I even acted as kind of his mentor. So I was just watching what he was doing. And right then, I was kind of like I want to help people like this. So for the first few years, it was really just a lot of behavioral stuff. And then I got more into the obedient side of it. And now, you know, this many years later, I’m back to the pretty much the behavioral end of things and the obedience is not as high a percentage of what I do, however, my other trainers do the beginner classes, the intermediate classes, things like that. And I focus more on individuals. Individual sessions, behavior modification, things like that. 

Yeah, it’s always interesting to me. When I first started talking to people, I didn’t realize the distinct difference between obedience and behaviorist, basic training, obedience and behaviorists. And the more I talk to people, the more I realize there is a significant difference. An impact, quite honestly, in behavior modification versus you know, the obedience training side of things. So I love that you started off being curious about the behavior side because traditionally it is with the people I’ve talked to, they start with the sit, stay, shake, that kind of thing. And then they move into the behavior. So you are very opposite of that. And that’s intriguing. I also want it to be about the relationship. And what I tell a lot of my students is it doesn’t really matter to me if your dog does a 20 minute down stay, if they don’t have peace of mind. Your goal should be that your dog walks the earth with peace of mind. And secondary that you have a nice, trusting relationship with your dog. The obedience can come, but the relationship is something that needs to be worked on.

 So let’s jump into that right away. Give me a couple different focus points when your first meeting with an owner and a dog, what are the first, say, two things that you really focus on with that owner and the dog to get them comfortable, to give them peace of mind. Generally, when I first sit down with somebody, it’s gonna sound really strange. But when I first sit down with somebody, I pay no attention to the dog. I just asked them to hold the leash, and I’m observing the dog’s behavior in relation to our social circle. Is this dog part of our social circle? And what’s their body language, in relation, to our social circle? It gives me a lot of insight into the dog and their sense of comfort and things like that. Their confidence level. That’s one of the first things I look at. And then the second thing I look at is how the human is communicating with their dog. Is there a lot of leash work? Is there a lot of talking? Is there frustration? Is there kind of enabling behaviors going on from the human to the dog, things like that. Because that will help me figure out the best kind of methods, for this particular person, to use, based on the existing relationship they have with their dog. It’s as much, if not more, about the human than it is the dog. I always tell people that dogs are perfect. It’s the humans that need the work. That all dogs are perfect. It’s the dog behavior modification. But it’s the person that needs to be trained. Right, and when you look at it, it makes perfect sense because the dog is living in the human world, not the other way around. So if you are asking your dog to perceive things as a human, communicate as a human, adopt human emotions and things like that, you’re gonna confuse them. Yeah, I think that’s what I really like about the behavior side of training, when I’m talking to people, is that human element. Because I don’t think we think about that. We just think dog needs to do as I say. They just need to listen to the words, and that’s not really true because it’s an environment type. One of my favorite things is when someone says to me, my dog should come because I told them to, right? And it’s like, Oh, if only it works that way. So there are a lot of kind of things that we will apply to humans that are generally very successful, that are actually counterproductive with dogs. And once you kind of get them to see it or you get to demonstrate it to them, you just watch the light switch go on and they’re like, Oh, I get it. Not a machine, not human. Doesn’t speak English. Okay, I get it.

 I definitely like that. So one of the things, you know, in looking at Such A Good Dog, is that you guys now do is online classes, right? And I’m sure that’s in part to the COVID and the change that we’re doing. So I want to spend just a few minutes and kind of talk about what that looks like? Are you getting the same results with online courses as you were with in-person training? Talk to me a little bit about what that transition is like. And what are the pros and cons to that? It has been challenging, from a trainer aspect, because so much of what we do is the demonstration. It’s the old, Hey, can I borrow your leash, can I borrow your dog, for a second, let show you. So we have to get creative with that. As far as success, it’s very hard to say. We just started it a week ago. We’ve done a bunch of beta classes before that just to kind of test things out. I think it is such a foreign concept to people right now, in this area, just in this area. It’s such a foreign concept, and most people are kind of saying, I’m so surprised this was way better than I thought it was gonna be. Yes, just give it a chance. Oh, it’s a challenge for a trainer because you can’t touch the dog. But at the same time, it’s such a fantastic way of saying, it doesn’t matter if I can get your dog to do something and only matters if you can. Well, this way I’m completely out of the picture. So, you know, you don’t get that frustration of my dog will do anything my trainer wants it to do, and that can frustrate people. So this way it’s like, No, when your dog is successful, it’s 100% on you. 100%. Yeah, I think that that is a pro. It might be kind of frustrating in the beginning, as you’re teaching them and walking them through what that looks like, but the satisfaction that they get when they have done it right. It’s like a two-year-old when their potty training, it’s like that first time, they’re super excited and they did it all on their own. And it’s got to be that same feeling. 

It is, in fact, I had a class last Saturday. It was our week two class and we were working on down, and one of the dogs was really struggling. Big, old, Great Dane puppy, exuberant, soulful personality, this puppy, but really struggling with down. And we had I say, the whole class watching and it was like, No, just be patient, you know? Hold that treat down there, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it. And then the dog laid down and all the screams, you know, everybody started. So you still get that set for the community. Yes, even when you’re not in the same room but everybody is still kind of rejoicing for everybody else. And I think that surprised people how they could get that encouragement. You know, it was at a huge distance. Yeah, it is certainly interesting. And I know that it’s definitely different. You guys may have done some beta classes before, but you’ve kind of been forced down this path. Is this something that you think you’re going to continue to offer? As we push through the current situation? I think so because I think one of the things that we realized once we started doing these classes is in our group classes, in the normal world, we can’t have dogs that are reactive. People are dogs. In this scenario, it doesn’t matter if you have Kujo, it doesn’t matter because you’re there in your home. So I’m hoping we’re gonna be able to reach a lot more people, whose dogs are either afraid or reactive to people and dogs. And they’ve been reluctant to go get in-person training. So I’m hoping that that will be a nice little byproduct of this. Yeah, and every dog deserves training. They all deserve to feel comfortable in their home. And I feel like no matter how you get that, it doesn’t matter as long as you get it. 

So, to your point, I do hope that people are more open to using technology to make their dogs feel more comfortable. I certainly hope that that is a positive that comes out of this, and I’m really excited to hear that this is something that you guys definitely want to continue. To reach more people, to help more dogs and to kind of work through this. Now you did bring up an interesting point, which is dogs being reactive. In addition to the reactive dogs, what happens with the socialization? Because part of the reason people do training and they bring their dogs to training is really for that socialization aspect. And now, if they’re doing it in their home and we’re in this current situation, how does that play a part into what you guys do? What are you recommending to people during this time? What we’re suggesting, let’s say it’s puppies. So we’re talking about that first 7,8 to 16 week period, that first fear and preparing. We were talking about that. One of the things that we’re recommending to people in every, of course, everything is with the caveat of following the CDC guidelines. We’re masked. At least six feet, all that kind of thing, is get a long line, get a 10 foot, 30-foot long line, get your puppy, go hang out in your front yard, let your puppy see everything that’s happening. The garbage trucks and the mailman and the neighbors are moving and cars they’re driving by, birds are chirping. And then, if you can get neighbors or family members or whoever, friends to walk past your house and greet your puppy. Now your puppy can be 10 or 30 or however long your long line is, away, so you’re not being forced into that within six-foot social distance. So this also will help you learn, if your puppy is timid. So if I’ve got my puppy, my 12 week old out in the front yard and got my 20-foot long line, I’m sitting in a lawn chair. My neighbor walks by and I say, Hey, you mind that my puppy and the puppy goes, No, I don’t like it, you know,  now I know I got to do a little counter conditioning. So right then and there, the human could say, Hey, in my mailbox there’s a bunch of treats just grab a fistful of treats. If you don’t mind, just walk by on the sidewalk and toss treats to my puppy. So it’s like instant counter conditioning, positive association with the stranger, and you never left your front yard.

 That’s a really good tip. It might be easier for those in a more urban or suburban environment. If you’re a little bit more rural, it’s gonna be a little harder to do. And especially in my area. We have a lot of people that are very spread out. So it’s one of these things where it’s like, yes, you will have to do something to make this happen. You may want to meet someone at a nearby park or something like that. Again, sticking to CDC guidelines. We don’t anybody thinking that we’re, you know, saying everybody get together and go crazy. I don’t want that kind of liability. But now is the time. It’s kind of fun for trainers. We have to think outside the box. All that stuff we’ve been doing by wrote, for years and years and years, some of it still works, some of it isn’t gonna work. So you’ve got to come up with these, you know, Hey, how does this sound? Type of ideas. And in that respect, it’s been a little on the fun side, trying to come up with these new strategies.

 I like that you’re thinking creatively and still following the guidelines and all the rules and all of those things, But you could easily sit in your front yard, and it’s the day to day activities. It’s the mailman like you said, it’s the garbage guys. It’s all of those things, the sights and smells. And now that everybody’s home, more people are walking their dogs. So now you’re actually giving them more to see and more to do because normally there’s not that much activity happening. Yes, oftentimes the dog is, you know, at home, in the crate or alone for several hours. So now, ironically, is the best opportunity for you to create the dog you’ve always wanted. We have time to teach your dog tricks. I happen to be a fan of functional tricks. I like roll over and play dead. Not that those aren’t cool, but I want a dog that is gonna close the door behind them. Who’s gonna turn on the lights. You know, things that are fun as well, and it’s much easier than you would think to teach a dog all of these cool Hollywood dog tricks, it’s not that complicated, but now is the time to do it. Now is the time that this little habit that they have that’s always bugged you, it’s a perfect time to teach your dog, everything you’ve always wanted him to know.

 And when they sign up for your online classes, do you guys talk about some of those things as well? Yeah, we knew in our beginner classes we’re really focusing on the foundation obedience. But when we get into our immediate classes, that’s when and we kind of take a poll of the class like, you know, do you really just want to work on distraction and distance Or, you know, hey, you wanna learn a cool trick or play a game. We incorporate a lot of games. So we kind of leave it up to people, and I’m really hoping, right now we’re doing our group classes and they’re multiple weeks, but we’re about to roll out just single session classes. Just let people get their feet wet, in online trading. So it’s just one class with one topic. Might be jumping. Might be house training. Might be coming when called, but it kind of lets them dip their toes in the water of online training, at a low cost, one-time deal. And then, if you’re like OK, this works, then they can go ahead and enroll in a much more intensive class. Yeah, I really love the concept of one training class. We all have a little bit more time on our hands. But really, people still don’t want to make that commitment, whether it’s four weeks or eight weeks. And so I love that you guys are really thinking about what are people interested in? If you’re coming up with topics, tricks, games, all of these things and you’re putting them out there in one session classes, like you said, they’re dipping their toe, and I think that’s a really great way to get them engaged with their animal. Get them excited about something, cause if the human is excited about something, that translates to the dog into the learning. And so I think that’s a really cool thing that you guys are offering. Nice job. And sometimes people take dog training too seriously. Nobody’s gonna die, it’s just dog training. So if your dog is one of those dogs that if you ask him to down, he is gonna lay down. He’s just not slammed to the floor. Give him a couple of seconds. Give him a couple of seconds. It’s just training. People just get a little wrapped up in it sometimes. Yeah, I think it’s a good reminder for sure.

One of the things I think that new dog owners get worried about is they get super excited. They walk into a rescue shelter, get this dog, whether it’s a puppy or an adult, and now the anxiety sets in. Oh my gosh, what do I do? What do I expect? What’s next? They know they should be doing training. And again, the animal has a history, a background, and each dog is their own. And so I want to spend a few minutes on, what does that look like for new dog owners, particularly with puppies and adults, and really transitioning them into their new home? Talk to me a little bit about what happens in that process, and what do you recommend? What’s the timeline? One of the first things that we recommend, if you are getting an additional dog, if you already have a dog, that your resident dog gets to do the interview. Oftentimes people will go to a shelter to get a dog for their dog, to keep their dog company and they’ll pick a dog that they like and their resident dog does not like this dog. So I always recommend your dog gets to do the interviewing of a potential petmate. What I tell a lot of my people is, I want you to look at this dog like it’s a toddler that’s been in the state foster care system and has had some good experiences and some not so good experiences. If you bring a child in that’s been in the state system, more than likely you’re going to sit down and you’re gonna kind of explain how everything works in the household. You’re not in a walk-in, let this child run a muck in your house. I like them to look at their dogs like they’ve been a toddler in the state system. And on top of that, they don’t speak English. So if they kind of go at it with that sense of, I need to provide a lot of guidance. 

So when I first bring the dog home, if I have a resident dog, I’m gonna go grab my resident dog. We’re gonna go for a walk. We’re gonna go for a nice, long walk. Don’t worry about technique. It’s not important right now, but let the dog blow off a little anxiety, a little energy. Explore the neighborhood. If you could take him for a walk that’s long enough, so their tongue is hanging out, fabulous. That’s the best way to do it. Bring him in. Bring him into the backyard. Give them a chance to sniff the backyard, toilet if they need to. Bring them in the house, but keep them tethered to you. Don’t give them that overwhelming sense of a tremendous amount of space. It’s overwhelming. You could have them on a long line, you could have them on a leash, but you are controlling space and movement and make sure everybody in the house kind of ignores the dog. We tend to put a tremendous amount of social pressure on a dog when they come in the house, you know, with the clinging, holding the puppy and touching. If you were picked up in the middle of the night and dropped into a village in China and 90 Villagers were coming at you, talking to you. And touching you. And then there was one villager off to the side a little bit that just gave you that come here hand gesture. Where are you gonna go? Be that one villager who is just gonna be doing the hand gesture.

 Keep everything very calm. Let the dog acclimate for a minute. But instill some rules, you know, I generally recommend no furniture at first. Don’t give the dog height at first. That’s something that could definitely learn later. Make them comfortable in the room you’re in. Introduce them to their crate. Keep it light. Oftentimes, when you’re rescuing a dog, they’ve been through some stuff. They’ve got some baggage. You don’t know what that baggage is, generally speaking, and you’ve got this 2 to 4 week honeymoon period when you first bring them home. There are tons of techniques on what you can do to decompress them. I prefer tethering and calmness. That’s what I prefer. Let the dog calm down. Let the dog acclimate. Then you can start putting some demands on the dog. But don’t feel sorry for them. Empathy, empathy all day, every day. But sympathy might cause you to make some bad decisions. Feeling sorry for a dog does them no good at all. Empathizing with them could be incredibly helpful. The old, How would I feel if I got picked up in the middle of the night and dropped in a village in China? Kind of adopt that empathetic point of view and you could set that dog up for success that way. 

Now you mentioned sympathy could work against them. So give me a couple of examples of that. What do you see people do, and what should they do in place of that? I’ve seen different situations where let’s say a dog is very reactive to people, is very nervous. So, therefore, it’s barking and lunging and things like that. So they’re sitting there and the dog is barking, lunging at the person walking by, and they start to try to comfort the dog. You know, it’s OK. It’s just a person and their petting. And they’re giving a tremendous amount of physical affection. They’re using their good dog voice. It could be very confusing for dogs. Some dogs can inadvertently here, “Good dog. I like it when you go bananas every time a person comes near”. That’s a very good dog. So that’s kind of trying to put that human comfort level onto a dog, where you’re feeling sorry that this dog is so upset about a person walking by. 

Another one is the dog’s been in the shelter forever, so I’m sure they were starved. A lot of people are sure about things. I’m sure they were starved. So when my dog barks at me when I have food, I know it’s just because he’s starving, so I should share it with him. It’s like, now your dog just taught you a really good trick, and you’re very, very good at it. You know, it’s basically the snapping of the fingers, feed me human. It’s what I pay for. You have 10 seconds to give me some of that steak. So, yeah, there’s sympathy, can play a role, but oftentimes I see it play a counterproductive role. For some dogs, it is a comforting thing. It’s the human equivalent of a dog licking another dog, so it can work for some dogs. But what I’ve seen is it’s how it’s applied. It could be over-applied, applied at the wrong time. Things like that. So it’s not that you should never offer comfort to your dog, just want to be careful on your timing. When are you doing it? How much are you doing? How intense is your reinforcing? Sometimes it’s a reinforcing thing. So I always ask you to be very careful with feeling sorry for your dog.

 So you had mentioned 2 to 4 weeks, really, for that decompress period. So are you saying that 2 to 4 weeks to really get them comfortable, let them settle in. And then people should look into puppy or dog training? Or when do you start that? I usually ask people to have their new dog for a couple of weeks, so the dog is acclimated to their home and their person before the person starts with what we would call a traditional training. However, there is training that’s going on in that 2 to 4 week period, but it’s more in a sense of controlling space and movement. These are the times to lay down rules. You know, crash passed me going out the door. You sit and you wait for your food. I’ll put the food down to release you, to eat. You don’t get to wander around the house aimlessly. You toilet outside and you get rewarded for toileting outside. So there is still a lot of training going on in that 2 to 4 weeks. But it’s more household manners type thing, as opposed to obedience training. But you definitely want to take those 2 to 4 weeks, tons of extra structure, tons of extra rules so this new dog doesn’t feel like they have to make any decisions because their decisions are gonna be made based on their history or what they see as lacking. And you don’t want a dog that says, Great. If I paw you, you will interact with me. So they are pawing everybody they see and somebody gets hurt or a dog that is, you know, smashing you out of the way, going out the door. That’s just super rude. If a toddler did that, that’s not gonna happen. Right. So, you know, you look at them like a toddler, and it helps that you’re playing a parental role. You don’t want the cool aunt or the cool uncle. You wanna be like the best parent in the world. I love that. That was very nicely stated.

 Laurel, as we get close to wrapping things up, I want people to take away one thing from this conversation and one of the things that you mentioned earlier, we’re talking about games in online training, enrichment and games, and puzzles. And so the one take away what is your favorite game and or enrichment activity that people can start doing today? one of my favorite games is musical chairs, and you can play it with family members, and you could play it online if you wanted to. But this is teaching your dog an emergency sit. So you’re walking around your chair in your living room, and then as soon as the music stops, you put your dog on a sit and then you sit in the chair and your dog can’t break that sit. So you tend to be asking for a sit, depending on how competitive you are. You’re asking for a sit, with a little bit of anxiety and a little bit of speed. So it helps your dog learn, if I say sit, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around us, put your butt on the ground. That’s one of my favorite games.

 And then I’m a huge fan of Nina  Tornado. It’s a puzzle. The reason it’s one of my favorites is you can change the degree of difficulty, and it’s just like it sounds. It’s shaped like a bone. It’s got four layers. You put the kibbles or the treats, in there you close it up. They have to figure out how to get all the kibble out. It also has a tension bar that you could make it harder for them to spin and it also has plastic bones. So if they get to the point where they’re just like blah, blah, done, you can make it harder for them by on the third level, you put a plastic bump, so they’re spinning the 1st one, they try to have the 2nd one and it stops. They have to figure out that it’s a bone and they have to pull it out. That’s one of my favorite toys, partly because it’s a huge brain exercise, but also because it gives me a lot of insight into the personality of the dog. One of my dogs, daintily would turn it and then when I started making it harder to, bless his heart, took him about 20 minutes to figure out it was the bone. Then carefully removed it and continued on. With my daughter’s dog, he would hit it a couple of times, and he picked it up, sling it across the room. I’ve had dogs that would like bite it. It just gives you a little insight into your dog’s personality, so that’s one of my favorite enrichment toys. Emergency Sit is one of my favorite games. We play relay races in our classes and my favorite group activities. But anything that you can do that makes your dog solve a problem or get exposed to something they’ve never smelled, seen, or heard before is good enrichment exercising.

 No, I love that. It’s always interesting to me, everybody has their own favorite toy, enrichment activity, game. I really like the musical chair one, because I think when you’re out walking your dog and you’re doing different things, they can get really distracted really quickly. And so I think that’s a great one for people to practice. So no matter the environment or the situation they’re in, they have that focus point. And not be thrown by a different tone or a different body language. Because so much of asking our dog to do something, we’re facing them, and we’re very strong and we’re standing up straight. And when you practice doing things out of character, so to speak, where your tension in your voice or your high pitched or you’re moving in an unusual way, it works to benefit the dogs’ compliance.

 No, I love that Laurel. I have really enjoyed my time with you today and I have learned so much about who you are in what you’re doing. And I love your adoption, to in-person courses, online and in all the different things you’re doing for your community. Is there anything that we miss talking about that you want to talk about before we wrap things up? No, I would just say when you bring a dog into your home, it is a sentient being. You are adopting a child. If things start to go wrong, get help right away. Don’t wait a year or don’t wait until they actually bite someone. Or don’t wait till they actually do the wrong thing. If you see anything that looks a little funky, get help right away. Now I love that. Again, Laurel, thank you so much for joining me today. And it was such a pleasure meeting you. Thank you very much for having me.

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