Changing Parents’ Behavior to Change Dogs’ Behavior | Truly Force Free Animal Training

Truly Force Free Animal Training changes dog behaviors by changing pet parents' behaviors

Animal Innovations Show - Episode 66 - Truly Force Free Animal Training

Changing Parents’ Behavior to Change Dogs’ Behavior | Truly Force Free Animal Training

As Mahatma Gandhi used to say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

And for dog trainers with Truly Force Free™ Animal Training, this means changing their client’s behavior in order to get their dogs to truly change.

According to Shannon Riley-Coyner, the founder and owner of Truly Force Free™ Animal Training and Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center in Ventura, California,

“In many cases, dogs are fully integrated into our families and our lives, just like our partners, children, and friends. When dealing with problem behaviors, we often need to repair a relationship problem between the dog and the human. By looking at the problem behavior as a relationship issue, we can not only change the unwanted behaviors to desired behaviors, we can also improve the human-dog bond.”

Starting Off With Truly Force Free Animal Training

Truly Force Free Animal Training changes dog behaviors by changing pet parents' behaviors

A pet lover all her life with more than 20 years of experience as a dog trainer, Shannon has spent most of her time caring for and training animals of all species.

She shared,

“As I became a vet tech, I went to a dog training conference, and Karen Pryor was a speaker there. And I’ll never forget. She said, ‘Aggression does not help aggression.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! This thing that I’ve been feeling in my heart is actually real.’ So, I wanted Truly Force Free Animal Training to show that there is a way to do all of these things with more compassion and empathy.”

This led her to adopt a dog training philosophy that revolves around force-free, positive reinforcement.

She has also performed temperament testing and has provided assistance in training therapy dogs. For Shannon, it’s important since it helps human companions to develop a bond with their animals.

Teaching Parents About the New Ways of Dog Training With Truly Force Free Animal Training

truly force free animal training in action

With the ultimate goal of cultivating healthy and happy relationships between pets and their people, Shannon took baby steps to educate people about the other ways to train without hurting their pets.

Some of the methods she’s adopted include written blogs and video blogs, and she’s also now added online courses and webinars to her repertoire.

Her experience also engendered her to create her own book entitled “The Evolution of Dog Training”, which was also another way for Shannon to try and show people how dog training has evolved.

“I found that I was always talking to…people who are crossover trainers…who went from choke chains and pinch collars to clickers and treats. I say, ‘Well, I don’t use these (choke chains). And this is why.’ And I found I was always explaining how…it happened. That there was this study that says that ‘dominance and alpha theory is all dog-related’ is incorrect, but unfortunately, it didn’t pass on to the public… So, I thought, ‘I got to write a book about this at some point’,”

Shannon said.

the evolution of dog training shannon riley coyner

Although she was confused when she first began, she has now learned to follow her intuition when it comes to dealing with animals.

“Really, dog training is not about changing the dog at all. Most of the time, it’s about changing the person’s way that they respond to the dog… If you change your behavior, then they’re going to respond to you differently, and they’re going to do things differently. So, you have to change yourself.”



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Shannon: I’m Shannon Riley-Coyner. I’m here with Chris on The Animal Innovations Show. I am the founder and owner of Truly Force Free Animal Training, as well as locally in Ventura, California, where I reside, Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center.

Chris: I was going to say, tell us who you are, and how you’re innovating and helping animals. But you already did that.

Shannon: So yes, been doing it a long time, long time.

Chris: So, tell us a little bit more about Truly Force Free. I mean, tell us what you do, what’s different about what you’re doing, and give us some insights into that.

Shannon: So, Truly Force Free Animal Training started off as— I’m a  positive force free trainer. So, I would go to all these different conferences. And I’m also a veterinary technician. So, I would go to vet conferences, too.

And we would talk about positive training and force free training. And they would say, “Well, how do I find somebody like you in my town?” “How do I find someone like you in my area?”

Because unfortunately, there’s still a lot of people—who use a lot of punishment for training, and it was not always going along with what these veterinarians, or other trainers wanted.

I started thinking— I was gosh, I think it was 2010. It was a while ago we started kind of thinking about it. And then 2015, we started doing a little bit— just baby steps, of trying to create blogs and video blogs and written blogs at first, just to educate people that there are other ways to train.

And then my goal— which is now happening, is I wanted classes and I wanted webinars and things. So, no matter where you were in the world, you had access to someone, who could tell you that you could do it with positive force free training.

You didn’t have to go and hurt your dog to teach something. So, that’s kind of how it started— then that also evolved into my book, The Evolution of Dog Training.

So truly, first, we kind of started that way. And also we have Facebook lives. And you can, “Ask Shannon,” because I wanted people to be able to have a way of asking some simple questions.

Obviously, it’s a big behavior case. We have to do something virtually or in person. But I want people to know that no matter where you are in the world, you didn’t have to go with the local trainer, who’s been training for 50 years, and has never changed the way they train.

So, I wanted Truly Force Free to show that there is a way, to do all of these things with more compassion and empathy, which is why, if you looked at either of my mission statements for Ventura Pet Wellness and Truly Force Free, has empathy and compassion always.

Because you have to have empathy and compassion for the animals, but yourself as well. We’re going to make mistakes and then you’re going to go,  “How can I do that better?”

Chris: I love the fact that your background and—you’ve learned this on your own right. And you really developed this.

There’s always that light bulb moment where you go, “Really, there is a better way to do it.” And I love the fact you’ve doubled down now, and you started as a vet tech— you’ve got all sorts of training and things that you’ve done over the years.

Shannon: Animals were always my passion. When I was little and— Stafford Bull Terriers. Now I know that one of them had severe separation anxiety for my mom.

But as a kid, I didn’t understand that, and had hamsters and fish that I loved. I mean, they were my babies. And so when I went to college, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, and I was like—halfway through it, totally flipped out.

And so it’s like, “I don’t want to go to vet school.” And I was working at volunteering in zoos at the time. And then I got a job at Marine World/Africa USA that was in Vallejo. And I met a vet tech, who worked there. And I’m like, “That’s what I wanted to do.” I want to be the nurse.

But I was already interested in behavior, then. In the zoos, I was already, I worked with the—I was figuring it out on my own. But here if I give him a piece of meat when he does what I want, I can get him to do things.

And then eventually, as he got older, I was the only one who could get him out of his run, to do the meet and greet with the people, because no one—everybody else captured him. And instead of capturing him to get him out, I would give him a piece of steak or give him his food.

And then I could just put the harness on, and then he would walk with me.

Chris: So, where do you see this going? What does the future look like for this?

Shannon: Well, I hope that Truly Force Free keeps getting more classes online. So, there’s even more accessibility, more webinars, creating more videos, so people have more access.

There’s so much I have in here. I just want to get it all out. Because if I can help more people that way, the more I have available. So, my goal is that when I’m 80, I might not be able to do— training in person anymore, but I’m still helping people how I went on.

So, leaving that legacy of something, and getting into more training trainers now too. So, how to talk to their clients and work with the animals. Because there’s two pieces there.

Chris: Seems like you’ve come such a long way, right, since you’re a vet tech. What have you learned about yourself in this process? 

Shannon: You learn that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes, or you got to try something different. You’ve learned, I’m very resilient, too, because sometimes things don’t.

Dog training is not about changing the dog at all, most of the time. It’s about changing the person’s way that they respond to the dog. That’s really what dog training is. You change— because you can’t just look at the dog and say, “change.” Like they’re not going to change on their own.

If you change your behavior, then they’re going to respond to you differently, and they’re going to do things differently. So, you have to change yourself.

Chris: Shannon, this has been really interesting and fun. It’s always fun talking to you, tell people how they can learn more. Get in touch with you, what’s the website?

Shannon: The website is TRULYFORCEFREE.COM

We have Facebook and we have Instagram. So, we have those. That’s where you can reach me. And I love getting questions because when we do the Facebook Live, I can answer your questions on the Facebook Live.

Chris: Well, as we wrap up, I’ll just remind our viewers and listeners, that if you’re an innovator kind of like Shannon is, and you are helping people, helping animals, go to INNOVATIONS.SHOW, we’d love to have you on the show and talk to you about what you’re doing.

So, thank you again for coming on—

Shannon: Thank you— so good to see you.

Chris: You too.

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