Gillian Ridgeway

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Gillian began her dog training career in 1972 as a dog training apprentice and has been involved in the animal world ever since. She has come a long way. Now overseeing a staff of 22 trainers, she is the Director of Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centre with 3 locations in Toronto and Ajax, Canada. Overseeing over 200 dogs per week, gives great insight not only into the dogs we live with, but their people as well.

Attending Centralia College for Animal Health Technology, she graduated with honours in 1984 and was the recipient of the Cormach Award for Most Proficient Student. Gillian has continued her education by obtaining Certificates in Small Animal Nutrition, Small Animal Dermatology and Behavioural Problems.

She has served on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Association of Animal Health Technicians and was a popular key speaker at the 2006 Veterinary Technicians Conference.

A Founding member in good standing of both the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers and International Positive Dog Trainers Association, Gillian believes that education combined with experience is the key to helping clients teach, and manage, their dogs. Gillian is a much sought after speaker, and her engagements include The Toronto Humane Society, The Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers Association and The International Positive Dog Trainers Association (IPDTA) amongst many others, where she educated and entertains her audience with her “tell it like it is” style.

Serving as Public Relations Coordinator for the CAPPDT, she helped promote and encourage humane dog training. In 2004, Gillian picked up The Humane Education award from IPDTA, an association known for its humane efforts in dog training. Gillian is also a regular guest lecturer at the University of Toronto since 2003, using dogs to shed light on learning theory to the psychology students.

Gillian has been a feature columnist and consultant for Dogs, Dogs, Dogs newspaper since 1992 and also pens a monthly column for Dogs In Canada magazine. She has been nominated 2 times for a DWAA writer’s award for Best Column in Dogs In Canada Monthly, plus once for her first published book, Citizen Canine. In 2004, she received The Writer of the Year from the IPDTA. The popular daily Toronto newspaper, Metro, carried her weekly Pet Care Column for 4 years and topics from dog behavior, to adding a second cat, to how to care for Guinea Pigs were all covered!

Ridgeway has been featured in many publications including: The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star, Toronto Life Magazine and Readers Digest. She has also written for Animal Wellness and Dog Sport magazines. Gillian has shared her canine expertise on Breakfast Television, The Life Network, Global TV, MOJO Radio, Q-107 and Canadian Living. Her TV shows have been popular over the years and include being the resident trainer on the TV show “Dogs TV” plus a stint as the weekly canine expert on Canoe Live, Sun TV. Her frequent visits to City TV’s Animal House Calls are popular with the dog loving public.

In her spare time, along with dabbling in Agility, Flyball, Competitive Obedience, Rally-O and Freestyle, Gillian is a member of The SuperDogs International Performance Team with her 4 dogs. Cruiser a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Levi a “one of a kind” all Canadian terrier cross, Yardly an English Cocker Spaniel and the latest addition, Noah, a Pyrenean Shepherd (plus a very patient husband) all share Gillian’s life. Her ultimate goal is to encourage and inspire the public to live in harmony with their canine companions.

Blog posts by Gillian Ridgeway

The Big Picture

The general consensus is that if we get it all done quickly and efficiently the end result will be a lot better. That if we spend a few months cramming in all they need to know, that they will be the smartest pooch on the block. Yes, that is the consensus of many new puppy parents. The more we train them the better they will be but getting to the end of the journey is not that simple.

 

Actually, getting to the end of the journey for some dog enthusiasts can leave them high and dry. While dogs and their people can always learn new and interesting activities, techniques and skills, there may come a time when the only way to invest more time in training your dog is to get another dog!

 

 

One Plus One Equals More

I got my first second dog about twenty years ago. Dog number one, Brum, was an only child. At the age of 6 he came to live with me, his 4th home. By the age of 12 he was still our only dog, and the apple of my eye. Many people would assume that adding a second dog to the family would not be a good idea with a canine senior citizen in residence, but if truth be told, it was for purely selfish reasons.

 

 

With All Due Respect

Respect is a word that is often tossed around lightly. In the dog training community it is a word that is gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds. We want our dogs to respect us, that is a given. It is a term used by trainers of every method, but thought of quite differently amongst each other. Yes, we need to teach our dogs how to be respectful, but it is now time to also look at the respect we should give back in return.

 

Respect means to avoid harming, degrading, insulting or injuring someone. It means we should treat with consideration, which in turn means we should be careful not to cause hurt. In looking at this word a bit closer, we can see that it can have a different meaning depending on your view as a dog or your view as the dog owner.

 

 

Why is a Positive a Negative?

Why is it that the word “positive” can strike such a chord in a dog owner’s mind? Having been involved in the dog world since 1972 and spending the great majority of my adult life working with dogs, it has been an uphill battle to increase awareness in the theory of learning for dogs. There has been a vast increase in awareness of this theory for children, but the dog owners are still lagging behind. Although, giving credit where it is due, it is leaps and bounds better than in the middle 1980’s, when dog training took a surge from being a novelty to a necessity.

 

In Dog We Trust… But Is The Feeling Mutual?

The issue of trust is often discussed when it comes to dogs.  It is often a topic of discussion when a family pet creates turmoil by doing something “out of the blue” or very unexpected.  The scenarios can be various, but the general theme is the same.

The dog accompanies the family to a soccer game.  He has been there before and has seemed to enjoy himself, according to his family.  He looked relaxed and was polite and well mannered to the kids.  He lives with 2 children, and has never had any issues at home.  All of a sudden, a toddler rushes up to him and gives him a big hug.  The dog tried to retreat, but the toddler holds on.  The family thinks it is cute.  Out of the blue, the dog takes a nip at the toddler, and in the blink of an eye, the family no longer trusts their dog.

 

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

You think you are alone.  Everyone else sees your new little bundle of fluff as fun and exciting.  As the neighbors ooh and aah in delight over Oscar’s antics, you heart starts to sink.  What have you done?  How did you ever think that getting this puppy would add delight to your life?

It all starts with an image.  The image that we focus in our heads is one of the loyal, faithful companion.  The companion that is willing to dole out unconditional love to us after a hard day at the office.  We visualize ourselves tossing a stick on a beach just as the sunset is approaching.  We visualize ourselves sipping coffee at an outdoor café with our dogs patiently waiting at our sides and we visualize just how cool this dog will be as he lopes around the dog park, with only eyes for you.

 

When “Obedience Training” Is Not Enough

It is one task to teach a dog to sit or to lie down when asked, and it is another task altogether to alter the behavior of your dog.  When dealing with dog issues, it is quite common to hear dog owners seeking help.  How to train their dog to stop growling at the mail carrier, or to train their dog to not be fearful when in the car, or even to train their dog to not whine when left alone, are common areas of concern.

Let’s take a look at semantics.  Training is listed in the dictionary as “to teach a specific skill by practice or improve abilities as a result of instruction”.  Looking up the word behavior will show us it means “the way one conducts oneself…manners, an observable pattern of actions especially in response to stimuli”.  Quite different from each other when laid out clearly.

 

First is Foremost

Why do so many of us have difficulty with change?  Just the thought of change can produce stress and anxiety in the best of us.  Think about the last time you changed your job, or your address.  While it might have been exciting thinking about it, when the day arrives it is often difficult to cope with the changes it makes to our daily routine.  Over time, the new routine becomes the norm until the next change.  The act or an instance of making change can put many people in a tailspin.

 
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Walking a Fine Line

Balance is becoming a main focus in the dog training community.  Striving for the perfect combination of rules and leniency that will ensure our dogs have self-confidence and manners, yet still have joy inside, is a worthwhile ideal.

This said, the shift in the pendulum from never saying no, all the way over to the other side to encompass harsh treatment is not what balance is all about.  
Striking a balance means to choose a moderate course or compromise.  Picture a teeter-totter, nicely perched on the fulcrum, the plank straight and neither end touching the floor.  That is balance.

In all areas of our lives we are starting to consider alternatives to keep us level, feeling calm and stress free.  Yoga is rapidly on the rise and more and more people are considering the art of Feung Sheui as they decorate their homes.  Yes, all in the name of balance.

 
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Is Your Dog Training You?

Someone once said, “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity”.  While that brings a smile to us and seems to true, have we thought about the flip side?  If we continue to repeat our actions over and over again we should be able to count on the result.

In fact, we might even say that this applies to the general thinking when it comes to dog training.  If we repeatedly give a biscuit to our dogs for sitting when asked, we should be able to count on the result.  This reward Vs no reward concept is widely used in dog training.  

However, have you ever stopped to consider that this method is the one used by our dogs to teach us what they want?  We are not the only clever ones in the scenario, in fact I think that dogs do a great job at teaching their humans and seem to get the upper hand in many homes.

 

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