THE HOWLING MOON PHILOSOPHY
After almost a decade of working with children and young adults as an Outdoor Environmental Educator I made the move to Victoria and took a job working as an Adventure Dog Walker. I had intended it to just be something fun and interesting to do while I figured out the “next step” in life. Three years later, I have adopted a dog of my own and have started my own dog walking company.
My goal at Howling Moon is simple and straightforward – to provide the dogs I work with the same thing I desire for myself – as much time enjoying the great outdoors as possible. I offer pack and private hikes as well as in-home boarding for regular clients. My intention is to keep the operation small and flexible, giving the dogs in the Howling Moon crew as much attention as possible. I also keep my pack sizes to six or less on every hike, giving dogs with all sorts of personalities a chance to socialize without being too overwhelmed.
I consider myself a dog lover and a dog enthusiast, but I think it is important to point out that I am not a dog trainer and have no intention of becoming one. I am certified in Pet First Aid and am licensed and insured to operate my business in Victoria and CRD parks and I do regularly read and listen to information about a variety of approaches to dog training and dogs in general, but I do not subscribe to any particular techniques, methods or philosophies. I also do not consider myself a “dog whisperer”. Almost anyone can make a deep connection with almost every dog. All you need is the knowledge of how to read their body language and the simple philosophy of Love, Trust and Respect.
So far, in pretty much every modern approach to Dog Training that I’ve come across, I’ve found that these three principles are present. Obviously things can get a lot more complicated the deeper you go with theory and dog psychology, but for me concepts like hierarchy and dominance or science-based training and operant conditioning just complicate things. I expect that thousands of years ago when canines and homo sapiens made that great inter-species leap of communication the bond they formed was more felt than thought. The essence of that early connection was the ability of both species to read and interpret the vocalizations and body language of the other. And to understand those messages at a deep and instinctual level. I can think of no other words better suited to sum up that bond than Love and Trust. To me this is still the foundation of every relationship I observe between dog and dog handler.*
The concept of Respect covers everything that comes after. You can use any training methods you like but it seems to me you get the most out of a dog if you treat them like they are sentient and emotional beings. I haven’t met a healthy dog yet who doesn’t seem to understand the basics of respect and reciprocity. In some way or another they will reflect back whatever energy you’re carrying with you.
But then, if you’re a dog lover and you’re reading all this you probably already know exactly what I’m talking about.
So, what Howling Moon offers is just enough structure to allow your dog a safe and exciting outing with other dogs that want to play and explore in all kinds of weather over all sorts of terrain. When we’re on the trails I do expect the dogs to follow trail etiquette and to keep play within safe and acceptable boundaries. This takes coaching, of course, but not just from me. Often the dogs that have been with my group the longest will teach the new dogs how things work. Its never perfect, but we strive to find a balance between staying calm, playing hard and having fun.
At the end of the day I hope each dog has had a chance to express its dog-ness and to experience as much freedom as I can give them in this crowded world. They will come back home tired and happy and, I hope, looking forward to doing it all over again.
* I do not intend to state with my “philosophy” that dog training is not effective, useful or relevant. I have personally witnessed and have heard many stories of both balanced and positive training changing the behavior of specific dogs. (I also fully acknowledge that science is real and VERY useful!) There are many excellent trainers on Vancouver Island who successfully rehabilitate and effectively fine-tune dog behavior. I am not one of them and am not qualified to handle dogs with severe aggression or anxiety issues. My approach works for dogs that fall within the “normal” range of dog behaviors.