Home Podcast TOP #46: Dealing With Dog Training Problems feat. Dog Trainer Jessica O’Neill

TOP #46: Dealing With Dog Training Problems feat. Dog Trainer Jessica O’Neill

Training your dog can be a rewarding experience, but it also comes with its own set of difficulties, frustrations, challenges, and problems. Most pet owners will know what it's like to have a dog not respond to training, no matter how hard you try. Today's podcast guest is here to help us through this period.

Jessica O’Neill is a qualified dog trainer and inventor of several innovative dog training products at JWalker. In this episode, we're discussing effective and ineffective techniques and supplies for training dogs, why some of them work and why others don't, and how to overcome certain dog training problems. She also gives us some unique tips for training our canine companions and fixing certain behavioral issues.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

Dealing With Dog Training Problems
(Podcast Transcript)

Dealing With Dog Training Problems

INTRO: Training a dog is quite possibly the most frustrating aspect of caring for your canine over the course of his life. It can be so aggravating to try and try and try, use different products, use different methods, and try to figure out what works for you and your pet.

Today I wanted to have someone speak with us about the differences between dog behavior and dog training, and different ways that we can interact with our dogs to help to understand, for us to understand them, and for them to understand us as well, to make dog training as easy as possible. It's never going to be an easy task. With some dogs it's certainly easier than others. But it's something that's always going to take patience and consistency.

Today, Jessica O'Neill has agreed to talk to us. Jessica is the owner and the inventor of the Jaywalker Dog Harness. She's actually been in the pet industry for about ten years now. She really has extensive knowledge in learning theory and practices. She really likes to work with pet owners to help them understand their dogs more than just having high expectations. She really likes to work with pet owners to help them understand the dog, to help the dog understand the owner and to make the best of that bond, and to foster that bond while you're training your dog.

She's going to tell us a lot about training, but she's also going to talk about some of the products that she's used. Jessica, like most of us, has been to the store and seen the hundreds of dog training products and had dealt with the frustration of trying to choose the best one for your pet. She couldn't find what she was looking for, so she actually just invented the product that she wanted. Now she's been using it, obviously, in her dog training work, and she's going to tell us a little bit more about the product itself, how she uses it, why she uses it, and of course, give us some great tips on training a dog and understanding a dog's behavior.

One of my favorite quotes—it's right on the top of her website— Jessica says, “It's not how your dog behaves that determines if you're a good dog owner, but how you respond to your dog's behavior that counts.”

I think that's so amazing. What a great impacting quote that we can really think about, and every pet owner can relate to that.

So I am going to let you guys listen to everything that Jessica says, and then if you have any questions, of course, get on our website, theoryofpets.com. I'll try to answer any questions; I can pass along any questions that you might have for Jessica as well, and of course, on our website, if you're watching this on YouTube or checking it out on social media, just below this video there are links to the dog walker harness. It's the jaywalkerdogharness.com and then petintel.com, which is a canine coaching and behavior specialist website that Jessica has. So you can check those out; they are great resources.

Interview with Jessica O’Neill

Samantha: So how did you get started in this industry? Is it something that you've always wanted to do? Did something happen to make you get into it?

Jessica: That's an excellent question, because I grew up with dogs. So I grew up with a bunch of animals around me at all times and I went through, as a child, everything from breeding to having aquatic, and of course surrounded by a pack of dogs at all times. So I always had a love of animals.

I also worked a lot with horses and farm animals, because our family moved to the country, and we sort of had a hobby farm, and being city slickers, we had to learn pretty quickly how to care for these animals. So that was quite an experience.

I always knew I had a love of animals, but I also had that sort of compassionate care drive. So I knew I wanted to work in an industry where I was helping people, and that's the direction I actually went, initially, was to work with individuals, with humans, doing brain injury rehab; I worked with children with behavior issues, adults with developmental issues, and even working with seniors who needed assistance, and even with dementia and those kinds of things.

So I had a pretty big—a vast background in the human realm, in all different levels of human care that are required. It was a pretty natural segue for me to start doing those kinds of things but with animals.

I knew I didn't want to make animals mechanical; I knew I wanted to work with animals; specifically with dogs, but animals in general; I knew I wanted to work with them, to help them, to achieve their best selves potentially.

Samantha: Wonderful. That's great.

So that kind of leads into the bulk of what we'll be talking about today which is the difference between behavior work and dog training.

I know we you and I spoke last week, I had mentioned to you that that's often what I hear from people is, those two terms kind of being used interchangeably, that—we are working on behavior, we are training. Are you working on behavior? Or are you training? Because they are two different things and it sounds like you figured that out pretty early on and so you really wanted to focus on that.

Jessica: Yes. I mean not that there is anything wrong with doing obedience training and there's a lot of really cool things you can do in the different realms of training. I personally decided to specialize in the behavior aspect.

How I make that distinction in our business, how we divide the two and we explain it to people, essentially when you are working with training or really working with the physical—when I say this or when this happens, you do this thing and then there is that consequence, either a good or bad consequence.

What we like to work on is the emotional side and you can't really train away an emotion. Certainly, people use training with behavior issues on a regular basis and sometimes it's effective; sometimes you can train an incompatible behavior; sometimes it's a good distraction for the animal; sometimes it suppresses the emotion and sometimes it actually makes it worse.

The way that we categorize behavior work versus training work is the difference between emotional and physical. The physical and the emotional tend to be attached. So you could have a really obedient dog, who also has emotional baggage and has behavior issues.

As as a matter of fact nine out of ten of the clients that I work with, have really well-trained dogs; so they are super smart. It's not uncommon for me to hear from clients that they were the star of their obedience class. The behavior in training is so divided in that respect.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely, I agree. I think like you said, those emotions are something that I think a lot of pet owners sort of overlook. We just assume that our dogs are wagging their tails and they're happy to see us when we get home, and so they must be just kind of a happy, well-adjusted animal overall.

It's not unless something is really seriously wrong, like maybe your dog is very ill, and you notice it's noticeably different in behavior, like not feeling well and kind of being lethargic and laying around, where they sort of think about emotions.

But when you're working with your dog together as a team, training or maybe doing a sport or there's many things that owners do with their pets, there's emotions to think about there as well. Can you speak on that a little bit?

Jessica: Absolutely.

So here's a really good example that I hear all the time. For instance, if you have a dog who maybe reacts to other animals or people when they're outside walking, one of the common things—and this tends to be a human default—”sit.” We tell our dogs to sit.

So what I've started to do is I say to humans, “Your dog is sitting, so do you feel that the dog has achieved what it is you like him to do?” And they say yes.

I say—OK, so the behavior of sitting is there. What's happening emotionally right now? Let's look at your dog, what do they look like, how are they feeling?—so you might get the sit, but the pupils are dilated, the ears are back, there's tightness in the muscles, there's creases around the corners of the mouth. Sometimes there's a trembling in the body; there's so much tension in there.

Essentially, what we would say is—I don't really care if the dog sits, or lies down, or stands on their head; is the dog calm?

So instead of looking at it—”you need to “sit” to say hello to another dog, or you need to “sit” when another dog is there— what we actually want to teach them is, you need to be calm when another dog is there.

So whether they want the other dog to go away or come closer, the behavior that we actually what we want is calm. So we actually want the emotion of calmness.

That might look different in different dogs. But when you have a really well trained dog and you tell them to sit the human starts to think—I've got the behavior; I've got dog sitting; now they can go and say hello or now we can move past—but what's happening internally is more important.

So that is where we start to look at it. Often times when I work with clients I say take your obedience cues and throw them out the window for right now. It is not necessary. I do not care if a dog is on 5 legs, 4 legs, 2 legs, 1 leg or elevated in the air if that is what makes them calm. You know. And typically there are the behaviors that go along that so we can certainly see that— usually if the dog is calm they will have slow, soft muscles so that tends to mean sitting or lying down in a relaxed position. So each dog looks a little different when they are relaxed— the tail carriage will be different when it's relaxed on one dog than on another dog and ear carriage and so on and so forth.

So we get people to examine—what does my dog look like when he is calm and thinking?

Samantha: I think it is really important that you stress that. I think as owners one of the best things that we can do is simply to just observe your dog and whether you get them from a puppy and you are watching them kind of grow and become the dog that they are going to be or whether you adopt a rescue that's already 3 or 4 years old, just taking the time to observe and noting what is typical normal behavior for my dog and what does he look like when he is upset; what does he look like when he is scared; what does he look like when he is happy.

Like you said that's different in every dog and I think that that's not something that a lot of owners expect, especially new owners who have that generalization of—all dogs sort of act the same— which is very untrue.

That's an important part of being a dog owner, is just observing, spending some time with your dog, getting to know their norms as far as behavior goes.

Jessica: And this is a perfect example of what I talked about earlier. How I didn't want to make dogs mechanical. I knew a little bit about training at that time and I knew that most of the dogs, that job that trainers did, were to make them heel and sit and go and come and wait and all of these things.

For me, it didn't really matter about if they were an inch beside me or behind me or in front of me. It didn't really matter where the dog was placed. What mattered to me was that my dog was relaxed and is following my body, and that the leash is loose, and that we're not fighting or struggling, and that they're looking to me for direction.

So when I started to think about that, that's how the idea of working in the behavioral realm came to me. And really the easiest way to describe it is—I'm sort of a translator. Essentially, I look at the dog, I help the owners to understand what it is that the dog is communicating to them. And then I take what it is the owners want to communicate to their dogs and I give them a way in which they can do that.

So even something as simple as body shakes. So a body shake where the dog—and I'm not talking about a tremble; I'm talking about a full shake, shake, shake—when the dog shakes their whole body up, that's an indication that they're taking tension out of the body. This is a rewardable behavior. This is a behavior that we want to encourage. People don't think about that.

On the other side dogs are with the scratching and sneezing. People think all the time—my dog has allergies. I cannot tell you how many times I've gone to someone's house they say—oh, he's just got allergies, he always does that. And I have to explain to them, no that's actually adrenaline. When the skin feels itchy, the blood comes to the surface and you get this scratching behavior, sometimes looks like they're gnawing on a piece of corncob and then you get sneezing because it tickles the sinuses.

These are all indications of adrenaline. Those are not behaviors you want to reward. So you don't want to say—oh, good you're all worked up now you can play with your friends. Or, good you're all worked up now it's time for us to have a play.

That's not the kind of behavior you want to reward. You want to reward when they're stretching their body out and they're calming their muscles down, they're taking tension out of their bodies—those are the behaviors you want to reward.

Samantha: Very interesting. That's a great analogy that you use, that your job is more of a translator. And I think that's a great way to explain behavior. And because you're a behaviorist and not necessarily a trainer all the time, sometimes you're that translator and then it's kind of—you're that piece first and then you can start working on the training, once you figure out what's actually going on.

So that's a really great way to put it so that the rest of us can understand it.

Jessica: Yeah. And it's a really good exercise for the listeners. Really think about what you want your dogs to do in a specific situation. So think of situation where your dog behaves in a way that you don't like. And kind of think to yourself—well, what would I like him to do.

Most of the time when I ask that question, they say—well I want him to sit, or I want him to lie down.

But that's actually not what you want them to do. What you want them to do, is to be comfortable in that scenario, or to disengage from that object, or to pay attention.

So, really, what you really have to think about is not exactly like—what position you want him in—but what behavior do you want him engaged in; how do you want him to feel about this? And then what sort of things can you do to promote that?

So it's really a different way of looking at it

Samantha: Yeah. That is a different way of looking at it. I think it's an approach that most pet owners don't take. So I'm glad that you're pointing that out.

So let's say that we're at that point. You've thought it through; you know what you want your dog to do; you've figured out kind of that behavior aspect of it and now you're moving forward onto the training.

I get a lot of questions from listeners who are wondering about the products that they are using. Because when you go to the pet store and there's this little training aisle filled with all the stuff that you might need to train your dog, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of different products out there.

So for listeners who are simply listening on iTunes on our website, I've given just a brief little background about you and your companies and one of the things that you've done is created some really great training aids for pet parents to use. So can you tell us a little bit about how those came about? Because I understand that you are looking for something that you couldn't find on the market.

Jessica: You've got it. And my goodness, I've been on that side of it; I have tried everything on the market. So I do have my favorites absolutely. But the process of trying to determine what you should use and what you shouldn't use is a tough one.

Here are a few things that you can think about and questions that you need to ask when you're looking at products that are going to be used by your dog or help you to handle your dog. You really want to start to look at comfort; you want to make sure that this is something that is comfortable for your dog to use, to wear. Because if it's not, you are going to engage in this whole other protest of—now we are struggling to get something on the dog that he really doesn't like.

And then again going back to this behavior thing, if you are trying to use that tool to have a good interaction and every time you use that tool it is uncomfortable, you've actually started to make the emotional state different than you would like it to be in that situation. So that's one thing.

Safety, of course is another thing to look at. Is this tool helping you promote safety for your dog and for people who are around your dog? So, public safety.

The next thing you want to look at is quality. So when you are sending your money, obviously, it's easy to just choose based on price point. So it is easy to just go to—well that's the cheapest one; I'm going to take that.

But typically, and not all the time, but typically price and quality tend to go hand in hand. So you kind of want to make sure that you're looking at the quality of the product. And simple things, like, how it's going to feel. And again going back to comfort on your dog and that kind of thing.

Even with toys. You want to look at how long is this going to last. Is it going to have pieces that are going to come apart? Is my dog going to swallow this? Is it going to be a giant mess and now we are going to be in a confrontation where I am going to be trying to take it away from him or clean stuff up after tearing it apart— you don't want to buy the products that are actually going to create issues for you. That's not the idea.

So those are some things to look at for sure.

The last thing, and in my opinion the most important part of this is, especially if it is a handling tool—what is it telling your dog? What information, what feedback is this giving your animal?

This is part of the reason why The Jaywalker, my company, The Jaywalker and the Jaywalker harness was born.

Because I was having a really difficult time trying to find products to recommend to my clients.

Because—you need to be able to have tools that are going to help you to translate the information that you want to the dog, and help the dog translate the information back to you. You don't want to add in any unnecessary stuff in there that are going to create emotional baggage.

So what we were looking at was a tool that was going to (a) again, be comfortable; (b) have high quality; (c) safety; and (d) function.

So we wanted it to be able to communicate properly. And one of the biggest problems when we're walking, as everybody knows, is that disengagement.

You are walking along… And it happens for the humans too. And this is another thing that we came up with was the utility belt. Because not only does the dog disengage but we tend as the handler's disengage from our dog. Whether it's we're on our phones or we're just enjoying the view, and we forget that we are supposed to be walking together.

So we really wanted to create a product that was going to promote that engagement of the handler and the dog.

So what we did with the Jaywalker was we researched first of all, how the body works on a dog. And we wanted to make sure that we were creating a product, again, in that safety realm, that wasn't going to cause problems on the trachea or problems on the shoulder tendons.

So we found the perfect spot where we can fit, across the chest which is really where a collar bone would be on a dog so it's higher up about an inch more where a collar would fit and high enough that it is not going to restrict movement.

The idea here—again was comfort—is not to restrict movement. We are not trying to keep them from moving; we are trying to show them how to move and where to move.

So we raised up on the top, we made sure that the chest strap was nice and high. We used really soft tubular webbing that was going to be able to mold with the body like wearing a good pair of shoes that your feet get comfortable in and then shape to your body. And then we put these attachments on either side so a human can choose I want to walk on the left or the right and they can clip the dog on the side they want to walk on.

This really amazing thing happened when we started prototyping. When the dog was pulled forward it would turn back towards the owner. So all the owner had to do was stop or take a step back and the dog would reengage with them and we went—holy cow this is really working. Because now the dog goes — I really want to that.

Well when I pull to go there, I turn back and look at my owner, and that gives an owner the opportunity to say—I like that.

In dog behavior and training you have 1 to 2 seconds to reward or punish behavior. So in this instant what's happening is they go this way, they come back, now you get the single moment where they are reengaged with you. So whether you want to use treats which is what I would recommend, if you have a dog who is very environmental-focused, you can reward with a food reward.

Or, even just by moving forward again after the dogs reengage with you, you've now rewarded them by giving access the environment. So either way you're now rewarding the turning around and reengaging, as opposed to trying to punish the pulling.

So we sort of flipped it around, both figuratively and literally. So that now it's changed the way that you're walking with your dog.

It also gives you a lot of control. If you try to go pull through the strength of your dog's body, you're going to give them more power. And in fact, it will actually promote pulling further ahead. Because they're going to say—when I feel resistance I've got to pull through that.

If you go to the side, you're offsetting that momentum and you're turning it back towards you. So you're not going to be in the situation where you have to struggle.

Samantha: Oh.

Jessica: So the next part of it was attaching that dog to the human. The humans felt connected. And that is where the utility belt came in. So we put this utility belt on the human and hands-free walking wasn't something new, but we had felt that hands-free walking belts hadn't completely covered all of the bases.

So we created this really awesome hands-free belt that did a number of different things that I will explain.

So basically what we are doing now is actually saying to the humans—use your body.

If you're pulling back with your arms, our arms so confusing to a dog. They don't have limbs that move like that—I call them monkey arms.

We move our limbs around like crazy. And you're telling your dog —move this way, move that way, do up go down, lie, elevate on to your back legs—we're doing all of this really weird stuff that is so confusing to the dog, that eventually they just learn to ignore it.

So by actually putting a belt on the humans core and telling them to use their bodies, we've changed the way that humans are leading their dogs.

So I wanted to tell you the three different things the utility belt does.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely.

Jessica: We call it the three in one tool. It has a little clip at the base of the utility belt that you can unclip and leave that part on your dog when you're at the park or letting them have free access. That makes it super simple to grab your dog and reconnect to your belt without having to fiddle around with the clips that are at the end of the leash. That was one thing that we added in.

The next thing that we added in was a quick release from your belt, because of course there are going to be times, and hopefully most people don't encounter them, but there are going to be times where you get into trouble and you really just need to quickly release from your dog. If you compress both sides, it will disconnect.

Samantha: Oh, that is a fantastic safety feature.

Jessica: It's a safety feature, you got it. That's exactly what it comes to.

Samantha: Absolutely.

Jessica: It also allows you to disconnect and hand your leash over to someone. So as you take off your belt, you could quickly disconnect and hand your leash. So you don't have to disconnect just when you're in trouble. If you wanted to—and I do it all the time with my husband—”here, can you hold him”—I just disconnect, hand the leash over to my husband so that I can go and tend to one of our children.

This allows us to quickly switch over without having to take the whole belt system off.

It also comes with a seat belt tether. Another thing that I was hearing from client feedback all the time was the car stuff. I actually had a client whose dog, unfortunately, when she opened the door to get groceries, saw a squirrel, bolted and was hit by a car. It was really traumatic and I'm sure that that's not the first time that that has happened.

Samantha: Absolutely, unfortunately.

Jessica: So we put the seat belt tether in. So you can unhook from your belt and just plug into your seat belt tether. And now your dog is tethered; he's not going to jump out the window or out the door when you're getting your groceries out of the car; he's not going to hop back and forth from the front seat to the back seat. So that comes with it as well.

Then the last thing that we added in was this ability to take off your belt and connect it to the leash and have a long line. Long lines are amazing for working behavior and for training. Anyone who works in the training world will definitely agree that long lines are essential. It gives you the ability to quickly transition into having a long line.

Samantha: Wow, that's amazing. And of course, I checked out your website. For anybody that's listening that wants some more information, those are right underneath the podcasts, if they're listening on YouTube or social media or anything like that and available on our site as well. They can just click and check that out because you have multiple websites.

Of course, I checked out the products before I spoke with you and that was the first thing that I noticed, that kind of stood out to me. You said the hands free walking isn't a new thing but the versatility that you offer is definitely something that others don't.

Jessica: Yes, thank you. We've have really worked hard to listen to people, to take their feedback and to create products that are really going to help them. And again, everything that we're developing is designed to make the communication between the owner and the dog easier and simpler.

We want to make moving with your dog throughout your life and your community and your neighborhood an easier exercise. These are all the things that we took into consideration in designing a product. And again, this is not something that I ventured into on purpose. It was quite accidental.

Samantha: That seems to be the way it happens.

Jessica: I know, right? We didn't mean to create a product line and now I had to learn how to work a sewing machine so that I could give feedback to myself and I had never even owned an iron in my entire life. So it was an interesting process.

It's been quite an adventure, and really it's a product that we are really proud of, because it's something that was missing and necessary.

Samantha: And the thing that I like too is that you knew going into this, you worked with dogs before on the behavior and the training level. You knew that as a pet owner, you walk into a pet store, it's extremely overwhelming, especially for a new pet owner. But I think training is something that is unique in the pet industry as opposed to say, grooming products.

If you have a dog and you need certain grooming products for your dog, and those are pretty good for the life of your dog unless he gets some kind of skin condition, you're pretty good using the same type of brush, the same type of shampoo, whatever.

But with training, it changes in the stages of your dog's life and it also changes in what you do. If you decide, maybe for example, somebody retires from work and they have a dog that for years they had gotten basic obedience work and now all of a sudden they're retired. They want something more. Maybe they start doing agility or competing and something like that. It's definitely something that, some certain things you're going to need a leash no matter what age that your dog is but some of those training tools might change and you're going to be buying new things all the time throughout your dog's life. So it's not something that you figure out once and you got it and you're good. It's a very overwhelming thing for pet owners.

So the fact that you knew that, you understood that, you knew the things that you should be looking for, comfort, safety, that kind of stuff. And of course, also you kept in mind—we're all on a budget. When you need something that's affordable, price is something that a lot of pet owners look at first.

So to keep products affordable, but also make them high quality I think it important, too, for the rest of us as consumers, especially.

Jessica: Absolutely.

Again, going back to this idea of versatility. We've been… A lot of the people who sell our products, we're telling them—you do not need to sell this product just to a dog who pulls. It's an excellent tool for communicating for any dog, whether they pull or they don't pull; it makes the whole process much, much easier. People, we're finding more and more, are using it for jogging, for cycling; they're using it for agility; they're using it for swimming.

So we're seeing that the product's versatility is really coming out in the different ways that it can be used, and the different life stages.

We also put together a product that—first, we have a large size range—but on top of that, we also have these, what we call extenders. So essentially, the product… All dogs are not equal. So if the product is not fitting your dog in the way that it should, you can use an extender to increase the girth. He might have a really small chest, but a really big girth. So you're going to need that small-medium size, across the chest, where the actual function components are, but then you need to get over a big rib cage. So you can actually get an extender that will make your product exactly the right fit for your dog.

So we've tried to create different things that'll make it more versatile for them, and we're trying to create a line; everything works together well. So we're creating a line that is almost like a build-your-own—what is it that you need; what problems are you trying to solve. How do you need to use this tool—and then putting together a package for them or a system that's going to help them engage in the different activities that they want to engage in.

Samantha: Yeah. You're talking to somebody that totally understands that. I've had boxers for many, many years. Before I was married, my first dog when I was out on my own, was a boxer, and I had boxers for many years. My husband loves boxers as well, so we've had boxers together too.

The build of a boxer is very unique. They have that deep broad chest. Where the rest of them is sort of petite. They have a more petite waist and their neck is not a big, wide neck.

So we've had issues in the past finding products, harnesses specifically, and clothes that would that would fit our dogs properly, because they are proportioned different than other breeds. And boxers aren't the only ones, but that's the one that I know that I I've personally had experience with.

So, it's really nice for me to look at something and not have to say—our dog's kind of right in-between the medium and the large; if I get the large it might be a little too big; if I get the medium, it might a little too small; what do we do? Should we look for another brand?

We've done that with a lot of different products. We've kind of played that game.

Jessica: Yeah.

Samantha: So to look at a product and think—you know what, we can get this and we can add the extender because her chest is a lot deeper than what we expected—or whatever the case may be. That's something that I find worth the money for us. It's not that guessing game.

We've tried harnesses before that were tight in the chest and then too loose on the neck so it's not comfortable for her. It makes me nervous thinking that they're going to wiggle out of it. If you set it so that it's tighter on the neck, then the chest is looser, whatever, and you just worry that it's… Without the proper fit, it's really nerve-racking for a pet owner thinking either it's going to hurt them or they're going to be able to get out of it.

So, I love that as well. That's a great point that you made about the versatility.

Jessica: One thing that is really lacking that we came across as well with products—and again, you're talking about someone going into a store and looking at this giant wall of stuff and going, “what do I choose?”

So, one thing we found incredibly lacking is support. We really want to provide support to people; that is our primary business; we've started behavior consulting. So, we want to provide support to people. And the product complements that, really.

And what happens when the user buys one of our products is we are really, really invested in their success. So, that's something that is novel, I think, in this realm—

Samantha: Absolutely.

Jessica: —and if you can find products that have support behind them, you're in a good position. I know I've heard on a number of occasions I'm available through Facebook Messenger; we have two different Facebook groups going for users. And we are available by phone and by email and sometimes I even get calls. And I will talk with somebody. So if they are having a difficult time using the product or fitting the product, you want to make sure that it's successful for everyone involved. Because ultimately at the end of the day it's really not about a product. It is about a result and it's about solving the problem.

And I think that that's the thing that a lot of the time is missing from our vendors, to our selling products, to our manufacturers and stuff. They don't realize that the product is really not what they were looking for, they were looking for a solution.

So it's something to keep in mind. Does the product solve the problem?

Samantha: Absolutely, I appreciate you mentioning that. Because that is something I think that is overwhelming to a lot of pet owners—is they maybe necessarily don't know what product to choose and the associate at your pet store can pretty much help you with that. They are informed on the products, what they do, what type of behavior or dog that they are going to work best for. So you can find that answer or maybe even with just a little bit of research online.

But having that support, I think one thing that always sticks out to me, one of the most frequent things that I hear is that pet parents work for a little while and they begin to get really frustrated and overwhelmed with training, especially if you have a new puppy or you have a rescue that maybe has some behavior issues that you need to work through.

It's not something that happens overnight; it's not even something that happens over a few nights. It is something that takes weeks and weeks of work and you need to be consistent with it. And I think sometimes pet parents just need to hear that. That you are not necessarily doing anything wrong—maybe you need a different product but for the most part you're doing everything right. What you need is a little advice and a little guidance on the training part and you just need to stick with it. So that's really I think important.

And it's something important like you said. With the bigger companies and the mass manufacturers that we have now, quite often you don't get that. How many times have you heard somebody say—well I bought this, it didn't really work or I couldn't figure it out. I called the company and I was on hold for a half an hour and then I just hung up, or I sent them an email but you know it has been two weeks and I haven't heard back from them or whatever that case may be.

But to have that security and knowing that the customer service is there and the support is there just to help you use the product to the best of its abilities is really important I think from a consumer standpoint.

Jessica: Yes. And you know, you touched on something there that I would love to elaborate on, which is—a lot of the time you're talking about being reassured that you're doing the right things. And sometimes, what I find is that people are working way too hard than they need to work to achieve what they need to achieve.

So, let me explain that. Because a lot of the work that people are doing to try to achieve a behavior, if they would just stop and be patient and give the dog an opportunity to think it through and execute. There's only so many choices that they can make, and eventually, they will land on the right one.

So, I really have a rule with clients. You don't fight with your dog. And I have that rule, you know, even with my children. I have four kids.

Samantha: Yes, yeah.

Jessica: I have that rule that… We try… Well, of course everybody always makes mistakes from time to time, but we try not to fight.

So, if I find that my thirteen-year old is really disengaged and not in a situation where they are listening, there is no point on continuing an argument, continuing to explain, continuing to try and teach. If they are emotionally disengaged, if the dog is shut off from you, stop talking, stop fighting; you need to try a different way.

So, people work really, really hard when sometimes they don't need to. Sometimes really what they need to do is to stop and to listen, and to pay attention, and to be patient.

So, those are the two messages I end up sending to people all the time, is—look, number one, you're not doing anything wrong; number two, you're just working too hard. [dog barks] And there's my coon-hound from the background piping in.

But, yeah, you know, you're working too hard. You don't need to work that hard. Just give them a second, because they need to learn and they need to take the time to absorb the information.

So those are the two messages, absolutely. You're not doing anything wrong. You're just working too hard, and nobody wants to work harder than they need to.

Samantha: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I think that's wonderful, and I love that you've taken what you know about dogs, what you know about dog owners, what you know about having pets of your own and your own first hand experience and you've created this line.

I hope to see more products come in the future too that are based on those same kind of principles. I am excited to follow you. I hope that we have gotten our listeners excited about it too. I am positive that there are people who are listening that are training a dog, or going to be training a dog, or still working with a dog that they have been training for a while.

So, the other thing that I want to mention too is that if anybody has any questions they can pass those along to me and I would be happy to talk to you and get follow ups answered or anything like that.

If anybody is listening right now and thinking—oh my gosh this is me and my dog and we've been having these problems and maybe… I am not doing anything wrong—send in an email and we'd be happy to respond to that.

Jessica: Absolutely, and we are available too, to do phone consultations for people who want a little bit of an assessment or to help them get on the right track in our region and in our greater Ottawa area we do home consultations.

Samantha: Oh that is wonderful

Jessica: —and definitely any product support is included in your product. So we make sure to help people who have decided to take that step and change the way that they're moving and living with their dog with some of our products. We definitely like to help, and we are available.

Human emotion wrapped up in our dogs.

I want to tell people that your dog's behavior, how your dog behaves, does not actually represent whether or not you are a good dog owner. It's how you respond to that dog's behavior that actually determines how good of an owner you are. So there is no need to be embarrassed; there is no need to feel guilty. How you respond to your dog's behavior is what determines if you are a good dog owner.

Samantha: Fantastic advice from Jessica O'Neill. I want to thank her again for being on the podcast. Some really great information and absolutely an empowering message for dog owners.

Quite often being a dog owner is much like being a parent; we call them our fur children, our fur babies for a reason. It's very very similar, it's easy to feel embarrassed, frustrated to feel like you are not doing it right. But in the end—every dog's different; every dog owner is different. We all have our own ways of doing things.

If you feel like you need help training your dog, reach out. There's nothing to be embarrassed about. Jump online; go to your local library; go to your local pet store. There are some great, excellent resources out there. Seek the help of a professional dog trainer. Absolutely.

It might not be an issue with you or your pet. It might be an issue with the way the two of you communicate. So, working with a professional trainer or canine behaviorist might be all it takes. Maybe one or two sessions, just to get you guys on the same page and moving forward.

Don't be embarrassed; don't feel bad if training is just not going the way that you thought it would.

I've had many, many dogs in my life. I don't think training a dog has ever gone the way that I thought it would. Sometimes it's easier; sometimes it's more difficult. Sometimes it's an outright challenge, even for somebody that's very experienced with canines.

If you haven't had dogs in the past, you're a first time dog owner, it's bound to be something that's going to test your patience. Stay consistent; stay strong; keep up with that training everyday, all day long. The consistency is really key, and look for those products. There are some great products out on the market that can help you with whatever the issues might be, if you're just trying to do some command training, or if you have a dog that doesn't behave on a leash, if you have a jumper, or a dog that is destructive—there are so many different issues with dogs that pet parents can face, and there are so many products out there for us to try.

You know what—maybe Jessica's going to be an inspiration to us. If we can't find the products that we need, maybe we need to create them.

So maybe you're listening and you're thinking to yourself—my goodness; this is my problem; I'm having this issue with my dog; I can't find a product to help me; I know what I need; I know what I'm looking for, but it's just not out there—maybe this is your call to action and it's time for you to go out there and create what you want and market it for other pet owners. Who knows?

PREVIOUS PODCAST: TOP #45 – How a Service Dog Saves My Life Everyday

Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.