Trained With Kindness (TWiKi) is a movement inspired by frustration.
Frustration that people continue to struggle with a basic understanding of their dogs.
Frustration that, despite years of research and studies that have produced reams of new information about how dogs think and act, despite mountains of new evidence that proves, unequivocably, the best way to teach your dog how to exist in this crazy human world is also the kindest and simplest, people keep right on using old, outdated, ineffective, intimidating, mean and even abusive methods of bending dogs to our will.
Frustration because I know that most people would choose the kinder way if they knew it was available, that it worked, and that someone could help them learn how to apply it.
Frustration at the professionals out there who should be the biggest advocates for kind training methods — vets, groomers, rescuers — but are sometimes those most resistant to new information. These people, my professional partners, as dedicated as I am to helping animals, are so important to the disemination of this better information. Why? Because they are often first ones asked (which is not fair because they are not trainers) about behavior problems. But because this is not their occupation, they generally have not kept up with the latest training concepts, so they continue sharing old information which can create continuing problems and frustration.
Frustration with my fellow trainers who have closed their minds to new methods, believing that they have the best, since it works for them, and so don’t need to learn anything more. These colleagues, who I know care deeply about dogs, perpetuate disproved concepts such as dominance being the root cause of most problems. These failures of understanding lead to mistakes in training that don’t allow owners to extinguish problems for good because the focus is on the wrong things, like who goes through a doorway first or who is “alpha.” It is no longer a difference in philosophy; it is a statement of fact that these are not the things to focus on. To continue to have what amounts to a physical fight with a dog in the face of overwhelming evidence there is no need to do it anymore and that a kinder, gentler approach will work just as well if not better shows a willful disregard for the magnificent creatures we are responsible for guiding through life.
This frustration has grown steadily over the years as I’ve worked to undo the damage done by the uninformed, and strived to prevent more damage caused by yet another generation that didn’t know any better.
I am a big believer in doing rather than whining, and I kept mulling how I could turn my frustration into something useful rather than just letting it fester.
It started with the thought that I had gotten to the point where I didn’t so much care what a dog could do — sit, down, fetch — but very much cared how he was taught to do it. The means were infinitely more important than the end.
That glimmer of an idea slowly morphed into the concept I now call Trained With Kindness.
Why “Trained” and not “Train”? I worked as a writer and editor for most of my adult life before I became a trainer, so words are very important to me. To me, “Trained” means it’s done, completed, over. Bang. “Train” is something happening now or in the future. It is much more powerful to say, “My dog was trained with kindness” than “I will train my dog with kindess.” It is more dog-focused than person-focused. That said, it puts a large responsibility on the human to do right by the dog.
Trained With Kindness is my latest attempt to do right by the dog. Will you please join me?
— Christy Paxton, Founder, Owner of Christy Paxton’s Hand in Paw: Rewards-based Training for You and Your Dog (Cleveland, Ohio)