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A Strange Thing Happened...

A strange thing happened this week.

A guy stopped by my house asking about training. He was a big guy with a white beard, and he asked if I trained any other animals besides dogs. I said I’d trained a pig and a cat, and worked with some wild animals when I was in the circus, and asked him what kind of animal he wanted me to train. When he said reindeer, I started looking around for cameras - I thought I was being pranked. I told him to give me his email address and I would send him an Owner Assessment Form that he could fill out and email back to me.

But he told me he lived up North, and was probably out of my training area, and was just down here at the mall doing some research or something, but wanted to ask me about certain training tools that he’d been told about for training the reindeer. He told me he’d heard he could get quick results with an e-collar, and wanted to know my thoughts. I realized he hadn’t introduced himself, so I asked him his name and he replied, “Nick…” He paused with a wrinkled brow for a few seconds and added, “Ho… Ho…” He smiled and said, “Hogan.”

I told Nick that he’d probably get very fast results from an e-collar, but at a cost to the animal. I told him that shock collars are banned in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Wales, Quebec Canada, and some states in Australia. 

The smile left Nick’s face and he said, “Really?!?” He said one reindeer was possibly afraid of heights, and that he was told the e-collar might give some added inspiration for him to improve his training.

I told him that people selling these training collars will tell you anything to sell them, and if a trainer has just one tool in his toolbox, and it’s a hammer - every reindeer is a nail… They’ll tell you it doesn’t hurt, they’ll tell you it only vibrates, etc… They are punishing a behavior you don’t want, but not solving the problem. Reindeer who already are stressed or suffer from anxiety will continue to have problems, and the anxiety will get worse.

“When I work with dogs, I like to find out what is causing the dog’s issues or ‘bad’ behavior, and then change the dog’s emotional reaction to that stimulus. That solves the problem from the dog’s perspective. Dogs, like kids (and reindeer), learn best when they are enjoying the training. Make training fun, Nick. Make it like a reindeer game,” I told him.

“That makes total sense!” Nick replied. "I can’t wait to tell the… the guys… about this.”

Nick glanced down at his watch, said, “Oh deer,” and thanked me for the information. He told me he had to head out, and shook my hand. But instead of going out the front door, he did something very puzzling… He walked over, opened up the doors for my fireplace, climbed in, and disappeared up the chimney! 

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