The Bitey End of the Dog

Clair Hickson

March 22, 2021 Michael Shikashio CDBC Season 2 Episode 3
The Bitey End of the Dog
Clair Hickson
Show Notes Transcript

As many of you dedicated listeners know, most of the episodes in this podcast focus on dogs, of course. This time, we are going to dive deep into the human side of the relationship. 

In this episode, I chat with Clair Hickson, who has a wonderfully unique perspective and approach to working with the humans in aggression cases. We explore something called the grief cycle, which can be a common progression of emotions a pet owner can experience when their dog has a history of displaying aggressive behavior. And we also  do some rapid fire brainstorming through a bunch of different scenarios where crucial conversations are often necessary in our work with clients.

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Clair Hickson:

It's a learning for us. It's a lesson for us. What do we need to do differently next time? It's trying to take the disappointment out of my dog had a bad reaction today and that means everything's going wrong and everything's failing.

Michael Shikashio:

As many of you dedicated listeners know, most of the episodes in this podcast focus on dogs, of course, this time, we're going to dive deep into the human side of the relationship. In this episode, I chat with Clair Hickson, who has a wonderfully unique perspective and approach to working with the humans and aggression cases, we explore something called the grief cycle, which can be a common progression of emotions. A pet owner can experience when their dog has a history of displaying aggressive behavior. And we also do some rapid fire brainstorming through a bunch of different scenarios where crucial conversations are often necessary in our work with clients. And this episode is sponsored by aggressivedog.com where you can find a variety of educational offerings with a focus on helping dogs with aggression, including The Aggression in Dogs Master Course, the most comprehensive course available anywhere in the world on helping dogs with aggression, and the aggression in dogs conference, a unique three day livestream event happening from October 22 to 24th 2021. With 12 amazing speakers. You can find out more by going to the looseleashacademy.com. Hey everyone, I'm Mike Shikashio. Welcome back to The Bitey End of The Dog. This week, I've got a real special guest, I saw Clair Hickson speak at the Winter Dog Trainers Summit a few months ago, I was super impressed with her talk because she gets into the human side of working aggression cases in reactive dog cases. So I'm really, really happy to be talking to her today because we haven't really chatted much about that in previous episodes. So let me tell you a little bit more about Clair. She's the founder and owner of Talk to The Paw Dog Training and Behavior in the UK. She has a passion for working with reactive dogs, which began with owning her own reactive German Shepherd in 1998. Clair pins her success with reactive dogs on her ability to work with and coach the owners. Drawing on skills learned from 25 years of intensive care nursing, Clair is determined that all dog trainers and behaviorists get success and love the job they are doing by connecting with coaching and communicating with the guardians of these dogs, her missing piece and that's peace, little play on words, there, program has students from all over the world learning with her and building their businesses as a result. Welcome, Clair, it's great to have you.

Clair Hickson:

Thank you so much for inviting me.

Michael Shikashio:

I would love to jump right in here and talk about what people experienced with their own aggression cases or their aggressive dogs or reactive dogs. And just to kind of define that for anybody listening, when we say reactive dogs, what what do you mean by that? And your definition when you see that?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, so they can be dogs who are anti social with members of their own species, either from being incredibly scared of them or being very frustrated, or I see prey driven dogs to or they can be dogs that have equal reactions to people or other things in their environments.

Michael Shikashio:

Okay, so we're kind of, we use that as trainers and behavior consultants, we often use those terms interchangeably. So I wanted to kind of clarify that for the audience. In terms of aggression and reactivity cases, they're kind of often one in the same depending on how we want to label something and how somebody is describing something. So we're basically talking about dogs barking, lunging, growling, snarling, snapping or biting, pulling on leash towards this particular stimulus is that. Yea, all those dogs. Yeah, okay, perfect. So what I have found over the years is that it's when I'm working aggression cases, when I start focusing on just working aggression cases, it really dawned on me that it's not so much the dogs we're working with all the time, it's the people, right. And so it's the same things over and over, when we're looking at behavior change strategies. I mean, there's only so many different ways you can, for instance, count a condition with a dog near a food ball that it's guarding. I mean, there's slight variations you can make in a behavior change strategy for a dog that's guarding the food bowl, but it's going to what really varies the variables there is the people. And you focus on what you call like a people centered approach to your cases. So tell us more about that.

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, so I think it's exactly what you said, that we may have a dog that's displaying the same behavior as another dog, we can have a group of dogs all displaying the same behavior, but what they have that's different is the people that they live with the environments that they live in, and what's going on from the owners point of view, and that makes them into individual cases, not just something that we can treat with a checklist of we're gonna do this, this, this and this because we have to consider that people side of things in the approach that we take

Michael Shikashio:

There's quite a few emotions that we can run into as trainers and behavior consultants and those that the audience that are pet owners that are listening in probably have experienced many emotions. So let's go talk about those. What are some of the common ones you see? And when you're talking to the clients, what is coming out at you as far as emotions?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, so one of the things I always ask my clients when I first get on the phone with them is, what's the main problem for them. And some of them tell me that their dog is unhappy, and that they're really concerned about the mental health of their dog, and they want to give them a happier life. And other people tell me that they feel very out of control, that they can't control the dog in certain situations. And they're worried about what might happen as a result of losing that control. And other people tell me that it's really embarrassing, and that they're very focused on what other people think about them. When they're being seen with this dog that's barking and lunging and growling, they're really embarrassed about that. So I think different people come to me with different emotions. So when I'm addressing that, those things, I'm looking at, what what's coming up for that particular person? No, they're all in the same situation, but they're feeling things very differently.

Michael Shikashio:

So what is your response when you maybe hear somebody that is completely embarrassed about their dog, and that can happen a lot, because, you know, they're out maybe on leash walk, and the dog is barking and lunging. And it's just, and people are giving them? You know, strange looks? And so what are your How do you help people start with something like that?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, it's a really interesting one. Usually, I asked them, the person that saw you, do you think they're going to bed at night thinking about your dog? Do you think they're getting into bed, or sitting down, have an evening and thinking about the reaction of your dog? No, they're not they forgotten about it. Like, it's just been a snapshot in their day. But for you, it stayed with you, for the whole day, and I coach them through, I'm going to help you not be embarrassed about your dog, I'm going to help you be proud of your dog. And so you know, putting it into like a tiny little snapshot, you know, people aren't going to go home and say, oh, there was this woman today. And she was completely out of control with their dogs. It's just not how people function. So a little bit of reassurance, but really focusing on the fact that that's what's important to them. So that's what I address. And I start off really, by, if they're embarrassed about their dog, then what I want to do is put that relationship and that bond back in as quickly as I possibly can. So I want them to see how clever their dogs are, how amazing they are at training, and I want to build their confidence really, really quickly.

Michael Shikashio:

That's a really excellent approach to that and kind of taking a step back and making a lot of people realize that, you know, it's really who's viewing the issue at that moment. And then throughout the day, because I really like that approach of I haven't really thought of it as framing it that way. But that's excellent. What about, you know, and you mentioned, there, there's this frustration element. And I'm sure that happens a lot, especially with regression cases, the dog has maybe bitten the owner or bitten somebody that the owner loves and really knows well and cares about, what do you do there? Because oftentimes that human animal bond is fractured. So how do you approach that and kind of helping them repair that angle?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, these can be often some of the most difficult ones, because it's very hard to live with a dog that you're scared of. So lots of control and management early on, really looking at safety straight away, so that the people start to feel safe again. And we know that in those situations, that dog doesn't feel safe either, right? So we're really looking at early safety, and that management on a day to day basis. So the people can start to relax a little bit. Yeah, those are the hardest cases. I think for me, when people have become really quite frightened of their dogs, it can be harder, much harder to get that relationship back going again.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, I've I find myself having sometimes the opportunity in those moments to kind of remind them the good moments they've had with their dogs, I try to have them revisit, you know, what's what did you What do you like doing with your dog? What are the moments you enjoy? Why did you get your dog in the first place to begin? So they can kind of go back and be reminded of those things. Now, what about people that might not be opening up that information? Because the embarrassment factor can play a role that sometimes people don't want to get their dog in trouble. And I'm putting up air quotes there, where you know, they're worried about, you know, disclosing maybe some information about their dog that could potentially, their thinking could potentially get the dog in trouble. So they're often sugarcoating things. But how do you you're very good at reading human body language. I saw that during your your presentation at the Winter Dog Trainers Summit, what do you do? What do you look for? Let's say you have a client or somebody you're talking to that is not really conveying much information. So they're giving kind of yes or no answers. They're not really expanding much, maybe they're being very quiet. What do you do to pull out more information? Is there things you look for in body language? Or do you ask certain questions?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, so there's lots I look for in body language. And I do really like to talk to people face to face, or via some kind of platform like zoom, so I can really watch. And I'm looking for signs, like if I ask a question, and they avert their eye contact, or they turn their head away, just like we would do in a dog. So those lower stress signals, maybe they sit back from the camera a little bit, or they sit back from me, they turn their body away slightly, or they might fold their arms. Or sometimes people gaze up to the ceiling, like they're looking for the right answer that they want to give you. And if I see any of those things, I just hold it in my head for a bit, and I let them continue. And then when they get stuck, I just, I just tell them that I've noticed. So I'll say I noticed, you know, when I asked you about the bite incidences, it was really difficult for you to answer. And I appreciate that. I understand how difficult it must be to be able to talk about this stuff. And I ask them, What's coming up for you? What was coming up for you, when I asked that question, what's happening inside? What are you thinking, what are you feeling inside, and then get them to open up that way. And the other way that I do it is, you know, I owned my own reactive dog. So I lived with him for seven years, and I never got him better, I never found the help that I needed for him. So I can go back into that place of knowing what it feels like. And I remember the first time he bit somebody quite badly, and all those emotions and feelings that come up. But also it's talking to them about the best way I can help them is if we start from a level playing field of complete honesty, that I'm there to help them. I'm not there to judge them. It's information for me. And all that information is going to do is help me with that dog.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah. Sounds like empathy is really the key for you in your cases as well.

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, definitely empathy, but also understanding how sometimes how difficult it is just to have those conversations. None of us like difficult conversations, none of us like confrontation. None of us like to feel judged. But we're not there as dog trainers are we to judge them, we're there to help them.

Michael Shikashio:

Absolutely. So we're kind of building a nice skill list for the listeners that our trainers are professional starting to work with these cases. Empathy is certainly one skill that takes time to build, I can say that for sure, because I'm one of those types. I'm really good at things like math, like, you know, reading people's body language and having empathetic response. It's been a lifelong journey for me to build that skill. I was very introverted when I was younger, and when when something bad happens to somebody or something tragic, and I freeze right up, I don't know, I have such a hard time responding in a way that I feel is empathetic. And that's a skill I've been slowly building over the years. And I'm still learning, you know, it's something when my case is it's something I focus on quite a bit now that I'm lucky enough to know how to read the dogs. While I don't have to concentrate on that as much, but I'm acutely aware of when I'm talking to clients, and just how my conversation might play a role in the overall outcome in the case. And, you mentioned the reading the human body language is also an important skill to learn. And that's something I also had to kind of learn how to do, and I'm still very terrible at it. It doesn't come naturally to me at all. I know, it comes naturally to some people, but it's it's definitely another skill to build upon. So getting getting back to the emotional parts. Also, so we talked about, you know, the embarrassment and the frustration. But one thing that and we can kind of segue into the next topic as well. But this isolation that everybody's feeling, not only were isolated because of this pandemic? I mean, it's, it's difficult enough for us because of that. And now when you have an aggressive reactive dog, you're often hiding from a lot of scenarios, which can make you even feel more isolated. And then what's worse is when you have a lack of resources available to you, the pet owner has a lack of available resource doesn't know where to turn to, and can even feel more isolated. So what do you do there? So I'm sure when we get in there as trainers and behavior consultants, they feel a little bit better. Are there any other measures you take or any other ways to help them feel less isolated?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, so I'm very lucky in the area that I live in and I work in, in my local area, we have a selection of fields, which we call secure fields, and they're available for hire by the hour for people. And so one of the first things that I'll do if they're feeling really isolated, if their dog is so reactive that it's difficult to step outside of their home environment, then I put them in touch with the people who hire those fields out. And now they have an hour where they can go somewhere safely with their dog and play with their dog, let them off lead, practice the skills that we're teaching. So I think I'm very, very fortunate in that area. And I know it's not available all over the world. But also, you know, I talked to them about when they sign up to my program, the level of support they get from me, is what's going to make or break their success. And from my point of view, I have to be careful about the number of clients I can take on at any one time because of the emotional toll on me. So I limit myself to eight, and I make sure that I'm there, I'm their support, you know, I'm in touch with them every couple of days, in some shape or form, there are boundaries in there that have to be for my own sake. And also I talked to them about, you know, if their dog does have a reaction, as long as another dog or a person doesn't end up injured as a result of that. And that's where our safety comes in straight away, doesn't it? If their dog doesn't have a bad reaction, again, it's information for us. It's a learning for us. It's a lesson for us, what do we need to do differently next time. So it's trying to take the disappointment out of, my dog had a bad reaction today. And that means everything's going wrong, and everything's failing. And so, yeah, I don't want that to happen on a daily basis, which is why I'm in contact with them a lot. So their dog has a bad reaction, and they get on the phone, and they talk to me about it. And we make a plan for the next two to three days so that it doesn't continue to be a pattern. So I think the level of support plus having access to somewhere that they can go safely with that dog really works for me.

Michael Shikashio:

That's a interesting system. So you take eight clients maximum. I'm assuming that some of them as you make space for others usually open up. So do you have like a waiting list that you deal with?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah I do have a waiting list. Yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

And do those clients have ways to talk to each other? Do you have that kind of system where clients can support each other?

Clair Hickson:

I don't at the moment, but it is certainly certainly something I'm looking at is to create a group where they can all share those experiences.

Michael Shikashio:

It's difficult, I think, you know, again, with the pandemic, one of the issues that I see is that not only is it tough to find support, from somebody else in kind of the same type of situation, it's tough to find help, how to get people to come over whether it's a trainer or people working as sort of quote unquote, decoys winning over decoy dogs are bringing being a decoy that comes in as the stranger visiting the home. So it's certainly has put a lot of changes into the amount of work we can actually do in these cases, right.

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, it does. But it also gives you more chance to get the foundations really, really solid.

Michael Shikashio:

That's a good point. Yeah.

Clair Hickson:

So that's what I'm finding.

Michael Shikashio:

Are you doing a lot of online consults right now? Or in the UK? I think it's pretty locked up right now?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, we're pretty locked up. Yeah, lots of online stuff, lots of foundation stuff, leash handling, and, you know, all those exercises that you would want the dog to be able to do before they're confronted with a trigger. So yeah, really concentrating on those things.

Michael Shikashio:

Let's talk about this next thing. It's kind of the grief cycle. You mentioned that in your talk as well. And what the components of that how that flows with most people that are going through the situation, can you talk more about that? It starts with denial, right?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah. So it's my belief. And I don't know whether it's anyone else's belief, but certainly, this is my experience, from being an intensive care nurse and working with the parents of children who was seriously ill, and maybe some of them weren't going to make it when you're faced with a situation that you're not expecting, or is out of your control. Let's take the pandemic, for example. There will be some of us who when we were told, we couldn't leave our houses, got angry and kicked off, it's not fair. And you know, did all those things. And that's part of the grief cycle is anger, there will be some people who went out doesn't apply to me or it's not happening yet or went into that hole, I'm sure that I'll be alright kind of thing. I'm not going to catch it, and then go into that denial phase. And there will be other people who just went, Oh, well, no, I can't do anything. I might as well give up and they go very quickly into depression. So the grief cycle is, is a stage cycle. We're supposed to work our way through it. But I certainly, in my experience, people with different personality types will go into different coping mechanisms and they're common to all of us. So when you're living with a dog that because let's face it, I don't know of anyone you can tell me in your experience or anyone's gone out there to source a dog that is aggressive to people or towards other dogs,

Michael Shikashio:

Right. Most people are looking for that. But there are some people

Clair Hickson:

It doesnt happen like that Yeah, I've never come across one. So it doesn't happen like that. It's something that is unexpected. And it's something that, even though they may have been a contributing factor to the cause, they haven't ever done that deliberately. So they do enter this cycle of grief. And it's easy to recognize where they are by the language that they use when you're talking to them. So if they're in denial, they may really underplay the level of bites, or the number of bites. Or they might talk to you about the dogs nipped a few people rather than bitten a few people. Yeah, or they might tell you that the dogs, okay with some dogs and not other dogs, if they're in anger, they can direct that anger sometimes to where they got the dog from, or even at you like you need to fix that kind of attitude. And if they're in depression, they they're very much like, they may have gotten to the stage where they don't know if they can keep the dog, they're looking at maybe euthanasia, or rehoming the dog, they're just in that kind of state where they don't even want to walk the dog or have anything to do with the dog anymore. And what they tell me when I, when I get on that first call with them tells me a lot about where they are. So I'm really, really listening to that language. And when I'm listening to their language, I'm also listening to kind of what personality types they are. Are they someone who likes to be in control? Are they somebody who starts something and doesn't finish it? Are they someone who analyzes everything to death? You know, so I'm, I'm kind of listening to all that language. And it gives me lots of clues about how I'm going to coach them when I'm working with them.

Michael Shikashio:

Lets maybe get into some examples of that. So if you've got somebody, how do you kind of shift them? So just to recap, we go from, there's some people in denial or anger, then you get into a bargaining stage as well. Is that correct?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

And then maybe there's a depression stage. And then finally, the acceptance stage. But how do you get a lot of those cases to shift at the acceptance stage? If they're in one of those states? Can you give us some examples of maybe a case you worked on?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, so denial is really common. So let's talk about a little case I've got at the moment, he's a little Romanian rescue. He's five years old, he's incredibly reactive to everything. So anything that moves can be three football pitches away. And when I first spoke to the family, they told me that he barks a bit at things. And he pulls a bit on the lead, but he's lovely at home. So that's what I get is that kind of flip side of like, he's really lovely at home, but he pulls a bit on the lead and, and then we dove into it. And it turns out that he slipped his harness at one point and attacked another dog and put that dog in the vets. The clues come from, when they told me that he pulls a bit on the lead, I said to him, I asked them, What equipment Do you use when you're walking him? So then they tell me that they're using a muzzle. Okay, so where did the muzzle come from? Like, did the rescue recommended to you? Or is it something that you've decided to do? And then they tell me the story about why they've decided to use a muzzle because he actually did attack another dog. And then this skill then is to reflect is to really reflect back to them. Okay, so let me just check that I've gotten this right. There have been four occasions in the past three months, where he has done whatever, and that really solidifies for them. Yeah, actually, this is the problem we're dealing with. And it kind of snaps them out of that denial, because you're just putting it in plain facts in front of their face. This is what's going on. And again, a lot of people are in denial because they think you're going to judge them. But when they told me about the incident where he'd put another dog in the vets, I said to them, how do you feel now? Like, is there anyone in the family who won't walk him as a result of that? Is there anyone that's fearful now, who is scared to be out when they said, the chap said, Yeah, my wife won't walk him. It's not a judgement of what happened. It's really looking at what the consequences on you as a person of what happened, like, how is that now affecting how you're coping with the dog? So that's really where I go, when I'm given that those kind of pieces of information.

Michael Shikashio:

I do feel that as trainers and consultants, we can work with people that are in some of their other stages other than acceptance, do you feel that can be a roadblock for us or it's even viable to work with somebody that may be in one of those other stages?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, I think it's totally doable. Because you just accept where they are. So you know, if they're angry, I reflect back on them. Okay, so I hear you're really angry, I get it, I was really angry when I had a reactive dog too. And I let them I just let them feel that anger. And then I say, Okay, well, you know, we got to move on, and you've got a right to be angry, it's okay to be angry, but it's not going to help us move any further with helping your dog. So it's just really about letting them know it's okay to be where they are, and to feel what they feel. But we're not going to get stuck in that, because we're not going to make progress. And if we're stuck in that, and sometimes what I find is that, particularly the people that are in denial, sometimes they just go away for a bit, they get on a call with you, they mount things over, they're not ready, and they go away for a bit. And maybe I don't hear from them for three or four months, and then they come back because there's another incident with a dog that really kind of raises things for them and go, we can't ignore this anymore. And they come back and we onboard them, then.

Michael Shikashio:

Your career in nursing is really shining through because you have this unique empathy for a lot of different scenarios. So it's such a such a nice skill and refreshing to hear that coming through with the work you're doing. So let's play a little game here, I'm gonna, I'm gonna throw out some examples of typical issues we face as trainers or consultants, or maybe some of the pet owners that are listening might be experiencing themselves. Let's start with maybe one of the common ones I see. And I know a lot of traders have this issue as well as a couple, maybe a couple of the home partners aren't getting along or not agreeing on or maybe arguing right in front of you. I'll tell you this funny story I had that client many years ago. And this is what before I was taking on aggression cases. And I've told this story before, but it's just a good one. This client had a standard poodle, and he was just looking for basic foundational skills, not pulling on leash, you know, sit, stay, and recall, basic stuff, and I get to the home. And the couple, you know, he lets me in. And, he introduces me to his wife. And she kind of has a scowl look on her face and just like, Oh, hi, you know, the cool very quick hello, very sheepish hello. And I already sense the tension in the air once I stepped in the home, and he's explaining the issues and every single thing he said, every single thing he said, she jumped in, like, your stupid dog, this stupid dog and you're so stupid. Just really like going at each other. And I had to constantly redirect the conversation. So okay, this is what we're gonna do, we're gonna teach the dog this and let me show you and let me see. Let me demonstrate how it can be successful. So really basic stuff, you know, for typical training scenario, but they were just arguing with each other really just non stop. And so I ended up working with them. I ended up doing sort of like a board and train scenario where I took the dog and did most of the training myself and brought the dog back and things went well with that dog. But then I get a call about I don't know, four or five years later, it's the same client he's like oh Mike I got Dobermans now. Can you come over and the Dobermans were'nt getting along. This is when I was taking on aggression cases. And so I go to the home, and he's got two Dobermans in the home. I get in there. And he's still with the same woman. And it's like night and day. She's like, Oh, hey, Mike, how you doing? Good to see you. Look at these beautiful Dobermans, I have aren't they so smart, and they're so great. I just thought to myself, you guys must have had one heck of a marriage counselor. Because it just the difference was amazing. But it doesn't always work out like that. Sometimes we go into a home. And it's just you know, there's a lot of tension, friction, conflict between the clients. What are your what do you do there? How do you approach that conversation? How do you steer back and track? What do you what do you do make to make sure you don't take sides?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, I love those cases. And they make me laugh. Yeah. So there is no side taking. It's about sitting down and giving each member of the family a chance to say what's happened, what's going on for them. And it's, again, it's about creating that level of honesty. So saying, look, I can help, I can help you, but I need you to talk to me. So if I've got a husband and a wife, who is his dog, and she don't want anything to do with the dog. Often, I find in those kind of scenarios that there's someone who doesn't feel heard. And so just allowing them to just say, look, I know this might be really difficult to say, but do you want to be training this dog? Do you want to be taking responsibility for the dog? And just allowing them the space to say, No, I don't, I don't want to be dealing with the dog. And then having the other person realize that and then I just say, Okay, so this is how we're going to move forward. You're not going to be responsible for the dog. This person's going to be responsible for the dog. And we agree that between us so We agree what the interactions with the dog will look like with the person who doesn't want to be doing this stuff. And we agree that we just we just take that responsibility away from them, rather than trying to get them on board and causing more conflict, I just give them permission to step back and let the person who really wants to do the work, do the work.

Michael Shikashio:

Do you find some common ground if it needs to be so for instince theres a safety issue and that person has to at least follow through on management safety incase, do you have a sort of a trick for that? Or any way of kind of approaching that conversation? Let's say you have somebody that's like, I don't want anything to do with this dog? That person is gonna do it all. And what do you do there to kind of, you know, stress the gravity, the need for safety?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, so the needs for safety is always the controller management aspect of it. So putting up barriers, and making sure that if the person who doesn't want to deal with a dog, make sure that they shout out, if they're going to be coming into near the dogs space, so the person who is dealing with the dog has chance to deal with the dog before that person comes in. So I use a lot of segregation, I would say, in terms of safety. So they don't have to interact, and make sure that everyone's on board with you keeping gates closed, barriers closed, all that kind of thing. And quite often, I do find that once, once a tension has been removed, once the, you know, once the houses got a little bit more relaxed, then the person who is say, incredibly fearful of the dog, they want to start doing some work so often, you know, they'll come back later and say, Look, I think I'm ready to be able to help with the dog now. And then and we get them on board then.

Michael Shikashio:

That's a good strategy, definitely. So let's talk about the next kind of case, this one at you, you get to the home, you go through a second or third time, you've recommended some things for them to do maybe acclimate a muzzle or do some foundational skills, that way we can start to employ those in future sessions, you get to the second or third session, and they've done nothing. What is your conversation like there? You know, and I love the way Dr. Chris Pocho phrases, you know, is there something preventing you from doing X, Y, or Z and fill in the blank there? It's a great question, because it doesn't point blame is saying, you got to do your homework, or you're going to fail if you don't do this. So what are your strategies for that you get there, nothing's been done. Or maybe they've done a one or two things. What's your approach with that kind of case?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, great question. So I mean, this does happen to me, people don't do the work. I don't know about you. Sometimes I sign up to things, all enthusiastic. Like my new year's resolution was to work out three times a week, and then things get in the way, and I don't do it. And it's a common denominator in all of us, isn't it? There's no point in beating anyone up about not doing their homework. Usually, I'm in the prevention mode of that, because what I'll do is I'll break things down into such small steps for people that it's really easy for them to do the first step. So for example, if I was muzzle training, the first stage would be I want you to pop some treats inside a muscle, or we might even be using something other than a muscle like a flowerpot something that the dogs gonna stick their nose in. And we make it fun and really easy. And I do the first stage. And if I'm trying to create a new habit, in someone, I make that new habit really visible, say they're gonna make coffee five times a day. For me, that's five opportunities when they can do a little bit of that training. So I'll put the item that we want the dogs nose to go in next to the coffeemaker, so they're just reminded to do it. And then they do that first date. And I say, send me a video, in like three days time of how far you've got with the training, I really love to be able to coach you. And then they send me a video. And what I see is that I'm able to push them on to the next stage. And so then I give them the instructions for the next stage. And it will be things like your focus point is and then they do that training for a couple of days. And then they send me another video. So in between my visits, they're succeeding in really tiny steps that leads to a massive success in the long run. And that's how I coach, that's how I love to coach, make it really easy for people to do, make sure that before I leave them on their own to do it, i've checked that understanding. I know that they're fluent in what they're doing. I know they don't need me sat on their shoulder and break it down into really small steps for them.

Michael Shikashio:

It's really interesting. Its a great stradegy you have there.

Clair Hickson:

Thank you.

Michael Shikashio:

So I can sometimes see that there's, I might not have done my job properly, if I don't uncover cognitive biases towards certain things and muzzles can be a significant one where I might not notice there's a little bit of hesitancy for whatever reason, it can be that the misconception is that muscles are cruel, or they're everybody's gonna be staring at the dog. And so I have to uncover and unpack those issues when I'm talking to the client about it at first, because if I miss that, then I go back the second session, and nothing's been done with the muzzle that could be on me, because I didn't uncover what their biases were and explained to them, right, why? What the benefits are for the muzzle and help them understand why we needed in the case. And that could be you know, what's holding them back, and it's not necessarily that they're just not putting in the work. So yeah, little things to unpack, especially the aggression cases, you know, there's a lot because, you know, a lot of misconceptions that can come up and hold clients back from pushing forward. So how about let's do another one, how about about kids and when children are involved, and let's say you go in, and you're worried about the risk, or, we can even replace that with cats, or other animals or other dogs, or it's a serious concern of yours, all kinds of conversations you have at that point, if you're seeing, it's not necessarily a complete safety risk. So obviously, in cases where you're there's imminent danger to another animal or a child, we're gonna be very serious about what we do in those cases, even as far as you can go in to report those to the necessary, folks. But what do you do in cases where you sort of like you're a little bit concerned about the risk, and they're not seeing that? How is your conversation go to help them understand the potential for risks in that case, if they're, again, just not seeing it the way you are?

Clair Hickson:

So lots of education into body language of the dog. And quite often, what I do is I get them to keep a diary for a few days, on certain body language signals from the dog. So they start to look for those lower stress signals, rather than waiting for those real warning signs. And by educating them really heavily into that body language, they can start to see the kind of scenarios that the dog is in with the children or with other things in the house that's causing those lower level stress signals, really getting them to look out for that if there are children in the house, who are not of an age where they can understand how they need to behave around the dog. It's control and management all the way. So it's barriers and segregation all the way. And then I have some lovely book resources that I hand out to my owners witnessed by some colleagues of mine, Joe Heinz, and Wendy Keefer, who have some really good body language books that people can go through with their children. I had a case last summer actually was a little French Bulldog. And every time she tried to go to sleep, the three children in the house would go past and they would touch her and they would pick her up. And so I did a whole session with just the children on dog body language and approach in dogs and like, What is she going to do? If you keep touching her picking her up? And they were quite sensible children. And they range from six up to 10. I said, Well, I think she's gonna keep biting us. And it's like, and what does that mean? Then? We'll we won't be able to keep her. And it's like, do you want to keep her? Yeah, we love her. Yeah, I know, you love her, because you want to touch all the time, and you want to cuddle all the time, but she doesn't like it. So lots of controller management went in. And then there's some really lovely ways that we can get through to children, when they're of an age that they can understand a segregation all the way. And I think I've been really lucky, I've never had a case where I felt I need to report this, because it's that dangerous. So

Michael Shikashio:

What about if the parents are the ones that really, when kids are listening? Maybe it's the parents that are really listening. And so they say, well, Clair, I don't want to put those baby gates up. That's why I bought this house and it's beautiful open floor plan. I don't want to be separating the dog and how do you approach? What's your magic? Because because I really liked how you have that built that line of questioning for children and helps them understand without giving helps kind of bring that information out of them, so they can process it in their own way. Yeah. What do you do with the adults?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, it's really interesting because often you find that it's the parents, it's lack of parenting skills all together. And sometimes you're going in and like really putting foundations in. So really talking to the parents about, like, you know, where does this kind of scenario, where does it show up elsewhere, where you're dealing with your children. But you know, I'm not a parent counselor, not a parent or child counselor. But certainly, again, putting routines and consistency in really helping them create new routines where everybody buys in, can often really help making things easy for them. So you know, when the children are eating, the dog is going to go here, when the children are having a play session, when they're play fighting, and there's going to be lots of screaming, that dog is going to go here. It really just creating, I guess, it's, I'm looking down the more proactive route and the reactive route with them, but trying to make it as easy as I possibly can for them.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, one thing I focused on too, that's worked pretty well for me is to outline the ramifications for what can happen if the dog bites, and kind of go in through that list without saying their dog's gonna do it? I just often reference other cases that I've had. So I'm not saying your dog's gonna do this. If it does, you're in trouble. It's I will reference, Well this other Client I had did, so be wary of what can happen because that dog ended up biting that child. And this is what happened in that case, that helps them have a frame of reference as to what can happen with their dog based on the stories of others.

Clair Hickson:

Yeah, definitely. And I'm not always softly softly. So you know, sometimes I will just say, Look, I'm gonna tell you down the line, this is what's going to happen. It can't happen. we've, got to change something. And I think because, you know, you build that trusting relationship with you, when you get to the point. You know, if all you do get to the point where you have to be tough, that will listen, because you're just in that place of having that great relationship with them. Anyway,

Michael Shikashio:

Talk more about that. So what are some tips and tricks for establishing a credible relationship trusting relationship with a client to begin with, you know, you go in, we sit down, we listen to them, I empathize with them. But let's say there are tough self sell, right? They've got their biases, maybe they're questioning your training methods, maybe they're looking at things that are, they're a little bit skeptical of, what are some things you do to help continue to move them along towards trusting what you have to say to them, especially in the case where children are involved or something where you want to make immediate impacts, Well, we've got to be careful how we tread on that subject, too, because we might further push them away when we're trying to build that trust.

Clair Hickson:

Yeah. So this is a really lovely question. And not an easy one to answer, I should say, because it really does depend on people's personality types. So if you're working with somebody who's very controlling who's like a controller, personality type, the worst thing you can do is be vulnerable, or look like you don't know what you're doing, like, you'll lose credibility straight away. And the same if you're dealing with an analyzer. Whereas if you're dealing with somebody who's like, Oh, yeah, I'm really excited about getting my dog better. And I want to join your program. And where do I sign up, and they're like, really cought on it, but you know, they're going to start something and never finish it. Because that's a pattern in their personality type. You can't be analytical with those type of people. Like they just don't try to get them to write a list or fill out a diary or analyze something, it's just not going to work for them. So it really depends on the personality type of the of the people I'm dealing with, as to kind of how I deal with them throughout the program. I don't know if that answers your question. It's quite complicated.

Michael Shikashio:

It is a complicated question, one we all struggle with as trainers and consultants. And let's touch face on that personality type. You mentioned, it's something I have a very difficult time, you know, determining someone's personality type. Can you talk more about how you do that, or is that something you learned through your careers in the nursing career? Or is it something that you've studied elsewhere or just comes intuitively?

Clair Hickson:

Yeah. And so it comes fairly intuitively to me now, but um, I learned to in a leadership program, so I studied a leadership program, and I learned all about how sometimes we just have to flex the way that we are. And for me, I'm a very analyzing type person, I can analyze everything to death. I like reflecting on things. I think that's why I was able to reflect on what wasn't working well for me with my clients and change things. So it's been to my benefit, but I'm not very good at promoting myself. So when it comes to getting out there and saying, Look, I've got this or whatever, I'm not very good at that. But you know, when I went on to the summit and decided I wanted to launch my course for trainers, I had to, I had to flex into being promotional. So sometimes with different people, you have to be a different person back then you kind of feel like you are naturally. And that can be really difficult, so you kind of have to meet people's styles. Yeah. So I studied personality types in the leadership program that I did, I really got into it, I find it really fascinating. And again, people give you clues in the language that they use.

Michael Shikashio:

You mentioned almost being like a chameleon, we have to adapt and adjust our own the way we're communicating with the client based on them, and match that style. I find myself doing that a lot for sure. Yeah, with my clients, you know, some clients will start swearing and I start swearing with them, they sometimes feel more comfortable use some of the same language, as long as the kids aren't around. Yeah. And I can find that that can build a little bit of rapport as well and use that technique. Not that I'm dropping F bombs on all my clients. But it can happen. In some cases, I think it makes the client feel more comfortable. Alright, so what let's do one more with with now you do a lot of obviously, the reactive cases. So you got a client, they're outside, you take them for their first session. And they are frozen, because they're just so they're almost shut down themselves. They don't want to do any work. They handle leash to us that you do it. And they have a real tough time, and you've set the environment, let's say you've set the bar really well, you've gone to one of the fenced in areas you had mentioned. And there's nothing around, but they are just still frozen. Because they're so concerned, maybe they've been pulled down by their dog and injured or the dog has done something very traumatic in front of them. What do you do there?

Clair Hickson:

Set things up, right, right from the beginning. So yeah, I'll always be in a secure environment when I first meet them. And I'll ask them to leave the dog in the car. And then we're talking about how we're going to get the dog out of the car. So I check what equipment is on the dog right now. And we just create a space, straight out from the car where the dog can have a sniff, there's a mat for them to lie on, there's a bowl for the dog to have some water. And you say you don't have to move anywhere, we're just gonna stay here, we're just gonna watch your dog. It just given them lots of observations of like, what you notice that he's doing, which part of him is taking the environment? And what you say that he is, he looking for things is he sniffing a lot, and getting them watching their dog. And then I just start off with some really simple things that they can do. So building their success really quickly, and I introduce them to the marker, and we kind of go from there, they know they're safe. You know, I'm not putting them in a situation when there's going to be other dogs straightaway. On the first session, we build up to that, the one thing I don't do is I don't take the dog, I do try and coach the owners straight away from the moment they handle that leash. It's the same principle like we're doing with the dogs, I want to reward the behaviors that I like, no, not by shoving chocolates down their throat. But by really highlighting, you know, I loved it, when you just did that. And I loved it, I love that you noticed that he was looking at you. And you spoke to him and told him he was a good boy. And so really rewarding what I do like and then saying on the next girl, and we'll focus is going to be on and it will be on something that they didn't have quite right. But rather than saying you didn't do that, right, it's like our focus is going to be on. And then what I want them to focus on to do it differently. So I use a lot of tagteach in my training, it's I call it a feedback sandwich. So finding something that I love, something that I want to change by what I want to focus on, and then something that I love. And that tends to be how I coach them.

Michael Shikashio:

I like that. I like that. And you mentioned tag teaching for those listeners that aren't aware of that tag teaches where you break it down very simple, five words or less for particular, things such as hand to left hip, if we're giving a client instructions on what to do with their left hand. And it's so, so useful. And it's the same thing we're doing for dogs. As you mentioned, we're setting the environment up for success. So that way, we're not pushing the dog or the client over threshold. And it's gonna be such a powerful thing for clients to experience that. In cases. One thing I've also done with a lot of my clients is if they're afraid of handling the leash themselves, I put on a second leash, and it can be like slightly longer one, and either I'm handling the dog at first and they're holding the other leash or vice versa. They're holding a longer leash, just so they can feel like Alright, I've got the leash on my dog and my hands again. But Mike's got it under control. And now let's just follow Mike around. So it helps, sort of like put the training wheels on. And then you can eventually remove the training wheels. I found that particular to me for the least reactive cases, especially if somebody has been again pulled off or something really bad. Yeah. So Claire, tell us more where people can find you, find more about you. Tell us about your upcoming course as well.

Clair Hickson:

So the course I've learned is called the missing piece, as you say. And it's specifically designed for trainers and behaviorists who want to learn more about the people side of things. So it's designed for those people out there who maybe are frustrated with people who can't understand why people aren't doing the work. So some of those things that we've talked about, who may be struggling to get people to buy into what they're giving what they're selling anyway. So we go right from that first call with someone how to meet them where they are, and how to buy into your program, or to working with you, all the way through to coaching and monitoring people through from session to session. So it's specifically designed for those trainers, and it launches three times a year, so January, May, and September. So the next launch will be May. And the best way that people can get access to information about when the next launch is, is to just sign up to my mailing list. And they will get all the information that the course is coming up and what it consists of. There'll be some webinars as we come up to the next launch where people can make contact with me. So if they're on the mailing list, I've got all the information about the webinars, and they can also follow me The Missing Peace for Dogs on Facebook. So facebook.com/TheMissingPeaceforDogs. And I'm in there most days, I'm sharing my experiences and what's coming up for me with some of my cases. So that Yeah, they can follow me there as well.

Michael Shikashio:

Wonderful, and I'll put a link to all of those in the show notes for anybody interested. And it is the missing piece again, p, e, a, c, e, a little play on words there. Clair, thank you so much. This was wonderful, great to talk to you about the human side of the leash in these cases. It was wonderful having you on and I hope you can come back soon. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.