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Traci Madson Interview (Part 2): Seeing the Negatives Results of Aversives & Training Dogs with Cooperation | Pupford

August 31st, 2023

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Traci Madson is a CPDT-KA dog trainer who also holds memberships and certifications in aggression training and is an AKC evaluator. She has been training dogs for over 15 years.

Traci is the lead trainer for the Potty Training Course and Barking Solutions, both part of the Pupford Academy.

In this episode, we dive deeper into why Traci stopped using aversive methods and the types of methods she uses now.

If you haven't watched or listened to Part 1, you can do so here.

Learn more about Traci and reach out to her on her website: https://threelittlepits.com/

Podcast Episode of Traci Madson Interview (Part 2)

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Full Transcript of Traci Madson Interview (Part 2)

Devin Stagg:
Hello everybody, and welcome to today's episode of the Perfect Pup Podcast. We are super lucky to have Traci Madson back here again for part two of our interview with her. As soon as we finished part one... Well, it was originally just going to be the interview. And then we both kind of had the realization of there's more we need to cover. There's other points that we need to talk about. So we're super excited to have Traci back on here. So thanks for coming back on again, Traci.

Traci Madson:
Thanks for having me.

Devin Stagg:
So, let's get right to it. If you didn't listen to part one, I would recommend going back and listening to that before you listen to this episode, just because there's some
names of dogs and kind of situations that you'll want to get caught up on, but just a real quick overview, we kind of chronicled Traci's journey of being a more quote, unquote old school trainer, and then getting involved with some of the Victory Rescue Dog and kind of turning more to that positive reinforcement side of things and learning how to deal with anxious and shy and stressed dogs. And we really kind of wanted to continue there and just give a few more examples as to what Traci's experience was with certain types of dogs and how you can use Traci's experience and then her situations that she ran into to hopefully improve your relationship with your dogs. So we'll head right to it. We'll get right into it, if you're ready for that, Traci.

Traci Madson:
Yeah.

Devin Stagg:
Okay. So... Yeah. Let's start off. Sorry. Let's start off just with, and I'll be checking some notes from time to time for those who are watching on video, but you had down here the last time you ever used a shock collar, because I think that's one of the biggest things we get in the community is people advocating for shock collars and saying this and that reason as to why. So what was your experience as to why it was the last time you ever used one?

Traci Madson:
Yeah. So when I got Tacoma, and before I got Halle and started working with Sky... Pitbulls were originally bred to hunts voles and gophers and stuff like that. So I would take Tacoma to work with me, and there was a big empty field next to where I worked, and I would let him out there to go potty. But he wouldn't come back when I called in, and he wouldn't leave it. So I was still at that time doing my old school methods, and I thought he's got to listen to me. I taught him come, I
taught my dog leave it, but chasing the gophers was overpowering... That was more rewarding for him than listening.

Traci Madson:
So at that time, I had not used the shock collar for a couple of years. Luckily with my shepherd, I didn't really have to use it on him a lot because he learned so quickly. And so as soon as I didn't have to use it with him, I didn't. But I went back to a friend and fellow trainer and I said, "I need to use this with Tacoma for recall and leave it, and I just want to make sure I'm doing it right and that my timing's right." So she helped me. I put it on him, and [inaudible 00:03:20] time he went out to sniff and go potty and started hunting, I bumped him. I use the word bump because I hate to use the word shock. But I shocked him, but I had it on the very lowest setting, so I had it on a one, and he yelped, and I watched a 65 pound pitbull shut down. He totally shut down. He ran to the building, he sat, and he trembled. And it was two to three weeks before I could get him to go back to that area to go potty.

Traci Madson:
When I talk [inaudible 00:03:53] about these associations, he associated that area with feeling that pain, so he didn't want to go back there and walk around and go potty. So it was two to three weeks of putting him on a leash, coaxing him with leftover pizza. The damage that I did just from one shock took like three weeks of me getting him comfortable to go in that area again. And so that was one and only time he ever had a shock collar on. And just seeing that [inaudible 00:04:30] supposed to be pretty tenacious, and watching my own dog shut down like that, it's like I'm never using one of these things again. So then when I started working with Sky, then I understood the whole how dogs learn by association and why using aversives can have side effects. I saw it firsthand with my own dog.

Related Reading: How to Socialize an Adult Dog

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. I think that's a great point. There's a lot of instances where I've heard of as well where just the fact that your dog knows that you're the one who's producing that shock makes their dog have a negative association with you as the human. And when we talk about training, we talk about communication,
we talk about being able to have a relationship with our dogs so that they do listen to us, if they see you and have a negative association with you, it's almost impossible that they're going to want to come to you when you call them or they're going to want to even listen to you at all.

Traci Madson:
Right. And that's why we don't use kneeing them in the chest when they jumped. That was a [inaudible 00:05:32] we'd knee them or step on their back feet or people that use squirt bottles or shaker cans, if dog knows that comes from you, then it just damages your relationship with your dog.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. And I think what's so interesting too about your situation with Tacoma is it really can just take one instance, and that's what's so... There are so many people who still want to advocate for shock collars and have the reasoning or say, "Oh, it was on the lowest setting." But I think the really tough part about that, especially with people who are getting rescues is you just don't know how your dog's going to respond. And if they are a little more sensitive or they're a little bit more spooked by it, like you said, it can be weeks or months for you to kind of overcome that. So yeah, it's a super interesting story. And then you had a point here as well in our kind of show notes of you said you had a friend slash fellow trainer who used alpha rolls, and then what was the situation there that happened?

Traci Madson:
Yeah, so she was one of my original trainers when I got involved in search and rescue, and she's the one that explained to me what an alpha role was. And then a little bit later she said in the beginning she alpha rolled one of her German Shepherd, and she says, "It damaged our relationship so much that it took over a month for that dog to trust me again." And again, we're working with, I call them harder dogs, but dogs that can take corrections and things like that. And these are [inaudible 00:07:14] dogs that will work and work and work, and then one alpha roll just really damaged that relationship. And to do search and rescue, you have to have a good communication and a good rapport with your dog. And yeah, she explained to me how it just took a long time for her to be able to get that trust and that relationship back.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. I think those two stories, that's just the main point, right? Is that we take so much time and effort to training our dogs and to improving the communication and the relationship, and every time... I've even seen it with myself, right? Anytime I get upset because sometimes you're just stressed out, and you yell at your dog or whatever. And you see them kind of get a little scared, and you have to just... You basically take steps back every time that you use any type of aversive method with your dog. So it's so... Yeah. It's such good reason to stay on those positive methods.

Related Reading: Why Is My Dog Scared of Other Dogs?

Devin Stagg:
And on this note, if you are someone who's listening to this episode or the previous episode, I think the big point we wanted to make by doing this interview and having Traci talk about her history of using old school is just to show that our goal, and I think most good trainers out there and most good people in general, they're not looking at you wanting to judge you. They're just looking at you and saying, "Maybe there's more you can learn." Right? I don't know. What are your thoughts on that? Because I'm sure, like we've talked a little bit, you still get people who want to use the old school methods. How do you approach that as a positive reinforcement trainer when those instances pop up?

Traci Madson:
Well, the first thing I do is I tell people when I applied to adopt Tacoma, I went down to meet him. And I had a choke collar on my German Shepherd, and they never said one negative thing to me. They didn't judge me. They didn't say, "Oh, you can't have this dog because you use choke collars." And even when I met Sky, before I met Sky and knew what positive reinforcement training was, I think I had a harness [inaudible 00:09:31] because she was a flight risk. I don't know. I don't recall her I'm ever having a choke collar. But the way she approached it with me was more educating me rather than judging me. Like, "Oh, you can't have that on your dog." She never said that. She said, "Here's the reason we do this." And so I have some clients that show up and they have prong collars on their dogs or choke collars. So I just kind of explain to them any time you cause pain or fear in a dog, there are side effects that can happen, and here is a better way or a kinder way to do this that's going to help build the relationship you have with your dog rather than using punishments.

Devin Stagg:
Right. Well-

Traci Madson:
[inaudible 00:10:21]

Devin Stagg:
Yeah.

Traci Madson:
The way they treat [inaudible 00:10:25]

Devin Stagg:
And I think a big reason... Off-camera Traci and I were having a conversation just about, so if you're not in our private Facebook community for the 30 Day Perfect Pup Class, we have over 30,000 people in there, so there's a lot of varying opinions, people from different countries, just different cultures, everything, right? And so we try our best to cultivate that culture of, "Hey, this is why you can try these methods and it might be better." I think it's like anything in life, right? Where I know Traci, you play the guitar, and I've played guitar too, it's like if you were always trying to do something a certain way, and then someone came in and said, "Oh, you can use a capo. This is going to help you, and this is why." They're not saying, "Oh, you're so dumb for not using this." It's more of, "Hey, this is something you can use to improve how you play guitar. Check it out. Try it for yourself." And then you try it, and then you're like, oh, wow, this is great. I'm going to continue using this.

Traci Madson:
Yeah. I'll reiterate something I said on the last one. One of my good friends who's also trainer said, "You do the best with the information you have." And that's kind of how I approach every client because I was once them. Maybe they don't know a better way. So it's like when I show people how to use a front clip harness, they're like, "Oh my gosh, I had no idea that even existed."

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. No, it's true.

Traci Madson:
Yeah. It's just kind of [inaudible 00:11:50]

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. I like it. Let's kind of transition to a similar topic, but a little bit different, more on how... You have a couple of notes on here with getting Halle out of the crate for the first time and then just low stress handling. Can you talk a little bit more about the steps you can take, especially if you've got a rescue who maybe came from abuse or neglect or those types of things? What's the best way, or what are the ways that you've used to really, I don't want to say quickly because it takes time, but too work at improving your dog's trust in you and helping them come out of their shell?

Traci Madson:
Right. So when I first brought Halle home, she was afraid of riding in a vehicle, so I'd put her in a crate because she would actually climb over the seat and try to get underneath my legs. And then one time she leaned on the brake when we were going 60 and-

Devin Stagg:
Oh jeez.

Traci Madson:
So I put her in the crate, and when we got home from Best Friends, she didn't want to have to come out. And I thought, okay, so we're going to have to have this trust here, and I'm not going to hurt you. I tried luring her out with treats. I could have just reached in and grabbed her and pulled her out, but I didn't want to scare her. But yeah, there had to be a little bit of trust there in how I just gently put her in and pet her, calmed her down, and then kind of just picked her up and brought her out of the crate. But working with dogs, I had a dog named Piglet who was a little pocket pittie. He was a little pit mix. And he had definitely had some abuse, and we couldn't clip his nails, we couldn't clean his ears. He would literally start biting. So that's how I kind of started to get into this whole low stress handling and cooperative care. It's having the dog assist in their care, because if they're assisting, and if you give them the right to say yes or no, then they're more likely to [inaudible 00:14:03] okay, well I can stop if I'm not comfortable. It's kind of like when you go to the dentist, and the dentist says, "Well, if you feel anything, raise your hand and I'll stop."

Traci Madson:
So we teach that to dogs. There's some really good videos out there. So we actually teach a dog a stop and a go, and you can either do a chin rest, or you can have them look at a bucket of treats. So they have a go, and then you start just gently handling them, and the minute they take their chin away or look away, then you stop. So they contribute to their own care. And it does take time. I would take Piglet's paw, treat, grab his paw, treat, touch his ears, treat. The second he did a lip curl or moved away, I would stop. So I use this a lot now with Chihuahuas that bite, that don't like their nails trimmed or anything like this, and it's so amazing how it works when you give dogs the agency, and they can opt out when they're not comfortable. Then they're like, "Oh, okay. So let's try this again. You stop when I'm not comfortable, so I trust you.

Devin Stagg:
So in those instances, specifically with Piglet where you were saying you'd touch his ear, and maybe it'd be okay, and then you'd go closer in his ear, and then he'd made me move away, and you'd take a break. In that case, how quickly would you come back, or would you maybe give it... You would wait a full day? Are you waiting a few minutes? How do you approach that for listeners who are maybe experiencing this at home?

Traci Madson:
Yeah. So I'll usually only work on this for five or 10 minutes with them. I would let him decide, so if he would come back and went into a ching rest, because that was my go for him, is we did a chin rest. So he was resting his chin, and then I'd start touching his ears, and then he'd back off. If he would just leave, then it's like, okay, we're done for today. And if he would come back and want to do a chin rest, then it's like he's ready to do a little bit more. And this is a dog that when I first brought him home, I went to pet him, and when I got down to his tail area, he turned around and tried to bite. And it turns out, we found out after with x-rays, he had a break in his back that had healed weird, so he always had back problems. And we're thinking that he'd probably been kicked or abused to have a break like that. So he was really scared of people handling him. Taking him to the vet was a nightmare.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah.

Traci Madson:
But we did get him to the point where I could hold him, chin rest, we would give him his vaccines, start to do... And honestly, sometimes I could dremel one nail a day. That's all we did. If we did one nail, and then he needed a break, we'd take a break.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. And I think that's a point we talked about it a little bit in the last interview of, I think a lot of times us as pup parents, the people raising dogs, whatever you want to call us, we as humans, we have a little bit higher level of logical reasoning, and in our minds we want to say, "Okay, well I need to cut all of my dog's nails today. This is what needs to happen. This is the end result that I need." And I think we forget that sometimes we can't do it on our own timetable. It's not our... Like you said, you have to let the dog kind of in a lot of instances dictate what they're comfortable with, how they're going to accomplish things.

Devin Stagg:
And then even outside of the shy and fearful thing, it's a point I like to just reiterate whenever I do these lives or interviews is there is no timetable for how fast your dog is going to learn a behavior. Every dog is different. Every dog experiences things different. Even for myself, I have two labs that came from the same mom and dad, and one of them has a
perfect recall, no matter what the situation is, and the other one is like... It seems like she doesn't hear us at all. You know what I mean? And they have the same upbringing, we've done mostly the same training with them, it's just every dog is different, and you have to approach them on their own terms, in a sense, and kind of play to their, I don't want to say strengths and weaknesses, but just to who they are as a dog.

Traci Madson:
Exactly. And it's kind of like people. If you met my brother and I, we are total opposites. My mom is a twin, and she's very different from her twin. So it's like people, you have to treat dogs as individuals, and they all learn different. My dog Daphne, she's a pit mix as well, and it took me over a month to teach her a down. She just didn't understand it. So we had to come up with like a different [inaudible 00:19:07] way to try and get her down rather than just pushing her butt down and pulling her down because she wouldn't have learned that way.

Devin Stagg:
Right. Yeah. Super interesting. Another point that you... Is there anything else you want to cover on the low stress handling slash cooperative care? Any other points you want to make on that?

Traci Madson:
Well, if you go to YouTube, I always love watching these YouTube videos because they actually use these in zoos now. So instead of going in and darting an animal and tranquilizing them, they can shape, and they teach animals how to participate in their care. So you can see like tigers and animals that would normally bite come up and lift up their neck for a blood draw, and it's all done through shaping and treats and stuff like that. And so they don't have to stress them out, they don't have to tranquilize them. They just teach them how to... They'll teach them how to put their paw up so they can look at their feet or [inaudible 00:20:13] or whatever. I'm sure you can Google a lot. I see a lot in seminars, but I'm sure they're on YouTube. Just watching them teach the animals how to participate in their own care, it's amazing. It's so cool

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. I'll try and find some videos, and offline we can maybe find a couple and I can put them in the link or in the show notes for this episode. What you were just saying too got me thinking on just what people call quote, unquote, the laws of learning, right? That when you can understand conceptually how dogs learn and how their brains are functioning on a day to day basis, it makes it a lot easier to get involved with that. And offline Traci and I were talking about the book you can see on the background of my screen if you're watching on the video called The Culture Clash, and I think that book does a great job of talking about really just breaking down the laws of learning. And your dog sees something running, and their instinct is to go after it, and when they get it, it is a reinforcement. I don't know, that's just a small example, but I highly recommend that book. I'll put a link for The Culture Clash as well on Amazon to check it out because even if you're not wanting to become a quote, unquote dog trainer, if you're just looking to raise a puppy, I think it's a great kickoff point along with the 30 day Perfect Pup class that we have and so many other resources. That Culture Clash book is a great way to understand the laws of learning and how dogs learn from us.

Traci Madson:
Oh yeah. That's great. We all had to read that before we took our test. I think I've read that like two or three times, but it's great. Another really good one for people that don't necessarily want to be a trainer is called Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor because that goes into some of those same things on how dogs learn and how punishment works, things like that.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. I'll be sure to include both of those books as a resource in the show notes. Maybe one of the kind of last points that we want to cover here, one of the final points you had in our agenda, almost you could call it, was a working with feral dogs and how you're going about it differently. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Traci Madson:
Yeah. Before I get to that, there's a dog that I'm working with right now. So one of my really good friends texts me, and she says, "Do you think you could come in and trim my dog nails?" Now she's got a 80 or 90 pound Malamute, and when they go to the vet, they have to
muzzle the dog, the dog is screaming. And I said, sure. Then a few hours later, she says, "Nevermind. I'm too nervous. I don't want you to get bit." And I said, "Well, I'm going to come over anyway because I'm going to give you two homework assignments." And one of them was, all I did was I showed him the clippers, treat, and then they both went behind my back. And when I first got out the clippers, she's like, "If you just show him the clippers, he's going to freak out." But he did it because it's like the scary thing predicts the really good treat, and then they both go away. And her dogs love the [inaudible 00:23:34] salmon treats, by the way. That's what I was using for that high value dog treat.

Devin Stagg:
That's awesome.

Traci Madson:
And so we did that, and then I got to the point where he could sniff it, and then I'd give a treat. So just so people know it's not going to happen in one day, you have to go really slowly. And then I was actually picking up his paw, not getting bit, he's not [inaudible 00:23:56] giving him a treat, and then letting his paw go. So we haven't got to the point yet of actually trying to clip nails because those are the two things that I wanted... Oh, and then I taught him a chin rest. So I said in the next week, I want you to show him the clippers, treat, and then they both go away, and then clippers, treat, they both go away. And then I want you to start working on a chin rest because that's going to be his go sign, and then when he moves his chin it stops. So stay tuned. I'll let you know how that goes.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah, no, I love that. It's interesting.

Traci Madson:
We use the same thing with the feral dogs. So just to let you know how long it takes, we have three dogs right now at the rescue that I work with, and we've had them for over six months. And it was just this week that we finally got one to walk on leash. And this week they finally all three we're able to do a playgroup because one of them wouldn't even leave his kennel. So instead of putting a leash on and dragging him and forcing him, we have do it really slowly. And at first it was the same thing. Here's a collar, here's a treat, I'm going to put the collar away. Here's a treat, and then I'd put the collar over my hand so he'd have to get closer to it to take the treat until we could just slip it over, take it off. So this can take months with these dogs, but just being able to see them play for the first time. I did bring Jade, for any of you that have seen the barking or the potty training. Oh, it's potty training that you'll meet Jade.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. Yep.

Traci Madson:
She [inaudible 00:25:48] a hand at work to teach these dogs how to play. They were doing great. They were walking around sniffing, but they don't know how to play. So she kind of taught them how to play, which was really fun to see these dogs running for the first time and playing ball. And then when we finally got one out on an actual walk, and this was a dog that six months ago would sit in the corner and tremble, and we couldn't even touch him, let alone put a leash on and take him for a walk.

Traci Madson:
And we do the same thing with vet care. So I had a Chihuahua in my arms, and I'm like, "Oh, you need to nail trim." And they're like, "Oh, don't try and do it. He'll bite." And they said, "If you're going to do it, muzzle him." Well, I thought, I don't want to stress him out. And right now he's trusting me, so I just got the nail clippers, did the same thing, and we did one nail at a time, I gave him a break, one nail at a time, gave him a break. And no muzzle, it's just going really slow, going at his speed, kind of learning how to read body language so that I could tell when he was getting stressed. But you will gain such a... There's such a level of satisfaction and also the bond that you create with your dog if you go slowly and build that trust and do it at their comfort level, especially the shy, fearful dog, it's going to go so far. But it's so rewarding at the same time.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah. I really liked that. I know we talked about this last episode, and it's just, again, remembering that it might take a long time, you're going to have to be patient, but like you're saying, the payoff that you're going to get, not just for you, but for your dog to know that they're comfortable, to know that they're gaining confidence and are a happier dog, there's nothing really else like it. And you know much better than I do, but just seeing the progress in your dog is such a powerful experience.

Traci Madson:
It is. There's one dog there, and I'll kind of tell on myself. I pushed him a little bit too far. We did the slow harness thing, but I probably went a little bit faster with him than I should have. And so for like a month, when he saw me coming, he would run. It's like, oh no, there's the lady that put the harness on me. So it took a while for him to come back up and take treats from me. So it just goes to show how when you do anything aversive to a dog, how that can really affect their relationship, and it can... Two minutes of me being impatient and being like, okay, we really want to go for a walk today, and you're doing so good, so I'm going to put this on you, and then it took like a month for him to trust me again to where he'd come up and take treats and realized that I'm not going to do anything bad, I'm not going to put anything on you. So you really do have to go at the dog's pace.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah, no, I liked that a lot. I think this episode, I'm really glad we did this kind of follow up of the previous because I think it was really good in part one to kind of tell your story and some of the history of those dogs, and then this part two to help people understand how they can approach their shy or fearful dogs or if they end up around other dogs like that. So yeah, I think this is awesome. I think people really enjoy this. And like you said, I think those main points above all, it's just to remember to I think be patient with yourself as well just because like you said, you've been training dogs for 15 plus years, and you had an instance where you maybe went a little bit too fast and it's like-

Traci Madson:
Yep.

Devin Stagg:
You got to patient with yourself, you got to be patient with the dog. I think for me, as I have three dogs now, and I think if there's one trait that they've taught me more than anything else, it's to be patient, to be patient with myself, to be patient with them, be patient with other pup parents around me who maybe have a different level of understanding on certain topics or don't see eye to eye with how I approach training. I think it's just important for all of us to remember to be patient with ourselves, be patient with our dogs, and all the dogs and humans around us, honestly. I know that's a little more philosophical, right? But just being patient with the people around us is so important.

Traci Madson:
Exactly. I get that kind of comment all the time, it's like, "Well, my neighbor can just take their dog off leash, and I can't." And you can't judge yourself, you can't compare yourself with your neighbors or other dogs because, again, you don't know what your dog's background was, especially with a rescue, so sometimes you do have to go a little bit slower with them.

Devin Stagg:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So true. Well, Traci, is there anything else you want to add for this part two just on these topics we've covered?

Traci Madson:
I don't think so. There's a really good site, I think it's called fearfree.com. And it talks about cooperative care, low stress handling. It's all about fear free working with your dog. We can put a link to that as well. But, yeah. I think we've covered it. Thanks for having me back.

Devin Stagg:
Yeah, of course. I'm happy to do this. And I think in the future we'll probably do some more topic specific interviews as well, just to kind of go down some different topics that we think are important. But thanks again, Traci, for coming on and thanks everybody for listening. We'll do some compiling on our end and try to include as many of these resources that we talked about, some of the books, some of the websites, all those different things, some videos to help you guys if you're having any issues with shy or fearful dogs and how to improve your bond with them. So thanks again, Traci. And thanks everyone for listening, and we will catch you guys on the next episode.

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