Guest: Erin Moore
Erin is based in Canada and has been in the dog industry for over 15 years in different capacities. From dog walking to running a large, successful training facility and teaching classes 6 days a week – which led to her burning out and needing to shift gears, and then to her current specialty in helping professional dog trainers, especially female dog trainers, make BOTH a living and a difference in the world through her business coaching services.
In this episode we discuss:
- What inspired Erin’s TikTok.
- What advocating for our dogs even means.
- Why does it matter?
- What gets in the way?
- How does trauma affect our ability to advocate?
- What societal factors may be in play?
- How can we support ourselves and each other?
This podcast is supported by: Karen Pryor Clicker Training’s Brand-New On Cue! Training Treats
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Erin Moore: . [00:00:00] So, you know, understanding that yeah, people make mistakes, people are not perfect, people are gonna fuck up. And the biggest piece I think that helps with advocacy is understanding that the world isn’t fair.
Hannah Branigan: I don’t accept that.
Erin Moore: [laughter]
Hannah Branigan: I really don’t like that!
Hannah Branigan: Hey there, fellow training nerds! You’re listening to Drinking From the Toilet and I’m your host, Hannah Branigan: teacher, trainer, podcaster and author of the book Awesome Obedience and its companion, Awesome Obedience: The Field Guide, both of which you can pick up right now from clickertraining.com.
Yes, my voice sounds basically terrible right now. This is actually a lot better. I’ve been sick [00:01:00] for pretty much since Thanksgiving, but I am actually doing much better, so don’t worry. But I am also gonna keep this intro shorter than usual.
This episode is brought to you by On Cue! Training treats from Karen Pryor Clicker Training and awesome folks like Marie A for supporting the podcast on Patreon. If you’d like to join the Patreon party, support this podcast, get your questions answered, and get access to our super secret extra podcast episodes, go to patreon.com/DFTT.
This week we’re talking about what it means to advocate for your dog and how we can help clients and ourselves do that very important thing.
So Erin is based in Canada and has been in the dog industry for over 15 years in different capacities from dog walking to running a large successful training facility and teaching classes six days a week, which led to her burning out and needing to shift gears. And then [00:02:00] to her current specialty in helping professional dog trainers, especially female dog trainers, make both a living and a difference in the world through her business coaching services.
I think a lot of us are very familiar with the experience of burnout, particularly in last several years, and very few of us got into the animal behavior industry because we were particularly skilled business administration or taking care of ourselves. Most of us are here because we loved animals and we’re passionate about helping them live better lives. And because you’re listening to this podcast, I know that like me, you are also passionate about making the world a better place through the science of behavior.
I’ve enjoyed bantering with Erin online, mainly on Facebook I think, because I enjoy her dark and twisted sense of humor, and because I like her content. I do feel strongly that we can do a better job at helping more dogs and their people if we take the time to deal with our own shit and don’t completely destroy ourselves. In theory at least. [00:03:00]
Another thing that I’m pretty intense about is applying what we already know about training and behavior and positive reinforcement to the human side of the equation, even though that is kind of complicated at times. Almost as terrifying as applying it to ourselves, haha.
So this conversation was inspired by a TikTok that Erin did about helping owners learn to advocate for their dogs. I’m gonna try to insert the audio from that TikTok right here so you can hear for yourself.
Erin Moore: I see a lot of posts and a lot of conversations from trainers around how clients need to learn how to advocate for their dogs. And it’s true. There are a lot of situations that dogs need advocating in. But as a trainer, do you know what is stopping your client from advocating? Do you know whether it’s societal conditioning, whether it’s their own view of themselves, whether they have some kind of trauma in their past that’s stopping them from being able to do that, and do you know how to help them learn how to do that? Because it’s not as simple or as easy as saying, [00:04:00] “Hey, learn to advocate for your dogs.”
There are a lot of people who need some serious work and some serious unpacking of stuff and some serious unlearning and relearning of stuff before they’re able to. Do you know how to recognize that? Do you know how to have that conversation with your clients? Do you know how to refer them to somebody who can help them when you can’t help them learn how to advocate for their dog?
Hannah Branigan: So I’m gonna cut right to the conversation from here, but I did want to include a Content Warning and a little bit of a disclaimer first.
Content Warning because we do talk about trauma and rape culture, and then also issues with race because those are really important factors that directly affect, well, this topic and the human’s ability to advocate for the dogs, which is what the topic is. But I also want to acknowledge that we are two relatively privileged white women trying to talk about race, which automatically means, you know, of course we’re affected by our own unconscious bias. And so there’s a lot of nuance to the experience [00:05:00] that people of color have in the dog world that we just aren’t aware of. I’m gonna try to find some resources and link to those in the show notes so you can hear from more qualified sources on that. In meantime, here’s that conversation.
Hannah Branigan: Hey Erin, thanks for coming to hang out with me today.
Erin Moore: Hey, I’m super excited to be here. I’m fangirling a little bit too!
Hannah Branigan: This conversation was almost entirely inspired by a TikTok that I saw that you posted relatively recently (times is a construct) about the importance of advocating for your dog, but also about some of the complications that may kind of surround that idea.
And I’d love to know, one, what you think of when conversations around the importance of advocating for your dog– what do we mean by that? And also, I didn’t tell you this before we hit record, but I’d really be interested in hearing what inspired your [00:06:00] TikTok that inspired this conversation.
Erin Moore: I’ll start with the second question then. What inspired my TikTok is my own trauma and my own… like even understanding how important advocacy is and what I want it to look like. And then if I’m in a situation where my shit is being triggered, I’m freezing and I’m not able to say anything and I’m not able to stand up for myself or my dog, and then the shame I feel after that is so big. And so every time I see trainers in particular talking about, “you just need to advocate for your dog,” I’m like, “It’s not that fucking easy!” Even though I understood that yes, it’s important. I just had a day with my own dog where our walk was just a fucking disaster. And I saw a comment on or a discussion online about it, and I was like, “Hmm, BUT–”
Hannah Branigan: What do you think we mean when we’re talking about advocating for our dogs?
Erin Moore: I think it’s [00:07:00] really important to recognize that so many people mean so many different things and that’s part of the problem too. Right? And so for me, when I think about advocacy, it’s about controlling people’s access to my dog, controlling the environment to the best of my ability. I mean, we can’t always control things. The world would be so much better if we could just control everything we wanted, but that’s not how it works. And so controlling the environment for our dogs as much as possible, whether that means not letting people come up, not letting dogs come up, not letting vets handle them in a way we don’t like, that they don’t like – anything that really involves the environment that’s going to impact my dog’s emotional state.
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. And how do you often see that being discussed in training circles?
Erin Moore: I see being discussed as from the point of how important it is, which it is. It’s hugely important for so many different things for a dog, and training, and our relationship with them. But I see it coming from the standpoint of “You just need to [00:08:00] do this” without a lot of conversation about how and without a lot of understanding – or at least not a lot of understanding being shown in the conversations – around the very real barriers that show up for us as dog owners and being able to advocate. There’s this, “Well, you should just do it” instead of “Okay, but there’s also all of this other shit that gets in the way of you being able to do that.” And then that ends up being frustrating for everybody.
Hannah Branigan: Do you think part of the problem is that we accidentally create something of a dichotomy of like “These are the things that Good Dog Owners, Good Dog Trainers do. And then these are the lists of things that Bad Dog Owners, Bad Dog Trainers do.” And the advocating aspect is like it’s a one of the other, you either do it or you don’t. And if you do it, you do it all of the time perfectly and are therefore a Good Dog Owner. And if [00:09:00] you don’t, then you are a Bad Dog Owner.
Erin Moore: There’s no gray area there. Which is so true to most things in the dog training world. People have a really hard time finding gray, myself included, like the gray area. Like I see the world in a very black or white kind of way. Thanks, trauma brain. And it sucks.
Hannah Branigan: I was gonna say, mine is not limited to dog training!
[mutual laughter, overlapping conversation]
Erin Moore: But that gray area is really hard to find because my brain’s like, but I need it to be either this or this, because then it makes sense. And so I think for a lot of dog trainers, that mentality exists. I also think for a lot of us, we project our own shit onto it, right? We project our own “Well I want to be able to do this, and that will mean I’m a good dog trainer/person.” And so we project that into that good and bad that you were talking about.
Hannah Branigan: All I’m trying to do is be perfect enough so that I can be worthy and be accepted, of course.
Erin Moore: And never make a mistake ever and have everybody love me all the time.
Hannah Branigan: Of course. That’s right. Because I’m only as good as my last [00:10:00] mistake.
So when I hear– oh, let’s talk about our own shit. When I hear conversations around “you should advocate for your dog,” first of all, I think I said this right before we hit record, it’s interesting to me because most days I identify more as a dog owner than a dog trainer, which I don’t have a good explanation for. But that’s just kind of where I frequently land. But also what I’m hearing when I’m listening to these conversations– And a lot of times I think you’re right. I think we can mean different things because it’s just like, “advocating for your dog, duh.” Like “Well, obviously you should advocate for your dog if you care, if you’re not an idiot.” And the– well, I was gonna say “implied,” but actually it’s not always implied. Sometimes it’s directly stated.
And what I often hear, or what I think of, which are mainly my failures, are me [00:11:00] confrontationally standing up to other humans on behalf of my dog. And the ones that pop to my mind as the most upsetting for me are often in a veterinary setting, are often out-and-about with unfamiliar people, and I’m usually alone. So I can certainly think of so many super-cringey– Like I keep a log of all of the times that I’ve failed my dog and I like to review that on a daily basis.
But I can think of times when I’m on a walk and a random stranger (often a man, but not always) comes up and wants to pet my dog and/or talk to me. And part of me knows that I should say something [00:12:00] or do something. And probably some of the time I have, but I don’t put those in the log. What I put in the log are the times that I haven’t.
Or I can think of a time that I took my dog to the vet – actually the one that’s in the top of my head that I like to view the most was an emergency vet situation. And they took my dog in the back and I didn’t want her to go in the back, and I knew she shouldn’t go in the back. But the whole authority thing got to me and I let it happen and as it was happening, I was having an out body experience. So I was pre-criticizing and shaming myself over it.
Here’s another one: taking training advice from people that I know don’t know me and don’t know my dog. But I feel like instead of saying, “Hey, no, I actually know what we’re doing and I’ve got it,” I feel compelled to do the thing that they’re suggesting in the moment.
So all of the ones that come up for me are situations where my [00:13:00] challenges with social anxiety, my challenges with standing up and advocating for myself, because I’m not particularly good at advocating for myself in a medical– well actually I have zero on that one in a medical setting.
Erin Moore: It’s hard!
Hannah Branigan: I’m super conflict avoidant, so I’m gonna work very, very hard and sacrifice myself like pretty much every time. If there’s a way to minimize, reduce, avoid what I perceive as a confrontation. I will never send food back at a restaurant. I will eat whatever is served to me.
Erin Moore: I will eat raw fucking chicken. Yep. And I think it’s really important to recognize that that’s not just a you thing. Like that’s not just, “Gee, Hannah, look how broken you are.” That’s like a real like quote unquote “normal” thing for a lot of people to experience.
Hannah Branigan: [00:14:00] Do you think– So one of the things that I was worrying about– that was a Freudian slip. One of the things that I was wondering about yesterday when I was preparing for our conversation is, I was wondering if maybe my definition of advocating is unnecessarily limiting because I actually do– And I love that your explanation included managing the dog’s experience, because that’s a much more zoomed out– It does not necessarily include confronting other people, which requires me to suddenly be someone else, right? And not that I haven’t spent decades in therapy trying to nudge myself further up the spectrum there. But I do actually put a lot of thought and effort into managing my dog’s environment and their experience. So maybe I could get a little credit. Could you reassure me on this? Could I get a little bit of credit for those things maybe?
Erin Moore: For all the things you are doing? Yeah! You know what came to mind, and I [00:15:00] hadn’t thought about this before we started our call, but as you’re talking about that, the term advocacy – and this is for so much in our world and in the dog training world. So many of the terms relate to how men are conditioned to show up in the world and what’s safe and okay for them to do. And that that’s what came to mind as I was listening to you talk about advocacy. So if what we mean by advocacy is verbal confrontation, then that works really well for how a lot of men are conditioned to be in the world. Not so much for the rest of us. Or let me say, cis/het white men. No so much for the rest of us.
Hannah Branigan: Oh my God, you just caught me in some internalized misogyny. Oh, I didn’t even see that.
Erin Moore: I hate when that happens! It’s like, “Fuck! Now I’ve gotta go challenge my fucking thinking.”
Hannah Branigan: I’m really uncomfortable. You’re right!
Erin Moore: It happens all the time.[00:16:00] And I think that is a lot, that internalized misogynistic way of seeing it, is how it exists in a lot of the conversations around “advocate for your dog,” because it does involve standing up and saying something or confronting someone. And for the majority of the population, that’s not a safe either physically or emotionally safe thing to be able to do. And what we’re saying is, “Well then you should just do it anyway” rather than, “Huh. What can we make advocacy look like that is safe to be able to do so that people can actually do it?”
Hannah Branigan: I’m still internally suffering. You’re right though, because I was a hundred percent putting willingness to be confrontational as a pro, like as a thing that I should be willing to– “should.” A thing I “should” be willing to do.
Erin Moore: And it doesn’t like– if people are comfortable with that, then cool. [00:17:00] That can be a part of what advocating means for them. But I don’t think it has to be.
Hannah Branigan: So say more about what it could be maybe?
Erin Moore: Just simply removing the dog from the situation without explaining it, without even saying to the person, “Okay, I’m removing my dog because of this reason.” And just like leaving. Picking up small dogs, for example, is a really good one of that. And small dog owners get a lot of shit for that, when really what they’re doing is advocating for their dogs. Picking up your dog or turning around and walking away or being like, “Oh shit, I’m late, I’ve gotta go” and running away from the situation. If that’s what you have to do to advocate for your dog and for yourself, then I think that should be normalized and okay to do.
Hannah Branigan: That is a really good– I wanna come back to the challenges part but yeah, picking up small dogs, like that’s advocating and so if I were to continue [00:18:00] to pull on that thread, I’ve taught rugby to put his paws up on my knee and/or vault up into my arms on cue so that I can quickly scoop him up. And just our individual experience is that I’m mainly using that around other dogs. And I’ve also had a man tell me I shouldn’t pick him up. [laughter] Erin just made a visual gesture. But you’re right. I have a pretty well-developed skill of smiling and nodding and continuing to walk.
Erin Moore: Which is advocacy!
Hannah Branigan: I thank you for that! So I’m feeling less terrible briefly just for the moment. And I’m thinking like I just had a gas station encounter last week where, without a dog, but same skill, right? Like I’m trying to fill up with my car and a man pulls up in [00:19:00] the pump opposite and is talking to me. And I did not wish for the conversation. I particularly did not wish for the content of his side of the conversation. It was not something that I want to opt into, but it’s something that I think we have probably all participated in.
And I just smiled, nodded, said thank you, and continued to fill my car. And when it clicked past enough that I felt like I could get home, I just “Oh, well, I guess it’s full.” I didn’t say this. I just like pretended like it was full, clicked it back on, got in my car and drove away. My answers to him did not make any sense with what he was saying to me, which I am sure I was supposed to be flattered by, but was not. I just have a little broken robot script. I just said it and then looked very hard at the gas pump and got in my car and drove off.
And I definitely do that with my dogs when I can.
Erin Moore: And you know, as you’re talking and I’m [00:20:00] realizing that one of the things that fucks us with our expectation around advocacy is that we should be comfortable, that if we’re advocating we’re comfortable. That’s not true. Like, we can advocate and be super uncomfortable while we’re doing it too, in that like, “Okay, I’m just gonna say thank you and look down at the pump” way. You’re not comfortable. In no fucking version of whatever universes exist out there is that comfortable. But it’s still advocating for yourself by not getting dragged into the conversation. Right? So I think also we need to detach the expectation that we’ll just be comfortable with advocating.
Hannah Branigan: That is a really good point because I was absolutely sweating and prickly high heart rate, like very uncomfortable. I did give myself some credit as I was driving away that at the very least, while I was uncomfortable, I was not worried that his feelings would be hurt. And that is a level up from where I [00:21:00] was 10 or 15 years ago, where I would’ve felt the need to not only make sure that, whether or not I was comfortable, that the stranger at the gas station was comfortable.
Erin Moore: Yep. Oh my god, I can so relate to that. Whoo!
Hannah Branigan: But I think it does come up for me and–
Well, so let’s circle back to the kind of the challenges. I do still sometimes find myself in a situation, either in a training scenario or the veterinary scenario, where I both feel like I am responsible for the advice-giver or medical professionals experience and/or I am worried about what will happen to me short-term or long-term if I don’t control that experience.
So I know that’s still a challenge for me. What are you thinking? Like, what are you seeing as other challenges that maybe we’re not even thinking about? Like what makes it [00:22:00] hard?
Erin Moore: Oh man. So many things like cultural conditioning for one, right? Like we’ve already kind of talked a little bit about how, as women, we generally get conditioned to smile and nod and to like people-please and to make sure that everybody else is okay and that their emotions are fine. And like, that’s a lot of conditioning that we get. But like different cultures have different conditioning around that too. So I was thinking about this before today with the whole cultural thing around that like “angry black woman” stereotype, wondering what that experience must be like to have the opposite where like if you advocate for your dog in a confrontational– and it doesn’t even have to be confrontational; it’s just fucking saying something. If, as a black woman–
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. There is a white supremacist patriarchy thing where any feedback is criticism
Erin Moore: Yeah, and for black women, they’re already seen as being like [00:23:00] angry and overly emotional. And so even them saying, “Hey, please don’t do that,” can or will be seen through that lens, which creates a whole other fucking dynamic that they have to manage, you know?
I know a lot of cultures, women are conditioned to be demure and quiet and polite and the shaming that comes with that, that if you don’t do that, you’re somehow not only wrong as a person, but wrong within the culture too, or it brings shame on your parents. There’s so many other people’s experiences that as a white woman, I have been privileged not to have, that we need to take into account when we’re having this conversation, especially if as trainers we’re trying to help our clients who have different lived experiences. We have to understand what their experience is. So that like culturally is a really big one.
And then past trauma, like we [00:24:00] cannot live in a patriarchal, misogynistic, white supremacy society, we can’t come outta that with no trauma. But then there’s also the individual trauma that comes with all of our lives that we develop coping mechanisms around as a kid that work for us then, but don’t work so much for us as an adult. But that doesn’t mean we’re just gonna stop doing it because it doesn’t work for us as an adult anymore. It’s like 30-40 years of practicing this behavior that was a “this literally kept me safe and alive” behavior. That’s not easy to shift! And then that’s just from a when we’re aware of it perspective! If you consider like the physiological perspective of going into like Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn mode and your nervous system is activated and your brain goes offline and you’re like– Then we’re expecting people to be able to somehow miraculously just overcome biology and do a thing? Like, no, that’s not gonna happen.
There’s sensory overload that can happen too. Like, [00:25:00] that’s a thing for me. Neurodivergency and sensory overload. And so if there’s too much going on, I can glitch and not be able to say or do something in the moment.
Hannah Branigan: Absolutely!
Erin Moore: Then there’s the power differential, like that authority piece you were talking about with vets.
I also think it’s more complicated and complex with the vet/trainer relationship because there’s already so much there between like the disagreements and the “you need to be doing this, you need to be doing that.” “Stay in your lane.” “This is my lane.” Like all of that that happens. Even when we’re going in as a dog owner, we still carry that all with us.
Medical trauma can like– We project, right? So like I will project my own medical trauma onto my dog’s medical care because it’s the same for me; it’s the medical thing. I can’t just differentiate and pull that stuff apart. Those are all off the top of my head.
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. My dogs are co-dependent projections with my own self, so–
[00:26:00] Yeah. I mean, and just from like an ABC perspective, it is something that I continue to be frustrated with. I am trying to change my responses and my behaviors in the exact same environment that the original responses and behaviors were conditioned for decades, as you point out. And because the other people in my world won’t go to therapy. It’s real, real hard when the conditions stay the same. I mean, I think about it often, how quickly I’m 14 again. Yeah.
Erin Moore: It’s wild to watch happen sometimes too for myself. And I’m like, “Whoa! Okay. I just lost like 25 years there,” and here I am having this emotional response, and yet I just have to watch it happen! Okay then.
Hannah Branigan: I have told my [00:27:00] therapist on a number of occasions that I felt like I should have my money back because I thought that, that I was gonna be better than this by now.
Erin Moore: You haven’t fixed me yet! Excuse me!
Hannah Branigan: Yeah, and I mean, unfortunately she’s known me long enough that she laughs when this comes up.
Erin Moore: I think that’s one of the most important ways we need to change the conversation of advocacy. We need to change it away from a “should.”
Hannah Branigan: I like that. Okay. Because I think the way I sometimes hear it is like, you could swap it with “calm down,” you know? I was just thinking like, “Oh, you should advocate for your dog.” “You should calm down.” Oh my god, thank youuu.
Erin Moore: Here’s the therapy and all I needed was some rando on the internet to tell me that!
Hannah Branigan: I didn’t think of that!
Erin Moore: I mean more like internally though. Because I “should” all over myself all the time and it doesn’t [00:28:00] ever lead to anything productive.
But when I can shift that away from like, “Well I should do this” to “I want to do this because of this reason,” it makes it a lot easier. It takes a lot of pressure off. It doesn’t just make it suddenly like, “Oh, look at that; the clouds parted and sunshine came down and angels were singing and it was easy to do,” but it makes it a lot easier. A lot of the anxiety and a lot of the, “Oh, but I can’t,” goes away when it becomes I want to do something versus “I should do this thing.”
Hannah Branigan: It shifts it from a negative reinforcement contingency to a positive reinforcement contingency. And I know that situations that I have managed to improve for myself – which is why I’m really excited about now personally expanding my definition of advocating for my dog – there are a lot of things that I can train and work on with my dog that help manage their experience such that I avoid the confrontation in conflict or make it unnecessary. And things like [00:29:00] teaching Rugby to jump up into my arms on cue and he’s not a dog you can pick up without permission. Like he’s not always– consent is– he’s a terrier and consent is very important in his life. I think it’s important in everyone’s life. But he’s good with boundaries. He does boundaries.
So small dogs being picked up. But also like my bigger dogs, an emergency u-turn as a trained and conditioned response, because it’s definitely a skill– I think of it from a dog training perspective, but also by virtue of training it and conditioning my dog and building the layers of the environmental antecedents around that for them. I’m doing the same thing for myself. And then it becomes a trained and conditioned response for me to cue it when I see another dog coming up on the same side of the street. Or there’s there’s two particular dogs in the neighborhood [00:30:00] that we encounter frequently enough that I already know as soon as I see them on the horizon, like, “Oh, we’re gonna do a u-turn.” I always make sure– There’s a little cul-de-sac that I often tack onto our runs, our walks, to round up the distance. But I always double-check to make sure before I enter the cul-de-sac that I have a way out. So like that environmental awareness. Plus my dogs have the training to know that when we get to this particular bench, which is the last place where you can see around the curve to know if you’re gonna move in, they pause. And we effectively look both ways and then proceed down the cul-de-sac and back up the hill and all of those count.
And there are probably ways that I can think of that allow me to manage my dog’s experience and my own [00:31:00] to avoid confrontation.
I do things like at our vet clinic, I always go in and check my dog in while he waits in the car. And part of this is because I was raised by reactive dogs, but whether or not the dog I’m bringing to the vet that day is one that would be challenging to manage the lobby, this is what we do. And the clinic staff knows that and when they have the room ready, my dogs have the training to immediately come out of the car and walk straight into the room so it’s not like a huge delay. We have a system and then also some skills that make that system work.
Erin Moore: That’s all advocacy!
Hannah Branigan: And that’s something I could give to my clients because I’ve always felt like– well, not always– So younger [00:32:00] in my journey, I would’ve told them they should advocate for their dogs as if it were something that I could ever–
Erin Moore: Well, on that point though, I actually think that is why a lot of trainers get frustrated when clients don’t, because of that projection, because they can’t, and they’re frustrated with that. And so that frustration gets projected on to their clients in terms of like, “Well, you should just be able to do this thing because I can’t and I really want you to be able to,” and it’s that weird like, projection thing that we do.
Hannah Branigan: No, that’s, that’s fair. So maybe a possible strategy would be to ask them, “Would you feel comfortable saying X, Y, Z in this situation?” And if they say yes, great.
Erin Moore: I think it needs to start so many steps earlier. So [00:33:00] one of the biggest mistakes that I see dog trainers making in general is working with everybody who has a dog rather than being super-specific about the people that they’re gonna work with.
And where this comes into being able to advocate for your dog is if you don’t have the relationship with your client, where you can have that open conversation about why is this hard for you to do, if your client doesn’t trust you enough to open up to that real vulnerable, “Well, because I’m scared this is gonna happen, or this is gonna happen, or this is gonna happen.” If you don’t have that relationship, you can’t help them advocate because you don’t know what the barriers are for them personally, and you can throw all the shit in the world at them and say, “Well just do this, this, this, this, this.” It’s throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it’ll stick, right? You don’t know what their actual problem is. So trainers should only be working with people who you can develop that relationship enough that they will trust you enough, be able to connect with themselves enough and understand what their barriers are, even if they need you to help them get there. If they can’t get there, you can’t help them. And it doesn’t matter [00:34:00] what you give them around advocacy because you don’t understand what their particular barrier is.
So being able to have those open conversations where you’ve created the space that is safe enough for them to actually share, “Look, here’s why I’m scared to do this,” or “Here’s why I freeze,” or “Here’s the shame that I feel.” Right? That is where we need to start helping because to say to someone, “Okay, do you feel comfortable saying this,” that that’s super important, but it needs to start earlier with “Tell me what is uncomfortable for you,” and then we can problem solve that together.
Hannah Branigan: Yes. That’s a good point, because I will ask that question to the people who we’ve already selected each other to work with, and they’re already in a relatively narrow slice of that Venn diagram. Although I wouldn’t have originally described it as a deliberate niche.
Erin Moore: Right.
Hannah Branigan: It [00:35:00] was an organic or evolutionary process, but they tend to be a lot like me in a lot of different ways. And so I’m asking that question almost always because I could imagine not being comfortable in that situation and I wouldn’t think to necessarily ask it to someone whose life experience was so different than mine that I wouldn’t–
I’ve learned a lot in the last, oh, since 2016. I’ve learned a lot in general, but particularly in the area of people’s different experiences in our society. And I have a better way now of– Like I can imagine that, because of my privilege and my position, there’re gonna people who don’t have that and are gonna have different areas where things that they may or may not feel comfortable with [00:36:00] and they may not be comfortable telling me what they feel uncomfortable with. Because it is a vulnerable thing to say. So yeah, that’s fair.
And I know just in terms of– When I was first training dogs professionally and I was working for a vet clinic and I had initially no control whatsoever over who was put in front of me. And I have– we’re just reviewing my greatest hits, said sarcastically. The clinic that I was working out of initially was in a very– it was on the edge of like new neighborhoods that were primarily populated by young professional couples who were having their first kids. I was not that. And I was frequently working training situations that were around family [00:37:00] stuff. And at the time it seemed so obvious as an even younger non-mom, who my dogs were my whole thing, so the solutions that were obvious to me were inaccessible to them, right? And I had no idea. And I was all about, “Oh, well, you get the baby sound.” This just came up with one of the Patreon Q&As. “You gotta get the baby sound recordings and you play the baby sound and you rehearse with the stroller and you do this with the different things.”
And what I now know is that when you bring home a newborn baby, you should not count on being able to make a sentence, let alone command a dog to do anything in particular. And your time and money is best spent buying a large collection of Kongs and food toys that you can have stuffed in the freezer and baby gates. And I’m a professional dog trainer! And [00:38:00] maybe you do better than I did in terms of like, you get home and just land on your feet and keep going. That was not my experience. And I was incapacitated for a long time.
Erin Moore: A lot of people are!
Hannah Branigan: None of the training mattered. I mean, everybody was fine. The training didn’t hurt, but that wasn’t what actually made the difference compared to, “Oh my God, I’ve been nursing and pumping for 80 years and I don’t know my name, let alone who you furry things are and like just here’s some food.” And just throw food from the sofa. That was what I was capable of doing. And so now when I talk to people in that situation, I’m like, “Oh, girl. I get it.”
Erin Moore: Exactly. And the thing is we don’t always have to be able to directly relate to a client’s experience in order to help them. We don’t. But we do have to be able to relate to who they are as a person to have [00:39:00] those conversations and to create a safe space for them. And we have to be open to our own learning around it. Right? So we have to be open to, “Oh, if you tell me this is a reason that you’re scared to advocate and that’s not something I can relate to, I still need to be able to understand that that’s real for you and not scoff at it and say, oh, well really that’s not a big deal and here’s how you fix it,” right? So like there’s so many pieces that need to come in for us to be able to help our clients advocate. Or do anything, get any kind of result.
Hannah Branigan: Yes. Advocate. I’m just still so excited, relieved that it doesn’t have to be confrontation. I did not realize how much until we started talking, how much I had put into that, because that is the thing I’m the worst at, and it doesn’t have to be.
Erin Moore: Yep!
Hannah Branigan: So we could also [00:40:00] give permission to not do the thing that scares you in a lot of cases where it’s hard to advocate.
Erin Moore: Especially if that comes from a– And it’s finding that gray area that we were talking about, right? Like there’s some things in life where it’s like, “Yeah, this is uncomfortable and I just gotta fucking suck it up and do it, because I know on the other side of things it’s gonna be so much better.” But our society has a really hard time telling the difference between what’s uncomfortable and what’s unsafe. And uncomfortable can feel so much like unsafe that we feel like, “Oh, I can’t possibly do that.” And it’s really important to be able to figure out which is which.
Because if it’s an unsafe situation, no, I’m not gonna tell you just go fucking do it anyway! That makes no sense. And being able to figure that out– like is this actually unsafe or is it just uncomfortable? And this is a piece too where maybe as a trainer we don’t [00:41:00] have the skills to do that and we need to like refer out to therapy or what I love suggesting to my clients is bring a therapist in to help you build your dog training program so that your clients have access to both, but you’re still staying in your lane.
Hannah Branigan: I’m just thinking that I am so used to taking all the responsibility that I am going to assume that unsafe– it seems unsafe, but it probably just means that I’m uncomfortable and completely ignore–
Erin Moore: Yep.
Hannah Branigan: That I may actually be in the legit, unsafe situation and powering through is not necessarily–
Erin Moore: Do you know how long it took you to learn that? Because my own– I dismissed how I felt all the fucking time because as a kid it never fucking mattered. And so I had learned that, “Oh, when I have a feeling that’s not true. Just change it. You should just work harder at this.”
Hannah Branigan: I don’t wanna tell you what to do, but have you tried applying yourself?
Erin Moore: [00:42:00] Just a little bit harder? Yeah. I hadn’t. I dunno why I didn’t think about that. And I will go and I’ll try that. I’ll let you know how it works out.
Hannah Branigan: Oh, you’re welcome. And feel free to drop me a PayPal later or something.
Erin Moore: I’ll leave you a review afterwards and let you know if it works.
Hannah Branigan: If I think about my journey as a trainer, as an instructor, I came in with– I’m not a religious person, but a set of beliefs and commandments of what dogs needed and how they should live, and a lot of the path from there to here has been discarding and shedding and pruning a lot of that.
So certainly things like, “Oh, you shouldn’t let your dog up on the furniture.” And so that’s not a thing. Is it a direct problem for you or not? [00:43:00] I know that I’ve had a lot of clients react with shock, disbelief, but also relief when I reassure them that their dog does not need to go to the dog park in order to live a happy, fulfilled life. And they thought they were hiring me to help their antisocial dog learn to play better with others. I think I’ve stolen this phrasing from Patricia McConnell, but it could have been from someone else. “What if your dog is just a book club dog?”
Erin Moore: Not a night club dog?
Hannah Branigan: And not a nightclub dog! I think that was from her, because I have, as a book club person– actually book club would be a very socially intense thing for me–
Erin Moore: Same!
Hannah Branigan: We can do a virtual [00:44:00] book club where I can turn my camera off–
And I tend to then in general select dogs into my life that are also (this is labeling and anthropomorphic, but) “introverted,” you know? They have their friends they like to hang out with, but they are just as miserable at the dog park as I am at Costco. So that works well for us and is why I don’t have a golden!
But there totally is a cultural expectation. And I was like, “Well, he doesn’t need to. Like, you don’t have to do that.” And then a few years later– time as a construct– I realized you don’t actually have to take your dog for walks if it’s something– At least for a while, like maybe that’s something you could do in a couple of months. But it is totally okay to not walk your dog for a while and we’ll find other ways to meet his needs. That can be hard to accept. [00:45:00] There’s so many layers of these that I have encountered and then recognize when I’m able to think more flexibly. Like, “Actually, you don’t have to do that.”
So there are probably lots of other ones for– Folks in my community right now, they wanna do dog sports, what’s available to them in their area is often group classes, but they struggle (and I struggle with this) advocating for themselves and their dogs in their training in a group class session structure where the training style is not compatible with how they would prefer to train.
Erin Moore: Oh my gosh yes! I think that’s also one of the biggest things to recognize is that when we’re looking at– like as dog trainers, whether it’s in dog sports or with behavior mod or whatever we’re helping our clients with– There’s so much judgment that exists and it goes back to this Good or Bad, you’re a Good or Bad Dog Owner. If you’re using a trainer who uses XYZ methods, then you’re [00:46:00] a shitty dog owner and I’m gonna shame you for it, right?
When the reality is– I’m not gonna say none because there’s all kinds of psychological stuff that impacts in different ways, but most people are not looking for a trainer going, “I wanna hurt my dog. I wanna harm my dog. I wanna destroy my relationship with my dog.” Most people end up in that situation where they can’t advocate for their dog with a trainer because of the power dynamic, because of the authority dynamic, because of the, “Well, I’m paying you for this, therefore I assume you know what you’re doing and I need to just shut up and do the thing” rather than saying, “Actually, why are we doing this? I don’t feel comfortable with that,” and I see it a lot. There’s all these memes and posts that are around saying, “You should ask these questions of your dog trainer.” Even that is really hard for people to do!
Hannah Branigan: I think there’s a skill piece there. Like there’s the skill piece in the communication, the interpersonal communication. And I think skill makes up some of the difference, right? Like there’s places where I am more skilled now [00:47:00] than I was, and so I can do better even in the same conditions where I’m in position of lower, less power, more vulnerability. So you can– You can slide up and down on that inside that based on skill.
But also, for a dog owner who has no background in dog training, and who the hell does? To know what the answers are? And to know what’s happening and what those answers mean.
I’m a parent and I can think, I can think of equally cringey things that I wish I had done differently. But I did not know what was best for my child. And I went to the pediatrician, I went to experts, and one, by the time– we’re back to talking about me. By the time I ask for help, I am so far past [00:48:00] any coping ability– I should have asked for help like a half tank ago. And I waited until I was totally empty and I had been pushing for a while.
Erin Moore: Which is the trauma! I mean, you know that, but let’s just put that out there.
Hannah Branigan: And then I say, [whispering] “I could use a little help, maybe, it’s not too much trouble! Totally fine if you can’t!” And I have no resources at that point to screen who I’m asking for help. I just need someone to please tell me what to do because everything I’ve tried has failed.
Erin Moore: You as a human being are exactly the same as clients as a human being who have that same thing. And by the time they reach out for help, they’re like, “just tell me what the fucking do and I will do it. Even if I don’t really feel comfortable with it, I’ll do it because I just need that help.”
And where I see the industry as a [00:49:00] whole really fucking up around this is by shaming those people, in terms of like, “Well, you should have–”
It’s like the “pick better men” for women, “pick a better trainer” is equally fucking damaging, right? Because like nobody goes out there going, “let me look for the worst fucking dog trainer I can find.”
And that shaming happens in so many different ways! It happens in like the fighting that happens online with trainers about different methodologies. Because the people who see that and are using it because they’re desperate and really don’t know what else to do, take on that shame too, right? And aren’t gonna reach out to you for help because “Well, you’re shit-talking people who do the things that I’m doing, so why the fuck am I going to pay you to help me?”
So understanding that yeah, people make mistakes, people are not perfect, people are gonna fuck up. And the biggest piece I think that helps with advocacy is understanding that the world isn’t fair.
Hannah Branigan: I don’t accept that.
Erin Moore: [laughter]
Hannah Branigan: I really don’t like [00:50:00] that one. Out of all of– when you’re reading the different logical biases– (Biasi? I don’t know, octopi?)
And you get to like the Just World Fallacy where like you believe in the just world and everything should be fair… I don’t like that. And tremendous amounts of my suffering come from fighting against that one. But anyways, please go on. The world is not fair.
Erin Moore: Because if we’re expecting the world to be fair, then we’re putting a lot of the responsibility of what needs to happen onto other people, like ‘This fucking idiot who didn’t have his dog on a leash and he should have!” And he should and he should. It’s true! Like we should be able to be in a world where we’re not gonna get assaulted and where our dogs are not gonna get assaulted or where people are gonna listen to us.
But that’s not the world that we live in. And when we expect that to happen, like you said, we spend so much energy to “this person is doing” and all of that energy takes away from “What do I have any power of control over?” And we disempower ourselves that way.
This episode is sponsored by On Cue! Training Treats from Karen Pryor. Clicker Training. I’m always on the lookout for a shelf stable treat to keep in my training bag in my car over the [00:27:00] weekend that occupies that magical slice of the Vinn diagram between treats that my dogs will work for and treats that are easy for me to handle and treats that are healthy enough that I don’t feel bad feeding my dog’s mass quantities of them. I do train a lot with food, so particularly with a small dog like Rugby, the treats he consumes in training can end up making up a really big proportion of his total daily calories. So I wanna make sure that those treats are made from stuff that I feel good about. Obviously I have higher nutritional standards for my dogs than I do for myself.
So I was really curious to try out the On Cue! treats after I read the ingredients and see how they measured on those other two variables too.
So my dogs, even the border collie, were definitely fans, so you get a check there.
And from my perspective, what I really liked about the handleability of these treats was the weight and the shape of them. They’re flattish, not round like a ping-pong ball, but they’re also thick enough and heavy enough so that they have really decent throwability and for the most part, stay where they land without bouncing all [00:28:00] over or crumbling into a million pieces. I throw a lot of food. So those are really important factors to me.
And yes, I did do my personal litmus test of leaving them in my treat pouch in my car over the weekend, totally on purpose, and the results were very boring, which is exactly what I want.
You can check them out yourself. Go to clickertraining.com/treats, or you can follow the link in the show notes.
Hannah Branigan: Okay. But if they would all just go–
Erin Moore: Right? No, I get it! I’m with you. My justice button is like– I totally get it. And that’s why I’m so passionate about it, because I spent so much of my own life focusing on what other people were doing. And the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that I had just made it pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t be able to advocate for myself and for my dogs.
And when I started looking at like, “Okay, the world is not fair and that fucking sucks. I don’t like it. [00:53:00] But that’s what’s true.” And there are things about an unfair world that we can fight to change and we should be. I’m not saying we should all just go, “Oh, well, the world’s unfair, therefore just do you.” No, no. There are things we need to be changing. But when we understand that that change comes from changing ourselves, that’s where we really have power and that’s where we can really empower our clients too.
Hannah Branigan: But have you ever had the fantasy where you’re walking down the street and like, have you ever fantasized about just putting a few selected reading materials into the mailbox of one of your neighbors? Like just and a business card?
Erin Moore: I saw a TikTok actually that made me laugh. The dude was like, “When you’re planning a date with a toxic guy, just tell him I know a place and drop him off at Therapy.”
Hannah Branigan: I’m laughing because I was doing this yesterday morning when the particular dog that I [00:54:00] particularly encounter the most and whose owner does not pay attention. We were in the safe zone as I was on the correct side of the street, the opposite side of the street– And anyways, it worked out really well, but I just saw them and it just reminded me as the dog is at the end of leash and is doing the like sideways toenail scrabble at my dogs. [dog frantically pulling, panting and choking noise] And I’m like, “look at mommy and we’re just gonna walk briskly by and get on, turn the corner.” And I was thinking, I know at this point which house that they live in– because I don’t think about this all over the time, certainly not since Covid and I’m spending that much more time walking in our neighborhood that– Which of the books on my bookshelf would I tuck into their mailbox as reading material? Because if they understood dog behavior, they would see–
Erin Moore: Right? Oh my God.
Hannah Branigan: –that there were things that they could do to make my experience of my [00:55:00] neighborhood walks more pleasant.
Okay, but you were saying something and then I interrupted you and I don’t remember what it was. Changing ourselves…?
Erin Moore: We’re like doing our work. It goes back to like the advocacy needing to be conflict fallacy that if we’re telling clients that advocating means what they externally do and communicate with other people or that has anything to do with other people, then we get into all of that cultural conditioning or the trauma conditioning – all of the shit that shows up for us.
Whereas when we can view advocacy as what we have control over and planning for that and being on top of that, it makes it much easier. It’s not gonna just suddenly mean you’re never having to deal with these people, because you will. Like, people are people and they do people-y shit all the time. And unless you’re like just living in your house and never leaving (I’m not saying I know anybody who does that) you’re going to encounter [00:56:00] certain people.
But the empowering thing is, it’s me and my dog. What can I do with me and my dog? And that person is gonna be that person, whatever the fuck they’re gonna do. And it’s scary and uncomfortable and in some situations unsafe. And the only thing I have any control over is what can I do with me and my dog? And so as a trainer, we need to be helping our clients see that and plan for that, rather than “you need to just advocate for your dog.”
Hannah Branigan: You know, I knew we were talking about TikTok, because we were talking about your TikTok that I saw, when I was like, “Oh, this is really interesting.”
There’s a lot here around boundaries as well. And I know that’s something you talk about. And I agree that boundaries sound like a really good idea.
I’m recognizing some parallels, at least in my thinking. So I dunno, you tell me if this lands for you.
So I always thought that boundaries mean saying “You can’t talk to me that way. And [00:57:00] if you do this thing, then I’m outta here. I’m cutting you off.” It’s like a threat. It’s necessarily confrontational. And the only way to enforce a boundary is cutting ties. Right? So if I’m not willing or able to do that, then my boundaries are not going to be effective. And also I’m worried if I were to say a boundary out loud, then you might be mad at me. And that if you felt uncomfortable than I would need to do something to make you more comfortable.
Anyways. Okay, but where I was going with this was, I follow KC Davis, Struggle Care, on TikTok. She is one of my favorites. And her explanation of boundaries – which maybe comes from somewhere else, but I heard it from her – was the most useful one for me that I’ve ever heard.
And she comes from the angle that boundaries are not about other people’s behavior, they’re about your behavior. [00:58:00] So the obstacle I frequently ran into was, I was trying to set a– I could tell there was something wrong and a boundary needed to be set, or I can now rather, but I don’t have a consequence for that person’s behavior, because it turns out – this is only my therapist tells me about every week – I can’t control other people’s behavior. There’s nothing I can do. I can arrange antecedents, I can do my thing and I still can’t control other people’s behavior.
So anyways, but it’s about your behavior and so your boundary doesn’t necessarily take the form of, you go to your aunt’s house, your mother’s house, whatever, and say, “if you comment on my weight, I’m never coming here again.” That was kind of what I was interpreting is how it is. It could be that you choose not to go over there or you choose not to go over there on holidays that are centered entirely around food like Thanksgiving because you know that that’s a [00:59:00] situation where how much you’re eating is gonna come up.
This is not drawn for my personal– Not at all. It’s way generic.
Or you can choose to go over there and you can say, “I’m choosing to go over there. I know that a comment about what I’m eating and my weight is going to be made, or multiple comments, and I’m gonna plan self-care for myself when I get home to take care of myself.” All of those things count. And none of them are about the other person’s behavior because I can’t actually control that.
Erin Moore: That for me is the difference between a boundary and a threat. If you’re saying to a person, “If you do this, I will do that,” that’s a threat. A boundary is about our behavior, what we will or won’t tolerate, where we will or won’t go, what we will or won’t say, who we will or won’t have in our life, whether we will or won’t answer the phone call– like all of those are boundaries and it takes the confrontation out of it [01:00:00] in a lot of cases for sure.
Hannah Branigan: I like it because when I think of things this way, I can think about “What do I really need from this? Like what do I really need from this?” Because again, it’s not to educate you about eating disorders and body dysmorphia and the things that I would really like for you to know about and give you some reading material that you will read and then feel sorry for your– Anyways. But I could think about the dog experience, the dog behavior part of it, and I can think, “What do I really need? What does my dog really need here? What do I need for my dog? Like, what do we need together as a team?” Because I think that’s really what we’re talking about here, right? Like the team itself is the organism that is our client. And so far, and so I can only assume it will continue, every time I’ve really gone looking and sat down and thought about, there’s been another way to actually meet the need other than like the original rigid, [01:01:00] inflexible, “this is what has to happen for everyone to be okay.” It turns out there’s more than one– it turns out that can happen and people can not be okay–
But if I’m willing to like, “Okay, well what really is going on? Okay, my dog needs physical exercise. They need to meet their physical and mental exercise needs. What else could that look like? What are the other options?”
Erin Moore: And the piece on that too, that’s– again, I go back to as a trainer, helping our clients get there– That involves a lot of trust. Because if you don’t understand why that’s hard for a person, you’re not gonna be able to help them. Because you can say–
I’m thinking of a particular client that I had who really, really struggled with the idea of not walking her reactive dog every day. Like in her head, walking every day equaled being a Good Dog Owner and meeting her dog’s needs. And it didn’t matter how much information she had about how that wasn’t necessarily true. The [01:02:00] emotional attachment she had to that was what we needed to dig into.
Hannah Branigan: I think we get dogs for a reason. We have a vision and the human has the needs too. And you know, one of the things that I–
I like to hike. I like to hike with my dogs. It’s higher actually on my list of like what I get out of dog ownership and my dog relationships than anything I do sport-wise. And I like to do activities with them, but turns out that’s actually pretty flexible. Like the other activities themselves, whether it’s obedience, agility, scent sports. Like, I’m pretty flexible on that. I enjoy having things that stretch me and so I like having dogs for that. But snuggling on the couch is a requirement in my house; it’s not optional. And [01:03:00] hiking together is also basically a requirement. I mean, I’m a little flexible on that one, but that’s a big part of what I have dogs in my life for. And that’s a big part of what I get out of them. So I had to actually think about that because I have had dogs that the snuggling on the couch was not a problem. They were, “Oh my God, mama, please, oh, let me breathe the same air you are breathing!” And in that case, I’d “Well, why don’t you snuggle near me on the couch, not inside me on the couch?” And then I have had dogs that would really prefer not.
Erin Moore: Yep.
Hannah Branigan: And so we had to have a negotiation and I had to do some trading and conditioning. I don’t mind doing that because for me, that’s worth it.
And I acknowledge “I know this is not your favorite way to interact with me, but if you sit next to me for this movie, then you can get down [01:04:00] and we’ll do something you like to do better.” Compromise, right?
And so I think about like– So figment, for example. What does Figment need in order to go hiking with me? He needs to know that people we encounter on the trail are not gonna mess with him, right? And the reason he needs to know that is not because he does not like people – he loves his people a lot – but he has very low tolerance for unpredictability, uncertainty. I mean, God, he’s me. Like mother, like son.
So he needs to know that people aren’t gonna randomly reach for him. And that’s hard because he’s really handsome and he’s really fluffy and he looks like a dog that you wanna just put your hands in and put your face right down. And I have had a man lean down and kiss him on the face and that was another one of those places where I was like, “Okay, so [01:05:00] I should have advocated for you better.” Caught me by surprise because I really did not expect that. Thought we were doing a greeting, was feeling like a dog trainer. I was like, “Oh, we’ve trained for this one. Absolutely.” I sent him to say hi. The man leans down and kisses my dog on the head. And nothing happened because I think he was as shocked as I was, right? And he comes back to mama and I was like, “Hey baby boy, here’s some goodies, here’s your toy, let’s go on.”
He also told me that he had huskies growing up and he always loves them. And I was like, “Okay, because he’s a border collie? But okay.” Totally was like, “Oh, what a beautiful husky you have.” I was like, “Thank you?” He doesn’t even have blue eyes. I don’t know. It was weird. That was probably the weirdest breed misidentification that we’ve encountered.
But where was I going with that? Oh, so yeah, so if I come in like, “Well, what do I need [01:06:00] to make sure that he gets his needs met in order for me to get my needs met, which is that we will be going hiking.”
And it takes the form of some things that I can do in training. I can call him behind me when we see people. I can actually put that on the cue of people approaching, which we have at this point. So now, because he’s gonna see and hear them before I do, he’ll catch that somebody’s up ahead of us and they’re coming in our way and he circles around and lines up behind me. Freestyle move that I’ve stolen from – well, “stolen from,” she still has it – learned from Michele Pouliot, but super helpful. And then I can evaluate the situation. We can step off trail, I can put him in a sit or a down, or we can just move on by.
I can pick trails and times where I know that either we have more room to pass or there’s gonna be less traffic. There are some private game lands that you can get a permit to hike [01:07:00] on in the off season, which we use. Benefit of living in a rural, gun-happy area. There are lots of private hunting lands and so you can and I frequently do most years get a permit and we can hike there in the off season and nobody’s gonna be out there except the serial killers. That’s different though.
Erin Moore: What is chance of there being two serial killers in the same spot the same time?
Hannah Branigan: Fair. Yeah, exactly.
Anyways. So I can do things with training to give him skills and I can do things with training for my skills. I’m a big fan of Jio[vany Alcaide] and Taylor [Barconey] with Smart Bitch [Dog Training in New Orleans]. They have their House of Drills. So I think about, “Oh, we can do drills” and I love that! So that I’m prepared, I don’t have to think, I’m not having to make decisions. If I’m making decisions, I’m [01:08:00] way more likely to get tangled up in my own stuff.
Erin Moore: And it also ties back to what you were saying too about our expectations around it, in terms of like, “Oh, maybe there’s another way.” Like it doesn’t necessarily have to look this way. For me, I have to really be aware of being okay with shifting. “Cool. So instead of the hour and a half hike that I wanted to get, we’re only gonna do thirty and then we’re going home” if that’s what the day falls for. Because I struggled with that a lot. It was like “An hour and a half. That’s what we do. That’s our exercise. It’s good for me, it’s good for the dogs. They’ll sleep for a couple hours, I’ll be blah, blah, blah, blah.” But with the dogs that I have now, that’s not always realistic. He won’t drink water when we’re out on hike, so in the summer months, we don’t get to do a lot of that with him. Am I gonna go hiking for an hour and a half and have a dog who keels over from heat exhaustion, or am I gonna go watch him really carefully, [01:09:00] get what we can get and then go home in a shorter than ideal…
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. And I will often have to pick a trail that I know has multiple bailout points where I don’t– I’m staying close to the car so that I’m not– and it usually means I’m not on the ones that I wanna go, which are usually deeper in, but also way more likely to get effectively trapped.
Your client who wasn’t emotionally ready for not walking your dog. I wonder if in those situations, part of it is, was that part of your vision for what you wanted a dog for? Like that’s how you visualized enjoying your relationship with your dog. And what does that mean?
Erin Moore: And that’s really important too to recognize! Parts of that vision are simply like, “Oh, well this would be nice to have.” And then part of it comes back to the expectations we put on ourselves and what we project onto our dogs. Like I know with Piper, I projected so much of my childhood trauma onto her in the sense of “I will [01:10:00] provide a life that is safe, where your needs are met, where you are heard, where all the things that I didn’t have,” and I’m gonna fucking start crying on this goddamn fucking thing.
But that was part of my expectations of myself. And I had to do a lot of my own work over the years finding a gray area with that – not letting that go, but finding a gray area was okay that that wasn’t perfect all the time. Because trying to have it perfect all the time also had a negative impact on my relationship with her.
But I’m not the only one who does that. So many people do that! And if we’re not aware of– like if I were just to say to that client of mine who is like, “look, I have a hard time not walking my dog every day,” “Oh, well you just need to stop walking your dog.” That’s not fucking helpful. Because for her, we need to go so much deeper into why. What is it that you’re tying your value as a human being to walking her every day? And how do we talk to that? And we go back to like the therapy piece where there’s a lot of stuff that everybody [01:11:00] needs to do in fucking therapy. And so there’s a lot of stuff we need to actually just say to people, “Hey, this is not something that I can help you with. However, here’s some resources.”
I specialized in reactive dogs and I had a blended program, which meant there was an online component to it as well as the in-person working. And the module that got the most feedback was the module on human emotions and behavior and how therapy can help us in our dog training. And the number of my clients who reached out to me afterwards, like months and years afterwards to say, “I’ve been in therapy ever since doing your reactive dog program, thank you for that,” was so reinforcing for me. And that is why I think like dog trainers need to work hand in hand with therapists or need to have some kind of input there.
And also understanding that therapy is a privilege, like it absolutely fucking is. And so to get into something else that I really love talking about, if you as a dog trainer are charging enough that you can pay the therapist to come in and build the module, you’re helping your [01:12:00] clients even more
Hannah Branigan: As you were talking about asking the questions about what your client really needs, I always find myself wondering, do a lot of your clients cry during your training sessions?
Erin Moore: Yes.
Hannah Branigan: Because if you were to come to my house and start asking all of those questions, I’m pretty sure that you would just be turning the water works on.
Erin Moore: Yeah. But the thing is, that is the kind of connection that gets the really big results because people aren’t hiring dog trainers because of the dog’s behavior. They’re hiring dog trainers because of how their dog’s behavior makes them feel.
Hannah Branigan: This is not where I thought we were going. I don’t disagree with you. I don’t know. I’m to be totally transparent, I’m like, “Well, how can I help people then, because I can’t help myself?”
Erin Moore: Ooh. But there’s the thing, we as human beings are always better at helping other people than we are at helping ourselves.[01:13:00]
Hannah Branigan: That’s actually very very true.
Erin Moore: Yep. Because it’s so much easier to see with other people. It’s so much easier because we don’t have our shit all up in our face about it. Our feelings aren’t–
Hannah Branigan: It’s okay for you to reach out and ask for help. That’s okay and I would love to help you because it gives me a chance to be a hero.
Erin Moore: Yep. But I think it’s important to recognize that like you do a lot of your work to help yourself anyway. Your therapy, these kind of conversations, the books that you read, like that’s all part of helping themselves. Right? And by doing all of that, you put yourself in the position to be able to help more clients too, because of that emotional awareness and the work that you’re doing and you gain a different perspective on the dog’s behavior impacting the people than if you weren’t doing all of that work.
Hannah Branigan: Yeah, I mean, it is… While I don’t like it and I’m still working on [01:14:00] accepting the piece where I can’t control other people’s behavior, my role is as a part of the environment. I can’t actually – and it’s very painful to say – control my dog’s behavior. Not really. I can make it look like it, I can control the environment for them in clever and sophisticated ways, theoretically, to maximize the chances that I’m gonna get the behavior that I’m hoping to see. And I can control a lot more of my dog’s environment than I can other people’s environment, legally.
And yes, that’s very much– A big part of my journey has been recognizing that, “Okay, I can’t really control the dog’s behavior. I can’t really control people’s behavior. But as a part of the environment, the only organism whose behavior I can control is my [01:15:00] own and my best way to control, to hedge my bets to get the behavior that I’m hoping to see, is to get better at controlling my behavior, yes.” Which means getting better at controlling my environment, which includes my internal and my external environment.
Erin Moore: And you’re not gonna like this one. It also includes getting better at asking for help.
Hannah Branigan: That is a direct attack.
Erin Moore: That’s the whole reason I wanna come on your podcast to just attack you. It’s a success!
Hannah Branigan: Well, it’s an intervention.
Erin Moore: It’s an intervention.
Hannah Branigan: So this is an interesting, like, fractal, because you’re right. Like what I know about myself is I only reach out for help when it has gone way past often [01:16:00] when I can be helped. And I frequently don’t have the resources left emotionally, mentally, energetically to make best use of that help to integrate whatever the thing– Like I’m so exhausted at that point that I can’t zoom out far enough to make the changes to the systems to like organize the executive function to apply the things. Like you could give me the best advice in the world and if I’m so strung out that I’m way over threshold– And I know for me–This is an hour of admitting way too much. But I don’t want anybody to worry about me because I’m talking about the things that I have mostly identified and am working on.
But, in the past, when I have gotten that bad, I’m often no longer taking care of my biological self at that point, right? Like, I’m not eating, I’m not sleeping, I’m [01:17:00] barely drinking water. And that’s often how I know, is because I have truly run myself fully into the ground and I’m sick and then I’m like, “Well, now I can’t do whatever the thing is I was trying to do without help.”
And so I have kind of my own hierarchy of like, “Okay, no matter how bad things are, you have to take care of yourself like you’re a plant, which means food, water, and sunlight,” and then I kind of go up from there like, “Okay, and then you’re gonna give yourself these other things that make you a little bit more okay.” And then like we get to the stuff like make sure you’re getting sleep and all that.
And I recognize now that a lot of the people who have reached out for help with their dogs have tried a lot already. They may not have tried the things that I wish that they would’ve tried. Like everybody says – and this is a pet peeve of mine – when someone says, “Well, we’ve tried everything.” And we know that they have not, but they’ve tried everything they knew. And I do believe that everyone is doing the best that they can in their conditions [01:18:00] with the skills that they have.
And, and these people don’t have the skills that I have. So their “everything” is gonna be a lot smaller than my everything. But they’ve been living over threshold for a long time before they reach out for help.
And I have like an amalgamation, like I have a mashup of all the different young mom people who reached out. One of the clinics I was working on was adjacent to a military town. And so incredibly common to have a 25 year old mom, two kids, husband got the dog for himself before he was deployed and she’s desperate and she didn’t need a lecture on house-breaking and management.
Erin Moore: Yep. And all the things she was doing “wrong.”
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. [01:19:00] And it was these cases that helped my mental– Realizing how little she had left by the time she filled out my contact form. And a lot of them, I wasn’t gonna be able to help. Like it was three months past when I could have helped them.
So where I was going with that? When I recognize that we need like triage. Yep. A lot of times when we come in, like, you need a break. I have my group too and a lot of these are privileged. Can we board the dog for a week so you can get some sleep? Do you have a friend who could take your dog? Like you gotta get some sleep because when you’re this tired, all you can think of is getting help. So like emergency care and then we can talk about training.
Erin Moore: And you know, for so many people, simply being heard [01:20:00] and validated for how they feel is part of that triage? Because for a lot of people – and this is really common across all trainers that I’ve talked to – when they’re working in a lot of cis/het relationships, when they’re working with cis/het couples, there is a lot of imbalance there around who’s feeling and who’s doing what. And very often the person who reaches out for the help, which is most often the wife in that situation, really just needs to be heard that “Yeah, your feelings are valid.” Because with the dynamics that exist in so many toxic cis/het relationships, there’s that invalidation that, “Oh, you’re so emotional. Well, he doesn’t do that with me. So it’s a you problem.” That kind of bullshit that goes on. Your face is saying everything that I feel. And so simply just to hear a person and say, “Yeah, it makes fucking sense that you feel that [01:21:00] way, and that’s okay” can relieve so much of that pressure too.
And that doesn’t happen when you’re sitting there saying, “Oh, but you just need to advocate for your dog.”
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. So what I was thinking is, as a client of whatever it is I’m looking for help on, knowing that I’ve waited too long to ask for help and I’m low on resources to begin with, it’s a lot harder for me to work with that help. I need a lot more bandwidth in order to take a hold of the rope that’s thrown for me. And if I were to bring that full circle, in order for me to be my best self to help those people who are already strung out and desperate, I probably need to not be strung out and desperate myself…. I’m guessing that that would’ve worked better.
Erin Moore: It generally tends to, yes. And it’s, it’s– [01:22:00]
Hannah Branigan: Yeahhhhh. I mean like when my kid is–. We just had a conversation about this this morning, she and I, like when she is over threshold– Like only one of us can be over threshold at a time.
Erin Moore: Oh my God. Yep.
Hannah Branigan: And I’ve thought about that with my dogs. Like, okay, only one of us can be over threshold if we’re gonna get out of this. And it makes complete sense. And if I think about it that way, we could stack that up. I’m coming in as the trainer–
Erin Moore: And that’s one of the reasons why I switched from doing dog training to doing coaching for dog trainers.
Because for me personally, when I learned about the business side of things, I became a better trainer because I wasn’t stressing about money and stressing about my time and having no rest and not taking downtime and not having time with my own dogs and dealing with a whole bunch of clients that were triggering me all fucking day and which I shouldn’t be working with.
And just that business side of things freed up so much mental and emotional space that allowed me to be a better person and better trainer for my clients [01:23:00] because I was taking care of me. Because I had the fucking time and the money to do that.
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. And then if I go follow the rainbow the other way, if I need a client to advocate for their dog in any way, like that’s part of the problem that I need to solve, if I’m gonna help this team keep this dog in the home, whatever, then one of the ways that I could help that is to make sure that they– do what I can in whatever form to give them some bandwidth to prepare– like let them have enough of in their tank that– because I’m thinking no matter what I’m advocating for, myself, my dog, my kid, whatever, the more tired I am, the more likely I am to do something that I regret, which is in, in my case, is going to be [01:24:00] twofold. Because saying no is harder, costs more than saying yes.
Erin Moore: And then that cycles back to what we were talking about how you need to be able to have that conversation with your client because you need to understand what that looks like for them.
When I think about, like, say self-care for example. The term makes me twitchy because we’ve turned it into mean like you spend a day at a spa and you do nothing. That makes me miserable! Like that is not self care for me.
Hannah Branigan: I have a whole– Yes. Like, “Oh, so I’m exhausted doing anything and the answer to that is for me to get up an hour earlier so that I can do my yoga and meditate before my kid wakes up and I have to be on for the next 16 hours.” How, how? And if I’m not doing it, it’s because I’m not applying myself. So, yeah.
Erin Moore: And so understanding like for my clients, if I say to them – I’m talking about my dog training clients right [01:25:00] now – they’re mostly like me too, right? That’s beauty of a niche. And if I say to them, “Yeah, take a day off and do nothing all day,” that is going to make them rage-y because doing nothing all day is not relaxing. And it’s terrifying and I’m alone with my thoughts. Who wants– what the fuck is that?
And so it’s the same if you’re trying to like help your clients advocate. Yes, we need to figure out what is going to give them rest and relaxation, because that looks different for everybody.
And it’s not just, “Oh, take the weekend off and do nothing.” Because (a) they may not have the space and the ability to take the weekend off and (b) doing nothing may not be helpful for them.
So it’s again, having those conversations about like, what does recharging actually look like for you and how do we problem solve to make sure that we can get that in some form? And get creative with it. Because in some cases it’s not just as easy as, “Yeah, sure, we send the kids somewhere for the weekend.” There’s so many– We need to get creative with it. [01:26:00]
Hannah Branigan: No, I think that’s true.
So to help– I’m trying like, “how could I bullet point this out,” so I’m thinking–
We do want them to advocate for their dog. Advocating doesn’t always have to mean confrontation. Some of the time it’s gonna take some interpersonal social skills, but there are other things so we can find ways to meet the need in other ways, in lower risk ways, work out systems, and those things are all gonna require more bandwidth.
I know something that I’ve encountered a lot, especially when there was a certain TV show that was really popular on a National Geographic channel, although this still comes up, because the more things change, the more they say the same–
But I would often have clients call me after they’ve been struggling for a long time because– It’s interesting. Parenting and dog training are things that we have some expectation that we’re supposed to be good at, right? With no experience whatsoever. And I’ve absolutely internalized that and [01:27:00] I know others have as well.
So they call and they’ll say, something like– and often the exact words are very, very similar. “I know it’s all our fault. I know it’s all my fault.” And I do think that that shame itself already can occupy and take so much emotional energy that when I can relieve it, “this is not all your fault, this is hard. Like this is a hard situation. You know, are there things that we could do differently? Yes, absolutely. And there’s a huge genetic component here. And there’s no way you would know before you got this dog how to be an expert dog trainer. I’ve spent decades getting to this point, and I still don’t always know how to solve everything.”
And like that’s something that I can consistently give people that I’ve seen in one session help clear some space. [01:28:00]
Erin Moore: Compassion and empathy are so powerful! It was funny. When I had my dog training business still, there was one other trainer in the city who was my best marketer because her M.O. was to shame and blame. And so people would hire her, do one session and be like, “Fuck that shit,” and come to me. And then they’d be sitting– And the number of people who burst into tears– When you were saying, did my clients cry a lot? Who burst into tears when I would validate that and say “It’s okay. It’s not all your fault. You’re doing the best that you can.” Who would then burst into tears. It will sit with me forever. One woman who said, “Thank you for not yelling at me like the last trainer did. That’s what I came in here expecting.”
Hannah Branigan: Oh, that breaks my heart!
Erin Moore: Yeah, I know. But just like hearing people and being willing to sit in the shit with them and figure it out is one of the most powerful things that we can do.
Hannah Branigan: It’s really hard though.
Erin Moore: Oh yeah, [01:29:00] totally. It’s so much easier to like put up walls instead of boundaries and judge.
Hannah Branigan: Could I just give a handout…?
Erin Moore: I mean, sure. That’s the same thing as emotional connection. Why not. I’ll send them a questionnaire!
Hannah Branigan: That would be my preference. Please. It’s cleaner.
Erin Moore: You know, that’s the thing that– the more I’m alive, the more I learn this, is that everything that’s involved in working with people involves being vulnerable to some degree if we want to be good at it.
Hannah Branigan: So another thing about me is that I don’t like things that I’m not good at right away. I really like to be out of the gate just like excellent – gifted, even, is preferred. [01:30:00]
Erin Moore: I get that. I mean, you really should be, and if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you, so.
Hannah Branigan: So like maybe a handout and a video. Yeah…
Erin Moore: And no emotional connection whatsoever.
But you know, it does circle back to, if we want to be able to help our clients advocate for their dogs or do anything else, get any kind of other result, we also need to be doing our own work and learning how to advocate for ourselves and learning how to like have those boundaries and learning how to take care of our emotional space so that we can hold the emotional space for somebody else.
And that’s where asking for help comes in. I think a lot about towards the end of Piper’s life when she was sick and we ended up at the emergency vet one night, and I had already ahead of time planned with a friend of mine that, “Look, if I need to go to the vet, I [01:31:00] need you to come with me because I struggle with the advocacy piece. And right now I’m so in fear and so over threshold and all kinds of trauma triggers being pushed that I am not thinking clearly and I really need you to come with me.” And I’ve done that ahead of time. Because like you said, when we get in the moment of it, we get taken by surprise. No, we don’t think clearly, we don’t think to do these things. We don’t think of like the logical “Oh yes, I’ll just do this.” Right? We just emotionally react.
And so this friend of mine, she’s incredible and she was like, “Yep, whatever it is, just let me know.” And it ended up being like three in the morning and she got up and she met me at the emergency vet. And when the vet was like, “Okay, we’re gonna take Piper in the back.” And she was like, “Nope, no, you’re fucking not.” And she just stood and I was just sitting there holding Piper and trying to advocate, but worrying about my fucking heartdog. and this friend of mine was just like, “Nope, not happening. You don’t need to do that.” You know? And she like physically stepped in front of me too. And that’s one of the reasons why [01:32:00] I’d asked her, because I knew that that was a strength of hers.
And so having a support team that we plan ahead of time, like relying on their strengths, is also really important for advocating, for everything really. But when it comes to advocacy, particularly at like a vet where there is that authority dynamic, if we struggle with that dynamic. Or for clients, like I would always suggest to– because I ended up only working with couples who they were both equally as invested. I just wouldn’t work if it was only one of them. And so then whichever one of them was more comfortable with the physically stepping in, that would be their role to do. And so they always walk the dog together. It’s just changing things to set everybody up for success rather than, “Oh, well you should just get better at this thing that they usually struggle with.”
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. Actually. Yes. I feel like this year, my life lesson has been to catch [01:33:00] myself when I tell myself that I need to try harder. Like if my whole plan– Like you have the day where everything is complete shit, where like you failed in something you really cared about and you’re like, “I am gonna do better next time, tomorrow.” When my whole strategy for getting a different outcome tomorrow or next time is “everything that I was just doing the same situation, but I’m gonna try harder.”
I have been doing that for a very long time. Well, and like an abusive boyfriend, it works on that long-interval random reinforcement style pattern. Occasionally it does work, but most of the time it does not. And when it does work, it’s at a great cost and it’s usually not sustainable.
So. Catching myself when I notice that my strategy is that just, “I’m gonna do exactly the same thing tomorrow, but try harder and just be different tomorrow, I’m just be different person when I wake up. Yeah. It’s gonna be better tomorrow. Be best.” [01:34:00]
It is a legit thing for my clients as well. Like, I know– Just to put it in a real concrete terms.
So when I was more intensely training and competing in agility and I was going to work with different instructors and attending seminars– timing of agility cues is huge to the point of being almost everything.
Well, remembering the course is number one and it’s also not a strength of mine, but spatial is very hard. But the timing of the cues is very huge in success. And so it’s very easy, especially with a fast dog, that you’re giving the cues late. And the advice that I hear is, “Too slow.” I remember a particular instructor just would sit in her chair and yell “late, late, late,” and like, how is that helpful?
And I would come off and I’d be like, “Okay, next time I’m gonna cue earlier.” And that did not work for me. I didn’t think it works for anybody because I would do exactly the same things and I would [01:35:00] just, “I’m gonna give it earlier. I’m gonna–”
And I’ve noticed something similar. I will have clients that are clicking late. And they’ll say, “I know, I need to click earlier.” And I realize it’s the same problem. Knowing you need to click earlier and just feeling bad about being late most of the time is an insufficient instruction. Like that’s an insufficient piece of feedback. And what helped me a lot– And people who watch me– and there’s probably– in fact, I know that some of the folks who have helped me on my agility journey will be listening to this one and they’re going to laugh and think, “Oh, this is better. You think this has improved, Hannah?” Yeah, it’s relative.
But when am my best, I am looking for something else to be my cue, to know when to cue, right? I’m looking for something specific. And so one of the things that I have noticed helps a lot with my clients who [01:36:00] I need them to click earlier in the behavior cycle, is finding something for them to look at.
Something for them to cue off of to know when to click, other than just “clicking earlier,” abstractly earlier. When I think, “I need to click earlier,” what I’m really looking for is the behavior that comes before the behavior that I’m trying to click, right? So what can I do to help you perceive the thing that comes before the thing that you’re trying to click so that you can start your clicking process in that moment and ends up landing the click where it needs to happen?
And where was I going with that? Oh, with the “try harder.”
What can I do? What can I do to support you? What can we change about your environment or about what your cues are to help you do this behavior differently, that aren’t just “have better self discipline” or “be more confident,” you know? [01:37:00] What really helps is you have to be confident.
Erin Moore: Oh, well, I’m fucked then. Great.
Hannah Branigan: Have you tried just being more confident?
Erin Moore: Have you tried just being perfect?
Hannah Branigan: So what can we do? I can’t remember exactly where I started, but I’m just gonna keep running until you stop me.
So like one of the things that I’ve found works well for me is in a sports context again– I wanna train the way that I wanna train and it’s a little better now than it was 10 years ago, but not by a whole lot. And for the most part, particularly in the sport that I participate the most in, nobody is training quite like I do or at all like I do. And they think I’m weird. And I’m way more comfortable with that than I would’ve been at some time. But even being comfortable in the– Like, I know that the way that I’m training is actually better. Even though I have all the evidence of like, actually my dogs are doing better than their dogs, in a situation like a [01:38:00] group class or a match or a show-and-go situation, it is incredibly hard for me to say what I need and to ask for their participation. Especially something where I need their participation.
Something that’s worked really well for me is I write– I use a lot of Post-It notes, like they’re all over here. I write my training plan out on a Post-It note. And I do that partly because again, oxygen deprivation kicks in. And also just lack of working memory. I have no idea what my training plan was by the time I’ve started training. So I have notes jotted down. I started handing that to the person running the ring or running the classes. “This is what I’d like to do.” And that for me is easier with my social anxiety than trying to tell them. And that’s something that I’ve passed on to some of my students. [01:39:00]
Erin Moore: And that’s advocacy! It really is. And I think letting go of the “shoulds” is the hard bit, right? Because it’s like, “Oh, well if I was really having advocating for my dog, I would or should be doing this” versus “Yeah. I’m gonna hand a fucking Post-It note because that’s what works for me and my dog.”
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. Is there anything we missed or skipped in this area that we…?
Erin Moore: I think that something that I wanna get into along the lines of what you’re talking about is helping our clients figure out what works for them and then helping them understand how to practice it.
Because it’s one thing to say, “Okay, here’s your homework. Go do XYZ.” If that’s not split small enough down for it to be realistic for them or for them to actually have a good understanding about it, then they’re likely not gonna do it. And this is kind of one of the [01:40:00] reasons I think we have all of this “non-compliant,” because there’s no such thing as a non-compliant client in my opinion, is because we have not broken it down small enough for them. We haven’t split it small enough for them with an understanding of how they learn and what’s important to them and what they’re actually trying to get at. And so giving them easy things to practice, easy ways to–
Like, one of the most fun things that I had with my reactive dog program was teaching like an urban agility module. I had one client who like getting up on a fire hydrant or something wasn’t quite enough for her sense of safety and she taught her dog to climb a fucking tree. So her dog would go up a tree when there was another dog coming. And it worked really fucking well for both. So they would see another dog coming, her dog would go up the tree, they would have a whole bunch of fun, dog would pass, her dog would come down the tree and off they’d go. So it’s like, am I gonna teach all of my clients to teach the dogs to climb a tree? No. But that was something that specifically worked really well for her, worked really well for her [01:41:00] dog and you know, we were able plan around.
Hannah Branigan: Yeah, I think being really specific is helpful, both in terms of what exactly are you going to do? Like what does the behavior look like? We’ve got our nested ABCs, which are always– Because it’s less– I don’t know, it just helps me think about things. So we got like the ABC for the dog. What do we want the dog do? Climb a tree. My ABC as the handler. My behavior’s gonna be whatever it is that cues the dog to climb a tree. And then all of that needs to be put on cue of when another dog’s coming. And I think you’re right. Like I definitely get better– I am also uncomfortable with the word compliance for different reasons, but they need those fire drills because knowing how to do a thing and having the skill to do the thing in context are not the same skillset.
[01:42:00] Otherwise, like we could read a– I’ve watched a lot of figure skating on the Olympics and it looks like something I could do. And I know that it is not.
Erin Moore: It’s a good thing that, you know that though. [laughter]
Hannah Branigan: Only because I live in North Carolina and we don’t freeze in the winter. So that’s the main reason. Other than that–
Well, one, knowing what I’m supposed to say to the point of being very specific makes a huge– having written scripts– this is very dorky. I write scripts for myself for everything. Another thing I use my Post-It notes for. If I’m gonna call and schedule an appointment with the doctor, I’m writing myself a script. I’ve done it for years. It helps me. And I use for everything. So I’m very, very specific about exactly what I’m gonna say. That makes huge difference for me. And I also know that intellectually, thinking, “Oh, I’ll use the script if a person says something mean to [01:43:00] me” is not the same thing, because the antecedent is different than being exposed to that moment. So the nonviolent communication skillset is something that I’ve found helpful. I know it’s problematic in some ways but going from zero to something was better for me.
And actually getting to practice, like in very small chunks, even when it’s totally made up, made a huge difference in my ability to find words later. And I had to actually be in it. Again, I’m part of my environment. My internal environment is part of my environment. So having this in incredibly innocuous dude across from me in the NVC practice group say something pretend-mean was just enough for me to [01:44:00] like have enough of what that experience would be like and then to say my how I’m gonna handle that, how I’m gonna deal with that conflict there, helped. And again, this is relative, like you have to understand the level of zero I started from.
Erin Moore: Yeah. Fair! But having any kind of prep or plan at all, even if it’s simply– And often simple is better. Like helping a client practicing “No, thank you” is so much more helpful than having them practice a long fucking three page script about why you don’t want their dog approaching your dog.
And being able to practice that it helps with our own– It helps lessen some of the pressure when we’re going into a situation. It’s not gonna suddenly just make it super easy to do or all of a sudden we’re gonna be like arguing with people without worrying about it but it helps us feel more empowered and ready and prepared, which has a big [01:45:00] impact on our inner world.
Hannah Branigan: It’s a pretty critical shaping step I think, for all of the behaviors. But it absolutely applies for the ones that we’re gonna put in our category of advocacy. Because I’ll say like, “Oh, I want you to practice frequently so you’re gonna practice every time you pass a mailbox” and that’s good because they’re at least in the neighborhood. But just adding me stepping from between parked cars with either just me or with my sock puppet – those who’ve worked with me know, are familiar with my sock puppets – Dog is not gonna react to the sock puppet. The dog does not care about sock puppets, but the human sees the sock puppet. It’s enough of a weird thing that they’re just a little bit– And they do their emergency U-turn or they do whatever the thing that we’ve practiced.
Erin Moore: I really like what you said about like “every time you see a mailbox, do this,” because getting that specific with it– Like, okay, so you’re gonna practice this frequently. Well, what does frequently mean?
So you’re gonna [01:46:00] practice this– because for your overachieving perfectionist, “frequently” is like eight hours a day for good results. It can mean you’re gonna practice this for ten repetitions at 11:00 AM, at 2:00 PM, and at 5:00 PM. Like you can get that specific with your clients to help them with that.
From the trainer side too, again, it sounds weird, but one of the biggest ways you can help your clients advocate is by working on your business shit. Because when you’ve got your business sorted out, you aren’t working with a client with that pressure of, “Fuck, I’ve only got three sessions with you and I’ve gotta get all of this fucking information into your head before we stop working together. And I’m gonna totally fucking information overload you and then expect you to be able to break it down and practice it.” Right? And when you’ve got the business side set up where you’re working with them for a long enough period of time that you know you can work on that one thing or half a thing in that session if you need to without the pressure of, “Oh fuck, but then I don’t have enough time to work with you.” That’s where you can actually get really good results with [01:47:00] advocacy and all other behavior things, but you’re not overwhelming them with all of the dog training information that you have in your professional career as a dog trainer in three sessions.
Hannah Branigan: I just want to give you everything that I know and that I believe that you need to know. And also I need to prove to you that I know a lot of things so that I don’t feel bad for charging you $20 an hour for me to help.
Erin Moore: Oh lord, if you’re charging $20 an hour, we really need to talk .
Hannah Branigan: I’m not, but I have.
Erin Moore: Yep. I absolutely have too. Yep.
Hannah Branigan: And I feel bad about it at the time. Now I just continue to feel bad but I charge more and still feel bad. So.
Erin Moore: I mean, if you’re gonna feel bad about it either way, then you may as well have your financial needs met.
Hannah Branigan: Be able to cover your mortgage. Yeah, I think you’re right. And I do think that that makes sense. If I think of [01:48:00] “They need to clear some space in order to do the things that I need them to do. If I come in and infodump the entire like Lindsley volumes one through three, that is not helpful. That’s the opposite of adding their load.”
I was just at a orientation for human school and I was feeling myself getting stressed out because I felt like I needed to memorize every single word that the teacher said. I was noticing that I’m really getting stressed out about having to memorize everything because a Good Parent– well, a Good Parent would already know, of course, because a good parent would’ve already read the parent handbook. And I haven’t, and I probably won’t.
But yeah, I could totally see roles reversed. And I am positive that I do this because I get excited talking about the thing that I’m passionate about. And I talk too fast. I [01:49:00] have many feedbacks on this podcast about how fast I talk.
Take some of that pressure off. Shaping approximations, successive approximations for the humans, I am a big fan of. I hadn’t really thought of it– I definitely think of it as like getting the skill outcome that I’m looking for. I hadn’t thought of it so much in this context, but that makes a lot of sense.
Erin Moore: These are the things that we don’t think about. We don’t think about that because we’ve got our blinders on and we’re looking at the closeup picture rather than the big picture of it.
And the thing is, all of these things that we do come from a place of wanting to help. They come from a place of wanting to provide value. They come from a good place, but there’s so many ways that we can just make that more efficient and effective [01:50:00] which actually helps more.
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. And that’s what it’s about at the end of the day, we do want to– You know, a lot of the stupidest things that I’ve done have been coming from a place of wanting to help more, do better, but just coming at it backwards. So good shaping– I’m also thinking like, oh, well it probably makes sense if this is a thing that’s gonna come up–
Like maybe you have a dog– I don’t work with service dogs, but I have consulted in cases and that’s the dog where the dog’s job is to be out in public. So avoidance isn’t a long-term strategy. But it would make a lot of sense to– And I think we do this to some degree when it’s working out well, although we’re maybe not doing it on purpose, deliberately– Let’s practice advocating in low stakes. What are those skills? And then can we shape up to, [01:51:00] you know, advocating in the TSA line at the airport.
Erin Moore: Yep, absolutely. And it kind of goes how you’re relating to boundaries too, right? When we start learning boundaries, you start practicing baby boundaries. You don’t start with like the hardest relationship in your life and the hardest situation ever. Well, I mean, we do. “Family of origin, here I come with my boundary and my bullshit.”
Hannah Branigan: I read a new book! Wait until I tell you about it!
Erin Moore: You’re really gonna appreciate, you’re gonna love it!
But you start with the baby boundaries and it’s the same– Yeah. I love that. You start with like, what does low risk advocating look like and how do we start there? And then that’s a win. And you feel there’s a reinforcer and you’re like, “Cool, I can do this next piece” rather than, “Hey mom, you fucked me up as a kid. Can we talk about it?”
Hannah Branigan: I’m just imagining how that [01:52:00] would go over.
Erin Moore: Yeah, lemme know if you try it.
Hannah Branigan: Yeah. Okay. Did we hit everything you wanted to hit. Cool. Cool. I think that was helpful. I have a lot to think about now. I am already thinking about it, but thank you for sharing this. This was an important conversation that hopefully other people find helpful. I hope so.
Erin Moore: And thanks for the space to have it.
Hannah Branigan: Thanks for listening! If you like this episode, well, you have good taste and I hope you’ll hit the subscribe button on your podcast app to make sure you don’t miss the next episode. It might be even better than this one. If you are already subscribed, well, thank you. I really appreciate it, and there are still some ways that you could reinforce me if you were so inclined. You could always leave me a five-star review on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you happen to be listening to this podcast. And you can also check out and support the sponsors because they help make the podcast possible.
You can find [01:53:00] links and information about them and the other things that we’ve talked about in this episode by going to the show notes, which can be found at www.wonderpupstraining.com/podcast. And while you’re there, you could also pick up a free PDF training template to help you plan your training sessions. There’s also some other articles and previous podcasts and that sort of thing that you could always find if you were interested.
So until next time, happy training!