Duke Ferguson is a world-renowned professional dog trainer who has been studying and practicing canine behavior for 30 years. He fell into this adventure by facing tough decisions about one of his dogs: train the problematic dog, or put it to sleep.
In this interview, Duke from Unleashed Potential K9 Academy is telling us a lot about how dog training should go hand in hand with dog breeding and touches on topics such as positive reinforcement versus wrongly-named dog shock collars.
Enjoy the read :)
Please introduce your business and what are you in charge of, just to give the readers some background.
Duke Ferguson, Owner, CEO and master trainer of Unleashed Potential K9 Academy. Unleashed Potential is a team of highly skilled professional dog trainers who are passionate about dogs and helping people make their bad dogs good and good dogs better.
Many people improvise themselves a dog trainer, do you have a background backing this up?
Definitely! I’ve spent the last 30 years studying dog behaviors and dog training methods from some of the best dog training schools and dog trainers around the world.
- I graduated from California’s Animal Behavior Canine College
- I graduated from Canada West Canine Centre of BC where I studied all levels of kennel management, temperament testing, dog care, obedience, utility, behavior problems, support dog training, tracking, personal protection, attack dog training, police K9, detection training (drugs and bombs), security and guard dog training
- Upon graduating from Canada West Canine Centre I received a certification in Canine Obedience & Kennel Management and become a certified Master Trainer
- I became certified at the No Limitations School for Dog Trainers now called Sit Means Sit in Colorado and Las Vegas and I am certified in the specialized humane use of a remote collar.
I am also first Canadian to certify in the use of the K-9 Behavior Shaping Device.
Silly question but it has to be asked… What are the top 3 smartest dog breeds that are the quickest to digest new lessons?
The top dogs I like to work with most:
- Belgian Malinois
- Labrador Retriever
- Border Collies
The smartest dog is the one who is the most motivated and less spoiled.
For what reasons would you say dog breeders need the services of a dog trainer: counseling, socialization, or anything else?
Dog breeders need the services of dog trainers for many factors. Temperament Testing service so new owners can have the best chance of getting a pup that suits their nature. Proper training and socialization education is important for breeders and new owners. If the breeding stock is not well mannered and social it sends a bad message about what the pups might be like as well.
You must be close to some dog breeders, what do you think is their biggest mistake in the way they train their dogs?
A few mistakes that some breeders tend to make are:
- the misuse of their markers and clear communication with the dog
- babying the dogs too much and not training their dogs at all
- being too “breed specific” and making the mistake thinking there are only specific methods for specific breeds
Do you think most dog breeders give very little care and attention to training their puppies since they know they are leaving them within weeks?
Champion dogs increase the value of the progenies, do you think breeders should be more involved in dog shows and obedience shows more? Even if just to participate and not necessarily win…
I think it is very important that dog breeders become a lot more active in all kinds of activities with their dogs. It could be agility, obedience, swimming, rally, nose work, show… And these are great moments to bond with your dogs!
You do have an online programme, would it be suitable to experienced dog breeders?
I have a completely online program that has been helping breeders, rescue groups, professional trainers and general pet owners all over the world get amazing results with their dogs. From puppy to advanced the program is complete. The program is called Dog Training Genesis.
Are you using e-collars or dog shock collars in some of your training sessions? What are your views on these devices, they tend to oppose completely extremist views…
We are open-minded trainers and are not opposed to any tools. We do specialize in the humane effective use of a remote training collar and do use them in combination with food and toy rewards.
The e-collar or remote collar is both good and bad, depending on how they are used and the brand you get. The word dog shock collar is very misleading because they don’t shock and burn. Today’s e-collars stimulate muscles like a physiotherapist’s tens machine, and the latter is not a shock therapy. Tens is actually a pain reducer if used properly.
The problem with remote training collars is that people can simply buy them in stores and have no idea on how to use them properly. Plus, generally, what you buy in most stores is junk and not adjustable enough to meet the individual dog’s sensitivity level. Combine these 2 factors and you have a high rate of failure to produce a good result and problems can be created. If the collar is not used properly it can cause superstitious associations. This can create confusion, fear and nervousness.
People need to keep one thing in mind: the remote training collar is not a method it is just a tool. The handlers create the result in how they use the tool.
There are several good things about e-collars, the list depends on the precise product you are buying. Brands I use are E-collar Technologies and sometimes Dogtra, but most remote collars share great characteristics.
- Non-personal and transferrable — so any intimidation or fear by use of loud voice commands or leash tugging is not required, more people can get s response when working the dog including stubborn and fearful dogs
- Adjustable — a professional remote training collar can be used in a more gentle way than a vibrator, some have hundreds of levels
- Clear communication by touch — remote training collars help motivate attention better than any other touch-pressure tool in the world today
- Timing, consistency, and motivation — these are the top three factors in training a dog and a remote training collar helps give the trainer the advantage of implementing these three pillars effectively
- Off-leash attention — all breeds including huskies, hounds, and deaf dogs can be trained to be off leash in any distractive environment, no matter the distractions
The remote training collar should not be looked at as a last resort, it’s an advanced tool for communication and motivating attention. It is awesome to have it in the toolbox of training just like having treats and toys.
What breeds are the hardest to train in your opinion? Are you refusing to train any particular breed or client?
We look at the individual dog and individual issues and we will train any dog from any breed at any age with any issue.
I don’t think there is any breed that is hard to train and we do not turn away any breed. The hardest dog to train is a dog who is fat, lazy, fearful, spoiled rotten, hard to motivate and who has a lot of undesired behaviors reinforced by the owners. Poor genetics also makes things very difficult at times.
How are you dealing with clients all over the world, is Skype your best business partner?
Working with clients all over the world I find My Dog Training Genesis program and Skype sessions my top tools… The other option is to fly me to them and be in person but not everyone can afford it.
Is a website and a social media presence mandatory nowadays for any pet-related business?
Websites, blog, and use of social media is a must for any business in society today.
Which dog marked your memory the most over your entire career, and why?
Hmm good question! I have trained thousands of dogs all over the world so this is tough.
I would say “Hunter”, the Chocolate Labrador I had before I became a professional trainer. I was training him for search and rescue. He developed food aggression at 7-8 months old and I was told by an animal behaviourist that if clicker training and positive reinforcement did not work I would have to put him to sleep. After a long while, all the positive training did not work and I felt like I wasted a lot of time. I refused to put him down because he was great in all other ways. I adjusted my training and used other tools such as pinch collars, slip leads and e-collars (which I was told not to use by the behaviourist.)
I combined the tools with the positive training and I got amazing results in a timely fashion, so good in fact, that I then won awards with him. The behaviourist was very upset I used such tools on my dog and when I saw his negative emotional response, I was very disappointed.
This opened my eyes to the controversy in tools and training in the dog world. It motivated me to study and become a professional behaviorist/trainer so I traveled all over and studied from several schools with all different beliefs. I have studied dog training and animal behaviour from some of the best dog trainers in the world and continue to do so.
If it was not for Hunter and a few cutbacks in Government work then I think I would still be working with a police K9 unit and training hunting dogs.
You have a YouTube Channel with several videos, why did you want to start your own video channel?
I started the YouTube Channel so I can better educate the world on the truth about dog training. Education is important. The videos show testimonials, hands-on training tips and the results of the trained dogs. I find video way more effective than typing words.