Saturday Jul 30, 2022

Episode 17: Meet Stew Clay of K9 Contenders in Nashville

 Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products podcast, I'm your host and today I've really got a special guest, friend, and colleague, and his name is Stewart Clay. What we're gonna be talking about today with Stewart is training your dog and what you need to look for, what you need to be aware of, and get some professional advice from somebody who I've dealt with for a long time, who I've trusted with client's pets and actually I do work for Stewart both as a veterinarian, as a collaborator on different dog issues, and so please welcome Stewart Clay. Stewart, how's it going?

Stew Clay:

 Good Marc, thanks for having me.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 Stewart, can you tell everybody what you do?

Stew Clay:

 I own a website business called K9 Contenders. It essentially helps people find puppies, breeders, trainer, stud dogs, if you're looking for a breeding dog, really everything sporting dog related, sort of a resource to help you find the right people and connect with them in a way that it enhances the experience of going through that process. Essentially represent professional trainers and breeders all over the country to help people find things like puppies, reputable trainers, breeders, that kind of thing.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 You say sporting dogs. That may be a term that a lot of people don't understand. What exactly is a sporting dog?

Stew Clay:

 It can mean a lot of different things. In my world, it's a gun dog, a retriever, a duck dog, or a dove dog, it can be a flushing dog; most of it's a retriever-type dog. It's meant to be for any sporting dog, whether it be agility, dock diving, hunting, or all of those types of things. It's a relatively new business, so right now, it's pretty sporting dog related in terms of hunting, but it's really meant to be anything that is an active outdoor type tool or something you would use for an activity outdoors if you will.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 Those dogs, they're high-powered machines, right, and they have to be trained to do what the owner wants.

Stew Clay:

 Absolutely.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 What we're gonna do is Stewart, he has this awesome website, but he also has trained dogs for how long, Stewart?

Stew Clay:

 Oh gosh, 20 plus years for sure.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 Twenty-plus years and he's dealt with all different kinds of dogs, and so what we're gonna do is we're gonna talk about some ideas and some concepts from a professional dog trainer, and like I said, I've known Stewart oh for probably ten years, and he's a client, and I refer a lot of people to him, and I have a lot of faith in what he does because he gets results out of the way he trains dogs and his training methods.

Stewart, if you're telling people, as far as training their pet, let me back up. Let's talk about a scenario. Somebody goes out, and they buy a puppy and bring it home, and it's great, and everybody's happy, and life is wonderful, but then they're faced with the hard task of getting this dog to be a functional pet in their home. Can you talk about that and talk about the advice you give people. I know you train a lot of those dogs, but can you give people advice for some things that they can do at home or to make this transition from a crazy puppy to a functional pet or a functional young adult dog?

Stew Clay:

Yeah, sure, I would say the most important thing to start with is to get the right puppy. They're not all created equal. They all have their purpose and they're bred for a reason in most cases, so it's important to find out that the temperament is a fit and that the type of dog is a fit for you and your family. I would say first use a reputable breeder or someone like myself that's familiar with those people to make sure that you get the right puppy out of the gate. That's probably the most important decision you can make.

Secondly, start right away. That's a blank canvas just like a child, so it's important that you start to train that dog on how it needs to behave in every walk of life. The second you get that dog home at 8, 9, or 10 weeks old, that's when you start training. A lot of people think that you start training at 5, or 6 months old, but that's not the case.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 You're already behind the eight ball a little bit.

Stew Clay:

 Right. A lot of the things that I see as a trainer that people encounter with young dogs and even older dogs, is these are habits that they've created as a puppy and they've gotten away with those things, and so now they have habits that have turned in to almost daily activities, so they're conditioned to do these things. As a trainer what I like to do is to build that puppy from the very beginning so that I can show it the things that I want and don't want in terms of its behavior. It's important that you work with that dog right out of the gate and you do it in a manner that makes sense to the dog and the picture is clear. In most cases, dogs are very black and white, so if you can paint that picture for them, then you can teach them, but if you can't teach them, you can't train them.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 When we've given these puppies these 6, 9, 12 sets of shots, they're like, "Hey Dr. Smith, how do I get my dog to pee in the right place, how do I get them to go to the bathroom?", can you tell people real quick how you do that? Do you give them a trophy, do you shower them with love, what do you do? Tell everybody.

Stew Clay:

 I train all dogs this way to start, no matter what the age, but when I get that puppy home, the first thing I'm gonna do is buy a kennel or a crate, whatever you want to call it, and I'm gonna use that as a tool. I'm gonna use one that is small enough to contain that puppy in a small environment, with no blankets, no toys, I mean it can have toys, but no blankets, no beds, no padding of any kind, and that's not to be cruel, that's to teach the dog to hold the potty. If you get a dog and you put it in a crate that has a blanket in it and it pee-pees, the blanket is just gonna soak that up. There's no ill effect to that, so the first thing we want to do is teach that puppy that it has to start to control itself, and if it pees, it has to sit in it, so that process makes the puppy think well that's no fun, I'd rather hold it longer and see if I can go out.

The second thing, the most important thing to do with a young puppy is to take it out of the kennel, carry it to a spot in the yard, set it down, and give it a job.

Marc Smith, DVM:

The same spot every time?

Stew Clay:

 Yep. I'm gonna take that puppy out, I'm gonna set it on the ground and I'm gonna say hurry, hurry, hurry, potty, potty, potty, whatever word you want to use.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle.

Stew Clay:

Yeah, it can be Cheerios, as long as it's always Cheerios. I'm also going to use a food called Bil-Jac, that I use to train, again new dogs, certainly puppies, and so I'm gonna have that food with me, and I'm gonna say hurry, hurry, hurry, when the puppy goes to the bathroom, I'm gonna say yes to mark the behavior, and then I'm gonna feed it.

Marc Smith, DVM:

Yes, to mark the behavior, that means you're telling the puppy good job, kudos, hell yes, whatever it may be but yes.

Stew Clay:

 Can be a lot like a clicker trainer, you know clicker marks the behavior and then the reward, so yes is telling the puppy I want that, that's what I'm after and here's your reward. Let me explain something quickly, and maybe we should cover this in another segment or something, but this is not reward training. This is food motivational training or luring. However you want to call it, there are lots of different names for it, but the goal is to use that puppy's desire to eat to your favor. Everything that I do with a puppy is gonna be driven by that dog's desire to eat, and in most cases, I don't even have to talk to the dog. It does what I want, I say yes and I feed it. It doesn't really even need a name. Through the process, the dog starts to learn what I'm after.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 Right, okay, that's really good for people to hear, and the structure of putting the puppy in the same place every time, the structure of giving a treat in a predictable manner speeds up the whole process of this puppy learning what's expected when they're a young puppy and growing up.

Stew Clay:

 Yeah, I think it's important to clarify one thing. At first, I'm gonna carry that puppy from the kennel to the yard, as that puppy starts to get bigger, I'm gonna give it more freedom and more leeway to do it on its own, so for instance, I'm gonna carry the puppy out, set it down, tell it what to do and then when we go back inside I'll carry the puppy to the kennel, set it down in front of the kennel and tell it kennel and help it in, so I want it to get in the kennel on its own.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 Then you say yes, and then you reward it at that time for doing what you want.

Stew Clay:

 As it gets bigger and gets the process down, I'll let it follow me outside and follow me inside, but at first, I don't want to do that. I don't want it have an accident on the way out or the way in; that's one of the reasons you use the same spot. It's familiar, it becomes conditioned, so it's a process.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 We've gone over these elementary ways of house training, let's say, gotta be consistent. How long should somebody expect that to take if they're consistent with marking the behavior, giving them a treat, how long, three months, six months, four years, how long?

Stew Clay:

 Every dog is different, certainly a couple of weeks. The key is, is to test it in the right environment. We could go on and on about this forever, this process, but at the end of the day, the goal is to have the puppy learn the process; so for instance, a lot of people take puppies out, and they play, and they don't do anything, and they take it back inside and the next thing you know it's had an accident.

Marc Smith, DVM:

In the house?

Stew Clay:

Right. That's because the dog didn't go outside with a goal or a purpose, so this way you teach the dog what you want, so it goes outside, it runs in the yard it pee-pees because it's hungry, it wants something to eat, it earns that food, so it starts to learn the process. As you continue to do that, and you keep an eye on it and all the things that you do with puppies, it ought to happen pretty quickly.

Marc Smith, DVM:

Let's say this little puppy you've trained, and he's doing well how do you handle it if he pees in the dining room? How do you handle it when there's a step back?

Stew Clay:

 Accidents in the house are not bad as long as you catch them and they don't ruin your rug. The thing about accidents is you almost need them to happen to a certain extent in order to teach unless you just do a really good job. At the end of the day, the biggest thing about a puppy is, is to let it have its time with the family, but watch it, keep it contained or confined so that if there is an accident, you catch it.

If you catch it, no more of this paper to the backside or rubbing its nose in it or anything like that. I'm just gonna say no, no, no, I'm gonna pick that puppy up, no, no, no, all the way back outside where I'm used to going, I'm gonna set it down, and I'm gonna say hurry, hurry, hurry. At the end of the day, even if the puppy doesn't go to the bathroom at that point, it's already gone in the house; it's no, no, no, yes, yes, yes. It's very black and white. I don't want that, I want this.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 Okay, well, that's good to know because when Rover goes and hikes his leg on your wife's new suede shoes, you know that can create some problems, right?

Stew Clay:

 Absolutely.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 All right, so we've talked a little bit about these puppies, and then let's talk about, let's go to the adult dog, and let's talk about what are the most common reasons send you an adult dog. I'm talking about a family pet, I'm not talking about a hunting dog or sporting dog. What are the most common reasons people send you a family pet, and for what problem behavior or training problems are they having?

Stew Clay:

 Greeting people, they jump, they're hyper, they jump all over people, they pull on a leash when they go for walks. They're just generally unmanageable and uncontrollable from the standpoint that they don't greet people the right way; they, in most cases, haven't been around a lot of dogs so they don't do that well. They drag their owner up and down the street, they don't come when they're called, they don't have any manners, they're on the couch, on the table, they're just everywhere.

Marc Smith, DVM:

You know what irritates the hell out of me?

Stew Clay:

What?

Marc Smith, DVM:

 When I dive into somebody's driveway and I got the window rolled down and the dog runs up and jumps up and scratches the side of my truck. That really irritates me.

Stew Clay:

 As it should.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 That's what you're talking about, so how do you take that dog and prevent him from jumping up on people with his muddy paws and ruining their new shirt? How do you prevent that, or what do you do in that situation?

Stew Clay:

There are a couple of ways. First of all, you can train the dog as a puppy, mind you, not to do these things. In most cases, that's a learned behavior. The best thing to do is to never allow it to start. To fix it, I do a couple of different things.

I'm always gonna start with the food motivational training or whatever it is that I'm doing, something that's gonna teach that dog with the clearest message that I can give it in terms of what I want and what I don't want, so for instance, I get that dog, we go outside, I've got the food that I always use, he's hungry, I'm either working him first thing in the morning, or in the middle of the day before he eats, he's always gonna be hungry. I'm gonna use that food to teach him, so he's gonna run up to me, he's gonna jump when his feet hit the ground, I'm gonna say yes, and I'm gonna feed him. He's gonna jump, I'm gonna ignore it, his feet hit the ground, yes, feed him.

Cause and effect, he's hungry, he wants to eat. He's gonna greet me multiple times in most cases; when I do that, it's cause and effect, what gets him what he wants. Sitting or standing in front of me always gets him what he wants. Jumping never gets him what he wants, so you essentially take it away by never rewarding it. What people don't understand is that in most cases, when a dog jumps, they say no, no, get off, get off, and they knee and they jump, and they slap, and you know they get all animated, right? Everybody gets animated.

Marc Smith, DVM:

My teenage daughter.

Stew Clay:

Right, that actually fuels the behavior even though they're trying to stop it. How does the dog know what you want, teach, force, and reinforce is the process. Force is kind of a poor word there, but as an example, I'm gonna teach a dog to sit, then I'm gonna force it to sit, once it knows the command. If I say sit and it doesn't sit, I'm gonna push down on its bottom. I'm gonna make it follow through with that command, right? That's the force. Reinforce is yes, that's what I want, and the positive reinforcement that follows that.

I'm gonna teach that dog through repetition what I want, and so if I never give it anything for jumping, hopefully, that will lose its value, so running up to me and sitting gets it what it wants. Running up to me and jumping on me never gets it what it wants. Then, if that doesn't work, or not to the extent that I need it to, then we go to a leash and a choke chain or slip lead or something like that, and we give a snap of the collar and a correction when they jump and a no. Sometimes you have to build on that.

In most cases it's pretty easy to stop, but the thing about dogs is they have a perception of everyone. I can stop a dog from jumping pretty quickly. The second their owner returns, they're gonna revert back to that behavior because it's what they know. It's then very important for the owner to then take the ownership of that problem and continue to fix it. I can only teach it.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 What you're saying I think is very important, is that people, if you go out and hire a professional trainer, you still have to do your part.

Stew Clay:

 Absolutely.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 If you don't, your dog will revert to doing the same old stuff and it is a total waste of time.

Stew Clay:

 I hear it every day from people. I saw a friend of mine the other day that had sent their dog to someone else in Nashville, said they did a wonderful job, very complimentary of the training, it's all gone, dog didn't remember any of it.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 People you've got to keep up. It's not train a dog and it's done the rest of its life, it's a constant, chronic battle, long term commitment. One other thing I want to ask you about, and I'm not sure how much experience you have with this, but dogs that get separation anxiety, where this dog is a normal family pet and then the kids go to school and people go off to work and then they come home six hours later and the house is torn up or that type of thing.

Stew Clay:

 You can certainly be successful and there's examples of rescues and things that come with some baggage that you don't ever know about. They don't give you a lot of information, so you don't know about circumstantial situations like that where it's ingrained in them to such an extent that you really got to dig it out, but just a dog in general, that's in most cases caused when people give their dog too much attention. The dog's never independent, it's never by itself, it's always the center of attention. A crate can really help with that. Crate training a dog allows it a place to be by itself and be independent. It's great for dogs like that to have to sit somewhere close to the family, in a crate and be secondary, not always be the center of attention. When that dog whines or barks or carries on, you correct that behavior and then you teach it. It has to be independent.

I would venture to say, and some may not agree with this, but I would say that 80% of that, that I see is human created. People create it and they're not willing to see the process through. They put the dog in the crate, the dog whines or carries on and they think oh no, Fluffy's feelings are hurt, I got to take him out, I got to rescue him.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 That just teaches them to whine.

Stew Clay:

 Right, and Fluffy puts that in his back pocket and says I get this process. I can manipulate everybody in this house. The best thing to do in that situation is teach that dog to be independent.

Marc Smith, DVM:

That's great advice, Stewart. Ladies and gentlemen, Stewart Clay he's been an awesome guest. Stewart, how can people get in touch with you if they have questions, if they want to check out the website, can you tell people again, please?

Stew Clay:

Yeah, it's k9contenders.com, the letter k9contenders, you can email me at stew@k9contenders.com, we're on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, all that.

Marc Smith, DVM:

 And you train dogs from all over the country, right? I mean people bring you dogs because of your skill and your expertise because you can help them have a functional pet and lots of times solve their problems. That's another thing that people need to consider; I mean, you're a professional, you're a pro, this is your living, you're an expert.

Stew Clay:

Yeah, absolutely, this is what I do, I work with other trainers as well, but I have a training business of my own that functions around my other business and that kind of thing, but this is a passion of mine and something I've been interested in for a long time, and there's such a need for it. I've got many, many more people coming to me than I can possibly handle, and it's fascinating to me that a lot of these things can be prevented if people will just start early and build that puppy instead of letting it get to a certain age and then saying oh crap, I got to get somebody to help me because a lot of these things are created, and you represent that anxiety or that stress or that excitement to that dog. A trainer can help you in that situation, but ultimately you're the only one that can fix that problem.

Marc Smith, DVM:

Perfect, thank you, Stewart. Thank you for coming. You did a great job. That was very informative. Ladies and gentlemen and everybody out there, thank you for listening; once again, I'm Dr. Marc Smith, your host, and if you liked what we talked about today, then please give us a rating on iTunes, and if you want to learn more about the best ways to take care of your pet, then head over to our blog at www.pettao.com/blog, read up, learn, empower yourself because we can teach you the best way to take care of your pet. Until next time, we'll see you next week, so long and have a safe and happy week.

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