John Rogerson, former aircraft engineer, maker of exotic musical instruments, travels the world spreading his doctrine of compassionate and informed dog care and ownership. He is the man: the worldwide leader in dog training, sought after by organizations globally who work with dogs including military, police and service animals.
In New Orleans, just off a cruise in the Caribbean where he’d lectured on the topic of care and handling to a ship full of worshipful dog breeders, John stopped into the Jefferson Feed Store, where about 40 people and three dogs had assembled to hear him speak. When two of the dogs in the room got into a brawl, John remarked that if this were Hong Kong, where he’d recently been, there could have been 50 dogs in the room and there would not have been a fight. Why? The way we train our dogs, keep our dogs, is just as cultural as the clothes we wear and the food we eat.
In America, we brawl.
John talked about growing up in England, where the family dog really was a member of the family, one that ate when and what the family ate. It became a member of that human pack so that in a park or any other setting, the dog wasn’t really interested in mingling … or fighting … with other dogs.
He is an evangelist for tearing down all dog shelters (which he considers dog prisons, no matter how well meaning the staff.) The kill rate in the best of shelters in Louisiana is just under 50 percent. (Horrifying!) In Sweden, they’ve closed all dog shelters, as well as greatly reduced the number of human prisons; so it can be done. As for the reasons why dog shelters keep growing, as with most things, follow the money. If you build it, they will come. If they come, half will be killed, says John.
John isn’t a big fan of dog parks, either. He says that when dogs play together in dog parks, they’re re-learning how to be members of the canine pack, not the human one.
He came to New Orleans by invitation of Gene and Lindsay Goldring, who, in no time (10 months), have started their own doggie mission, The Inner Pup of New Orleans, TIPNO. Gene was my best friend in kindergarten, but it was awe, not nepotism, that made me want to write about mother and daughter.
In addition to starting this business that takes her all over the city and to the state house in Baton Rouge to lobby on behalf of animal rights, she does ceramics, cooks, cleans a big house like a cleaning service would, exercises like a fiend, and does at least five other things I can’t think of.
Gene’s daughter, Lindsay, grew up in Chicago, where Gene and her husband, Steve Goldring, were living. Like her mom, Lindsay Goldring is a major go-getter. By the age of 10 she was volunteering at the Anti-Cruelty Society in downtown Chicago; the staff there were skeptical, but she was still working there at 18 and as a paid employee. She went off to college, but her passion for dog training had taken root ,so she continued to work in shelters in Boulder, Colorado.
Lindsay crossed paths with John Rogerson at a lecture in Chicago dealing with dog aggression over food known in the trade as “resource guarding.” John opened for the trainer Lindsay had come to hear (Sue Sternberg), but when he had finished his demonstration and lecture, she could only think, “WHO IS THIS GUY?!”
He’d transformed a snarling poodle mix into a lap dog by playing a game that was really just common sense and simple science. The toy he used was a bone too large for the dog to hold in its mouth on its own. So, by teaching the dog that the bone could only be his with a little help from his friend, the dog learned to share — not by negative discipline or by using treats, but really by teaching the dog to think … and to understand.
This is also core to Lindsay’s approach. Teach the dog how to think and then it’s so much easier to teach that dog new things.
“What’s the point of teaching ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ fetch’?” They’re meaningless, in a way. But if you teach those things in the context of what you really want that dog to learn, then you’ve not only taught ‘sit/stay/fetch,’ but also to bring you the newspaper, turn off the light, or open the fridge and bring you a frosty.
Lindsay trained with John for three weeks in India, where dogs wander the streets in a symbiotic relationship with humans, acting as scavengers, living garbage disposals. John’s goal is to give people around the world the keys to training and keeping dogs in a humane way; Lindsay and Gene are up to the same thing with TIPNO. When they go into neighborhoods, they usually leave behind an ambassador, someone who lives in that neighborhood and is excited about the organization. This person then is a direct link between the locals and a vet who will spay/neuter and give shots, a local ambassador who can go into neighborhood schools to teach kids the right way to handle dogs, to be better pet owners, even to become dog trainers.
Both John Rogerson and TIPNO stress education. So many breeders sell to people who don’t know a thing about the breed they’re buying … a member-to-be of their family for life. Traits for each breed are built into their DNA — don’t try to mess with DNA! If you really want a beagle, for instance, then be prepared for lots of exercise. You don’t have to own five acres, but do plan on exercising that dog as though you own five acres. Good breeders will let perspective buyers know what they’re getting and really good breeders will only sell to buyers who are compatible with the breed.
Responsible dog owners spay/neuter (or just don’t breed their dogs). So who doesn’t spay/neuter? Irresponsible dog owners and people making money off of breeding. This means litter after litter of dogs that won’t find homes and likely will end up being euthanized in a shelter. TIPNO works closely with the Jefferson SPCA. Right now, all 70072 area codes can get their dogs neutered, FOR FREE. They also have partnered with Project Spay/Neuter, an organization that makes it possible for anyone in Jefferson Parish who is not in the 70072 zip code to get their dogs fixed for $50. Sometimes, going into a new neighborhood works, while at other times folks just can’t believe it. They’ll say, “It’s free? No way! What about my friend’s dog?”
So Lindsay and Gene are on a mission. They absolutely love dogs. As Gene says, “It’s not who you love, but that you love.”
John Rogerson: www.johnrogerson.com
The Dog Vinci Code: Unlock the Secrets to Training Your Dog, by John Rodgerson, 2010