Not all leashes, collars and harnesses are the same when it comes to calm and controlled walks with dogs that are triggered by other dogs, people or other distractions. Learn how different types of tools can help make "walkies" better. In this episode, Lorien chats with Heather Beck, the owner and founder of Heather's Heroes. Heather knows all about tough-to-train dogs and how the right tools can make a world of difference. Don't miss out on this informative episode that could help you with your fur buddy!
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00:00 Lorien Clemens
Hello pet lovers, welcome to Pet Lover Geek powered by PetHub. My name is Lorien Clemens and today's episode is gonna be focused on training those canine furry family members. Now my guest, Heather Beck, she's from K9lifeline and Heather's Heroes, has been working with dogs for over 25 years and she really can key into that other end of the leash. In fact, talking about leashes is going to be super important about what we're going to be talking about today and I know that a lot of you listening right now have probably had times in the past you're like, man, I wish I had better leash control or I don't know what to do and he's doing this with that on the leash. So super excited to have her on today. She's been working with rescues and shelters and has started her own large breed and Pitbull rescue. So lots of stuff to learn from Heather today so if you're interested in hearing more and I know you are, stick around just a quick short break and then we will be back with our guest Heather Beck.
01:04 Lorien Clemens
Okay we are back. Hello Heather and welcome to Pet Lover Geek.
01:09 Heather Beck
Oh my gosh! I am such a pet geek so I am so happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
01:16 Lorien Clemens
Oh our pleasure, our pleasure. So we met you, feels like just a little while ago and it was almost over a month and a half ago at Global Pet Expo and we were first introduced to Heather's Heroes and your product and I want to get into all of that as we go on, but if you could just give our listeners a little highlight of who are you and why should they listen to you?
01:37 Heather Beck
Well, my name is Heather Beck and I am just like I said a bona fide pet geek but my biggest thing that I love to nerd out on is dogs and that is by far my biggest passion. I did not grow up with dogs but I absolutely loved them. I have devoted, you know, every day since really getting involved with them right out of high school to them and really figuring out how to give them the best life possible and I do that through my K9lifeline. My actual facility and then also through a lot of the products that I have developed, designed and patented, and you know, trying to get people to use all over the world.
02:15 Lorien Clemens
Well talk about K9lifeline first and tell us what is that all about?
02:20 Heather Beck
Yeah, so K9lifeline is our facility in Draper Utah. I've been at this location for about 15 years and I actually have a lot of space here, so we specialize in socializing dogs. Particularly, we're really world-renowned for socializing difficult and aggressive dogs in this unique environment. I went from shelters, rescue, you know, working with some very difficult dogs into training, and when I moved into training I just couldn't find places that were safe for my clients' dogs, you know, even to be boarded at a vet clinic, they were just sitting in a kennel all day, you know, maybe getting out to go to the bathroom a couple times a day, even if at all, you know, maybe just being moved back and forth from kennel so I just kind of organically grew into doing boarding and daycare but I definitely base it in a very training based way, so we're very structured. The dogs that come into us -- the caliber of dog -- of difficult dog we deal with all dogs, all shapes, all sizes, but the caliber of dogs that can come into us can be very, very difficult and I have never ever, ever turned a dog away from our facility for services based on behavior. That's huge, you know, that's really huge, and so having them here at our facility, we run three separate socialization groups. So we have our adult dogs which are kind of our, you know, can be some of our more difficult dogs, but you know, just our older dogs, maybe some of them just don't wanna play rough like a young puppy. Then we have our small dogs and puppies. About 25 -- you know -- under 25-30 small dogs and puppies and then we have our group called our party animals which is a little bit more consistent with what you might see at a normal daycare, you know, they definitely like to play really rough. Those are dogs that could go more to a regular daycare, you know, and the energy is really high, but we still, you know, within each of those groups we still have that structure and that training base. So that's the gist of K9lifeline. I mean that's where all of this kind of developed. This is my stomping ground. We have two 10,000 square-foot building that those two groups are in and then we also just purchased another 25,000 square-foot building where we manufacture our products. We also do training. We run a weekly social class for our clients to be able to come. It's basically a very controlled dog park, so for each of those specific groups that we have we run a Saturday class where the owners can come and participate with their dogs because it's one thing if your dog can succeed in a daycare environment, it's another if they can succeed with you in the picture around other dogs, so that's been one of our really big niches is running those Saturday social classes and we're one of the only people in the world that actually run classes like that.
05:02 Lorien Clemens
And it's funny that you say you know, can he do it with you? And there's a saying a lot of training problems and dog issues actually happen at the other end of the leash.
05:12 Heather Beck
05:14 Lorien Clemens
Yeah and so let's talk about leashes because that really is how we came to know you. You mentioned your products so talk about the whole aspect of leashes and how it relates to what you do with Heather's Heroes and with K9lifeline.
05:29 Heather Beck
Yeah, so I mean what we do here. We definitely give the dogs an opportunity to regain social skills, but where a lot of that struggle happens is on the leash. So pairing what they learn from us here, you know, in our unique environment, getting the opportunity to be around other dogs. We want that to extend outside of that where when they're out on a walk with you know mom or dad or somebody in the family or a caregiver or a dog walker, we want them to be able to have a really great experience and be able to see that dog or that kid or that person across the street and have it not be a big deal. So the products that we develop, you know, particularly are signature product which is called the Sidekick. That signature product really helps to create that. It helps to create a calm mind using very natural pressure points across the bridge of the nose and it's just so simple it's such a simple tool. It's such an effective tool and it's a tool that people can feel good about using with their dog, especially if they have an aggressive dog, a fearful dog, a reactive dog, a lot of times people think that they have to go, oh my gosh, I have this really aggressive dog, so I have to go collar up. I have to use really aggressive methods to be able to combat that behavior. What I found is that more often than not, those are the most sensitive dogs, so this tool really goes hand in hand to help the calm dogs to be able to create that. You know whether it's fear, anxiety, reaction, reactivity, aggression. This tool really helps to make that happen and just like I said, it's very simple and very effective. You do not have to have, you know, years and years and years of dog handling experience to have this be an effective tool and a safe tool for your dog.
07:13 Lorien Clemens
So this is going to be odd for folks that are listening only to the podcast, but, so here's a challenge for you. You get to describe what this tool is to help us kind of geek out here on the science, as it were, that's behind why this really simple -- I mean you look at the leash and the color apparatus you're like, they're just a cord and the leash kind of thing. What makes it so special? And so can you kind of talk about what is it about the design and then the way that you train people to use the lead that really makes it so special?
07:50 Heather Beck
Yeah, so basically what it is, is it is a head collar and a leash in one piece. So what happens is that we can utilize part of the leash which can be utilized as a slip collar as well. So basically just a loop around the neck and we can use a portion of that to be drawn out to be able to go over the dog's nose which does create this head collar. The fantastic thing about this, there are head collars out on the market. There have been for years and years and years. The difference and why I designed this and at our facility just like I said, we run a huge facility. I have about 150 dogs a day here and I've been doing this for 25 years. So you think of the numbers of dogs that I have actually trained on different types of head collars, different types of pulls, different types of leashes is how this developed to be the best thing out there. So the leash when it's being used in the head collar configuration, the leash actually comes from the back of the head. Most collars out there, head collars, actually come from underneath the neck, which most people really worry about turning the dog's head, especially if you have a dog who's lunging forward, who's moving forward really quickly, and we don't want that. So I developed that to be a little bit easier and a lot safer for the dog, especially a guy that is really struggling with that. Also, that pressure point across the bridge of the nose, the tool is designed to create pressure on and pressure off simply by applying pressure through you. Pressure on, pulling up on the leash, pressure off, releasing tension and pressure on the leash and that is a very natural communication point for the dogs, across the bridge of the nose, which naturally helps them to calm down. There's a lot of tools out on the market, you know if you're looking at e-collars or prong callers, can you use those to create avoidance? Yes, do I work with all tools? Absolutely, but why I love this tool the most, especially for those really difficult and aggressive dogs is because when you apply pressure with this tool, that natural pressure point of calming makes a huge difference. With the prong, with an E collar it can create more problems in certain respects where basically the dog can stop the behavior absolutely, but usually it creates avoidance where the dog is not looking at the trigger that is upsetting it. So when you use this tool, the dog can continue to look when you release pressure and the dog can just calmly sit down and look at what is bothering it and learn like hey, I can look at that calmly, that makes a huge difference in the progress of the dog and how effective the simple, you know, literal piece of rope can be, you know, just by utilizing that natural pressure point and the natural way for them to learn, which is pressure on and pressure off.
10:33 Lorien Clemens
It's really important I think that you bring up that whole avoidance piece because I had a reactive dog for 16 years and because there weren't many tools out there that I had found that were good, finally, my modus operandi was just to avoid it altogether, so just not put her in those situations ever. It saved us a lot of heartache and hurt, literal physical hurt, but it also kept us from doing a lot of the things that we love and so to be able to have a tool that can help them learn that hey, this is actually going to be okay. Like I'm not gonna get hurt in this situation. I'm not going to be attacked or pressured to be in the situation that I don't want to be in that calming thing that you can help them have a learning rather than just avoiding it altogether or masking it. That's the other thing that a lot of the collars and the tools that are out there right now have more of a disciplinary side to them. It really just makes the dog say okay, I can't show that I'm upset by this, but I am still upset by this.
11:32 Heather Beck
Yeah, and then what happens is they blow up completely because they have been taught, you know, like to teach a dog to not look at other dogs or not look at people is ridiculous. Like they need to be able to look to change their perception of it. So if you constantly keep blocking that, and I'm not just saying you know prong collars, E collars, I'm saying this happens a lot with food training as well that can teach us strong avoidance. You know I love to call it the art of avoidance and it doesn't matter the tool, you know, it's the art of avoidance and so many trainers just you know they put their hands up and say yay we did it, you know, because the dog isn't going totally nuts or crazy or you know going crazy but they're staring directly at them. You know I call that the art of avoidance, you know, or if you're just trying to keep the dog from looking at that thing by constantly giving it food and treats or you know, or a verbal command. Leave it, leave it, leave it. You know a lot of that stuff can kind of just get drowned out but then what happens when the dog stops avoiding? Usually, if they haven't been taught how to look at it calmly, they're going to go back in a fight or excitement and excitement, reactivity, and aggression are all on the same page, so you're going to end up, you know, right back in the same spot that you were, and so this path with this particular tool really helps to move the dog through avoidance, which can be part of the process. It's not a bad thing, it's part of the process, but it shouldn't be the end game. The end game should be understanding. That the dog understands hey, and can have a new perception of that thing that really upsets them.
13:10 Lorien Clemens
So how does it work with the short-nosed dogs? Cause the dog that was reactive is a Boston Terrier, which I know freaks people out there like what? A reactive Boston Terrier. Yeah she was the most... she was a jerk. We called her our jerk-faced dog.
13:23 Heather Beck
Yeah I have worked with some pretty nasty dogs. Dogs are individuals. I mean for every dog you know I was like oh my gosh it's like Golden Retriever and I'm like yeah okay it doesn't... you know they're so individual. It never surprises me when I deal with, you know, if there's one that fits what you would consider of that breed. I've worked with twenty others that don't.
13:42 Lorien Clemens
So how does that tool work with those short-faced dogs? I mean does it work as well or is it different?
13:46 Heather Beck
It depends on the smaller dogs. We do have two sizes so we do have a mini size as well and depending on the size of nose that the dog has, you know, it can kind of fit right into that old like boxers things like that. With you know they're really squishy face guys more often than not I will suggest another tool and that may be the prong collar. It may be the slip portion of our leash, but the process is gonna be the same, but ideally if we can get that up on the nose, that's gonna make a big difference because it just takes away that the pressure on the neck it takes away --normally what the dog has been so used to has become so callous around the neck. You know that that's been their whole life. You know their whole life has been this or their whole life has been harnesses you know but we, you know, we try and make sure that we find the right tool for the right situation and this is why as a trainer, it is imperative to have a full tool box, you know, so that hey, if this doesn't work for this dog, it needs to work for this dog, you know. If everything worked for every dog, I probably wouldn't be here and I wouldn't have made this tool that I really enjoy, but yeah, we do make recommendations, but the process is still the same as teaching the dog just to calm down around those situations, so utilizing that pressure up with the leash, no matter what the tool is, if it's just a slip lead, that's great. Pulling out pressure, allowing the dog to go into a sitting position, and then releasing pressure when they go into that sitting position and they're watching calmly or avoiding if they're looking away, that's okay, you know, I'm not trying to force them to look away by trying to give them food or by overcorrecting when they're you know when they're reacting. I'm literally just saying, hey, no big deal, you know, try and make it a non-event.
15:33 Lorien Clemens
Can you take us through like give me a typical situation and what this would look like. You've got a reactive dog, you know, freaking out, let's say like you're on the hiking trail. This is for my life -- this is where we are -- on the hiking trail, another pup is coming straight at them. They're both on leash. Nobody really wants to, well, my dog, one of my two dogs. This is like, okay, it's on. You know everything. So what would that process be like with him?
15:59 Heather Beck
Yeah, so first and foremost, you know this isn't a quick fix. You know there's definitely not as much as people do. Call as a magic leash. It isn't a quick fix, especially for some of those really difficult dogs. But what I always recommend people to do is to condition it in an area of little to no distractions, then get the dog comfortable wearing it. Get yourself used to the timing of pressure on. Once you apply pressure on what I'm looking for is for the dog to move into a sitting position, but at that point I'm not using a lot of verbal because once again most dogs that are struggling they're over touched over talked overstimulated under-exercised, you know. So I'm just waiting for that dog to go into a sitting position when they go into that sitting position. I simply release pressure by dropping my hand down by allowing that leash to be loose. Once I get the dog sitting there calmly, I just hang out with the dogs. This is kind of our initial phase of just teaching calm having the dog sit calmly me next to you. Think of coffee shop mentality. You know if you're going to a coffee shop and could you? you know, could you take your dog to a coffee shop and have them sit calmly next to you?
17:07 Lorien Clemens
17:10 Heather Beck
This is our first phase when we're teaching this is to say, hey, teach them on how to sit calmly next to you, because if you can't teach them how to sit calmly next to you on a loose leash, there's no way you're going to be able to walk with them on one. So a lot of people just jump right into the walking, the running, these wearing them out. I want to focus more on the mental side of things first, so by creating that you know at the very beginning of the training, and maybe it's a day or two, you know that I'm doing that. Maybe it's a week with some dogs, you know. If it's a super reactive dog. It may be 3-4-5 days of hey maybe just sitting out in the driveway and practicing this with only taking a couple steps. Then we start moving into the walk. So as we're walking, you know if I go to start walking and I want the dog next to me or behind me on the walk. If I have a reactive dog or an aggressive dog or a fearful dog, I want them to know that I'm leading. I'm the one initiating the walk and I want them to know that I've got it. You know, I'm the one taking them throughout that environment. So as I'm leading them. No, I'm saying take a couple steps forward and the dog goes nah I don't think I'm gonna walk forward. I'm going to stop. I'm going to get them back into that sitting position. Just letting them know. Hey, I just want you with me. Okay, because I don't want to be an anchor either, you know, I don't want to be an anchor. I want the dog and I to build this relationship through the leash work and that's one of the really big important things of this tool as well. Is that it changes the entire relationship when you condition it through this process, you know? So our actual training process once you get that down. Then you can start going out in areas that are more challenging, predictable areas like hey, I know that down the street there's this dog that barks behind the fence. So maybe I want to start on the other side of the street. You know, if my dog starts the struggle, I'm just going to do the same thing and I'm going to get my dog back into that sitting position. And then I'm going to hang out with there, let them breathe. Let me take some deep breaths, you know, just take it all in. Allow the dog to look at the thing that's triggering them. If they blow up again, just stop, pull that pressure up, get them back in that sitting position. Once they're calm, once you're calm, then you're just gonna move forward onto your walk, then eventually you're gonna be able to meet those dogs out on the trail and be able to you know, maybe just walk off to the side or just be able to walk past them. You know, hey, it's a nonevent, but you've got to start from the very beginning. You know you can't just throw them into the fire and expect that they're not going to get burned, so you want to start where the fire is pretty. Then move to where the fire is warm, then move to where the fire is hot and you know give them that opportunity to really succeed by just taking your time to do that conditioning and help them to understand that that you've got control of the situation. Usually, that's one of the biggest triggers is just the dog that doesn't feel that you have control of the situation. So once you change that dynamic and that relationship every time that dog is putting their butt to the ground in this context with this tool on, or even if you're using it as just the slip lead, what that does create is that submissive mentality is going into that submissive posture of lowering of status and it's not a bad thing.
20:15 Lorien Clemens
They're trusting you. It's the same as I have a toddler child. I can literally see where he goes okay mom's got this. She's got it and but I also know that when he is feeling out of control and then I am also out of control. It only gets worse.
20:31 Heather Beck
Yeah that's the other end of the leash right?
20:33 Lorien Clemens
Yeah so when I am able to be like nope I'm calm, I know it's gonna happen, might struggle a little bit at first, but then he's like, okay this is the way it's gonna go and then that trust and he builds up like this is gonna be okay because mom's got it. It's gonna build up there. Now you've got a number of other products that are on your site. Do they all kind of work the same as the sidekick? How are they different? What are those differences?
20:57 Heather Beck
They're a little bit different, so one of the other tools that we have is the trio. So it's the power trio. So basically it's a fixed collar, so it just kind of sits around. This is a really great one. I use it every day. I bring my dogs to work with me every single day and when they ride in the car I just flip it around. So it's as a collar on them. Then when I get to work, I take the clip off and I put it on to their collar and then it creates a loop that becomes just a safety lead for them. It can also be used as a slip collar with a little floating ring so you can attach another leash to it, but it's got three functions. I absolutely love it and then we have the duo which is a slip lead and a clip lead and then also the duo. All of our stuff is totally multifunctional. So like you get one thing, you kind of eliminate that whole basket of junk that you have in the corner. So the duo can also be used as a harness. So basically it can go around the dog and we still utilize that pressure on and pressure off with that tool. And I hated harnesses like as a dog trainer I have spent years and years and years hating, hating, hating harnesses and then over this last year I really just became challenged enough to go. You know, hey what if I have a squishy face dog, you know that cannot, you know, wear the sidekick. This has become one of my favorite tools to work with and I know how many people really love harnesses like they really do, so I wanted to make one that was really effective and that's what we've created with the duo being able to reconfigure it into a harness and we'd like to use the duo and the trio together as the hero harness, but you can use the duo. It just needs to be able to be used with a very secure and safe collar because the last thing you want is any pressure and then bang that caller pops off. So the trio I know is safe, but I also know that hey, you know if let's say you have a really small dog. We don't make that tool all the way down to a very small size, so if you wanted to use it on a small dog you could just use a very safe collar for it. But those are our current products and I've got a lot in my head. I can't wait to share. I can't wait to keep developing. It's been a slow process over these last few years.
23:05 Lorien Clemens
But I think it's exciting. It's exciting and it's like people are like you're gonna talk about techie collars and i'm like yeah, but they're thinking like a plug-in electric thing. I'm like no, no, no. It's more about the design and the what's going behind it and how the functionality works. So I think it's really exciting -- real quick and we're kind of running out of time but talk about just wanna make sure we have time to talk about your one leash one life program. Can you tell folks a little bit about that?
23:29 Heather Beck
This is my passion by far. I mean I started in rescue and I will always continue that. So our one leash one life program is basically a portion of all of our sales through Heather's Heroes does go to helping shelters and rescues and whether that's a monetary donation which we've been doing that for years and years and years with our local shelters or leash donations, so we end up donating a lot of our products to leashes not just in this country, but all over the world. To be able to, you know, help those dogs because one of the really big things that I think dogs in shelters and rescues actually need is they need to know how to walk on a leash and when I was running my rescue, all of my dogs were really good on leash and so you know if I would walk into an adoption event and my dogs are all walking on a nice smooth leash they were getting adopted like crazy and I'd be, you know, I'd have all my dogs adopted out by noon and everyone else is like how do you do that? I'm like, well, just a little bit of training so I see all that those products really make a difference in the shelters and that's the feedback that we get. So we really, really love doing that. So we love the support. Obviously, I'm a women-owned business. You know, we love the support that we give to shelters and we just love helping them and they love getting the support. They're our biggest advocates, you know, and so people are adopting, you know, they're the ones coming back to our sites and purchasing more products so it works out really great and it just feels good. I love maintaining in that rescue and shelter community.
24:54 Lorien Clemens
And it's so important too because so many of the dogs that do end up going back in the shelters are going back for issues like not being able to go on a walk and be safe and and things like that. So I love that you are doing that with what you're doing with the one leash one life program. That's fantastic. Tell people how they can find out more and learn about your products and then most importantly, learn how to properly use your products.
25:19 Heather Beck
Awesome, yes, absolutely you can just check us out at heathersheroes.com. There is also K9lifeline.dog. Either one of those websites will get you to the product. Either one of those websites will also get you to our learning portal. So if you guys are purchasing products from us, or even if you're not purchasing products from us, we have a bunch of tips on there about even crate training, which is the other big thing I wish more people took advantage of pre-training, how to condition the leash. How to work with tools, how to hold it, all that fun stuff. You can find all those two websites.
25:47 Lorien Clemens
Awesome, so that's Heathersheroes.com and K9. The letter K and #9 Lifeline.dog. So make sure you go there and check those out. Thank you so much for joining us today.
26:02 Heather Beck
Absolutely, thanks for having me. I appreciate you so much. Thank you.
26:06 Lorien Clemens
You're welcome and this is a big passion of ours folks here at PetHub, lost pet prevention and preventing pets from having to go back into shelters. Huge mission of ours. So any product that we find that's like Heathers leads are big, big, exciting things for us, so please go check them out and if there's something that you have a question about, maybe you have a question for Heather or you have a question about another product that you might have heard about on our show, or if there's a topic that you are just dying for us to geek out about, please do not hesitate to drop a comment on any of our social media posts and we will make sure to include them on some future episodes. Thanks again for joining us today on Pet Lover geek powered by PetHub and please have a "paw'some day.