When people say they don’t have the time to exercise their dogs, then I don’t think they are truly interested in having a dog in their life...
I like to educate dog owners to think about why they want an animal in the first place ...
Dogs need to be activated, this is what makes them vital!
Animal Training, Animal Activisim
animal abuse

Animal Trainer's Journey

Name: Stefan Forsman
Age: 50
Pursuits: Animal care and behaviour, wilderness and survival training. Education: Working farms and ranches in Sweden, Lapland, US, Canada and Australia.
Major: Dogs and Horses
Favorite Breeds: Wild dogs and boxers.
Favorite Movie: Wilderness Adventures in Sweden
Interests: Hiking and biking in beautiful wild country ... with my dogs. Pursuing animal rights issues.

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“A lot of people want dogs but unfortunately they often buy them to satisfy their own needs first.” So says animal trainer, Stefan Forsman.

There are many things that Stefan Forsman would like to see changed for a better future for dogs. His mission for the last three decades has been committed to building awareness of animal needs and to encourage owners to retrain themselves in their whole approach to the care and behavioural development of their animals.

A preferred future for dogs in domestic environments, he believes, is one in which owners put the needs of their dogs before their own. That goes for all domesticated animals, he adds, and if you can’t meet those needs, then do not keep animals. What we humans sometimes call love, I call animal abuse. I call it torturing animals, if their basic needs are limited, for example to exercise everyday and the provision of nutritious food. Some people might love their animals - in a way - but if you really love them, then you must learn about them too, understand their needs and provide what they require.

“When people say they don’t have the time to exercise their dogs, then I don’t think they are truly interested in having a dog in their life. It is better to be honest and say I have no interest. Then do the right thing and don’t be a dog owner.”

Some people also literally go through dogs. The animals are no longer suiting their needs, or they are ‘out of control’ and they have to put them down. Then they go and buy another animal and never question the way they think and how they behave around their animals.

These, says Stefan, are some of the reasons why I do not breed dogs. Horses too. It is because I am concerned about finding the right owners who are prepared to fulfill the proper needs of their animals. Most often I take potential new dog owners for a walk with the dogs, usually in the forest and most of the time I will never hear from that person again. Because it all seems too hard to just even take a walk in the forest .. on an easy trail too. Unfortunately that seems to scare about 99 percent of the population.

How many people do you see jerking a choke collar on a dog? Yelling and screaming and pulling the poor dog in this manner?

Stefan has come in contact with many scenarios concerning dog care and training. He believes that scenarios of concern usually start with people who will buy an animal for the purpose of that animal being there for them. Maybe in place of a spouse or a child . As we know, dogs are wonderful at giving unconditional love. However, even the basic care of that dog comes into question. Some dogs hardly leave backyards, some hardly leave the house at all for a walk, some can be kept outside in a cage, or on a chain or rope. Some owners even keep animals in a cage inside the house. In Sweden, it is illegal to keep dogs in cages but unfortunately some people do this anyway. And those who keep their animals in cages behind closed doors generally escape the attention of the law. This is not right. It is animal abuse. Worse still, some owners go as far as to bandage the muzzle of their dogs, to stop them from barking.

Then there is the issue of what we feed our dogs. “Many people will spend lots of money on smoking, drinking and partying but will not buy good nutritious food for their animal,” says Stefan. Buying low quality, sawdust dog food from the local gas station is not good enough.

Animals need nutritious food. “I have never limited the food my animals eat, and have never cheated them on the quality of food they receive either.” For his dogs, Stefan serves high quality brands like Royal Canine 4800. He will also mix in some mackrel or tinned dog food, even sauce from the frying pan or raw eggs. Something that tastes different and also to encourage them to eat as much of quality dog food, as possible.

“I don’t have fat dogs either,” says Stefan. “My dogs get a lot of physical activity - even when I am busy working - I make the time because exercise is probably the most important thing we can do with our animals.

I once took a Chihuahua on a 30 km hike. She was even blind in one eye. She loved it. It is a myth that lap dogs don’t need to move much.

hot dogs 1
From Stefan’s perspective, taking time to exercise your dog properly is a hot issue. “We get out as much as possible. I walk, run, hike, bike and canoe (the dogs of course follow at lakeside) and I take them with me when I cross country ski in winter. I will also give them activities on our walks, so they can exercise their need to follow scents and track.

Obviously, he says, “I don't do heavy, physical activity with them every day but even just driving to some nice forest or lakeside location and setting up an afternoon camp with food and a good book, you can then let your dogs run and sniff to their hearts content.” Even on these days, they return home satisfied and will settle down for a good nights sleep.

“I like to educate dog owners to think about why they want an animal in the first place. I believe strongly that when you take ownership of an animal, it is like a child and is a life long commitment.”

I would like people to ask themselves, are you willing to take that dog out every day for at least an hour in the morning and the evening? Even in the city, you can walk, run and bike. Cities can be lots of fun for dogs, lots of good smells too.

He also believes that dogs will have a better quality life if they are trained to be off leash as well when out for walks. That is, staying with you in built up environments, under control and behaving themselves. “I don’t own a dog lead or choke collar,” says Stefan. He trains horses to be handled without headstalls and lead ropes also. A methodology he says that gets a lot of animal people defensive because it is not considered as the traditional way of doing things.

However, Stefan does not buy many of the traditional methods of raising and training animals because “I have found they just do not work over time, they are not sustainable. Especially when people don’t even learn how to properly train their dogs to walk on a leash in a calm and correct manner. “

“How many people do you see jerking a choke collar on a dog? Yelling and screaming and pulling the poor dog in this manner? It does not work. Dogs who are treated this way, just keep on jerking back. Wouldn’t you? If someone put a choke collar on you and did the same thing? Choke collars are cruel. They do not make an animal respect you, they put animals in fear, making them confused or angry or both. No gimmick can replace a lack of knowledge, and provide a quick fix. If these gimmicks were a piece of the puzzle to create a harmonious relationship with animals, then pretty much every dog on the planet would be in harmony with its owner. But this is not the reality. This kind of dog owner needs to change his or her thinking, because that is the only way they are going to change their behaviour towards their animal. You need to have the right attitude to radiate the correct energy or the clear signals to help your animal know what you want it to do.”

Stefan believes we need to deal with the reason why this is happening and not attack the problem itself. If you are sick, for example, there is no point in just taking a pill. You have to question why you are sick. In raising and training our animals, we need to ask ourselves what we are doing and be realistic about the results we are getting.

Being with your animal should be like a man and woman dancing in a competition, he says. It should not be like an attack, where one person is trying to dominate and the other person is struggling to get away. If you really love your animal, you would put energy into finding out about the needs of the animal and changing what needs to be changed in yourself.

Bribery with treats also is not the best way to earn their love and respect, says Stefan. “You can buy them cool things, you can buy them a new wardrobe every month if you want but first give them their innate, birthright needs as dogs to run freely and sniff around.”

Plan also to develop their innate talents for tracking, he adds. Train them to track you down. They love to do this. This is activity that will keep them happy. Like children they need healthy food, lots of exercise and activities to ensure their healthy development. This is what dogs need - to be activated, this is what makes them vital.

To train a dog is like baking a cake. You need to have the right ingredients and just the right amount.

“A dog that finds itself in the wild for 24 hours will be on the move. That is its natural tendency. Dogs know how to survive. All dogs need to exercise this tendency - even lap dogs like Papillons and Chihuahuas.”

According to Stefan, he once took a Chihuahua who was blind in one eye on a 30 km hike. He adds, she was in top condition by the time of that hike, she did not come straight off the couch but she loved the experience. What dog wouldn’t?

Whatever kind of dog we have, we must make the time to meet their needs so they develop into healthy and happy dogs. We need to speak the language of the species and earn their respect, their true respect. This means spending quality time with the animal.

To train a dog is like baking a cake. You need to have the right ingredients and just the right amount. When you bake a cake, you don’t just rely on chance and take random amounts of water, flour or sugar and mix them together in a bowl and toss them in the oven and then go watch a soap opera. Then also wait for the soap opera to finish before taking the cake out of the oven. What’s it going to look like? What’s it going to taste like? Every ingredient needs to be added and mixed and treated with the outcome we want.

It is the same for raising dogs. There is nothing that I do that is by chance. There is a reason for everything I do. I can explain everything I do, the reason why I do it and exactly what the end result will be. In training animals, I believe you need to stay with a goal through to the end. That means setting your attitude to a positive mode and believing that you will achieve that goal in mind. Problems are always going to be there to solve along the way - and every animal case is different - but things will always turn out in the way that you plan them, as long as you set your intention and never give up on that end goal. If you fail, it is because you choose to toss in the towel.

Stefan believes that dog owners who have problems with their animal’s behaviours, actually have no self discipline themselves. The only consistency they seem to have is to be inconsistent.

Animals need us to be consistent with them. The secret to the outcomes I achieve is not rocket science. I just have a lot of self discipline and consistency. That way the animals can relax. They know I don’t constantly change the rules. Everything I do, there is a thought and a vision and a plan behind it. I recognise that there is a universal dog language but I also acknowledge that every dog is unique, just like every human being.

That is why, at every stage of training an animal, I ask myself why I am doing it, how I am going to do it, and what the end result will be. For the sake of the animal, I also keep the commands I teach them to a minimum. There are very few commands a regular dog needs to know to keep him safe and behaved: call him in, keep him walking at your heel and to stop.

I think a lot of human emotions - especially unconscious behaviour, issues of low self esteem etc - these can get in the way of communication with dogs and the results we want to see.

I see a lot of confused animals in my work and I believe strongly that it is up to us to change. Not the animal -because if we are meeting their needs and applying consistency and self-discipline - the right mindset - with plenty of confident, positive communication, exercise and good food. Then that animal knows it is valued and loved. If these ingredients are together, there should be no problems.
Stefan Forsman is from Sweden and has worked with animal industries in a number of countries, including the US, Canada and Australia. He is particularly known for his progressive training methodology in working with horses - and their owners - for work and competition purposes - www.horsemanforsman.com. Stefan also has a wilderness activity company www.getlostinthewild.com that provides adventures - holidays and education for dogs and their owners in beautiful locations in Scandinavia.