Words of Wisdom on Raising and Training a Happy Puppy
An interview with Steve Mann about his book, "Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy."
Posted Jun 20, 2020
"If I can add a positive emotional anchor to my lessons, I think they’re more engrained and if the owners can get some joy from their learning, they’re more likely to come back again. That’s how reinforcement works! If the puppy feels safe, secure, loved and optimistic, then the behaviours we want are easy to teach, and reliable. If we have a puppy where the optimistic software hasn’t been uploaded, then we’re on thin ice."
"Dominance 'training' causes stress and is a dog's worst nightmare." —from "Dominant Alpha Humans Don't Garner Dogs' Respect and Trust"
I recently learned about a book by Steve Mann, founder of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, with the eye-catching title: Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy: Your Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Raising and Training a Happy Puppy.1 Being an unwavering fan of positive, force-free dog training, and fully accepting that dogs don't love us unconditionally, I wanted to know more about what Steve had to say, and I'm pleased he could answer a few questions about how he approaches dog training using proven science-based ethical techniques. There are many words of wisdom in this important interview.
Why did you write Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy?
I’ve always just wanted to train and help more dogs. Our family never had a dog when I was growing up, which was a real chore for a dog training groupie! I used to borrow a dog from the streets or even turn up to the local dog training classes without a dog, like a freak! Best case scenario, I was training just one dog. Which was a treat but not enough. So I started teaching my own classes and when up to full speed, I was training 300 owners and dogs each week which was loads, but not enough. So I started the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT) in the UK so I could teach more dog trainers, to then reach out and help more dogs, which was great, but still left so many dogs and owners untouched. The IMDT then set up education centres for Dog Trainers in Australia, South Africa, and China which is awesome, but still only a drop in the ocean. So I wrote Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy.
How does your book relate to your background and general areas of interest?
My background is 100% dog training. I couldn’t write a book about anything else! In my early career I was involved with security and detection dogs, but always running alongside my pet training classes. I’ve been lucky enough to train in many countries and of course, it’s impossible to work with "dog people" and not meet a few interesting "characters" along the way!
It was important to me to include plenty of funny stories and case studies in Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy. I have a million dog books in my library but often they’re so dry and unemotional. I will always try and bring fun and humour to my teaching or writing. I genuinely can’t see why a teacher wouldn’t want to do that. Life’s too short to not try and make people smile. If I can add a positive emotional anchor to my lessons, I think they’re more engrained and if the owners can get some joy from their learning, they’re more likely to come back again. That’s how reinforcement works!
Who is your intended audience?
Anyone with £12.99 ($21.85)! My ambition was to write a book that even if the reader didn’t like dogs when they started, they’d still get pleasure from reading the book and hopefully by the time they finish reading, they’ll be a dog disciple like the rest of us.
What are some of the topics you weave into the text and what are some of your major messages?
I spent the first 20 years of my dog training career adding more and more exercises to my toolbox. I spent the next 20 years removing as much as possible from that very same toolbox! A real curse of the novice trainer is to justify their position by creating elaborate solutions for simple issues. Owners don’t want complicated, they want simple. Dogs don’t want complicated, they also want simple.
Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy aims to include the exercises that make all other exercises easier, if not completely redundant. In Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy, it’s important for me to get across that how the puppy feels is far more important than what the puppy does. If the puppy feels safe, secure, loved, and optimistic, then the behaviours we want are easy to teach and reliable. If we have a puppy where the optimistic software hasn’t been uploaded, then we’re on thin ice.
The book covers all of the potential pinch-points of toilet training, chewing, play-biting, and jumping up at people. It also teaches the exercises of Sit, Recall, Loose Lead Walking, and digs into topics such as body language and correct socialisation.
How does your book differ from many others that are concerned with some of the same general topics?
Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy isn’t a traditional puppy training book. Before I signed on the publisher’s dotted line we agreed that it wouldn’t be the usual sterilised, instructional-photos-on-a-white-background, step-by-step Manual for dog owners. That’s been done before, millions of times, so I wanted to take a gamble and use the stories, methods, and ethos that I’ve used with all of my dog training to date. For good or for bad, Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy has my voice and I’m very proud of it. (The book that is, not my voice, I sound like a rag’n’bone man in real life!)
What are some of your current projects?
I’ve just completed and delivered Easy Peasy Doggy Squeezy (why change a winning team?) to the publishers for an August 2020 release. It's for owners of dogs of all ages and the book is split into four sections: Important Exercises, Problem Behaviours and How to Help, Exercises for Quality of Life, and finally, Learning About Dogs, Learning About Training. What really excited me about writing Easy Peasy Doggy Squeezy was that it gave me the chance to write about the active ingredients of how dogs learn. I’m not a fan of set recipes or protocols in dog training. What excites me is if I can help the owner understand the ingredients, then they can come up with as many different recipes as they like to suit their style, their dog, and their environment. I’ve also got a third book coming out for Christmas 2020 and an exciting new writing project for 2021, but I’ll tell you about that the next time we chat!
Apart from writing, and running the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, I’m just trying to live the life my dogs would want me to live. Good food, good exercise, good sleep, and plenty of windows just to be together. That’s plenty.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell readers?
Our dogs are just trying to make the most of their lives, like all of us. Our job as their friend is to figure out what they want and to show them how to get it. Finally, a training plan isn’t ready when there’s nothing left to add, it’s ready when there’s nothing left to remove!
1) In 30 years as a professional dog trainer, Steve Mann has worked with over 100,000 dogs in many diverse and varied environments–in the security and detection field, for the TV and film industries, as a higher education lecturer on Animal Behaviour and Husbandry, as well as witha number of international sports stars and high-profile celebrity dog owners. He has made many television appearances as a dog behaviour expert, including as the winning trainer on BBC’s The Underdog Show. Steve is the founder of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, the leading body for trainers and behaviourists worldwide. With a passion for ethical and science-based dog training, Steve has taught throughout Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East to lead the way in modern, positive dog training. Steve’s approach is based in sound behavioural research as opposed to dog training ‘myths’ and hearsay.Steve is also a passionate champion and supporter of dogs in rescue and has studied the behaviour of street-dogs in Peru, Africa and the Middle East.
Angilly, Mary. Dog Training Offers Valuable Lessons in Humane Education.
Bekoff, Marc. Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2018.
_____. Dominant Alpha Humans Don't Garner Dogs' Respect and Trust. (Dominance "training" causes stress and is a dog's worst nightmare.)
_____. A Hierarchy of Dog Needs: Abraham Maslow Meets the Mutts. (Linda Michaels' dog training stresses gentle care, rewards, and choice.)
_____ and Mary Angilly. Should Dogs Be Shocked, Choked, or Pronged?
_____ and Jessica Pierce. Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible. Novato, California, New World Library, 2019.