A Visit With Dr Roger Mugford, Behaviorist, Trainer, Founder of Company of Animals

by Mary Haight on October 14, 2010

Dr Roger Mugford, a psychologist by training, has been in the business of helping animals lead their best lives for the past thirty years. He’s invented many useful, humane tools for training dogs, like the Halti lead that stops dogs from pulling. Mugford is the UK’s leading animal behaviorist, speaks and trains around the world, and is Founder and Managing Director of Company of Animals.

I met Dr Mugford at the H H Backer Christmas Trade Show in Chicago over the weekend, and we had a great chat flitting from one issue to another and what’s going on in the world of dogs, which I will write up a little later.

It’s funny what comes out of a conversation when dog people get together. Back at the turn of the century (ha!) Lake Shore decided that shared resources was the way to go  and wanted to operate out of a daycare center where dogs could get proper socialization and playtime along with a structured day.  Dr. Mugford was talking about how dogs are kept in unnatural circumstances, alone, in cages, without companionship, so I chimed in and told him about Lake Shore Animal Shelter and that we had been experimenting with a cage free environment for the past year thanks to an opportunity we found with Joseph Giannini of Urban Outsitters.  It had proved to be a relief to us all, especially the dogs.  Of course given the premise, gruff dogs or dogs recovering from surgery don’t work well in that situation so Lake Shore has foster care for those candidates where ruff edges are smoothed and the recovering are well-tended (any qualified Chicago dog people – email me, seriously!)

Much to my surprise, Dr. Mugford asked if he could come and see the shelter, and we made tentative arrangements for a Monday visit. We were all very excited to hear that he could make it before he had to be at the airport, so we had more than an hour with him on site, where he met and spoke with Ann Markham, Lake Shore’s Shelter Director, and Joseph. 

 After taking some video of the dogs which he hopes to incorporate in a talk he’s giving in Prague in November, he said that although he has a couple of farms with hundreds of acres, the principle is the same – this is the way dogs should be kept, and not in cages. They live in their dog play groups during the day, and find their own preferred spot to sleep in for the night.  Just like home! 

We were honored by Dr Mugford’s visit. He’s so down to earth we had a lot of fun too!  Thanks to Ashlee Gonigam and Becky Tomala (hope I got that right) from Matrix PR for arranging my interview with him, and then going out of their way to accommodate a side trip in his busy schedule, and to Joseph Giannini and Urban Outsitters.

This was timely given that there has been an ongoing blog discussion on how to make shelters a better experience for the dogs and for adopting families since summer (and well before of course), when Brent Toellner of KC Dog Blog brought it up in a big way in the comments, and it has popped up here and there until it roared again at Blogpaws with Mike Arm’s keynote

What it all boils down to is if we don’t start thinking differently, things will never change.  Help your local shelters make a start toward a new way of doing business.  What change is happening in your corner of the dog world?

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