Introduction to the OneMind Dogs Method
A deaf dog taught us how to listen
The OneMind Dogs method is a Finnish innovation, created by our lead coach Janita Leinonen in 2003 when her Border Collie Tekla suddenly lost her hearing. Prior to her deafness, Janita had always trained Tekla using verbal commands. Now, she was faced with a tough choice. Could she really communicate with her deaf dog? If she stopped her daily agility training with her dear friend and partner, Tekla would no doubt get depressed and bored and lose her quality of life. There was only one option: to come up with a new way to communicate.
Janita had to approach agility training and handling from a totally new perspective. She was not willing to give up agility as both of them loved their hobby and Janita was ready to put all her previous knowledge to the test and try everything to get Tekla back onto the agility course.
After months of observing and learning from Tekla, she started to understand what was going on in a dog’s mind on the agility course, and how to communicate in a way that the dog understands naturally - without extra training. Janita realized that her new handling techniques were surprisingly rewarding as dogs understood them quickly and easy without the usual learning process. Her hearing dog Cosmo also increased speed on the agility course by up to three seconds with this new method, and it was this unexpected bonus which gave Janita an epiphany; she understood that this was a start to something totally new! And so began the OneMind Dogs story.
Global understanding among dogs
The OneMind Dogs method is based on the natural behavior of dogs. Working with Tekla, Janita realized that, before her deafness, she had relied far too much on verbal commands and combined them with confusing body language - from a dog’s perspective.
When a dog reads human, the most important message vehicle is the non-verbal communication, not verbal as for humans.
When communicating non-verbal commands correctly according to ‘dog language’, dogs understand the same message, across the globe. Any dog, from anywhere in the world, will instantly understand OneMind Dogs. It makes sense for the dogs.
We teach OneMind Dogs method to handlers. For the most part, we do not need to teach it to dogs: They already speak the language. It is down to the handler knowing how to speak the dog’s language.
Our instructors travel around the world teaching agility using OneMind Dogs method and techniques. The best demonstration of dogs’ natural ability to read the handler’s correctly-used body language is when Janita randomly selects students’ dogs and within seconds the dogs are carrying out different techniques, naturally and easily, even when they have never practiced them before! The common response of students is: “"How an earth my dog can do that without any training?”
Seven essential elements
Janita studied Tekla’s language and response to her attempts to communicate, and developed the OneMind Dogs method. She observed seven key factors to which the dog pays attention when running an agility course:
- The handler’s movement
- Her position in relation to the dog
- Her contact with the dog
- The direction of the handler’s chest (“the laser point”)
- The direction of her feet
- Her hand signals
- Her verbal commands.
All OneMind Dogs handling techniques include elements of these seven factors to support the dog’s movement on an agility course and make it as easy and effective as possible. The core rule is that the handler should be consistent with the training and never give mixed signals to the dog.
Naturally responding techniques for the dog
OneMind Dogs currently uses more than 30 techniques. Amazingly, the first 20 are purely natural reactions by the dog to the handlers' cues.
We never stop learning and the dog training method is constantly under development as we find new ways to serve the dogs by better communicating with them. Students may recognize aspects of other dog training disciplines in our techniques, as we strive to identify and improve on what works and discard what doesn’t.
The individual handling techniques have been clearly named to make it easier to teach our students. This also allows the handler and instructor to discuss the technique online or over the phone with no confusion.
Once a handler understands the concept of OneMind Dogs and how to handle the dog with clear and short signals, they will learn the different techniques quite smoothly within a couple of months! Remember we only need to teach the human the different communication techniques; the dog already knows them naturally.
Our handlers practice a lot without the dog, so as to really learn the technique first by themselves and save the dogs from confusion! After the handler has learned the technique well enough, we bring the dog along.
Handle lines, not obstacles
OneMind Dogs concentrates on handling the dog on running lines, not from one obstacle to another. This facilitates the dog’s movement in the agility course as they anticipate what’s coming next!
The handling goal is for the dog to have the right obstacle in sight as early as possible. Another important element to support the dog’s movement in the course is to give information to the dog as early as possible; this allows the dog to manage each obstacle at the correct speed. Our method is based on positive reinforcement and we encourage dogs to practice agility independently by moving in the course smoothly - without holding them back or giving negative feedback. Dogs are allowed to approach the obstacle they see in front and it's the handler’s job to direct them to the right obstacle! In fact, when a dog completes a wrong obstacle, we reward the dog with delicious prizes – they don’t make mistakes, we humans make mistakes.
The dog never reads our non-verbal signals incorrectly. Handlers just don’t communicate clearly enough. We don’t punish dogs for our mistakes.
Each agility course has critical points, which the handler has to reach in time to negotiate the next sequence successfully for the dog. When the handler doesn’t reach the critical point early enough, in many cases the dog can’t finish the course smoothly. Different handling techniques are tools that help the handlers to be on those points on time, even when they are not the fastest runners.
Basic principles of OneMind Dogs:
1. Trust your dog
Our goal is to reinforce the dog’s self-esteem and show them that we trust them to complete the course successfully and independently. When the handler and dog cooperate smoothly, the handler can communicate the assignment to the dog and let him or her finish it independently; meanwhile the handler can move on to the next task. It is essential that the handler learns the different techniques by heart, so their signals become automatic and the handler can concentrate 100 percent on their dog.
2. Individual signature
Once the handler has learned all the OneMind Dogs techniques, the next step is for each dog and handler to identify the techniques that best suit them as a team. It is like teaching the handlers the alphabet, so that they can then write their own signature! There are not that many things to learn from the different techniques; the goal is to understand how the seven elements help the handlers to practice agility the easiest way - from the dog's point of view. In OneMind Dogs training sessions the handlers spend more time thinking than running.
3. Age doesn’t matter
The learning process for dogs is easy and you can train both young and older dogs using this method. Younger dogs need minimal training and they can attain good results after just a couple of years. In fact, five of the OneMind trainers’ dogs have been on the Finnish national team as early as at two years of age, and have had successful agility careers up to 10 years of age. This reflects that OneMind Dogs method is not only safe and dog-friendly, but also successful; the method enables handlers to run high quality clean runs if there are no mental barriers preventing them from success.
4. OneMind Dogs gives relief to slower handlers
With the help of OneMind Dogs, the handler does not have to be faster than their dog. The different handling techniques offer tools to handle from a distance, reach critical points more quickly and even to think faster. The faster your dog is compared to you, the greater advantage you get from mastering our techniques
For all dog sizes, shapes and ages
We care about all dogs, no matter which size, shape or age. All our techniques can be applied from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, and from puppies to elderly dogs. Ultimately OneMind Dogs is a life philosophy to better understand our dog and connect with it on a deeper level. We also seek to help dog owners enjoy their dog more by spending time with the dog, such as when practicing agility.
Dog in the heart
The dog is in the heart of OneMind Dogs method; our ultimate goal is to improve dog training techniques to make them more dog friendly - and through this, improve the wellbeing of dogs around the world. Dogs are our best friends and we love spending time with them. Dogs themselves have taught us to improve our method – and now we want to challenge you to listen to your dog and see what he or she wants to teach you!
The method is under constant development and we openly share ideas and learn from other dog training methods to improve and create techniques to serve the dogs even better. The overarching philosophy of OneMind Dogs is that we are constantly evolving; we learn from our dogs and trainees at all times. We do not want to bind ourselves with rules and we seek to think ‘out of box’. Our instructors travel around the world to train different agility handlers, which helps us to understand different dog training cultures and how we can support them in improving training techniques and dog wellbeing.
OneMind Dogs is 10 years old
This year, OneMind Dogs turns 10 years old. Worldwide interest in learning about non-verbal communication with dogs has taken Janita and partner Jaakko to training sessions around the globe. In the last couple of years, demand for OneMind Dogs training has been so great that they have had to turn down many teaching invitations.
Nowadays, dog handlers know that new training techniques can help them to better understand their dogs and serve their communication needs.
For years, our students around the world have wished that they could continue learning with OneMind Dogs online. For celebrating the 10th year, we made it possible! Together we can change the face of dog agility training.
What makes us successful?
- OneMind Dogs method is often a breaking point for a new understanding between the handler and their dog - "Why nobody told me this before" is a common thought that comes up.
- We want people to understand how and why to better communicate with their dog and improve their skills. There are no techniques without reasoning why? We explain clearly to our students the content of the teaching from the dog’s point of view.
- We are honest, open and direct.
- We always think the dog and their perspective first.
- Like our dogs, we don´t have secrets. We have an opensource culture and believe in sharing knowledge.
- All dogs from Chihuahuas to Great Danes, and from puppies to elderly dogs are welcome.