Belize: Dealing with Difficult Dogs Dog Training


Belize: 3D Dealing with Difficult dogs presented by Heather Beck

On July 9, I ventured to the beautiful island of San Pedro, Belize for Heather Beck’s Dealing with Difficult Dogs workshop. I met Heather at a workshop last October to learn her techniques in using a Halti with difficult dogs. When the Belize seminar was posted I immediately signed up to continue learning more about her techniques and tools in dealing with difficult dogs.

Why was a dog training seminar held on the beautiful island of San Pedro, Belize? Heather has been travelling regularly to the island for many years and owns a condo there. She is also on the Board of Directors of the local Saga Humane Society and has been working with Pampered Paws owner Katia Marin for several years in bringing training tools and techniques to the island. Saga Humane Society, Pampered Paws as well as some participants supplied the working dogs for the workshop.

Saga Humane Society:

Our mission at Saga Humane Society, a non-profit, non-governmental organization, is to prevent cruelty and replace it with kindness to all animals. We seek to achieve our goals by providing medical care and shelter to animals in need and subsidizing veterinary care to low income families. This is accomplished through the operation of the island’s only non-profit veterinary clinic, conducting ongoing spay/neuter and vaccination campaigns, animal adoption and public education programs. Our vision is to build a permanent animal clinic/education center in Ambergris Caye, Belize and continue working toward a long term solution to end animal abuse, neglect and overpopulation.”

Pampered Paws is owned by Katia Marin who works tirelessly to help promote the well being of all animals on the island as Animal Welfare Director and Animal Control Officer at Saga Humane Society, and has been on the Board of Directors for over 10 years.

Participants who attended were from Canada, Mexico, Saga, Pampered Paws, Caye Caulker and San Pedro. The workshop was held over 3 days at San Pedro High School from July 12th to July 14th. Working portions were in the school room, on the streets and the beach.

My goal in attending this workshop was to learn more from Heather Beck hands on and work with animals from the island. On previous vacation trips to Cuba and the Dominican Republic, I had observed street dogs. I wanted to work hands on in their own environment to see if it was any different from our own dogs in Canada. After my experience in Belize, it turns out that in reality they are no different. They just require training to help guide them to be the best they can be.

The workshop focused on building a new relationship, creating structure at home, and the basics of maintaining a dog. Heather’s approach promotes focusing on the dog’s primal drives and instincts to better communicate. She teaches structure and mental exercise and staying calm ‘don’t be reactive to your dogs reactivity’ as major components. She uses relaxation techniques such as massage and using a crate after exercise in order to create calm for better communication with the dog. Along with this teaching we visited Saga Humane main building and their temporary shelter ‘Fort Dog”.

We also visited Pampered Paws daycare, training and walking services that provided dogs for us to pack walk in the streets and beach. Walking several dogs at once in the busy streets was not an easy task with the many distractions.

The workshop provided both oral presentation as well as practical work directly with the dogs. I will admit going for one session in a bathing suit was definitely out of the ordinary! We introduced several dogs to the water that for some was not easy. Although they are from an island some have never been introduced properly to water. This is like many dogs in Canada who appear afraid however have never had the experience so it is the fear of the unknown. What did I think about the island dogs we worked with? Most are very happy, enjoy interaction with humans however lack any type of structure through training.

Speaking of island dogs I also met one street dog many times during the trip named simply ‘Bob’. He loved any attention he could muster up from any human, he very much reminded me of my Rocky and losing Rocky 3 days after I returned made my interaction with Bob more special. He is taken care of by the people and tourists and appears to be healthy and happy just living the island life. Don’t we all wish we could enjoy that type of life on a daily basis?

Working hands on with the dogs and observing their behaviour in their environment gave me new tools and techniques for dealing with all types of family dogs. These tools and techniques I’ve already incorporated in our Dog Training programs here at The Dog Stop. Whether you have a difficult dog or not, every dog can benefit!

The 3D Workshop in San Pedro, Belize was a great workshop and well worth it! It was in a beautiful, tropical location where I gained training knowledge and met many new wonderful people with the same goal in mind of better communication with all dogs in our lives.

Two and a half weeks after my return home, Hurricane Earl, a category one hurricane, battered the coastal areas of Belize, leaving a massive trail of destruction along its path. Sadly many docks and businesses along the shoreline as well as a restaurant on the water with beautiful views called Papala where we had several lunches during the workshop were destroyed. The grand total in damages from the Hurricane is estimated at $11 million dollars. Miraculously there were no major personal injuries or deaths.

If you ever have a chance to visit the beautiful San Pedro island be sure to stop in at Saga Humane, volunteer, donate or take home a forever friend!

Arlene Kiley

The Dog Stop