Doug and Elizabeth Simpson use the scientific technique of pressure and release to train dogs by developing a relationship with the animal by communicating in its natural form of language.
“It’s the technique in the Simpsons’ methodology,” said Cindy Heller, brand champion for Tenderfoot Natural Dog Training, which the couple co-founded in Boulder over 30 years ago. “The mother dogs are pack leaders that use the same technique of pressure and release to train their puppies.”
The Simpsons are former horse trainers and participated in competitive horse shows. Doug is a native of Colorado, and Elizabeth has lived in Colorado for about 40 years.
When the Simpsons were learning natural horsemanship, they raised about 100 animals on their property, such as dogs, cats, parrots, ferrets, turkeys, llamas and horses.
“We learned they all speak the same language and understand each other,” Elizabeth said. “It’s humans that have forgotten.”
The science they learned through natural horsemanship working with famous “horse whisperers” started with three drills for young colts, and they found that the technique, with some tweaking, was effective with dogs.
The Simpsons said they discovered that many dog trainers were using ineffective tools.
“It didn’t seem to be changing the future of dogs and was not changing the behavior of numbers of dogs sent to shelters,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth said dogs can be trained without using all the harsh devices of shocking and pinching and pockets full of food.
“It’s about developing a relationship with the animals that last a lifetime,” she said. “We know what drill to use to fix it, which is very simple, essential and natural.”
Natural pressure-and-release training techniques include pressures to get the dog’s attention using a motivator such as verbal, emotional, visual, body language, tone, distance or energy.
"All animals create right and wrong through pressure and release. Pressure is the motivator to make a better choice and the release of pressure is the moment they learn. Pressure can be a meaningful tone of voice and release can be a softening in your tone," said Doug.
When having a relationship with an animal, Doug said owners need to learn to understand most of their dog’s physical movements, which have meaning.
According to the Simpsons, humans and dogs understand each other through movement and eye contact.
“If you stroke them, it’s like mama washing them,” Elizabeth said. “It changes the animal’s brainwaves by calming them. It’s hardwired into them. It’s the relationship of love, trust and respect.”
Doug said people were adopting dogs in greater numbers during the pandemic and could not handle behavior issues. COVID-19 made it worse, and many dogs were returned to shelters.
“The problem (was) people were home most of the time — they were not going to public places or taking the dog on a walk,” he said. “The dog got used to them being home and lacking socialization. When people start going back to work, it caused the dog to suffer from separation anxiety.
“Separation anxiety can cause a dog to be destructive and stressful,” Doug explained. “During COVID, dogs' bad behaviors typically magnified and got worse.”
Doug said another common problem during COVID was people giving their dogs too much free time or recess. It’s like sending a child to school with no structure or teacher, he said.
The dog’s behavior gets worse and worse, and they become very independent and don’t want to listen. The dog doesn’t learn patience. Instead, they run, chase, jump and bite. A leader is a decision-maker, so when the dog has a decision, instead of reacting, they should first look to the human for direction. This alone solves most problems.”
“The right side of the brain is all adrenaline, which is the reactionary brain to react, jump and explode. With this type of energy, the dogs do whatever they want,” Doug said.
Doug said when you work with the dog, they’ll do what you ask. Common chemicals released in the brain’s left side, such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, immediately calm them.
“If I asked the dog to sit, those chemicals are releasing so engagement mentally is more tiring then the physical,” he said. “The physical walk is also very mental with stops and pace changes. It’s a good time for them and gets their attention.”
Seth Steele took Charlie, a Chihuahua poodle, to Tenderfoot Natural Dog Training to work on crate training and handling.
“I learned that I need to be with Charlie consistently and be the pack leader, and our family is a pack,” Steele said. “He’s sleeping in a crate, not in the bed anymore. We correct him when he makes noises, and it worked.
Doug recommends a 30-40-word vocabulary. Having only a 5-word vocabulary is a limited engagement and understanding. The more you communicate with your dog, the greater connection and deeper relationship you'll have.”
The more you work with them, the calmer they become, and you become more of a leader. “It becomes so simple and subtle,” Doug said. “They are pretty obedient and do what you ask them to do.”
Amy Jablonski’s dog Poppy needed training. She bit Elizabeth in the face when Elizabeth tried to hold her during the first training session.
“I needed to change myself to be consistent with her training,” Jablonski said. “I took her to a birthday party with my relatives and three different dogs. I was nervous about how she would react with another dog or with one of our family members that may want to pet her. She acted so well with no issues.”
For more information about the specialized dog training offered by Tenderfoot Natural Dog Training, visit https://tenderfoottraining.com.