This week I felt like being more personable with my training tip. When I was a little girl I began training my dog with a choke chain. I yelled at my dog and used methods that were motivated through pain to get my dog to do what I wanted. I was in Elementary School and Middle School. My 4-H advisor encouraged me to be firm and not use many treats.
I remember feeling frustrated and I noticed that my dog, Heather, a Shetland Sheepdog, didn’t even want to “come” to me. She was scared of being yelled at for having a slow recall. In her mind she was getting yelled at for “coming” period. I had much fun with her and in obedience she did great and won ribbons. Emotional wise we were not as connected as we could have been.
When she past away I felt an emptiness and felt I could have trained her in a more happy and loving way. I was only in middle school. She got hit by a car and the sadness that filled through my body was intense. Subconsciously I felt so guilty for the inhumane methods I used in training her. When I got my next dog I promised to learn more about training with love.
Commitment comes first and then the how shows up. My how showed up when I was at a ” show and go” (you practice for shows in a ring and have a judge). My judge was an awesome man and he trained dolphins for Sea World. He changed my life. I was jerking my border collie, Shadow, on the leash every time she pulled. I remember my face lightening up and I felt immense excitement.
I committed to learn about this other method, positive reinforcement. At a young age in early high school I began to study clicker training and training with love. I read and read and attended seminars with many famous dog trainers including Jean Donaldson, Terry Ryan, etc. The first positive reinforcement book I read was Don’t Shoot the Dog By Karen Pryor.
I remember struggling with clicker training and nothing working. My dog’s attention was everywhere but on me…lol. I read more and learn how to motivate my dog and give her what she wanted for what I wanted her do. Our bond increased and she learned at great speeds. She changed from freezing every time she went into crowds and biting people that came into her territory to loving people. She even got to go to State Fair for obedience showing.
My present dog, Seiki, a dog with a heart so huge that resemembles my love for dogs and their owners learns with leaps and bounds with positive reinforcement.
What is the moral of this story? Love is the answer to everything.
Can you train with shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, Tabasco sauce, yelling, hitting, etc.? The answer is “yes” you can. My response to this is why would you want to? What bond are you creating with your dog when you use these methods? What emotions are giving you off toward your dog? What type of trust bond our creating with your dog by using these methods? Looking from your own perspective would you rather be motivated through fear or love? What are you doing to your dog’s health?
Still confused? Think of a fight. Two people are fighting. It does NOT take two to fight. One person shifts the fight and decides to come from a place a of love. They might say “I hear you are saying…. “I imagine you feel… This is my story…and this is what I feel… I want…. I imagine you want… Let’s co-create. I wonder how we can meet both of our wants?” This person who is shifting the fight is going deep. He/She is looking at the soul. What does his/her opponent feel? Now we have a connection. An understanding.
The other side of the story. Two people are fighting. One person yells and the others yells back. The fight continues.
Positive reinforcement with dogs is the same thing. Take the time to understand where your dog is coming from….listen. You are coming from a place of wonder. Now you can reward your dog for what you want him to do instead. As a result, you have formed a huge trust bond. You are connecting to your dog on a soul level. You are understanding that his emotions effect his health and immune system. You understand that your actions give off good energy and balance. Your dog wants to listen to you because he trusts you. He is having fun and so are you!
Why would you ever want to train any other way? The connections we formulate through trust and love are the strongest connections we make in our life whether it be with our spouse, our friends, or our family. Include your dog in this picture as well. Positive reinforcement is the way to go!
Johanna Teresi, Professional Owner and Trainer of Four Legged Scholars LLC