Dog Training Is About Your Relationship With Your Dog – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist
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Today I was in the process of teaching a Border Collie/ Australian Shepherd mix how to retrieve a dumbell on command. There is a difference between a dog retrieving a toy for fun and a dog being commanded to obey and retrieve that same toy. Many dogs will retrieve objects you throw for them. That is a fun thing and there are few if any rules. Only well trained dogs will reliably Sit / Stay as you point out an object in the distance; go and get that object on your command; bring that object back to you; Sit / Stay directly in front of you with that object firmly in it’s jaws; and then release it to your outstretched hand when you command them to give it to you. Oh, and do all this off leash, in public with distractions, then go back to the Heel position on your command and Sit / Stay at your side.
There are many classes, videos and books to teach you how to accomplish all of this. However, it never looks right, nor does it ever look like the dog is doing it obediently and joyfully, unless you have a good relationship with that dog.
Today, I made that crossover. I remember the repetition when, all of a sudden, it dawned on the dog that she LIKED doing this for me. Then, it was as if I had given her something wonderful to do. And when she did it, she not only got affection from me, she gave it back to me, and I knew she finally understood the point of what I was teaching today. I haven’t ever gotten that much affection from her, and I’ve been working with her for over 2 months. Today was a very important day.
Novice dog trainers and owners worry too much about techniques, equipment and styles of training, and miss the whole point of getting the dog and owner to the point that they are a team, working together for a common goal.
A Good Example
I teach my students about Sam’s Philosophy On People: I figure that one out of a thousand people in this world is completely nuts, and they will either interfere with your dog training, or endanger you or your dog. So, you have to watch out for them. And sure enough, this theory was proven right again 2 days ago. I got this message yesterday from a student who was doing her homework with her Labrador Retreiver at a park:
“Didn’t take long… brought Ellie to the park to work with her long leash and and old lady yelled at me for her collar…”
I wrote back: “Told ya. Let’s see her dog off leash.”
My student: “I asked her how much experience she had in professional dog training and she said none, and walked away. LOL!”
Turns out this woman had 2 of her dogs with her, straining and out of control, at the end of 2 leashes on Martingale collars, while at the same time finding time to yell at my student. It wasn’t as though my student was causing pain or hurting her dog. No blood was squirting out. The dog wasn’t in any pain, nor was it being beaten or yelled at. I know my student’s dog. All was going according to plan. She was using a 20 foot leash for safety in public, and using a metal collar for training, just like you see most people use every day. All stuff you can buy at your local pet store in any town in the USA. And when this busybody left, my student kept going and did her homework. The dog looked terrific this morning when I saw her work.
It’s Deeper Than That
You see, the training I teach isn’t about the type of leash, nor is it about the type of collar… yes, we could have used a Martingale collar if that was called for. No, the lesson my student was doing had more to do with repairing her relationship with her dog. This dog had developed the habit of running off when loose in public, and playing keep away until captured or cornered. I had assigned homework to undo this conflict and get the dog to want to be with and pay attention to the owner. This dog has only been in lessons for a week, and has made incredible progress. But, the first thing we had to do is repair their relationship, because it was spilling out also into being defiant and bratty in the home, too. But the busybody didn’t know this, nor did she have any idea of what we were working on. No, it was an uneducated, and nosy, complaint about using one collar versus another. It really wouldn’t have mattered much what kind of collar we were using. It wasn’t the collar that was fixing the problem, but the exercise assigned and the way it was being implemented that mattered. We needed to get the student and her dog on the same team.
This Is For All Dogs
I now have to get this Border Collie / Aussie mix to work for her owner like she does for me. I have to teach good Handler Skills. Now that her dog is starting to retrieve for ME, I need to get the owner to establish that same kind of relationship so her dog works for HER. The dog isn’t doing this to retrieve the object for fun, it is doing it because we are working together, and her dog is now doing it for my approval and because she now wants to do it for me. That’s what I mean about dog training being more about your relationship with your dog than it is about all the technicalities of which leash, collar, method to use.
Top level performance, meaning when you can get a dog to obey promptly, happily, precisely, and eagerly, with distractions, in public, off leash REQUIRES that you establish a good relationship with that dog. When I get a dog to the point where the relationship is humming along, then all that other stuff really doesn’t matter. Then you don’t need food, leashes, collars, electric collars, clickers, or special methods or techniques. The dog obeys you because they love and respect you, and you’ve developed the type of work ethic and teamwork with your dog where it all then falls into place.
If you are working with a trainer that can’t get you past his or her methods and equipment, then you aren’t dealing with a very good trainer. If that dog won’t ever work with them the way I’m describing here, then you aren’t working with a very good dog trainer. You might as well save your money and go find that busybody, know it all, to train your dog for you.