Some of you may know that I am actually a “professional dog trainer” — which means that I train dogs. I am also a dog training instructor and I instruct online.
I used to be an in-person dog training instructor, but I stopped doing that because I wanted to focus on improving my own skills as a dog trainer.
I also used to train other people’s dogs for income. Now I just train my own.
This may sound like a completely useless or frivolous pastime, but I have a really good reason for it other than just wanting to.
I want to become a better person.
You’ve probably heard the expression that goes something like “I hope to become the person my dog thinks I am”.
Well, hoping or wishing or even just thinking about it won’t help. Only action will.
When I first started training dogs, I had no idea what I was doing. I just followed my instructors at the local club and people online. This worked somewhat, but I found that using punitive (corrective) methods (which is what we were taught at the time) promoted anger in me that was difficult to control.
After all, dogs are “supposed” to listen to us and do what we say right? The second we say it.
This was the mindset of most people I learned from and people I was in contact with at the time. Dogs were there to do as we say and should do so simply because we say so.
This emotion actually gets in the way of training by scaring the dog and preventing the human from completing the training session.
The “my way or the highway” attitude promoted stress and anxiety in me. I was always worried that because the dogs were not doing exactly as I wanted, there was something fundamentally wrong with me and my ability as my dog’s trainer.
What I didn’t realize was that my dog didn’t do the thing I wanted because I was not doing effective training. I was also adding my negative emotions to the mix which is never helpful when training a dog.
This is the problem that many people have with their dogs.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what training is and how to do it. The belief is that if you collar correct (choke the dog with the collar so that it is uncomfortable and hurts), that the dog will learn immediately to do or to not do something.
What I found is that it is very difficult to train a dog with corrections without escalating your emotions to anger.
It happens so often. You are walking with your dog somewhere and your dog is pulling. You want your dog to walk beside you. So you jerk the collar to “correct” him. Your dog stops pulling for a few seconds and then resumes pulling.
You get irritated because your walk is already unpleasant with your dog pulling you. So you correct again and again. The corrections get stronger and stronger. Your dog is still not doing “what you want”.
It is a frustrating and annoying never ending circle. What is really happening is your dog is becoming desensitized to the choking so that you have to keep increasing the amount of force you put into the correction.
This is where I realized that I was getting upset while walking my dog (many years ago now). Who the heck wants that?
Changing my attitude was the best thing I did to help my dogs get trained faster and better. When you are upset your dog knows it and responds with stress in kind. I was able to change my attitude by changing my training method and learning more about the technical aspect of training.
It is much more effective to stay calm and remove emotions from the training picture as much as possible. Emotions don’t help your dog get trained. For the most part they will just stop learning from occurring, as many dogs will get worried or stressed out themselves when they know you are stressed.
In order to stay calm I removed the ability to cause my dog pain while training. I started training with food.
By training with food, I had to learn that a dog won’t do something unless he has actually LEARNED the behaviour. I was no longer holding the attitude that my dog should do something because I said so.
This is that fundamental difference between the two training methods for the average “dog owner”.
One needs to understand the attitude that is perpetuated by each method.
Corrective method — dogs should do things because we say so.
Food reward method — dogs need to learn the behaviour before they can do the behaviour.
If you don’t think this is true just take a bit of time to think about it.
I feel that I have become a better person (not a perfect person) because I have mastered my emotions while training my dogs. This is a major part of self improvement and even of spiritual development.
This does not mean I don’t get frustrated once in a while. But frustration enters into the picture FAR LESS than it used to and it is getting less and less noticeable to me all the time. And I am frustrated at MYSELF not the dog.
I also don’t get angry anymore. It just doesn’t happen, since I understand that my dog’s behaviour is solely the result of the work I put into it.
If you can train your dog with corrections and never use them punitively because you get mad, please let me know how you do this.
For more information on helping yourself to train your dog check out my free training tutorials at: All Dogs Are Smart