Dog training rules tend to be overused, they cause tension in many cases. It’s fine to disregard the rules, it’s even better to make up your own.
I trained dogs professionally and to deadlines for a long time. There was a certain (crippling) stress about putting an assistance dog in front of a cruel, cutting manager for a final test. There was a definite pressure on keeping a military dog in his training schedule, because it often meant he kept his life.
These three dog training rules are all I consider now, feel free to take them as your own.
Kindness is sadly lacking in the dog training world. To be kind means that we gently and carefully consider the needs of another. We then act on those needs with care and love.
To be truly kind we need to incorporate empathy, specifically empathetic concern, where we naturally consider how another may feel. If we do this we can’t possibly use anything other than kindness towards anyone, human or animal.
Consider that anyone you are dealing with, at any point is part of you. If you hurt them in word or deed then you are hurting yourself. If you protect them, you are protecting yourself and if you understand them, you will better understand yourself.
If you wouldn’t like it done to you, don’t do it to another.
Awareness is knowledge. Are you aware of all the most recent findings on canine cognition? Do you know that dogs are emotive and sentient? Did you read the study about dogs reverting to aggression if forceful training techniques are used on them? Do you know the physiology and body language of canine stress or how a dog learns? This information is all available online and for free.
True awareness leads to naturally kind dog training.
Consider the force based trainers in the world, their awareness could really do with a good shake-up. Some choose to stay unaware and uneducated, because to change their awareness would mean changing their life and admitting they were wrong in the first place. This is an ego preservation act, one that can change if trainers considered true kindness.
Being happy incorporates amusement and individuality. Training should be fun, it should be a way to see another side of your dog, to draw out his individuality and personality. I watched the most perfect video yesterday of a training session where the dog got more animated throughout. He was shouting by the end and thoroughly enjoying himself. His lady simply stated, “obviously, this not the finished product”. Genius!
It’s fine to laugh with your dog during training sessions, it’s great in fact. It truly doesn’t matter how long it takes to learn something but your relationship does matter. Consider training as playtime, as fun and enjoy it. Look for your dog’s personality and celebrate it, be happy.
The other part of this third rule is not to compare yourself or your dog with others. Lose the “should” because it will never serve you. Your relationship with your dog is just that, yours. Just because someone else’s dog can twirl perfectly round a cane in the Crufts main arena, doesn’t make your dog’s new found ability to sit through distractions any less important. It is important, it’s vital, he’s perfect, he’s all there is!
Celebrate your dog, be kind to him and increase your awareness and you simply can’t go wrong!