It shouldn't be a battle

As a human being, I am very much so a conflict-resolution person. Unnecessary conflict makes me really uncomfortable and I tend to avoid it as much as possible (particularly personal conflicts between people). This does not mean that I am not passionate about things or willing to have conflict with someone when standing up for things I believe in (because in those cases, I’m nothing if not passionate) but I do stay out of personal conflicts that others have and tend to be a neutral party.

So, it may be a result of who I am as a person, but I really am uncomfortable with the idea that dog training has to be a contentious affair. I really don’t understand why people want to fight with their dogs to get behavior. I see so many puppy parents fighting with their puppies to get behavior–they push, they pull, they yank, and they shove their puppies into positions. All the while their puppy is tucking its tail, giving whale eyes, pulling its ears back, or ducking out of the way. I wish they could step outside themselves for a moment (a la Ebenezer Scrooge) and just look at the scene. When they take themselves out of the moment, do they like what this scene looks like? Do they think their puppy is having fun … do they think their puppy is learning to WANT to work with the handler?

I want to tell them, “you don’t have to do it this way!” you do not have to fight your puppy! Training a dog can be one of the most magical experiences–the moment your puppy REALLY starts to get it is a one of a kind moment. And when your puppy first looks up to you and focuses on nothing but you, just waiting for you to give them instruction–that is a moment of sheer joy (even more awesomeness when this moment happens in a group training class with lots of distractions).

Training should not be YOU against THEM–it shouldn’t be this combative/antagonistic type of relationship. When you approach training like a battle, no one wins. It turns into a tug of war that leaves both parties tired and frustrated–dogs start shutting down and ‘refusing’ to work/listen and handlers push harder and harder to try and get the behaviors or reliability they want. It is a really unfortunate cycle.

Instead of pulling in opposite directions and fighting your puppy, be his partner. Work together to navigate the world as a team.

I don’t have any short clips of video of puppy Rio… but this is a video that I made with footage from the first 4 weeks Rio was with me (from about 16-20 weeks old ish)… by this point he could reliably sit, down, nose target, spin and was working on paw targeting, roll over, and “hop up” behaviors. We work as a team together and I think it’s pretty clear that he’s enjoying the process…

  1. The first part of the video made me laugh out loud! I love how Shayne was just laying on the floor with the ball in her mouth while Rio tried to tug it away. They clearly had a beautiful relationship right from the beginning. This is what I want for my dog one day.

  2. Rio is absolutely FABULOUS, but how about SHAYNE?!? Totally impressive!!!

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