There is a lot of information out there on training tactics. There are millions of different ways of training a dog. This is simply my approach and it’s one I feel strongly about. I don’t expect you to agree, but have grace.
I do not get mad at Scotia. I do not reprimand or punish her under any circumstances. There aren’t exceptions here for me. She recently rolled in some human poop and was covered. She stunk and if it wasn’t massively gross, I would post the pictures I have. I laughed at it. Brought her home, bathed her, washed all her gear, the bath tub and a few other things. Was it gross? Yes. Would I prefer she not do that in future? Yes. Did I get angry or yell at her? No.
Scotia is incredibly sensitive. I would have lost so much of her trust if I got angry at her and likely I would’ve gotten angry so late that it wouldn’t have made a difference in her future choices/actions. That for me, is massive. Why would I get angry at her if there isn’t even a positive outcome? I just put my self backwards in her training and Scotia backwards in her trust in me and confidence facing the world.
Positive reinforcement, means I reinforce the behaviours I want. I do not scold or get angry for the unwanted behaviour, I simply redirect her attention. For example, if Scotia is begging for food, I don’t get angry at her or tell her no or ask her to go away. In that scenario I would ask her to lay on her bed and reward for her cooperation. Scotia is at a point now where she does not beg for food from me. If she wants the bacon I am cooking, she goes onto her bed and waits. That behaviour is rewarded with exactly what she wants: the bacon.
This style of training has completely shaped my relationship with my dog and how I view the owner-dog relationship. I don’t view Scotia as a dog I want to control, but more as a being that I share life with. We work together to attain lives we both love. Sometimes I compensate for her, sometimes she does for me.
A big training point we have been working on for well over a year now is crate training. In my ideal scenario, Scotia would ride in a crate in the car and would feel comfortable sleeping in a crate away and at home, but it wouldn’t be required always. Over the last year and a half we have simply been working on getting Scotia comfortable with the crate (door open). Yes it’s taking a long time and I haven’t been consistent through that whole time or our progress would have been much greater. This is a great example of where I use positive reinforcement. Scotia has multiple crates and is rewarded for using them. She gets her meals in her crate. We do daily 3 minute training sessions where I throw treats into the crate and she gets them. I do not force her into the crate. She goes in at her pace and sometimes she simply doesn’t want to and I listen. No point in trying to teach a student that isn’t ready to learn.
Scotia has made massive progress with crate training. She used to be uncomfortable in the same room as a crate. As I am writing this, she has her front two paws and the majority of her body in her crate eating her dinner. This is her choice and she can leave the moment she wants to. This to me, is what success looks like. I have no desire to force Scotia into what she doesn’t want. I want to help her understand why the things she doesn’t love, can be exactly what she wants and to trust me enough to know that I wouldn’t knowingly put her in a situation that would make her unsafe.
I love talking about training Scotia. That’s a large part of why I started this blog. My training style is pretty unique to what works for Scotia and I love it. In future blogs I will go more into depth on how I trained some of her skills and how we made each tiny little baby step.
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