Monday, August 1, 2016

Why I Train the Way I Do

I want to describe my training method today. In another month, I would have had my crazy shelter dog for a year. She has blossomed into an amazing little dog in the almost-year I've had her. No longer is she the afraid-of-everything, bitey, barky, adrenaline junkie who just couldn't stop. Now, she's an eager training partner who gives me everything she can. We're going to chase titles in our next year together. I attribute our great progress to the training methodology I chose to use with her.

I'm a positive trainer. That means that I reward good behaviors to teach my dog to make good choices to avoid or solve behavior issues. If you've followed my blog or Youtube channel, then you will know how I handled many of my dog's behavior issues without resorting to pain, fear of pain, threats, application of force, discomfort or intimidation of any kind. I do this because what I want is a dog who is confident, responsive to cues, and eager to learn without losing her spark of life. Below is a video showing Pip off leash at a picnic.

I utilize clicker training. Clicker training is using the clicker as a tool to build behaviors in ways that luring alone could not accomplish. I think that the most important method clicker training introduces is shaping. Interestingly enough, you don't need a clicker to clicker train. All you need is a distinct marker. Pip has a couple that I have conditioned in different ways, including the word "yes." I do this because I want a dog who understands a system of communication and is able to learn new skills extremely quickly. She has a sustained nose touch because she completely understands what she's supposed to do to earn her reward.

I also focus on my dog's emotional state. How does she feel in a given situation? A lot of people neglect this aspect when making sure the dog feels safe, secure, and happy first would prevent a lot of "my dog is too distracted" or "my dog won't take rewards." I always focus on if Pip feels safe first. I carry this over to my dog training classes with dogs that are too stressed or overwhelmed to take rewards. I do this because it creates a dog who trusts me, who knows I will keep her safe, and who knows I will listen to her needs before I ask her to do difficult things. Below is a video of her nails being clipped. I hope you notice her brighten up when she sees the clippers! 

Pip gives me 100% when she works with me because I really try to make the training all about her. I threw the item badly in this video, but look at how she just never gives up on her task. 

She's my little diamond in the rough. I can't wait for what incredible things we'll do next year! 

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