Fair Warning… This post may seem a bit confrontational to some people.
If I can address a relatively common theory that seems to be somewhat pervasive; Your dog should WANT to perform a command for you and that training should be stress free.
Honestly I’m so sick of that BS. Although I guess I should be grateful for other trainers that think that way, since everyone of the 7 dogs I have here for the Immersion Program have already been through varying degrees of “force-free” training and those programs have failed the dog and the owners.
Here’s the rub with “your dog should want to perform the command” for you. First, what I find interesting is that most of us don’t give even our kids, our employees, or our subordinates, that kind of leeway.
When you tell your kids to clean their room do you really care if they want to do it or not? I mean obviously it would be nice if they wanted to, but we already know that they don’t want to clean their room. Why? Because it’s not done already!
When you tell your dog to come it’s because you want it to be next to you for whatever reason, and it doesn’t matter what that reason is. But I already know that your dog doesn’t WANT to be next to you. Why? Because it’s not there already!
Do I give a damn if my dog wants to be next to me? Well it would be nice, sure. Do I want my dog to want to be next me? I don’t give a damn. When I tell my dog to come it’s usually because of safety reasons or time constraints and we have to go somewhere. In either case I don’t give a damn if my dog WANTS to do something for me. If my dog is chasing a squirrel and I say “come!” does he want to come back to me? Hell no!
So I teach my clients that we are going to teach the dog how to perform from both sides of the motivation coin so to speak. “Have To” and “Want To”. I’ll use whatever is appropriate in that particular moment to train a dog how to perform. Part of that is what I call “Stress Inoculation”. Just like when we were in military there’s a certain degree of stress inoculation if you’re going into combat. Why? Because if you don’t know how to handle stress during the real experience you’ll completely fall apart.
When I tell my dog to come when it’s in a highly aroused state it’s no different. It has to know how to perform the command at that level of stress and arousal.
So the concept that your dog should want to perform for you is nice. But it’s not real world, down and dirty, we live our lives at Mach 2 with our hair on fire almost everyday, real life.
Most of my clients don’t have months and months and months to create a dog that looks pretty when it performs it’s commands. They want a dog that they can live with on an everyday basis. Not some idealized, romantic, version of how a show dog performs.
Dog Training for the real world.
Make no mistake, I believe 100% that it is our responsibility, as dog owners, and professional dog trainers, to train and teach a dog what the commands mean and how to perform them rather than just punishing a dog in order to get them to stop doing something. It’s not fair to punish the dog if it doesn’t know what you’re asking from them, except in life threatening situations. Which gets us back to “If my dog is running out into the road do I care if they want to come back to me?” And the answer is clearly “No, I don’t.” All I care about is have a I done an excellent job at teaching my dog to respond quickly to the command.
That is what we are committed to here at In Touch Dog Training. Dog training for the real world. Real dogs. Real People. Real Results.
Let me know what you think.