Training Methods that Enhance, Not Change, Your Dog's Personality
I was speaking with a woman the other day who was concerned that training her dog might "break her spirit". Her dog is loving and funny, and she didn't want to do anything that would change that. I don't blame her. I wouldn't want to break my dog's spirit, or change the quirks and idiosyncrasies which give my dog his personality.
This is a common concern among dog owners. To put it another way, she was concerned that training, and behavioral modification in particular, would change her dog's personality. She had, in her mind, a picture of her dog completely subjugated with her head lowered to the ground, following like a robot without any will or joie de vivre.
If you've ever met our client's dogs, you would know in an instant how completely opposite the reality is. Take Harley who has a sparkling gleam in his mischievous eye, a happy wiggle when he sees anyone he knows and a never ending joy for living. He is not in the least broken, and we have worked with Harley pretty hard at times.
Some people do call us to help perfect their techniques with commands or walking. They aren't really dealing with problems per se. But the majority of our clients, like the woman I spoke with, want our help to solve problems. When things aren't going well in the relationship there is often frustration and stress. Usually both people and dogs feel the effects. So what does happen when we work with people and their dogs? That's a great and interesting question.
The first thing we do is establish mutual respect and trust. The dogs need to learn to respect the people and trust their guidance. People need to learn to respect the dogs and trust that they can learn. It's important that people understand that dogs actually want to please their owners, and why.
Once there is mutual respect and trust, the next step is clearing up the communication between people and their dogs. We act as translators, Human to Canine and Canine to Human. We actually teach people how to speak canine. Once we have everyone speaking the same language, we work on the actual issues. Frequently the issues start to fall away pretty quickly once there is respect and the communication is clear. As the issues get resolved the relationship improves. There are smiles on the faces of the people because their dogs are responding and there is joy in the dogs because they are getting praised instead of being yelled at.
There are no broken spirits. We never use harsh treatment, prong or shock collars which can breed fear and aggression. There are usually stronger bonds than ever before. We worked with a couple the other day who had not been able to pet their dog Lucy in over a year. Every time they tried she became very hyper and mouthy. By the end of the session they were able to pet her as she calmly accepted their affection. They were amazed and Lucy was happier. It was a wow moment for them and it was one of those moments that remind me of why I love this job so much.
Dog training is not about changing who your dog is. It's about changing misbehaviors and miscommunications so your dog can shine!
Do you want help with your dog? Or do you have a friend who might need help? We can help without breaking anything, spirit or otherwise. Give us a call.