Imagine you’re setting off on a road trip with a destination in mind and it’s a longer drive. You have two fundamental options on how you are going to get there: highway or scenic route. More often than not, if you take one you’re sacrificing something. If you take the highway, you’ll be sacrificing a nicer drive for an earlier arrival. If you take the scenic route you’re getting a prettier drive for a little more time spent in the car. In some cases, avoiding the highway can actually be a pretty drive and in some rare cases, the non-highway option can actually get you there faster.
So which is better?
You’re likely waiting for me to tell you that Dogmanship is about the scenic route, but it’s not. Dogmanship is about understanding that there’s a time and place for both and understanding when to use which. If my plan is to take a road trip to visit friends, I might plan a little more time into my trip so I can take my time and enjoy my drive, but when I found out my sister-in-law was in labor with my niece, I made it from Ottawa to Kingston in a time that would have got me thrown in jail. Time, place and circumstance plays a role in Dogmanship and that’s what it’s all about.
Dogmanship will get you a trained dog!
In either scenario above, the goal is to move the dog from a behaviour that we don’t desire to a behaviour that is
more acceptable to us. Sometimes that’s as simple as not jumping on us anymore and in more intense scenarios that might mean teaching the dog not to bite people or other dogs. So it goes without saying that RESULTS are a part of this process. Dogmanship in my definition of it is much more about the HOW. Again, there’s a time to take the highway and there’s a time to take the scenic route, but that’s the point. I don’t take an expedited approach to dog training if taking my time will get permanent change and I won’t allow a dog to remain in a poor state of mind if one solid correction will get them out of it. This changes from dog to dog but the most important thing to remember is HOW you get there is just as important as getting there.
The funny part about this is when we include the dog in the process and value his input on the training, more often than not they buy into the training faster and are more likely to be a willing participant because they feel included and cooperative. Training becomes something you do WITH your dog not something you do TO your dog.
Listening To The Dog
For many trainers, the idea of allowing the dog to have a say in the training process is unheard of. After all, training is all about getting the dog to do what we want, right? Not quite. If we take a look at areas of our human world where we get what we want frequently, you’ll start to see how none of it involves putting our will above others. I learned this lesson from my 2 year old first, then from the sales world second. Any salesman or woman on the planet will blow sales if they insist you buy something, likewise with my son I quickly learned insisting he do things normally ended up with me being frustrated and him laughing at me. In both of these areas, we learn that the best way to get our way is through persuasion instead of instance.
Good dog training makes the dog want to do it, but great and gentle handling is all about meeting the dog halfway and giving him a little. Most people still believe dogs are these beings that if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile and they are. But so are humans! The point most people miss here is if you have a functional relationship with your dog, he won’t want to take a mile. He’ll see your ‘inch’ as helpful.
At it’s core, Dogmanship is about your relationship with the dog. It’s about building that relationship and then using it as a motivation for good behaviour and a driving force to remove bad behaviour. It’s about making these things intrinsic as opposed to reliant on outside forces. That doesn’t mean external motivations aren’t necessary, it means they are indicators of the current state of the relationship. A treat or piece of food is not longer just a reward, it’s an indication that you are happy. The opposite is also true with corrections and punishments. The punishment is no longer the motivation but rather an indicator that the relationship has shifted in a bad way. This makes it possible to use very little pressure in a “corrective manner” to motivate the dog away from bad behaviours.