What I Do – Dog “Training”
I felt the need to write a more elaborate introduction to myself and my dog training “methods” today, as I feel there might be some confusion as to what I actually do.
Hype words such as “alpha,” “dominance,” “positive reinforcement,” “clicker training,” “pack leader” etc are thrown out there almost every day. They say that the only thing two dog trainers can agree upon is that a third is doing it wrong. To me it often seems that the way people explain what they do is by telling what they DON’T do. It’s by saying “oh no, we sure don’t like this guy, or this lady, and they want to dominate the dog and that is BAD.” Or, “they use “positive reinforcement” which means that the dog will never do anything for you unless it gets a treat.”
I don’t want to say anything negative about anyone. Instead of comparing what I do to what others do, I am going to tell you what it is I DO, and not what I don’t.
First I will start with MY definitions of some of the above words.
Pack: A pack to me is not a “group of dogs” but “group of dogs with the same purpose.” By that I mean that you can have a bunch of dogs together, but if they don’t act as “one” they are not a true pack in my eyes. A balanced pack acts as “one” and there is an absolute minimum of disturbances.
Dominance: Often thought of as aggression. In my opinion that is wrong. Being dominant and being aggressive is not the same thing. If you have observed a true pack, you will notice that the dogs have different roles. The “alpha” (again a very misused and misinterpreted word) of a pack is typically not the aggressive one, but the calmer one – who will step up when needed to.
Pack Leader: I love Cesar Millan. However, I think he is hugely misunderstood by his critics, and quite frankly perhaps also by his fans. He introduced us to the expression “pack leader” and made it popular. To me, the human need to be the “leader of the pack,” no doubt about it! But again, refer to the above definition of dominance – the pack leader is not, and should not be, aggressive. If you need to be aggressive as a pack leader, you are not doing your job well enough, or you are dealing with a very unbalanced pack member.
Positive reinforcement: “Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating/reinforcing stimulus to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future.” There’s absolutely no doubt that positive reinforcement is the most efficient way of learning, and by far my first go-to. The reinforcements does not have to be treats, I will always look for what motivates that particular dog the most. I realize I can write a whole lot more about positive reinforcement training, but that’s not what I wanted to focus on now (but look for it to come in the future!).
When I was pregnant with my son, my midwife asked me if I talked to him a lot. I shook my head, and said as truth was “not really, not out loud. But we communicate all the time.” When I was six, I got glasses for the first time. Turned out I could hardly see at all (and according to my eye doctor I am “legally blind,” now I wear contacts), but no one had noticed. I had become very adept at managing life in the blur, and I must have developed my other senses more than I would normally. I could feel people and animals, and quickly had learned how to read energies. I found I could communicate with animals in this way, with energies – and also how these “energies” controlled my own and their body language. They could read my intention, before they even read my body language. No words were needed.
Growing up I moved away from this “method” for a while, when I was more into thinking my way to communication. I tried out different methods, and I found that while this will work on some dogs, it definitely would not work on all. Why? Because dogs are not rational thinkers! They are instinctual doers. Plus, I found that no previous “method” fitted me perfectly. I needed to do what I did best.
I am now back into full-fledged energy-reading of the animals. It’s an intuitive and instinctual process, which I find very hard to explain. It never consists of violence or aggression. I may physically touch the dog, but I will never do it unless I feel that it is needed, and it’s only a “hey there.” I may use treats with one dog but not another. I may change methods midway in a session, if I feel that the initial one didn’t work as expected. I may consult other trainers or dog people, as I have learned one thing: One person never has all the answers. I want what’s best for the dog and its owner, and strive to create balance in their relationship – not in my relationship with the dog. Some times what would work for me wont work for the owner, and in those cases I will work to find other methods/solutions.