When I first learned to train dogs, it was in a particular way. Now that way had many rules to follow, you had to do one thing before you could build on the next thing. Makes sense right? I saw nothing wrong with the way I was training and I still don’t. I still believe firmly in those building blocks and I use them all the time.
I was taught to train using tools. I had a long line, a prong collar, a four foot leash and a remote collar. These were my tools and they are what I used to get the desired results out of the dogs that I trained. Now of course I learned that in order for the dog to understand the prong collar, there was a need to attach it to the long line. Dog goes out to the end of the line, feels some pressure from the collar and you reel the dog back to you, and say “Good” Let this happen a few times, then you can name be action of reeling the dog back in by using the dog’s name and saying “Come” all at the same time. Easy enough, now you have just taught the dog that pressure on the collar and you saying come, the dog moves toward you and the pressure goes away. No problem! You have taught the dog that pressure on the collar means he/she should get closer to you in order to release that pressure.
Now you’re off and running, you can teach sit, down, heel, stay, recall and place. All the basic commands a dog should know.
Then, to up the game, you can use the remote collar in the exact same way. Find the dogs working level use the long line and repeat what you did in the beginning. Now you should have, after some good practice and time put in, a dog that is reliable off leash.
This was my box method of training. Maybe box is not the right word to use, because all dogs are different and need to be approached differently. So even though you have the skill set of the above, you must be able to change it up according to the dogs needs and do something a little differently each time. This I could do. No problem. I’ve worked with aggressive dogs, fearful dogs, leash reactive dogs, dogs in need of behavior modification, and just plain old dorky dogs. All with excellent results.
I have two personal dogs, but here I will be referring to my youngest girl. I got her when she was three months old. She was just the cutest little, blue, and white pit bull ever. She went with me to my very first dog training seminar, where I learned my first skill set. She also learned with me. Two years later, I had successfully trained many other dogs, but still could not get a handle on my own, not so little anymore girl. She pulled me something awful and no matter what I did, I could not change it, and I tried many things, but always resorted back to the original methods I had learned. Now when she would get a correction from me she would cringe. This broke my heart. I felt awful, she felt awful, I yelled or got frustrated and she ran or cowered from me. I could not understand why this was happening. It did not happen with other dogs, only her. Our relationship was going down the drain, she stayed fearful and I stayed clueless.
We continued our quest at training seminars, sometimes she would go with me and sometime not. But I continued to learn new things and they worked great on other dogs. Not my little
stocky girl though! I’m pretty sure; she just did not trust me.
I learned a big lesson recently. I learned that you can go and hear something over and over again, but until you are open and ready to hear it, your mind stays closed and nothing comes in.
Well it just so happened that I got extremely lucky at one of the seminars I went to. I did not know it at the time, but I found that my mind had opened and I was truly learning something new. The methodology was not new to me, but all the other times I had been closed minded and had not heard, really heard what was being said. This time I heard, and this time I understood. I was able to take in the information given, watch the methods in action and practice the methods myself. I won’t give credit here, as I have already given credit where credit is due. I am so thankful to have been in the right place at the right time.
Now, do I have more tools for my toolbox? You bet! More importantly, I learned how to open my mind. I have a deeper understanding of how me, as a person, has an effect on the dogs I’m working with.
Most importantly of all, is that I have been able to use my new found knowledge of methodology and self-awareness. And apply it to my relationship with my own dog. She and I are on the road to recovery. It won’t be easy to regain her trust, but I can see in her eyes that she knows there is something different about me and it’s peaked her interest. I’m using a new tool and new mind set, and she no longer cringes from me. We have two feet and four paws on a new road and we are going one step at a time.
So it’s important to remember that even when you think, you’re not inside a box, try to look around you and inside you and make sure that you are open to what comes your way. Live in the moment and be present. You just never know what you might learn. Take a peak and get out of your comfort zone!