CVT & Owner of Awesome Paws Academy
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It’s true, what they say. You never stop learning. There is ALWAYS something there each day, every day, waiting to leap out at you screaming “HAHAHAHAHAHA! Gotcha!”
Owning a dog opens us up to these experiences, new emotions, and quite simply new thoughts that we never would have happened upon on our own. It’s amazing when you stop and actually observe them processing various stimuli: the dog across the street, the squirrel racing up the tree, a bicycle going past, a visitor at our door, a trip in the car, walking into a vet’s office or going to a dog park. How each dog learns, remembers, loves, and lives is an amazing experience that only the purest of open-minded people can really take in.
I was told by a student that it seemed amazing: I could just have a conversation with my dog, and he listened, complied, and was “so well trained” that they could only hope that one day their dog could do that too.
It struck me as odd…but true. I do have conversations with dogs. Which leads me to this:
I was amazed last night when it dawned on me that I had actually offended a dog. No, really. It’s extremely hard to detail as to what happened and why, because I don’t really know altogether, but it had me realizing that although I have been in behavior over a decade now…I still learn new things.
Somehow I had erred in my own behavior while teaching her…and she was offended. She suddenly went away and sulked. I swear.
I know. I know. Any trainer is going to say impossible. Any behaviorist is going to argue about cause and effect. But any dog lover is going to agree; sometimes we offend.
Now, do dogs have the same emotions as we do? Who’s to say, except the dog in question…and she isn’t talking, in words anyhow. I am always telling my clients that we do NOT know how much dogs truly understand. We do know how they can learn, be modified. I know they do not think as complexly as we do. But who’s to say they don’t think complexly period? Not me. I’ve met too many dogs to think that they are anything but individuals, driven by their own genetics and environments…just like people. They have their own set of rules, being a different species, and we MUST respect that, but they are just as capable of learning most of our rules, especially when those rules are clear, concise and taught by fun and rewarding methods.
I ask my students: How many of you remember how to write complete sentences in your foreign language requirement? Yet, we expect dogs to remember the treat from the kid pulling on their ear once when they were 12weeks old? Unless we refresh these teachings, they WILL be forgotten.
I also ask my students: Do you typically remember to brush your teeth? We were taught as kids, reminded after meals and before bed, rewarded with stickers, stories, money for years…and now we have a lifelong habit and are praised (I hope) when we go to the dentist and have a report of no cavities.
When we learn new HABITS (just throw out the word “command” for me, if it’s the only thing you do, and replace it with “cue” or “habit”) with pleasure, we rarely forget. We tend to resist those learned by force or through anger.
So back to my story: realizing I had somehow offended this particular dog, the gears of thought began turning and while I was discussing the next training program outline with her parents, I began realizing she was watching me from afar. I had the distinct feeling that she was waiting for an apology. I know. I KNOW…but still.
We had two more goals for this session and I was bound and determined to make things right. So I went over, made my apology and asked her to come over with us.
And she did. She started training again. Showing off. Accepting treats, racing back and forth in Recall Games and having fun. We accomplished our two remaining goals and set up our plan for homework exercises. She didn’t want to leave my side now, definitely wanted to play some more.
I had been forgiven. We were friends. We were finally communicating.
So believe what you will. Think of me what you wish. Only I and her know the truth.
When you allow yourself the mere glimpse into the improbable, you begin to see the possible.
To some, they are just dogs. To others companions, maybe even fur-kids. To me…they are my friends. So why on Earth would I treat them any other way?
If we can’t force a 9 ton killer whale to perform, but they do anyway…why should I have to force my dog?
Think about. Please. For your dog’s sake.
Want to learn more? Contact me. I don’t bite.