Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Evolving as a dog trainer

Cross-over trainer

I have started my dog training carrier from a working dog side where training methods were more or less force based.  I remember when I got advice how to correct misbehavior: say “no” and pull from choke chain. This did stop the misbehavior but it didn't make it disappear. This was the way to change the behavior of a dog that had dominance and leader issues. This was the first way I learned to handle dogs.  These advises were given by a top dog trainer that worked with trouble dogs. Today I see this as sad thing but this was how it was done about 10 years ago.

When skill ends violence begins. This phrase is true in many ways in animal training. I could say many of us have trip to this hole when working with dog. At least I have many times and I still do. When a dog pulls and I’m tired, I could pull from a leash to try to stop. Dog learns nothing but behavior stops at that moment. I hate this part in me. I know how to do this better much better. I should always take the time to do it the right way but in my mind I justify my actions with phrases like : I’m in hurry and we need walk certain distance or my hand hurts so badly that reactions comes before brain. Why is it hard to just stop and think before acting? This is a key thing when it comes to training. In everyday things many of us can’t be very consistent and we get this “trouble” behavior like pulling on leash or jumping on people. It is a weakness that many times animals pay the price.

In dog sports I have really have had an inner conversation. Why do we do it? How should we see the dog sports? Are the dogs really enjoying it? What would my dog choose if it had a change? I have developed a lot in my training skills since my first dog. I have learned a scientific way of training. This has opened a window to a real connection with my dog. These skills have made me better trainer but have I change as person? This has been the big question. I have been a very competitive person. This has sometimes resulted of taking the training time too long or asked the dog too much before it even knew what was ask for it. All this pressure from me leads to a point when founded that competitions weren't fun anymore nor was training. Why was this all happening?

I started to look another motivation to enhance my training skills and to become even better trainer. I think one of my eye opening courses was a chicken-dog course in Kangasala. There I got more tools to the answers I had especially in ob. I had had a problem of making some ob task super good. In this course I really started to realize that how much we have to do and think before we can do a good quality training. It this course opened my eyes to not see mistakes but to see thing that my dog didn't really know or was unsure. These tools helped me to develop as a trainer one more step. 

With Freya I have done ob totally with shaping and during this progress I have learned more about training dogs or other animals than I have learned since. Freya is a very sensitive dog but learns super fast. She really shows you what things she an idea of and what things she is still unsure. Freya has made me see every time beyond of seeing mistakes but really communicating with each other and really solving problems. Think-plan-do! I started to see training as a puzzle and a game of solving the puzzle as my treat in training.

Puzzle solving approach gave me a better view in the dog sports. I started to use this also in competition. Competitions became a game of puzzle solving. All this turned off my competitive nature. I started to become more relaxed and see my goal better. My goals were little things on agility course and prizes started to lose their appeal.  This is still an ongoing progress but I have started to become a better person to my dogs and I can see better how they communicate with me rather than the trophies or titles they can get. This development is a never ending story but I hope become a better trainer and a better competitor as I have changed my view in animal sports. I hope to change my ways also in horseback riding. This will be tested next week. Can I change my attitude and open a window to a better communication? Or do fall to old learned habit of using a whip as correction without listening first? 

That's all for now.....


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