Fear and loathing

IMG_1508I only use positive reinforcement when I work with my dogs. I never use punishment, force, fear or intimidation because they don’t work. I want to change my dogs’ emotional response to stimuli that previously upset them. In that way they are less likely to resort to undesirable behaviour. I also want us to have a strong bond, which makes my dogs try to do what they think would please me. Whenever I see signs of stress (wide open, round eyes, whites of the eyes looking like crescent, shaking, tongue flicks, stiffness, panting, furrowed brow, ears set flat back against the head – to name just a few) I stop ‘training’, rethink, deal with stress first and try something different. IMG_1507I know my dogs, I know what motivates them, what they like and what makes them uncomfortable. I don’t want my dogs to ‘respect’ me because they think I’m a dominant figure, someone powerful, someone to be scared of. I want them to respect me because they love me and they know I respect and love them too. So far, I’ve had 100% success. I don’t impose my views on other people, I don’t even work with dogs that are not ‘mine’ (my private dogs and the ones from the charity). Yet, whenever ‘the dominance theory’ is mentioned, I get criticised a lot (even by people I like and respect). Funny things, beliefs…some people even die and kill in the name of something as insignificant as creations of their imagination or ideas put into their heads when they were children. Dogs are easier. We do what works, we don’t do what doesn’t. IMG_1512

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13 thoughts on “Fear and loathing

    1. Oh, thank you! I love the fact you love it! I kind of expect comments like: ‘yeah, you should try it with my dog, if I let him he’s an alpha male in seconds'(I get that a lot!) But for me any form of force is just a sign we’re helpless (dogs bite, humans use force) and we don’t know what to do.

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      1. Doesn’t surprise me , I get those comments on consultations . Not only is that comment often totally incorrect but totally out of date!
        The way you are coaching is spot on . I have been training dogs over 40 years and positive reinforcement is by far the most effective method I have ever used.
        I try and coach all my clients to see everything through the dog’s eyes.
        Live your blog. Keep sharing. πŸΎπŸΆπŸ™

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  1. “Dogs are easier. We do what works, we don’t do what doesn’t. ”

    Can I get an Amen!! I really needed to read this today. I had a little bit of a discouraging walk with my dogs and realized that my frustration had little to do with what my dog needed but what I imagined the other dog owners on the trail thought of me as a dog owner. So it was my own insecurities that made me get frustrated and upset. Once I realized that I was able to refocus and reestablish the bond with my “bad on leash” dog. Completely different walk.

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    1. It’s so easy to forget we can’t live up to everyone’s expectations πŸ˜‰ The other dog walkers are probably quite understanding, anyway (but I worry about what they think sometimes, too). I really love comments like yours, it shows how many people care about their dogs (and do it responsibly, too). Thank you πŸ™‚

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  2. If I had even raised my voice to my little rescue dog Molly I would have just terrified her even more. She couldn’t even bear cuddles and kisses when she first came to me, so I used to cuddle and kiss my other girls in front of her and eventually she came to me on her own. It took a long time but now she pushes the others aside to make sure she get her fair share! Repetition and consistency – the only way to go. And I love it when they finally do something I ask them to and I’d get so excited – and you can almost see the lightbulb pop out over their heads – ‘Oh – that’s what she wants’. Then they are desperate for you to ask them to do it again, just so they can show you have clever they are. Love and respect works both ways.

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  3. Like the other commenters I love this article. I also think that your technique with your dogs is not only the most effective, but also humane and caring. People (even those who know nothing) will deem themselves expert enough to criticise especially on the Internet. You do wonderful work, and that matters most.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’ve been learning about dogs for years and I see the change in attitude, most trainers now wouldn’t use old-fashioned methods. But because of the media and easy access to information (good and bad sources of it) everyone can be an expert. Some people are very aggressive when talking about dominance, submission and so on. Makes me wonder why they’re so determined to prove me wrong (and yes, I do have proper certificates, diplomas and other things people consider vital to decide if someone is worth their attention). I’m not an expert, I only ever work with abused (or stray) dogs. Each dog is different and the more I know, the more humbled I am by them. But I know rewarding works, punishing doesn’t. Fortunately, the research into dog behaviour backs me up (now) so, hopefully more people will try for themselves.

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