As anyone who reads the blog knows I use fairly standard methods when I work with dogs. Classical and operant conditioning for learning (however you define learning), habituation (exposure till the dog gets used to object or situation), desensitisation (gradual, controlled exposure to the trigger-when the fear is learnt), counter-conditioning (replacing the undesirable behaviour or emotional state with the desirable one). Nothing spectacular. Hard to make a successful TV show about it. Most of the time, not much happens.
But it works-and as far as I know, this is the only effective way. It takes time and involvement. I need to try and know the dogs. I need to respect them, watch and listen to what they want to communicate. I need to adapt. I need to admit I can be wrong.
We have already dealt with all Lily’s demons. And there were many ( grass, trees, wind, stairs, rubbish bins, pavements, roads, cars, people, animals, light and darkness, sounds and silence-the list was endless). But she’s brave, curious and learns quickly. The fact she had never been exposed to the world simply meant that she was more like a puppy. Scared perhaps, but not traumatised.
Me and Brian are still learning each other. But you can easily tell he is mine. Every dog reflects the owner – mostly without the owner realising it. My dogs will never be ‘obedient’ in most people’s eyes. All of them are playful and trusting, independent and confident. All of my dogs have a strong bond with me, but can think and make their own decisions. All of my dogs are allowed to be dogs, even if it annoys or surprises some people. Some bark (not excessively), some dig (not obsessively), they have crushes on other dogs and they have enemies. They are allowed to have a favourite game, favourite walks, favourite spots in the house, favourite food (even if it means I cook smelly kidneys).
I often avoid the word ‘training’ as most people associate it with me being the boss and the dogs doing as they are told. I’m not a dictator, they are not my slaves. It’s not a game with winners and losers. It’s life. Family. Us.
And we all have our demons.