If you’ve read any of my other posts, you will know that I really believe that the most important aspect of dog training is building relationship between dog and human. When you have that, you have a lot.
So, for a moment, I’m going to put you in a dog’s shoes, if I may.
It’s a weird place to be, granted, since dogs don’t wear shoes, but bear with me. Let’s say I put you in an unfamiliar room where there’s a couch, a table, a mini fridge, a stereo, a window seat, and a bookshelf.
Because you are human, without direction, you might do any number of things:
- Sit on the couch
- Pick a book to read
- Turn on the TV
- Sit in the window seat to look out the window
- Put your feet on the table
- Get something to drink from the fridge
- There’s probably more.
Now, suppose there were rules about this room, but you and I don’t speak the same language. You don’t know any of the rules, but I do because it’s my room. Here’s what happens next:
- The moment you go to put your feet on the table, I take a ruler and hit your feet.
- You go to open the fridge, and I make a loud, startling noise, run at you and slam the fridge door on your finger.
- You go to the couch, but, without you knowing, I put a static mat on there so the minute your body hits the cushion, you are shocked by the static and continue to be shocked until you get up.
- You go to turn on the TV, and I yell “no!” at you, run to you and slap your hands away.
Do you know how to be in this room?
What do you know exactly? I’m guessing you know:
- I don’t want your feet on the table.
- I don’t want you to open the fridge.
- I don’t want you on the couch.
- I don’t want you to turn the TV on.
If you guessed those things, great. Now you know. Wait… what do you know?
- Do you know what I want you to do in this room?
- Do you feel good about me or this room?
- Do I seem unpredictable?
- Do you want to develop a relationship with me?
- Do you trust me?
Let’s try this scenario:
- You go to open the fridge, and notice that there is a lock on it, so you can’t open it.
- You go to the couch, but there is a gate laying on top of the cushions making it undesirable to sit on it.
- You go to turn on the TV, but it’s behind doors in a cabinet, there is a lock on the doors.
- You look around and wander over to the bookshelf and pick out a book. The minute that you do, I clap, cheer, smile and give you a cookie.
- You then head toward the window seat and I cheer and smile again for you.
- When you get the window seat, you sit. I clap, cheer, and smile.
- You get comfortable and start reading the book from the bookshelf. I clap, cheer, smile, and go to the fridge, get a beer and bring it to you.
Now, do you know what I want? Now, how do you feel about me? Now, do you trust me?
Regardless if you stand on two legs or four, setting up for success leaves more room for desired behavior to happen and be rewarded. To me, this is a perfect recipe for a long lasting, bonded relationship that is built on trust and respect.
Do you set your dog up for success in training?