Pearls of Wisdom Dog Training
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I have always learned more from my dogs than they have ever learned from me. Many of my dogs have had issues that took some time to work through, but in doing so I have learned first hand how to deal with those issues & that made me a better trainer. Below are some of the my past & present dogs & what I learned.
RUFFIAN, I got her as a puppy about 1995, she was a blue merle collie. Ruffian was my first real trick dog that loved to learn & do tricks. She was very toy & game motivated. The major thing I learned from her was that you must find what motivates the dog as a reward. Back in those days I didn't believe in using food in training. The problem was that Ruffian didn't find being petted a reward, in fact she was demotivated by petting. She was very motivated by toys, but in some cases that was limiting. I decided that I had to break my food rule with her & in doing so I realized that it's not up to me to determine the reward, it's up to the dog. So, with food & toys we had a happy & productive time together. Funny, when she turned a year & a half she had what I call an Invasion of the Body Snatchers personality change, she suddenly decided that being petted was great. We had a wonderful 11+ years together.
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I have been volunteering at the local animal shelter for the last 5 months or so & working with dogs with issues. Some just unruly, some fearful, some aggressive in some way. My goal is to get the dog to be a safe better mannered dog that can go into a family environment.
Currently I'm working with a large Chow/lab/shepherd mix probably about 3 years in the 80 lb range. Main issue no training or social interaction with people. I called him a junkyard dog, not because he was in bad shape, but because he seemed to have no connections to humans. Like a dog that had food put out for him, but nothing more. When he 1st came in he was very wild & wasn't getting taken out of his kennel. The 1st issue was getting into his kennel without him pushing out. He had no connection to people what so ever so basically I was just another "wall" for him to get through. I started making him settle before entering the kennel, which for him was mainly having him not pushing the door & backing when I entered. Once in he jumped at the front door, me, walls etc. just trying to get out. I spent time in his kennel just pretending to open the door & closing it when he pushed it. I had to get him to accept a no pull harness to allow me to safely handle him. It took numerous tries for the 1st couple weeks to get the harness on, but he started to understand that the harness going on was a sign that he was going out, so he began to accept it & stand for it to be put on. With dogs that have had little or no training they first have to learn to learn, then things progress more & more quickly as they understand the benefit to learning & doing a behavior. Then we worked on him waiting for me to exit the kennel 1st & him waiting to hear "ok". I had worked with him a couple times a week for several weeks with him completely ignoring me when we were out walking even when I stood in front of him or sat with him everything in the environment was exciting except me. Probably about 4 weeks in I started to get an occasional look from him that show me he was starting to notice me. Probably the biggest breakthrough was when I started taking him into the play yard. He still ignored me until one day I threw the rope toy & he came to me to initiate tug of war. About a week later the kiddie pool in the play yard was filled with water & he was happier than I've ever see him playing in there & coming to me to play. I need to continue to work on his social skills & getting him to interact with people in a meet & greet situation, but at least I feel that we are building a connection & he has the potential to be a good dog for someone willing to work with him.