Failing Dogs; Training a Behaviour, but not the Mind

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Can we train a behaviour, do a great job with a happy, willing dog, yet leave that very same dog in a worse mental place? Yes. Too many rules can do just that. 

Many trainers often teach that dogs that they are never allowed to get more excited than what their training can handle. Many rules will be put on dogs. Many. Rather than allowing them to get excited and training them in that state of arousal, dogs are given rules to prevent them from getting excited in the first place. They are micro-managed if you will, like a beautifully balanced kindergarten classroom. 

While this can work well for some dogs, the wheels often fall off if there is a situation where the dog does get excited. 

Certain types of dogs also both resist and resents that level of control. These are the dogs that are the equivelent of Grade 12ers, but are being managed like Kindergarten-Kids.

I prefer to see dogs trained with freedom. All dogs need freedom, providing you can trust them with it. They need moments where they are not under our verbal control, and stifling ways. They need to learn their own boundaries rather than the ones that we continually put on them. We need to teach them to teach themselves. 

Ultimately, they need the freedom to show us how much they have learned. This gives them confidence, and makes them happy. And us happy. 

The Buddhist Scriptures say that the purpose of rules is to give freedom. We do not teach control so that we can control. At least, we should not. 

Start counting how many times you command your dog on an hour walk, versus how many times he commands himself without you having to say a thing. This will let you know if you are training him, or just controlling him. 

Aim for the latter. Teach rules, so that they may have freedom; mental freedom from us. This is the secret to having a happier, more confident dog.

Monique Anstee
Victoria, BC

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