Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thinking Creatively

There are 1000 ways of teaching your dog obedience.  You can use a clicker, an e-collar, leash corrections, pushing the dog around, food lures, etc.  There are also 1000 ways of dealing with the behaviors your dog does that don't quite fit into your world.

We've started a new program here at Seize The Leash called C.L.A.S.S. which stands for Canine Life and Social Skills.  This is a program that has been developed by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.  In reviewing the program before becoming an evaluator, I wanted to see what methods of training were recommended and what the goals of this program are.  There was so much about this program that fit with my views of behavior and training, that I couldn't pass up the chance to use it.

This program revolves around play training.  There are over 100 games involved in teaching the skills required to pass the three levels of testing (BA, MA and PhD).  Each game is so much more then just a game, it's Real Life Set-up.  Games such as Pizza Delivery, Bagel Recall, Theme Parties, Do You Really Know Sit, etc.  Each games has one or two specific skills it teachs and strenghtens.  Each games uses a part of the human world as a distraction or a teaching tool.  This is the stuff of magic.

I already use games in my classes, especially Reactive Dog, Shy Dog, Righteous Recalls and Out Of Control class.  No one walks away at the end of the hour without having learned something new and improving someting they learned in a previous lesson.  And everyone has fun, including the dogs.  The dogs get desensitized without boring repetitions of encouraging calming signals or trying to stay under threshold.  The dogs get counter conditioned without the humans even realizing it's happening.

Think outside the box, don't limit yourself to someone else's idea of what the solution to your dog behavior problem should be. There are 1000's of ways to solve problems, to calm a dog, to desensitize a dog, to redirect a dog, to teach a dog. Setting limitations can set you and you dog up to fail. Be creative, think outside the box.

Your fear of what your dog "might" do can keep your dog from learning. If you have an aggressive dog and your become afraid of going anywhere, doing anything with your dog, playing even the simplest games with your dog or allowing your dog to have any social interaction at all, that aggression will never abate. Your fear will keep in in place.

And remember, no matter what method of training / teaching / conditioning you use with your dog, your results will only be as good as YOUR committment, focus and persistence.

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