It was hard enough for me to abandon a methodology that used compulsion, force, fear and pain to control dogs and make them do what I wanted, not what they were doing. It took a long time to overcome that, especially as the trainer friends I had at that time didn’t understand my journey, the reasons for it and that I saw so much potential with a different body of knowledge. They were all into “but what we do works” and “the other ways takes too long” and “you’ll have to have cookies in your pocket forever” as well as many other not quite so nice explanations about how wrong I was being.
I knew that one day inevitably someone would commend me for that journey from force to reward, what I didn’t expect was that the journey didn’t stop there. There was more to discover then just giving a dog a cookie for a job well done. Other than seeing the new skill you have taught, what I was searching for was a way to truly create a dog that thinks. It takes courage to seek out new methods and be okay with what others may think….be it the positives or the negatives.
If you have the courage to step away from the accepted, the scientific, the traditional and customary; If you have the courage to truly examine the basis for myths, old wives tales, rigid dogmatism and a need to control and try something new. If you have that courage, even when the end is unclear and even though you know what you have done in the past would work again and again, you will reap rewards so great it will blow you away.
In 2011 I started exploring. I’ve known for long that giving control back to a human gave that human a better handle on life, why could not the same be done for a dog. I was looking for a way to do that. With Susan Garrett’s Recallers class and all the information she presented about how to create teaching games, I finally found the solution and combined with the structured games used in Montessori, Summerhill, and other progressive human schools Canine Game Theory was born.
Canine Game Theory is not just training a behavior in a new way but changing the entire training ethos in a world that only marginally supports it, and that support was in child education, not dogs. I knew in my heart it was the way forward and along the way I questioned myself if I'd made the right decision. As time goes on I get confirmation (from results) that I most definitely made the right choice. It still feels uncomfortable at times, especially those times when a potential client choses another trainer, but now I love creating new games, games that teach a dog how to solve problems; games that teach a dog and its human how to think, to reason, to explore and even be creative.
Canine Game Theory is still evolving. It now covers not only basic obedience but foundation behaviors for dealing with a human world, behavior modification for shy dogs, aggressive and reactive dogs, snake avoidance, prey drive, and (my favorite) service, therapy and assistance dogs.
Canine Game Theory is easy to teach to new clients, both the furry and the skin type. The learning curve is nearly non-existent. You just play games. But the thing with teaching something new is that it takes COURAGE! It takes the same courage that astronauts have, top athletes, innovators in all walks of life and the person who starts a corner café in the middle of a war torn country.
So come walk this journey with me. Come play with me. And may you and your dog never be the same again!