When we adopted our litter mate puppies, I was insistent on hiring a professional trainer who specialized in positive dog training, because we had two puppies and I wanted to start their life off right. We worked with Shannon Finch of Arlington, Washington. Shannon trained us how to train our dogs using clicker / rewards based dog training and I’m so happy that we used a trainer instead of reading a book, because the nuances with positive dog training were something that we needed to see, not read. When I recently connected with Ines and heard her story, I was excited to share her experience with you.
I’ve found that I can learn from everyone – so I still watch several dog training shows and take from them what I think will work with our dogs; when I’m uncertain, I ask for feedback from our trainer.
Crossing Over to Positive Dog Training Methods
I have been working with dogs since I was twelve years old and training dogs and their people professionally for over three years. Around the time I began working with dogs a certain dog whisperer became famous and I fell under his spell. He had a way of connecting with his audience through the TV screen and what he said resonated with me at the time. When he came to my city, I signed up immediately to go see him. I went to his seminar and even met him in person. He was an inspiration to me because he could “fix” dogs that other trainers couldn’t and since I was already deeply involved in rescue this hit home for me. I used his methods “successfully” on every dog I met.
So why did I change to positive dog training?
Last summer I adopted a dog named Loker. My typical methods did not work on him. He was reactive on leash to other dogs and some strangers, but when I would correct him (either with a slip lead or prong collar) he would intensify his reaction. This was the first dog I had ever come across that would display the opposite behavior that I wanted when I corrected him. Since I had worked with over a hundred dogs, this came as a surprise to me. I am very open minded so I knew I had to try other methods with this guy because I was not getting anywhere with corrections. This is when my process of “crossing over” began. A crossover trainer is one who used to use correction or dominance based training, but has chosen to switch to use positive training methods. I reached out to a local positive reinforcement trainer in my area and she suggested I could come with her to some training sessions and observe how she works through behavior issues. I am still brand new to this kind of training but I am certainly enjoying every bit of it! When I was using corrections I often found myself frustrated, angry, and tired. It was no fun at all. This new way of training has taken so much weight off my shoulders and I am actually enjoying working with my dog. It is relieving to focus on the good behavior rather than correcting the bad behavior all the time. Loker is doing better every day; he now looks to me for direction. We are now enrolled in a group class that works on basic obedience with distractions – such as other dogs. And while I know I would be at my wits end if I was still using corrections, I can now get his attention around other dogs. He isn’t even the worst dog in the class!!
Why I am sharing my story about positive dog training.
I am sharing my story now so that fellow trainers who are interested in crossing over, but aren’t quite there yet can see how I did it or why I did it. I am also hoping to reach out to pet owners who may be confused as to which kind of dog trainer they should choose. Looking back to that certain dog whisperer who had mislead me all those years, I now realize what he does and what the difference is between that and positive training methods. The biggest difference I can describe is that his methods are (for the most part) not permanent, when you remove the person who is “training”, you remove any behavior modification that was being applied. Positive training methods work with the brain to develop good “habits” (to put it in the most simplest of terms) and the dog truly learns a new behavior (he isn’t just hiding it so that he doesn’t get choked). Once a dog learns these new, good habits thoroughly, they are applied to many circumstances and distractions. With positive methods, you actually change the way a dog sees the world rather than just temporarily stopping their reaction to it. Positive methods may take longer to “fix” behavior, but in the long run everyone is much happier. So with a little more effort from the handler in the beginning, it all pays off in the end. It’s not about short cuts; it’s about solid, long-term results – and having a happy dog! Isn’t it amazing that a dog would WANT to do something for you? You just have to learn how to teach them!
If you are interested in following me through my journey, visit my blog at http://www.thecrossovertrainer.com and submit your email to get free notifications of new blog posts!
Are you using positive dog training methods? If so, please share why and your experience; if not, please share your experience too.