Sunday, December 27, 2009
A Word on Training
When you get a dog, I can guarantee you that one of you is going to get trained. You might want to make sure it will be your dog. Of course that is just a suggestion.
It happened to me before I could say dog. We got Jasmine as a puppy. Before I knew it, I was the perfectly trained owner(?). I don't even have to be 'told' what I should do any more. I sit there trying to come up with ways to please her. I am past the point of no return—I have been brainwashed. I didn't even notice when and how it happened. Mind you, it is working for us. We are both happy. Jasmine does listen when she's asked to do something (mostly), but I think it is just in order to keep me in the right disposition to serve her :-)
However, I believe that it's a much better idea to have it the other way around.
You might think that having a number of training sessions with your dog, teaching it commands and tricks, is all you need to prevent being run by your dog. Think again.
Yes, dogs will learn the things you're teaching them. Dogs love learning. Dogs are great learners. Dogs are exceptionally great learners. So besides the desired commands, they might also learn, that the only time it really makes any sense to respond to you is when you're equipped with treats/rewards.
Dogs don't just learn during the time dedicated to their training. They learn every hour, ever minute of every day. So what are they learning during the time when you are not training?
Dogs learn by trial and error. They will try doing something to see what happens. If they like the result of the particular action, they'll file that association for future use. If they are not so pleased with the result, they will try something else next time.
If your dog brings a toy, drops it into your lap and you start playing, he will do that every time he wants you to play. It's so cute, so you give in time after time. Congratulations. You've just learned your first trick. See how easy that was? Good boy.
If your dog barks at you for attention and gets it, you added another trick to your arsenal.
So what do you do to make sure you're the trainer and not the trainee? Understand how dogs learn and that they learn all the time, not just when you want them to. Be careful how you respond to their training attempts.
You can get used to it. I have learned from my mistakes and it actually is me who is training our second dog, J.D., and not the other way around (so far).