One of the biggest points I try to get across to people is that training dogs effectively is really about creating a partnership, learning to work together, and learning to communicate effectively with each other. It’s not about “teaching the dog who is boss” or establishing “dominance” because if that’s your main goal, you’ve already created a barrier to being successful with your dog. Or at least, being as successful as you could be. You might still train a dog to listen and do as told, but you won’t have the kind of relationship that some of us have with our dogs.
Part of this partnership is about earning a strong level of trust from our dogs. Even if they might not see the value in doing something we ask of them, they do it anyway because they trust that we are looking out for their best interest and have a good reason for what we are asking them to do. Not because they are afraid of the consequences.
My first Greyhound, Gunner, was a strong-willed independent guy. He would defend himself first and ask questions later. Early on in our relationship, it was a challenge to pull thorns from the pads of his feet. When you go to pull out a thorn, it very often hurts more when you’re grabbing hold of it before you can remove it. But after developing some trust, I could then remove thorns without worrying about being bitten.
Our Greyhound, Jahzara, trusted me to remove thorns or sticky tape that ripped out hair when being removed, but no one else. In fact, one time years ago, my husband was out walking her as I was on my way to work. He called me on my cell, and I had to return, find them out on their route and remove several stickers from between the pads of her feet. She couldn’t walk, and she didn’t trust him to remove the stickers. I removed them quickly and they were able to finish their walk.
Romeo (our Vizsla) and I were at Freestyle class recently (July 2012) and were playing around with some props. We have used plastic outdoor chairs at home, and he is accustomed to jumping up in the chair when cued. He can easily get off our chairs at home through the space between the arm and the seat. However, when he tried to do so with this chair at class, he realized there was not enough space and he got stuck. He couldn’t finish getting off the chair but also could not back up. He was plain and simply stuck and going nowhere.
Romeo could easily have panicked at being unable to remove himself from the chair. I told him to “wait” while I tried to help him. It took a minute or so – which is a long time when you are stuck! But he waited patiently as I had asked him to do. He trusted me enough to maintain his calm and allow me to resolve the problem. Then we carried on with class as if nothing had happened.
How strong is your dog’s trust in you? Let’s hope it’s never put to a serious test, but if it is, let’s hope you’ve done the work to prove your dog trusts you with his well-being and possibly his life.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]