Dog Training New Years Resolutions – 2013 Review

This is later than I intended, but I’ve been busy helping a collie get a rescue space.  Thankfully, everything’s sorted now, barr her having a little sleepover at my house before being picked up this weekend.


Last January, I posted a list of things I wanted to accomplish with Inka and Starr; I called them my “dog training New Years resolutions“.  Before I look at my intentions for the coming year, I want to take a moment to look at how I did with those resolutions.

To review, last year I resolved to:
* Train my dogs more!
* Train because it’s fun!
* Not waste breath and energy on cruel, pushy, aggressive, and ignorant people that rely on those same behaviours to bully animals and other people.
* Do my coursework!
* Be open to new and different things

So, how did I do?  Well, starting on the negative – I didn’t finish my coursework.  Technically, I didn’t even start it, although I do have a lot of notes and plans for what I want to look at for each question, and I do now feel capable of starting it.

However, the good news is that I stuck to everything else!  I didn’t waste my energy on people who don’t want to know, and I did train both dogs more often, maybe not as much as I’d like to, but certainly more than I’d trained Inka in the past year.

Now that we’re starting to get past Starr’s demons, and I’ve been able to give Inka a break (which I feel that he needs as he still holds quite a lot of demons about learning in general from his early days, before he came to us), we’re concentrating on the fun things – Inka’s training has involved things I know he can do, and just having fun with those; Starr’s training has also been fun (like when we played with this box (below)), but she enjoys the learning process, so we’ve also done some more serious things together (like starting to work on her loose lead walking).

I will say, however, that I think part of the reason why I didn’t train more is because I felt a little bit overwhelmed.  I completed Pamela Dennison’s online course, and when the chance arose I signed up to Susan Garrett’s Recallers course – as part of that we got a whole second course for free, I also signed up for Denise Fenzi’s precision heeling course, and then her heelwork games class, and I then got the chance to become a member of Susan’s “inner circle” – so, of course, I jumped at it, and then Puppy Peaks came along, which I wanted in on as well!

Pam’s course had a small amount of material, and a DVD, so that was fine.  Recallers would release one five minute game every weekday for six weeks, and there was *a lot* of accompanying information (I filled a lever-arch ring binder!), Shaping a Difference was time-sensitive, and Puppy Peaks and the Inner Circle both are an amazing resource, plus both of Denise’s courses are full of information; I’ve then been back and forward to the vets a fair amount, alongside work, running a house, and all the regular exercising and bonding with my dogs.

I know, I know – I took too much on.  I’ve learnt my lesson, and (hopefully!) won’t do it again.  Starr & I are re-doing the Recallers games, but at a slower pace; once I get the mechanics down for the really fun ones, I’ll do those with Inka, leaving the “less fun”/more precise ones to later, or not at all if he would prefer not to; and it’ll be the same for Puppy Peaks, and anything that comes up in the IC (I’m desperately saving so that I may renew my membership, after a couple of surprise expenses in December).

Going forward, at least for the moment, I feel that the Say Yes!/Susan Garrett way is a really good fit for Starr, Inka, and myself; it also fits nicely with the ethos of our training instructor and her classes, plus there’s enough information held within it to help me teach many, many behaviours, and to equip me for figuring out almost anything it doesn’t contain specific information for.

So, what are my goals for this year?  Find out in my next post…



On one of the Yahoo! Groups I’m a member of, somebody recently wrote:
“I want my dog to work because he wants to please, not because he has to”.

I responded: “Just a point on semantics: a dog will never find pleasure in pleasing others – they are not altruistic”.

This, as always, got me thinking.  Even if dogs do find joy in pleasing others, I don’t want my dogs to work with me because it makes me happy.  I want them to work with me because they’ve found the joy and value in the work for themselves, not to mention it would be nice to think they want to spend time with me doing what they enjoy doing – whether that’s playing around and figuring out what it is that will earn them their next reward; or whether that’s taking part in something more structured such as obedience or agility trials, sheep herding, trick training, scentwork, and the list goes on.

To me, if a dog is doing something “to please” someone, then it means that or doesn’t want to do that task in the first place – as a child I’d clean my room “to please” my mother, but you can bet I didn’t enjoy it and would rather be doing something else!  And if a dog isn’t enjoying herself, it’s often quite obvious, whether it’s the low posture and tucked tail of a dog who may have been trained with aversive tools or methods, or whether it’s the reluctance of a dog only ever trained with kibble or commercial dog treats.

Below is a photo of my with my first dog, Spirit.  I love this photo because we are engaged, you can see we’re a team – he loved playing (training) with me, and was quick to pick things up.

Spirit & I working as a team

This is what I want to see from my dogs, and from other dog/handler teams too.  Happy dog, happy handler, happy team.

Or, for a more recent example (thankfully not really featuring me!), take a look at this short video.  This was Starr’s second introduction to the balance disc, on Tuesday evening.  Her first was the night before, and she wasn’t all that sure, though we didn’t have quite as much space to play in.

What do you think?  Is she happy to play on the disc?  Would you be happy if your dog was giving you this ‘performance’ during his or her early training sessions, either with or without a piece of equipment?

What about you?  What do you like to see from your dog when you’re with them?  What do you do to get those things you like to see – do you have a special toy, special treat, or perhaps you do something that gets them excited about the training process?