in dog training – about punishment and dominance
towards cooperation with the dog
I often read from people who do not treat their dogs well in training and everyday life. With this very personal text I would like to confess to myself that I was once like that. Many animal lovers don’t make it out of meanness and malice. They mostly act out of ignorance. Education is therefore everything! I would also like to thank all of my colleagues who are involved in forums and take notes there. How nice when more animal lovers are reached and set off!
The crossover people and dogs require a lot of patience from their trainers. It is difficult to change processes for years. Letting go of beliefs is often frightening. Questioning friends is difficult.
I would also like to say in advance that sports are not bad per se. Every sport can be built up positively and can mean a lot of fun for humans and dogs. Just like there are many clubs that have very good instructors and in which great work is done. In this post I would like to share my personal experiences with you:
Pumo and I walk together through the forest. As always secured on a 20m line. Suddenly he lies down and freezes. The sure sign that he saw another dog. I also discover the oncoming team: an unknown woman with two hunting dogs, one on a lead, the other free. You see us too, the woman calls the dog and leashes it. I call Pumo back to me. Even though the others are moving towards him again, he can loosen up and he comes. On my “let’s go aside”, he stabs into the forest and waits for the nice reward. The hunting dog team passed us quietly and I even had time for a nice greeting. What a nice experience for us. So much worked in this situation – lots of calm and cooperation! We did a lot together. There is a lot of work, time and patience in this training success, but work with fun. Why did it look different in the past? I don’t like to think about it. And yet it is exciting to look back with today’s view, because it makes a lot clear to me.
I chose an Australian Shepherd because I wanted a dog that I could do dog sports with and yes, I admit, I wanted to do it successfully. My trainer at the time recommended an Aussie and I trusted her. So Pumo (whom nobody wanted because he knew so much) came to us.
Of course we went to the puppy class together. Pumo never wanted to play, except with his girlfriend Bona – but he had to do what the puppy lesson managed at the time. We were not allowed to give our dogs protection between our legs or near us, we had to run away. My dog had to endure the others. When a thunderstorm comes today, Pumo doesn’t seek protection from me and it still hurts a lot. That brings me to tears. But with the background and history we have, I understand him. He finds peace in our house or in his box. How happy I am that I now have more up-to-date knowledge and can give my customers other training instructions as a puppy and young dog trainer. I hope that the trust between dog and human will increase in the puppy hours.
So these were Pumo’s first dog encounters. Of course we soon went to dog sport training. Do you know the dog encounter training in the club after old school? Then both dogs are attached a “Schnürli” (= thin tie collar) and you walk towards each other. If a dog starts to show signs of conflict and avoidance behavior, i.e. wants to turn away, then the dog is torn on the leash, again and again, until the dog is walking nicely again. He must neither look at the other dog nor avoid the other dog. He has to walk head-on in the foot towards the other dog. So what did Pumo learn? If he wants to avoid a dog, if he wants to keep his distance, he will be punished for it – by his caregiver. It was not long before he showed aggressive behavior in dog encounters when he was on a leash. Today it makes me angry and sad!
Pumo is a dog that “goes forward” very quickly. I did protective dog training with him from an early age. He went through the whole construction. He was a great dog and everyone predicted a successful future for him. We were good until I could no longer “control” him. His arousal level rose so much that he was no longer accessible and I could no longer hold him without help (and there was really everything there, including animal welfare aids!). And now? A fantastic sports dog with a great bite and an excellent companion dog exam, but unfortunately no longer feasible in everyday life. He was always rewarded for “going forward”. Then he got the loot. Everything else was inhibition and worse. So what else was there for him?
Pumo had to endure a few more unspeakable training methods. A particularly macabre example: retrieving was practiced for a public appearance. And it went like this: Two dogs run towards each other head-on. One with a retriever in the snout. If you are facing each other dog / dog, the one dog has to give out the wood immediately on command and remain stoically seated, while the second dog picks up the retriever wood. So that the dog gives out, there was a head nut, always, except during the demonstration. An encounter of these two dogs outside the area had to be avoided.
Even today my dog collapses during a training situation and can no longer work if someone is standing next to it. It shows strong signs of stress and conflict as well as avoidance behavior. Despite all the good shared experiences in the meantime, because that’s deep.
When I showed Pumo’s guardian (= dog sitter) how I learned to subdue Pumo by sitting on him and biting his ear, she asked me in astonishment if I really wanted that. No! I did not want! I then looked for new training methods. I found methods that work with positive reinforcement. Just like I work with my young people in youth work. I was finally “allowed” to do this with my dog. I also relax when I write. The load drops.
On my first clicker course, I experienced for the first time how my dog was rewarded for something he did. And it worked! Now I was completely convinced. Even if I didn’t stop in my long-standing club. That had also become my friends. And the hardest part was: I had to admit that everything I’ve done with my dogs so far has not been good. Not only was not good, but was bad. It may be difficult to understand, but I always wanted the best for my dogs. I really believed that this was the only way. I not only changed the training, but also my attitude and my language. This change was associated with many goodbyes. Farewell to ideas, principles and friends that have accompanied me for many years.
The search for a dog school in my region was unsuccessful. So I decided to do an apprenticeship as a dog trainer at www.pro-cane-familiari.ch. The first seminar with Ute Blaschke-Berthold was an emotional roller coaster. I was able to draw so many parallels to my work with people. At last! It was good and gave me security. I had to cry every night because I was so sorry. I realized what I did wrong.
What I particularly like about my new way of dealing with dogs is communication. Communication from me to the dog has changed a lot. I no longer give “commands”, I make “offers” to my dog. He doesn’t have to execute commands, he cooperates. I learned to watch dogs. I can reward dogs so that it is really a reward. For example, I can use digging and hunting parts as a reward. I know how to teach my dog to relax so that he can cope with difficult situations better. I have never heard of this in dog sport before. Pumo’s body language has also changed. He voluntarily avoids another dog. His movements have become soft and round and are no longer as rigid and stiff. He can look deep into my eyes. He sits down next to me in the forest and we watch the jays building their nest.
Thanks Pumo. My teacher. My friend.