Positive education for all dogs
And that includes big, bad dogs! (Irony of course)
I would just like to highlight one small but important detail about the positive education we teach to future dog professionals at Nature de Chien and that I have also chosen to teach to my own clients.
The word “positive” has become a buzzword and is used in all sorts of ways.
I personally prefer to speak of benevolent and respectful methods for the canine/human duo.
Why educate your dog in a positive way?
The dog does not understand our human language (it would be too easy otherwise).
It is therefore up to us to guide him towards what we want.
He sits calmly in front of his bowl? He has immediate access to it.
He stops and comes back to us at a gallop ? So he has a delicious treat to thank him.
He looks at a herd of cows he has never seen before without saying anything? Let’s reward this behavior for being calm in its observation.
The idea is to reinforce the good behaviors desired or suggested by the dog with …. Reinforcers! Which will be either :
Treats of different values depending on the exerciseToysGo smell a scentGo see the buddyGo out of the houseOur voice as if we were talking to a retarded dog (braaaaavo loulouuuuuu!)Etc…
And don’t wait for the dog to make a “mistake” (which will only be a mistake in our eyes) before punishing him.
These reinforcers will be chosen according to the dog and what he prefers.
Of course, I often start my client trainings with treats because I am mainly dealing with dogs who do not know how to play calmly or who have a total lack of control over their emotions (it would therefore be counterproductive to increase their tension by playing for MY clients. However, it is possible to reward your dog with play if your Titou is adept at it).
Positive education for all dogs
Rewarding good behaviors that we like and that seem appropriate to our expectations will help the dog gain confidence in himself and in his environment. In addition, it will develop his autonomy because he will reproduce these behaviors more and more often since they will have been associated with something positive.
You will find our online training courses about positive education right here: online training – Canidélite (naturedechien.fr)
How does the dog learn?
The dog lives and learns by associative mode: positive, neutral or negative.
If something gives him pleasure, he will continue that behavior.
Example: If getting on the table to eat our delicious meal works, he will continue, even if we don’t like it.
On the other hand, if a behavior generates fear or dread, he will seek to avoid that behavior.
Example: If Titou is hit by a bell on his leash when he moves too fast, he may walk slower because he is afraid of the pain.
It’s as simple as that.
Unfortunately, the dog can’t be paid in cash, nor with a nice check from us.
So you have to use your dog’s interests… Which are those listed above.
Find what he likes and pay him properly for his work.
Why would he come back if he has a delicious carcass to gnaw on in the ditch during your walk or a beautiful mud puddle to roll in?
As much as dogs love us, a simple pat is not a good enough reward for the work he will do to comply with our rules and society.
You, you work well every day because it will bring you something nice at the end of the month? In principle, this will be your salary if everything goes well and this is your motivation.
And even if you love your job, would you like to work without any feedback other than a “good” from your boss?
Positive training for all dogs
Positive training and the notion of comfort/uncomfort
In positive education, educators are often perceived as innocent professionals who avoid conflict and who remain on their little pink clouds, like Care Bears, but this is not entirely false.
Why do we do this?
Simply because the dog CANNOT work if it is emotionally unstable.
So we will briefly discuss the concept of comfort zones during training.
Imagine 3 color zones: green, orange and red
The ideal is to work in the green zone while trying to enlarge it gradually.
In a zone where the dog is slightly uncomfortable but able to be connected and therefore able to work to arrive or stay in its green comfort zone.
The dog will then succeed in his exercises, gain confidence in himself and in his owner, and the work can progress more quickly and efficiently.
In red, the brain is completely blocked and the dog can’t do anything because he is in hyper vigilance, too stressed, etc…
It is not a failure if it happens occasionally!
It’s up to us to lower our standards to stay on track for success.
At school, if you never succeeded in an exercise and on top of that you were scolded, you lost confidence in yourself, in your teacher, you were frustrated and felt bad about yourself? And it didn’t make you want to do it again the next day.
The dog has exactly the same functioning.
Positive education for all dogs
And I have great news for you:
IT WORKS WITH ALL DOGS: big ones, small ones, young ones, older ones, molosses, hunting dogs etc… All of them!
Yes, I swear it does.
If it didn’t work, it’s likely that there was a lack of understanding and communication in the way you did it. And that’s okay.
But in that case, contact a professional who specializes in positive reinforcement (not an educator who will give a piece of candy if it sits, but will strangle the dog within a minute if it makes a wrong move) to help you.
A border collie will have more difficulty giving up on a bike, and a hound will be more tempted by the smell of a dog, for example.
It is up to us to be tolerant depending on the difficulty and the context.
We didn’t pass our baccalaureate in 2 months unless we were gifted?
So let’s not ask Titou to be clean, to have an impeccable recall and to walk like crazy in one session.
We will also have to judge the difficulty of the exercise according to the individual. If he has been pulling on a leash for 5 years, it will surely take more time to correct this behavior than if it has been going on for only 2 weeks.
Be careful not to forget the age of the dog, its own learning capacity and its past.
It is better to go slowly but surely, rather than to skip steps out of impatience and go back to square one without success.
We might as well work on the motivation and confidence of our canine friend, rather than playing on fear and dread. The dog is man’s best friend, so we might as well treat him as such.