Today is the Positive Dog Training blog hop, and we have some new things to report. We've been following a Susan Garrett program, much of which is outlined in her book, "Ruff Love" and her DVD "Crate Games". She breaks training into specific "games" that you play with your dog, always keeping things fun and happy. Each training bout is very short and is followed by a fun play session with your dog.
Indeed, Susan Garrett even suggests playing with your dog before you begin a training session, to get your dog excited about what will come next. Tugging is Susan Garrett's favorite form of playing and reinforcement. It took some experimenting for me to figure out how to tug with Shyla but not hurt my surgically repaired spine, complete with titanium rods and plates. For me, the key is to tug a little, toss the toy a very short distance for Shyla to retrieve it, and then tug a little more - never letting the actually tugging get too intense. Shyla is not a very aggressive tugger which helps me a lot.
I think that the emphasis on playing as part of training has made a huge difference for both me and Shyla. It puts me in a happy state of mind, ready to reinforce good behavior and not get negative about bad choices made by Shyla. For Shyla, it makes her super enthusiastic about training because the reward is so great. I also think it's making our bond even stronger.
Prior to incorporating so much play into our training, I was occasionally seeing some apathy in Shyla's recalls. Now, they are full blast, sprinting straight to me!
Presently, we have a number of moose living near our house in the places where we mountain bike and hike on the trails. It's moose mating season, one of their most aggressive times of year, so I am relieved to see Shyla so responsive to me and also exercising more self-control when exciting animals pass close to us. In some cases, I don't need to say a word - Shyla sees the animal and returns to my side automatically.
I am a "crossover trainer" who trained my first dogs using traditional corrections and punishments for bad behavior. I honestly think that "sensitive Shyla" would retreat into her shell if I used those techniques with her. I think that she came into my life at the perfect point in my dog training experience. I was ready to use all that I had learned about positive training to pull her out of her shell and cultivate her self-restraint and drive.