I (Hope) was on the phone with a customer this morning and she said something that really surprised me. I don’t remember her exact words, but the gist was her dog couldn’t be trained. And she really believed it!
To back up a couple of steps, we were talking about choosing the best harness for her dog, a young Miniature Pinscher that’s a bit wild, fearful, and uncomfortable around other dogs.
We decided that the best harness would be the Wrap-N-Go – it’s the one we recommend for dogs who try to escape. In addition to other issues, her dog is also an extreme wiggler. Her only hesitation was that her dog is also afraid of the sound hook-and-loop closures (trade name Velcro) make. It’s not an uncommon problem, so I said “well, you can train her to get used to the velcro.”
I was completely taken aback by her “I can’t train her. It wouldn’t work. She’s untrainable.”
We know that no healthy dog is untrainable. And we need a new word for “train.”
Whenever we think about it – the word “training” has some unfortunate baggage attached. When I think about training, I equate it with exercise and working out. Which I loathe.
So do people think of “dog training” the same way? Unpleasant, frustrating, hard work that accomplishes nothing quickly?
If that’s the case – we absolutely, positively, definitely need a new word to use instead of training.
Especially since, when I explained what I meant by “training her dog” to get used to Velcro, she turned right around and said, “Oh, I can do that! That’s easy!”
Dog training is easy. And fun. And doesn’t take long – just a couple minutes at a time. How long results take depend on the dog and how consistent you are – but if it’s not pretty fun, you’re doing it wrong.
To train your dog to get used to Velcro:
Put on your dog’s collar (or harness) and leash
Grab a handful of treats
Sit on the floor with a velcro something – it doesn’t matter what
Give the dog the entire length of the leash – don’t “make” him/her do anything
Start playing with the velcro. Every time it makes a noise, give the dog a cookie.
If the dog isn’t in arm’s reach, toss the treat to him/her
Keep doing it.
If the dog approaches, give even more treats.
When you’re out of treats, the session is over.
Don’t say anything to the dog. Nothing. Not “come here.” Not “it’s okay, sweetie.” Nothing.
Soon your dog will decide that only good things happen when he/she hears Velcro.
It’s almost miraculous how quickly dogs will learn how to get treats. And in the process, you’re both having a little bit of fun (it’s incredibly fun to watch your dog figure things out), you’re spending time with your dog, and your dog is learning to trust you and figuring out how to get what he/she wants.
The same technique can be used to teach your dog just about anything. Give them the opportunity to figure stuff out. Your dog is smart – he/she will get it! And that’s Positive Reinforcement training (PRT)!