Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mis-Adventures of a Treat Bag.

I feel sorry for treat bags.  They are often discriminated against.  Being blamed for being needy, clingy and dependent.  So many dog owners don't want that.  They want a treat bag that can learn how to be independent, be used properly at first and then go on it's way.  Grow wings.  Move out and move on.

The treat bag should be fully respected, for life.  It's not a child that will learn, grow and move out of the house.  It is more like a Mother -- there in the beginning when you need it most, helping you learn, grow and then gradually just being there only in times of need but still always there, always.

Maybe all dog owners should have a "Treat-Bagger's Creed" --

This is my treat bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My treat bag is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
My treat bag, without me, is useless. Without my treat bag, I am useless. I must use my treat bag true. I must use it better than my dog who is trying to outwit me. I must outwit him before he outwits me. I will...

My treat bag and myself know that what counts in this dog training journey is not the treats we administer, the noise of our blabbering, or the treats we use. We know that it is the wits that count. We will use our wits...

My treat bag is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its bag. I will keep my treat bag clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before God, I swear this creed. My treat bag and myself are the defenders of my dog. We are the masters of our training. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is Mine and there is no dog unjustly trained, but peace and success in all dog training!
Why? Because we have huge expectations of our dogs.  Often impractical and illogical ones.  There are many ways to train a dog, many of which work but you will only find me using what makes the dog continually like me, never work from intimidation, fear of the consequence and what is practical.  How can I jerk on my dog's leash for dragging me down the sidewalk when he's never been taught what to do on a leash?  How can I tell a dog to "come!" when  he darts out the door, then punish him once I catch him, when I've never trained him to learn to come when called?

When using treat bags and food the most common question I get -- "When can I get rid of the treats?"  The answer is "soon and never."  If having your dog lavished with 15 pieces of hot dog every time he comes to isn't something you are willing to do then we best move onto something else.  Why is it so bad to have to use food?  Why do we, as dog owners, feel the need to have a dog that performs robotically, with no motivation, just so that it looks great to have a dog respond to us in military fashion?  

I recall an evaluation I did with a gentleman and his two Pit bulls.  I will admit this man acted like he was the owner of a country and something owed to him.  Not really a personality I deal with a lot (thank the good Lord).  However he was determined to show me how "well trained" his dogs were.  We met in a neutral local park for an evaluation.  I told him to go get his dogs out of the car.  He goes, lets them out, off-leash (not what I asked for nor recommend) and very gruffly orders them around until he got to the picnic table I was sitting at.  I allowed this to see his response and reactions to his dogs.  The dogs were incredibly "obedient".  They did just as he asked.  Ears sucked back to their heads.  Tail between their legs.  When called to come they sat in front of him, eyes squinting.  He said, "So what do you think?"  Yikes, wrong question to ask me!  I told him "So your dogs do what you say because they fear the hell out of you.  Congratulations."  He was flabber-gasted.  Went on a rant about how everyone he's ever met told him how well-trained his dogs were.  I agreed.  Yes. Your dogs are well-trained.  But at what expense?  Needless to say I never heard from him again but did hear through the grapevine that one of the dogs bit him later.  No idea the surrounding events for that but I could have told you that would happen, just a matter of time.  Because teaching with intimidation can get results but it can also lead to disaster.

If you aren't willing to love your treat bag, use food when necessary, until it's not necessary, then you should probably drink 'the other guy's' Kool-aid.  Your training will probably work but it won't get the long-term results you need or want, nor what your dog wants.
Noah,  my Aussie mix, doing a reliable recall in a park.

If you are going to train with me be prepared to have homework.  Be prepared to use food.  Be prepared to work up to desired results, nothing happens in half an hour regardless of what is on television. But if you do your homework, work hard, be consistent, use your tools as they are intended to be used (yes you can misuse treats or anything for that matter) you will get results.  And not because you "bribed" your dog.  You won't have to "bribe" your dog to do what it's asked if you do the training properly, as directed.  Just look at Emily Larlham's videos (she has a lot!) on YouTube.  She has 3 dogs completely clicker trained that are completely reliable off-leash and at a distance with no bribery involved.  She just trained them properly with love and confidence, and food! (Her videos here.)

Respect your treat bag.  Don't become angry with it.  Don't get rid of it too quickly, or ever for that matter.  Take responsibility for your dog and his training.  Understand that it's a process and that with the correct training and guidance (with a great trainer) you can accomplish many, or any, goals that you have!

Some Treat-Bagger Rules:
  • Don't give a reward unless your dog is looking at you, not the bag! I love this bag.
  • Wear it everywhere, so your dog doesn't go into "OMG! We are going to train!"-mode.
  • Use small, cut up, easy to digest treats such as Natural Balance Food Roll (cut up) or Freeze-Dried Liver (cut up).
  • Think about using a clicker if you aren't or haven't before.  Yes, I was a non-clicker trainer for a long time but I've found it to be the most useful and quick tool for training than anything I've ever done! I regret not using it sooner!  Try out for a wealth of information!
Contact me for help with any dog situation!  We can, together, get things where you want them!