The gift of positive dog training: kindness

Let’s say you’re at school hanging out on the playground. Another kid has some pieces of candy that you really want. You have two possible courses of action: Shove the kid over and snatch a piece, or ask him nicely if he’d be willing to share. The outcome in both instances is the same. You end up with a piece of candy. But in one, you’re a jerk, and in the other, you’re a friend.

Which one do you want to be?

OK, yes, there’s no question that that scenario is a gross oversimplification, but when you compare modes of dog training… it’s not too far off. I want my dog to sit. I can ask him nicely–through positive training techniques like luring or shaping–or I can shove his butt on the ground. In both cases, he sits. Mission accomplished. But in one, I’m a jerk, and in the other, I’m a friend.

That’s kind of how I think of it, and I’d always rather be a friend.

To me, that’s the gift of positive dog training. You have the opportunity to teach–and, thus, spread–kindness.

(Obvi, this pic is from over the summer. I snapped it after a round of Recall Relay, his favorite backyard training game. He looks so stinking happy in this pic that I thought it was the perfect representation of this topic!)

Cooper is so happy!

For dogs like Cooper, that’s particularly important. He’s a smidge neurotic, and what he’s totally fine with one day (nail clipping is nbd, yo!) he decides is terrifying the next (omg, get those clippers away from me, you devil you!) without warning. I need to work at his pace and accommodate his neuroses, and if I were the jerk, shoving him and pushing him and forcing him to do things that truly terrified him even if they make no sense to me whatsoever, maybe I’d get the same outcome but our relationship would suffer.

I’m not working against him.

I’m not pushing him or forcing him to do anything. With positive training, we work together. We’re building a partnership. He trusts me. He knows that if he’s scared, he can count on me to be there with kindness and, OK maybe not understanding (I mean, we clipped his nails for YEARS with the same clippers and never once cut the quick or anything negative, but now it’s terrifying?! huh?), but at least with gentleness and gratitude for his willingness to work with me.

Yes, sometimes he feels uncomfortable. Once we’re totally comfortable at one step, he has to go to the next step. That’s how it works. But by being kind, by being his friend, he trusts me to guide him to the other side of that discomfort, and he knows that when he gets there, I’m going to throw him one hell of a treat party!

This post in part of the Positive Pet Training blog hop, and this month’s prompt was “the gift of positive training.” Honestly, there are many gifts: that moment when you see the lightbulb flare to life in your pup’s head, that moment when something he was scared of becomes nbd, that moment when your tired-from-working-hard dog crawls onto your lap for a big snuggle. All that, to me, comes from the kindness inherent in positive pet training.

And that’s a gift that Cooper and I can keep on re-gifting to one another for the life of our partnership.

This month, thanks to the generosity of the blog hop hosts, there’s a positive pet training GIVEAWAY! Woop! You can enter to win two puzzle toys, a selection of treats, and a trick training book (it’s the same one Coop and I use).


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Thank you to our hosts, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days, for making this possible!