Magic Comes with a Price

The magic switch, the wand wave, the erase button: these all come up in classes or privates and it's common for folks to look for a quick fix. It makes me think about an author named Brandon Sanderson (New York Times best seller) and his Second Law of Magic: limitations are greater than the power.  Which means there is always a weakness or cost associated with magic.  For example, Gandalf (in Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien) defeated the Belrog but at a great price to himself (death.)  Meaning the magic he performed had a great cost.  

What the heck does this have to do with dog training?

Well a lot actually.  There are companies that take advantage of this magic seeking and sell products like ecollars and other aversive training methods.  An aversive may impact dog behavior but the overall cost isn't worth paying.  When you send an electric current through the artery of a dog there is a great cost.  There is damage to the relationship, the dog's trust of you, and an even bigger price of causing a possible negative association to whatever you shocked them for.  Meaning that if a dog is harmed every time they bark at another dog, they most likely will start associating dogs with pain.  Meaning that your dog may not have been aggressive, but you are now creating an aggressive dog.  Magic comes with a price, always.

Positive Reinforcement also comes with a price. However, it's one I'm willing to pay.  When I found agility many years ago, I watched fast flashy dogs run over, around, and through everything they were asked to.  I fell in love with the sport and wanted to start right away.  What I didn't realize was the cost.  Not the monetary cost, but rather the sweat equity cost that came with training my young brilliant and very distracted/over aroused/wild/beautiful hound.  So I became frustrated when a few months training really wasn't even making a dimple in the surface.  We didn't have a good foundation and our training time together hadn't been equal to the magic I wanted.  The magic did come with a very great time equity cost.  AND IT WAS WORTH EVERY MOMENT.

So when you start looking for magic, remind yourself that there is a cost.  Take a giant step back and really think about the price you are willing to pay in training.  The best moments, come with hours of time, sweat, and understanding with your dog.  Magic comes with a price, just make sure it's a price you are willing to pay.

If you'd like to read Brandon Sanderson's full article and law of magic you can do so here:


12 Things I Learned From My Dogs

My dogs have taught me many things, but here are the top 12.  I know there are probably hundreds more than that, but it's a good starting point. As I write articles about these the links will be active.

12. Management can be a better solution than training at times.

11. Raw Food is a PITA, but worth every minute, and penny.

10. Vaccination is controversial, but you should know what to vaccinate for, when to vaccinate, and what questions to ask your vet.

9. Know your essential dog stuff: things I always have around to help me, my dogs, and my family enjoy life together.

8. My dog doesn't have to love your dog.  Why would I expect them to?

7.  Having a positive relationship with my dog is more important than a perfect sit.

6. There is always something new to learn.  A new book, a new dvd, a new class, a new workshop, a new sport. 

5. Our dogs aren't always made for the sports we choose.

4. If you don't put the training time in, you won't get the desired behaviors out.  Having a training plan and setting time aside for training is essential.

3. Process Goals vs Performance Goals: sometimes the best goals are not achieving xyz title by this date or taking 1st place at nationals.  The best goals are often small, very achievable, and a great way to find success.

2. Nature vs Nurture Matters.  If you don't have a good building block with genetics, you get what you get.  Know your dogs lines, know your breeder, know your chosen breed.

1. You don't always get the dog you want, but you always get the dog you need.  There aren't perfect dogs in this world, but with the right attitude, you get the perfect dog for you!

So here's to more understanding, thought, and learning for all of us!

Summertime Space

Ah Summertime! Sun, lakes, trails, biking, hiking, playing, and getting out!  Summer is when even the most introverted of people get out and get more active.  This also means that many dogs are out and about too, some which don't like people, kids, dogs, wheels, or other things.

A common theme I've head this Summer is, "my dog is aggressive towards other dogs."  While there are aggressive dogs, typically the underlying issue is a lack of space and understanding on the handlers part.  Most dogs do well with other dogs, if they have the proper space and their handler understands their dog's body language.  Giving your dog space on walks, seeking the side of the trail as others pass, taking a longer route to avoid the barking dogs in a yard, and keeping your dog on leash at the lake isn't cruel.  It also doesn't make you a bad handler.  It's actually setting them up for success. 

No one loves every person they meet and dogs are no different.  Expecting a dog that instantly snaps at others, growls, or avoids dogs all together to be a social butterfly isn't fair.  So rather than wishing you had a socialite, respect the dog you have and be realistic in your expectations.  Dogs that need space aren't bad dogs and as handlers the best thing we can do is honor our dogs needs when we're out and about. 

The next time you take your dog out, just pause. Assess whether the environment is one they'll be comfortable in.  If you answer yes, plan extra time to take the space you need for success.  This small but important thought process will save you and others a lot of headaches.

Marathon Walks - And Why You Don't Need 'Em!

So physical exercise like walks and hiking are AWESOME for your dog!  But let's be honest.  We don't have 2-3 hours every day to march around the neighborhood with our dogs.  No one enjoys taking a revved up dog for a 1-2 hour walk (or drag in most cases. Which is why you should always play or train your dog BEFORE a walk.)  So learn to use your time wisely!  

Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for a balanced dog.  If you took 15 minutes in the morning, 15 at lunch, 15 when you get home, and 15 in the evening you would give your dog a full hour of mental exercise.  If you were to combine this with ever other day walks you would have one happy dog. 

So what the heck is mental exercise for a dog anyways?  Well this can run a gamut of things from tricks, treibball, rally, rally free, musical freestyle (heelwork to music), and agility.  All of these things help your dog learn new things and save you from marathon walks every day.  If you aren't sure where to start when it comes to these sports, take a class!  Or challenge yourself to teach a new trick to your dog every week.  YouTube is always a great source of inspiration!  Take the music video below, there are a ton of different tricks to teach.

Some food for thought about the video took them SEVENTY TWO takes to get this one.  So when you start looking for perfection and instant success, just remember that it all takes time, ok?  Patience, persistence, and partying are the keys to fun trick sessions!

A great book to start with is 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance.  She also has a Trick Dog Title Program.  Another great trick title option is offered by Paws and People.  Check out both of these great programs to teach your dog something new!  You'll be amazed at how quickly 15 minutes of trick work tires out an active mind.