I was discussing dog training with a friend of mine last night and I shuddered when I heard the same thing come out of her mouth as I hear from everyone else ... "To teach the dog what Good Girl means, you have to click and treat so you associate it" What?! I almost spat out my coffee in surprise to hear it come out of her mouth (of all people)
My dogs (permadogs and fosters both) know what that means and I've never associated Good Girl/Boy with a treat (but they still get all wiggly and excited when I use the word as praise), so it got me thinking. Why? How do they know?
My dogs know what Good Girl/Boy means because my pitch and tone changes. Sometimes it is associated with a pat, othertimes it is not. It is the relationship - the bond - behind those words that rewards the dog - not the words themselves (or the treat! But I'll talk about treat-training another day).
Why are there so many people out there who don't know how to build a solid bond with their dog? Why don't people spend the time to create that super special bond? Do they think that it just appears?
Ok, let me backtrack a few steps here ...
So much of dog training depends on the bond you develop between the two of you. It might be the single most important aspect to your relationship with the dog. So why don't dog trainers encourage it more? Why do they ignore it?
If I look at everyone I know with dogs I'd say not even 15% have that bond. It is so sad to see so many empty relationships. The worst part is that many dog owners aren't even aware that part of their relationship is missing because they hide it with treat rewards.
Do you remember when you were little and you had a dog?
The dog was your best friend. The two of you went everywhere together. It was like you knew what each other was thinking! You could communicate with each other without all the fancy training. Do you remember turning to your dog, making eye contact and feeling like everything is right in the world so long as you and your dog are together? Knowing that no matter what happened, your dog would be there with you? No one seemed to understand any of this (including your parents). When your dog passed away or left you, it was like the world stopped turning.
Maybe that's why; maybe deep down we do know how to create that bond, but we're too afraid to try.