Thursday, July 9, 2009

Training Rant - Importance of Bonding

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.


GoLightly said...

Well, I didn't have a dog when I was little..
Had to grow up first;)

It's sad, I hear ya.

Treats are for tricks, not for training.

The love your dog has for you should be a given.
Bribery isn't love.

Lynda said...

I liked this post - and I totally agree. My dogs are deaf and wouldn't hear the clicker anyway, lol! But we certainly have a wonderful (treatless) bond and I do take them everywhere I go. They are really wonderful dogs....

Jan said...

I've had dogs since I was three years old and have had strong bonds with all of them, even the rescues and ones I got as adults.

But my first dog and I had a bond that i think only a child can achieve with a dog.

OldMorgans said...

I never actually trained any of my dogs. We just did stuff. It wasn't perfect, by any means, but we got done what needed to be done. I sometimes got compliments for the good behaviour of my dogs, but I never took credit for it. The dogs just lived up to my expectations. I was lucky and had dogs that were intelligent and tuned to me.
I think that clicker training has a place, not for everyone, but can be a useful tool.

Viatecio said...

I have a bond with my dog. 'Shadow' is my nickname for her, and while food is a great incentive to get her away from me, it has to be darn good food or else she'll turn up her nose and snuggle in closer to my leg. It took her a few days to understand that I don't need company when I go to the bathroom...

Oh yeah, she's never heard a clicker before in her life. Heck, she'd probably be afraid of it, like she is with a lot of new loud noises.

I know the whole "Food = Love" thing isn't new, since my granma did it with both people and her pets (her poor dog resembled a coffee table with legs when he died), but it seems much more prevalent today than before. I agree with GoLightly: treats are for tricks, not for training. Tricks amuse people, training saves my dog's life (in more than one way!).

Gus, Louie and Callie said...

That is great. Having 2 deaf dogs they know the looks. They are very observent and always look to us for encouragement..

Big Sloppy kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Flo said...

I was just telling someone this morning how my two foster (now perma) dogs wouldn't come when called when we first got them 2 months ago. Now if I just speak their name they come running from wherever they are. Even at the dog park, they used to run off and kind of ignore me. Now they are constantly looking to see where I am, if they get too far away they come running back and if I call them they come charging. All of this with no treats at all, just because we've bonded really well. Now, if I could just get them to walk on a leash right.....

Eurodog said...

Could not agree more.

Andrea said...

I agree....the bond drives more than rewards ever will. My bond with Sophie (my first dog) is one the best things I ever discovered in this world...and it serves us well from a trainging standpoint.

mytwh said...

I've thought about this one a lot. I think it is hard for people to have the bond with a dog like when we were younger. We were so trusting then. And it was no big deal that your whole entire world was your dog - you were a kid. Now, at 29, not having kids (my choice) my dogs are my world. I spend every minute when I'm not working with them. They go everywhere with me.

We had family pictures taken last week and I had to have a portrait with my "1st born" Ziggy. A lot of people just don't understand the bond I have with him. I don't have human kids, so he's my kid and I'm his mom (but I don't call him a furchild, for some reason that term bothers me to no end). There's not much I wouldn't do for that little guy. He's so full of happiness and life, you can't help falling in love with him.

I didn't start out a dog person. We had a dog growing up and I loved him, but I always loved my cat the most. When we decided to get Ziggy, he was going to be my husband's dog. Well, that didn't happen, he's certainly a mama's boy! Just yesterday my husband came home before me (I usually get home 1st) and Ziggy just sat in my parking spot staring at the end of the driveway waiting for me (not the first time he's done it either). But despite being mama's boy, he is pretty balanced, he can stay home alone, go to day care or my parents house and be fine when I'm not around. He just loves to be with me as much as I love to be with him. I've never really used treats with him. We're just connected.

I think we have a super special bond together, that a lot of people don't understand, because they would never let themselves go enough to love an animal so completely.

I'm working on bonding with Dominic and it's taking time but you can already tell I'm the alpha dog with him. Last night husband asked Dominic to get on the couch with him and Dom looked at me first. Once I said it was ok, he got up. We've had our ups and downs but all in all he is a very good boy and I'm really glad we got him.

I will admit to using a lot of treats with him at first. He is very stubborn so sometimes that's all that would work in the beginning. Now that he knows what real affection is though, he much prefers a great ear rub and a Good Boy to a treat! I do still carry treats on walks and use them for come and wait because I want them to know that when they obey those commands, wonderful things happen! (Treats, rubs, good boys, the whole thing). If the crap ever hit the fan I want them to think, wow-I could be with Mum and it would be awesome! Hopefully that works! It seems to too far.

Sorry for rambling, I've saved this up for a while and I'm sure I forgot something! One last thing, sorry any Clickers out there but I hate Clicker training! For some reason it just does not work with my brain! I'm sure it helps in some instances, but I'd rather do it another way! LOL