The current fad of reward only training with treats was what all the sources I found advocated. So I followed the techniques, even attended the local vet run puppy school and obedience club. All used the treat training to reward good behaviour and desired obedience responses. Bad behaviour was ignored as something my pet would outgrow. All was going well until my independant and dominant, very smart boy hit adolescence and his rebellious streak came out.
Now I have previously successfully trained many a dog. In the 1960s and 70s it was fashionalbe to deliver a smack across the offending pup's nose with a rolled up newspaper. This method worked a treat to deliver a negative consequence for undesirable behaviour. It did not mean belting the dog, but a few sheets of rolled up newspaper made a loud scary noise, without damaging the puppies delicate nose.
By adolescence whippet boy had grown into a big strong, muscular and powerful dog. Capable of running at 60km an hour over a short distance, I knew I had a problem if I could not control my boy. Moreover, bad behaviour when out walking was beginning to surface, with kangaroo hopping in circles if he couldn't meet and greet the other dog. He was not the least interested in food treats as he was anything but a food oriented dog. Many other things he was meeting in life were now of more interest to him than the pathetic treat rewards I had on offer.
He knew his name, as well as "sit", "drop", "stay", "wait" , " heel", "come", "on your bed" "hop in the car", "walkies" and even "shake hands" and "fetch", but he would choose when he would respond to these commands, rather than acknowledging me as the top dog and obeying without hesitation!
I knew if something didn't change in my relationship and training methods our options for truly enjoying each other's company would be restricted. I would be too embarased to take him out walking in public. He would not get opportunities to run off leash at the park and enjoy the company of fellow canines and worst of all, if I was not enjoying the company of my dog at home, as a well behaved and well mannered companion, our life together would likely be a miserable battle of wills that may even have ended up with my needing to rehome the dog I had longed for and made a commitment to provide a forever home to; I was not prepared for that to be our fate!
Out of desperation and having tried several other group training sessions. By chance, I met Caroline of Beta Dogs and her two lovely dogs while out photographing 'Dogs About Town' here in Ballarat and she worked with Whippet Boy and I,one to one. Her own dog was used to model good behaviours and provide distraction,as part of the training. Caroline introduced us to training without treats, that is best described as "respect training". It has a consequence for unwanted behaviour, that does not harm the dog and has proved at least as effective as my old rolled up newspaper. She corrected many things I was doing wrong and helped me set up boundaries and reinforce my role as pack leader. I know longer had to hope and prey Whippet Boy would respond to treats, or spend time cooking him sausages, only to find even they were not as interesting as a piece of paper blowing in the wind, he was chasing off leash!
Thanks to learning 'respect' training techniques, Whippet Boy and I again have a lovely relaxed and happy relationship. I can proudly take him with me anywhere, without fear of his behaviour embarassing me, or endangering his life or the well being of other dogs through his bouncy, but rough, playful antics. My naughty, challenging boy has become a much loved gentleman around the neighbourhood and beyond on our daily walks.
I now know bright, dominant dogs are very often the most challenging to train, compared to their less clever and submissive litter siblings. The benefit of training a bright and dominant dog, as a companion is however, that the reward of your training, is a dog who will never cease to surprise you with things other dogs may rarely learn. Whippet Boy can open doors, is showing excellent aptitude for checking I am okay if I cough or sneeze and has alerted me to a break in at my neighbour's home. He retrieves as well as a labrador or golden retriever and is able to brighten the day of many neighbourhood children who run out to greet him. Commands he has also achieved include "over" to jump an obstacle, "wait", "leave it" and "find". We are currently working on some dance moves together!
Today I happened upon a wonderful website advocating and teaching this type of training. I beg my readers to avoid the treat only training method to reward good behaviour. Set up non violent consequence intervention training for any bad behaviour from the day you bring your puppy home, as well as rewarding the good behaviour with vocal praise and physical affection. This training method works and does not rely on you carrying around bags of treats!
Whippet Boy now enjoys treats as exactly that, very occasionaly and it is as likely to be a piece of cheese or a biscuit I am eating, that we will share, rather than those made for dogs. It is a real treat and not just a reward for being a "good boy". Thesedays he is mostly a very good boy and his forever home is most definately at my side!
Here are the links to help you and your puppy or dog on the way to that perfect behaviour and a harmonious life-long relationship with you!
Dog Training Methods