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SG Susan Garrett
SG Have you ever watched those of us who have dogs that seem to just be on the same wavelength as us, and we ask them to do something and they do it immediately and they're excited to do it, and they can't wait for the next thing we ask them to do. And you go, “That's not possible for me.” Well, I believe it is possible for you, and I believe the possibility is closer than you may think.
Hi, I'm Susan Garrett. Welcome to Shaped by Dog. I believe that a dog responding on one cue, a dog keen to work with you, really comes down to one thing, and that is the relationship that you have with your dog. Stick with me because I will explain what I mean by that.
Because yes, of course, the seven things I mentioned in podcast episode 189 are important; the dog's genetics and the health and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, are all going to have an impact on how fast that dog learns or how able they are to learn.
But I believe all dogs can have that kind of relationship with their owners, where they're keen to want to work with them, where they're keen to want to learn. And I believe it really is easier than what you might think.
So, when you think of relationship, I'm going to give you three types of relationships that are possible, and some of them might be extreme.
For example, you might have a relationship where the dog does immediately what they're told, the moment they're told because they're afraid of what might happen if they don't. So, you're close enough or you're using a remote collar that they will do it because they don't want the consequence of not doing. That's a relationship based on fear.
Now, that relationship based on fear is really a one-way relationship. “I'm doing this because I have no choice.”
Now, the second extreme scenario would be dog that you ask them to do something and if you have something they want, then maybe they'll do it. Otherwise, they're highly unlikely to do it.
And if they're doing something they are really excited and want to do, then there is absolutely no way they're going to listen to you. And if they ever do listen to you, it's probably just for like, they'll sit for a minute until they see something else that they want to do and then they're going to leave.
That's a relationship of oblivion and it also is a one-way relationship, but it's one way from the dog to the handler. And so, the dog is just kind of living life on his terms and depends on you for the meals every day, and maybe a scratch behind the ears but really doing things the way he wants to do those things.
Now the other relationship is one that I would call a relationship of harmony. And it's based on a relationship of curiosity. And I think our relationship with our dogs are not dissimilar to the relationship a teacher would have with their student, or a coach would have with somebody on their team.
And imagine if a teacher taught something and then the student didn't do it correctly and the teacher would say, “How many times do I have to tell you this?” Or, “What's wrong with you? What do I have to do to get it through your thick skull?”
That's one kind of teacher. I hope one that doesn't exist anymore. And another kind of teacher would be, they teach you something and then they go, “Can you show me what you understand from what I just taught you? Or can you tell me what you learned in your own words?”
And they seek from a place of curiosity to help you grow, to help you learn, because they really, really and truly want to understand what you know. And that is all that's needed with you and your dog. And I'm going to share with you how you can get there.
For me, and if you've listened to my podcasts, you know that I'm a spiritual person. For me, I look at it as training a dog from a place of ego. Where you are training the dog because you want them to get it. If you're an agility competitor: “I need you to get how to finish every single pole. I need you to get this.” That's training from a place of ego: “It's important to me that I don't have to do any more work on this.”
“It's important to me that I'm able to do the things I want because you have the minimum requirement of what I need you to have.” You’re focusing entirely on an outcome. That's teaching from a place of ego because it's all about what you need.
Now, another direction would be training your dog or teaching them a skill from a place of your soul.
“I want to understand how I can help you. I want to understand what you need from me next.” And that is training a dog from a place of curiosity. A place where you genuinely want the dog to succeed, not for any agenda that you have. Just because when a dog is better understood then they get the chance to live a better life.
Think of any amazing relationship you have or have ever had with another human being. It's a place of curiosity. It's a place of seeking to understand their point of view. It isn't a place of, “You need to figure this out. You need to figure what I want. You need to figure what I need!” It doesn't work. It's a one-way relationship.
And with dog training, especially if you're listening to this podcast, then I know you want to train your dog from a place of reinforcement. It's just about curiosity. And keep in mind, and I've mentioned this before, training is rarely linear. You don't start with a puppy or a rescue dog here and get all the way to here. Boom!
“Yes, I'm going from curiosity and Susan's told me this is all I have to do. And wow, look at how it goes.” However, the nice thing when you're teaching from a place of your soul rather than from a place of your ego, when you do get a blip in your pathway that goes up and down, you don't sigh.
You don't get frustrated. You don't clench your fists. You go, “Wait a minute. You're not getting this, are you? Wait a minute, I got to draw this back a little bit.”
“Okay, so what does that look like? This is all kind of theoretical Susan. What does that look like when I'm actually training a dog?” I'm going to take it from a point of getting a new puppy or getting a rescue dog and I'm going to tell you that I have brought in a lot of different rescue dogs. Terriers, the Bulldog, Golden Retriever, I've had rescue dogs living with me until I could find them a better home.
And I've also trained many Terriers of my own. Of course, my Border Collies. This works. And my small little slice of experience is nothing compared to the experiences of the thousands of online students and in-person students that I've helped achieve exactly what I'm going to share with you.
It will work for your dog, and you will have the best relationship ever. And you can remind yourself, “Was that decision, was what I just did to you, me moving in from a point of ego? Or me moving in from a place of my soul?”
There's a great quote from Robin Sharma, New York Times bestselling author and he says, “A bad day for your ego is a good day for your soul.” And so, if you listen to this podcast and you think about it and you sit back and you go, “Oh, I see where I've been going at my dog from a place of ego. And I'm going to maybe try and shift that.”
So, here's what I do. The first thing I do is, what is of value for that puppy, that rescue dog? It's the same as when we're starting a relationship with anyone, right? We look at what do they have which I value?
Could be a great smile. It could be an amazing laugh. It could be a brilliant mind. Or, yeah, come on, a great body, or maybe a bank account, or a nice car. There is something of value that attracts us to them and that is the first step for me and the new puppy or the new rescue dog.
Now, the difference is that when I have a new puppy or a new rescue dog, I'm going to keep them in an enclosure with just me so that I'm going to help them to see how valuable I could be or what I have to begin with versus, you know, if you're meeting somebody for the first time, probably you don't want to trap them or entrap them in a small, enclosed area. That's awkward. That's weird. It's creepy. It's a lot of things.
So, I have a puppy and I always start with some sort of tug toy and a long rope. I get on the ground, and I engage that puppy something of value. “Oh, chasing, chasing, chasing!”
If it's a rescue dog, this may work, but I have to play around because they've had more experiences to decide what is valuable in their world. And so, I may have to come about this from a different perspective.
I get that puppy playing with me, and then I pull it up out of their mouth and I might push them back and slam it on the floor, and then I let them go. Boom. Now I'm really engaging them. I've got them anticipating, I'm creating a dopamine release. “When am I going to get it?! When am I going to get it?!”
I might like, make them run around my body for it and eventually I might pick it up and hold it. The first round of ItsYerChoice.
The first round of ItsYerChoice happens with a tug toy. All they have to do is not jump up and bite my clothing. If you back up, you can even bark the first time this happens, and then I produce the reward you want. Suddenly, the value that you saw that I had now has a contingency for you, and that's starting to help you build confidence, feel good about yourself.
Confidence creates joy, and joy interacting with you is what creates that relationship. So, it starts with the layers of learning. And I'm sure you've heard this before, but this is what it is. The first thing is what's of value? How can I engage you with what's of value and grow some contingencies?
So, then I have ItsYerChoice. And then I have Crate Games.
From Crate Games I have a sit. I might take that sit out of my crate and when you don't hold the sit for more than two seconds then I’d stop and go, “Hmm, I thought you understood what I was teaching when we were playing Crate Games. I'm going to go back to Crate Games and throw more distractions at you in the crate so I can grow that understanding.”
Do you see how the linear path goes? “Hmm?” Instead of, “Ah! No! Don’t! I need you to hold still!” My puppies, my dogs want to move, it's a hundred percent okay. All that they're doing, remember, behavior is information. Behavior is communication.
The puppy or rescue dog's behavior is sharing with us what they need. And so, if I've done my job right when I've worked through these different layers of early games, when I bring that puppy outside of the crate, I might be able to get one sit, release, get the tuggy. One sit for two seconds, and I will evaluate how much they know. And if I've done my great job in Crate Games then I can just grow that sit outside of the crate.
Using this layered approach, using this relationship based, soulful, curious approach to creating this relationship of harmony.
Creating a relationship where what you want to see from your dog is exactly what your dog wants to show you.
Because every step was built with engagement. Every step was built with a transfer of value. It is very, very different than a puppy following a big meatball.
There are contingencies to them earning it, and that's what creates them giving the opportunity to make a choice of their free will is what helps them to want to engage with us.
And maybe the next thing we do is place your face so that we can get them used to wearing a head halter or down the road potentially a muzzle. Maybe we're going to teach them a transfer value of how to target their nose to our hand and any of the amazing games that I have over on YouTube that you can learn.
Those of you who are in Home School the Dog or Recallers or anyone of my other online programs, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You may not have heard it being put this way by phrasing it from a place of ego and soul it's easy for you to be triggered and when you are talking at your dog, when you are getting frustrated or disappointed you could go, “Is that my ego or is that my soul talking right now?” And you can decide which one you want to do the talking at any time in your relationship with your dog or with anyone.
I hope this makes sense and I really wish if it does make sense, come on over to YouTube and leave me a comment because this is, I recognize, this is a little out there for some of you. It's really, really good dog training, but I'm also opening you up to how I think about my relationship with my dog and how that serves me as a dog lover and, of course a dog trainer. I'll see you next time right here on Shaped by Dog.