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SG Susan Garrett
SG Believe it or not one of the most googled questions about dogs is “How do I get my dog to love me?”.
And that brings to mind the number of people who write things on some of my posts, like “Why do we
have to train dogs anyway? Why can't we just let dogs be dogs?” It's like one end and the other, and
believe it or not, both of those questions come down to the same thing.
It's the relationship you have with your dog. Hi, I'm Susan Garrett. Welcome to Shaped by Dog. If
you're watching this on YouTube and you're getting value from the information that I'm sharing, please
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I look at the relationships that we have with our dogs and they aren't dissimilar to the relationship that a
child has with a parent. And although I have no children of my own, I have a lot of nieces and nephews
and believe it or not, I was a child once with a parent. So, I understand what that relationship looks like,
from one point of view anyway.
It's also similar to the relationship a business owner would have with their team. And I've categorized it
into three different types of relationships and truthfully, they may be parts of one or the other. I like to
think mine are predominantly the last, but the three types of relationships would be one that you
demand, dominate, and control, or you bribe, cajole, and cater to. Or the third would be that you give
choices, reinforcement, and you grow towards autonomy.
So, three very different groups of words to describe three very different relationships. And I believe they
go across all three of those different relationships, dog and their owner, parent and child, business
owner and their team. And some people would call them employees. I just don't really like that word.
Let's talk about the relationship where you demand things, you dominate, and you control. And there
are very strict rules, and when the rules are broken there is a blame like “Who did this? Why are you
defying me?” It's big ego. If you are living this life you might say, “Well, I'm not full of ego.” You may not
be consciously full of ego, but this is driven by ego. Because an inappropriate choice needs to be
punished. That punishment may be striking, I hope not, but it could be some level of force, if it's a dog it
might be a collar correction or worse, escalated, depending on how defiant that animal was.
It could be as simple as a time out, which is still punishment. It's “a rule was broken therefore
somebody needs to pay the price”. The words, “because I said so” may come out of your mouth if you
are living in the world of demand, dominate and control. The downside of this well the obvious, is stress
on the person who's being demanded of and dominated and controlled, but it's constant.
You as the leader always needs to be there to watch over every behavior. That's where somebody
might put cameras in their business offices to watch their employees when they're not around. It
demands a lot of work from you and for the person, or the creature, the animal being demanded of, the
lack of punishment actually becomes the reinforcement. Because behaviors change due to
reinforcement. And when you're not getting in trouble, it's like, “Oh, thank God. Oh, shoot. Phew.”
This kind of approach to leadership creates a lot of opposition. It creates resistance, and it creates
rebellion. The subject learns to be sneaky, or they learn to be fearful and paralyzed. Think about any
time in your history when you've ever felt controlled by something or somebody. Even if it was your
perceived control. So, we all went through our teenage years and we may or may not have felt
controlled by somebody and thought, “Well, when I get my own place, I'm going to do this.” or “When
I'm a parent, I'm going to do this.”
And how do you feel? It's frustrating. You get this bottle of anger which you may not be able to express
depending on the authoritative person that's looming above you. But there definitely is feelings of anger
and frustration, and maybe resentment. Let's take a behavior, a simple dog training behavior, like
getting your dog to retrieve. You throw something out and if the dog retreats it slow, or maybe they get
distracted, they're going out and they go, “Oh, this smells really good.” Or they pick it up and they run
If you are somebody who is training with any form of demand and control, you are going to blame the
dog, “Hey!” You're going to maybe go and correct them. Some people might pinch the dog by the ear
and say, “I told you to get that!” There's a lot of teeth grating when you're training with ego.
So that kind of relationship is exhausting for the person who is at the top, who has to give out the
demands because nothing gets done without your say so. And it's very frustrating for the person that's
at the other end of it.
Let's go to the second relationship. And that's one of bribery, cajoling, and catering to. This is where a
lot of people, who believe dogs should just be allowed to be dogs. They’ll fall between number one and
number two mostly. It's a relationship of “I promise you this if you do that”.
So, if we want our dogs to come, we might show them a cookie or rattle a cookie jar or squeak a
squeaky toy or if the dog's distracted, sniffing something, you might slam a toy on the ground to get
their attention. It's a promise of “If you do this for me, I will give you this”. And you get your dog excited
by showing them something they really, really, really want.
If you're a parent, it might look something like, “Hey, if you help your sister do her homework, then I'm
going to let you watch TV an extra hour tonight.” “If you turn off the TV now and go to bed, I'll let you
have an extra 30 minutes on the computer tomorrow.” It's a transactional relationship. “If you do this, I'll
If you're training a dog and the dog doesn't do what you want you, “Mommy's got a cookie!” Or you
might “atta boy” them. So, going back to our retrieve example, if the dog gets distracted you might say,
“Come on! Come on! Get it! Get it!” and repeat the cue in a very happy voice.
If the dog's picking up the toy and running around, you might try and cheer them to back, “Come on,
come on, come on! Come to mommy! Come to mommy, come on! Come on! Bring me! Bring me!
Come on, come on, come on, come on!” There's a lot of atta boys. There's a lot of cheering.
Or if you think your dog is going to run away, you might show them another toy. “Come and get that!
Come on, come on!” And so, it's transactional. There is bartering that happens.
've seen it with kids myself when the mother asks them to do something and they go, “Well if I do it
can I watch TV for 10 more minutes?” And there's always a negotiation. It's got to be an exhausting
way to live.
For those of us who own a dog, we're asking the dog to make their decision based on what they can
see or smell on us. That the value, they have a lot of things that they love, but they are going to go
through this decision process “is the cookie she’s got more important than chasing the squirrel? Mm,
no. Chasing the squirrel!”. Thus, there's always this process of evaluation because it's like being at the
Saturday morning market and you're like, “Well, I'll give you $5 for that.” “Well, I really want 10”. There's
always a back and forth.
It can create lazy and uninspired dogs, but it definitely will create dogs who lack freedom. I would say
dogs who have been dominated, controlled and demanded of, probably have more freedom than the
dogs who've been bribed, controlled and catered to, because the dogs above may have freedom, like
with a shock collar on. “You’re allowed to go and run in the woods because I know if you don't come
back, I'm going to shock you”. They use more friendly words, like “stim”, they’re very friendly words so
that you're not actually shocking your dog, in your mind.
So those are two different approaches. And if you were a business owner who is demanding of your
employees, then when you're not there to watch them, it's highly unlikely you're going to get the same
kind of effort from them. And the same is true if a parent, right. If they go away for the weekend that's
when the crazy parties happen because, you know, “Thank God no one's around to try and control
Now, the third approach, what I mentioned, of choice, and reinforcement, leading to autonomy. Now for
my young folks that are listening to this podcast and I know there's a lot of you. Thank you.
Autonomy means you’re taking care of yourself. You're in charge. You're making good decisions, even
when no one's looking, you’re self-governing. That's what autonomy means. Now with training this way,
everything is a choice. So, if you refer to episode number 44 here on the podcast, it was called “Using
Coincidences and Positive Associations in Dog Training”.
And I walked through the progress chart that I use in all of my dog training. One choice is a domino to
all the others. So, everything we do starts with the ItsYerChoice game. And if you aren't familiar with
ItsYerChoice and you'd like to learn more about it skip back to episode number 78 where I give people
an opportunity to learn more about ItsYerChoice.
So, with choice-based training, the reinforcement isn't produced until the choice has been made. The
dog makes a choice and then they get reinforced for that. And it's been scientifically proven that when
dogs are trained this way, when they make that choice point in the decision-making process, they get a
dopamine release. When they make the choice that they know is going to lead them to reinforcement,
there is a dopamine release.
There is no dopamine release when you're using lures as bribes to get your dog to do something.
Dopamine as you know, is the feel-good drug. So, dog training this way can be addictive to the dog
because they get this dopamine release. Training this way creates trust, and that trust is what gives
you massive influence, even at times when you're not around.
Now, we're not going to take a puppy, play ItsYerChoice, and then give them the freedom to run
around outside and expect that they're going to listen to us, because they've made one good choice.
It's layers of learning that lead to this autonomy for the dog that they have the freedom, because I know
they're going to make the right choice. It's consistent effort on your part that leads to that self-governing
on the dog's part.
And rather than training from a place of blame, all training is a question. So, when I say to my dog “sit”
what I'm really saying is, “can you sit in this environment with the education I've given you on what you
understand the word sits means?”.
Everything I ask of you is a question. So, when I throw a toy and I say, “bring me” what I'm really
saying is, “have I educated you well enough in this environment that you're going to run out as fast as
you can pick that up and run back as fast as you can”.
If you're slow, if you get distracted, if you choose not to do it, if you run off, the first thing I'm going to do
is, “Hmm, what have I missed?”. Second thing I'm going to do, well maybe the first thing I'm going to
do, is control the reinforcement for the dog so that they don't get into trouble. So, can I control that dog
who was running off with my toy? Maybe, maybe not.
If the dog is in a safe environment, I might just ignore them and turn my back, and do something else.
And they will eventually come. If they're slow or they get distracted, I'm going to say, “Hmm, my training
needs to be better”. There isn't enough drive and motivation. There's a layer that needs to be tweaked.
“What have I done? And what can I do to make that different?”. A lot of my friends will ask me
parenting advice because they know I understand behavior. I had two friends of mine, they're husband
They're both doctors. They have a pretty large family. Their oldest is 17, and at the time they came to
me and they said “She wants to, when she finishes school, take a year off and not go to college. She
wants to get a part-time job now and get a job for part of the next year and then travel around the world
before she goes to college. And we don't want her to do that. Plus, we don't like the way she's been
dressing. And so, we've told her, you know, it's our house and our rules and she needs to set an
example for her brothers and sisters”.
And so, all of that is trying to control. You may love your kids but you're trying to control them. Coming
at it from a point of questions. “Why do you feel you need to? What college, have you picked a
college?”. At the end of the day if she wants to take a year off, she couldn't take a year off. So how
about she takes a year off with your support leading towards something that you've agreed on
“You're going to travel here, maybe I'll meet up with you. Maybe it'll be a family adventure. A couple of
times when you're traveling” traveling is a good thing I believe. So, when you're creating a relationship
from choice and reinforcement, you create a relationship that always questions. That is the key to the
success of that relationship.
You question yourself and when there's something you don't like about what's going on with the other
person, you question them. For example, the way that I lead my team, they have complete autonomy in
their roles, in their work. I don't know what they're doing at any point, and actual fact, they tell me what
I'm doing this week.
So, they'll come to me and say, here's a list of the things we need from you as they are running their
own little businesses in what we call a team. So, there is no “what did you do?” and blame. There is, “if
something goes wrong, you take risks”. Maybe things don't go right. If something goes wrong, we say
“What can we do to fix this now? What can we do to make sure it doesn't happen in the future?” And
we have processes for that.
So, it's a great way to live. Most people are doing a combination, or a mix-up of this. If you believe dogs
shouldn't be trained, you're probably not listening to this podcast. But if that's your approach, chances
are you're doing a mixture of probably one and two.
Because your interaction, your relationship with your dog, is the training. The questions you have with
your kids, the questions you have with people who are on your team, that is your relationship.
And if you want what I want, where my dogs flourish on their own because they've made good choices,
then take a look at some of my past podcasts here and see how these layers of learning come
together. So, you do end up with a dog who absolutely loves you, but they love you because of the
freedom that you've provided for them. That's it from Shaped by Dog. I'll see you next time.