Train Your Dog Month Challenge – Going with the Flow

Since we have passed the midway point for the Train Your Dog Month Challenge, I thought i  should check in to see how you are doing with your projects. Taught any new tricks? Conquered any fears? Have you even come up with an idea yet? Shiva and I, naturally, have not only perfected all of our goals like rockstars, I have actually moved on to teaching her how to drive the trick.

Right, and The Cat curls up to sleep in my lap every night.

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Perhaps what I should teach her is how to look at the stinkin’ camera once in a while! Sheesh!

But that’s okay. Even if we are still attempting to master a simple hold the larger goal is to spend time together and have fun. This is what I repeat over and over again, like n incantation. Sometimes with a smile, sometimes muttered under my breath, sometimes through gritted teeth.

Like many people, I thrive on instant results. The most onerous part of dog training is that some things are easier than others to teach. As every dog is so different, I have to remember to be patient when something is difficult for Shiva that was so easy for another. Dogs are not that different from humans in this respect. All of us learn at a different pace and with our own styles. Though Shiva was able to learn leg weaves within a few days, it doesn’t mean she will be able to learn how to toss a treat in the air or balance a book on her nose. As simple as holding a toy in one’s mouth might be for dogs in our former agility classes, this task may be Shiva’s Waterloo. Even if it isn’t, I have to remember that it might take a long time for her to understand what I am asking and that keeping my frustration in check is a vital part of the process.

My former dog trainer – how I miss her weekly advice – linked to a great article on praise and its necessary place in training. The article focuses on agility but I think it applies to all forms of training, whether working with a fearful dog, playing around with tricks, or in more formal activities like obedience or flyball. I’d love to just re-post the entire piece for you because the whole thing is brilliant and I think it should be required reading for every dog handler. Because that would be cheating, I will just share the final paragraph of EmDogs’ motivating post:

My one and only goal is to have fun with my dogs, and show them a bang-up awesome time.  It’s my decision to play this game.  They’d be just as happy with hikes and Frisbee and swimming and…Their life is so short compared to ours.  When they’re gone, you won’t remember if you Q’d in Grand Prix in January of 2014.  You’ll remember the sweet kisses they gave you every morning.  You’ll remember that look of “this is SO AWESOME, MOM!!” they gave you every time you brought out their favourite toy.  You’ll remember that deep down feeling of joy you get every time you cross the finish line with your best friend.  THOSE are the things that are important.  Take the time to stop and focus on those, and you just might find yourself with an amazingly willing E dog living in your house, too.

This is how I want to live my life with Shiva. Let’s face it, we’re not going to Q anything. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t have a blast in the attempt. This attitude embodies the ideal of how we approach everything with our dogs. We don’t bring them home with the goal of correcting their mistakes or screaming in frustration when they don’t understand our rules, right? Training should be super good times for BOTH parties. If it isn’t, you are doing it wrong.

007That being said, dedicating time to working with your pet every day is troublesome when you feel like you aren’t getting any results. I know all too well the dissatisfaction of achieving something one day and then watching it unravel the next. It is demoralizing when your dog appears to prefer chewing on a stick than learning a new behaviour. However, it is these times when it is most important to shrug your shoulders and go with the flow. The more cheerful you are – and no faking, they can tell – the more likely your dog will choose to join you. Even if you never even get to any actual training that day, if all you have to show for your time is a tired, happy animal who is looking forward to your next play session, that is a huge success.

I only say all this as it is something I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. When I am in the thick of things, annoyed that Shiva keeps running off to chase the cat when I am standing there with clicker and treats in hand, I need to remember to keep it light. Flexibility has been so important. If she would rather run around then the best thing I can do is ditch my training plan and turn it into a running game instead. After a bit of goofing off we might then be able to work on my goal but we may not. That’s what tomorrow is for.

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Or maybe it will be for looking at the camera without looking terrified. Baby steps.

All you have to do is read every post in this blog under the “agility” category, to know Shiva wrangling is not as simple as I’d like it to be. When things have been at their most frustrating, it has been most helpful for me to remember to laugh. Even when I feel like crying, even when Shiva has just dove over a fence and ripped through a trial staging area filled with reactive dogs and treats that don’t belong to her, even when she jumps on a table and frightens a score-keeper, forcing a laugh helps me relax and makes it more likely she will come back for more.

It is my goal to keep all this close to my heart as Shiva and I work on our challenges for Train Your Dog Month. Along with my talented co-hosts, I am keeping the focus on building our bond. Something Wagging This Way Comes has had a few surprises this month and the wise Pamela has learned to be flexible with the beautiful Honey and Alfie at Alfie’s Blog has hit the books and gotten the hang of the platform spin. It’s a good thing this isn’t a competition or we’d be in trouble! I hope you also have been having an amazing time with your pets, whatever your goals may be, and that at the end of the thirty one days, you’ll have made some awesome memories.

Train Your Dog Month

If you are still looking for ideas, I have put some links together below of my favourite Youtube channels.  Even if you aren’t participating in the challenge, I encourage you to check them out. The enthusiasm and joy of the trainers is only matched by those of their dogs. It is always a dazzling thing to watch.

Kikopup – If you haven’t learned from her patience yet, you are missing out.

My Favourite Pup Jasmine – There is a brilliant mind underneath that soft fur, I believe this adorable Havanese also has a blog of her own.

Nana Border Collie – Nana isn’t the only one showing off her stuff. Her feline and rodent siblings also get in on the fun!

Success Just Clicks – Tena is a thoughtful and spirited trainer. The connection she has with her dogs is more than inspiring. Her blog is also worth a subscription.

Zak George’s Dog Training rEvolution – You are probably tired of hearing about him but I love this guy and will link to his videos every chance I get.

So. Are you in yet? There is still time! Join the Train Your Dog Month Challenge along with my co-hosts at Something Wagging This Way Comes and Alfie’s Blog. Set a small goal to work on with your pet and check back in at the end of the month to share your success. Every eligible person who enters by sharing their challenge in the comments on the January 31, 2014 post or the link list will get a chance to win a donation to their favourite animal charity and a special treat for themselves and their dogs. But, obviously, the real prize will be improving your relationship with your furry friend. You can’t lose!

11 thoughts on “Train Your Dog Month Challenge – Going with the Flow

  1. pretty much missed this challenge as I haven’t blogged since 2013 ! man time flies…. I am not sure setting goals really helps me with dog training cos its a silly arbitary thing that I have set in my own mind… so yes the goal is having fun and working on those lines of communication and trust with the dogs…. I do really like the paragraph you quoted from your trainer 🙂

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  2. I can so relate. BD seems to have decided that I am a little boring, and where once he would race up to me for a cuddle and to be released to run some more now when I call him he takes his time and visits every person I am walking with before coming to see me – not great when I need him to be reliable if unmuzzled and we encounter another dog. His other favourite thing to do when training is stand and bark at me when he can’t quite figure out what I want from him! Mity on the other hand pulls out every trick in the book in quick succession when I am trying to teach him something new. Bless them!

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  3. Ah, very motivating! I think sometimes owners get caught up in the “but you’re not doing it right, Fluffy” mentality they forget that it’s supposed to be fun.

    Great list of channels! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I’ve been training Blueberry the “wave” command. Although I was skeptical at first that she’d ever learn it (flailing at me and trying her best to give me her paw for the “shake” instead resulted in some scratches on my arms and legs for quite a while), she has it down pretty well. Don’t laugh – but it’s the only thing I’ve been working on with her for the past month because…well, the truth is…she goes to the vet next week for her yearly exam and the vet always asks if Blueberry knows any new tricks and I want to impress her with Blueberry’s wave. I know, it’s totally silly and a little lame, but at least the upcoming vet appointment prompted me to teach Blueberry another cute little trick! 🙂

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    • That is not silly or lame at all! That is adorable. And I bet you both had a lot of fun working on it. It doesn’t matter WHY you want to work on something with your dog, even if it is to impress that neighbour who is always cranking about Blueberry’s barking – not that anyone would ever complain about her, I am sure.

      Now, the important question. Do you have video?

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  5. Having a pawsome time with your dog is what the train your dog challenge is all about – and it sounds like you’re getting there too! Our Alfie is LOVING all the new training we’re doing together and we’re having so much fun I might have to keep it all up even after the end of the month:-)

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  6. Very wise.

    Don’t forget. Sometimes we don’t learn things so much as figure out a hack that works. For example, I use my fingers to remember my 9 times tables. And I stick a treat on the top of the camera when I want Honey to look my way.

    We don’t have to learn how to do everything. Sometimes we just need to get things done.

    I love that you and Shiva are going with the flow. Now if you could share some of that zen wisdom with the cat. 🙂

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  7. Very inspiring article and gives me hope for the times I feel like I’m getting nowhere with training, even after doing it for several years.

    I’m so sad that I missed the challenge…would have loved to do something over at PuppyTrainingClassroom.com to participate… Getting to know you guys and getting my feet wet in this industry, online, is exciting too though…

    See you around!

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  8. Seeing as how I’ve just started training my new pup on my own blogs like this one have become a major help. I have dabbled with clicker training and I can seem some results. I hate I missed the challenge but I’ll have to keep an eye out for the next. Also, thanks for the YouTube resources too. 🙂

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