Does our emotional state affect our ability to train our dogs?

      I have spent my day off reading an interesting book from Ben Angel called “Sleeping your Way to the Top in Business” I applied what I was reading to training dogs and their owners. Often I get clients in training who are struggling with issues such as barking and jumping up. Both of these behaviors we reinforce without realizing we are doing so by using what we consider punishment techniques such as yelling and pushing away. These are in fact actions that to a dog are rewarding not punishing.
      On page 56 of Ben’s online edition of his book he states;
 “When you draw attention to anything it expands. This is true whether the thing you are focusing on is a source of pain or pleasure; something positive or negative.”
“Where attention goes energy grows” and that, “what we resist, persists”.
        This is so true in dog training that I plan to laminate a sign to refer to in the training center  We invest so much time with our dogs into paying attention and resisting behaviors we don’t like with the consequence that they grow and persist. Conversely we fail to pay attention to the acceptable behavior that we what to expand. Based on the premise above if we positively rewarded acceptable behaviors they would expand.
     Another interesting thought that he brought up is related to how we feel when we are training our dogs. On page 178 Ben Angel states:
“Every interaction you engage in is like a chemical experiment: energy is getting swapped constantly – for good or bad, better or worse, like it or not. If you are feeling anxious, stressed, depressed or even hurt, the person you are interacting with may experience those same feelings without consciously realizing or understanding why. They may even go to great lengths to withdraw themselves from the conversation or relationship”
      So many clients comment on my ability to get their dog to do what I want them to do. Yesterday for example I took a very large Rottweiler who was dragging its owner all over the yard and he instantly transformed into the best loose lead walker in history, doing sits, drops and comes when asked. Is this magic? Well they call me The Pet Care Magician for a reason. I was tapping into the two statements above from Ben Angel. I was giving attention to the behaviors I wanted to happen and was ignoring the ones I didn’t and I had also put myself at the end of the loose leash of this dog with a positive attitude that this dog would understand what I wanted him to do and do it, irrespective of the distractions that existed. This dog continued on in the training session being wonderful whenever his owner was calm and confident but falling apart and exhibiting unwanted behaviors as her attitude deteriorated into distress.
       On the basis of what I have been reading I am modifying the general training statement we use when performing positive reward based training
                     “Reward the behaviors you want and ignore those you don’t”
                       To add “and project a calm and positive attitude to your dog”
Tell me your stories about how your attitude has influenced the training of your dog.

Louise Kerr 
The Pet Care Magician
Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behaviour, training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors


Posted on June 10, 2012, in Dog Training, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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