It’s more common to meet dogs that have not had to “work for a living” than to encounter people with dogs that know how to “say ‘Please'” and who enjoy training for the sheer pleasure of the activity. Not to say that that could remain intact without positive reinforcement, but it’s a totally different story training a dog that is accustomed to getting his way…let’s call them “privileged” ;). A few years ago I met a very privileged, one of a kind Portie. By nature, she’s “cool”—mellow, social, pretty low energy level. When I first started with her, I had her for at least a couple of weeks while her owner traveled. He said, ‘Maybe you can teach her some agility or something’. Unfortunately for his dreams, agility is not the place to start training. Agility is akin to a college level curriculum, while engagement is a mandatory pre-school skill that always takes priority over anything else you want to train.
At first she was “not having it”, and couldn’t be bothered to work, no matter how clever I was at making it worthwhile. It took literally months for this dog to finally learn that it is fun to “earn”. And then, there was a major turnaround. Can you believe she is one of my most keen and clever “students”! She learns things so fast these days, with me alone training her. Most recently, it took her just a few short sessions (about a couple of minutes apiece) to pick up a trick I affectionately call “Tailspin”. Here’s a video from a typical Pacific NW kind of day…please excuse the dirty, foggy mess.
These days, this dog begs for a chance to train. She caught the joy! 😉