Rocky’s Viewpoint

Rockys Viewpoint

A blog for people who treat their dogs better than family

Training Your Dog? Remember to Let Them Be a Dog!

I was catching up on my Whole Dog Journal reading the other day and came across an interesting article regarding a different technique for training your dog. It was developed by Nancy Tanner, a trainer in Bozeman, MT who was inspired by a marine mammal training technique that was developed at Sea World in San Diego. Her training is called “Observation without Direction.” Simply put, the idea is to let your dog do whatever he wants and then learn from him.

It’s “free time” that allows your dog to be a dog. Your dog initiates everything, you nothing! A trust and relationship is built for both. The relationship isn’t just built around what you want your dog to do with the dog responding through learned behavior. It’s a give and take – you take part in his interests and he takes part in yours.

If you try this approach, the training area should not be where previous training has taken place, for example a house, yard, training field or school. Your dog should be taken to an area that has safe boundaries and is free from major distractions, such as hiking or walking trails, meadows or deserted beaches.

The most important element is observation – watch your dog and take notes. By watching you can learn what motivates your dog and where his strengths are, and then you can incorporate this into his training. Nancy gave an example of one of her dogs who she observed to have stealth hunting skills, high prey drive and high motivation. She said the dog “was focused and tenacious, so I brought this into her training… I found a way to reach her through what she found highly rewarding.”

Your dog is your friend and companion – there should be no selfishness involved – just as with human friends, opinions should not be imposed on the others – choices should not be just yours. You need to respect the other person’s views. It’s the same with dogs. If you want to read more, see Whole Dog Journal’s, May 2011 issue “Free to Be.”