Saturday, February 2, 2013

Be the Heart of Your Pack!

Seems that Jenn had a pretty terrific trip last weekend to San Francisco to attend Clicker Expo, a conference for science based animal trainers.  Jenn says the best thing about Clicker Expo is that it is a chance to learn and mingle with the most advanced trainers in the world, (including Karen Pryor who Jenn got to meet!) all on whom use training methods based in science.  Jenn attended sessions by Karen Pryor, Dr. Susan Friedman, Kay Laurence, Julie Shaw, Debbie Martin, Emma Parsons, and Michele Pouliot and got to attend some learning labs with dogs.

The most memorable and insightful subjects from Clicker Expo came out of sessions by British trainer Kay Laurence.  They sum up how Jenn and many science based trainers feel about their role in training and their relationships with animals (especially dogs).   

There are so many people telling you to "Be the Pack Leader" by doing simply awful and hurtful things to dogs, things that destroy the dog's trust, things that create stress along with larger problems.  When in reality, the goal should not be being "leader" of a pack, but being the Heart of the Pack.

Being the Heart of the Pack means that you don't need to dominate, intimidate, hurt, startle, or punish to have success and harmony with your animal companions.  We should be focusing on creating a connection with the animal based on trust, safety and cooperation.  There are so many science based training options available (like clicker training) that allow that connection and communication to flourish.  Listen to your heart when you select a training method, and learn to be the Heart of the Pack.

We often restrain, resist, and strip away what our dogs are.  Like trying to forcefully slam a square peg into a round hole.  If we just find a way to change the round hole so that it is just big enough for the square peg.

Sometimes, we get so focused on achieving goals, we try to make our dogs conform to our idea of what they should be, and we lose track or ignore what where born to be.  This is seen so much in the disconnection of leash walking.   Our focus shouldn't be on the latest harness or the latest technique that function on suppression.  This is not learning and does not create a true connection.  It should be about establishing and nurturing the connection between the dog and their person, sharing positive experiences, feeling comfort and security with each other.   Most dogs are programmed to connect with us and we often just don't know how to connect with them.

Jenn hopes to take these ideas and others from Clicker Expo and use them to help her be a better trainer with people and with animals.