Monday, December 5, 2016

Positive Reinforcement: The Training Gift that Keeps on Giving!

So I haven't posted on the Positive Pet Training hop in a while. I've been so busy with work and helping people train their dogs, I just haven't had much time for blogging.

This month I feel like I really do need to participate since the theme is "The Gift of Positive Training". Throughout my journey with my dogs, we've had challenges with both dogs; Phoenix with her fear related people and dog-dog issues, Zoe with her prey drive and resource guarding. Discovering positive reinforcement and force free methods was definitely a gift for all of us. We've all learned how to communicate better and Phoenix in particular has given me the gift of patience and extra empathy. Working with both of these dogs has opened up a whole new world for me and they've helped to get me into the career that I actually want to be in. One of my training videos on YouTube actually helped me get my job! If that wasn't a gift from my dogs, I don't know what is!

I've learned how to work through a lot of issues and also figure out how to manage other issues. Recently with all my "teacher training", I am learning how to effectively use positive reinforcement to coach my husband through a new issue that has come up between him and Phoenix.

Phoenix has had a fear regression, she is afraid to be handled by my husband. They were at the park without me around two weeks ago and I guess she ate too much grass. When they got back into the car she started puking. My husband had to grab her to get her out of the car without getting puke all over her and she was traumatized by the accidental "rough" handling. Since that incident Phoenix hasn't wanted much to do with my husband.

Phoenix will not allow my husband to wipe her paws, put her pajamas on or do any sort of touching where something is being done to her. Petting and playing is still okay with her. We are incredibly lucky that Phoenix just tries to flee versus fight. My husband is understandably frustrated with the whole situation. He feels like we've had her for so long that she should just be able to deal with things. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a man where he was wrong and you had to tell him he was wrong? LOL!!! Yeah... that went as well as could be expected. I am also learning how to communicate better with my husband about dog stuff.

Don't touch me!

So I've had to bust out my new-found coaching skills and it's been going okay! I'm trying to my best to pick out behaviors my husband does that I like to praise and coaching him through some behavioral training. My husband gets to do all the fun stuff, like feeding, treats and play time. I've also been coaching him through counter-conditioning Phoenix to him touching her. My bosses and my mentor are tickled that I've been using my calm "client voice" on my husband.

I think with a dog like Phoenix, who probably wasn't socialized as a pup, definitely was not handled and went through previous trauma before we got her, things will always be more difficult for her than Zoe or any other "normal" dog. She took a long time to trust us and in some things she obviously still doesn't trust us. We still have some work to do with her and I think my husband is realizing that he has to be more involved with it. Phoenix has taught me so much over the years and I think she will probably end up teaching my husband a lot, too!

Positive Reinforcement training techniques have definitely been a gift to us! It's the gift that keeps on giving as I am always learning something new and able to continually help my dogs. It's a gift that I try to give to others as much as I can, too!

What have your dogs taught you lately?

Today we are joining the Positive Pet Training blog hop hosted by: Cascadian Nomads, Rubicon Days and Tenacious Terrier. This month's theme is: The Gift of Positive Training. Please be sure to check out the other posts!


  1. For some people it is hard to understand why their dog isn't what they think dogs should be. Good for you to be patient with both your husband and the dog. One needs a lot of patience to work on dogs with issues.

  2. Awww, such cuteness. I linked this post to Awww Mondays.

    Training your baby isn't all that hard if you stick with it and have patience.

    Have a woof woof day you two. My best to your hard working mom. ☺

  3. So much would be solved if pups received early socialization. Good she has you on her side!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  4. Ohh, that would be stressful. Good for you and Vince for working through it. Side note: Dogs in jammies! Love.

  5. We've had similar problems with my pup Robin and my fiancé. Over time they are becoming much closer but we went through similar frustrations because Robin liked pretty much everyone except for him! He really started to settle down when he was very sick earlier this year and my fiancé, who's studying medicine, did most of the caretaking.

  6. It's such an amazing thing to witness!

  7. Isn't it amazing (and fun!) to realize that positive reinforcement works as well with spouses (and kids) as it does with dogs. And so true that no matter how much one works with an under-socialized dog, life may always be (a little or a lot) more difficult. You'll all get through this, but sorry it had to happen.

  8. Hah! Can you teach me that calm client voice so that I can use it with my husband?

    Fortunately, we haven't had any regressions like that but I can imagine that it's hard not to take it personally. If your husband has been nice to her for years and years, I can see why he thinks that he should get a free pass every now and then. But, our fearful ones teach us the most about positive training... as both you and I know! Great post.

  9. I think positive training has taught me just as much, if not more, than it's taught Barley! I'm glad that the girls have made so much progress and helped you get your job! My fingers are crossed that your husband learns to appreciate that gift, too.

  10. It's great how your husband is learning how to communicate with Phoenix. Thanks for joining the hop.

  11. You are so great and so patient with your girls, that I'm sure you can teach your hubby to be the same way, and get Phoenix through this latest challenge.

  12. These challenges can be so tough, but I love that you're sharing such a positive, proactive outlook! The communication point is definitely one of the gifts of positive reinforcement. I totally get that those regressions can be immensely frustrating (ours happened after months of practically perfect behavior, Lucas snapped at a stranger in the park). It sounds like you're on the right path. Though, in my experience, husband training is FAR more difficult than dog training! ;)

  13. Have you tried playing the "collar grab game," where the dog gets rewarded for someone / everyone touching or taking hold of the collar. Always paired with food, etc. You can use a clicker too, and some clicker-savvy dogs will start offering their necks to be 'grabbed.' Once dogs like the game in gentle form, then you might be able to practice more urgent grabs -- like what you might need to do in an emergency. It might be harder with a dog who is already nervous of people / certain people, but it might be worth playing with very slowly, very gently.

  14. It is wonderful that positive training has lead you to the job you like! How great that you are empowered with the skills to help your husband and your dogs!


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