Building A Generous Future

by | Jan 16, 2024

collie pup tilting head

A Doddle

Raising Nika has been a doddle.

Not in the sense that she always did what I hoped she’d do, and that I didn’t have to channel her learning towards more productive ends and away from

  • Body slamming me with enthusiasm upon reunions
  • Insisting that I never stop petting her… EVER
  • Barking eviction orders at Bill and Coo, the local collared doves
  • Telling me to hurry up and do the thing (whether playing with or feeding her, or merely putting on my pyjamas)
  • The very strong preference for toileting indoors where it’s nice and warm

Or maybe it hasn’t been a doddle. Maybe my life with a body-slamming, relentlessly tactile-seeking, pigeon-hating, manager extraordinaire just seems like this now because it was one of construction rather than striving and suppressing.

Struggle v. Ease

Maybe it just feels like this now because I haven’t stayed awake at night worrying about her in the way that I stayed awake worrying about T, who was nothing like The Books told me he should be (before I decided that The Books were wrong, and that T was a perfect version of himself).

Maybe it feels like a doddle because my life with her wasn’t one of competing against who she is, trying to mould her into something else, or even just worrying about the potential fallout of every decision I made.

Raising T was beset by a desire to “get it right” for him, to be a Good Owner (by whose standards I wasn’t quite sure), to compensate him for his Before Life (filthy shed; little human contact; 30+ stressed dogs), but also to make sure that Before Life didn’t infect his Now.

His early months were so focussed on all that had gone wrong for him in the past and all that could go wrong for our life together in the future that I don’t think I stopped frequently enough to pay attention to who he was then, and to build his learning from that. Neither of us can get those months back

Nika’s early months, on the other hand, were informed by curiosity; every challenge an opportunity for learning that was filed with optimism about discovering who she is and helping to guide her according to the rewards she sought. And through awareness of that difference in living with two young dogs, I learned about the importance of focus.

Her Greatest Teaching

Last week, as my ears throbbed at the almighty shout she emitted to let me know that I was TOO SLOW and that she wanted me TO BEGIN THE GAME NOW, I was positively enchanted by the learning path I could see up ahead, and how it would benefit us both in so many ways in our life together.

Realising that A.N. Expert might suggest that she has problems with “Impulse Control,” I instead saw a valuable opportunity for teaching her the value of slow and steady: her stillness would be rewarded with my movement. A few days later, as she was matching her pace to mine as we walked down the hallway to the toy store together, both of us anticipating with great pleasure the game that was about to start, yet both of us agreeing that we would take our time to begin, I understood the importance of perspective in raising a dog.

Someone else’s impulsive; my enthusiastic. Their stubborn; my tenacious. Their controlling; my reward-attuned.

Not a doddle; not by a long shot: but it felt like one because of a recognition that our learning wasn’t just going to be one-sided, and that if I wanted her to learn so that she could adapt to my world, I had to be prepared to do the same so I could adapt to hers.


Key Reading

When we train a dog it grows

Most training starts from necessity. Management is a necessity but it usually benefits all parties by a reduction of conflict. Are they expanding their skills to benefit us or for their benefit?

The Fade-in Protocol

Even though today we are surrounded by many available protocols for teaching with positive reinforcement, there is still a persistence that a dog should be set-up to make an error. An error is simply the difference between my expectation and the dog’s response. No more “distractions”, but faded-in environments.

Shaping by rewards

When I see a dog showing a behaviour that is heading towards potential conflict, my first question is “what rewards are available?”

The Value of Experience

The non-experienced, or current generation of imposters, have attended a course, read a book, got a certificate and have yet to gain experience to deepen their knowledge or understanding of the subject, protocol, method …

What Words Conceal

The language across all kinds of media paints a picture of dogs and our relationships with them.

Heartbeat of living with dogs

I like to regard a “teacher of dogs” as someone who meets dogs in their world and teaches them how to be their best whilst living alongside us in our world.

The Cost of Cherrypicking

When we admit that the ideas we’re sharing are derived from the work of others, we demonstrate our own commitment to learning

A Family of Multiple Dogs

Another addition is not just an extra bed and bowl. It is important to build a home that is healthy, content and well-balanced.

What is a Trainer?

I know what I am, as a trainer. But does my view of “A Trainer” coincide with, or even overlap with yours?

In praise of naughty dogs

.. a desire for solutions to problems that weren’t problems until someone else outside of the relationship suggested they were.

Top Training

Duration or is it Breakfast in Bed?

Teaching duration has become a very muddied understanding or what it is and how to teach it. This is partly due to how we use words that are the same but have entirely different meanings.

Stop doing that ….

Can we teach an effective Cease That Behaviour? Absolutely. We can teach that positively, without harm, and we should teach them the skills of stopping that and doing this instead.

Reasons to use a clicker

The concept of “being a clicker trainer” is always going to lead to argument and misunderstanding because it cannot exist alongside the science and technology. It is a “fakery” of our time. The clicker itself is a simple tool that when used in conjunction with technology provides clarity and understanding in teaching.

Nose Target. No thanks

Nose target is a popular behaviour taught to many dogs, and other animals. It seems easy to teach and have practical application, but it is often not such a pleasant experience for all dogs. There are many other options available that give the same practical benefit, without the unpleasant extremes.

Luring: Hand lures

Learning hand-lure skills, Collect the food, engage, follow, feed.

Surprising Puppy

Surprising Puppy. With obnoxious moments. After introducing the obnoxious puppy as a youngster I am knocked over by the Delightful Young Man he is turning into……

Remote lures

Lures at a distance, separated from hands, pockets . Using reward stations, patterns, containers

Not all lures contain food

“the direct use of the reinforcer to elicit the behaviour”
This should always be foremost in our mind, in that many alternatives lures are available.


Preparing before you train and the final check list

One dog watching

The other dog working
or ….how to train the spectators to quietly rest and watch whilst you work, play, teach a single member of the group


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