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

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 …

Ethos: A Personal Trust Pilot

Experience changes our ethos. There are many pathways that will broaden our choices.

The Right Bed in the Right Spot

Resting and sleeping are not necessarily the same state. Good sleep where we feel safe and comfortable is important for us all.

Play Health Check

When we look at play or food delivery as an ACTIVITY we share the same mindset as the dog: is there pleasure to be experienced?

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.

Dogs are Born To Learn

We can build tremendous learners when we get beyond the idea that “dogs are trained”.

The choice of lure

Luring teaches trainers essential skills. We learn how to use suggestion and guidance to shape behaviours. We learn how to explain dynamic movement in the cues from our hands. In combination with reinforcement, luring has without doubt, been one of the skills I value most as a trainer.

A Road to Nowhere

When familiarity is stripped away we seek recognisable signposts that will take us back to comfort and security. This is survival instinct. It is worth listening to as it keeps us alive.

Chasm opening up?

The more I see “sit, down, come, stay heel” as the essential basics the more I am moving further away from the general view of living with dogs.

Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers

We lean on science in our efforts to bridge the gap as though it provides the answers to how things should be rather than describing how things are understood.

Top Training

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.

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

Evidence of learning

When we use the words “teach” or “train” child, person or dog, the operative term implies that the process is under the ownership of the teacher or trainer. What your teacher thinks you have learned may not be what you actually learned.

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.

Luring: Hand lures

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

Duration: sustaining movement

Continuing and maintaining a specific movement

A Day of Learning

A no-training day does not mean he gets a lazy day lying idly in the sun. Learning is still happening and this is significant and important for his development.

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……

The Power of Passive Learning

Active learning: the learner takes active choice of what to do, how to respond, is attentive and making conscious effort
Passive learning: little conscious effort, reward is delivered for minimum effort.

Remote lures

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


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