It’s easy when your life is fast-paced and hectic to forget those little drops of positivity that you can give the people and dogs in your life throughout the day.
My boss was more strategic than just being a nice guy, though. He knew that because I was in a leadership position, I needed to build a bank of good will for when I needed to have the more difficult conversations. The way he explained it was that every “hello” or “how are you doing?” was a teensy-tiny deposit in the good will bank and you needed plenty of good will in the account when you go to make a withdrawal.
Well as dog owners, you too are in a position of leadership and it’s nice for you to know this rule as well. The same rule applies to your dog.
But what is really “balanced” training?
Corrections and consequences are a part of life and learning, but need to be balanced out by plenty of deposits in the good will bank with your dog. Too often people ignore their dogs for his whole life until they are forced to correct it, or they only praise their dog while excusing any bad behavior. Both are surefire ways to have a misbehaving dog that is unhappy.
I like to think of balance as a 10:1 ratio. You should aim for 10 good things to every correction or “no” with your dog (or even your spouse!)
If it skews away from that 10:1 your dog will start to resent you, be annoyed by you, or simply won’t like you that much.
Think of a boss or a significant other or a friend in your past who only gave you negative feedback. Odds are you were probably never comfortable with this person, were nervous whenever they talked to you, and felt like you were walking on eggshells – that’s not a good state for a human or a dog to live in. You might be in that situation at home or work right now and I bet you regularly think of a way out – like the dog who dashes out the door the first time you leave it open and doesn’t even look backwards.
Conversely – you might have had a boss, coach, or a spouse who only said good things to you. This can be nice for a little while, but begins to feel inauthentic quickly. “Good job” loses it’s luster if you are never really challenged to do better or given constructive feedback that helps you grow – especially if you know your work is really medicore.
The ideal leader in the dog or human world is someone you know cares and looks out for you, but will also have the difficult conversation with you and help you move forward.
That’s the leader you should strive to be with your and dog and in your life.
1) Control more – I’m not talking about being a drill sergeant, but you can’t say “yes” to a dog if you put yourself in a position to fail. You wouldn’t train a recall by taking your dog to the middle of a public park and calling him from hundreds of feet away because he wouldn’t come and you could only correct him and get angry at that point. You would train recall from a foot away and with the leash in your hand because that puts you in a position of control and your dog in a position to succeed.
2) Challenge your dog a little every day – whether it be obedience, agility or any other training, work together as a team so you can say yes to their successes. Grabbing a handful of kibble and putting your dog to work is a great way to say yes a bunch of times.
3) Do more things with your dog – take him places, walk him more – anything he enjoys, do it with him. He will associate you with the things he loves the most and that will put a lot of money in the good will bank.