I've been thinking about training philosophies a great deal lately, and I've decided that - contrary to the current political correctness trends - training philosophy is really, really important. But I'm not talking about whether you're R+ or P+ or balanced or whatever kids are calling the different techniques these days. I'm talking about your personal philosophy of training.
If you chose to pursue dog training as a hobby, you're going to want to have a personal philosophy because it's going to help you make choices that you can live with. Eventually, you're going to have a trainer tell you to do something that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Or you'll watch someone do something to their dog that makes you uncomfortable, but hey - they're a good trainer and their dog is well-behaved so maybe it's not so bad. And then you try the technique and maybe it works or maybe it doesn't, but on you're way home you have the sneaking suspicion that you've done a Bad Thing and are maybe a Bad Person. Knowing your own priorities and how a skill or training technique fits into those priorities can give you guidance when you find yourself presented with a difficult training decision - and trust me, you'll run into those. Having a personal training philosophy will help you sleep at night.
I'm sure it's no shock to anyone who has met me or followed the blog that my highest priority is that my dogs are I are having fun together. When it comes to showing, I also want the high scores. Having these two philosophies means that I'm not going to take a dog into the ring who doesn't know the exercises. And because I have placed my dog's happiness above high scores, I'm also not going to employ a training technique that might improve our scores at the cost of my dog's enjoyment. Or take my dog into the ring if he doesn't want to be there.
Take Jai, for example. He and I have a lot of fun working and playing together. He knows all the exercises for level one rally in WCRL - and level two, for that matter. If I took him to a show, he's probably wouldn't have a complete meltdown; we've done a bunch of work on not being crazy in public. And because I've over-trained everything, it's likely that we'd manage to pull off some decent score. But I am 100% absolutely certain that Jai would hate the trail atmosphere. It would be too much stimulation, and he would get overwhelmed. So because I've made my dog's attitude a priority, he won't be showing anytime soon. Also because I've made his attitude a priority, we're going to work on making that environment less scary for him. I think there's a good chance that Jai could learn to have fun at dog shows, and I'd like to have him there if I can. So that's where our training is headed next.
I feel pretty strongly that my dogs' lives are too short for them to spend any more time unhappy than they have to. Certainly other people have different personal philosophies, though, and I don't consider myself so perfect that I believe their philosophies are wrong. (Well, mostly anyway. Obviously some people are wrong.) Most of the time, they're just different. Some people want good behavior, some people want perfect behavior, some want to pack as much adventure into their dogs' lives as possible, and some just want a dog to come home to and maybe walk around the block with them. As long as your philosophy doesn't interfere with mine and doesn't involve abusing your dogs, you can go ahead and do whatever you like. However, I think it's important to have a personal philosophy when it comes to dog training because knowing your own values will help ensure that you act according to them and still manage to achieve your goals.
So, what does your personal dog training philosophy look like?