The Value of Understanding Value

Photo by Kevin Lowery | www.kevinlowery.com

Photo by Kevin Lowery | www.kevinlowery.com

So how much is the dollar worth today against the euro, the yen, the pound? How much value does silver and gold have? More importantly, how much value does your word, your handshake, your beliefs have? And how are those values when compared to everyone elses? Do you really care what other people value and do they care about yours? Maybe that's one of the problems with being human, our value systems are so very broad and different from each other’s.

A brilliant trainer and great friend would always remind me that a dog doesn't ignore you, he just has a different set of values as to what is important to him. So then I would ask, "How do I know what he values, or the level of value he places on things he values?" and my friend would always say, "Watch and listen to what he's telling you, it's not that difficult." And voila! He was right. Our four legged companions have a much simpler value system based on the most basic aspects of life: food, water, shelter, territory, a mate. Then there are the secondary aspects: chasing things that move just because, following their nose because they can, shredding our belongings because it's fun, and on and on.

I get asked many times why their dog ignores their recall signal, why their dog runs away from them when they have something they shouldn't, why their dog won't do what they tell them to do or behave like they want. Now before my friend, and many others like him enlightened me, I would have said the dog was being stubborn, was being bad, was trying to show them who's boss, etc. Thankfully, my friend and others taught me the truth, the real reason, the value of understanding the value system of the dog. And you know what's really ironic about it? We think and behave the exact same way!!

Do you want your dog to have a really reliable recall? Make coming to you the absolutely greatest thing that will ever happen to him (except maybe chasing deer) Do you want your dog to behave well when people enter your house? Hey, for the proper positive motivation and reward, you'll get a star every time. Now you're thinking, wait a minute, my dog'll get fat on all the treats I have to give him. Only in the beginning will the off-the-wall high value treats be needed to change difficult behaviors or teach the really tough cues. After that, random super rewards mixed always with great praise, even when we haven't asked for a specific behavior (thank you Kathy Sdao and her great book Plenty in Life is Free) will still get you what you want. Now it takes more work that just that, and fun, trust building (there is nothing more valuable than trust), positive reinforcement training and repetition throughout your dog's life will just keep making everything better. Oh, and that part about us acting the same way, let's be honest, don't you do a better job at some task when the positive motivation and reward (your choice of what that would be) is commensurate with what you've been asked to do? Of course it is, that's human nature. Well, not really, that's just nature.

We have a duty, responsibility and obligation to teach our canine companions what we want from them in a positive way, in their language, they'll understand and respond to. They aren't humans who we can tell to do something because we said so. Just remember, the next time you and your pup aren't seeing things eye to eye or you're being frustrated by his obstinacy, value is in the eye of the beholder.

Build TRUST, TEACH Skills, CHANGE Behavior, ENJOY the Partnership

 


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Positively Expert: Sam Wike

In addition to Sam’s work as a successful trainer and behavior consultant endorsed by Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training and the Best Friends Animal Society Community Training Partner Program, he is also a behavior consultant to the Monmouth County (NJ) SPCA and local rescue groups.


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