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New year, new mission

You may have noticed a change in our direction recently, we have been working hard on skilling up, growing and figuring out what brings joy. Here is what we came up with.

I have been really trying to balance truffle dog work (May- August) then after truffle season juggling doing enough for my now fit working dog around other seasonal jobs like avocados. So this year we have doubled down on dogs, I have spent a year learning about concept training and using games to grow these concepts. Look out for our future blog on concept training and why it works. Concept training has improved how my dogs work and how I work with them immensely. We work together more, I allow the dogs to have more say, and now they have more freedom if they make good choices. Calypso was the catalyst to me looking for something more than just positive reinforcement. I am pretty sure most of you would know this, just in case though here's how I view traditional training styles.

Aversive training, this is your Dominance Theory group where you have to be the pack leader and you use a bite ( prong or electric collars for example) to punish a bad choice.

Positive reinforcement, this is, reward the things you don't want and ignore the things you don't want, which is where I was training mostly.

Now with Calypso I did what I have done with every other of my truffle dogs and just popped her in the car after a session and ignored when she was making a noise and would let her out after she relaxed ( the reward), which until Cal has always worked for me. They would eventually get bored or figure out that's not the way you get my attention. Calypso, bless her soul really enjoyed not relaxing, in fact she got quite the kick out of making noise and rewarded herself by chewing on bedding, or the car or anything really. Now for her, this was a bit out of character, she is crate trained, has pretty good household manners and for a young energetic 9 month Labrador I was pretty happy with her training and drive. I couldn't figure it out why the car and few other behaviours were not getting better, in the case of being in the back of the car it was getting worse, and it was making life difficult because I never got a chance to reward anything good because she was so over the top and I had to let her out of the car to toilet so I couldn't ignore it forever. Surely this wasn't how it's meant to be, could I cope with a noisy dog all truffle season and have her in an empty pen all day no bedding or water bowls. It hardly seemed worth it.

So I went on a hunt for something more and I found it with Absolute Dogs. The answer was simple, show them what you would rather they be doing, which in this case was calm in the back of my car and don't let them rehearse what I don't want. So back to the start. We went back to square 1. I would pop her in the car, close the gate ask for a sit, then maybe a drop and then let her straight back out and into her crate inside. We built up duration with things like bully stick chews and frozen kongs and started layering in distraction, go to the oval park up and feed her kong and leave again. Always rewarding calm and if anything was too exciting go back a step till it was what I wanted.

It made sense and best of all it worked. I was all in. I wanted to know more. I completed a few of their courses and then they opened up PRO DOG trainer. I was excited. It reinvigorated my training so much so I went on to do their GEEK course which is more about behaviour and using case studies to shape how we train, the games we use and why it works. I have enjoyed every second of it, even though I find studying and reading quite stretching.

I have realised in this process I absolutely love training dogs, not just truffle dogs. I want to share with everyone that training isn't about the sit, drop etc. It's about finding those few minutes a day to get 1% better because 1% everyday adds up really quick. It's about having fun with your dog and investing in the relationship. We want you to see a struggle and think no worries. "There's a game for that" and I got this. So if you have seen a shift in what we are doing this is the reason and I hope we can help you with your dog training journey too.

Happy New Year, and Happy training all

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