No More “No”

When the dog training company mentioned in the previous post visited, I was surprised to learn they employed shock collars. I don’t know much about the devices, but the idea horrifies me–especially for a sweet little dog like Tootsie. The trainers reassured me. I finally agreed.

Doubts plagued me. Feedback from friends was mixed, but a Google search turned up nothing but negatives. I finally did what I should have done in the first place: called my vet. They don’t recommend shock collars and emailed me a list of recommended trainers.

Fortunately, I hadn’t signed anything or handed over any money for shock training. By the time I heard from them again, I’d changed my mind. Rather than grief, they wished us luck.

My first choice (Rocket Science Training) called back within a few hours and, thanks to a cancelation, had an appointment open for the next day. She emailed me a ton of information explaining the science behind her approach. I was a bit overwhelmed, but impressed.

The trainer came in, sat on the floor, and tossed treats in Tootsie’s direction. Over the next hour, she explained what she was doing and the meaning behind Tootsie’s responses. What she said made sense and was often new to me. Tootsie ate it up.

I was amazed by what the trainer got her to do in such a short time. She confirmed what I’ve long believed. Tootsie is “brilliant.” She gets into the process and learns fast.

I’ve done a pretty good job teaching Tootsie to do things. Keeping her from doing things I don’t like is the problem. Instead of responding, I react. The trainer showed me a better way.

Saying “no” is no longer allowed. No more punishment either. We’re all about positive reinforcement. An immediate “yes” followed by a reward lets Tootsie know she’s doing what she’s supposed to do. Rewards include playtime, toys and affection as well as treats. If she doesn’t do what I want, she doesn’t get a reward.

Since the trainer left, Tootsie and I practice for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. She’s doing great! I, however, am struggling. Saying “yes” instead of “good girl” is a challenge. I don’t yell anymore, but “no” still pops out occasionally.

Nonetheless, the difference is amazing–and we haven’t even started on basic commands. Tootsie’s response to positive reinforcement makes me feel even better about passing on the shock collar.

The morning after our session, I opened a two-page email message explaining what was going on with Tootsie and a plan of action with numerous attachments. The message included specific instructions for what to do now. The attachments are handouts explaining the process for the essential commands we’ll learn in the weeks to come.

We’re meeting with the trainer twice a week. Tootsie learns fast. Unless I have trouble keeping up, we’re unlikely to need the 14 additional sessions it would take to exceed the cost of the other program. Given how much we learned in our first session, I’m looking forward to more and will keep you posted.