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Don't train behaviors, train a mindset!

"Train your dog to do what they don't want to do, rather than what they do want to do" - a quote by Hans Alpine, slightly modified

This is such an evolutionary concept to me. I first heard it on Hans' podcast, but I don't think even he realizes how powerful this can be.

When I first heard it, it hit home immediately. Of course!; obedience is not about training behaviors (sit, down, stay, etc.). Real obedience is about training a mindset, or to put it differently, cultivating a certain type of mindset; one that is compliant, accepting and co-operative.

Most trainers place the emphasis of dog training on teaching and enforcing certain behaviors, but very few ever address the mindset of the dog, and the reason why he is doing what he's doing.

To know the mindset of your dog during obedience, you have to ask this questions: "Is my dog working for me, or is he working for himself? If he is working for a treat or toy, he is working for himself. And if he is working to avoid a correction for non compliance (prong or e-collar), he is still just working for himself. This is why obedience falls apart the minute you remove the training tools. It is also the reason why, in many cases, there are still issues in the relationship dynamic between you and the dog, despite your obedience being squeaky clean & competition ready.

If you can condition the dog's mind from early on to "having to do things it does not want to do", the likelihood of your dog challenging, resisting and fighting you over things, decreases drastically. In other words, you need to condition the dog's mind to the act of surrender, and make compliance and "giving in" a habit and an automatic response. If you can achieve this, you have solved any and all problems when it comes to obedience, behavior, and living in harmony with your dog.

This can produce automatic and natural obedience, but it will also teach your dog to trust you without question, and without needing to know the outcome or the reason why something is being asked. He is able to have this level of trust in you because he has learned, through the process of surrender, and through many positive experiences with this process, that only good things come when he chooses to co-operate with you.

Once you have established this type of (compliant) mindset in your dog, the need for training tools such as prong and e-collars, food and toys, will fall away. If the mind has been trained to accept rather than fight, outer observable obedience will follow naturally and without effort, force or bribery.

In time your dog will come to enjoy co-operating with you, because it releases him from having to make any decisions by himself. All he has to do, is trust you. He can feel safe and secure, knowing that you are in charge.

To train this mindset, the dog must be made (repeatedly) to do things he does not want to do, until surrender and compliance becomes a habit, and the default state of mind. This means conditioning the dog from early on (as early as you can), to work for you, and not for a piece of food, or a toy. Co-operation with you, the leader, must become the normal way of existing and navigating life experiences.

For obedience, the ultimate goal is a mind that is calm and compliant. Not resisting or fighting, but happily surrenders, or "gives" to what is being asked. The dog develops a natural desire to follow it's human leader, because the practice of surrender cultivates a relationship of trust and faith.

For protection we want a mind that is tough, tenacious, resilient and courageous, because it has been conditioned and trained to become this way by repeatedly being subjected to (manageable levels) of stress and pressure, and shown how to successfully work through and conquer it.

"The strongest steel is forged by the hottest fires. It is pounded and struck repeatedly… The fire gives it power and flexibility, and the blows give it strength. Those two things make it able to withstand every battle…" -Sherrilyn Kenyon

It is becoming increasingly clear to me; the real training happens in the mind. The type of training that will give reliability and resilience against extreme testing, does not lie in teaching behaviors, nor does it lie in teaching techniques, skills or tricks. It lies in training the mind to think and operate in a certain way. The behaviors and exercises we do are simply tools that can be used to achieve this goal.

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