Bonded or Trained? Getting a Golden Retriever to Ride in a Kayak

Golden Retriever Puppy in a Life Jacket looking at the Lake

You want me to go where? In what?

Finally, a good opportunity to see if Honey would join me in the kayak. I took both of my last two dogs kayaking. But neither of them could be called enthusiastic kayakers. I hoped Honey might be different–Honey the water dog.

I started thinking about how a trainer would go through the steps in getting Honey into the kayak. Click and treat for sniffing the life jacket. Click and treat for wearing the life jacket. Click and treat for sniffing the kayak. Click and treat for putting two paws on the edge of the kayak and so on, and so on (and that’s just the major steps, not all the incremental shifts along the way).

In the end, I think bonding won out over training.

Golden Retriever Puppy in a Life Jacket Walking Away from the Lake

No thanks, I'd rather take the bus.

What do I mean? Well, anyone could teach Honey the steps to get into the kayak. It would be like breaking beginning agility down. And it would take quite a while for her to learn it. Although I started with the steps, in the end, Honey got into the boat because she wanted to be with me more than she wanted to be away from the strange situation.

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, bonding versus training. Yes, I know that training will strengthen the bond between us. But what about people you see with great dogs who’ve probably never been formally trained?

You know who I’m talking about. That homeless man with the dog sitting quietly beside him off leash on a busy city street. Or the blind woman with a cane whose dog is obviously not a service animal but watches her with as much care and intelligence as any highly-trained lab.

Somehow I wonder if the attention that comes from a strong bond may be even more important in having a dog trustworthy in different situations than the formal training that many people seek as the answer to their “dog problems.”

I guess all this is to say that I’m happy that Honey trusted me enough to try something new.

How did it turn out? Well, Honey was very calm the entire time in the kayak–even when I went out into deep water, away from the shore. She relaxed enough to rest her chin on my leg before lying down in the cockpit. Honey was definitely more focused on me than the splashing dogs and people in the water around us and even the noisy boats.

And I kept the trip short. In hope that Honey would be willing to go for another ride with me soon.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...