When Honey was a puppy, she had no idea what she was in for. She was going to be the subject of a training regimen usually only seen by service dogs.
But sometimes the best dog training is the training that doesn’t happen. And it’s all because of our training mantra.
The Mantra That Controls Our Training
Honey had a dream start in life: a knowledgeable breeder and excellent socialization from birth.
When she came home with us, my dream was for her to partner with me in some kind volunteer work, either raising service puppies or fostering pups. And while I was at it, I intended to train her to be as perfect in public as the very best service dog.
She was a wonderful partner for the foster dogs and pups we brought into our home. But she is not perfectly trained. And no one would ever mistake her for a service dog. Especially not when she can hardly contain herself in front of a friendly stranger.
But I have no regrets. Because I think we have the perfect mantra to control our training. It’s this: “It’s all about the relationship.”
Everything I train or refuse to train is decided by how it affects our relationship.
Training Choices That Favor Our Relationship
Here are a few of the training choices I make every day because they strengthen my relationship with Honey.
Pulling on Leash
Yes, I want Honey to walk calm on leash without pulling. And I can train it strictly until she walks at heel. But to strengthen our relationship, sometimes when Honey pulls on leash, I take it as a sign that I just need to walk faster.
Begging at the Table
One behavior all service dogs learn is to never beg at the table. But Honey does get periodic morsels.
In truth, I only sneak her a bit if she is calm and lying at my side. But snacking is my husband’s favorite activity. And one he loves to share with Honey. So I’ve learned not to make a big stink about Mike sneaking Honey little treats. As long as she doesn’t drool on my foot.
After all, It’s not just my relationship with Honey I need to safeguard.
Walking Off Leash
One of Honey’s great joys is to explore off leash.
Living on a boat, Honey makes fewer choices than she did on land. She can’t just ask to be let outside for playtime when we’re at anchor. She needs help getting up into the cockpit, into bed, and off the boat.
So I give her time off leash every day.
It may not be legal. It may not even be perfectly cautious. But it’s important to her. And so I walk and play with her off leash every. single. day.
Honey Chooses Our Walks
Unless I’m in a crazy hurry (and I try to live my life without hurrying—after all, I am a sailor), Honey chooses the path we walk.
If she turns in a direction, I follow. If she’s following her nose, I accompany her. If she’s not ready to return to the boat, we keep walking.
Honey Picks Her Friends
Honey loves to make friends. If we’re returning to the boat and she sees someone walking our way, she stops and wags flirtatiously.
I might be wearing sweatpants and have unbrushed teeth that smell like cruel death, but if Honey wants to make a friend, we stop.
In our current location at a busy marina, those greetings can take a bit of time. But I think letting Honey love other people makes her love me more.
All About The Relationship
I could be a better trainer. Honey could be better trained. But I don’t think we could ever have a stronger relationship.
At least as long as our training replies on our mantra, “It’s all about the relationship.”
We’re joining the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! Join Wag ‘n Woof Pets, Tenacious Little Terrier, and Travels with Barley each month to share positive training posts, starting on the first Monday of the month and lasting all week.