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‘You’re soft’. Thank you!!

I’ve been told a time or two that I’m soft with dogs.  It was meant in kindness but the intention was to suggest that I needed to be harder on the dogs.  I used to be offended and hurt by this comment.  I thought I must be doing something wrong!  But my instincts told me I was doing just fine and doing right by the dog and following what was right for me. When someone recently commented ‘you’re soft’ I said “Thank you!”

Since when does being soft on a dog a bad thing?

Lets be clear: soft doesn’t mean permissive. Being soft doesn’t mean I don’t get what I want.  It means I DO but I don’t have to use punishment, punitive tools, physical or psychological pressure or negative reinforcement to get it.  Soft is the way I move, speak,(if I speak) guide, prompt, reinforce and ultimately, build behavior.   I still get what I want and the dog gets trained.  The misunderstanding by those that accuse me of being soft is that they think I can’t train all dogs using this style, approach or attitude.  There’s where they’re wrong and I have many clients to prove it including my own dogs when they were alive.

My personal belief is that it’s upon me, the higher intelligent being in this training equation, to rise above such old and archaic methods. To employ empathy and at the very least, a sheer feeling of responsibility to do right by another and teach with compassion, patience and to reinforce what is wanted and not make life miserable for the dog.

Its a sign of a good teacher and human being; one that doesn’t need punishment to teach.

Oh, a punitive trainer can be a great trainer but Im talking about their attitude towards dogs. What motivates them emotionally to use punishment to train?

There is also the belief that certain breeds or personalities need punishment and thats all bs too. The ‘some dog’s don’t respond to positive reinforcement’ is a fallacy spoken by someone who doesn’t know what to do next so they stop searching and trying, give up and choose the quick and dirty way to change behavior. If its a trainer telling you this, I’d run away fast. All of us, all animals, fall into the realm of learning theory. The grey area is how it applies to all of us. And keep in mind that changing behavior can be complex and sometimes, takes time… lots of time. When was the last time you changed, for the long term, over night?

I get what I need to help the dog but sometimes its not in a way that others will understand or believe. Therein lies the difference between them and Me; I know I can get it. I don’t have to prove to anyone but the client that I can and I’ll never go to the other side because change isn’t happening fast enough for someone else including the client.

So go ahead and call me soft!  THANK YOU!

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