Of course my dog is special!
Ask any dog owner whether their dog is special and the answer is likely to be a resounding “YES!” Unfortunately though, when you ask why, often the reasons are not so special:
- “I need to walk him at night because he isn’t good with other dogs”
- “I need to put him away when my grandchildren come to visit”
- “She chases anything that moves!”
- “She just won’t work for food”
- “I can’t get him to play, no matter what I do”
- “She bites”
- “He’s a rescue”
- “He just shuts down”
We see it so often. People are conditioned to think of their dog as “special” by virtue of negative aspects of their dog’s behaviour, their dog’s personality or in the relationship with their dog.
We hate to break it to you, but these issues don’t make your dog special. They are just labels you place on your dog. Stories you tell yourself. And they are stories that can keep you firmly stuck in a problem situation forever, if you let them.
The power of stories
These labels are a form of shorthand we humans use to communicate with each other. If you say, “he is a rescue”, you don’t even have to elaborate – the other person will nod, say “ahh, ok” and give you the space and understanding you need to work with your dog. Usually. The “rescue” label saves you having to explain why your dog is cracking up at the end of the lead.
Unfortunately we tell ourselves these stories so often that they embed themselves in our minds. They stop us from considering the position with a critical eye. Your dog stopped being a rescue when you gave him a home. He became your dog. The power to change that label started with you, right there and then.
And the worst bit? These labels close owners off. They believe the story. And because their dog is “special”, they believe that they are immune to transformational training methods such as games based concept training. Their dog is just too special to be able to be helped by them. It won’t work for them. There is nothing that can be done. End of story.
Write your dog a new story
So is that it? Are we stuck then, crushed under the labels we have given our dogs?
Tear up that page and start again.
Believe that a new way is possible.
Write a new story for your dog.
It is not about your dog’s past.
It is not about what has happened to them.
It isn’t even about what they do now.
It is about what they can do and what they can achieve in the future.
Change that future. Write them a new story.
Because your dog is special but they are special for all the positives they bring to your life. Change the story and let them be special for the awesome things they bring to the table rather than the negatives, for the joy with which they recall to you, for the good decisions they make, the choice they make to play with you, the heartwarming things they do that pay into your Relationship Bank Account every day.
Lifting the pen
How do we write a new story for our dogs? How can we take a dog that exhibits difficult behaviour and transform them into a dog that is confident, relaxed, and ready and able to interact fully and properly with the world?
We play games.
Playing games writes your dog a new story. It gives them the tools not just to cope with every day life, but to excel at it and revel in it.
How does it work?
Your dog reacts to situations in which they find themselves due to the way in which their brain is shaped. Your dog’s brain is shaped by experience and the shape of your dog’s brain determines how they respond to the situations in which they find themselves. If their brain is not shaped to deal with the situation that they are in, your dog will not be able to cope and will act out, lunge, scream, bark, bite, shut down. It will default to behaviours that it knows in an effort to cope with what is happening.
Games based concept training – the ink with which you’ll write a new story
Games based concept training shapes your dog’s brain for flexibility. Concepts give your dog a toolkit to deal with life, rather than a set of prescribed behaviours to apply. It is the difference between being given a Swiss Army knife versus a pair of tweezers. Tweezers are great, but you can only do so much with them. And what happens if you encounter a problem that can’t be resolved by tweezing? Then you are stuck. Concept based training is the Swiss Army knife of dog training – it gives your dog the tools they need to deal with anything.
We play games to build their confidence, optimism, resilience, and work on impulse control. We play games that teach boundaries. We tap into their natural strengths and makes them feel like superheroes. We build that Relationship Bank Balance so high that no matter what happens, our dog wants to work with us and knows that we can overcome anything together.
Games are the way to write your dog a new story.
Here are three great ways you can start to write your dog’s new story:
- Cardboard Chaos is one of our absolute favourite games for developing confidence and building optimism in our dogs. Take empty cardboard boxes and pile them on the floor. Scatter food into the pile or hide your dog’s favourite toy in it. Let your dog find the food/toy.
The cardboard will move as your dog works in the pile. Your dog will be rewarded for dealing with the novelty of the situation and of the cardboard moving by obtaining tasty treats or finding their toy.
The game also builds resilience as your dog continues to work for further treats or to find the toy. You will also get great joy from it as you see how much your dog enjoys it. Seeing a fearful, nervous dog transformed through Cardboard Chaos it truly a sight to behold.
- Scatter feeding is also a game of tremendous power. Instead of feeding your dog their breakfast from a bowl, take your dog’s breakfast with you on your morning walk and scatter it in the grass at safe and appropriate place and let your dog forage for it. Your dog will love using their nose to hunt out their breakfast. Sniffing is also massively calming to your dog. Your dog will have fun and be relaxed and confident in the game which can help with issues such as building confidence when out and about, relaxing in new environments, focusing on you when on walks, the list is endless!
- Check out our Naughty But Nice DVD here for a full range of games you can play with your dog to reshape their brain through games building confidence, creating optimism, developing grit, improving impulse control, all while having fun with your dog and massively building your bond.
Your brand new story, a brand new life
Games based concept training is truly a special way to train. And it is truly a special way to live. And it is open to everyone. It will work for every dog. Even the ones who bite, even the ones who shut down, even the ones who have worn labels for years that set them apart in their negative reactions.
Your dog is special. For very good reasons. Write them a new story. Play games, shape their brain, and help them SHINE.