Through the fire, To the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you, I’d gladly risk it all
Through the fire, Through whatever, come what may
For a chance at loving you, I’d take it all the way
Right down to the wire , Even through the fire: Chaka Kahn
After a stranger watched a training session with my personal dog, she approached me and said, “Wow, your dog would walk through fire for you”. I thought about it for a few seconds and nodded, shyly responding, “Yep, I guess she would”. Thinking about it afterwards, it started to churn in my small mind. That’s an intense statement and it’s probably true. My dog would have walked through fire for me if I had asked her to. I was proud and soon I was swept away with the enormous responsibility of it all, after all I am only human.
I learned dog training the “old fashioned” way. Talk about walking through fire. If we wanted our dogs to do something, we forced them. In hindsight it was pretty simple. If the dog didn’t understand what we wanted, we forced them. If they didn’t know how to do a behavior or they didn’t understand, we choked, pushed, grabbed and preformed even worse actions to “get them to do what we wanted”. After all, we wanted it, and we wanted it, NOW. I learned very early on, that the dogs would do it. They put up with training because they were forced to. And maybe they put up with it, because no matter what, for some reason we still, rocked their worlds. We could jerk and pull, push and force and amazingly, our little dogs would still want to be with us. Most of them would wag their tails off, kiss and pummel us with love and affection, no matter what we did to them. Dogs are like that, forgiving, compassionate to a fault, and always there for us, somehow reconciling the feelings and memories of the pain and anguish we put them through an hour, or even ten minutes ago. For this reason alone, it is our truest responsibility to be gentle, to use our sophisticated, intelligent minds to train, and our compassionate and loving hearts to see who they really are and thus be able to develop a genuine and respectful relationship.
I’ve seen the difference. Dogs trained with fear, intimidation and punishment still run to us with loving abandon at the front door. They are obedient and smart. But can they think straight? Or are they just responding in a way that will secure their survival? Can they still offer behaviors and get rewarded for thinking on their own and for attempting to put some control in their world? I don’t think so. Yes, I’ve heard it a million times, it’s one of the first things I learned in dog training school. Punishment works. There is no question about its success for getting behaviors, but again at what cost to the dog? I’m not doing a research paper for my thesis, but I know the cost. For me and my relationship with an animal in my care, it’s not an option. It’s not my method and I am not willing to sacrifice my dog’s emotional well-being, her intelligence and her trust to work with her in an aversive way. For me it’s simple, it’s just not happening. The minute I learned “old-fashioned”, I questioned it. But while I questioned it, I trained. As I became more and more upset with my actions, I stopped. It wasn’t for me, and I knew it wasn’t for my dog. It isn’t for any dog.
As I said, it’s a huge responsibility for a human to make choices that are beneficial to every one involved in a process. We as humans tend to be selfish, and go for the quick, convenient method to most benefit our time, our schedule. We get angry and we take it out on whoever is closest, safest or the one who will take it and not hold us responsible or dole out consequences. I’ve seen a lot of humans take out their anger on an unsuspecting canine best friend. We as humans don’t always have good control or knowledge of our anger. We need to check it at the door when we are with our animals. When we take our anger out on humans, we can either lose them, get arrested or even get hit. When we take it out on our dogs we get away with it, legally, socially and morally…………
Yes they will walk through fire for us. Old-fashioned training asks your dog to walk, run, and sit through fire everyday, all day. Dogs and humans can habituate to anything and if it includes our survival we put up with it. We may even smile through it, BUT BUT BUT at what cost does this come and WHY WHY WHY is it necessary.
Yes, my dog will walk through fire for me, and everyday I try to make sure she knows I would do the same for her.