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empower your dog to live in your world without stress or issues.


Empowerment training is about showing our dogs that the environment is something they can affect and control. Most training is about instilling control onto our dogs instead of showing them how to have self-control and understanding. In this class you will be establishing a history of reinforcement for choice, understanding, decisions and willingness to operate on the environment and the objects in it.

According to James O'Heare, in order to empower a dog you must teach him industriousness, persistence and creativity. Industriousness means that the dog is willing to work; industriousness is also the willingness and ability to engage with not only the human involved, but the environment itself. Industriousness also means to work hard and steadily, mostly ignoring distractions or finding that the work itself is more rewarding. This is the basic behind engagement with the human handler and without it, engagement is improbable.

Persistence is basically not giving up if the goal is attainable. Persistence is that quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by others. Persistence contains with it the ability to continue even though the motivators have disappeared. The goal and the rewards inherent in reaching the goal are important enough that there is no need for continued motivation.

Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. Creativity for our dogs can best be expressed as problem solving. Namely, how your dog responds to problems and new situations. Response to problems usually takes on one of three ways: reaction, surrender, invent. React and your dog is basically shutting down and letting motor patterns take over. Your dog is literally turning off the range of possibilities and perception s/he would normally have. Surrendering to defeat is also a shut down. Surrendering disempowers your dog from her capacity to solve problems.

Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous commands, labeling of behavior, the necessity for human direction, and pressure to conform to an ideal that has little to do with the reality that is a dog and that restricts most dogs' lives whether they are working, sporting or just pet dogs. In the real world few questions have one right answer; few problems have one right solution; that's why creativity is crucial to helping our dogs live in our world with our rules. 


The idea of choice immediately invokes the idea of a self directed intelligence analysing options and engaging in benefits analysis over some span of time. However, in working with our dogs and what we wish them to do, it takes two to make a choice. Most of what we wish from our dogs is not part of their evolutionary make-up. The behaviors we ask for may have some correlation to natural behaviors but the use we wish our dogs to put those behaviors to is part of our invented world, not the world of the wild. The choice is made both by the human and the dog. The human decides what behaviors and what outcome, the dog decides that the rewards are sufficient to do those behaviors in the manner the human is asking for.

On the other end of the specture, behaviors the dog chooses to do without consulting our wishes, those behaviors most consider naughty or disobedient, are due to a lack of willingness, a lack of affinity and a lack of communication between the human and the dog. This is mostly evident when the dog's behavior as a whole is disconnected from the human's vision of what should be. But there are always holes and weaknesses in our relationships with our dogs that are easily spotted by looking at the choice points of the dog.

Training should be an endeavor of setting goals, overcomeing challenges and turning failure into success. This can't be done if we are not invested in and taking responsibility for the process. When I run into a training difficulty I know that I wasn't paying complete attention. Had I really been paying attention, I would have noticed the tell-tale signals well before my dog disengaged. Even just plain engagement involves both the human and the dog.

From a dog's viewpoint, giving him the knowledge that he can choose to engage with us, instead of being forced to endure a training session, is nothing short of empowering. Establishing a foundation of choice establishes a foundation of trust. Trust cannot be earned any other way then being trustworthy and not "surprise" the dog with corrective measures.

Most people want their dogs to "listen" to them, basically meaning they want the dog to obey. But is that the best choice of how to work with our dogs? Dogs do what gets them things and don't do that which threatens their survival in any way, which means pain and fear. If the dog isn't cooperating it's imperative to ask ourselves what we might be doing wrong or not communicating. Communication is the most important reason why a dog doesn't "obey".

But by viewing training and behavior through the need for control and compliance, we ignore the more important areas of choice and self-control.


Drive: highly focused behavioral expressions of energy.

One could visit any protection, Schutzhund or police dog training facility, and because these trainers select from specimens bred to produce Drive, one will find dogs that are never dis-interested in working. A female dog in full estrus could be walking about the field, a field could be full of chickens running amok, the dog could have a torn ligament, but if the trainer has but a modicum of understanding about choice and drive, the dog will go at full speed toward the sleeve no-matter-what.

Drive is in the nature of an animal, however, as opposed to any other species, it is the most pronounced aspect of the canine mind. In my experience with dozens of litters, I have never known a healthy infant pup who wasn't always interested in nursing no-matter-what. I can't imagine a healthy wolf who isn't always interested in an available prey no matter what. Growing up I never knew one of my father's beagles to not be interested in the chase the instant my father took his shotgun out of the cabinet.

Therefore, if one learns to create choice with the drives that are inherent in a dog, they will be able to cultivate their dog's engagement, commitment and persistence to its maximum expression so that their dog will happily invest its last .01% of reserve into the prey object of their choice.

All of which means that the human creating these instances of maximum drive, giving the dog the means and space to choose and to create the path of that choice, becomes the center of that drive.