New here - Tuva's story

Share your experience and tell us how using positive reinforcement training methods has changed yours and your dogs' lives.

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New here - Tuva's story

Post by EllenandTuva » Sun Dec 22, 2013 11:34 pm

Hey folks,

I am active on another positive training forum, but am new to this one. I thought I'd see what else was out there. Sorry in advance that this is a longer-than-average intro post.

I am a crossover trainer. When my ex insisted we get a puppy over a year and a half ago, I'd always loved dogs, but had no clue how to train one. I allowed myself to be fear-mongered into using dominance methods, and that will always haunt me as a choice I made. "Your dog will take over if you don't put it in its place. What if it bites someone and has to be put down? You could kill your dog by being soft." Little did I know at the time, though it's thoroughly obvious now, that the dominance methods were what could kill a dog by creating aggression.

Tuva was a mix of some sort of Nordic spitz with chow and ACD. Needless to say, as a sensitive, intelligent and independent mix, she did not take well to forceful training. Midway through her puppyhood, I became increasingly certain that what I was doing was not only ineffective but morally wrong. Tuva was a mouthy, destructive, noisy mess of a puppy right up til I stopped trying to dominate her and started earning her trust back.

She ran out of a dog park and was hit by a car on Nov. 5th. She went instantly while chasing a far-off squirrel, so I know she was happy to the end. I miss her deeply every day. I also feel deep gratitude every day that by the time she went, we were communicating, and I was able to see how intelligent, sweet, and loving she really was. So, I consider that switching over to scientific, loving training saved us both. By the time she died she could, among other things, weave-walk with me and crawl forward on her belly on command. This formerly destructive pup also had free reign of the house with no problems for the last two months of her life. When she had that pre-zoom glint in her eye, I was able to soothe her with calming signals 90% of the time. She was delightful on walks (as opposed to trying to tear my pant leg and nipping my arm) and we overcame a fear of small children through counter-conditioning, so that by the time she died she was willingly snuggling with toddlers and letting them pull her fur. Through the stress and chaos of her first months, all I really needed was to stop struggling against her and *LISTEN*. It still wouldn't have been easy, as puppies aren't easy, but it would have been a lot more pleasant all around.

In the two months since she died, I've started working with the overly rambunctious, stressed dogs (mostly bull terrier mixes) at the local no-kill shelter. One of my favorite things is introducing dogs to shaping, because they so often just light up; also, the behaviors they learn through shaping, they are more likely to generalize to a new home. I think I only saw the depth of Tuva's intelligence when I started shaping with her, and she taught me how much fun it can be. I'm also applying for dogwalking agencies and would like to find a training school in the next year, and get started towards my CPDT license. Tuva is, and will always be, my inspiration in working with dogs, so I needed to tell her story first.

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Re: New here - Tuva's story

Post by JudyN » Mon Dec 23, 2013 7:56 am

Welcome to the forum - Tuva was so beautiful, and I'm sorry that you lost her. After just two months, it must still hurt terribly ((((hugs))))

It's great that you realised that positive training was the way to go - there are several members here who started out using dominance methods and saw the error of their ways - and well done for helping the dogs in rescue. Good luck with finding a training school and getting your licence!
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Re: New here - Tuva's story

Post by jacksdad » Tue Dec 24, 2013 1:08 pm

sorry to hear about Tuva's untimely passing.

Do not beat your self up about the "dominance" training. that is the past, you are moving forward and that is what is important.

are you in the US? I could recommend a couple good schools. Actually two of them I don't believe require that you be in the US.

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Re: New here - Tuva's story

Post by Suzette » Thu Dec 26, 2013 10:50 am

Such a beautiful dog! I am so sorry you lost her, but for the many reasons she will live on in your heart one of the dearest must be that she was the springboard that started you on your positive training journey. Together you two learned and grew together forging a bond of love and trust, and that will live on in all the dogs you work with throughout your life. What a lovely legacy for such a lovely dog! :D
My avatar is Piper, my sweet Pembroke Corgi. b. 5/11/11

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