Am I smarter than my border collie?

Sometimes I wonder…Am I smarter than my border collie puppy?  Hopefully, you readers are answering “of course”!  And you might think I have nothing to worry about based on this picture of Tai.  LOL.

But the challenge  is…how do I get this – just turning 5 month old – puppy to happily do what I ask when often it is totally counter to what his basic nature tells him to do?  To Tai:

– Everything is a potential chew or tug toy

– Must chase birds

– Playing “keep away” is a fun puppy game

– All dogs must want to play

– Every person he meets wants a bear hug and a face wash

– Every body of water – creek, pond, ditch –  must be explored

– Should be outside all day

-The white dog living next store is the most fascinating being in the universe

– Cars and trucks move really really fast….maybe I should herd them!

No one who reads this list will be surprised as it reveals that Tai has developed into a normal happy confident puppy.  When he is “naughty” or better put… I see a training opportunity and I’m tired or maybe a bit frustrated, I give myself this pep talk: I’m  on a journey aimed at guiding Tai toward becoming a happy confident adult dog who will be a pleasure to live with using a maximum of positive reinforcement and a minimum of punishment.    I have already put a huge deposit into our relationship account and have many tools in my toolbox so I’m confident we’ll get there.

Example: the use of the head halter has accelerated his understanding of loose leash walking and circle work.  It allows me to immediately communicate when he is wrong and optimize the chance of being right to get reinforcement.  This means the ratio of positive reinforcement vs punishment is very high.  So rather than have a dog pulling me toward his new best friend, I can help him understand a little self-control goes a long way.  The next challenge is getting rid of the head halter.  I’ve started in low level distraction environments but frankly those are hard to find at this stage!

As I plot my next skirmish in the battle of human vs dog brain, my mantra is “reinforcement builds behavior; control the environment, control the reinforcement”.   Tai is doing a good job keeping me on my toes and we are both having fun along the way.

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