It’s weird how in one moment you can go from being mildly interested in something to totally passionate about it. At least that’s how it is for me. There is always some defining moment where, through some biochemical magic that I doubt science understands yet, something in your brain goes “click!” and suddenly you’re keenly interested in something — to the point of obsession. It’s all you can think about, all you WANT to think about. Guitar was like that for me. Hearing Michael Schenker’s “Into the Arena” was my gateway drug to my passion for putting fingers on strings to make melodies aided by the penetrating midrange of a Crybaby wah. Back in my first few years of playing, I orchestrated my entire life around being able to play guitar.
Many years later, when my guitar passion had mysteriously faded away (probably disillusionment, but that’s a topic for a separate post), bicycling took over. I was completely in love with the idea of bicycles and bicycle touring. I rode my bike EVERYWHERE, rain or shine. (I lived in Sweden at the time, so it was mostly rain, very little shine.) I ended up riding solo from southern Sweden to northern Norway and back, camping in my tent along the way. I did that two summers in a row, on a bike whose wheels I had built myself. I’ve always liked cycling, but it was reading Josie Dew’s first book that turned it into a passion. My lifestyle doesn’t permit me to indulge my bike touring passion anymore, but to this day I have a hard time throwing away plastic bags (a touring cyclist’s BEST FRIEND) and my heart jumps a little when I see touring cyclists on the road.
In the 46 years I’ve been on this planet, interests have come and gone, which is what I meant the self-indulgent babbling above to illustrate. What I REALLY want to talk about is my latest obsession. It’s dogs. Lately I’m all about dogs. Seriously. Dogs and dog training are pretty much all I can think about. Why dogs? I’m not really sure. I’ve always liked dogs (and most animals) but not like THIS.
To back up a bit, I spent the better part of this past autumn in yet another bout of depression. I won’t overshare with the gory details, all you need to know is that one of the fun things that come along with depression is something called anhedonia: basically, even the things you normally enjoy give you no pleasure. Nothing is interesting, nothing is fun.
Through the years I’ve learned that one sure sign that a depressive episode is passing is that when I least expect it, something becomes INTERESTING again. There is nothing like an all-consuming new interest to get your thoughts off yourself (and everything that is WRONG with you) and onto something else.
This time, it was the video below that did it.
And it wasn’t just that it’s the cutest thing ever…I was immediately struck by the amount of time and effort that must have gone into training Jesse to perform all of those behaviors, and how willingly he seemed to approach his tasks. This couldn’t be a dog being trained with choke chains and the other aversive methods I remember reading about back in the 1980s.
Reading the information on Jesse’s Youtube channel introduced me to the idea of training based on “positive reinforcement.” Before I knew it I was ravenous to learn more about it. That led me to two amazing Youtube channels run by positive-based dog trainers who freely share their knowledge with the public via their videos. I don’t often get girl-crushes, but I’m totally SMITTEN If you have a dog and are interested in positive methods, trust me: you want to get to know the women I’m about to show you below.
Emily had hundreds of instructional videos on her channel, covering everything from tricks to basic doggy manners to “how to’s” for solving common behavior problems using positive methods. Here’s a particularly useful one in which she demonstrates how to use positive methods to encourage dogs learn loose leash walking:
As it turns out, Emily is friends with another trainer in her area – Pamela Johnson, who goes by Pamelamarxsen on Youtube. Like Emily, Pamela also has hundreds of instructional videos on her channel demonstrating positive-based training solutions to common dog behavior problems, as well as tutorials about how to teach agility, tricks, frisbee, and other fun things you can do with your dog. The video below, which covers teaching your dog how to be calm and quiet when the doorbell rings instead of going crazy and barking its head off, is a stand out:
To sum up, I have to thank whomever originally sent my partner the video of “useful dog tricks.” It was my partner who showed it to me and (unintentionally) sparked this new interest. It’s been many years since I had an interest that did not involve needing to spend hours on end in solitary practice (like guitar) or involved staring at glowing rectangles. I don’t have a dog of my own (yet, haha!) but have realized that co-operative interaction with other living creatures, out in the fresh air, can only be a good thing! Additionally, seeing how Emily and Pamela generously make use of their Youtube channels to educate others was inspiring. I hope they can inspire you as well
[Edit: Other awesome trainers who share their knowledge: Katie Buvala of 3LostDogs.com, she’s 3LostDogs in Youtube — she’s awesome! Another one I’ve found notable is the guy from Trainingpositive.com, who goes by Tab289 on Youtube (I couldn’t find his real name anywhere). These are just a few — I’m discovering new ones every day!