When I first contacted Steve I had no idea what I was going to be in for. Training In Drive (TID), I thought, I’ll give it a go, it will be some quickie course in how to convert my dog from the insecure quiet runt of the litter to a dog that can just ‘hold it together’ to pass a few Novice ring runs to get that title.
I hit the send button on the e-mail and a week or two later my dog and I started on the journey. TID has totally changed the way I think about dog training and dogs. It has been transforming my training and handler skills at an exponential rate and has re-ignited my passion for dogs.
I am relatively new to dog training. Before I started TID I had been attending my local obedience club religiously for about two years with my dog Jamie. I had done a handful of obedience competitions with her, meddled in a bit of prep agility and jumping and had been asked to become a volunteer instructor at the club to teach basic obedience. None of my dog training friends knew about TID, and none of my previous instructors understood what it was about.
I was fascinated about why my dog had worked with pizzazz on several occasions, and then could be completely deflated on other days. Things seemed to just be occurring because of rote learning and chance behaviour. I decided that I needed to know more about dogs than just the cause-effect style ‘click and treat’ training and mild compulsion that was being taught by my previous instructors, because my dog and I were beginning to hit several problem areas hard.
No matter how hard we tried, food exchange (or ‘bargaining’) was not going to be the answer to my dogs anxiety and fear towards other dogs, and tendency to fall into avoidance and aggressive behaviour. “Dalmatians are not an easy breed to train, you don’t see many of them around”, I would be told from a number of different ‘expert’ people at the club and at competitions, “…because they are not that clever.”
I don’t share this opinion. I think it’s the dog that is as clever as its handler. So I began a distance course in TID.
In the first few weeks of TID using food as prey, I started to realise changes in Jamie’s behaviour patterns. Unlike the normal runt-like behaviour she used to show, she walked around with her head up, and body erect. She took to new situations with more confidence and assertiveness. She finally started standing up to our older, bossier dog (Harry). The initial training was working her emotional, rather than her rational behaviour. But I had changed my opinions about her too. After spending pretty much all my spare time with her at dog parks and dog club for two years, I thought I knew Jamie well before I started TID.
I was wrong.
I only knew her superficially, I realised that I had another challenge on my hands, as I discovered she is a low energy dog with several fear issues, who would happily sleep away four days in a row, hiding away from life in general, and be totally unfazed by the recommended initial rest periods prior to the TID sessions, what a weird dog. So I rested her for a week instead. Then, session by session I started to understand the specific things that made her tick, and how I could best utilise those to harness all the drive she had.
After three weeks we had a break through session, and after another three months everything fell into place and both of us got what the game was about. Her drive level has been improving bit by bit ever since. It hasn’t happened overnight, but it did happen. I can see why some people would give up in the first few weeks. But for permanent solutions there are no quick fixes. You would be surprised at what a dog in full drive can do; they hear nothing, feel nothing and see nothing else, except their handler.
It’s like magic.
I have learned more through this TID distance course, than any amount of information in books, workshops, previous/visiting trainers or dog club could teach me. The information is provided in digestible bite-sized pieces, with no fancy language or jargon. It’s learn as you go, which makes it effective and best of all TID is completely compatible with most modern styles of dog training for any discipline. There are no crazy deadlines, and it is heaps of fun.
I’ve been able to apply everything I have learned on my own dogs, as well as some of the underlying principles to solve other people’s training problems when volunteering at dog club. I found that most of the time if a handler/dog is failing in an area in their training, it’s because the training has become boring and is not satisfying to the dog. The handlers are fighting to get the dogs focus on them, the dog does not respond to them and the handlers are ready to give up because they’ve been told by someone that the dog is too hyper/too slow-witted/too naughty, or they just feel plain stupid in front of everyone else.
The obedience part is rarely the problem area; it’s more a case of where the dog’s energy is being directed towards. Once they practice some underlying drive principles, which could be as simple as changing the way the food (or toy) is being delivered, changing from food to toy, or how the dog is being frustrated during training, their dog often turns out the one to have the fastest recall, or the best heeling, fastest drops or stand for exam out of the whole class! And it gives the handlers that extra motivation to keep persevering, to not give up. And hopefully keeps fewer dogs out of trouble and off the streets. There is a real gap in TID knowledge around Victoria which is a shame. I think a lot of dogs (and owners) could be helped by TID.
Although TID is an advanced dog training technique used by serious professionals, its uses are infinite in everyday life situations of common dog owners because it works on dog behaviour at an emotional level. For me, TID has infiltrated itself to become the main foundation that I base both of my dog’s work on, whether it be training towards an obedience competition, training jumps, leisure time at the park or time with our friends. I use both prey items and food to bring out certain aspects during training. It’s made me bond with my dog on a whole new level.
When we go out, it is OUR time that we spend very interactively. I can take Jamie pretty much anywhere now and know we will have laughs and fun, she will be bounding full of energy, bursting with excitement on most days, ready to work with me when I give the sound of the trigger to go into drive. Oh, and it makes my dogs able to ignore all the other distractions around, which I have to admit is challenging for most Dalmatians. We have done things that once never seemed possible, including training in the middle of pet expos, farmers markets, busy agricultural shows, food stalls, an indoor sports stadium full of kids, next to flyball training areas (Jamie is ball mad) and of course, around a group of unknown dogs with the dogs 100% focused, full of adrenaline and ready to work with me. For us, there is no substitute for TID as far as behavioural modification is concerned.
What we can now achieve through the use of TID is a solid working partnership based on fairness, and a foundation on which we base all further obedience and behavioural training on. It is a training system in which there is no trickery, or deceit. At my trigger word the dog is switched into a mode where it wants to hunt for prey being provided by the handler. There is adrenaline and emotions involved thus it is addictive and it produces reliable results. But the rules of the game must be clearly understood and abide by the dog. I am using my dog’s greatest natural abilities to bring out the best in that dog.
If my dog fails in an exercise, it is no longer my problem, but it is my dogs. They don’t like making mistakes in work because they don’t win the drive release at the end. I can see its application to a lot of dogs. Low drive dogs, like mine, can be worked on, whilst there is no use of having a dog with high drive level if you don’t understand the drive or know how to use it. I have learned that training outcomes don’t occur because of chance.
Every behavioural and training outcome is caused because of some form of drive or heightened level of motivation to do that thing.
This video is a good example of Jaime’s confidence and drive and her commitment to work with me and ignoring distraction. Video here
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I have also been training our older Dalmatian boy Henry, he loves TID too.
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Thanks to Steve, and his TID program, I now work at the level of the underlying drives to understand and permanently solve problems, and utilise 100% of my dogs’ abilities.
This is what Steve had to add
Henna has really changed Jaime into a different dog, the transformation is amazing and transformations in dogs are the mark of which success is measured I believe. Someone who starts with a great dog is surely in a position of advantage over someone who doesn’t, but taking a dog from a life of fear, restriction and hesitation to a dog that is confident, outgoing and driven is really an accomplishment.
I met Jaime when I traveled to Victoria, we had been running the program and I had seen her a lot on video, but this was the first time she was in front of me. I could see that she had improved on video but meeting her in real life was a great way to enjoy the work we had put in. She performed well at the workshop and all was good, I pretty much thought she had reached her level and we would just build obedience on that.
Well Henna came to see me a couple weeks ago and we did a few high intensity sessions to tidy up some things. To my surprise Jaime has lifted yet again and is quite a driven dog, and not just for a Dalmatian!
It is really something to see a handler bring out everything their dog has to offer and more. Well done Henna, I am sure that your training career has some big moments yet to come.