Dog Training and Driver’s Ed

Some of you may know that I have 4 children (the type with 2 legs). Like most families where both parents work outside the home, we have divided up the chores and other household responsibilities. Some of this allocation is based on preference and some on skill set, and through this I ended up being the parent responsible for teaching our kids how to drive. Turns out, at its core, it is pretty similar to dog training.

Positive Re-Enforcement Only

Long gone, we hope, are the days of training a dog through “dominance” or other physical methods of control. Dog training today is all about positive reinforcement, working with a dogs’ innate behavior and slowly modifying the behavior to achieve the desired results.

Same for drivers’ education. Getting a child to be comfortable behind the wheel takes time and kind words. If you have a child who is innately nervous, you slowly encourage them to try more through patience and encouragement.  Contrariwise, if your child is amped up and raring to go, you work on slowing them down (hopefully pretty quickly).  The child already knows that you know how to drive, there is no reason or need to be dominant.

Limited Yelling

I would like to be able to say there is never yelling (there should never be – but sometimes there is) BUT any loud voices need to be reserved for when a dog’s recall is failing and about to run into the street or when your child is about to hit someone. The yelling is NOT to scold the dog or child but rather to emphasize the need to the dog or child to focus on you. As soon as you have their attention, it is back to encouraging words and tone. No dog or child wants to return to someone that is screaming at them.

It Just Takes Time

Training a dog or teaching a child to drive just takes time. There are so many things going on, so many different stimuli, so many new things that it just takes time. It is also not just a matter of putting in the hours, it is about spreading the hours out. Trying to train a dog after he or she is too tired to focus is just like trying to teach a kid to drive after they are exhausted; you will get almost nothing positive accomplished and may even have some setbacks. 

Expect Mistakes

They are dogs and children – not robots. They will make mistakes, not do what you’ve asked them to do, and even ding up your car. Sadly, this is just the way it goes. I wish I could say that every dog gets it right away and that no child ever took out a port-a-pottie on the sidewalk – but that’s not reality. Like everyone who’s ever had to learn something new (i.e., all of us), very few got it right on their first try and on every try thereafter.
While I’m still teaching kids to drive (these City kids just are not in the same rush I was to get a driver’s license), I’m incredibly pleased that Pet Camp now has a K9 Enrichment team that implements Pet Camp’s positive reinforcement dog training and the rest of our canine enrichment curriculum. While they may not have taught children how to drive, they’ve worked with countless dogs, have amazing skills and temperaments, and are creative in the use of positive reinforcement training to get the best results for you and your dog.
If you have a question about dog training or enrichment at Pet Camp, give us a call; if you have a question about driver’s education, you might want to ask one of my kids and maybe take a look at our van post hitting the port-a-pottie on the sidewalk before asking me.  Before you ask, no one was hurt – but she did scare the sh*t out of someone!

Thanks for reading.

After this blog was written, but before we published it, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Karen London speak at the virtual 2021 Owners of Doggie Daycare Conference (generally referred to as the ODD Ball).  Dr. London’s book “Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life,” and her presentations on how working with people (and especially children) is similar to dog training are remarkable.
If you are a pet parent in the San Francisco Bay Area with questions about dog training, feel free to give our K9 Enrichment department a call.  If you have questions about pet care, overnight care for your dog or cat, or doggie day care, the Pet Camp counselors are available to answer those questions as well.