I mentioned in a few weeks ago that I’ve been reading When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs by Jane Killion. I love this book!

My Struggles with Tank

My boy Tank is a Great Pyrenees/Mastiff mix. He’s very smart… And very independent.

When he really enjoys an activity like weight pull, he learns quickly and responds with big dog enthusiasm.

When he doesn’t see the point in an activity, motivating him becomes a monumental task. Copper has half the Rally training hours and twice the titles.

When Pigs Fly

Jane Killion is known for successfully competing Bull Terriers in agility and obedience, two sports Bull Terriers are NOT known for!

When Pigs Fly

In When Pigs Fly, Killion outlines her methodology for training “difficult” dogs. She shares her own insight into why dogs often labeled as difficult are just very smart and hard to motivate.

Her method is really helping me unlock Tank’s potential, but the most important thing I learned from her? Remember why you love your dog.

I love Tank, because he’s smart and independent, and we have the most success when I honor that.

Shifting from Luring to Shaping

After training a Lab in obedience, I was pretty good at luring, but “Pigs Fly” dogs learn much better from shaping.

While a Lab or a Golden was breed to take his cues from us, guardian breeds like the Great Pyrenees were breed to work on their own. They aren’t remotely interesting in taking cues from us or anyone else.

It’s doesn’t, however, make them dumb or difficult. In fact, they’re great problem solvers.

(Like the time we took someone’s advice and didn’t feed before training. Tank broke into the refrigerator, ate a bag of carrots, and thew up all over the floor. Tank 1. Mom 0.)

By shaping, we take advantage of their natural curiosity, which they find much more motivating than trying to drag them around with a treat.

It’s also important to find rewards that motivate them, because they often aren’t enticed by the average, every day training treat!

Tank has been the most difficult dog I’ve ever worked with, but I’m grateful. He’s taught me to be a better handler. The skills I’ve learned working with him will help me with all my future dogs.

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Tanya Garrett

Tanya is an avid supporter of dog rescues. She has had adopted dogs her entire adult life and can think of nothing more fulfilling than helping a rescue dog become a good citizen. She competes in AKC Rally Obedience and IWPA Weight Pull with two of her All American Dogs (registered with the AKC Canine Partners Program). She hopes to add AKC Scent Work and Tracking to that list too!

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1 Comment

  1. […] learned a lot about motivating your dog the last two years. In part, because I have a difficult dog and in part, because I’ve had to trial without treats or […]

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