The first movie I watched that had a dog as a main character was the movie Bingo. Even to this day, I still remember the storyline: the countless hurdles that Bingo had to overcome, and the bond that was created between Bingo and Chuckie (the two main characters).
If you’ve never watched the movie, the storyline goes like this: Bingo is kicked out of the circus for being afraid of jumping through a fire-lit hoop. A young boy named Chuckie finds him and takes care of him. But there is one problem: Chuckie’s family is moving 1,000 miles across the country and his parents won’t allow Bingo to come with them.
Chuckie tries everything to make his parents understand how important Bingo is to him. He’s the only friend that he truly has. But it all falls on deaf ears and Bingo is left alone once again. But this time, Bingo is determined to be reunited with his best friend Chuckie, and so the journey begins!
In the movie, Bingo runs, gets kidnapped, rides on the roofs of cars, and does whatever it takes to get back to his friend Chuckie.
I never realized it at the time, but this movie had a big influence on me. When I reflect back on it, I can see that that was the moment I decided I wanted a dog, and that I wanted to be best friends with my dog. I was also amazed at how Bingo was able to do those cool tricks in the movie.
Bingo can be seen doing over 130 different behaviors in the movie. He skateboards, plays video games, makes phone calls, taps out Morse code, plays chess, catches fish, gives high fives and—my personal favorite—he even does Chuckie’s math homework!
What an incredible dog! But surely this dog is “special” and must be “one in a million”—right? But, as I later discovered, the dog who played Bingo was actually found in a dog pound in California. And if someone hadn’t found him there, taken care of him and trained him properly, then he would never have made it onto the movie set.
So, how did they train Bingo to do all of those fancy tricks and behaviors? I can’t be a hundred percent sure because I wasn’t there, but the way that I’ve been able to reproduce the same tricks shown in the movie was by using positive reinforcement training.
The trick that I loved the most in the movie was “Playing Chess.” I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to train my dog to play chess, whatever it took. I achieved this several years later with my dog, Onyx.
But it wasn’t easy! I had to invest hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on dog-training classes, books and seminars. Most dog-training schools that I turned to were only designed to make the dog obedient, without ever focusing on the cool tasks that I wanted to train my dog in, like playing chess.
And I didn’t quite agree with their training philosophy either. The way that they achieved an obedient dog was by correcting and dominating the dog. They had silly rules like walking ahead of your dog through a doorway, and putting the dog onto his back.
This training method and philosophy didn’t produce the result that I wanted. I wanted to become best friends with my dog, and train my dog to do really cool tricks that I saw in the movies.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I discovered positive reinforcement training. It seemed strange at first because it is the complete opposite of what everyone else was teaching. The fundamental difference is that the dog is rewarded for good behaviors and choices … instead of being punished for the bad ones.
With my first dog, Tobbie, I was naïve and followed the traditional training as previously explained. But my dog was in a constant state of fear (due to being constantly corrected). He wouldn’t fetch a ball if his life depended on it, and we never even went for a walk because he would bark at everything he saw.
Although I loved Tobbie, we were far from being best friends and I was never able to teach him any cool tricks. So our relationship never grew to the level that I wanted to, and the day I moved out of my home, I left Tobbie in the good care of my sister.
Sadly, I didn’t discover positive reinforcement training until later on in life when I had my second dog, Onyx. The difference was night and day. I trained Onyx to do countless tricks, including all those I had seen in the movies. And to this day we still enjoy training together!
So, in this book, I’m going to spill the beans on positive reinforcement training and get you started on the right path—and also the path that will enable you to train your dog to do all those cool tricks you see in movies.
Are you up for the challenge? It won’t be easy in the beginning and it will take effort and dedication. But I can promise you one thing: it will get much easier the more you practice. Until one day, you won’t even have to think about it.
This is kind of like how you started driving. At first, it was very difficult and you had to focus on the road, the steering wheel, the pedals and mirrors. Now you can do it effortlessly. The same thing will happen with positive reinforcement training if you practice it enough times.
Are you excited yet? If you find yourself challenged or things are not working, you can always find help at the www.dogtrickacademy.com discussion forum. There are thousands of other dog owners on there who train their dogs using positive reinforcement training.