Empowerment training is about showing our dogs that the environment is something they can affect and control. Most training is about instilling control onto our dogs instead of showing them how to have self-control and understanding. In this class you will be establishing a history of reinforcement for choice, understanding, decisions and willingness to operate on the environment and the objects in it.
According to James O'Heare, in order to empower a dog you must teach him industriousness, persistence and creativity. Industriousness means that the dog is willing to work; industriousness is also the willingness and ability to engage with not only the human involved, but the environment itself. Industriousness also means to work hard and steadily, mostly ignoring distractions or finding that the work itself is more rewarding. This is the basic behind engagement with the human handler and without it, engagement is improbable.
Persistence is basically not giving up if the goal is attainable. Persistence is that quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by others. Persistence contains with it the ability to continue even though the motivators have disappeared. The goal and the rewards inherent in reaching the goal are important enough that there is no need for continued motivation.
Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. Creativity for our dogs can best be expressed as problem solving. Namely, how your dog responds to problems and new situations. Response to problems usually takes on one of three ways: reaction, surrender, invent. React and your dog is basically shutting down and letting motor patterns take over. Your dog is literally turning off the range of possibilities and perception s/he would normally have. Surrendering to defeat is also a shut down. Surrendering disempowers your dog from her capacity to solve problems.
Creativity is nurtured by freedom and stifled by the continuous commands, labeling of behavior, the necessity for human direction, and pressure to conform to an ideal that has little to do with the reality that is a dog and that restricts most dogs' lives whether they are working, sporting or just pet dogs. In the real world few questions have one right answer; few problems have one right solution; that's why creativity is crucial to helping our dogs live in our world with our rules.