As a dog trainer I have always know how important it is to be consistent. Good pack leaders are always consistent! But just as important as consistency is being persistent. It is one thing to be consistent and always ask your dog to sit while waiting at the door, but it does you no good if you give up easily when your dog doesn’t respond the first time.
I was really reminded of how being persistent can be used as a training tool while on my recent trip to Paws with a Cause, in Michigan. There I got the opportunity to work with folks with disabilities and see how they worked with their service dogs. I went on many field calls to help teach people how to better work with their assistance dog. But the most interesting thing of all was that even though I was the dog trainer, the one supposed to do the teaching, my clients taught me a much more valuable lesson.
You see a person in a wheelchair with limited mobility of their arms and legs doesn’t have a lot options when their dog doesn’t obey the command. They can’t snap the leash and offer a correction, they may not be able to get out a treat and bribe their dog, and they certainly can’t manhandle their dog and force them into doing the behavior. All they can do is persist and ask again. Imagine if you will this scenario: You are in your wheelchair and you drop your keys, you ask Fido to retrieve them and Fido looks at you blankly. What can you do but ask again, you aren’t going to get into your house until he retrieves them so you have to keep trying. Eventually Fido gets bored with just standing there and grabs those keys, he wants to go someplace too!
Many times those of us with all our capabilities get frustrated or in a hurry and we give up to soon. We cave to the confused, distracted, or maybe just lazy dog, and our leadership quotient takes the hit. So much can be gained by just showing your dog that when you say sit, you mean it, and nobody is going anywhere until they sit, so they may as well do it. Remember good leaders get what they ask for, nobody questions the president when he gives a command! You are the leader of your pack, empower yourself and get results!
Licks and Wags,
A trainer friend of mine sent me an email last night that reminded me of a really important training concept. She always signs off her emails with a tagline that reads “catch your dog being good.” I remember thinking, “wow, what an important concept that is so often forgotten.” I mean how do we expect our dogs to do the right thing if we never show them what we like.
I was reminded again of this concept while walking two of my client’s dogs this afternoon. For whatever reason we were just having a great walk, nobody was pulling or lagging, everyone was just hanging out by my side. I thought to myself, what a great opportunity to show them what behaviors I like. I better praise these dogs soon if I want this behavior to continue.
In the training community this is called capture training. You capture the behavior the animal does and reinforce it. Eventually the animal anticipates your reward and offers up the behavior on their own. Dolphin trainers do it all the time during play sessions. A dolphin will do a really cool jump and the trainers will click and reinforce. Dolphins are so smart they will often repeat the behavior to solicit more fish. Parents do it all the time with young children, often without realizing it. Little Johnny gets done playing with a toy and puts it back in his toy box while he selects another. His mom pipes up eagerly, “Thanks baby for remembering to put your toy back!”
Whenever I start a new puppy class I encourage my clients to start the Pollyanna Principle. If you remember the movie Pollyanna from your childhood, Pollyanna was encouraged by her father to look for the good in people. He said if you look for the good in people you will find it. More than just perceiving the glass as being half full this encourages us to search for those moments when our loved ones are doing something good and reinforce it. Even if just with a kind word, you will see that it makes a big difference.
So next time your dog just comes over and lays at your feet instead of jumping all over you, remember to reach down and tell him what a good dog he is, and how much you love it when he lays “DOWN”. I guarantee if you do this often enough, soon you won’t have to even ask.
Licks and wags,
First of all, I want to commend you for taking the first step and coming to my blog. Behavioral problems are the number one reason that dogs enter shelters today and just the fact that you came here shows that you love your dog and are are interested in transforming your relationship. This blog is all my thoughts and feelings on everything dog. Come here any time you like and read what has been going on. Also feel free to contact me with any questions you have I am happy to help. My journey with animals has been an interesting path and I am excited to share all that I have learned!
I believe dog training should work for your life! It is not some magic science, it is really more intuitive than people think. There is a lot of common sense that goes into it, I think a lot of dog owners over think stuff sometimes. I want everyone to have a better more enriching relationship with their pet. This relationship is built through trust and cooperation. Through your behavior your dog learns to trust that if he cooperates he will be rewarded. Either with something tangible that he needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), or something he wants (love, a toy thrown, etc.).
This relationship in some ways is like that of an employer and an employee. Your dog’s one job in life is to pay attention to you and follow the patterns of behavior YOU reinforce. You one job is reinforce the behaviors you want to stick around and redirect the ones you don’t like. If you keep this principle in the foreground of your mind you will always see success.
Remember, just like any living creature, training is always occurring for your pet at every moment of the day. Even right now as you are reading this blog your pet is learning something. It is your choice what your pet learns. Just like a human child, raising a puppy is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job. Just as with children, there are no days off from training. Invest every moment wisely and you will see rewards quickly.
Now if you are one of the fortunate, and you are reading this blog while your puppy is in between the ages of 8 weeks and 16 weeks you are very lucky indeed. You dog is at the perfect stage to start training, your dog is a clean slate just waiting to be written on. On the other hand if your dog is a little older, don’t fret, just because your slate may already have some words written on it doesn’t mean they can’t be erased and re-written. Just recognize you will need to have the patience to take the time to erase and rewrite. It always takes more time to unlearn a naughty behavior and replace it, than it took to learn the behavior in the first place.
Licks and Wags,