How and when you speak to your dog is crucial to training success. It is important to remember that the more excited you get your dog the harder it will be for him to be calm and have manners. If your constant chatter is causing your dog to move faster, wag his tail, perk his ears, or act more alert or animated, he is probably becoming more aroused and might be more difficult to control. Here are several examples of what my clients have repeatedly said over the years and the over-aroused and unexpected responses from their dogs.....
......kind of makes you wonder
if you should say anything at all.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Dog jumps up excitedly then runs toward the leash or the door, handler then must get the dog to settle or sit so leash can be clipped on. Client struggles with dog pulling on the leash as they go out the door.
“Oh look, it’s Auntie Sue!” Dog gets aroused and excited, runs to Auntie Sue and jumps on her. Client gets upset with dog for jumping.
[doorbell rings] “Who’s at the door?” Dog gets aroused and excited, runs to the door and barks and jumps. Client gets upset at dog for barking and jumping.
“Ratchet, do you want a cookie? Easy….EASY…..EEEEASY!” Dog hears the word “cookie” runs to the treat jar, drools and trembles anxiously while waiting for the delivery. Dog wants to lunge as the treat is handed to him because he is so worked up. He then gets more aroused as he hears “easy” get louder and LOUDER and more drawn out.
“No, Ratchet, you can’t have this chocolate. You know chocolate is not good for dogs.” Dog looks at client because his name has been said but he hasn’t a clue what the other words mean. He wonders if he should be doing something cute so client will give him the chocolate. Client has dog’s full focus but dog gets no reinforcement. Client struggles to get dog’s focus in future training sessions.
[vet looks into dog’s ear] “It’s okay. It’s okay. Ratchet, it’s OKAY. SHHHHHHHH!” Dog gets aroused from all the chatter and weird “sshhhhh” noise. He starts squirming and vet assistant clamps down tighter on his head making the dog more anxious and uncomfortable (I have had to stop a vet tech from speaking this way to my own dog).
“Ratchet, let’s go in the kitchen. Ratchet, you are so cute. Hi Ratchet, what are you doing? Ratchet, I can’t find my keys. Ratchet, mommy’s home!” Dog’s name is said so often that it becomes background noise and the dog becomes less responsive to his name. OR, dog becomes so accustomed to all the chatter that leaving him home alone in the quiet causes him distress.
Six ways to get a better response from your dog.
1) Take a moment to think before you speak. Are you saying it at the appropriate time? Do you really need to say anything at all?
2) The less you speak, the more your dog will pay attention when you do.
3) Use a calm, low-volume voice when you want your dog calm.
4) Use elevated voice if you are looking for arousal and action.
5) Speak simply and with consistency in tone and inflection.
6) Reinforce what you say with actions or with rewards.
Recently I was glamping in my friend’s motorhome and was ready to take my Labrador inside but did not take a moment to think before speaking to him. I got on the steps and called him BEFORE I had opened the screen door…..that he couldn’t see. Just finished paying that repair bill!
Hugs to you and your dogs!
I really enjoy training for dog sports. I am not competitive but enjoy pushing myself in skills and the dedication required to achieve passing scores and placement ribbons. I look forward to testing myself, being outdoors, watching other dogs work, and talking to other dog people. A fun challenge for me is translating what I see in the ring to how I can help my clients.
So what does my performance dog training mean to you, a non-competing pet dog owner, who simply wants your dog to behave?
I am always looking at a dog’s body language and how he/she is perceiving the environment. Dogs with tendencies to be fearful or reactive will rarely do well in competition until those issues are addressed. I have seen handlers with the best training techniques do poorly in the ring because the dog has shut down due to emotions (and it has happened to ME!). Pet dog owners who tell me they only want their dogs to walk well on a leash will still need to address fear, resource guarding and aggression before training can be effective.
A judge will expect my dog to perform while in new and different environments. A show can be full of over-the-top hormonal dog emissions, barking dogs, generators, people with hats, people carrying large things, rattling food wrappers, children, etc. Many clients don’t think about how, when, and where they train Sit, Down,and Come yet expect the dog to do those very things everywhere they take them. I can help you to become aware of how you train so your dog will “perform” when guests visit, at the coffee shop, in your car, around new dogs, at the vet clinic, etc.
In the Obedience ring, points will be deducted from my score if I give my dog more than one command so I train my dogs to respond immediately to my first cue. I can help you to get your dog to respond on your FIRST request, not after the sixth or seventh time.
If not handled properly my competition dogs will start lagging behind me and lose interest in our teamwork causing a very low or non-qualifying score. My vigilance in fostering a mutual relationship between you and your dog - by teaching your dog to make choices (the RIGHT choices) - will keep your dog focused and listening.
If you happen to watch an obedience competition, online or in person, take note of the focus that the dog has on its handler. THAT is the foundation of any dog-human relationship!
Love and hugs to you and your dogs!
All you need is love......it's going to take a bit more than that.
Love will not make your puppy bite less or urinate outside your house.
Love will not cause your puppy to stop chewing on you.
Love will not prevent your puppy from becoming fearful of balloons, washing machines, men with hats, water hoses or the garbage truck.
Love will not cause your dog to be quiet when out in the yard.
Love will not make your dog like other dogs...or cats, children or birds.
Love will not cause your fearful rescue dog to become brave.
Love will not cause your dog to have good house manners.
Love will not prevent your dog from growling.
Love will not make your aggressive dog non-aggressive.
Love will not make your resource guarding dog stop guarding resources.
Love will not make your dog desire training.
-------------Love will not make your dog listen to you--------------
LOVING your dog ENOUGH to follow through with properly timed management, prevention, desensitization, habituation, and associative learning (classical conditioning) will help with those challenges that we all face as loving dog owners.
I would have to say that much of my success in dog training and behavior rehabilitation has much to do with patience and taking the time to let a dog make a choice. If their desire to do/not do something comes from within, and not through external luring and prompting, they are more likely to repeat/not repeat that behavior in the future.
Even if one used luring for the sit or the down, eventually, after many repetitions, the dog knows what the cue, command or signal is. Now, if the dog doesn’t respond to the cue, instead of repeating the command over and over again at an ever escalating volume (while confusing the dog), one can simply reduce the dog’s choices and have some patience. Put the dog on a short leash, say “sit” and wait. Not much else the dog can do….eventually he’ll sit. Yay! Reward! Stay simple. Stay consistent.
Here’s what it looked like with Scout, a six month old Labrador who gets distracted by people and dogs, and ends up pulling on her leash and ignoring her owner.
First, we doubled the length of the leash to give Scout more room to get great reinforcement (I’ll get back to this in a minute). We started with recalls from the distance of five feet, ten feet, then 15 feet (the length of her leash). She received several pieces of food and praise from her owner each time that she was called. Then I presented myself and my puppy about 40 feet from Scout and her owner. Scout strained for several minutes at the end of her leash and her owner PATIENTLY waited for Scout to turn her head. When Scout made the CHOICE to turn her head back at her owner, she was called and given praise and several pieces of food in a row. I knew it would be more challenging once my puppy and I moved closer so added another layer of reinforcement for Scout. Here’s where that long line came into play. In addition to the food and praise, I had the owner call Scout AND run backwards. Running full speed at her owner would be far more fun than being stuck on a short six foot leash and simply turning around for a few bites of food. Her owner could now use food, praise, and fun physical activity as a giant ball of fun to gain Scout’s focus on her instead of me and my puppy. Note: we could have used a tug toy too, but didn’t have one at this session.
From this point forward, the owner never called Scout again. She just waited for her to turn her head and to look back at her. This took longer for Scout as my puppy and I moved closer - she really wanted to greet us. Her owner’s PATIENCE was really tested during this step. Scout began to learn that her CHOICES were limited: straining at the end of her leash with me and my puppy out of her reach, or gallop back to her owner for praise and food. Eventually she caught on.
When it came time for our puppies to go nose-to-nose, I would let them mingle for a moment then call my pup out of Scout’s leash range. Then her owner would PATIENTLY wait for Scout to look at her and she would repeat the run backwards - praise - food sequence.
After 30 minutes, I was petting, feeding, and letting my puppy play with Scout. When we would step out of her leash range Scout would, without hesitation, immediately run back to her owner. After 10 more minutes, we introduced the recall command while my puppy and I were in Scout's leash range. She was quick to respond because she had been heavily reinforced previously for making the CHOICE to run to her owner. If, at any point, she didn’t respond to her owner, I would take my puppy out of leash range and limit Scout’s choices.
Having PATIENCE and giving your dog (limited) CHOICES is a simple formula. Try it!
Puppies: Scout and Hammer brought to you by QuailRunLabs.com
While stopping to chat with a friend on my my dog walk, my puppy picked up a plastic bag of poop that I had set down. Thinking she was helping both me and him out, my friend started firmly calling out "no" while rushing after him. It scared him a bit and my friend was a bit alarmed when I quickly stepped in and told her to stop. I explained that if my puppy is ever going to pick something up in his mouth I don't want him to avoid me because I am saying no and chasing him. That instead of grabbing it from him I would offer him something else to put in his mouth (food, toy). That if I don't want my puppy to pick something up in the first place I will be paying attention (definitely what I was NOT doing in this situation) and will call him to me before he picks up the item. There ya go, no need for punishment and its potential side effects.
I have seen the fall out of punishment in many dogs that I have worked with (including my own!). People describe these dogs as thieves or sneaky and claim the dog is "blowing them off." Their dogs have learned to avoid punishment or avoid having something taken away from them. Punishment has the risk of breaking down respect, instilling fear, and reducing happiness between you and your dog.
Here is what Jean Donaldson has to say about it in her book, Culture Clash (Berkeley: James & Kenneth, 2005).
"If you administer punishment correctly, the punishment may buy you a temporary suppression of the behavior. Remember, you have not killed it but merely brought about an emotional state which is incompatible with the behavior you want to get rid of (the animal is too upset by the punishment to do it for the time being). He is also, incidentally, too upset to do much of anything right after a punishment. Punishment is like a carpet bombing. The behavior you wanted to target gets hit but so does a huge portion of the dog's whole repertoire. Dogs who are punished a lot behave a lot less in general. What's particularly scary is that this is what a lot of dog owners actually want. They want a general toning down of the dog. It is a sad comment on human-dog relations when we claim to love dogs and then attempt to behaviorally lobotomize them with thousands of leash jerks in the name of "obedience." The bland, behavior-less animal many people bond to so strongly can scarcely be called a dog. It is the ghost of what once might have been a dog."
In this modern day of dog training, the whole process has become far more kind, respectful, and enjoyable.