In Not So Many Words…

In Not So Many Words…

Many talented dog trainers can “read” the dog or have a “feeling for the dog.” This allows them to adjust training techniques or plans in a blink of an eye. Sometimes, they cannot explain why they do what they do in that instance, but their communication with the dog is quick and efficient. The dog “gets it.”

Communication is a critical part of successful dog training. We often think the dog is disobedient or even defiant while he is simply “lost in translation.” At times, we communicate non-stop while making very little sense to the dog.

In a typical scene, for example, a Handler thinks the dog makes a mistake. Without saying anything, the Handler pops the leash and then tells the dog that “they have done this exercise a hundred times and what the heck is wrong.” The Handler physically manipulates the dog into the correct position, then tells the dog he is doing a good job and, without a pause, proceeds to another exercise. The dog is not even close to understanding what happened.

We all know that dogs are not primarily vocal or auditory communicators. While we are sharing with our dog what we think about his performance in a few short sentences, to him, it is all background noise. All he knows is that you are upset. In reality, all he needs is simply “yes” or “no,” the instance his action occurs followed by a reinforcement or a correction.

If we limit what we say to simple Positive or Negative Markers as a result of the behavior, we can make the dog’s life much easier. He now understands which instance in time was critical to you. He can narrow it down to something manageable.

There are many ways to go from here - guide the dog to the correct behavior, take a step back in training, etc. Correcting the dog for something he does not know how to do well is unfair and is a subject for another blog. In the end, the dog needs to understand what you want instead and actually do it.

Once he does the correct behavior, you can mark, reinforce, release, and share with him all kinds of things in as many sentences as you wish. You can tell him your mother-in-law is visiting, you are repainting the kitchen, or the presidential debate on TV was a hot mess.

Keep it simple - yes or no. Your dog will thank you for it.

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions at the bottom of the screen.

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