Sunday, 13 September 2009

What to say, when to say it?

Today in the park I was watching a whole load of people train their dogs to do the exact opposite of what they wanted.

One dog running off was called to come back when his recall wasn't good enough and the other dog more interesting, another being told to be quiet when it was barking.

As I have already covered, dogs don't speak English, although we like to think they do and then assume they are being bad when they don't do what we ask.

Dogs learn associations with things.

Person says 'sit' I put my bum on the floor person is happy, person says 'Fido come' that seems to mean when I get close to them they will shout at me and put the lead on.

The way a dog will learn best is to ask it to do the thing when it is already doing it.

So if you are trying to teach a recall and your dog hasn't really got it yet it doesn't help much to call the dog when it is running away from you, call it back when it has finished what it was doing and is already running back to you at full pelt.

I accidentally got a great emergency recall for Ben that way. In agility I have an 'in' command - it means come in towards me - it was taught when he was sent around a jump and I stood still or turned away he naturally turned in towards me - every time I did that I said 'in' and it became a habit for him.

Also as a pup when I came to a fork in the path and he had gone one way I went they other, just said 'This way' and carried on walking. He lost sight of me and so came running to find me, he learnt 'this way' meant I was about to disappear if he didn't keep his eye on me.

The same goes for barking. When a dog is barking people often tell it to 'shut up' or something. If you haven't taught what the word means then the dog will learn to associate 'shut up' to mean to actually bark.

It is really sad today that people think owning and training a dog is a battle of wills, that if your dog is bad it is because you are not a strong enough pack leader for it. This is simply not true, a dog is not bad, it is just being a dog, your job is to think like a human and figure out how you can train your dog to do what you would like rather than punishing it for either natural behaviour, or worse still behaviour YOU have taught without meaning too.


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