Training is more than just teaching tricks it is developing a relationship with your dog. Building a relationship is a lot more difficult today, than ever before – even our relationship with our dogs. We are all guilty of being distracted by our smart phones, tablets, computers, tv’s etc. When it comes to our pets we often have to try & find a balance between our jobs, kids, & husband too. Really our pets often get the short end of the stick.
Often people come to me for help with their pet’s behaviour, but while I see a dog that is totally committed to the relationship the owner is too distracted to really participate! All relationships including the one with your dog needs to be one of which both parties are investing equally. Most human/ animal relationships more closely resemble a dictatorship than a partnership. The owners are always asking or demanding things and offering little incentive or reward in return.
Often I’ll be working with a client & I’ll see the dog offering the EXACT behaviour we want many times but the owner never notices or just doesn’t bother to acknowledge it. We seem to be in an era where we dwell on what is wrong but when things are good we quickly take a picture & move on! Sharing a cute picture of your dog on social media may be a fun way to connect with friends but… from your dog’s perspective you just left “the moment” and essentially went away. We need to mark (reward or at least acknowledge) those moments when your dog is engaged and trying.
Dogs like children know when we are distracted, not paying attention or are just not being present. If they get a bigger response from you every time they are NOT behaving then that is what they will do. You can think of your attention as a reward and because you’re pet will often get more of your attention when they are misbehaving – then your attention in essence rewards them for their bad behaviour. If your dog (or child for that matter) is quietly playing or entertaining themselves in a way that you want this is a more important time to give them your attention and reward this desired behaviour.
Training should be a happy potentially even uplifting experience for both hander and dog. I am always looking for times when my dog is the happiest so that I can imprint/ insert / shape myself & my training into that feeling at that moment. I use the opportunity for the dog to swim and play the K9 FUN POOL in that manner. If you watch your dog after a bath you will see it running around joyfully in a kind of euphoria. That’s the time I want to do a little training along with playing. When the dog’s brain is in that happy, excited state, I’m work to try to imprint that feeling with the actions & words I want. That way, the next time I ask for the action the dog feels differently about the task last hand. What is your dog’s happy time / place?
Consider taking your dog someplace special (special to the dog that is) and letting them have some time to run and sniff and play off leash. Leave the smart phone and tablet in the car and focus on having fun with your dog. Activities like this will create a stronger bond with your dog. Similar to going golfing with your husband or taking the kids to Castle Fun Park – this might not be our first choice for what we wanted to do but active participation in something that is fun for the other party will lead to a stronger relationship. After all, how would you feel if the next time you wanted to interact with your dog and he or she had their nose in their equivalent of a smart phone and didn’t even look up?
Have you even had the experience with someone and you really liked them perhaps they had on a certain kind of perfume or cologne on when you had a really nice times with them. When you smell the perfume or cologne you think of them in a happy joyful memory. It puts you in a different state of mind. We want our dogs to feel that way about training with us. That is the mind frame I want my dog to be when I ask him to do something. I want him to want to do it not just feel like he has to. And… he WILL want to – if his previous experience reminds him that working with me was a fun thing where he got my attention and participation (and perhaps even some reward). If you stopped, looked when he was good and engaged in play, he will listen!