How to Communicate with Your Dog
I recently wrote an article about why your dog is ignoring you and your commands, highlighting two very distinct points.
First, you have never really taught your dog any commands or the commands you want. You just kind of expect him to speak your language.
Second, miscommunication: using too many commands that your dog doesn’t know and generally babbling at him while you are training.
Both will ruin your dog training.
And, I mentioned a second kind of miscommunication; not giving your dog any communication.
As said usually I get people who want to tell their dog everything that they are doing (left, right, around, stop, go, here, back, no, quit without any real teaching) or I get the person that never tells their dog anything.
I recently had a new group of Rally students enter a difficult Rally Obedience set up.
90% of them never told their dog what to do on their first run through.
It is crucial to communicate with your dog until it becomes habit.
When you stop, tell him to sit!
With repetition he will learn what your expectations are and you can drop the “sit” command; but if he is struggling, you can certainly help him out by telling him what to do!
When I teach my dogs a moving down, I command them “Down/Stay” as I walk away.
Again with repetition, I can drop the “stay” but if my dog is learning something new, in a new place or otherwise struggling; giving him directions help ease his mind.
Have You Ever
Have you ever had to learn a new computer system?
As in learning a totally new program?
At first you are learning and overwhelmed with all the new options.
You take notes.
You go to work each day with your notebook.
And, when you get stuck you go back to your notes.
I recently got a job at a veterinary clinic that has a different veterinary program from the one I was used to in the past.
Being a program that can merge veterinary information, with boarding information, with daycare information and grooming information: not to mention inventory and drugs and labeling is all very overwhelming.
I took notes, I relied on my notes for a few weeks and even studied at night. Gradually I have learned the system. I no longer really need my notes, but they are still there, if I need them.
When it gets busy and there is a waiting room full of clients, I have a hard time remembering everything perfectly, so I may ask a co-worker, take a little bit longer to process the information than someone else might, or even go back to my notebook.
Your Dog is The Same
At first this training regimen is difficult, he is trying his best to learn.
Most often, like my training at work, we don’t just teach our dog ONE THING. We teach multiple things in one or two sessions, yet we expect our dog to remember each intricacy.
We don’t stop to put ourselves in their paws and realize they may, in fact need help or reminding how to do certain things.
When was the last time you saw your dog take notes?
Let me be the first to say, “he can’t”.
If we, as the thinking animals, often need lots of repetition or taking and referring to notes; don’t you figure your best friend also needs lots of kindness, help and repetition?
He wants to please you, but often you have to help him do so!
Let’s Take Automatic Sits
Most of us, in the dog training world, teach our dogs to sit when we stop.
I stop moving my dog is supposed to sit.
Interestingly when I trained Service Dogs, we taught them to automatically lie down, because that is a more reliable position (so either can be taught depending on what you want).
So, in the beginning each time you stop, you must tell your dog what you want (sit) and of course he needs to know how to sit.
After you have done this a few dozen times or so, he will learn that when you stop he should sit.
He May Need Help
Now add some distractions, a new place that you are training or stress to either him or you and you will likely need to tell him again.
Give him the benefit of the doubt.
So often people think their dog is being defiant, when in reality they are just having a hard time remembering.
Ever had someone peer over your shoulder to make sure you are doing something right? Did you ever have trouble performing under these circumstances and forget silly and simple things?
You should cut your dog a break on occasion too!
During a Recent Class
During a recent “Rally” obedience class, to find out more about Rally, click here .
I set up a particularly difficult and tight course!
Then I set up my class by TELLING THEM HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS!
You see I wanted them to get nervous.
They are getting ready to compete and competition is nothing if not scary, and nerve wracking!
So one by one they entered the course with their dogs, sweat pour from their brow.
And, by gosh if they didn’t all totally lose all communication with their dogs!
Each and every one of them went almost completely silent.
And, by the way, dogs can’t read.
So the dogs merely felt the fright and change in attitude from their handlers, and they of course got nervous and frustrated and stopped doing some of the things they had been conditioned to do!
Not one of the handlers paused and gave more communication.
They all seemingly got frustrated and tried to power through it.
After I told them that I was fooling with their minds, and to try communicating with their dogs the next time, they all performed brilliantly.
You get nervous sometimes too and let down the other half of your team (your dog).
He gets nervous sometimes too and lets down the other part of his team (you).
It is going to happen!
What matters is how you deal with it when it happens!
And, if you get combative, be assured that he is going to have more trouble!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.