This is a ‘Birthday Blog’, and whilst not about ‘My Birthday’, it is ‘My Birthday’… so what better way to celebrate then to blog… (I’m a bit old for Birthday cake and bouncy castles….)
I was thinking about what are the most important factors to effective dog training, irrespective of what the intended purpose is…
Well there is ‘confidence’… The dogs and yours…. There is ‘understanding’… There is motivation…..both outlined in my book ’Pathway to Positivity’…. But there is actually one major factor that intertwines all these factors….
Communication. Our ability to communicate what we want to our dogs, and from our dogs.
All too often, we look to our dog to carry the burden of responsibility for deciphering our information, be it a different language, dialect or even agenda! We forget how amazing our dogs are to even be able to function in a world that is totally contradictory to everything that they are, and yet despite this conflict, they still manage to flourish.
And all too often, if we are honest, our dogs do decipher our poor information and learn despite us, and not because of us.
Dogs, and arguably Horses have been subject to ‘our’ miscommunication for centuries, and yet they still ‘learn’. Other animals have been some what less accommodating… anyone that has owned a Cat, will nod in appreciation!
Dogs have allowed us to pull, yank, check, click, fed, tug, shout, smack, stroke, yell, hit, rewarded frivolously, rewarded scarcely….all in the name of ‘training’ and yet still figured out what we wanted! In fact, some have even anticipated what we have wanted! They truly are amazing!!
Dog training has pillars on which all understanding and clarity is built.
They are ‘Timing’, ‘rate of reinforcement’ and criteria.
Hell mend you if you fail to acknowledge the impact of any one of these being under par. The dog may still learn, but surely we want to do better for them? Surely they deserve that?
Often, we are blindly ignorant of our miscommunication, and it takes a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ level of deduction to determine that your dog simply doesn’t understand. They aren’t ‘being naughty’, or ‘doing it on purpose’ or ‘being thick’ or ‘doing it to wind you up’. They just don’t understand what you are trying to communicate. And whilst you may think you have explained it to them in plain English, try another language!
Common signs of Good communication are:
⁃ Relaxed and joyful expression
⁃ Engaged throughout
⁃ Prompt, fast responses
⁃ Accurately meeting criteria.
Common signs of poor communication may be:
⁃ inappropriate levels of arousal
⁃ Stress signals (yawning, shaking, sniffing, lack of eye contact)
It is our responsibility to ensure that we communicate our intentions and agenda with blinding clarity. We expect so much of our dogs, but not enough of ourselves!
We need to be aware of OUR role and the importance of OUR influence on our dogs behaviour.
These are not issues beyond our grasp if we ‘THINK, PLAN, DO, REVIEW’, as Bob Bailey says.
Think what you want to train, Plan what you want to train, Do the training and Review the training.
Look at the following:
⁃ Mechanical skills
⁃ Rate of reinforcement
⁃ Overall enjoyment
⁃ Your input, are you connected? Are you present? Are you giving?
⁃ The dogs response. Are they engaged? Are they responsive? Are they focused?
WE can influence our dogs behaviour substantially, IF we hold ourselves accountable to the same standard we hold them.
At the moment, I am raising three amazing puppies… that’s right, 3!
Jungle, my working line Malinois…. Hottie, my Border Collie pup whom I bred, and Reset, her brother whom I had back after going to a home as a puppy.
They are all so uniquely different and present different challenges, and therefore forms of communication and clarity for each.
Jungle is prone to frustration and gets over stimulated by even the sight of people… Hottie has an intense desire to herd and chase, and Reset I have only had a few months, and our challenge was building a bond with an older pup and forming a relationship.
For each dog, I have to think about creating a way for us to understand each other. Its a two way street, and it’s one I have to figure out first and then explain to them.
It is this process I find most joyful, and where I believe we truly forged a ‘bond’ with our dogs.
From today, I am ‘Opening The doors’ to be a fly on the wall, as I raise these three puppies in the first year of their life…. I show you the ups and downs, the challenges and the way in which I overcome them… how I create a clear communication systems with them, how I raise three High drive intense dogs into model citizens and amazing sports dogs!
If you want to join me on on this journey, click the link below to join my exclusive Facebook group ‘The Jungle Book’ where you get to see regular updates on my puppies, plus numerous other special ‘guests’ pups that I have trained for others. See webinars and exclusive lectures, not available anywhere else!
Communicate clearly and reap the rewards!
‘Communication with our dogs is the beacon of light which dictates the path of travel, ensure your light is bright, your path well lit, and just in case…. have a dam torch!’ Kamal Fernandez 2020!