No, I’m not calling your beautiful fur child a little green person…….not entirely anyway.
First lets explain what I’m talking about when I say “Alien”.
By alien, I mean unaware and unfamiliar with things. All of the points I make below can be applied to a dog that has just been introduced to your home.
The purpose of this post is to make you think outside of yourself and put yourself in your dogs shoes, if you will.
First of all, it’s super helpful if you know how a dog thinks. Dogs are self-serving organisms. They’re going to do what gets them the good stuff, whether that be a treat, access to a comfortable location, or something that’s intrinsically pleasing like barking at the scary noise coming from the door 9knocking perhaps).
That, my friends, is where the problem behaviors come from. That and the fact that they don’t know any better. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Dogs don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth. Not until you make associations with them anyway.
Because they don’t understand the things until the appropriate associations are made, it’s up to us to
help our dogs out and make those associations as easy as possible to understand.
We do this by breaking things up into easy actionable items and only adding the verbal cue (sit, down, stay, do my taxes, etc.) after they know the physical act of what we’re asking them to do. Lastly, we very slowly build our criteria, or the complexity, of the behavior we’re working on. If we try and do too much too soon, or try and move too fast too soon, we’d be asking too much of our dogs and setting them up for success is the fastest way to see progress.
Just like an alien wouldn’t know that you’re supposed to look both ways before crossing a busy street, or that a fi9nger over your lips accomplanied with a long SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH means be quiet, dogs don’t know the rules of YOUR home when they first enter it. If you’re rescued a pup, they might have a general understanding, but most likely won’t know all the ins and outs of your family structure and household.
Again, it’s up to us to show them and help them understand those rules so they don’t over step and get into trouble.
Just as with the behaviors like sit and lay down, setting up rules for our dogs involves us allowing our dogs to learn the basics of things and then allowing our dogs to fail.
An example of this would be not allowing our dogs to move after we’ve told them to sit.
Putting the butt on the ground is super simple right? But what if you put food down in front of them? Or there’s a knock at the door? Or, heaven forbid, a squirrel can be seen from a window where your dog has put said butt down?
All of those things are called distractions and it’s up to us to allow our dogs to slowly understand what’s expected of them by using motivating tactics and a progressive increase of criteria.
Remember, all of these things are a progression of how dogs don’t understand things. So you have a dog that doesn’t understand what people are saying around them or understand the rules of how things are supposed to be happening around them. So now ask yourself, “How in the world is your dog supposed to understand how to act in a stressful situation?”
These aren’t just distractions that would cause your dog to break a certain behavior, but something that would cause your dog stress. Something that would cause them to want to move away from it, or start barking at it, or act in a way that they wouldn’t normally act.
Because dogs don’t have manners, they’re going to continue to do the things that give the good results, whether those results be a treat, or intrinsically satisfying, like barking at something scary.
Everything is all starting to tie together now. Because there aren’t any rules or sommunication that our dogs understand, they have no other rules to follow other than their own.Think about it. If you haven’t set the rule for your dog that they’re not supposed to jump on people, why would they stop? Or maybe you’ve tried to get them to stop, but the reward of getting to jump on people and say hello or trying to get some attention, good
I know we think of our dogs as members of our families, and they are. But they’re still dogs. The ways they interpret information isn’t going to change because they live with us. The way they perceive a group hierarchy isn’t going to change once you bring them into your home. And the way they interact with people and other animals, although it may change slightly because of being able to adapt, isn’t going to drastically change.
As long as you’re willing, and able, to work with your dog on learning to understand new things, only then can they start to live a more productive and free life with us because they now KNOW what’s expected from them. They now KNOW what will ALWAYS get them the good stuff rather than settling for what they can get by chance or shooting from the hip.
I know that it can seem like a lot to try to take on not only teaching your dog a whole new language but learning how to speak and communicate in a completely different way. But this is where I tell you that the answer is a lot easier than you might think. In fact, you probably already incorporate some of the methods used to speak in a way a dog understands every day.
You can look online on Youtube videos. You can go to your library or buy a used book on teaching your dogs different things. Whatever you do, you need to be able to think outside the box and learn to being comfortable doing things that you can’t done before. Think about it, if what you were
currently doing was already working like a charm and you didn’t want to change anything, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
Lastly, learn that it’s ok to ask for help. Taking your relationship with your dog to the next level and beyond is what a trainers job is. And enjoy the journey. If you’re not enjoying, there’s no way in hell your dog is enjoying it, and if they’re not enjoying it, you’re NEVER gonna see the results you’re looking for. As always, Happy Training everyone 🙂
Get closer to the relationship you want with your dog and learn how to take your dog from Mundane to Righteous and Awesome ;)