Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists
Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists

Dog Art

Visualize an artist, a sculptor, standing in front of a block of marble. The artist carefully examines the colors, the grains, and the textures of the raw form. She develops a clear image in her mind of what the raw stone can become. Taking chisel, mallet, and blades, she transforms the piece from its natural state to something beautiful.

A similar artistic process is required to shape a dog's behaviour. Like an artist we must examine the composition of our subject. Each dog is unique. Their physical makeup, their emotional responses, and their reactions to praise, discipline, and affection vary.

A puppy destined to be a police dog will require different shaping than a puppy placed in a family with toddlers. The police puppy will be encouraged to jump up and to actively explore. They will be taught to track and to find objects and to wrestle vigorously with tugs and toys. A game of fetch might end with a rough tugging match between puppy and police officer.

A puppy placed in a family home will be shaped to display calmness around the children, and will be discouraged from jumping up and play biting. When the puppy plays fetch it will return the ball and gently drop it in front of the children for a re-throw. Playing tug would be gentle, if done at all, and play biting would be discouraged.

Each of us must develop a clear picture of how we want our dog to behave. Then, we must carefully shape their behaviour. Our tools will be different from the blades, mallets and chisels of the artist. Instead we will use our voice, our touch, treats, and discipline to encourage desired behaviours and to extinguish unwanted behaviours.

Pretend your dog barks excessively when someone arrives at the door. Upon entering, your dog jumps up on visitor or growls. This does not fit your picture of how you want your dog to act, so you develop a plan.

First, you select a spot where your dog can see the doorway. Place treats on "the spot" for a few days. You will find your dog returns to this spot frequently to check for treats. This spot becomes special.

Next, lure your dog onto the spot as you say, "In your spot". When all four paws are on the spot say, "Good Spot" and reward the dog with a treat. Shape the behaviour further by commanding the dog to go to the spot without luring. When the dog runs to the spot say, "Good Spot-down," and throw a treat. Continue until your dog loves "its spot" and eagerly runs to it on command.

To ensure reliability you must insist your dog goes to its spot when instructed. Place a leash on the dog and have a friend ring the door bell. Command your dog to go to its spot and to down. If the dog doesn't respond or leaves the spot, apply some gentle rhythmic popping of the leash until it reacts appropriately. Praise and reward your dog's successes. Remember, each dog is different. Some dogs will need encouragement and rewards. Others will need clear, firm direction.

Visualize how you would like your dog to behave. Then carefully and consistently shape their behaviour until you have formed "the perfect dog" for you.

Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists

Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists