The young dog wagged his tail cheerfully as he bounded out of the car and into the training room. The owner hurried to catch up. Her bandaged wrist made it impossible for her to keep a secure grip on the leash. The young dog raced around the room, regularly jumping up on her and then dashing off to explore everything. Her constant calls to come, to sit, to behave, were ignored. Clear communication did not exist!
Dogs and humans learn and communicate in very different ways. Dogs respond to physical cues. Puppies carefully watch older pack members and copy their postures and behaviours. They learn through observation and experimentation. Humans rely on language to express their feelings and needs. A bridge is required to connect the canine with the human. Effective training links the natural learning strategies of the canine culture with a language based system more suited to human expression.
Communicating our requests to our dogs is best approached by using physical prompts, and connecting these prompts to simple language cues. Let's examine this connection when teaching the sit.
With the dog beside us we say, "Sit" as we move a treat into position slightly over the dog's head. When the head lifts to receive the treat, the rear touches the floor into a sit posture. We say, "Good Sit" and give the dog the treat. Repeating this simple exercise many times connects the word with the posture.
When the dog demonstrates an understanding of new obedience words like "Sit", "Down", or "Come" using food treats, we then command them to display these postures without treats. In a natural setting, adult pack members use a growl, or a bump, or other physical cues to cause junior pack members to display a posture, or to act in a certain way. These physical corrections are very subtle and are expressed at the minimum level required to get their pack mates to respond appropriately.
We can use this natural learning strategy to teach our dogs to be obedient without treats. After much repetition, we command, "Sit". If our dog immediately sits, we provide verbal praise. If the dog is slow or reluctant, we "pop the leash" or give the dog a pinch. This physical cue will cause the dog to sit. We say, "Good Sit" and stroke the dog, letting it know we are pleased with its acceptance of our leadership.
By connecting canine learning styles, and simple human verbal commands, we can talk to our dogs in a language they can understand and accept. Teach your dogs with patience and understanding. Guide them with clear directions. Be the leader your dog can respect and obey.Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists