I was in Jasper last week with a Home Dog Training client and Teddy, his King Charles Spaniel. The biggest problem that my client was experiencing with his dog was listening and focus. It seemed that whatever my client had tried, Teddy either wouldn’t give him the time of day or would run out of the room and hide under their son’s bed. He talked to several other dog trainers who had said they trained in specific ways and supported specific tools to use with the training process. He said he decided to go with our dog training approach because we were focused on Teddy and on the tools.
When it gets down to the core issues with our dogs, the one thing that they all want is just to feel safe and calm. In order to accomplish this, they need to know the rules of their world and what to expect on a regular and consistent basis. We need to be their teachers and directors to reassure them what is correct and direct them in the right direction when something is incorrect. This is called “communication” and is the first and most critical part in any teacher-student relationship.
In order to properly teach our dogs what they should do, we need to get their focus. When we have their focus, we want them to inquisitively ask what they need to do and willingly be prepared to accept our direction. This is accomplished through resolution, trust, and respect. It is not accomplished through fear, pain, or intimidation.
Sometimes we need tools to help us display the needed declarative presence to have our dog give us the critical focus that is the first step to learning and safety. Whatever tools we decide to use, they must gain our dog’s focus without the inclusion of fear, pain, or intimidation.
Think of it this way. If you were a teacher and the class wasn’t paying attention to the problem you have written on the board; you might simply say “Now class, pay attention.” Many of your students may stop their antics and focus on you and the board. Others may not. For those students, you may need to take your ruler and hit your desk while firmly communicating “Now, focus on the board now!” You may get a lot of the other students to now stop what they were doing and focus on the board.
Then, there is Donny in the corner, still texting on his cell phone. You may have to walk over, stand directly in front of his desk, take his cell phone, and say “Mr. Wilson, it is now time to focus and learn!” Donny now looks at you and directs his attention to the board.
In each of these instances, you needed to use a different type and level of action to get a particular group of students’ attention. Even though some only needed a quiet request and Donny needed some persuasive direction, they all ended up by respectfully focusing on the board, ready to learn the lesson. You are now ready to teach and the class is ready to learn. Without this, you can never be a successful teacher. With this, you have every opportunity to be successful.
Let’s not turn back to dog training.
Our goal with our inattentive King Charles Spaniel is to do whatever is necessary just to get his focus without scaring him. This can range from a simple, stern NO to an E-Collar. (If our human student, Donny, were a dog, he might need one of these…) Between these extremes lie tools such as pennies in a can for an audible escalation, a water-filled squirt bottle for a tactile escalation, or a leash for a physical redirection. Each of these tools is designed to allow you to regain your dog’s focus. The question arises regarding which one successfully gains focus without the possibility of inflicting pain or fear; or causing intimidation.
In most instances, the pennies in the can or water-filled squirt bottle in conjunction with a firm correction will do the job. My client tested this with Teddy as soon as he started to jump on him. He verbalized a stern NO and shook the pennies in a can. Teddy immediately stopped jumping, took two steps back, sat down, and focused on my client. My client then called Teddy over to him and praised him for being such a good student.
We found Teddy’s point of learning and the correct tool to get his focus. Other dogs may need more “encouragement” and other dogs may only need a firm, verbalized NO. The common result in all of these cases is that the dog is now calm and focused on their owner; just like Teddy.
The art of being resolute but not harsh is part of building a trusting bond between you and your dog. It is an important part of the dog training process.
You can contact Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you have dog training questions or need any help with your dog. We have many additional dog training articles at Best Dog Trainers Jasper Georgia. Locate all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Jasper Georgia.