We received a phone call from a prospective Home Dog Training client yesterday afternoon. He had rescued a one year old Beagle from the local Rescue Group about two months ago. He had dogs when he was a child and thought that having a dog now that he was married and had young children of his own would be wonderful for the family. He thought everything would be great, but he just couldn’t understand what was happening. He saw how easy it was for his neighbor’s kids to teach their dog commands and obedience, but he couldn’t get his new Beagle to perform any commands. He wasn’t asking for miracles. He just wanted to teach his dog to come, but it just wasn’t happening. The neighbor kids got their dog to come in a day or two. He thought he was doing everything just like the neighbor kids. Was it him? Was it the dog? Why wasn’t his dog learning his lessons and do something as simple as “Come”? Does he have the only dog in the world that can’t learn?
First of all, we told him that his dog can absolutely learn stuff. After training thousands of dogs, Robin and I assured him that all dogs can “learn stuff”. The problem often is that our clients just don’t understand how to teach their dog stuff. We continued our discussion…
Some dogs are smarter and better focused than others. All dogs enter the “learning experience” with different backgrounds and temperaments. There can also be a “manufactured lack of focus” between the owner and dog based on miscommunication. Dogs talk “dog” and humans talk “human”. The differences between our language and our dog’s language often causes confusion and lack of focus.
On the first day of teaching your dog, you must establish where he has the ability to learn and where you have the ability to teach. You must find the “learning horizon” that defines the transition of where your dog is “getting it” to where he is “not getting it”. This is where the teaching experience commences. This is very similar to our childhood math class where we could understand short division but couldn’t do long division. Our teacher’s next lesson would focus on the first step of long division with the understanding that we understood short division.
The best way to illustrate the learning experience is through a real life example. Since our prospective client was focused on the Come command, I will use that as my teaching example. Let’s walk through the process:
You first have to establish if your dog understands the command at all. What is his initial ability to learn and master the command? Once you establish this point of reference, your teaching lesson can be established and you can successfully complete the educational process.
Start the Come lesson by standing about six feet away from your dog. Once you are there, go down low and say “Come”. Now you observe how he responds. Let’s say that he doesn’t do a thing and doesn’t move. You give it one more try. You stoop down and say “Come” and get the same response. He just sits there and gives you a blank stare or isn’t even paying attention at all.
You are asking too difficult a question because he does not know the answer. You need to help him understand the question so he can arrive at correct the answer.
You must now interdict “teaching tools” into the educational process. To be clear, a “teaching tool” does not “do the exercise for your dog”, but it helps guide your dog to the appropriate outcome. To put it another way, it helps guide your dog to the final result.
Put a leash on your dog so that you can “show and guide him” (teach him) when you ask him to come from six feet. Walk around until he is six feet from you, go down low, and tell him to “Come”. This time I want you to slightly and gently tug the leash towards you. He will respond by moving towards you. If he slows or starts to change direction, give the leash a slight tug towards you to reinforce the learning process. When he gets to you, praise him for a job well done. He could “answer the question” but you needed to help. This is your dog’s current learning horizon.
Keep practicing this until you no longer have to tug on the leash. This indicates that he gets it and you are ready to extend the “learning horizon”. Get a longer leash and continue.
Once your discover the place where your dog is able to learn, his ability to grasp the lesson will progress rapidly. Follow the same mechanics of this process with anything you need to teach your dog.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over fifteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.