Robin and I were having lunch last week in Marietta after we had visited one of our Home Dog Training clients. As we were getting up to leave, one of the other restaurant patrons approached us with a question. We were wearing our “Home Dog Training” shirts, so it was obvious that we were dog trainers. He first apologized for the intrusion and hoped that he was not being a bother. We told him that we get questions from dog owners all the time and were always willing to help.
Our inquisitive dog owner said that he had been having problems with his Cocker Spaniel puppy for many months. He was at his wits end. He just couldn’t get his puppy to pay attention. He had talked to a lot of trainers on the phone and spent hours upon hours reading everything he could find on the internet. There were many, divergent opinions on how he could correct his dog and get his attention. The ones he tried had not worked and he couldn’t find a clear path to follow to get his Cocker Spaniel puppy to pay attention. He asked us for our thoughts…
We assured him that many dog owners had his same problem when it came to getting their dog’s focus and attention. In fact, one of the most common issues our thousands of clients initially experienced was “focus and attention”. Once Robin and I were able to teach our clients how to overcome this problem, they were able to easily train their dogs to be great companions. As with most things, there are multiple training methods that have been used by different trainers to get a dog’s focus and attention.
We explained that we are canine behavioral trainers. This means that we focus on how the dog naturally responds to the world around him based on positive and negative distractions. There are many trainers who use positive only reward systems. Some trainers only use aggressively physical (negative) methods.
Although all dog trainers don’t concur on training methodology, we can all agree that dogs and people do not use the same process when communicating . Dogs are not cartoon characters like Scooby-Doo, Huckleberry Hound or Augie Doggie. Unlike you and me, our dogs mostly use their body language to talk. If you have multiple dogs, watch them and you will see how they use their body language. You might observe one dog jumping on another dog. One dog may get down low or even lie on his back. You may see one dog with his tail straight up in the air or pointed down at the ground. All these body positions assist one dog to tell the other what they are thinking.
The great news is that we can employ this method when talking to our dogs. I want to make it clear that this may not be the only thing you do when communicating with your dog. Body language is your initial form of communication. Sometimes it is the only form of communication you may need and sometimes you may need to employ additional, enhanced techniques. In all instances, it is a method that you must always use to successfully communicate with your dog. The most important things to remember when using body language with your dog are:
- Stay cool, collected, and still when you are going to communicate your dog. Your dog does not want his leader and caregiver to be nuts. We often become angry when our dog has destroyed the TV remote control or taken our sandwich off the kitchen counter. We then yell and flail our arms because that is how we (humans) react when something goes wrong and we get mad. But don’t forget, we are communicating with a dog. We must display the message that he will understand. Flailing and yelling does not tell our dog we are the leader and he should listen to us. Being calm and still is what your dog needs to see.
- Always stand tall and face your dog when you are about to correct. Dogs interpret height as leadership. This is why they are often jumping up on us when they want something. They are saying “Look at me. I’m in charge around here”. We can show leadership to our dog by simply standing up. It doesn’t matter how tall you may be. It matters that you are as “tall as you can be”. In other words, don’t slouch.
No matter if you use our canine behavior training method, the positive only training method, or a more physical method, your dog needs to give you focus and understand that you are the boss and his caregiver. Give these two actions a shot the next time you are working with your dog and you will see a great improvement.
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.