So it’s Friday. All day long. What a beautiful thought. Not because it is going to be an easy day by any stretch of the imagination, but because I have been conditioned to think of Fridays in a pleasant way.
It’s not a difficult concept is it? To understand why I like Fridays is it? In fact most people who would read this would already be saying “DUHHHH…of course we like Fridays”. Then why is it so difficult to understand why you shouldn’t use your dog’s name when you are about to punish or correct it?……ohhhhhhhhhh, that’s where Im going with this…..Im a tricky S.O.B. when I want to be…..
Ive said it before, and Im saying it again, dog training is so simple its hard. We over complicate everything. Most dog training is based on associations. If we do not intentionally create or build the association for the dog, the dog will build their own. I associate Fridays with pleasure, even though today I will have worked almost 15 hours. It is an association that has been created. It helps me get through my rough day. This is how we can look at obedience training.
If I want my dog to come when called, I build a positive association between the recall command and the dog coming to me. If i want my dog to look at me when I say its name, then every time it happens to look at me, I’m going to make damn sure something good happens.
Everything we are going to do with our dog is about associations. Unfortunately our dogs associate things we don’t want them do which leads to bad behaviors. If you forcefully drag your dog to the crate every time you get ready to go somewhere expect to start having some interesting chases when you are about to leave. Guess who’s going to be late for dinner with the Johnsons?
BACK TO BASICS
You dont need to have an iron fist when working obedience. It has already been proven that iron fists are the least effective tool when introducing new behaviors to animals. Like I started out this post saying, its all about associations. Build some positive associations with key phrases, like the dog’s name, the recall command, and the “bed” or “place” command, and you will be dramatically improving both yours and your dog’s lives together.
If your dog has issues in certain environments, has fear of specific things or places, then this concept is a powerful tool in you helping your dog. All we are going to do is change the way the dog views whatever it is.
When we have a dog who shows aggression whenever a person on a bike passes by we simply go somewhere we know there are people on bikes and start out REALLY far away. We want to get right to the distance where the dog sees them, but doesn’t fire up into a full meltdown. That is called their threshold distance.
Once we discover that distance we simply give the dog a treat or present them with a toy when we know they have first seen the biker, AND they haven’t flipped out yet. We will “reprogram” the dog so that they start to expect a treat or the toy every time they see the biker. From there we simply move closer and closer over LOTS of time to decrease the threshold distance.
With fear situations it is the same thing. Use something the dog likes to rebuild a brand new association with whatever it is.
The key however, is to make sure we are not rewarding or reinforcing any dramatic behavior. You must move slow and give the reinforcers at the right times to ensure we are simply building an association with the environment rather than reinforcing a specific fear behavior.
HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYBODY!!