You’ve just got your new dog! Amazing!!!! They might be a rescue or they might be a puppy. Your first thought is to take them to a training class, but what, exactly, do they need to learn.
The first behaviour most dogs learn is a sit.
You have a dog and you ask them to sit and they do, they sit down right in front of you with a verbal or body language cue. HOORAY!!!!! DOG = TRAINED!!!!
But hold on! Can they do a down? Bit more tricky. This one might take a bit longer – you’ve been taught to lure a down from a sit but you and your dog are finding it REALLY tricky, so now what? We’ll crack this eventually, then HOORAY!!!! DOG = TRAINED!!
WOAH!! Wait a minute, they keep popping up from their sit and their down. Let’s get out our magic training fingers which we will wave in front of them while we say “wait, wait, WAIT!” over and over again. In the training hall…
And what about recall. Tell you what, let’s restrain your dog in training hall or field, you walk away then call them to you. HOORAY!!! RECALL = SORTED!!
But hang on just a minute. What is the sit actually for?
Is sitting in front of you really the most useful thing you can teach your dog?
You mastered a down, but will they do it if there are distractions around?
You trained a stay, you even phased out the magic finger and they can do a stay for 3 mins!! But they rush to the front door when someone knocks, and fidget like anything when you take them to the pub!
And that recall you trained in class doesn’t seem to be as effective out and about. In fact it only works maybe 25% of the time and that percentage seems to be going down.
Not only that, there was that time in class where that other dog snarled and snapped at your dog when they were having “socialising time” and they were scared of a bigger dog. They’re a bit reactive with other dogs now.
And they bark at any noise when you’re chilling in the house.
And they hate the groomer and the vet touching them.
And they pull on lead when you’re out an about.
And the training you gave them hasn’t really set them up for the real world.
So let’s ditch all of that.
Actually, we’re not going to ditch all of it, there are some really useful behaviours there but they need to be taught along with growing real life concepts which teach our dogs.
So what do I mean by real life concepts?
Well, the things that we can teach our dogs to do which will help them be happier, safer and to live harmoniously in a human world.
Picture the scene.
You’re sitting at home chilling watching tv. Your dog is chilling too on their bed or on the bed with you, whichever your prefer. Next doors kids are having a brilliant time playing just outside the window, and your dog isn’t bothered – it’s none of their business. Someone knocks on the door and your dog lazily raises an eyebrow in acknowledgement. Later on, another neighbour has a party, with fireworks. No problem for your dog, they just ignore them.
Sounds amazing doesn’t it? The skills your dog needs for this to be a reality are calmness, disengagement and optimism, and you can train your dog all of these. By playing games!
How about this one?
You are out for a walk with your dog who is on their lead. They are trotting happily beside you with no tension in the lead, checking in with you regularly. You meet someone you know and have a chat whilst your dog just minds their own business waiting patiently.
You get to a safe field so time for some off lead time! There are some dogs at the other side of the field but your dog would prefer to hang out with you. They’re having a great time sniffing and playing, but they come and check in with you regularly. They found some fox poo! But you’re walking away from it and they’d rather follow you and check in with you than worry about the fox poo.
You then get closer to the other dogs and their owners and you realise you know the owner and check it’s fine for your dog to play with theirs. The dogs greet each other appropriately then go on to have a brilliant time playing.
When it’s time to go your dog disengages from the other dog and happily comes with you.
They can calm down straight away and it’s no problem getting them back on lead to go home. You haven’t needed to recall them at all because they’re hanging out with you. But you know if there is an emergency that your dog’s recall is rock solid.
WOW!!! Sounds awesome! The skills your dog needs for this scenario are those given above plus proximity, tolerance of frustration, being able to calm down and focus. And you can grow all of these using games.
Does learning these concepts now seem more useful in your day to day life than knowing how to sit?
Book a free discovery call if they do!