Recently I decided to take the examination for the Certification Exam for Pet Dog Trainers and subsequently the Certification for Dog Behavioral Counseling. Lots of rereading and rewatching document dog videos are in my future, but what got me thinking the most was the application. You see, in order to take the Certification test, I must have a minimum of 300 hours of dog training experience. Before you read on, I invite you to add up your dog training hours - I think you'll be as surprised as I was!
- Dog training isn't about the dog communicating with ME, but rather me adjusting my ways and communicating with the dog in THEIR language. They give us so many signals and we humans rarely pick them up. Instead we say "Why isn't he moving faster?" as we turn our back on our dog (which in dog language means 'leave me alone'), "He knows (fill in the blank)", "He's being stubborn", etc. I often wonder why it's all about us....and how did we become so self centered in this dog/human relationship. Don't get me wrong, we're not always like this, but when things aren't going our way, we tend to become self focused and ignore our partner. I used to get terribly nervous before running my Dalmatian in Agility. I've since learned that giving her a hug at the start line and looking into her eyes takes the focus off of me and puts the balance back in my world. I try to make that a habit now.
- Another thing I've learned is that when encouraging/training a wanted behavior, rapid repetition (click treat, click treat, etc.) and breaking things down into smaller, more manageable portions is my friend! In other words, I shouldn't expect my dog to be brilliant if I'm only going to notice the unwanted behaviors and ignore all of those good things they're offering up.
- One of the most important things I've recently been reminded of is that sometimes my dog needs to figure "it" (the thing I want them to do) out on their own and I need to patiently stand/sit there while they work through what I expect of them. Now granted, I'm talking in manageable steps, but gosh golly, if I step in every time they stood there staring at me and opted to lure them into position, I've given them no reason to think and they readily disengage their brain...the opposite of what I want! This one is hard, but as it's also been pointed out, I'm rarely standing/sitting there for eternity like it sure feels like!
- I've also learned it's okay to be silly with my dogs, to get down on the ground and play with them or to run around the yard playing chase. While my neighbors may find my antics funny, it is really good exercise! Like my justification on that?