What’s Missing In Our Foundation Dog Training ?

The laws of science have taught us all how to use reinforcement to shape our dogs’ responses. As we train a dog we are actually building behaviour, like a little girl with her glue gun making crafts or . . . if you were a little girl with seven brothers that would be you building a model car with airplane glue:).

While you train your dog, you are fitting pieces together to create the desired behaviour. However, for those of us competing with our dogs just “getting behaviour” is rarely good enough, we need to have that behaviour with enthusiasm!

So if our dog’s responses are the pieces that fit together to give us behaviour . . .  then our dog’s emotional state prior to and during the work is the glue that helps all the pieces come together. Lack of glue or the wrong glue and everything falls to pieces.

Your goal prior to any work session is to create the perfect glue for your own dog. By doing that you are putting your dog into a state of arousal that will produce his “peak performance” every time you train. This has nothing to do with competing (although it is excellent advise for those of you that do trial your dogs) it is about bringing an alert, focused, keen dog into each and every training session with you.

If your dog is under-aroused he is going to be distracted by otherwise insignificant things in your environment. Here is where people lament to me “my dog doesn’t like to work in the heat,” or “he doesn’t like wet grass” or “tall people scare him” or “barking dogs make him run away . . .”  or my dog “just loves to go sniffing,” or “chases birds” or “eat horse poop.” 

Have you ever considered why your dog even notices the heat, wet grass, birds, poop, other dogs or smells while other dogs working in the same environment don’t seem to notice anything except their trainer and the work?

Think About THIS . . .

Would your dog notice any of these “big” distractions if you were in the act of lowering a heaping plate of roast beef down to him? Or  bouncing around his favorite tennis ball to chase, or if a squirrel ran by? Of course he wouldn’t because his favorite food, toys or rodents running by will put him into a higher state of arousal. One where the environment no longer matters to him, he has unbelievable focus and drive for something else so can ignore any kind of condition or distraction to get at what you have for him.

The Question To Consider

The question now is how do you get THAT focus and desire in your training? The answer lies within your glue. Each dog will have a unique mix of glue to suit his unique drives and desires. So, what is the glue that is going to bond all of the behaviours together for YOUR dog?

This is a critical question for everyone trying to train a dog and one I am currently writing about for a series in my newsletter. I sent out an announcement earlier this week to all of my newsletter subscribers. You see I plan on rolling out my biggest on-line dog training project to date at the end of this month. This one has been in the works for two years. It is pretty well an all inclusive course for training your dog’s contacts for agility. “The 5 Minute Formula To Contact Success” will cover:  foundation games, body awareness exercises, up contact training, a “quick fix” formulation to overhaul your current contacts f-a-s-t,  plus a detailed step-by-step instruction of how I train my stopped contact training and yes . . . I will even spill the beans on the foundation training for my new running contact training.

I Have Some Ideas For You

While planning out this upcoming mega-course,  I had to think what would be the biggest stumbling block to my students’ success?  Well assuming everyone follows through with the work, I think the biggest obstacle in the way of success would be starting out with a dog that has little interest in engaging in the work or with his handler.  It is that “D” word. Twenty years or more ago I came up with an acronym for my students “D.A.S.H”  (desire, accuracy, speed & habitat). The DASH acronym is as relevant today as it ever was; you have to get the dog’s “D” or desire up prior to trying to teach the dog any part of the “A” or accuracy of a behaviour. Training a dog that lacks “D” is going to be a battle of frustration and futility for anyone.

When I say “a dog that lacks D” most people immediately think of a low drive, frightened, lethargic dog that has little drive for training. But the lack of “D” can also go the other way. You may have a high drive, super keen dog that has tons of “D” but rather than it being directed at  you or your work his focus is directed at the first shiny thing that catches his eye; other dogs, birds, people, smells, you name it!

Either way, trying to train a dog that lacks “D” is a bit like herding cats and I wouldn’t wish that job on anyone, let alone students I want to help with their contacts! So before I roll out my new course I really want to help people to create desire and focus in the correct direction; towards you and the work you are attempting.

All of this starts tomorrow as I send out the first foundation newsletter for improving your dog’s “D” to work with you. If you are not one of my newsletter subscribers you can join by filling in the form on this blog, you will find it on the right hand side or below. Please note, you may have to tell your internet provide to “allow” emails from customerhappiness AT clickerdogs DOT com (written like a true email address “[email protected]). If you have specific struggles you would like us to consider in our series, please let me know about them here. ** We did have an issue with the newsletter that went out earlier this week, so if you didn’t get yours, just try to sign up once again — that is the best way to know if you are on our list or not.

Today I am grateful for Lynda OH, who took a two month leave of absence from her job with the government so she could come to work full time for us here at Say Yes . . . next step in my plot is to somehow make this a permanent thing:)