Thursday, February 11, 2010

Human Components Of Dog Training Can Be Challenging

Tune in to KLAY 11.80 am this Saturday at 1:00 pm pacific time for a discussion with Kate Johansson, Tacoma dog trainer, on how a handler's expectations, attitude, body language and heart can influence dog behavior. If you want your dog to be different, YOU need to be different!

Recently some members of our training, picnic trial club wanted to change the rules of running in the mock trials we put on several times a year for our retrievers. They wanted to allow "training equipment" to be used while running the dogs. The reasoning went that everyone knows that dogs "know" when they are at a trial. That is why they act so much more excited and are so much more difficult to control. There is something about the excitement of a trial and all the many trucks and the more formalized waiting for a turn in front of the judges--having to wait behind all those holding blinds, etc.

We've been hearing this for years. How dogs "know" when it is a trial and act differently. So, if we could just have a "trial" and use "training equipment" the dogs would learn not to behave differently at a trial.

Problem is that the dogs are NOT reacting to the different atmosphere of the trial. We humans are. We are in competitive mode. We are being judged. There are spectators watching us. We had to get up in the middle of the night and drive a long distance to get there. We had to pay a significant entry fee for the opportunity to be judged. We might have had to get a hotel. We have a LOT invested in this trial. We have been training for months or years for this opportunity. And now its show time!

And the dogs look at us and sense something is different--about us. If we want our dogs to act the same way at a trial that they do in training--we need to learn to act and feel the same way we do in training. The only way to get comfortable at trials and tests is to enter our dogs in a lot of them. The more "line time" we get taking our dogs to the line in front of the judges at trials, the better we will get at doing it.

Trying to trick the dog into thinking he is at a trial while still being in training mode might give the trainer/handler a false sense of accomplishment. But when that handler gets out of his truck at a real trial next weekend, his dog is going to know something is different. Because that same old feeling is going to come back to the handler.

We see this problem in pet dogs too. The problem of owners/handlers having anxiety, nervousness, and negative emotions while dealing with their dogs. Many, many dog problems are really confidence problems with the owners. And that is where so much education comes in to play with dog training. Training dogs is easy. Teaching and building confidence in the owners can sometimes be more challenging.

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