Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Clear Communication....

With all of the many things to do before moving I have not had a chance to do much dog training or even thinking about dog training. It is not the big stuff, like packing, that take up all of my time. It is the ridiculously trivial but still necessary tasks that consume the whole day. Things where the amount of time needed to get them done is in no way a reflection of their importance. I did drive into Manchester and return $7.00 worth of soda bottles today and then redeemed $37 in loose change. While my "to do" list doesn't get any shorter, the day wasn't a complete loss!

While in Manchester, as I was returning to my car with 15' of bubblewrap (I need more, who knew....) I overheard a lady yelling at her dog while she was pumping gas. It was a fluffy white thing, barking its little head off and she was yelling "You be a Good Dog!" in a stern tone, over and over. Remember that far side cartoon where the owner is speaking and the dog is hearing "Blah blah blah Ginger. Blah blah blah Ginger." Even worse this dog is hearing "Blah blah blah GOOD DOG! Blah blah blah GOOD DOG!" I wonder why he continues to bark....

Seriously, we all do this. Most of us live with dogs day in and day out and we talk to them probably more than we would care to admit. Because they are part of our lives we tend to forget that they don't understand english (although I would argue that Bevan understood sarcastic humor). The everyday conversations are relatively harmless but we need to remember that certain words need to have specific meanings if they are going to be effective.  If we get sloppy with the meaning can we blame the dog for getting sloppy in the execution?

Training is about clear communication and I want my dog to be clear about what commands mean - it makes the command effective but more importantly, it is being fair to the dog.  If my dog could write I want him to be able to write out the meaning of a command in a short sentence. Take the command "come" for example. Everyone would agree that this is a rather important command. However it is one of the most commonly "abused" commands. My goal is for the dog to understand that it means "bring me your collar". I want him to come to me so I can grasp his collar, then I reward him and then release him. Grabbing the collar also keeps me honest and helps keep me from getting sloppy in reinforcing other behaviors as we slide down that slippery slope of close enough.

Come does not mean the following
come near me
come pretty close to me and then keep going
come to me and then leave immediately
come into the room I am in
come back in the house
walk the direction I am walking
jump in the car

Steel is notorious for liking to inventory all the new smells that happened overnight in my yard while we were sleeping. I have several things that I yell to him when he is taking an annoyingly long time or when I am short for time (fortunately I have no neighbors).  If those various words fail to produce results then I pull out the big gun and tell him to COME. I usually end up doing this while the poor dog is pooping which creates an even greater recall speed, in order to make up for the unavoidable delay no doubt. In addition to having clear communication this is one command I ALWAYS reinforce. It is money in the bank for the day when I absolutely need a fast response to the command.

Bring me your collar please.


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