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  • Richard Chan

Don't be like the teacher who lies.

I like to take this opportunity to talk about the protocol of meeting a person or dog.

I teach all my dogs to stay calmly by my side when a person/dog walks towards us.

I also teach my dogs to engage in me. I teach them to wait for permission before they go say hi, if l choose to do so.

Even if an off leash dog runs towards my dog in an off leash area and they want to play, my dog will stay by me until l give her the okay to engage.

If l do not want them to say hi for whatever reason, they will just calmly follow my lead and walk away with me.

So, when the client and her dog shows up, my dog would just stay in a down doing basically nothing. She will not run up to the client or her dog without my permission.

Many dogs' default response upon meeting a new person is to ignore their owners and run up to sniff right away.

I have seen many owners extending their leashes to encourage their dogs to pull and say hi.

This may not seem like a big deal but it is a very bad habit which is counter productive of many good habits we try very hard to teach our dogs.

First of all, after spending many hours teaching our dogs not to pull on the leash, why do we then allow them to pull and even reward them for pulling when they see another dog? Dogs do not understand grey very well; they are very black and white. They do not really understand "exceptions to the rule" - if you allow them to do one thing sometimes but then expect them not to do it some other times, they will become very confused and wont understand what you really want.

Secondly, l teach all dogs to focus on me, especially when they are outside in public. It is crucial for our dogs to pay attention and listen to us even when there are other interesting and tempting stimuli around. If they cannot pay close attention to us around heavy distractions they can get hurt or even killed (e.g. dog running after a squirrel onto a busy road).

We have no control of our dogs if we cannot get their attention when we need to. One simply cannot have a well behaved dog in the real world full of real distractions without engagement.

By allowing our dogs to just break command to say hi without our permission, we are sending them the message that it is okay to ignore us when they see something that really interests them. In other words, we are telling them engagement is just an option. Listening to us is optional - they are allowed to decide if they want to listen depending on how interesting the distraction is.

This is counter productive to engagement training, as it sends our dogs the exact opposite message than the one we really want to convey.

Thirdly, impulse control is a very important part of training. All dogs need to know how to have an "off" switch so they are not always in a hyper "let's go" mindset. But it goes deeper than that. I want my dogs to understand how to control their impulse and look to me for direction and guidance when they see something that they really like. This is closely tied into engagement training.

A dog needs to know how to pay attention to his handler (engagement) and not to follow his impulse (impulse control) when he sees something very interesting.

A dog with great impulse control is a dog that is much less likely to lunge, bark, pull, growl, jump, whine ... A dog with great impulse control is a dog who knows how to conduct himself accordingly in different situations regardless of how distractive things may be.

When a dog has learned how to have great impulse control, he will hold his position (e.g. down, sit) when l ask him to, and wait patiently, no matter what. He will not just break command and go up to a stranger because he wants to be petted.

Dogs learn through these little daily examples. When you teach them something during a formal training session but allow them to practice something entirely different in the real world, they will not take your training seriously. Your training will not produce the results you want.

It is like a teacher who tells the class do not ever lie but lies all the time in front of her students. When she does not walk the talk, her students will not respect her.

Little things matter a lot to our dogs.

They observe our behaviour constantly including our reaction to tiny little events.

These minor daily events are very important. They tell a dog about who we are and what we expect from them as much as the big formal training sessions.

Be consistent and practice in the real world what you preach on the training floor.

Get your dog to build good habits by paying attentions to these little events. You cannot have a well behaved dog in real big events if you have no control on the little events.

#balancedtraining #engagement #exercise #implusecontrol #focus #packstructure #playtime #socialization #structure


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