I don’t know how to say it any other way. In order to teach dogs our language, we need to be willing to learn a bit of theirs!
These strategies will translate clearly to your dog your wishes, intent and teaching! Enjoy!
We cannot hope to teach our dogs a single thing until we can get and hold their attention. This should not be an issue if you begin your training inside of the house or backyard where there are minimal distractions. However, when you start venturing out into the neighborhood, then at parks and busier public places you will need every single skill I provide you in this course! I will regularly refer back to using the following five senses throughout the program.
Smell: Using aromatic food will go a long way towards getting and keeping his attention throughout a lesson.
Taste: Bologna for the most finicky of eaters has proven to be the bomb as an attention-getter! It’s also easier to prepare and handle than hot dogs or shredded chicken. Tear off a piece that you can hold in your left hand while your dog nibbles one piece at a time.
Sight: Show your dog the food and lure his nose exactly where you want it (when you steer the nose you steer the rear). Show him where and how to move with your body and hand movements, as well as using the speed of your movements to grab his attention, speed him up or slow him down.
Sound: High pitched vocal tones and kissing noises tend to speed dogs up, and a low calming voice tends to slow them down. Verbal praise or disapproval should be tonally different to help your pup distinguish between the two. Also, paring new word cues with your dog’s new actions is the essence of teaching them English.
Touch: Tickle your dog’s ear or chin, poke him with your finger or leg quickly to get his attention. Petting and stroking slowly will help keep him from squirming about.
Dogs communicate with body language. So, until they learn English, it is our responsibility to communicate our wishes in a language they understand.
- Keep Moving
Most people tend to go when their dog goes,and stop when their dog stops. This conveys that the dog itself is in charge of when, where, and how fast or slow you go! I will ask you to announce to your dog you are going walking and then go. Of course, you should give your dog a chance to join you but that does not mean to just stand there and wait since the more you wait, the more your dog will either,
(A) Also wait, for direction from you, or
(B) Take advantage of your waiting and do his/her own thing until you decide what you are doing.
Also, since dogs learn by mimicry, when you try to move your dog you yourself should move in order to show your dog what you want, rather than by trying to drag him into place with your leash while you stay put. Your dog won’t understand this and won’t walk/move until you do. Lastly, movement is a super valuable tool for getting your dog’s attention! A well-timed turn away from a distraction can be a great training aid. Your dog will have to choose between the distraction and you! Your job is to make certain your dog sees you as the preferred choice by being fun and also providing positive reinforcement for making the right choice! (see list of motivators).
- Shoulders, Eye Contact, Attention
Dogs are constantly studying us looking for cues into what we are trying to convey. When you face your dog with your shoulders square to him standing tall, you are saying back off, and he will tend to stay put. Conversely, when you turn your back to your dog, he will have a tendency to want to follow you. This is how we “show” dogs with body language what to do, where to go etc. Eye contact is also an important component in communicating our requests, approval and even reassurance in more distracting situations. Lastly, pay attention to your dog at all times while training so that you can prevent mistakes (see error-free sessions), or correct mistakes quickly (within three seconds). Each time your pet performs old or undesirable behaviors, you are delaying the formation of permanent new behaviors.
- Fast and Slow, High and Low
Fast movements, high noises and tones speed animals up and grab their attention. Kissing or clicking noises with your mouth can grab your dog’s attention quickly when needed. This is helpful when your dog is distracted. Conversely, slow movements and lower voice tones will tend to slow them down. This is helpful with overly excited dogs when you need them to stay put. So, for example, if you are training your dog to stay, remember to stay calm and slow, and use low and soothing vocal tones and so-on. If you want your dog to get moving or give you attention, be excited in your body movements and voice (high). Once your dog has a good grasp on a lesson these teaching aids can be eliminated.
Note: I still use all of these things in my relationship with my own dogs. Not because I have to but because it makes our relationship more dynamic and fun! As a result, it is rare they misunderstand me because I am speaking their language-body language!