Crystal Clear

I was watching back on a training video I recorded, many years ago with Digger.

It was appalling.

Me fumbling around with the lead and the phone, him checking in with me but disconnecting by the time I’d marked him, rewarding the wrong behaviours, not giving him the reinforcement he really wanted, me jabbering away to him as if he could understand me, all the time watching him fade off into the environmental abyss.

It’s no wonder we didn’t connect and stay engaged together.

He was giving me everything I wanted him to do be that looking at and coming back to me or walking nicely by my side for a step or two. But, because my lines of communication weren’t quick or clear enough to him, by the time I was ready, he was off doing something else, and a lot less interested in what I was offering.

Digger is a fast paced little dog, even at now 10 (can you believe it? I can’t!) he can move with speed and precision, is always eager to work for me, and can pick things up incredibly quickly.

Now 8 years on, my handling skills are a lot better than they were, which means our lines of communication are much clearer on both sides really.

When we’re communicating with our dogs, it’s easy to inadvertently reinforce the wrong stuff.

Have you been praising and telling them they’re a good boy/girl as they’re looking at another dog?
Do you pull them away from situations to avoid a reaction, but inadvertently cause them to react, by adding in the management?
Are you trying to get them to listen to you so much, that you’re not listening to them and using all of the wrong things to gain their attention?

As a general rule, when it comes to companion dogs and perceived problems, they are defined as any behaviour a pet owner views as unacceptable. Unfortunately, these things we find unacceptable, are in actual fact normal, innate behaviours and activities displayed by dogs and are far too often misinterpreted by owners.

Another thing with miscommunication is…

Wait for it…

It’s us humans who tend to cause them.

Do you ever see street dogs on a schedule? They don’t wake up each morning and say ”right it’s time for my walk” then take themselves off for an hour.

They don’t get restricted on a lead from smelling the same patch of grass for five minutes because they’re in a rush and must complete the whole circuit of the walk. They don’t encounter another dog and go ”HEY. I JUST WANT TO SAY HELLO!” then dart and di*k about running around after each other for half an hour.

And they don’t have someone constantly nagging in their ears minute after minute, trying to get them to do something they really aren’t that bothered about doing. Usually all boring things to the dog too, such as:

– Go to bed
– Get down
– Stop it
– Give it back
– Leave it
– Wait
– Be quiet

Fu*k my life man.

Reminds me of the detention room back in school, where you couldn’t speak or look around without getting an earful from the head master.

The expectation of how a dog should be has been well and truly shattered in our modern day society, and when it comes down to it, we’re expecting the dog to behave like a human. We’re asking them to behave to the ways of our society, not theirs.

Which is why I see so many problems arising for owners with their dogs.

In modern society, most dogs don’t get to be dogs. We discourage so many of their natural habits like sniffing a person crotch as a way of introduction. Hunting for their food is prevented. Even the foods we often present to them do not satisfy their need to gnaw and tear.

When an unfamiliar person knocks on our door late at night, we sure do want them to appear fierce and protect us and the home turf. But when the UPS person makes a delivery or persons hired for renovations arrive, and our same companion goes off the wall barking and lunging at the door, why does it then constitutes a problem and incur a punishment?

How’s a dog to know? 

And then there is the “perception problem.”

Some owners have really unrealistic views of their dogs that can be super detrimental to the overall relationship.

Things such as treating the dog as if they were a wolf, which they are not… “he’s just like a wolf when he does..X,Y,Z”, or “he’s my baby” and the worst one ”He’s being dominant” etc all results in inappropriate communication, and can be responsible for conflict, fear and even aggression, if the relationship deteriorates far enough.

Look at me back with Titon. Thought he was being dominant and thought that by me fighting fire with fire, it would help to put the flames out. But it didn’t. It just escalated his reactions, heightened his worries, and it took me a hell of a long time to rebuild the connection and trust, and that was even from me recognising quite quickly, that the approach I was using, wasn’t working.

When we open up the lines of communication with our dogs, we can quickly start to see more interest in what we have to offer them, we can change the ignorance around into listening skills. Reduce the frustrations in our own emotions, and theirs, by allowing more time for them to express natural dog behaviours, and working WITH the species in front of us, as opposed to against it can help dramatically in reducing perceived problems.

Where in your dogs life could you improve your lines of communication with them?

I’m starting with my team, right here, to help them better theirs.

Speak soon,

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