Training Your Dog for Unparalleled Control
Posted on May 21st, 2020 by FetchMasters in Uncategorized
One of our claims to fame at FetchMasters is our ability to train dogs for very high levels of control in very difficult environments without the use of e-collars. This article is not meant to be a referendum on e-collars; this simply is what we do, and I want to attempt to explain a little of what goes into our approach.
Clients typically are blown away when they see dogs behaving nicely around our assortment of other animals (dogs, people, chickens, ducks, rabbits, homing pigeons, partridges, etc …). They often do not believe that their dogs will ever be able to do this, and yet they find after a short amount of training, a transformation begins to happen in their dogs.
And then comes the question, both from clients and from other trainers: How do you accomplish that?
The answer arises from this realization: Just because a dog knows HOW to do something, does not mean he WILL. How do we cross the threshold from what he can do and what he does?
The answer is not a simple one; there is not a certain thing that we do to accomplish such control with our approach to dog training. There is no gimmick. Control — impulse control, steadiness — is not a thing; it is a state of mind.
It is based on a number of factors, layers of an onion if you will. Presenting a complete list of the factors is difficult, as every dog is a bit different and has a different personality, different needs, different levels of “drive-iness.” But here is a quick attempt at explaining the waters we splash around in:
Dog Training Cannot Neglect Relationship
There are those in the dog training world that believe everything comes down to something called “reinforcement history.” While this may actually be true on an extremely deep level, the concept of reinforcement history goes far deeper than the under-developed theory that if you give enough treats to a dog for doing something, the behavior becomes automatic. That only works to a point.
A lot of a dog’s willingness to listen to you arises from the nature of its relationship with you — just like a lot of your willingness to listen to another human depends on your relationship with them. If you don’t have a good relationship — the correct relationship — with your dog, you’re not likely to develop rock solid performance in difficult situations.
We all have relationships with our dogs, and yet all of us do not have rock solid performance from our dogs in difficult situations. The trick is understanding what the right relationship is and then developing it appropriately.
Anyway, that’s probably a concept that needs to be more fully developed in another post. But suffice it to say, you can love your dog to death and still not be able to get any compliance from him. There is more to a relationship than warm fuzzies.
Dog Training Requires Being Consistent
Yeah, yeah. We’ve all heard that. Simple, right?
Well maybe it seems simple, but it is the area where most dog owners go off the rails. This is because being consistent with your dog is not always a simple thing to accomplish.
We must be consistent not only in rewarding the behaviors we want, but also in making boundaries clear to our dog. We must be consistent in the expectations we have for our dogs’ behavior. Consistency requires an intentional approach to living with our dogs.
They need to know who we are, what we want, what is okay and what is not okay. And we need to not send them mixed messages about these things.
If you think about it, beine intentional and clear in all these things says something about the relationship you are drawing your dog into. Dog’s are monumentally intelligent creatures, and they will draw conclusions about what is acceptable and what by the way you live with them.
So, don’t be flakey in your communication with your dog. There is a kind of communication that is expressed by being consistent.
Solid Dog Training Requires Your Dog’s Understanding of Context
Take the picture above. Is this high-drive hunting dog not killing chickens simply because he has good impulse control? Or is it just because he has a good relationship with me and because I’ve been consistent with him?
Partially. But there is another element to his control. He has been taught that we only go after other animals in very specific situations — namely, when we are bird hunting.
He understands that when he is running around the ranch with me doing chores, there is a specific way to live within that context. It is not a free-for-all. There are rewards, expectations and boundaries.
You imbue your children with an understanding of living in the world … rewards, expectations, boundaries. Your dog is absolutely capable of coming to the understanding that the whole world is not a big free-for-all. There is fun to be had in certain contexts, but other contexts have different requirements.
There are other principles that go into developing a very high level of performance in dog training. Probably dozens of other principles. More than what I can bang out right now. But allow me to repeat: Control — impulse control, steadiness — is not a thing; it is a state of mind.
It is a principle that arises from who the dog develops into by virtue of his training, his understanding of his relationship with you, and his understanding of the context of various environments. And, honestly, many other things.
I truly believe any owner can train their dog to impeccable standards. But it often takes an open mind and some good guidance.