What are you really teaching your dog?

We all talk a lot about changing or eliminating a dogs behaviour. But what about stopping the dog from learning the behaviour in the first place. Just as I stated in my last blog I had created a behaviour in Odin that was completely contextual to only my son. If I had done what I knew and lived by own advice I had given too many people this wouldn’t have happened.

This is the point we make so many decisions that are very emotionally biased yet if we look at the facts when we are making a decision we are more likely to have success in whatever that process is.

Ok so you have made the decision and you have a plan. You know how to do it but you have never actually done this before. So now you hesitate, not feeling confident in what you are about to do!

People will often remark when I am teaching dogs or people on how well I do it. Which is great and I always appreciate the feedback yet It is just like anything else, you need hear to it, to see it and then practice it. Sometimes with a little or a lot of guidance but training teaching or shaping behaviour in a dog isn’t really that difficult for the most part. I am talking more simple behaviours such as sit, down, come when called and don’t chew on the children.

As I have pointed out in previous blogs it’s all about the environment, the dog’s genetic temperament and prior learning. So the environment encompasses absolutely everything including us.

When I am teaching, training or rehabilitating a dog at first and it does not matter what my end goal is, my very first goal is to give a very brief introduction and then I will begin to show the dog how he needs to feel about it. An example of that would be if I was teaching a pup to sit, I would be in a quiet setting, place one hand at the base of his tail and the other hand on his chest and then I would guide the pup into a sit and saying the command at the same time. As soon he was in the sit I would give him a treat and release him, begin the whole the process over again.

So we can set up the environment for the dog to learn these behaviours but how do we set up the environment for the dog not to learn these behaviours? Think about it like this. Why was your dog able to chew on your new shoes, TV remote or your phone? You gave him the opportunity too. You left it here and you were not paying attention. That pup doesn’t understand yet that he’s not allowed to destroy your shoes. As far as he’s concerned it’s something he can play and have fun with. He has no idea of what those things mean to you or what they cost, or what money is. Dogs cannot measure value in this way.

At the moment I am raising a Malinois, his name is Thor and he’s almost 5 months. I have had him from a pup. He is coming along beautifully, I couldn’t be happier with him. Almost every day I train him to do various things, he knows around 20 different behaviours and loves to work. Yet every day I just hang out with him, inside and outside. When he’s inside the house just hanging out with me, I make sure there is nothing for him to chew or play with as I am now teaching him to relax and just enjoy my company. Now it’s usually around one hour that he can behave himself before he gets bored and starts looking for something to do. This is when normally he will go outside and spend some time with one of my other dogs or even by himself.

I am not punishing him in any way as I have made going outside a great thing. All I am doing is limiting the opportunity for Thor learning behaviours I do not need him to learn. He will be a mature dog before I will know it and some behaviours I won’t have to worry about.