While walking a clients dog yesterday, I heard these words coming from my neighbors garage, ” Trixie come here, come on , come on Trixie, You want to go bye bye don’t you? GET OVER HERE NOW!!”
This brought to mind the numerous times in our dog training business we have heard people say , “My dog does not listen to me.” Our response to this statement is always, “It’s not the dog.” Actually, the majority of training issues are not the dog. The real reason for many problems is lack ( of the human) teaching the dog to listen. Another reason is that people assume dogs understand the human language without ever teaching them this language. Lets break down the above scenario to better explain.
1) “Trixie come over here”
Mistake number one: The dog is not on leash.
Putting a leash on the dog gives you control and stops the dog from running away. The leash allows you to guide the dog into position.
Mistake number two: Too many words used.
“Trixie come over here” Is not a command. The dog clearly was not taught what the command “come” means. If the dog is not taught a command, she will not comply, she cannot perform what she was never taught. Even if she was taught the word, the man coupled it with a series of other words which confuses the dog.
Mistake number three: No motivation.
The man had nothing to reward the dog with and therefore no motivation for the dog to come to him. All the other fun things in the garage are much more rewarding to check out than the human who is saying words the dog doesn’t understand.
2) “Come on, come on Trixie”
Mistake number one: As stated above, coupling too many words together confuses the dog
Mistake number two: Repeating a command.
Repeating a command without motivation for the dog to comply. By repeating a command, the dog is taught to ignore your words because they mean nothing.
3) “You want to go bye, bye don’t you?”
Mistake number one: Humanizing the dog.
Assuming the dog knows what this statement means is humanizing the dog. When we speak to our dog in this fashion the dog hears, “wa, wa, wa, wa”
again, this teaches that words mean nothing.
Mistake number two: Putting a command in the form of a question.
Dog’s do not understand questions and commands should never be given in the form of a question. This statement is not a command as stated above.
4) The final and most devastating command, “GET OVER HERE NOW!” in an angry tone.
Mistake number one: Yelling at a dog.
Yelling at the dog to come to you is the most detrimental thing a person can do to the learning process. The person is teaching the dog NOT to come to him. You should never yell at, spank, slap or punish your dog in any way once he comes to you. By yelling at a dog after he comes, you are punishing him for coming to you. By yelling to get the dog to comply, you are creating a negative association with your dog coming to you. The dog will be less likely to come in the future.
Mistake number two: Again, not a command. Too many words used that the dog clearly cannot understand.
There are three stages when training a dog.
1) The learning stage
2) The reinforcing stage
3) The proofing stage
You have to complete one stage before you can move on to the next. Many training issues come from mistakes made in the learning stage of training.
The correct way for the man in the garage to handle this situation was to first properly teach the dog a solid recall and work on it daily. A dog without a solid recall should never be off leash. The man should be wearing a treat pouch, Rewards should be readily available when teaching a dog anything. If the man wants the dog to learn that the command “bye bye” means go to the car, he should teach the dog by saying the word “bye bye” and guiding the dog with a leash to the car, rewarding when he jumps in.
So you see, it is not the dog, it is the person who is failing the dog. Once you teach a dog to ignore your commands, You will have a more difficult time teaching them to listen in the future. Often times you will need a dog trainer to help. Remember the saying “Don’t blame me if you don’t train me”
By properly teaching your dog what words mean, and rewarding when the dog performs, you will have a dog that happily listens to you no matter what you say, in any situation.
The next time the neighbor wants his dog to go to the car it should sound like this, “Trixie come” (dog comes) , “bye bye” – (dog jumps in car!) 4 simple words, no frustration.
To learn more training techniques and to keep from making common training mistakes, visit our website and purchase our book Puppy Montessori!
Cindy Quigley is the Owner of Super Mutts Canine Retreat. She is a dog trainer, dog groomer, and author. She has 19 years professionally working with dogs.