Nope; not robots

When I started out as a dog trainer; I'd been training a long time on my own, now I had to teach others.  The hard part in the beginning was getting my point across to the owners, I had to sharpen my own communication skills.  As the years past it got easier and easier to teach people to teach their dogs.   There were several things I wanted to really drive home about dogs and training; one was that they are not robots.  If you have ever been involved with official obedience competition; these dogs are robots.  There is no room for error; no leniency, no short cuts and no crooked sits.  This was not what I was going to teach.

They are not robots; they have minds of their own, they have issues, they have good and bad days like we do.  You must take all of these things into account when working with dogs.  There are several behaviors that I am very strict with; those are the ones that could result in a life or death situation.  Boundary exit training, coming when called, leave it and reacting to NO.  This does not mean that everything else slides; quite the contrary, I'm a pretty firm leader and when I speak I expect to be listened to.  But if my dog sits crooked or slowly; I don't care.  If they lay down on a sit stay; I don't care.  If they baulk when asked to down in cramp quarters; I get it. 

I have to smile; each and everyday when Luke and I exit the front door.  He waits for his "okay" to exit, dances around for a second and runs several feet out ahead.  Being a reactive dog he can barely contain himself but he tries.  I stand at the door and wait; he looks at me, then looks at the car, he tries to wait it out.  Then in a goofy burst he charges back and spins at lightening speed into heel position and waits; he is waiting for me to grab his harness so we can proceed.  I don't want him accidentally running into the street so we have rules; he knows what they are and obliges as best he can.  I will never proceed until he is in place; he knows that.

My girls are not pushy; although Jessie is a very dominant female she knows who the real Top dog in the house is.  Luke likes to push; you could anthropomorphise his behavior stating that he likes to clown around, he enjoys getting a rise out of you.  He is dominant and will talk back when he is over stimulated; I know this about him and give him time to get his anxiety out.  And if he intentionally ignores a behavior cue; a body posture change is all that is required to bring him back.

There have been many many times that I've seen a dog thinking; you can see the wheels turning.  They are given a verbal cue; you know they know it.  If you wait and watch you can see the smallest of clues that it is coming together in their head.  "They aren't going to do it; they don't understand" is a  common statement of frustration from owners.  "They are; watch" I tell them as I narrate the progress, a behavior broken down into fragments to the final goal, but success none the less.   Sometimes you just need to wait; it's coming if you have the patience to wait for it. 

I remember a dog in an group class of mine; he did an amazingly reliable recall (coming when called.)  The owner would call him from the other side of the room; and he reacted immediately.  He got moving in a full  snail pace the whole way across the room.  The people watching could only smile and laugh; he was doing it, in his own sweet time.  There was no pushing him; we simply had to find a way to make him move faster, without forcing him.  Push a dog and they push back.  The next week I brought some steak; a big treat for this boy and amazingly enough, he could darn near fly.  Before the steak he saw no reason to run; now running had purpose behind it. 

No; they aren't robots, they're smarter. 

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