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  • 01 Feb 2018 10:20 PM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

    If I ask you to work the math problem: 85 + 15, you can surely answer 100 with just a little bit of thought.  If I ask you the same while you careen down the first hill of the Mamba at Worlds of Fun, you might have a harder time working out that math.  When the brain is distracted with lots of stimuli, like the sensation of dropping 70 mph in a train on a track, it can’t function as well as if you were sitting in a classroom.

    Training a dog can often be like trying to teach someone math on a roller-coaster.  To achieve optimum results, it is best to start teaching your dog his new skills in a classroom fit for a dog.  This is a place where your dog is accustomed to spending time. For most, this is the kitchen; it has readily accessible rewards and is many times the place a family spends a lot of time. 

    Learning skills in this low-distraction place gives your dog a chance to focus on the lesson being taught.  It is a much harder task to understand our training intentions when your dog is distracted by his environment.  When a dog’s attention is divided between your lesson and, for example, the children running through the kitchen, the excitement of the activity probably wins. 

    Even more difficult for a dog is trying to learn something new when he is not only distracted by things happening around him, but also stressed by these things.  Many things will stress a dog.  There might be something that is causing fear (some dogs don’t like visitors arriving to their house, loud garbage trucks picking up the trash, men in baseball hats and beards, etc., etc.) or your dog might be feeling stress because of how you are trying to teach your lesson (punishment for wrong choices can be very stressful).  Keeping your training fun for you and your dog will actually increase the quality of learning and your dog will be quicker to understand and remember his training. 

    So start in a classroom, and over time, sprinkle distractions into your training sessions.  Beware the assumption that your dog can respond to your cues in all levels of distractions.  If you find your dog not responding to the cue, give him a little extra help using a treat to lure him into position, and realize you might need to practice a bit more in a less distracting area. 

    Before you know it, when life gets as crazy as a roller-coaster, your dog will understand and respond to what you are asking him to do.  Enjoy the ride!

    Author:  Melissa Laub, CPDT-KA

  • 01 Jan 2018 9:52 PM | Latecia Mills (Administrator)

    Humans and dogs speak two very different languages.

    Dogs have a difficult time understanding the human language, and many humans have a hard time understanding the language of dogs.   Humans tend to rely heavily on the spoken word, and dogs communicate mostly using body language.  When our two species try to understand one another, there is often a disconnect. 

    As the ‘supposedly’ smarter being, it is the human’s responsibility to help your dog understand what it is you are trying to train.  Telling your dog “Sit” repeatedly, at increasing volume, is not going to help your dog understand that you’d like him to rest his tail end on the ground.  But, if done correctly, your dog will understand what is meant we he hears “Sit”.  Dogs learn our words by associations.  To help create that association, you need to repeat the process of pairing the action and the cue word several times.  Get the dog performing the behavior first, (probably by using a food lure or capturing the moment the dog is doing the behavior) then define that motion for your dog.  As your dog sinks his rear to the ground, say the cue word, “Sit”.

    It is also the human’s responsibility to understand what it is our dog is trying to tell us.  Dogs have an extensive vocabulary.  Their language is mostly communicated using different body positions.  Just as we try to yell commands at our dogs when there is no way they know what we are saying, our dogs yell their language at us too!  Do a Google search for images of dogs being hugged by children and you’ll see lots of dogs trying to tell us how uncomfortable they are.  Yawning, licking lips and leaning away are all ways a dog is saying, “this makes me uncomfortable”.   Whereas sweeping tail wags and wiggly body movements is usually a dog saying how happy he is currently feeling.

    We both have a language that is interesting and complex.  It is a fascinating sport to watch your dog, and practice reading his mind.  You’ll find that there is so much your dog is telling you, you just have to start listening.  Learning to better understand each other will make for a better relationship and deeper bond between you and your dog.  

    Author:  Melissa Laub, CPDT-KA

HEART has trainers and other pet professionals serving the entire Kansas City metro and surrounding areas.

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