I’m sure most of us have read articles or books from top trainers. Some of those writings mention or talk extensively about our connection and relationship with our dog. We will spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on lessons, training seminars, equipment, books and videos, and then…. on trialing. How much time or how many dollars have we spent on learning about our relationship and connection from our dog’s point of view?
So, here’s the Ringside Rant: for the sake of your dog and ultimately your performance together as a team, be willing to humble yourself and say, “I don’t know why my dog behaves in such and such a way.” (Please note that what follows is by no means a solicitation for business; it is, however, a request made by a lot of dogs!)
To start, learn from a certified trainer about canine body language. Your dog is giving you information about her feelings and thoughts constantly. She’s also very good at interpreting your body language. Please, take the time to learn what your dog is signaling. Dogs lack the ability to tell us “I don’t know what you mean” or “That kinda scares me, especially when I sense you are nervous, too” or “I don’t want to be wrong!”
Here’s how some communication/relationship issues present themselves. My dog loves agility at home or in practice but runs out of the ring, sniffs, gets the zoomies, makes up her own course, etc. during competition, or sometimes when we are at class, etc. My dog is trying to tell me something. And it probably isn’t that she inherently hates agility. Things are a bit off kilter because I haven’t seen the signals or have interpreted them incorrectly.
So, now we can say something isn’t quite right and we’d like to fix it. Again, please, humble yourself and look for help for you and your dog. But don’t look to other trainers of obedience, rally, agility, nosework, etc. It is very likely that their focus is on the skills required by your sport. That’s their “wheelhouse.” Instead, look for a trainer that has knowledge of recent, evidence-based research on the human-canine bond and has knowledge of recent, evidence-based research on how canines learn. (Notice a common thing here about evidence-based?) Your dog will love you for it and your competitor friends will be wowed by what you have achieved! It takes time. But isn’t it worth it based on what you already have invested like the stuff in the first paragraph?