I was just reminded of how simple dog training can be! And how complex!Early this morning Rayna and I went for a long walk around the neighborhood. Rayna is a German Shepherd Dog I’m dog sitting for a few days. As we rounded the corner the early morning silence was broken by the faux threat of a young Pomeranian dog
that had just been let outside for his early morning relief. He ran down the side stairs into a penned area that kept him close to the side of house; a side yard approximately 4 feet wide by 15 feet long, confined securely with a knee-high garden fence. Surely he could have easily jumped the fence or ran right through it, but apparently he’d never tested this.
Upon hearing the dog’s crazed bark cutting through the still, crisp morning air, his owner appeared at the door. “Arthur!” she said in a quiet, but firm voice. Arthur continued to alert his owner that there were ne’er-do-wells in the neighborhood. Upon seeing us, Arthur’s handler, laughed and explained that Sir Arthur thinks he’s bigger than he is. This was apparent.
To her credit, she didn’t speak to Arthur again, until Rayna and I walked forward about 15 more feet, which incidentally was the same direction the owner was standing in the doorway. As Rayna and I continued along the sidewalk, Arthur turned barking and ran along the pen toward us and toward his waiting owner. As Arthur got close to his owner, she said, authoritatively, “Arthur!” Arthur looked up and she praised him lavishly, backing into the house and drawing him in with her.
How simple. Arthur’s owner instinctively knew that trying to get his attention by yelling at him or coaxing him while he barked away from her was a losing proposition. Arthur was clearly focused on Rayna and me. With a little patience, Arthur’s handler used the very distraction that was ‘causing’ the ruckus to her advantage. She saw we were turning the corner and would soon be ‘distracting’ Arthur toward her. By not chattering at him, she was able to quickly grab his attention when he was close enough to hear her by saying his name and engaging him as she became animated and moved into the house. I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willing to bet there was a dog treat waiting inside for him.
Training doesn’t have to be difficult, but there is both a science and an art to it. The quicker you are to master the protocol and have it become ‘second nature’ the quicker you can start modifying the behavior of everyone you live with.
Here are some things Arthur’s mom did right:
1) Observe the situation
2) Pick your battles
3) Know what you want to accomplish
4) Don’t fight the environment, use situations to your advantage
5) Know when to get involved – Timing is everything
6) Be animated and oversell yourself
7) Reward! Encourage! Reward!