At the root of it all dog training comes down to COMMUNICATION! Regardless of the method, whether it be clicker or marker training, positive or negative reinforcement, the goal of it all is to establish a common line of communication with our dogs.
Just like every other team of trainers, our approach is our own. There’s a place in training for every tool and method. For us, everything begins with our leash and training collar. It’s important to remember dogs don’t speak English, in fact, they don’t speak at all. Our canine counterparts communicate primarily through touch, and of course, body language. So, we as COMPETENT leaders must find a way to communicate with our subordinates.
By understanding how to effectively articulate to our dogs through the leash and training collar we’re able to establish a sound and stable pack structure in our home. One that is based off of mutual trust and communication.
The most asked question is dog training, “Do you use positive reinforcement?” The answer to that question is, absolutely!
Remember, our goal in dog training is to establish a common line of communication between us, the owner, and our companion. We need a means to communicate to our dogs that they’re doing exactly what we want, that’s where positive reinforcement comes in to play. When it comes to the five basic commands (come, sit, down, stay, and heel) we need our pups to perform them for us every time, without treats or clickers, our physical praise is the reward!
At the same time, we don’t believe in ignoring undesirable behaviors. From the time a pup is born their mother begins to teach them boundaries and expectations through corrections. That may be by snapping, growling, or displaying body language which we’d normally call aggressive. This is simply how dogs communicate, after all, they are the descendants of wolves.
All of our training begins with a leash and training collar. We don’t stand against the use of prong or e-collars, but they aren’t necessary for basic training or obedience. We believe they should be reserved for use in advanced or specialty training.
As leaders we need to be able to communicate to our dogs what it is we need from them in EVERY situation, right? So, what happens when we run out of treats or forget our clicker at home? We rely on body language, physical praise, motivation, and other non-verbal cues to communicate with our dogs because, instinctively, it’s what they understand.
The Dogs Part in it All
For dogs everything comes down to leadership. To be an effective leader we have to be able to communicate. Since we don’t know how to communicate to our dogs what we expect of them as leaders or even that we are the leader, for that matter, they assume the leadership position in our homes. After all, our canine companions are dominant by their most basic nature, it’s in their DNA.
Naturally, human-beings are nurturing and catering. So much so, we give our pups names, feed them from the table, hug and comfort them (sometimes even when they’re showing aggression), and commonly, we allow them to pull us down the street on walks. While we’re humanizing our dogs we are, at the same time, miscommunicating so many things.
Let me ask you, if you provide shelter, make every decision regarding the packs safety, and your every demand was catered to by the other members in the home you’d probably be considered the leader, right? This is what confuses our dogs!
Remember, the leader makes ALL the decisions! The leader determines direction of travel, decides who can come and go, when we eat and sleep, even where we sleep!
Now we’re dog lovers too, we understand the need to “love” your dog. And we don’t believe that it is wrong to allow your dog all the finer things in life. However, it is important to be able to communicate what our expectations are through it all in order to maintain a sound and stable pack structure.
When you walk in on your dog while they eat, and they snap at you, he isn’t being “aggressive” as much as he is trying to communicate that, “that’s his bowl of food, and he doesn’t plan on sharing!” After all, dogs will fight to the death over leadership.
So how do we bridge this gap? To get past this we must form a common line of communication, and we’re able to do that through the leash. Being the leader has nothing to do with being big, bad, or macho. In most homes it’s the little dog who heads the pack.
The Humans Part in it All
You know the moment when you say, “SIT!” to a dog and they stares at you like they don’t understand? Yes, we’ve all done it before. Brought a new pup home, or even in meeting a friends’ dog for the first time while they throw themselves all over you. Usually this is followed by us repeating ourselves several times as if their hearing is the issue. And eventually ending with us walking away thinking, “Stupid dog!” or “oh, he must not know what “sit” means.”
We seem to always forget one simple thing when it comes to our dogs, THEY DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH, in fact, they don’t speak at all. The word “sit” means nothing to our dogs until we teach them what it means. Simple, right?
Humans communicate verbally first. Our dogs differ there, in that, they communicate through body language and touch. Not taking that into consideration, we bring our dogs into the home and try to communicate with them the same way we do all the other human pack members. To make it worse, each person in the home is handling the dog and communicating in a completely different way. This combination leaves our pups sorely confused!
Our dogs communicate with one another through body language and touch. To think that we can communicate with them in any other way is absurd. Through effective leash articulation, motivation, praise, and other non-verbal cues we are able to express exactly what we want from them.