The True Value of Obedience
How many times have you said to your dog, Yo, Adrian! No, wait. That’s Rocky Balboa. How many times have you said, Yo, Stella! Come here already! Then you wait, holler out few more times, and then wait some more. And, when you’re tired of waiting, you go into the other room, pick up Stella, and carry her into the living room – while muttering, Stupid Dog, under your breath.
You repeat this routine daily and never realize that your dog isn’t stupid, at all. Actually, she’s very well trained – trained to wait for you to come pick her up and carry her into the other room.
Like when we were kids playing outside.
Friend: Hey, your mom’s on the porch calling for you to go home.
Me: Yeah, I heard her. I don’t have to leave until she starts yelling.
We forget sometimes that dogs have been observing human behavior for at least 15,000 years. That means they’re pretty good at figuring us out.
It’s even encoded in their DNA. What started out as wolf-dogs protecting the cave and cave wife while hubby was out doing his caveman job has continued right up until today and literally changed dog’s genetic code.
Dogs Take Their Cues from Us
Here is a prime example of what I’m talking about. I sit outside with my dogs every night. Not because I don’t have anything better to do; but, because I’m training my French Bulldog, Stella, not to bark.
Ellen’s idea of training Stella not to bark has been to holler, Don’t Bark or Stella, Be Quiet out the second story window while she’s barking – which encourages Stella to bark more. Ellen confirms for Stella that there’s a reason to bark.
So, I started spending time outside with the dogs. Which brings us to what I consider to be the first and second rules of dog training:
1. You must physically be with the dog to train the dog.
Yelling from another room or out the window doesn’t count as training your dog.
2. Give the dog your undivided attention while training.
No Facebook (Instagram for me) or earbuds or smoking or watching TV or eating or reading – get the point? Just you and Stella with no distractions.
What do you think was the very first thing I noticed about Stella’s barking when I started spending time outside with her? Take a wild guess.
That’s right. When Stella saw or heard something that she wasn’t sure how to react to, my little Frenchy Girl looked at me FIRST. Was I afraid or alarmed or concerned? Or was I relaxed and reassuring?
Was I looking around for a place to run or did I hold her gaze and say in a soothing voice, It’s okay, Stella. Everything’s fine. Good girl. Really important here to understand that what my Frenchie hears is, Blah blah, Stella. Blah, blah. Good girl.
The words are not important. I could just as well have been saying, Note that the desired results, Stella, will not be obtained with flash. Good girl. (Shout out to page 94 of my Nikon owners’ manual.)
Stella determines my reaction to what she heard or saw by observing my body language, facial expression, the tone and volume of my voice – and uses the combined cues to determine whether she needs to be alarmed and, therefore, start barking.
From my point of view, it’s not so much that she hasn’t barked. Rather, it’s that everyday sights and sounds are becoming normalized and Stella is learning when not to be alarmed, which triggers the barking. You’d think that a dog Bowhaus Pets nicknamed Stella the Enforcer wouldn’t be so skittish; but, sometimes….
The important thing is that Stella is learning (being trained) – not so much by traditional reward or punishment; but, by observation and participation. I’m afraid. Daddy’s not afraid. Now, I’m not afraid.
And, after several weeks she rarely barks, whether I’m outside with her or not. And, I never had to use a shock collar which does nothing about the fear, just robs dogs of their defensive response. The next challenge is to get her to stop barking at pedestrians when we’re out for a drive.
What is the number one reason why dog training fails? You invest time and money in training; but, it just doesn’t seem to take hold. Why?
This week, try to catch your dog observing you. What are the circumstances? What are you doing at the time?
Who knows, you may learn something new about how your dog thinks and relates to you.
Anyway, that’s a little bit about the True Value of Obedience
Mr Taveletti assigned a research paper titled Are Dogs Psychic? How Do Dogs Know What We Think. Here are some resources you might want to use:
Coren, S. (23 June 2011). Can your dog read your mind? Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201106/can-your-dog-read-your-mind
Coren, S. (23 October 2012). Your dog watches you and interprets your behavior. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201210/your-dog-watches-you-and-interprets-your-behavior
University of Lincoln. (12 January 2016). A man’s best friend: Study shows dogs can recognize human emotions. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160112214507.htm