A top handler said, after Maggie and I had had a rough run at a sheepdog trial last month, “You’re in good company, this is hardest thing I’ve ever done”. Bless them for their compassion. I’ve probably heard that ten times this summer, from people who in their other lives are accomplished professionals who work challenging jobs. Doing well at the highest level of a sheepdog competition is indeed a challenge–the number of factors that influence each and every one of your split-second decisions are endless.
That said, I want to take a moment to look at pet dog training, and give a shout out to everyone who does it, both personally and professionally. The fact is that it has its challenges too, the primary one being that we are “training” our companion dogs every second of the day that we are with them. Whether we call it training or not, our dogs are learning every moment that we are with them. For many of us, that includes when we are in a rush in the morning, stressed about the meeting that we are already late for, and when we are sprawled on the couch, exhausted from a long day and wanting nothing more than to cuddle with Smudges or Sushi and stroke her belly until our ridiculous, escapist television show is over.
Dogs who live in kennels and only come out for training are primed to pay attention to everything their human says or does. They have no opportunity to learn bad habits, and to discover how incredibly inconsistent humans inherently are. But I love having my dogs in the house with me, even though I want working, competition dogs who listen to every nuanced signal I send at a competition. I think all of us, no matter what we do with our dogs, want them trained well enough to listen and respond when we need them to.
So how do we handle the fact that it’s impossible to be “on” all the time when we’re at home? To need to be consistent when we inherently are not? Here are a few thoughts; I am looking forward to other good ideas from you.
Mostly importantly, make a choice: Decide what two or three cues are critical, and focus on being consistent with them. For example, any Border Collie who lives here at the farm has to be 100% responsive when I say Lie Down, and when I call them back to me. Otherwise, it would not be safe to let them off leash anywhere, in the front yard where we play every morning, on walks in the woods, at sheepdog clinics and competitions. Those contexts are essential to our quality of life, and so those cues are the most critical.
You’d think just two cues would be easy to use consistently, but I find that it’s easy to jumble things up. For example, Maggie’s recall is “Pup Pup”, but I began using “Here” after I started teaching her to shed. “Here” means “Come in toward me and then focus on the sheep that I’m facing and drive then away from the others”. Although “Pup Pup” and “Here” have similar meanings–come to me–they are used in such different contexts that I am wise to keep them apart. But recently I noticed that Jim and I were both saying “Here” just to call her to come when out and about. Not a crisis, but not ideal.
And of course, there’s the seductive desire to use a variety of other words in place of one, single recall signal. My biggest pet peeve (Ha! And yes, I did mean that pun.) is a dog’s name being used to mean, well, just about anything. If I’ve said “Maggie, what?” to Jim once, I’ve said it a thousand times. But the jokes on me, because sometimes I do it too–say a dog’s name with no more information to follow. If a dog’s name is to get their attention, then you need to follow it up with what you want your dog to do. “Read my mind” is not a reasonable expectation.
Being consistent is anathema to being human; that’s why we need to work so hard on it. It’s especially difficult if you live with several others. That’s part of why I suggest focusing on just a few cues that are essential. It’s hard enough to work on yourself, but even harder to get everyone else in the house to work on too. Especially if you’re the one who feels its importance. A lot of my clients had success with a family conference, agreeing on 2 or 3 cues that are essential and how they were going to say and use them consistently. Perhaps most importantly, you might figure out a positive reinforcement scheme to reward your family for playing the game. Guard against nagging, the bug-a-boo of all training paradigms, and the easiest trap to fall into. (Reinforce yourself for reinforcing!)
Last advice: Let it go. If it’s not in the Essential category, and you or your family uses it inconsistently, let it go. At least while you work on the others. In spite of my argument that we need to be consistent ourselves to get consistent results, dogs can understand contexts, and learn to not jump up on you, while leaping into your husband’s arms every night when he comes home. They can learn the couch is fair game when you’re home, but not when company comes. But, of course, it’s harder for them to figure out the context, so be thoughtful about where you draw the line.
I could go on forever about this topic, but I’m curious about you–if you had to pick 2-3 cues that are most essential for you and you family to work on, what would they be? How consistent are you, and with what cues? How about the rest of the family? I can’t wait to read what you have to say.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Just back from a fabulous three-day sheepdog training clinic with Patrick Shannahan. I am confident in saying that Maggie’s brain is as full as mine; lots of great information to process. At one point I thought both our heads would explode when what Maggie and I thought was a perfect, PERFECT fetch was, uh, not. Maggie was bringing the sheep on a straight line to me, even though they desperately wanted to run to the right back to their buddies. What could be wrong with that? But I quickly got Patrick’s point that she was using her body, or her physical presence to keep them in line, when she should have been using just her eye. If the sheep were in the center of a clock face and I was at 6:00, Maggie was at about 2:30. If she’d been just a hair over to the left, around 2:15, she would have had a better hold of them by using the power of her eye rather than the presence of her body.
I totally get the theory. However, the reality will be a challenge. Teaching Maggie to scooch over just a few inches (too many inches over, and she’d lose them when they take off in a dead run to the others) is going to take some work. And faith on my part that Maggie will figure it out and work through the confusion. Patrick was clear–if you want to learn to be an advanced handler, that’s the kind of distinction you need to be able to make. Well, we have all winter to work on it, lucky us. And I can’t wait to get started.
Overall it was a glorious weekend–Maggie and I will be processing what we learned for a long time to come, the weather was nippy but accommodating, our host–Thank you Laura!–kept everything running smoothly and fed us like royalty, and there was lots of time to talk and laugh with good friends. Now that Maggie is older, she is able to lie quietly at my feet and watch everyone else’s session, so we spent almost all three days outside, together and loving our life. Lucky us.
A few photos:
You can almost feel the sheep’s desire to go to the right (their left) in this photo of Maggie fetching the sheep to me. (Thank you Julie for taking the photo!)
Here’s a shot of the area where we spent all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Life is good when you get to look at this for three days running!
It did mean getting up pretty early every morning to drive to the clinic. But I got lots of reinforcement for it even before we got to the clinic site:
This ewe decided she’d rather spectate than work. Fit right in.
Maggie says thank you to Patrick Shannahan and Laura W for such a wonderful, informative clinic!
Love that last photo. Maggie looks like she’s giving the weekend a thumbs up with her ear.
Heidi Korpela says
This doesn’t exactly answer your questions, but I like to use nonsense words for my really important cues so that I don’t cue inadvertently and not follow through – as would be so easy to do with “come” or “here.” I use “release” to end a stay or wait, “hurry hurry” or “quick” for reacall, and my favorite, “Beetlejuice!” when it’s time to cue a nose work search. I encourage me pet dog training clients to find a fun word for their recall, and it is surprising how some people really resist this. Then I point out how cute it can be when you call a Mastiff with “kitty kitty” or you add an appropriate word to the dog’s name, like “Ferris!” (name), “Bueller!” (cue to come).
I love this!
Those pictures look glorious, Trisha. Although I prefer sunsets to sunrises lol.
For me recall is the be-all and end-all of cues. “[Red Dog] come!” enables us to spend hours hiking in the woods and fields while I play disc (“Frisbee”) golf. This is a great joy for both of us, but Red Dog is a fast runner with excellent critter-spotting skills and zero sense of direction so recall is absolutely essential.
Yes, a bit of a high-wire act. But worth it for both of us.
The other essential cue is “Wait.” This is often used in potentially dangerous situations – wait while I put on the leash before jumping out of the car door, wait before crossing a road, etc. – but “wait” is also useful when a visitor comes to the house or when we see other dogs out on a walk (“Does your dog like meeting other dogs?”).
I am quite consistent with essential commands. Credit for is due to my first dog, a beagle-retriever mix, who was expert at finding and exploiting loopholes and inconsistencies. I am often thankful that such a smart and determined dog helped me become a more consistent trainer.
The absolutely inflexible, never under any circumstances rule my dogs have to follow is not getting out of the car or going through the gate without being released. It was so set in Ranger’s head that he wouldn’t budge from the car unless all parts of the release cue were present. This took me a bit to figure out since I hadn’t realized that he considered the touch on his collar as I connected the leash was part of the cue. I’d grown to trust him enough that I didn’t always leash him before letting him out but he still required a touch on his collar to go with the verbal “that’ll do” cue.
Come to think of it my dogs were really go about demanding consistency because if I didn’t cue correctly they wouldn’t reinforce me by doing it. Finna had many recall cues each one meaning to come to me with a different finish. “Come” was to run to me, between my legs, and around to a perfect heel position on my right. “Front” was run to me and sit facing me. “On” was the critical one since it was her favorite, it meant come and put your nose in my palm and we’d play that one so that often I was running away from her as fast as I could or would keep spinning away, or otherwise make it as difficult as possible for her to complete the recall. She loved that. If I called come and put my palm out she’d crash into my legs so I learned to be consistent about her recalls, words and signals had to be the same because (strangely) she’d do what the word asked. Between the two of them I think I turned into a pretty well trained human.
Joanne Smith says
I was so relieved to hear that I am not alone in struggling with inconsistent signals! You provided some excellent advice regarding focus on the to 2 essentials, whatever that may be in your particular situation.
My husband and I have a 3 yr old dog and 4 month old puppy. Strong recall has always been important to us (and stressed by the trainer in the puppy class we are in). But using the same words for that is tough!
We are still reeling from the loss of our 4 year old fur baby who was hit by a car in July. She was a very fearful dog who we worked with extensively (including a Vet Behavioralist) but she couldn’t get past her fear (especially of my husband). We were managing though, until the day my husband (unknowingly) changed the “routine.” Our girl couldn’t handle that small change, got over her threshold and fled. The only time my husband ever held her was as her carried her body, sobbing uncontrollably, back from where she was struck. It was heartbreaking for both of us.
I’m planning to share your post with him so we can get on the same page for the sake and safety of our dogs! We never want to go through such an awful experience as that again. Thank you!
Emily Williams says
I just want to say that though I never comment I read it all and love it. So please know that many more of us are processing and learning even if you don’t know we’re here.
Mary F says
There are actually 3 cues that we use regularly. The first one is so that our neighbors don’t hate us! Piper is a barker. She’ll bark at the wind, a leaf, squirrels, and neighbors. (There is one house in particular that she barks at, and I have a theory…they used to have a dog, and Piper will go to the corner of our lot and bark, even though no one is outside. I think she’s still looking for the Lab that used to live there.) So we use the cue, “Quiet.” We try to say it in a positive way, and when she is ‘behaving,’ we say, “Good quiet!!” After working on this one cue for 3 years, we are starting to see progress!!
The next, very important cue is “Come!” She is a stubborn Cavalier King Charles, and she doesn’t always come right away, but we’re working on it.
And the last one is “OFF!” She doesn’t jump up on us, but whenever people come to the house, she jumps up to say ‘hello.’ So we’re constantly working on “OFF!”
I have a feeling that Piper will always be a ‘work in progress’… as will I!!
But I do remember our old dogs, Moose and Abby. Moose was an English Springer Spaniel, and Abby was a West Highland Terrier. We got them within 5 months of each other, as puppies. Moose was the most easily-trained dog we’ve ever had! Once he learned a skill, he had it down pat. (But boy, was he a stinker in the back yard! He moved the wood pile all over the yard, ate the pansies and hostas, and tried to take the deck apart! But was he ever a love!) Abby, on the other had, was as stubborn as the Westie breed can be. But she was my heart. She died at 12, and I don’t think I’ve recovered from it yet, 5 years later! She was good at most commands, but many times she got it in her head that she was the boss. Go figure…
Thanks for always giving us ideas to try with our four-legged friends!!
Mary F says
My husband just reminded me of another cue that we used with our Moose and Abby (and we still use it today.) It was “Leave It.” Moose was so good at it that when playing fetch in the back yard, we could tell him “Leave It,” so that Abby could take a turn at chasing the ball. We would take turns with each dog, and sometimes we’d mix it up to keep them on their toes. Fond memories of days gone by…
Barbara Martin says
I have several essential cues that my dogs know well but my husband never uses. My Jim is also guilty of saying “Mindy?, Mindy!, Mindy!!” with no “what” after her name. He will also call them when there is no chance of them coming. He is a great horse trainer but not a good student and ignores my instruction that walking quickly in the other direction will get those dogs coming pronto.
My essentials are “wait”, “get on your bed”, “down”, and “right here”. While walking my dog reactive dogs, when they see another dog, “right here” means ignore the other dog, look at me and get a treat. “Down” will stop any of my dogs in their tracks. Obviously they know lots of other useful commands but these are the essentials.
In Nose Work class yesterday my instructor pointed out to the other students how useful it is to have a dog that listens to cues in an off leash search. There was a high hide hanging from the ceiling. Casey picked up the odor in several places but was unable to source it. He got up on a nearby bench but walked too far past the hide and lost the scent. So I asked him to “turn around”, then “up” onto the bench, “walk”, then “wait” when he was closest to the hide. Yaay, he found it!
Love your photos. Love the whole idea of sheepherding. Thanks for all your reports.
I have different musts for each dog. Olive’s are: Good girl. This was taught to me by a wise trainer to praise the things she was “not” doing. Lying quietly? Good girl; Waiting patiently? Good girl. Not reacting? Good girl. Good girl for doing seemingly nothing but it was a lot to us. Her others are Wait and Olive! Come! in a sing-song pitch. There is a way of saying/singing come that inspires her to come running ears-a-flapping. A “normally” intoned come does not have the same effect.
Phoebe’s are: Focus; Wait; and Out. But lately more of her words are gestures.
They both get eht, eht (meaning not a good idea), and that’ll do or nothing to do with you. That one we are not consistent with; we use both interchangeably.
I love that portrait of Maggie as a shepherd-in-training. Her silhouette says it all.
Marilyn J Mele says
My professional work has always been with pet dog owners so I really value the insights in this post. Having a multi-purpose cue using the dog’s name is so common! I’m relieved to learn that even you fall into that sticky trap, Trisha!
When pet owners discover that their dogs are constantly learning from them 24/7 it ought to eliminate that favorite excuse of not having enough time to train the family dog!
Because I have very small dogs, a solid recall cue is essential to keeping them safe. I also need them to wait when any door opens for permission to go forward. Again, unsafe for a little one to dash out an open door!
Thank you so much for putting all this in perspective and confirming that these pet dog concerns are a real part of everyday life with dogs. It reminds me to shape up my own act and then get out there and keep helping other pet dog owners!
Phyllis Krasnokutsky says
I agree with Heidi. When I was training my Bloodhound to trail the trainer said to use a word you would not normally use in your day to day world so as not to confuse the dog.
We use “my door” when the dogs go through any door to make them wait and “free” as a release word. My other go to is “here” . I am bug in recall because I have a runner and he needs to be reminded often that he can’t go walkabout.
THIS is the blog post I have been waiting for, Patricia!
My daughter’s Boxer boy was 3-1/2 yrs when she asked me to assume ownership of him. Having spent most of his days alone in an apartment, he had a lot of energy. But I used a wheelchair and a cane. Though we lived in a metropolitan area, we had access to acres of woods and fields where he could safely run like a mad man. We trained and trained impulse control, recall, positions to assume around my chair, (come front, side, behind, heal, back-up), all of the cues from training classes, and lot’s of tricks. It was just the two of us and my health issues required a consistent daily schedule. I’ve owned him now for four years.
Ready?…after 6 years apart, my husband who has Alzheimer’s was able to move in with us last January. Uh-huh. Our dog clings to my husband, checks in with him on walks, and ever so quickly learned that barking at a stranger near our home would be rewarded by petting and cuddling from my husband. We have a dog door to a fenced yard. It was wonderful. But now when in the yard alone, that, ‘Hey. Hey. Hey,heyheyheyhey!’ bark get’s the dog a cuddle buddy in the sun. Unfortunately, if husband doesn’t respond quickly enough to the Hey!, our dog will now fence bark at the neighbors. Thank goodness they understand. Yes, it’s a lovely relationship they have, but consistency is gone. And I’m exhausted from trying to stay a step ahead. One daughter commented that I just can’t win. In the past I could open the door and the dog would back-up and sit, waiting to be released. Recently, husband saw the UPS man outside and opened the front door to greet him. The dog who was in the backyard with me, flew in through the backyard dog door at lightning speed and out the front door after the delivery driver. I can’t move that quickly. Driver forcefully said, “STOP” to our dog. Dog stopped moving forward, but continued to warning bark as the driver returned to his truck. (Do I strip him of his Canine Good Citizen badge?) The dog didn’t resist at all being taken by the collar and walked back inside. For our situation, I had decided the most important cues to be: come, settle, wait, and back-up. Time to add STOP. Seriously??? Fed Ex is here……
Nannette Morgan says
I have 3 essential cues. These are ranked in order from importance: Recall (come), sit, stay. Since I have Siberian Huskies, the recall is most important due to their escape nature. That is the first things I teach all my dogs and my clients’ as well.
I also have taught a strong Emergency Recall, too. My cue is “Chicken” and the visual cue is my arm up with closed fist and thumb up. The visual cues for all of these are important as the dogs get older and lose their hearing. Thanks for a great post!
The one unbreakable rule all three understand is to not go through any doors to outside without my okay. It is the first thing I teach even my fosters. (My offspring joke that the house could be on fire and the dogs would all wait for some human to yell “okay!”) They have also learned that saying their name means ‘look at me… instructions to follow”. Aside from those two things I know I give a LOT of inconsistent signals. Thank you for this information. 😊
NAOKO BRITTIN says
Beautiful photos. Thank you and I love reading your articles. I also, I have three books that you have written and that I have read.
Elizabeth Handwerker says
I agree that a strong reliable recall, (with whatever cue is used for it, just has to be rock solid) and ‘wait’ are essential for safety. I haven’t had a puppy in 14 years, and we are getting our next one in two weeks, so I’m sure I’ll have a lot of practice with cue consistency! Having had only Border Collies for the last 30 years or so I can’t wait for our next one! He’s a pup from strong herding lines (by Kevin Evans’ Derwin Doug), and I am really looking forward to working with him.
Grainne Levine says
Wait and a solid recall are most important for me. I have been struggling with the recall due to my inconsistency. I love the idea of a nonsense recall word and I’m going to start fresh with a new word.
Diane Pellowe says
Working on raising a pup who is now11 months old, I appreciate your compassion. There is so much to work on and it helps to prioritize. Our pup is a somewhat shy but excitable Sheltie so my top priorities are trust and focus. This boils down to things like name recognition and watch me. Everything else flows from that. I ask myself over and over if I’m being consistent in asking for these things and marking and rewarding them. Whenever more complex training breaks down, I go back to these simple things.
Thanks for taking the time to write Emily!
Great point about “no time to train the dog”!
Oh, how I enjoy reading your posts, Patricia! Always so full of useful information and sweet stories. Thank you for sharing them with us. You are so awesome!
A strong recall (Come), No, Leave It, and Wait (or Stay) are the most important cues for my BC, Luna. Although she does have a good recall, when she’s distracted – it’s weak – so we’re working on that. I am also “working” on my husband (Lol!), because when he gives Luna a cue, he tends to repeat it too quickly – not allowing her to think it out and making a decision. But all in all, Luna has come a long way in two year’s time. We are beyond in love with her quirkiness, her energy, her sparkling personality, and the challenges she gives us. It’s a learning experience every single day for all of us. 🙂
Betsy McCoy says
I would add the “leave it” just for safety if nothing else. It is worth it’s weight in gold when a pill hits the floor!
Love the blog and your books! When I was teaching training classes, each student received a copy of your puppy or adult training book!
Chris Wells says
I am with Emily. I think there are a lot of us out there. We aren’t saying much, we are just grateful for all the information. I save the email for days, just so I can see all the replies. So much good information! We are quiet learners.😀
I agree that the recall is first and foremost. And to get their attention most anytime, I just love “watch me” which I got from Patricia’s book “Feisty Fido”. This works (after consistent training of course) because you need their attention before you can give any command. It worked so well with our two dog reactive dogs for many years. Both our dogs at age 18 and 15 passed away this year and right now we are still grieving but we are very anxious to get another soon and start the training!
We joke that our 6 yr old bc rescue was a descendant of the dog that inspired Gumbys dog Nopey. He seems to frequently look at us with a face that says ‘No’ when we try to train most tradtional commands. For that reason, our most consistently successful commands are a friendly “I’m coming to get you” (come in now) and “Flipper peed” (it is time to go outside to potty because you havent been for a while, which works in response to actual pee from Flipper — thankfully she pees on the command “do a hurry up” and seems to know the game)…however, he is a champ at the command “spaceship” (get in the car) Reading this thread I’ve realized that we need to ditch the traditional and unsuccessful words and try more odd words like spaceship. And we need to work on saying his name less.
Jenny Haskins says
I dunno. But I tend to simply talk to my dogs as I would to a young child. it works for me and mine.
I keep ‘formal cues’ formal — I always think of these thins as marching drills 🙂
Jenny Haskins says
I suppose I should also add, that I see everyday obedience/cooperation/safety as far more important that trialling.
It is just that I find English works better than sharp barked “commands”.
I think this is because English is clearer to dogs because we use tones and inflections, subconsciously, which dogs naturally understand.
“Wait!” is the cue I use most often and most consistently – getting out of the car, at doors, crossing roads, when bicycles pass us on paths, when it is time to put leads back on, and innumerable times between. I find it even more useful than recall as it means my dogs will stop even at a distance from me if a bicycle or car is passing between us (situations I try to avoid, but that can happen). Their recall is good, although never as solid as I would like in the face of major distractions like people they know are reliable distributors of biscuits. Our other most used cues are “Mine!” meaning leave it alone, or drop it if you have already grabbed it, and good stuff for dogs will follow, and “Settle down”, constantly practiced and reinforced for the sake of my sanity. I have to admit that the last works best and for longest after a decent walk, though – asking for it midmorning when they are expecting to go out may get me a few minutes peace if I am lucky! The other thing I taught them early on is that morning is when I say it is, not when the clock does. That means I can be up with the dawn chorus on glorious summer morning and lie in on dismal winter days without too much hassle from the dogs. We are still negotiating bedtime – both feel that once it is dark and all the fun bits of the day like walks and meals and games are over bed is the best place for all of us. I, on the other hand, resist being herded up the stairs at 7.30pm!
Barb Stanek says
I have a now 5 month old puppy, and I am going through the crash course on being consistent with cues! Oh my! I am also so fortunate to have a 9 year old dog who loves the puppy and helps me understand and train her. As it is just me and the dogs, I have no one else to blame for muddied commands.
My first and most important command would be “come.” Trish, I have oft repeated your comment, “You have a smart dog? I’m so sorry!” My boy has learned that if he doesn’t come, there is little that I can do about it. I manage the situation with leashes, trying to remind him that he is smart, but I have more tools.
The other commands vie for second and third place depending on the time and place. Fortunately for me, I have managed the situation that the puppy has never been in the position to accompany my older dog when he refuses to “come.” I am hoping that she will never learn that she doesn’t have to “come.”
Barb Stanek says
Love your stories about training and competing! Thanks for those!
I’ve been competing with my dogs for over 10 years (3 different dogs). Agility first and then nosework. I love it and there are obviously huge benefits, the first and most important is bonding with your dog and there is also the satisfaction of accomplishment (ribbons!). But reading your post, I was reminded of the downside of competing. At least for me. The relentless analysis.
I find that eventually all competition turns into a kind of obsessiveness that turns me off. No matter how good you get and how many years you train, there will always be instructors and trainers dissecting the technique and creating different techniques than the one you use (I realize there is an financial incentive for this too, but I choose not to think about that). I will say that I think herding is in a class by itself given that it’s an actual, real life occupation for dogs and humans. But isn’t it possible that the way Maggie worked was just fine? Could it be done differently? I’m sure. Maybe a tad more effectively? Sure. But you and she worked really hard and if the sheep get where they should then that, to me, should be good.
An example: I started in nosework literally when it had just come on the scene. I read about it in WDJ as a new sport and convinced my training club to host a seminar taught by the founders. I took off work to attend. It was great. Fun was the word for the day. When I started, the way the dog alerted was not important. As a matter of fact, it was frowned upon to ask for a particular behavior when the dog found odor. Well, 10 years later I’m being told by instructors that it is wrong for my dog to look at me when he finds odor. When asked why, the answer I got was that he could false alert that way. All my dogs have looked at me when they found odor, never a problem. Really? Sometimes I feel that as the sports get more and more participants and more and more trainers, they have this need to make things more and more complicated. Don’t get me started on agility. Every time I came to class, there was a different theory of training that everyone was learning.
Anyway, I do love dog sports and I like to improve and learn. I’ll never not be active in one sport or another, but sometimes I just wish they’d just CHILL a little bit. I think you and Maggie are awesome, especially because I remember when you first got her and you were struggling a bit. Well, clearly she gets it now and you and her should be very proud (which I’m sure you are). I know your goal is to compete at a higher level than you already are competing at, but given that our dogs can’t tell us which way they prefer to work, I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. Or at least remember that we are in control and we can work the way we choose or prefer. No matter what the flavor of training is for that day.
Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like I think your training weekend wasn’t fantastic and your instructor not a good one. I’ve just been thinking a lot about dog sports lately and trying to remember that I don’t have to go along with the crowd all the time. I can just do my thing and me and my dog will be happy.
I know we’re talking primarily about commands around the house, but how about confusing commands used for obedience? I had a trainer tell me that when she taught her Dobes sit and down the “stay” was inherently part of the command. Why you ask? Because she trained through the OTCH level and when she got to the drop on recall she said a lot of dogs would blow the exercise b/c they would not stay…well what command is given? Down, not down stay…so of course not being bidden to stay the dogs would get up. I saw this with a dog during obedience class except it was a sit command. The dog got up time and time again, but was never given the command to “stay”, just to sit. Same with sit…when the sit is taught it’s usually from a standing position and being asked to put butt to ground, but what about when you are asking the dog to get to a sit position from a down? Suddenly the front has to come up. You’re asking for a different behavior using the same command. Same with the heel command. Heel can mean when we walk stay by my side, but it can also mean come to heel position by my side…confusing if you ask me!
“If you want your dog to read your mind, there had better be something in it” (Patrick Shannahan, at a recent sheepdog clinic).
I do use the dog’s name frequently in training. Context is everything. It may be a release from a “wait” (4 dogs are lined up at the door, waiting to race outside. Each one has to stay until its name is uttered). It may be a reminder that it had better think about what it’s doing (“Ross” in a warning tone might mean his pace is too fast in driving; I could just say “time!” but I’d rather he assumed responsibility himself. If it ignores me, the next step is a correction); it could be a touch of encouragement to help a young dog take an “inside flank”, crossing that magic pressure line between me and the sheep (“Duff! Away to me!).
No worries at all Jenny, thanks so much for your perspective. Much appreciated.
Peggy Bjarno says
For me, the most important command for our little Aussie mix is “wait.” We live on a boat, and there are many times when I want her to stop and pay extra attention to her surroundings. How far away is the dock, and is the boat moving? Is it up and down, or back and forth, with wind and waves? She stops immediately and looks, checking things thoroughly. Then when I say, “Nice and easy,” she knows that there might be some difficulties so be super careful. A successful exchange here is spectacular, and I call it an “exchange” because she is so obviously paying attention to what I’m telling her, and she “gets it.”
“Sit” and “leave it” are extremely useful for most issues in our house with labradors. It’s funny though that they have no problem always complying with “are you hungry?” Means run to your food bowl. Works every time. 😆
I love this, Trisha! Thanks for all the helpful dog training tips. 🙂
It seems all the research I’ve come across in Google suggests the key for training our pups is to keep patient, and keep things fun and lighthearted… which is some of what you seem to be saying here.
Being impatient and physically forcing your pup to obey has the complete opposite effect.
I found this list of the top 5 commands (sit, stay, etc) and how best to teach them (patience and fun, of course ;))
Anyway, after reading some of your posts, I trust your expert opinion and wonder if you have anything to add to/comment. Any feedback is appreciated.
Jackie D says
The most critical cues for our dogs are:
Twix – kitchen, crate, look (at me).
Twix is very human reactive so these are essential management tools to keep everyone safe.
Lucy – wait, settle, in (the car)
Lucy is very impulsive, noisy, has a bit of a tendency to resource guard and is nervous about leaving the house. Wait and settle help in lots of situations. ‘in the car’ means that she will cooperate with essential trips out.
I know I haven’t mentioned recall – but with these dogs at their life stage and current health it isn’t really an issue. They can’t go off lead for at least two reasons each!
Chelsea Safe-Dogs says
Hello, I love, love,love your work and I just wanted to point something out that may have been missed. The photo of the bulldog in the blog is wearing a choke chain it appears. Easy to miss but I just wanted to let you know as I know this is not something you advocate.
Keep up the amazing work.