As I’ve said before, dog training looks simple – but it isn’t easy. And one of the hardest lessons handlers struggle with is being conscious of what’s coming out of their mouths.
Not because of bad language or expletives (though the odd swear word might be appropriate when struggling with a new skill!), but because dog’s notice details.
The sort of details I mean are the ones that we humans take for granted. Like the difference between ‘Down’ when we want our dog to get off the furniture or stop jumping up on someone, and ‘Down’ when we want them to lie down.
Or ‘Wait’ when we want them to hang on for a second whilst we do something else like getting our keys out for the front door, and ‘Wait’ when we mean remain in the position I’ve left you until I ask you to do something else.
Confusing isn’t it?
And those are confusing because of the double meaning that we as humans can apply to the words we use. So a simple fix is to train ourselves to use different words – such as ‘Get Off’ when we want dogs to get off the furniture or stop jumping up, or ‘Hang on a sec’ when we’re getting our keys out or similar situations.
Do you recognise examples like this in your own daily life with your dog?
If so, here’s a simple suggestion to help clarify for your dog exactly what the words you use in your training should mean.
Create a list of the words training words or physical cues you think your dog knows. This can be formal cues such as ‘Sit’ or ‘Down’, or informal ones like getting them out of the kitchen or sending them downstairs if they’ve snuck upstairs uninvited, that sort of thing. Here’s a document to get you started – Cues My Dog Understands
Next to those words, give your dogs a score out of 10 for how well they understand the cues. So a low score would indicate your dog can perform the cue in a quiet or low distracting environment, but a high score would indicate that the dog will do the behaviour cued regardless of what else is going on or where they are.