March 26, 2016
Dog training isn’t as much about training as it is about communication. Training is defined as “the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior”. Before we can teach another species anything, we first have to figure out how to communicate with them.
Each dog is an individual and receives information differently. They also receive information differently from one person to another, and on top of that they will receive information differently based on their environment. As dog owners it is important to understand that, to limit confusion between you and your dog.
As a rule of thumb, there are 2 things to remember to assist in communicating with your dog. First, always use the “least reinforcing stimulus”. What that means is, use the least exciting reward for your dog’s good behavior. It sounds great to throw a party every time your dog does something correct, but it’s not. Using the least reinforcing stimulus will allow your dog to stay in a calm, comfortable state of mind to help them receive information. Secondly, always use the “least invasive, minimally aversive correction”. It is best to use the lowest level of a correction to get your dog to stop an unwanted behavior. Using a “high, meaningful correction” will dramatically harm your relationship with your dog and how they receive information from you in the future.
Now that you know how to communicate with your dog, don’t forget to take a look at the big picture when you’re out with them. What might have worked in communicating something to your dog in the living room may not be the way to communicate with them at the dog park. As dogs become distracted, excited, injured or sick they perceive the information we are giving them differently. That usually isn’t a good thing, as perception is everything. While your intentions as a dog owner might be good, the dog’s perception is what will ultimately decide that.
So get out there, enjoy the time with your dog, make mistakes and learn from them, and always remember to stay fluid in the methods you use to communicate with your dog.