The Invisible Command How You May Be Sabotaging Your Dog Training Efforts

The Invisible Command How You May Be Sabotaging Your Dog Training

I was sitting in​ the​ waiting room of​ my local HMO with a​ sinus infection and happened to​ pick up the​ recent issue of​ Outdoor Life magazine. Actually,​ it​ was the​ only thing to​ read,​ but that didn't bother me as​ most hunting publications usually include at​ least one article on​ dog training.

I was lucky,​ as​ this month's dog training article was interesting enough for me to​ tie into this week's e-zine issue.

On page 36,​ sandwiched between the​ 'Professional Bass Tournament'article and the​ "His camo-painted truck and 'Kiss My Bass' bumper sticker are the​ only endorsements you'll ever need" advertisement,​ I found a​ story by veteran dog man,​ Larry Mueller.

Mueller recants meeting 82 year-old James Evans,​ of​ Naruna,​ Va. who owned an​ 11 year-old Lab-weimaraner cross that could allegedly multiply numbers!!!

Mueller states that,​ "Evans decided to​ teach [his] dog to​ count to​ 10... 'What's the​ first number?' One bark. 'What comes after one?' Two barks. And so on. [His] dog counted backward,​ too,​ in​ addition to​ correctly answering what comes before or​ after any number not exceeding 10."

As a​ professional dog trainer,​ I hear amazing stories like this all the​ time. the​ only problems is​ that upon further investigation... they NEVER turn out to​ be true.

Mueller writes,​ "Evans began to​ suspect that [the] dog was reading his mind."

However,​ anyone who has studied the​ dog's mind (and canine behavior in​ general) knows that:

1.) Dogs can't read our mind. They read our body language.

2.) Dogs can't do math. Especially multiplication.

Mueller must have come to​ the​ same conclusion as​ I did,​ because he decided to​ review several video tapes of​ Evans and his dog performing their multiplication trick. But it​ wasn't until he actually met with Evans that he was able to​ ascertain how the​ dog was figuring out the​ math problems.

"All I knew for sure was that James Evans was no trickster trying to​ deceive the​ public for gain,​" and that the​ old man had wanted to​ know how the​ dog did it,​ as​ much as​ anyone.

Mueller continues,​ "I studied the​ video tape and recognized that the​ word,​ ' What's ' could be the​ cue to​ start barking. I thought the​ signal to​ stop might be Evans withdrawing his hand from his pocket with a​ kibble reward. But it​ didn't correlate,​ so I asked Evans if​ I could rig something to​ tell us the​ approximate location of​ the​ cue,​ if​ there was one."

To make a​ long story longer,​ Mueller found that when the​ dog could not see Evans,​ he stopped getting the​ answers right! After further study,​ Mueller noted,​ "I noticed an​ almost imperceptible twitch-- a​ reflex action like a​ blink occurring without conscious thought... I asked Evans to​ stand motionless. He found it​ difficult,​ and [his] dog's barks in​ answer to​ his questions [became] random." When Evans wasn't allowed to​ subconsciously cue the​ dog,​ the​ dog was no longer able to​ come up with the​ correct answers.

In sum,​ the​ dog was relying on​ his owner for the​ answers. Which,​ in​ and of​ itself is​ a​ pretty impressive feat,​ even if​ it​ isn't comparable to​ knowing your multiplication tables!

Here's two examples that probably apply to​ your daily training:

1.) Many owners tend to​ start bending over before telling their dog the,​ "Down" command. Because of​ this,​ the​ dog starts to​ cue off the​ owner's body language (just as​ Evan's dog did) and lays down anytime the​ owner bends over... but not if​ the​ owner stands up straight and issues the​ command!

Solution: Always give the​ command FIRST,​ before bending over and making the​ dog do it. This way,​ the​ dog will link the​ behavior with the​ command,​ rather than with your body language.

2.) Amateur handlers tend to​ tell their dog "Heel,​" and then walk with their shoulders angled back towards their dog,​ so that they can look at​ their dog while they're walking.

The problem with this is​ that the​ dog reads your body language and attempts to​ align himself with your shoulders,​ thus lagging behind the​ owner,​ rather than walking in​ the​ heel position (aligned with your left heal.)

Solution: Keep both shoulders straight forward as​ you​ walk. if​ you​ need to​ look at​ your dog (you should)... cock your head,​ without angling your shoulders. This will keep your dog lined up right alongside you.

That's all for now,​ folks!

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