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YOU CAN'T TEACH NOTHING !

 Depending on your dog training experience, the title of this article may seem self-evident, puzzling, or simply ungrammatical.  Let me explain. 

Some time ago, I had in my beginners class a very large lady with a very small dog.  As is often the case with this particular combination, the dog ruled her with an iron paw.  In the "Down Stay" for example, he would go down and stay for just as long as it suited him.  Then he would be up, leaping all over his owner, who immediately made a great fuss of him for having stayed at all! 

I tried hard to impress on the lady that she must not let him get up until she said he could, but to no avail.  Eventually I asked her what she thought she was teaching him when he got up in his own time.  She thought for a moment, then light seemed to dawn.  "Nothing" she said.   

Unfortunately, she was wrong.  What she was actually doing was teaching him that he could get up when it suited him - and she had repeated that lesson so often that he had learned it very thoroughly.

It is almost impossible to teach your dog NOTHING.  Every time you say "Heel" and let him go on pulling on the lead, you are teaching him that ' when you say "Heel" he can go on pulling on the lead.  When you call him and he does not come, you are teaching him that he need not bother to obey you if he happens to have something better to do.  Every time you give a command but fail to enforce it, you not only permit his immediate disobedience, you also reinforce his belief that you are an ineffectual old softie who can safely be ignored.  Do this often enough, and you will have a dog that takes no notice of you whatsoever.  Having thus taught him, it's a bit hard to put the blame on him when he fails to make progress with his training.   

Your only remedy at this stage is to go right back to square one and start training him from the beginning as though he were a puppy; slowly, patiently, enforcing your every command.  For example - putting him in the "Down" and getting on your knees beside him to ensure that he stays there until YOU say he can get up.

Yes, it will be tedious, and much more difficult with an older dog, because you are not simply teaching something new, as you would be with a young puppy.  Your dog is having to 'unlearn' the lesson which you have been consistently teaching him up till now (i.e. to ignore you) and then learn the lesson of the day.

Try to think like your dog.  You are teaching him something all the time; either to obey you or to ignore you; the right way or the wrong way;  good habits or irritating habits. 

What are you teaching YOUR dog right now?

 By  Avril (Betsy) Thurley  - Reprinted from the Hastings & St. Leonards D.T.C. Newsletter). 

 

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