Recently, in Roswell New Mexico, my wife and I went into a major pet store retailer to get some medicine for our poodle who was having some digestive issues. Maybe we’ll talk about that at another time.
At any rate, it was my misfortune to have to enter next to the place, a small cordoned off section, were the store offers ‘dog training’. I really didn’t notice when we were walking in that a lady with a Great Dane puppy, ok, the puppy was over three feet tall…but a puppy none the less, and the Dane sniffed me as we passed each other. The lady issued a command ‘leave it‘… which the dog promptly ignored, and the dog and I passed each other without incident…as you would expect. I didn’t give the incident much thought, other than the dog didn’t respond right away, as I was on another, at least in my mind, more important mission.
While looking for the item we wanted, I noticed a man walking a dog toward me. When the dog go to me, he sniffed, the man said ‘leave it‘ and pulled the dog away from me and kept walking down the aisle on which they were traveling for about twenty feet.
Then it hit me! The Great Dane, and this dog, were just coming from the training class. Ok, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I do know about dog training. Now, I’m not here to beat up the chain store’s dog training program, well, not too much anyway. It apparently works for them and I applaud anyone who has recognized the need for training their dog.
Without going into the techniques I use, nor many of the other ‘theories’ on how dogs learn, it just irritated me that the basic concepts were overlooked.
What do I mean by that? Well, the dogs had on a harness, not a collar. A harness straps around the strongest portion of the dog and it really doesn’t divert the dogs attention when a command is given. It more of an inconvenience…to the dog. The other thing I noticed is the command was given as if one were carrying on a conversation with the dog. That is, there was no ‘authority’ in the either of the owner’s voices. No, I’m not saying you should yell. I’m saying you should use your ‘Mom’ voice. Everyone has had a mom with that voice which has been directed at you and you know what I’m talking about.
A third thing is, and I am just supposing here because I wasn’t around the class, the command was a new command which had just been introduced to the owner’s. I say this because both owner’s were tentative in giving the command and the ‘trainer’ was walking with the gentleman and actually gave the command to the owner…to give to the dog.
Ok, it is unfair to expect your dog to do what you want if she doesn’t what it is that you want! Dogs don’t speak English.
The trainer was not using treats when giving this command, nor was Marker training used. I’m not a fan Treat Based Training, nor do I believe Marker Training is best for Obedience training.
But come on, how do they expect the dog to know what ‘Leave It’ means?
If you have ever watched Cesar Milan while walking a dog, you know one of his main principles of controlling the dog is to ‘distract’ the dog from the obstacle which is disrupting the walk. In this case, it was me standing close to the path the dog was taking.
The harness, which I talk about in the training lessons, does nothing to distract the dog, which all you need to do. A collar, or even tapping the dog with your hand will a greater influence on distracting the dog…along with the command. The dog needs to ‘associate’ the words ‘Leave It’ with the action of stopping what he is about to do.
One other fault of the training the owners and the dog were getting was that the dog was leading the walk. I can’t stress enough how important it is that YOU are the leader, not the dog.