UberDog Trainer Chris Howe’s insights from a Board and Train Charlotte, NC
Recently a book was recommended to me. I’m not much one for reading things other than fiction so I set it on a shelf. Until I started working with a dog (we will call her Jane). Jane was not motivated by ANYTHING. I can work with dogs who are crazy for a toy, nuts for a treat, or cuckoo for cuddles, but what about the dog that doesn’t really want to do any of that? That’s exactly what happened when I was put to the task of training a 2 week board and train from Charlotte, NC that was not motivated by ANYTHING! I’m thinking to myself “I’ve got a better chance of seeing a flying pig right now than I do of effectively training this dog.” So I went and picked up that book that was recommended to me called “When Pigs Fly”
The biggest realization from this book, which has changed the way I approach dog training, is this: Small bricks will build the strongest structure. What I mean by this is the smaller steps you have to break down a particular behavior or action, the stronger the dog’s execution of that action are going to be.
Take two dogs, John and Jim. John understands everything the third time you show him what is expected. His thought process is something like this :
“Wait, doing something new… okay”
“Okay, I think I have an idea now of what it is you want”
“Lets see if this works to get that reward.”
and “Lay down” to John means:
1) put elbows on the floor.
Johns owner thinks he’s great and takes John out for a walk and he does well for a while. Until Johns owner tells him to lay down in the grass before crossing the street and john hops out onto the road and lays down.
Jim, on the other hand, you have to break everything down into the smallest possible components. For Jim, “lay down” actually means:
complete the ‘sit’ process
lower your head
stretch front legs out in front a bit
lower body to the ground
let elbows touch the ground
rest head on paws
finally, look at me
Even though Jim’s process is much more elaborate, Jim seems to get it more often than John and that is simply because Jim has a solid process in place whereas John just kind of throws it out there and hopes it sticks. In the above example John had only worked on a hard surface so the “down” in the grass didn’t make sense to him. This could, of course, be representative of a hundred different factors we aren’t actively considering when working with our dogs. Jim didn’t have that problem because the command is a process as opposed to an action, anywhere Jim is, he can lower his head, and what follows is stretching our those front legs, then …
In the case of the female dog I was training it was more about presenting a treat with a high-enough value to motivate her. Once that got figured out (the treat was American sliced cheese by the way), she turned out to be more like John. There’s a dog we have right now, and even though she learns like John, I’m teaching her like I would need to teach Jim. Already we have seen a marked difference in how well she is retaining and following these commands.
– Chris Howe
If your dog is struggling with something, or there is a critical thing you want them to learn, break it down into the smallest steps possible! It will take more time to teach them, but it will definitely be worthwhile!