I get asked about all sorts of different dog-related problems and I always do my best to answer the questions truthfully and to the best of my ability. But although I might be able to answer somebody’s question, from that point onward… the end result is up to them.
“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” And I can tell you how to teach your dog to do such-and-such, but I can’t actually make you do it. It’s up to you to go away and spend the necessary time involved to teach your dog how to accomplish whatever it may be.
Sometimes the task just seems to be too daunting and people don’t have the necessary discipline lo see it through. Fortunately I don’t find that happening too often. But something that is a lot more common is people being too embarrassed to follow out the directions I’ve given them. What do I mean by that? Simply that human nature being what it is. lots of people don’t like other people to see them making fools of themselves.
And quite a lot of people are so self-conscious that they often feel as though they’re making a fool of themselves when it comes to training their dog.
It’s easy to practice with your dog when you’re at home and away from other people, but once you’re out in the “real world’ where other people and dogs are about it can be much harder. You know that I teach you how to walk your dog to heel so that when you stop, the dog automatically sits (without you having to say anything to the dog) and waits beside you until you either tell it can go off and do its own thing OR carry on walking, in which case it’ll immediately get up and keep walking in the heel position The method I show you teaches the dog that you will only give the ‘heel’ command once,
and the dog will not move from its position until you say so, whether that be 30 seconds or 30 minutes later. But until the dog has well and truly learned the command you can run into problems. For instance, imagine you’re walking along with the dog to heel when you meet a friend and you stop for a chat. As soon as you stop the dog immediately sits at your side as it has been taught. While you’re talking to your friend the dog’s attention starts to wander, and after a while it stands up. At this point it’s very easy to ignore the dog – after all it’s doing no harm and you’d feel a bit embarrassed to tell your dog off in front of your friend. Before you know it the dog has moved away from you slightly to investigate some tempting smells. What do you do?
You don’t want to appear rude by interrupting your friend, so you just keep quiet. In effect you were too embarrassed to do what you should have done, i.e. correct the dog the moment it broke the “heel” command.
I’m a great believer in hiding from your dog while you’re out for a walk. It teaches it to pay close attention to you. and also encourages it to use its nose to track you. In a real emergency this can be a valuable skill. But I know people who are just too embarrassed to do this when other people are about. I don’t know why – I suppose they just think they’re going to look foolish. Let me tell you that if you’re ever going to get the very best from your dog you need to be completely impervious to what other people think.
There are bound to be times when you’re out in public and your dog docs something to ‘show you up’. These moments are golden opportunities to correct the dog and help it in the learning process. If you’re just going to let the moment pass because you’re too embarrassed with other people around. how is your dog ever going to learn that it is unacceptable to do whatever it was while out in public? You run the very real danger of simply allowing the dog to learn for itself that while certain behavior is unacceptable at home, it can in fact get away with it in public. Is that what you want to happen? I know
I don’t. That’s why I have absolutely no inhibitions where my dogs are concerned, and I’m not remotely concerned about other people’s opinions about what I’m doing with my dogs.
It’s similar to parents of young children that throw a temper tantrum in the supermarket. You must have seen them – flustered mother with a cart piled high with food and suddenly her two year old starts screaming the place down because she’s told him he can’t have that bar of candy. And passers-by immediately start looking. Mom can just sense all these pairs of eves trained in her direction. She’s starting to feel self conscious and embarrassed now. And those feelings are probably going to intensify the longer the child’s screaming fit continues. What will she do – give in just to shut the child up’.’ Or tough it out and take no notice of all those sets of critical eyeballs? If she gives in she’s set a behavior pattern for life – child’s learned that throwing a tantrum = bar of candy. So every time she goes shopping in the future she either has to give in to the demands or else put up with another hairy fit. Same with your dog. Ignore all those critical sets of eyeballs. It’s your dog, not theirs. Don’t be afraid to look a fool. You’ll end up with a much better behaved dog as a result.
By Chris “Dogguy” Amick