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Cooperation

 

I think this article is going to be one of the most helpful articles that I have ever written! I am excited about beginning it, which is a really good sign. I love the title and know that without complete cooperation between you and your dog, all training is going to be a struggle. First, you must be willing to be completely cooperative with your dog. How do you know that you are being completely cooperative with your dog? You must make a decision that you will only train when you have your dog’s complete cooperation. At first this will seem difficult, but I promise you that the results will be well worth the effort!

After many years of successful dog training, I have spent much time trying to understand why I am successful. This has been a long process of self-reflection. I realized that learning to pay attention was the first of a series of steps. This first step is the most difficult and the most important. Not only do you have to pay attention to what you are doing; to what you want to happen, you must learn to pay attention to what is happening as well. To make this even more difficult, you must learn to pay attention to what your dog is thinking, feeling, understanding, and enjoying. Dog training is a challenging sport, both mentally and physically, but I think the biggest challenge is learning to pay attention! To be successful, you must be able to live in the moment. Awareness is the most helpful tool you can develop. Not only self-awareness, but awareness of your dog, your environment, and all the while keeping your perfect mental picture clear in your mind is a task of great magnitude.

I have spent a lot of time, watching my student's struggle with the enormity of the task. I have come to realize that there are no real short cuts to learning to become a successful dog trainer. No matter how much I want my students not to make mistakes, I realize that they will make them. These mistakes come not from a lack of understanding, but more from a lack of being able to pay attention to all of the necessary awareness that are needed. Again, self-awareness, dog-awareness, distraction-awareness, environment-awareness, perfect mental picture-awareness, and in the moment-awareness can be and are overwhelming. When I look back at my growth as a trainer, I realize that I did not develop this ability overnight. It came after years of growing a little better with each dog.

In my heart, I want to help each one of you to not make the same mistakes that I did. I want each of you to achieve your goals as quickly as possible. I want you to become a better trainer so that some day, you may be empowered to help others. But no matter how much I want this process to be quicker, I have come to realize that learning to pay attention is the hardest skill to master. This is because of all the different attentions needed in this sport. I watch my students and I am beginning to really understand the magnitude of this task. I 'll. bet each one of you can identify with the following example. I will use heeling as my example.

How many of you can do your handling a lot better without your dog? How many of you lose your footwork as soon as your dog is with you, as now you are trying to pay attention to your dog? How many of you can heel pretty well by yourself, but lose it when commands are given? How many of you can heel better when there are no boundaries such as ring gates? And finally, how many of you find it hard to put an entire heeling pattern together in a ring and with a judge? I know most of you will be able to answer yes to many of the above question. This is because of the multitude of types of awareness needed.

First question: self-awareness, Second question34 dog-awareness, third question: environment-awareness, fourth question34 outside distraction-awareness, and last question34 perfect mental picture-awareness. When you think about all the skills that are needed, I know you will begin to understand what you are going to master. Take some time to think about how difficult this is and give yourself a pat on the back. You are trying to do what few people are able to do and you are trying to do it well. As I thought about this article, I really came to understand why it might seem as if you are never going to GET IT!

I will continue to do my best to help you get it, and achieve your goals. I think this article will be one more step, on your journey to success! The title of this article is cooperation, and its purpose is to help you develop dog-awareness and to enhance your self-awareness at the same time. To be successful, you must learn to pay attention to your dog and to get complete cooperation from him. I am going to list four behaviors that you must begin to recognize as the behaviors that lead to cooperation. The behaviors are:

1. Attention
2. Movement
3. Speaking
4. Play

Before I train a dog, I must have the four behaviors to cooperation. I will go into detail what these behaviors are, what they mean, why they are important, when to use them and how to get your dog to begin to cooperate. As you can see, these are the same questions you find in my books, what, why, when, and how. Learning to ask these questions and to make sure you are always in a state of cooperation with your dog are the first steps in awareness. I am getting so excited as I write this article because I know it is going to be brilliant!

1. Attention
I know that you have heard me say the golden rule of dog training, is "Never give a command to a dog who is not paying attention." I have realized that many of you do not understand what kind of attention I am talking about. You must have a dog that is actively looking at you. Many dogs look at their handler, but they are doing so passively. The difference is that they are simply either sitting or standing and are looking at you. They are not "with you". The difference between a dog looking at you and a dog being "with you" is enormous. Learning to recognize this difference is important and is the first step in dog-awareness. Refusing to try and train a dog that is not "with you", is the first step in self-awareness, and in perfect mental picture-awareness.

My first assumption here is that each one of you desires to have a happy and willing partner. Personally, I will not show an unhappy dog. Attitude is of utmost importance to me. The way a dog looks at his handler leads to a happy performance. If a dog is passively looking at you, he may be able to respond to a command, but the response will not be brilliant. I can tell how an exercise will be performed, just by observing how the dog is looking at his handler. When a dog is passively attentive, his response to commands is slower; distractions can interfere more easily, the dog may appear disinterested, second commands become necessary, more corrections are needed, and the overall performance becomes less than what is desired.

Many people make a common mistake when they see this happen and I think you know what that mistake is, they get food. And guess what, it seems to work! Suddenly, the dog comes alive and pays better attention and they get instant gratification. His attitude seems to improve and everything gets better. This is such a difficult problem to get beyond, because using food to buy cooperation is the easiest solution. For the most part, we are used to buying almost everything we want. And if we could bring the food into the ring, that would be all that is necessary for success. I do not think anyone would complain, if all they had to do, is remember to bring a couple of hot dogs in the ring with them and they would get a perfect score. I'll bet the hot dog industry would prosper.

The hardest part of dog training is learning to give your attention to your dog. Each of you must learn to give of yourself and make yourself the object of your dog’s desire. This takes energy, understanding, patience, consistency, trust, laughter, acceptance, and love. Handing out a cookie is so much easier. Passively attentive dogs can suddenly become actively attentively dogs, when food becomes part of the training. What you fail to realize is that the dog is paying attention to the food. This suddenly becomes obvious when you walk into the ring without the food. I think a lot of people give up on obedience for this very reason.

Using food when you train gets your dog’s attention for you. This would not be that bad, if we could use it in the ring. I can not stress enough the importance of developing a good relationship with your dog. Ultimately, it is this relationship that you bring into the ring with you. It is this relationship that you show off to the judge and exhibitors the day of the show. I think this is why there is so much pain in your heart, after a bad or "poopy" performance. It is always easier after such a performance to blame your dog, the conditions, the method of training, or a million of other reasons. But the truth is that you must look deep inside yourself and look at your relationship with your dog. I know that 99% of the reason for a "poopy" performance is that you have yet to learn to pay attention to your dog and make sure your dog is paying attention to you. You are still using food to get cooperation from your dog!

When you set out to train, you must learn to put the food away until you get cooperation and then once you have cooperation, you can use food to reward your dog for a job well done. A dog which is cooperative, exhibits the four behaviors I mentioned before; they are actively attentive, quick to move, able to speak loudly, and willing to play. When you have cooperation, it should feel as if your dog is on the verge of anticipation. I know the most difficult part of getting cooperation, is learning how to be cooperative. Think about how many times you continue training, even when you see poop face starting to come out of your dog. Think of how many times you get food out when you start to see poop face, in order to get rid of it. Think of how many times you see your dog sitting backwards in the sit and you still give him a command. Think of how many times you feel that your dog does not want to be working with you.

The following are some of the signs that your dog is not in a cooperative state of mind. Dull or glassy eyes, any motion that is directed away from you, slow unsure motion, unable to speak readily, or frozen still in the sit. Your mental picture of a cooperative dog, should be ears up, eyes bright, happy tail carriage, leaning forward in a sit, and a connection to you, not to food! If you see less than this from your dog, learn to stop training and get rid of poop face by using your own energy and attention. To see the earliest signs of poop face, you must learn to pay attention to your dog! I have been trying to get each one of you to understand how important this is to your success. Beautiful performances in the ring stem from beautiful attention between dog and handler in training.

When I see a dog that is leaning forward in a sit, ready to move, I know that the exercise is going to be done beautifully. There is a connection to the handler. All of the dog’s energy is aimed at his handler. This is active attention. Active attention is necessary for a brilliant performance. Active attention means that the dog is "with the handler". Cooperation is shown by active attention. Ears up and forward exhibit active attention, eyes are bright, all the dog’s motion is directed towards the handler, the dog is quick to speak when asked and may even speak when not asked, and it seems as if he is ready for anything. I know each and every one of you has seen your dog in this state when he wants something. It is of course our part of the teamwork, to get our dogs to want to train with us. Training must be fun for both of you. Training is fun when you have a cooperative dog!

When you go out to train, your goal must be to get and keep active attention. Learn to recognize when your dog is blankly staring at you. So, let’s get started on getting cooperation from your dog; active attention is the first step. When you go out to train, let your dog relieve himself and give him time to get familiar with the surroundings, especially if this is an unfamiliar location. Now, it is time to get active attention from your dog. I want to explain that getting active attention is going to be harder in new locations. Your dog wants to investigate and may not feel like training right away. This is really important to dogs and should be respected. Just think how you feel when you get to a new show site. You want to know where are the bathrooms, rings, food, crating area, and your friends. How would you feel if you walked into the show site and were immediately asked to go into the ring? I know you would be flustered and not give your best performance. We all need a few minutes to settle and get our bearings. It is no different for our dogs.

I have begun to realize that we may be causing a lot of our own problems by forgetting to honor our dog’s needs in new locations. We may even be setting ourselves up for failure, by not letting our dogs get relaxed in new locations before we ask them to work. This may be a huge contributing factor as to why your dog does better at home or in places with which he is familiar. If you try to fight your dog to work for you right away in a new location, you are fighting his very nature. You are making this new location negative. It does not take long for your dog to lose his desire to work and become dull. It is this dullness you see at the show that sends shivers up your spine. Now, you run to get some really special food and try to buy a bright attitude. Most of this would have been avoided by honoring his needs and spending a few minutes letting him settle.

When you go to a new location, let the dog potty, sniff, and investigate. If you have friends with you, remember how important a dog’s greeting ritual is to him. When I get together with my friends, I let my dogs say, "Hi", to the people and dogs that are our friends. I never allow them to go up to strange dogs and just say, "Hi". I am talking about people and dogs that my dogs go for runs with and play with. When all the niceties are over, I put my dogs on a curl drop and let them look all around. I do not let them sniff everything in sight, but I do allow them the freedom of checking things out. Once I see that the original excitement has died down and I have a relaxed dog, I know that I can start to ask them to work for me. I know that I do not want to be correcting them for the joy that they feel, by asking them to do something that they can not do. We must all learn to honor our dogs' needs!
I think we may cause a huge problem when we ask our dogs to work immediately in new locations. By insisting that they ignore their needs, we may be teaching them that new locations are not fun. We may be setting ourselves up for failure. We must never forget that dog shows are always in new locations and we need our dogs confident and relaxed, so that they can turn in the kind of performances we are seeking. Make sure that you are not setting yourself up for failure by making your dog think that here we are and now comes the corrections. Do not ask your dog to work, unless you have the four behaviors of cooperation, attention, movement, speak and play.
I have taught you the moving watch, but I do not think you fully understand what your goal should be with this exercise. The moving watch is one of the most valuable behaviors to cooperation. Without it, all work that you ask of your dog will be done defensively and with poor attitude. Once you feel that you have honored your dog’s needs in a new location, and know it is fair to ask him to give you his complete attention, you must insist that he give you his attention. The first thing you must understand is that your dog may not want to pay attention to you. He has his own mind and desires. He is not wrong or bad because of this. But you are his leader and you have the right to ask him to pay attention to you. Now comes a battle of wills. It is imperative that you do not get angry and that you keep your mind one hundred percent on your dog. You must be completely aware every time your dog looks away from you and be ready to respond.

You can use a buckle or pinch collar depending on your dog’s temperament. You should have your dog on a loose leash. You can have some food in your pocket, but do not show it to your dog. A big mistake made while doing a moving watch with a trained dog, is using the food to get the attention. Remember, your dog is paying attention to the food; you want your dog paying attention to you. You must be in an upbeat happy mood. When you have your dog’s complete attention, you will reward this attention with the food in your pocket.

Here are a few pointers I want to you practice without your dog. Your handling must be done smoothly, or you will cause your dog to lose his attention. First practice walking backwards: toe, ball heel. Keep your legs under yourself and keep them close together. If you do not do this part properly, you will cause your dog to trip on your feet and legs. His response will be to drop his head. Now you will have to correct him, but you will be causing the mistake. Too much of this will cause your dog to not want to pay attention to you. Good handling is important. Once you feel confident walking backwards, it is time to try to learn to turn and change direction. Think of your body as one piece and that each step you take to turn must completely turn your whole body. To get the feel of this, put your hands down by your side and hold your palms flat against your legs. As you step backwards toe, ball, heel, make sure your keep your shoulders over your hips and do not twist your body. Keep your face centered and your chin in the middle of your chest. Practice changing directions by moving backwards and learning to keep your legs close together and under yourself. With each change of direction, pay attention that your body is moving as one piece.

Once you are confidently moving backwards and are able to keep your body and legs all together, it is time to learn to give a pop. Pretend to have a leash in your right hand and as you change direction, give a pop up and to the center of your body. Before you bring your dog into the picture, make sure you can do all of your part confidently. It would be very helpful for you to get a friend to play the role of the dog for you. Have this person 1) look away from you, 2) suddenly stand still and zone out, 3) move towards you but look downward, 4) try to go around you, and 5) finally move towards you looking up at you. It is important that you learn to respond correctly, to whichever behavior your dog presents. As usual, timing is everything!


Here are the responses you need to master before you put you dog into the picture.

1. Dog looks away from you!
You should step towards your dog’s tail and then pop up towards the center of your body. Keep moving towards his tail in a circular pattern, until your dog finally looks at you to see if you have gone mad. Be sure to praise after every pop, whether he looks at you or not. If you are using the clicker, click as soon as he looks at you. When he looks up at you, you can then give a reward for his attention. Remember not to use the food to get his attention!

2. Dog suddenly stands still and zones out!
Move backwards and pop up towards the center of your body. Keep moving and changing directions to make your dog has to pay attention to where you are. Be sure that your leash is loose so that you are not guiding him around. He will have to use his eyes to keep track of you. Remember to change directions often, it is important that you do not walk straight backward and keep popping your dog. If you do this, you will make your dog defensive and he will never look at you. Again, praise after every pop and keep your spirit happy!

3. Dog moves towards you but keeps looking down!
Make sure you are popping upwards and not downwards. You may have to use more praise and change directions more quickly. Make sure your pops are not too hard for your dog. You may be scaring him and causing him to be afraid to look up at you. Lighten the pops and up the level of praise.

4. Dog tries to go around you!
When a dog tries to go around you, he is trying to control the situation. If he keeps trying to get to your right side, make sure you step to the left and towards his tail. If he tries to go around to your left side, step to the right and towards his tail. You are the one who will choose the direction; it is his job to keep track of you. To get him to do this, you must learn to be quick and change directions properly. Remember to pop up and towards the center of your body. The leash must be loose so that you are not guiding him around. He must learn to keep his eyes on you!

5. Dog moves towards you and looks up!
This is what you are trying to accomplish and should be rewarded! Click and treat. Take the food out of your pocket and put it in your mouth. Now, spit or hand it to your dog to reward him for paying attention to you. Your dog should willingly follow you around as you walk backwards. All his energy should be focused on you. All his attention should be directed towards you. Work this attention until you see a bright happy expression on your dog!

The utmost in cooperation between dogs and handler!

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