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 dogs 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 question3û4 dog-awareness, third question: environment-awareness,
fourth question3û4 outside distraction-awareness, and last question3û4
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:
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!
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
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 dogs 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 dogs 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 dogs 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 dogs 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
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, lets 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 dogs 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 dogs 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 dogs
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 dogs 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 dogs 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.
Dog looks away from you!
You should step towards your dogs 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!
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
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.
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!
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!