Being Mindful

Be mindful of what you're actually teaching.

I was working with Risa in the yard the other day. Our yard isn’t fenced so I’m constantly watching the road to make sure no one is coming; especially other dogs. Should I see anyone, I get Risa and either hold onto her or bring her inside.

At one point, I noticed Ris’ body posture change. She stiffened up, barked, and headed towards the road. I panicked and yelled “Ris! AH AHT!!” as I ran to grab her. She stopped and I was able to get her collar. I didn’t see anything that would have caused such a reaction so I released her and went back to work.

I try really hard to NOT use corrections like ‘ah aht’ when we’re training. But I panicked and fell back on my old habits. It would have been better for me to cue her to recall to me. I’m human. I make mistakes.

Later on in the training session, I was working on the ‘come to me and jump over my leg’ move part of our routine. Risa sat nicely but she hesitated coming to me. I was confused. Generally, she’s quite happy and willing to come running and fly over my leg. I tried several times and she was still slow. It was then I realized my error. When I corrected her earlier, she was heading in the direction I was standing in now. She was unsure if she was allowed to go that way since I had told her not to earlier.

So I called her to me and got all silly. I petted her and let her jump on me while getting wild and crazy. Then I tried the freestyle move again. The speed and enthusiasm had returned!

This is another example of why correction-based training can be more grey than black-and-white. I thought by saying ‘ah aht’ that I was telling Risa “Don’t take off after that!” but that is not what she interpreted it as. Risa ended up thinking I didn’t want her to go towards that part of the yard. Had I just recalled her to me, things would have been more clear. We really need to be mindful of what we’re telling our dogs and be sure they truly understand what we mean. Because it’s not always as clear to them as WE think it is!

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
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