Take cues from your dog

I help people and their dogs get ready for competition in both Obedience & Rally Obedience. As a handler & dog become more experienced the handler “expects” their dog to sit when they say (or hand signal) “sit”, right? This is where a dog is responding properly to a “cue” aka “command”.

What some people fail to do is to take a good look at their dog, and their dog’s body language. What cues is the dog providing it’s owner? As handlers get closer to competition many get nervous. You may have heard it said that nerves travel down the lead i.e. if the handler gets nervous so does the dog. I strongly suggest that you (or have a friend help you) take a good look at your dog’s demeanor while you’re training. If you start to see a change in your dog’s body language perhaps holding their head down, tail down, lip licking or other indicators of stress it’s time to change something in your routine.

If your dog usually does a fast upbeat recall with a nice sit in front and all of a sudden your dog ambles in and when he gets to you he a) doesn’t sit b) lies down c) goes directly to a finish you know something’s up. To help fix this I suggest:
• shortening the distance for the recall
• adding an additional cue (just for a short time)
• if using a verbal cue “jolly up your voice”
• don’t ask for a finish, mark the fast recall and/or the sit in front (work on your finish as a separate behavior)
• vary your reinforcers, keep your dog guessing, sometimes a jackpot (several tasty treats at one time) other times throw a toy — make the exercise fun!

Most dogs enjoy working, but any number of factors can add stressors that interfere with the dog’s ability to enjoy training time. By watching the signals your dog’s giving you can respond to the cues he’s giving you so that you can both enjoy your time together.

Have fun 🙂



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