Impulse control is one of the most common problems with “problematic dogs”. They see the squirrel/postman/dog/bike, and they are gone. You do not exist to them anymore.
And, the typical training responses are:
A- Correct them big enough so they will listen
B- If you get a high enough value treat, they would listen.
C- If they “respected” you, they would listen.
I’m sure there are more, but, you get the point.
Here are the problems with those.
They work. In the short term, they totally work.But they cost you in different ways.
A- You can correct the shit out of a dog and get it off of something. But….. Unless you have the hardest of the hard dogs, it going to damage the relationship. Never mind that it can damage the dog. But, you see this with old school trainers. Their dogs are obedient as hell, and totally under control. But, their squinting like they’re looking into a spotlight. Flattened dog. Not my idea of a good relationship.
B- You can put a handful of treats in the dogs face and “magnetically” draw them away from whatever got them nuts. Totally works. But you have to have higher value treats than the “distraction”. And you have to have them all the time. And your dog is excited by the food, and so you end up with this hyper, fat, stressed out dog. Not to mention the stressed out parents! There is a very familiar look on their face as the get to the bottom of the life saving bag of cheese.
C- If you live with the dog skillfully in your home. They wait for their food. They yield you space. They listen to you INSIDE. But….. OUTSIDE…… They’re a monster. I don’t think the problem is “respect”. If they didn’t respect you IN the house….. Maybe that argument would have legs. But, I see TONS of people who have angels in the house, and a devil on the streets. Those dogs (generally) don’t lack “respect” they lack impulse control. So, the “respect” camp will say “Rules, Boundaries, and “Limitations”. Obedience to correct behavior. And it sorta works. If they’re “downing” they aren’t chasing. But the problem comes with how you keep them doing these things when they get REALLY excited. And now we’re back to the bigger “Carrots and Sticks” issue of the above A, and B.
Look, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use food, or corrections. I use both. But you should use them to TEACH….. Not to “manage”. And that’s a HUGE difference.
Nice. Sounds good. So what.
Now that everyone is mad at me……
I’ll tell you what I do.
I teach my dogs to meditate.
Ok, that sounds like hippy shit….. But it’s kind of true.
The “Place” command is meditation for dogs.
The place command, is asking your dog to lay in a bed (or whatever) and stay there until you release them. But, it really goes much deeper than that. For them to be ABLE to stay in their spot, they have to have some self control. They have to be able to stay calm, even through temptations. Now, that is good for your ability to manage them. But, honestly, it’s really just good for them to have that kind of emotional control. Dogs are cute wound up, and playing…. But…. For their own sanity, and health, they really should be ABLE to bring it down for a bit. A long “stay” is a great way to develop those skills. They end up working the same kind of skills as people when we meditate. They learn to relax into this spot, and stop fighting the urge to get up. They learn to have a thought enter their head and try to steal their attention, and let it go without having it break them. They learn to center themselves, and allow distractions to come and then go. No shit, it is meditation for dogs.
Now, I chose “Place” and not a “Down” because I’m way more concerned with geographic location, and emotional state than a particular position. The “Place” command allows them to stand up. Stretch. Circle around. Whatever. Just stay on the bed, and stay cool. Now, they don’t have to stay there forever. But, should be able to stay there for at least 30 min. Then when they can manage that, you go to novel places or add other distractions!
Yes, you food and corrections to shape this skill, but the point is to get to as little food and corrections as possible. Ideally, I want the relationship (Social +R and -P if you want to get fancy) to be the motivator.
The whole point of this isn’t to have the “Place” as a management tool. That’s just a cool side effect.
The point is to help the dog literally increase their ability to SELF REGULATE. It is just like meditation for people.
And, just like meditation for people the benefits will show in areas off the Place/Meditation mats….
That improved impulse control can solve a ton of issues. From separation anxiety, to different types of reactivity.
It allows the dog to be able to display their respect for you, and listen to you ask them to ignore the squirrel/postman/dog/bike.
So, teach your pup, the long “place”. Understand what it’s for.
Teach your dog to meditate.
Hell, you could learn how and do it with them.
Probably wouldn’t kill you to learn to relax a little yourself!