Tips for tests, trials, training
March 8, 2017 by Scott
Are you putting together your “to do” list for training season? Mine includes re-doing Manny’s steadiness to a shot bird hitting the ground, and backing, among other things. Tracking is also high on our list, aiming for a NAVHDA Utility Test if our TV travels allow. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how I train. May I offer some suggestions?
Timing your command: Other dogs, people, and sounds can distract a dog and flummox a command. Breath deep, give it a minute, wait for your opportunity, then deliver your direction once there’s an open niche in the thought process. Right after he pees and before his hiked leg hits the ground is a perfect time. Following a good shake is another.
Hunger or anticipation of a meal is another deal breaker. Once a week I catch myself wondering why Manny won’t listen, let alone follow my clear direction. Then I look at the wall clock – it’s dinner time.
Steady to wing, shot and fall is our goal.
Or something in the wind will entice … and it doesn’t need to be bird scent. Dogs often react first to what their noses tell them. If you don’t give that new scent a beat or two to “sink in,” your command will fall on deaf furry ears.
Out of sight, out of … Back before Go Pro, I rigged a video camera on Buddy and put him through his paces. Then I played back the footage. Pardon the pun, but it was an eye opener. Now that I know what my dogs see, I will be more clear and add audible clues to most of my hand signals.
Buddy could seldom see me as well as I could see him. It’s a simple matter of geometry – the angle of his eyesight slams into every bush, tree trunk and hummock between him and me. For example, when I’m signaling him to change directions, the brush often obscures most of my body, not just my hand.
Windows to … your dog’s obedience? Dogs are great readers of body language, so while your voice is giving the command and his ears may be hearing it, his eyes are searching – for what, I’m not sure, but definitely something. I believe your dog needs to see your eyes to complete the transaction. Cover them with dark glasses and he is less likely to respond to your commands.
It’s noisy down there. Next time your dog disobeys you, don’t jump to the inevitable conclusion. There’s a chance he’s not disobeying. He may not be able to hear your commands.
When I attached that video camera to Buddy, it was clear that it’s an audio circus down there, too.
Depending on who you believe, dogs hear up to ten times better than us. So, many of the annoying little pops and crackles we hear sound like a freeway accident to our dogs. Think about what he encounters down there: tags jingling from his collar or a bell, brush crashing, screeching wind, footfalls on dry leaves, maybe a beeper collar right behind his ears, his own panting. All are overwhelming your frantic commands yelled into that auditory chaos.
Hands are quicker – or should be. Do you use hand signals? So do I, and I learned something that might be valuable to you and your dog. A veterinary ophthalmologist told me dogs, as predators, see moving objects much better than stationary ones. Makes sense: prey tries to escape, dog chases.
So when you’re giving hand signals, add a little “jazz” to them – finger wiggle, waving arm, closing fist, whatever makes sense. I’ll bet your dog “gets it” a little quicker.
Here’s hoping you meet your training goals – remember the season never ends and every day is a great day to spend time with your dog.