Friday, February 25, 2011

Engagement in Dog Training

The most important part of dog training is to first and foremost develop engagement in your dog.

One can not begin training a dog if the dog is not engaged to the handler. If you don't have a dog who is engaged, you will practice bribery and or force to "make" your dog do what you are asking him/her to do. An engaged dog makes training a behavior very easy... and it does not take much time at all to attain reliability in that behavior because the dog is focused.

Disengaged dogs don’t learn. Disengaged dogs do not comprehend corrections, making it likely for them to interpret corrections in an unhealthy manner and demonstrate fear.

Reactive dogs display a high level of vigilance and lack of impulse control and are “ready to act” based on the environment. In training, our goal would be to:

1. Emotional Processing: To change the emotional state of the dog’s mind.
2. Cognitive Processing;: To modify/train a compatible/appropriate behavior.

But, part one of this training program would need to be to find a way to keep this dog engaged on to the handler.

Most commonly, many trainers use treats as a motivator to engage the dog. Being that the dogs have already received their daily food rations, many of these dogs will loose interest in the handler especially when in highly distracting environments. Here, the continuation of using treats as a means to motivate engagement very commonly ends in bribery.

The other method of attaining engagement is through compulsion…. Forcing the dog to perform and the motivation here is to avoid the correction or force.

In both the cases above, training becomes difficult and frustrating.

Two of the most powerful ways in attaining engagement is through use of the dog’s daily feedings and play. Play being a very powerful tool.

An engaged dog is a very easy to control, redirect and train new behaviors. The difference between training a disengaged dog and an engaged dog is like training a Golden Retriever to Herd, and a Terrier to not run after fast moving things.

Can be done, its much harder, much more time consuming, a lot more room for error and confusion.

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