July 19, 2011

Michele Hatley’s Tuesday Dog Training Tip – Zip It!

Author: Michele Hatley

When Training Your Dog, Zip it! – Add In Verbal Cues Later!

It’s natural to want to talk to our dogs, but when it comes to training, zip it! It’s not necessary and in fact, talking early on is irrelevant to your dog and could actually confuse them.

Our dogs don’t know English, Spanish, or French; they only know the words that we have repeatedly used and taught them. They do however, know body language very well and pick up on it quickly.On T.V.  I saw a story highlighting an assistance dog training program from Atlanta, Georgia called Canine Assistants. They train dogs to perform everyday tasks that someone with a physical impairment would have difficulty completing such as opening doors or turning on light switches.

After their training, which starts from the time the dogs were only days old, a social was held so that the dogs had the opportunity to get to know people looking for an assistance dog. By the end of this period, people and dogs were matched up. The reason that these dogs can be paired with people with varying degrees of mobility is because dogs can actually pick up on our body cues even when they are reduced to a fraction of what they normally are.  They are able to detect less than a tenth of a millimeter of movement!

Our dogs will actually learn faster from us without the extra words cluttering our training sessions and they won’t accidentally learn to pair a word with an action that isn’t quite finished. Once the animal can repeatedly perform the behavior being trained, that’s when you can add in a verbal cue for that behavior. Until then, no words are necessary.

When you have the opportunity, please check out the PBS program called Through a Dog’s Eyes and learn about some incredible dogs!

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