Give Your Dog What You Want In Return

Have you ever been in a partnership (a group project in school, a romantic relationship, a project at work, etc) where you felt you put in way more effort than the other(s) on the team? It’s incredibly frustrating to devote so much time, energy, passion, and thought when no one else is putting in near the same amount of work. It is quite discouraging and definitely damages the relationship within the group–why would one person in the group want to continue working or working at such a high level when no one else is as invested?

I think it is the same idea when working with dogs. One of the things I’m continually reminding students, particularly when loose leash walking, is that they need to connect with their dogs as they walk. Their expectations are that their dog pay attention to them as they walk (not necessarily a focused heel but paying enough attention to not forge ahead and to follow them as they move) but most of them do not give much focus or attention back to the dog. Once they connect with their dog and talk to the dog and give the dog some eye contact as they walk, the dogs start enjoying the work and stop lagging or getting distracted. The dogs needed the same amount of commitment from their handler as the handler expected from them.

If you want to get 100% effort from your dog, you need to be putting in 100% of effort into the dog. Whether that means putting in the work training your dog to get reliable behaviors or whether that means being enthusiastic with your interactions to get the enthusiasm back–what you put into your dog, you will get out.

When I’m working with Shayne and Rio and I’m looking for them to be engaged with me and working with gusto, I have to make sure I’m giving that energy right back to them. I’m not going to get the type of performance I want if I’m disengaged or if I’m half-heartedly working with them. Both of them love when I talk to them while we work, cheer them on, have a peppy pace while working, and a bounce in my step. If I’m having a bad day and I’m dragging through our work, you can bet they will start to drag as well if I don’t change my tune. If I begin to get frustrated and shut down on Rio when doing agility, he shuts down as well so I make sure that I keep everything light and fun so he continues to give me 110%.

I think this is especially important when doing recall practice. If you want to recall with gusto, you better be calling and rewarding with gusto. If you are not putting 110% into the recall practice, you will probably not get 110% from your dog when you recall him. Even if it means looking like a crazy dog person, put 110% effort into your recall work so you get 110% back from your dog–because, with recall in particular, it can be a matter between life and death.

If you are having a bad training session, stop and think, are you putting in the same effort and attitude that you’d like to get from your dog?


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