Commands are fundamental when dog training, but so are structure, guidance, and leadership. Here’s why.
By Dog Blogger Miss Moneypenny
I know a lot of dogs, many of them pretty ornery.
Take Jake, for example; he was a 3-year-old Weimaraner who was so afraid of inflatable holiday decorations that he would pee and try to run away anytime he walked past one. His owners were at their wit’s end and didn’t know what to do, so they contacted my owner (and professional dog trainer), Laura. She knew just what to do, so she suggested Jake sign up for a board and train to work on his behavioral issues.
She accomplished this by defining commands and adding distractions. By doing so, Jake could concentrate on the command rather than what he was afraid of. And it worked!
Commands and communication in dogs
Commands can be hand signals, words, or sounds (like a whistle). They are a communication tool between dogs and humans.
By assigning a command to an action, say SIT, we learn what is expected.
By defining the SIT (not barking, not moving around, etc.), we know what to do when the command is given. This means we no longer choose what to do but rather follow through on what we have been taught. We learn that sit means to sit quietly, placemat means to remain on our blankets, and heel means to be attentive to the person on the other end of the leash.
A defined command gives us something to think about rather than our previously typical knee jerk reaction in a situation of either being afraid or too aggressive.
Say SIT, for example. Sit is when our front legs are straight and we’re sitting on our butts. But by defining the SIT to mean 1. front legs are straight and we’re sitting on our butts, 2. no sliding into a down or moving around in a circle on our butts, 3. being quiet while sitting, the SIT has now become a tool which we can focus on.
In other words, defined commands can redirect our fear of a previously tough situation and help us build confidence and self-control.
Confidence and self-control in dogs
Through defined commands and distraction training, dogs learn self-control and confidence.
- “Self-control” meaning they can control their actions on their own.
- Confidence is the result that leads to less of a need to bark or set off on someone or something.
With practice, consistency, and follow-through, their owners can then develop good behavior patterns in their confident, self-controlled dogs.
Structure, guidance, and leadership in dogs
When you establish yourself as a leader, you gain respect from a dog. A leader defines what is expected and what will not be accepted. A leader also takes steps to teach you how to do it and when to do it using praise, motivation, encouragement, and, if necessary, correction.
I have to tell you; dogs don’t like being in a grey world where we make the decisions. By being more black and white and consistent in your commands, we know what you want us to do.
It’s not mean to enforce commands. Rather, it helps us learn what our boundaries are, so we have the self-control to face situations where we feel uncomfortable.
You end up praising us for holding the SIT, which makes us happy and proud that you like what we’re doing. Being happy and proud builds confidence.
And you end up being a leader and much less frustrated!
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