What Have You Noticed About Your Dog’s Behavior?
What’s the advantage of being a dog trainer? You get to bring your own dogs to class, but have someone else work with them so that you can teach!
Last night I started a new Life Skills Plus class at BowWow Fun Towne so I brought Dancer with me. Dancer spent a lot of time in Mary Mark’s lap (she owns BowWow) cuddling and doing what puppies do.
Dancer spent time working with Art and Ann Marie and did well on his behavior lessons. So far Dancer is doing great on Touch, Come, Sit, Down and Stay. We are working on ringing the bells to go outside and Watch me. His walking on leash is making progress. He is a Golden who likes to carry the leash in his mouth, which sometimes means an impromptu game of Tug O’ War.
There are 5 other dogs in the class, one of which is Orion, who Dancer knows from Brookside School. We work with Brooke tomorrow at the school, so I look forward to seeing Orion there tomorrow as well.
Observe Your Dog’s Behaviors
One of the exercises on the first week of class is to sit and observe your dog for 3 minutes. The point is to be more aware that of what behaviors your dog is doing at any given moment.
As trainers, we refer to this as “splitting” behaviors as opposed to “lumping” them together. Most people lump behaviors together. We hear it all the time in statements like “Just out of nowhere he bit my friend.” Or “My dog drives me crazy, all he does is bark!”
So often people are focused on and only see a particular behavior (usually one they don’t like) that the dog is doing when in fact, behaviors happen rapidly and multiple things can be going on at once.
Recognizing these behaviors and being able to distinguish between them opens up a myriad of training possibilities and alternative behaviors you can train to get rid of behaviors you don’t like, or just have new things to work on.
Here is a 3 minute observation list that Jim Curnow, guardian of Cody, the German Shorthair Pointer in my Puppy Manners class at the Seattle Humane Society came up with. Thank you Jim for allowing me to share this with everyone.
- Rough housing with other dog
- Lifting paw and batting at other dog
- Preening other dog
- Came over to look at me to see what I was doing
- Other dog growled, Cody growled back
- Whining at our Beagle
- Tail wiggling
- Jumping on roommate
- Horse playing with larger dog
- Open mouths at each other
- Both up on hind quarters with mouths open
- Cody nipping playfully at larger dog
- Both dogs showing their teeth at each other
- Barking and snorting at each other
- White dog walks away
- Cody licking himself
- Cody comes over to me at the dining room to see what I am doing
- Playing with white dog again
- Puts paw on white dog’s head
- Grabs white dog’s tail
- Pulls white dog’s tail
- They go round and round in circles
- Both dogs snorting at each other
- Cody grabs tail again
- Dogs begin playing
- Side by side, playful growling
- Break Time
- Cody brings me the tennis ball
- Cody tears cover off of tennis ball
- Both dogs lie down
- Cody chews on tennis ball between two front paws
- Ball in his mouth
- Chews on ball in mouth
- Lays down on his side with ball still in his mouth
- Rolling on back looking at the ball
What would you have observed?
Many people would just say something like, “He played with my other dog and then chewed on a tennis ball.”
When in fact, there is so much more going on. As Jim pointed out to me when he handed me this list, he said “This is just all I could write down, it was all happening so fast, I missed a lot.”
Which is true, it is easy to read between the lines and envision so much more activity, head turns, tail wags, laying down, standing up, pouncing, etc. going on, not to mention that at least 3 times Cody took a break from the other dogs and solicited attention from Jim.
My point…next time you’re just hanging out with your dog, look and see how many different behaviors your dog exhibits in front of you. Try to split behaviors instead of lumping them.
The more observant you are, the better you get at splitting behaviors, the more accurate and successful you will be training your dog.
I hope you will try this exercise and have some fun just watching your dog. Think about things you see you could be clicking and turning into a behavior trick such as yawning, nose licking, sighing, rolling on to the side, etc. The possibilities are endless!