"Make the dog..."

Beckett at the Office

Recently I was at a training field in which folks train dogs for schutzhund and other working dog sports.  I am fascinated by many activities folks get involved in with their pets.  Some are simple like hikiing and ball playing others require immense dedication and skill, both on the dog's part and the handler's. 

However, something struck me while I was there watching some folks work the "protection" portion of their training. That is the bite work element of the sport for those that are not familiar with many of the protection sports.  There was an amazing young dog on the field with so much drive you could power a porsche. 

The handler and helper (guys taking the bites), who also trains dogs were working on impulse control and cleaning up the routine. The dog was so intense on the game the handler could not get the dog to restrain himself knowing he'd be getting a bite again.  The handler started pulling up on the dog lifting his feet off the ground which only encouraged the dog more.

But what amazed me the most, was that the helper tells him to "make" the dog sit.  In that moment I realized that when a dog is trained well and understands the rules they don't need to be made to do anything.  Whenever I hear the phrase "make the dog",  it says to me the dog is untrained and does not understand or care to understand at that moment what is being requested. 

Most of the folks I encounter in these venues are amazing trainers, their timing is generally good and they can build drive in the dogs they train.  However, what I do see in many cases is the assumption the dogs they are working with truly understand the concepts and have established a good pattern of impulse control under conflicting motivations. 

Unfortunately, the training continued this way for a while and then the dog was returned to chill out in his crate while everyone chatted about how to deal with the problem.  I didn't say much, which is a miracle for me, I just listened.

What I learned from this encounter is when one feels the need to make the dog sit, make the dog down or come or whatever it is the dog needs to do we should stop and evaluate the training up until that point.  Our goals should be to never have to make a dog do anything, but to have a dog that wants to do what we ask because they are well trained and willing.  I guess that should be our goal in all the things we do any way.

Happy training everyone!!!