I Just Want my Dog to Listen!

In 2006 I had the privilege of participating in a mission trip to Uganda and Tanzania. You may be asking, “What on earth does this have to do with dog training?” Well, we were blessed with an experienced team leader named Jim who had a great sense of humor. One thing that amused Jim was watching newly minted missionaries trying to make themselves understood in English to somebody whose native tongue was Buganda or Swahili. As the level of frustration rose, invariable so did their voices, as if by talking louder they could make themselves easier to understand. This would go on until one of them would look over at the next table where Jim was laughing himself silly. At that point there was nothing left to do but laugh with him and try again in a more thoughtful and considerate way.

Dog training can be frustrating sometimes for similar reasons, and a common response is to yell louder. Since we are tying to communicate with an animal who’s native language isn’t spoken language at all and who’s hearing is 16 times as good as yours or mine, this is not likely to succeed. Many times when I ask my clients what they want to accomplish with the dog training, I get the reply, “I just want my dog to listen!” When I delve a little deeper, I often find out that they want their dog to listen when they tell him to stop doing something like jumping on the counter or chewing something he shouldn’t. At that point I ask, “Wouldn’t it be better to just teach him the rule and be done with it?” For some, this possibility is a revelation. You see, the dog doesn’t have a hearing problem; the dog has an understanding problem.*

The technique for teaching dogs simple rules like not chewing, mouthing, or jumping is simple and it’s usually the first order of business with a new client. Many are amazed at how much more they enjoy life with their dog when repeatedly yelling at him becomes unnecessary because they’ve learned a clear way of communicating called the “Out” Correction. And that was just their first session!

*(some Dalmatians excepted)


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