This is an excellent article about the complexity of the “Human – Dog interaction”. Good information for advanced trainers and owners a-like. When you have the feeling that the dog has “taken over” the training, is “mind reading”, or “Tried & True Methods” stop working with a particular dog. The Dog may not be stubborn, or status seeking, or many other labels we assign when the Dog does not respond as we expect. Follow the link below to read more.
What do you do if you are given out cues unintentionally that the dog has learned to read and follow.
1. Return to the present moment.
A. Stop and Breath- usually it takes a full 6 relaxing breaths for are attention to return to the present.
B. Think about what you are doing in the moment with the dog. People are notorious planners & multi-taskers, which can confuse a dog that is reading your subtle cues. We will unconsciously begin to change our attention, body position general mental and eye attention, as soon as we think about the next move, often before we have finished with the last move. Dogs are experts at reading these subtle changes. It is what makes them good hunters of prey, reading where or how the prey will travel before it moves.
Often dog training is repetitive, while at the same time, needs intense focus on the Dog the entire training episode. I noticed my 6 year old neighbor had trained my 6 month old puppy not to jump on her in a few seconds, and then on to more behaviors. She was completely focused on the dog and the dog on her. In reality most of us get bored, repeating the sit command and waiting for the dog to comply for the 20th time, our minds wander. The dog will pick up our loss of focus and look around to find out what we are attending to0, instead of them. When this happens in training the events unfold as; the dog was doing well, following, executing and focused on you. Without a reason the dog begins to look away and not pay attention to your cues and fail at the task.. Well, a dog that is able to read your cues is looking for where the trainer’s focus has gone. Just redirect yourself and the dog, shorten your training sessions. In the home with puppies, I prefer 2-5 minute mini-sessions, with 10 -15 minutes breaks for the dog to play or to practice waiting. When doing longer training make the sessions fun for the dog and you so it is easier to stay focused.
C. Take a break for you and the dog.
D. Access whether to continue or to stop the training session. If the dog is tired, upset, bored, or ill stop.
E. If you want to continue with the dog it is OK to have unstructured time together. The dog is learning through this interaction as well. How to hang out with their humans.
2. Another common reason the dog looks away happens when the trainer becomes frustrated, and focuses at the dog with emotion-charged dominant postures and staring at the dog. The “look away” by the dog is behavior language that “they acknowledge you as dominant” plus signal their “submission” by first “looking away”, then a “head turn away” and finally “whole body turned side-ways” to the trainer. When this happens stop training, give the dog something easy to do and end the session on a positive note.
For More on this subject go to: Do Dogs Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves? | Psychology Today.
3. Follow up when training gets off track:
A good practice that excellent Dog trainers, as well as leaders of people, employ when something is not going well is a quick self assessment. They will note the details of what they were doing and what caused your reactions. I.e. The time of day, length of the session, something else is on your mind, even simply distracting body pain or fatigue. Good trainers develop a habit of self assessment, without self judgement so that all elements of a training session can be adjusted to the situation and the dog. I believe that this skill is one of those that contribute to the “art” of the Science and Art of Modern dog training.