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"It's almost like you're asking him"...

Last week at class I had a student who said something that to me is so obvious after years of training with my dogs, but I take for granted that it isn't common sense. We were working on the "drop it" cue with a trading exercise where we asked the dog to drop an item, traded a treat, and then offered the item back with "take it". As we worked on the exercise I assisted each team one on one, helping everyone get the mechanics of the exercise figured out. One of the teams in particular was saying "drop it" in a not so happy tone, and then getting frustrated when the dog wasn't relinquishing the item. When I approached this team to work with them and I took over I said "drop it", and the dog guardian remarked "With that tone of voice, it's almost like you're asking him to drop it instead of telling him to..." And isn't that the truth!

Time for some real talk: every time you "cue" your dog (or "command" them as old-fashioned trainers might call it) you are ASKING them to perform a behavior. Even if someones tries to say it in a "commanding" tone so that they are the "alpha", and even if they think they are "telling" their dog to do something, when you're training you are always asking. Dogs are living, breathing creatures with brains, not robots, and when we think we can "control" our dogs 100% of the time we are kidding ourselves. This doesn't mean that we can't make its far more likely for a dog to perform a given behavior when we ask for it or that training doesn't "work", but it's important to understand this key concept so that we have reasonable expectations of our dogs and training itself.


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