I realized that I never taught my dogs what "Come on guys let's go for a walk" meant. That was many years ago, and since then I have taught them that, but it reminded me of the importance of consistent teaching and that . . . dogs don't understand synonyms!
"Come on guys let's go for a walk."
Blank stares . . .
"Ranger, Trooper, Linus, Come."
Three furry friends come running.
We mix up words this way all the time and humans are able to fill in the gaps based on the context of the situation or the sentence. Dogs might be able to understand based on inflection, situation or body movement, but they need consistent patterns to understand what we mean.
Try this: work for 30 seconds on your dog's easiest behavior -usually sit - rewarding each behavior and then at some point say, "blah blah blah" and just look at your dog. Most likely your dog will sit, but you did not ask her, did you? What you did was create a pattern of:
- You say something
- Your dog does something
- Your dog gets a reward
Your dog tried to fill in the blanks about what you were asking her. She tried a behavior because it had been working for her in the past because she was motivated by the reward. Motivation is the single most fascinating subject on this planet because it drives all species every moment of the day.
So now let's get back to the original topic of teaching Come and apply the demonstration outlined above. You can use this information to be a great teacher by following the simple pattern of:
- Say the cue (or make a visual cue with your hands) for Come
- Help your dog get it right by gently helping her come to you either by gently pulling on her leash, tapping your leg, running the other way, crouching down, etc.
- Say the cue
- Delay the help just a bit to allow your dog to try and connect the dots
- Help, if necessary
You are creating a consistent pattern that will motivate your dog to do the behavior when she hears the cue. That is dog training!