I found myself getting lazy the other day when working Scout, our Dutch Shepherd, off leash with Ash after Crossfit. I had scout jumping on 6 foot walls and crossing left and right across the top of the wall with turns spaced sporadically. I positioned myself about 10 yards from the wall with the intent of sending Scout away from me towards the wall (much more difficult it seems than having her come towards me)
Sounds easy enough right? Lol of course its never that easy working with dogs and thats part of the draw, overcoming challenges and working together with your companion to achieve your goals. Our obstacle was my laziness. I would give her the jump command, she would balk, and I would give it again without a correction. As Joshua Perry and Mike McConnery at Baden K9 would say, I’m “building a vocabulary” with her, letting her choose which issuance of the same command she wants to obey, instead of giving “one direction, one command.” She did the same thing with the turn command while on the wall.
I am embarrassed to say I also caught myself in a rookie mistake giving her multiple issuances of the wait command this week while opening the front door and then looking down to see if she would obey. Oh I felt my cheeks burning imagining Rich Graham with Trident Fitness shaking his head at that spectacle. All that was doing was causing suspicion on her part. “Hmmm he’s looking at me like I should be doing something but he gave me the wait command. What does he expect me to do?”
This is really a simple fix but takes effort on the handlers part. Dog training 101: “One direction, one command.” Once the dog understands what a specific command means, he/she should be able to execute it on the first issuance. “Scout, Sit” with a nice firm voice. Its not a request, it is a command. She knows what sit means and has done it countless times. It is perfectly reasonable to expect her to perform it on the first command. If she doesn’t or if she hesitates, its a “Phooey,” with a correction then a “Scout, Sit.” Lo and behold, she sat on the first command. This is pretty easy to do while on lead (or leash if you prefer). The challenge is maintaining this same “One direction, one command” discipline while off lead. It is incredibly easy to fall in the trap of repeating yourself when they don’t obey on the first call, instead of putting them back on lead, giving the command, and making sure they perform, and then trying off lead again. It takes way more effort to do it the proper way but in the end, a well behaved, stable dog is well worth it.
One last thought that sort of goes along with this post. People often ask me if Scout is finished training when they see her do things most dogs and handlers do not do. My answer is always the same. “No, every day is training” because there is always something to improve.