More Talking about Walking

In the previous post, what you saw was a dog without any self-control.  Self-control is the key to a calm walk with your dog.  Until you teach your dog about self-control walking with her as you visualize it will never happen.  I would go so far as to say, that unless your dog has learnt how to control her impulses, any obedience is difficult to teach, if not impossible.

A trained dog understands that the way to get what she wants is to control herself, and a trained handler knows that true control of an animal must come from the animal herself, not from the handler.

The first thing you need to teach your dog is that the only way to get what she wants is to control herself.  Since you control all the resources that your dog wants, teaching her self-control is simply a matter of withholding the resource until she shows a measure of self-control.  When we look at the scenario in the previous post, all the undesirable things that your dog exhibits have been reinforced by giving her what she wants (to go outside and walk) no matter what her behaviour is.  She jumps up when you take the lead out; she grabs hold of the lead; she won’t stand still while you try to get the lead clipped on; she rushes out of the door; she pulls constantly, but she still gets to go for a walk.

You start teaching her about self-control at dinnertime.  Dinner is withheld until she is calm and (preferably) sitting.  Jumping up and mugging you for her meal simply makes the dish with her dinner go further away.  The only way to get the dish on to the floor, is to be calm!  You say nothing – the only thing you do is make dinner go away if she is behaving like a hooligan.  You’d be surprised how quickly she starts learning about self-control around dinnertime.

The next step in your journey to teaching your dog self-control is to get the lead on without all the fuss and bother.  The first thing you do is identify the trigger or signal.  Is it putting on your walking shoes? or opening the cupboard where the leads are kept, or is it something you say?  If it’s putting on your walking shoes, they don’t even get onto your feet until she’s calm.  Once she stays calm while you’re picking them up, the next step is for her to be calm while you’re putting them on.  She will learn that behaving like a lunatic simply makes the shoes come off.  And so on…

Once you know how to manage the environment and take control of the things your dog wants, you will become a much better trainer, and your dog will learn how to control its impulses.

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