Sunday, February 28, 2016

My Dog Knows What To Do But Doesn't Listen

How many times have you heard the statement: My dog knows what to do but doesn't listen?  You've heard it from others.  You've said it yourself.  It can be incredibly frustrating.  It reduces you to pleading and yelling.  Maybe even beating.  But nothing works.

I heard this recently.  Let me give you a bit of the backstory:
In the hunting dog world, there is a concept called "honoring" or "backing".  When one dog has indicated that there is a bird up ahead (called pointing), all the other dogs in the area are to stop moving, so as to not accidentally flush the bird out of range.

I went hunting with a couple of friends at the end of last year.  One of the dogs on the ground was a dog I had trained, but hadn't seen for several years.  When I had last worked with Jack, he was great at honoring.  Yet when I saw him that day, he blew past other dogs and flushed the birds.

When I asked the owner about this, there was a lot of explanation...and it concluded with the ever-famous words: He knows what to do but he doesn't listen.

I put a long leash on the "rebel" dog.  I managed to get a hold of his leash before he charged in.  My dog was on point and standing like a statue.  A third friend went in and flushed the bird.  When the bird was airborne, I released his leash and praised him.  It took one repetition and the dog was honoring again.

Does He Really Know?

The short answer:  No.  Most times, a dog has no clue.  This is because we have done a poor job "explaining" why the behavior is worth their while.  Jack is actually very eager to please.  All that was needed was a situation where he could be praised.  He knew what was wrong...he had no clue what was right.

How To Help A Dog Really Understand

What you need to do is show a dog how a behavior is advantageous.  Take the ever popular "jumping up".  When the dog is young, ignore the dog when he is jumping up.  In contrast, get on the floor when he is calm and greet him on his turf.  If you are consistent, the dog "understands" how to get what he wants.

If your dog knows what to do but doesn't listen, the reality is that he (most likely) does *not* know.

A couple of housekeeping items:
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why Does This Blog Exist

Why does this blog exist?  Why do we need another blog?

The purpose of this blog is to try to make dog training more available and more accessible to the average dog owner.  Training is in large part science and in large part skill in the trainer applying the science.  I believe that there are those who have innate knowledge.  But their knowledge and their skill is describable and available to mere mortals such as ourselves.  I can take any episode of Dog Whisperer and explain why it works.  My desire is to educate you so that you can explain why a training  exercise is successful.  I want you to be able to pull back the covers and understand what is happening underneath

I train bird dogs for hunting.  Pointing breeds. In this training, I have found that a lot of my experience is applicable to most every dog.  Pointing breed, flushing breed, and companion dog.

I am not a pro trainer.  I have trained a few dogs (my dogs and my friends' dogs).  I've trained a few wild hawks.  I've trained one cat and a parakeet.  I even once trained my wife without her knowledge.  I train because I find it fascinating and I love it.  I love to learn more about it.

If you contact me, I'll not lie to you.  If I've trained (or trained away) a particular behavior, I will tell you.  If I have a good (but untried) idea, I will tell you.  I'll refer you to other trainers when necessary.  But, above all, I will reply.

This blog is a continuation of another blog (  That one was hosted by the Chicago Tribune, but since I have moved from Chicago to Western Michigan, I had to relocate my writing here.  But, please, check out earlier posts there to get a handle on who I am.

Welcome aboard.  Please subscribe (on the pane on the right).  Feel free to email me.  It'll be a hoot!