mastering the art of understanding your dog

The power of creating a secure partnership between owners and their dogs.

One of the key concepts in dog ownership and training is the ability to fine tune the relationship that you and your dog share. It is important to take the time to nurture the bond between you and develop the understanding of your dog’s behaviour.

Advocating for your dog is an important factor that an array of dog owners seem to forget or become pressured to crumble around. Often, body language and behaviour is misinterpreted by both owners and bystanders and a percentage of owners will never pick up on it.

Understanding your dog

Being able to understand and predict your dogs behaviour to a suitable standard shows true partnership and dedication to involving your dog in various decisions. If you are able to get to a standard of mutual understanding whereby you know your dogs limits, drives and skill, you will be able to enhance your adventures in a better way.

A great example is dogs with a high prey drive and poor recall. Understandably, some owners opt to never let their dog off lead in un-enclosed or un-secure areas. This is often the case for rescue dogs with a known history of poor recall or high prey driven uses such as coursing or hunting.

Take Joy for an example. Joy was a rescue Lurcher from the RSPCA. She came with very little history, only that she had been passed around and was originally bred and sold in Ireland. Joy was not seized nor mistreated but was unfortunately left in a flat complex due to the passing of her owner. She was later found by police who happened to have a warrant of the complex on a completely separate job.

Joy has a high prey drive but it is not extreme. For an entire year and a half, I have been spending time learning the skills she has, where she has room for development and her kryptonite. Squirrels, Rabbits and any smaller game-like creatures are often a source of high value for Joy on her walks. That is not to say she does not have a good recall, because she does, however, she finds the value significantly higher in being able to chase these animals rather than standing with me. I have spent a lot of time playing different games in order to create a better focus and engagement on me when in these situations, however, her response can be quite unpredictable. She is a lot better than when I first walked her in the woods and can go off-lead which is a bonus.

When I feel that Joy has a shift in her focus and is not as responsive as she can be, I take matters into my own hands to not depreciate the training we already have. If I deem necessary, I will pop her back onto her 10m longline. She is still free for 10m but is still restricted beyond that.

We can use our knowledge as a power. Because I have spent so much time getting to know Joy, working with her and developing our bond and partnership, I know when I can trust her and really engage our relationship and progress our training. For example, Joy loves to run on the beach, she will run circles, attack your legs and have a really good time, but, if the beach is too open, she will often chase birds and her predatory drift kicks in. She will chase her sisters and eventually end up on the sand dunes… then it is a waiting game. She will always return but it is not necessarily when asked.

However, I found a beach which is enclosed. It has sea on one side and 10-15ft cliff face on the other. I made the decision to travel that little bit further so that I could comfortably let Joy off and use this as a training session. Joy enjoyed every second and it enhanced her knowledge and skill hugely, so much so that I would be confident to try it in different areas.

The point is this. When you take the time to really engage with your dog and learn their characteristics, behaviours and skills inside and out, we can see patterns and plan how we can get the most out of them. Instead of confining your dog to regularity of basic, boring walks… find ways to improve on the skills they shine in and use it to your advantage. We are lucky to live in a country that is so diverse yet so progressive and are always looking at ways to better experiences, it is just about doing a little bit of research.

A question or statement we often receive or overhear is that ‘I want to train my dog to be a good dog and do it quickly and now’. Although training can help with this, having that deep understanding of your dog aids you much more than you are aware.

understanding your dog
Joy Joy

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