Have you ever wondered why your dog sometimes, or frequently, just ignores you and tunes you out when you give a command? An excellent excerpt fromBuilding Blocks for Performance: Give Your Puppy a Head Start for Competitionby Bobbie Anderson and Tracy Libby, explains why dogs may not be as well mannered as the owner would like him to be, and what may be causing it. While this book focuses on the competition side of dog ownership, such as obedience, agility, hunting and other sport activities, the information here is very useful for anyone who owns a dog.
“With their fat tummies and sweet puppy breath, few can deny that puppies are irresistible, cuddly bundles of love. There’s a reason they are so cute, too. If they weren’t, who would spend umpteen hours each day feeding and cleaning up after them and keeping them corralled and out of mischief? However, don’t let their cute looks deceive you. Puppies quickly learn to be manipulative at an early age. A sad, pitiful look usually gets them a tasty tidbit from the supper table. Some perfectly timed whimpering or an unrelenting demand for attention gets them exactly what they want – your attention. These acts seem harmless enough, right? After all, he is such a lovable little puppy! But it is a short leap from a sad, pitiful look to a seasoned con artist. Before you know it, your precious pooch is swiping food off the counter, barking incessantly, back chatting, ignoring commands, and committing heinous crimes against your personal property.
Fast forward two years. No doubt all that love and adoration you and your puppy had for each other is a bit one-sided these days. In the obedience ring, he consistently breaks his stay command, ignores your heel command, or chooses to take the high jump instead of the bar jump. Perhaps in the agility ring, he breaks his start-line stay, or while herding he intentionally ignores your way-to-me or lie down command. You’re left scratching your head and thinking “What the heck is going on?” Simply put, that precious bundle of fur quickly learned how to train his owner. Your future competition puppy grew into an adult dog that does not respect you. Subsequently, he is calling the shots in and out of the ring.
To succeed in a competitive environment you must make the connection between your dog’s behavior in his day-to-day life and the behavior he exhibits in the obedience ring, on the agility course, or in the field. Unfortunately, where handlers often run amok is by failing to make the connection between the dog that barks incessantly at home and the same dog that refuses to heel in the obedience ring. Or the dog that ignores a come command because he is playing with his canine buddies, and the same dog that nonchalantly responds to the recall command in the ring. Or the dog that bolts out of the crates and doors at home is the same dog that runs riot around the obedience ring or agility course. A dog’s behavior at home – his behavior in his day-to-day interactions with you – is linked to his behavior in the ring, be it good or bad. Once that cute little puppy grows into an adult dog that has learned to manipulate you and ignore your commands at home, he will not magically decide to obey your commands in the ring.
Be smart. Don’t let him pull the wool over your eyes with his charm and good looks. From day one, start building a strong human-canine relationship that is built on a solid foundation of respect and communication. Nothing is more important when it comes to raising and training a competition puppy – and eventually succeeding in a competitive environment. Ideally, this relationship should be built on a foundation of mutual respect, clear communication, trust, patience, understanding, acceptance, fairness, consistency and love. As your puppy grows and begins to sow his proverbial oats, and occasionally tests the household rules and perhaps his position in the pack, a solid relationship will serve you well. Just as a solid foundation on a high-rise building keeps it from toppling to the ground when the wind blows or the ground shakes, a sturdy foundation will keep you in good stead in all aspects of your dog’s life especially when things do not go as planned in training or on the campaign trail.”
Many of us are guilty of allowing our dogs to get away with disobedience without realizing the long term consequences. In your day to day interaction with your dog, pay attention to what you are expecting of him, what your actions are, and what are his reactions. With awareness, time, and patience, you and your dog can create a more rewarding relationship.