A client asked me, “how do I get my dog to heel?”
I asked her what is important to her about why she wants to teach her dog how to do this?
She responded that she didn’t know?
Taking a look at the purpose or the method of teaching a particular skill or reinforcing a behavior is an important piece in training.
From a cultural standpoint, the dog training industry was and still is at times focused on obedience training.
Obedience training is rooted in the concept of having power over and controlling your dog.
It sets the expectation that you will teach your dog to listen to you and perform every cue requested in a timely fashion.
That mindset sets you and your dog up for failure.
Modern approaches in dog training focuses on building a relationship requiring mutual respect and benevolent leadership by the caregivers rather than domination.
It requires understanding and consistency in establishing a daily practice of engagement and fun.
When your dog is acknowledged for making the choice in staying close to you, your dog will more likely offer staying close to you more frequently and now the reinforcement history of your dog walking by your side is established.
Then you are achieving your goal of your dog walking next you while your dog is being rewarded for naturally offering a behavior your dog finds pleasurable.
When you live with awareness of the purpose of each skill you are intending to teach your dog, you will begin seeing how your dog’s behavior extends beyond the skill itself.
When looking at teaching my client how to encourage her dog to stay close, the reason underpinning her interest in teaching a “heel” was more about her dog’s fear response towards other dogs.
She believed if her dog stayed close to her, then the barking would ultimately stop.
Now, we get to the root of the concern.
When a dog feels unsafe, they go through fight, flight and freeze response which looks like a dog barking and lunging at the other dog or whatever your dog perceives as scary.
A dog walking in a heel or staying close isn’t going to help your dog feel safe when the scary thing is still too close for comfort.
Now, we focus on helping our dogs change their minds about those scary things.
Curious how? Schedule a Discovery Call with me to learn more!