With so many posts in forums and in the comments, I am inclined to slap my hands over my head every now and then. That is not even meant badly. In some moments I find it difficult to understand people’s thoughts. In retrospect, I am often grateful because they made me think.
Do we hide “problem behavior” with our training? This question arose out of a post in the Dogforum on the subject of “pointing and naming” in which these words were used. I myself don’t like the word problem behavior so much. There are, however, the problematic situations that you can encounter with your dogs in everyday life.
I have a hard time looking into people’s heads. So I don’t want to try to interpret too much into certain statements. As far as Zara and Tali are concerned, however, I can say with certainty that just pointing and naming causes the dogs to deal with triggers and learn on and with them.
Some misunderstandings may be due to the fact that some dog people have now included this tool in their training and are still at the beginning. If you train without the instruction of a trainer who has learned this training technique, small mistakes can creep in here and there. These minimize the training result or make the dog even more aroused as soon as you use a vocabulary such as “Dog” calls.
Please remember that you should make a difference in the structure and application of this tool!
Under construction, you give the marker signal as soon as the dog has discovered the trigger and then reward it. If you have repeated this several times, the dog will easily orientate itself towards his caregiver in anticipation of the marker signal when he sees this trigger – e.g. by a slight head movement, the twitching of an ear. This is then marked. The following reward leads the dog to an alternative behavior. This is the stage at which you can start naming the trigger. If you name it too early, i.e. in the phase when the dog is still very aroused, you have linked the excitation with the signal for the trigger by means of classic conditioning. Did that happen … shit happens! The German language has so many great words. Then take a new one!
What can you achieve with pointing and naming when you are out of the initial phase with certain triggers? What about the application?
When I’m on the road with Zara, I look very closely at what she is capable of. Where does she need my support, at what moments can she offer alternative behavior on her own if she has found a trigger herself, which I can then reinforce. Or did she even perceive a trigger, then brought herself into alternative behavior, e.g. Averting or sniffing and I see that she is very happy with her decision, I often “only” send verbal praise behind.
It is now becoming increasingly common that when I walk through the streets with Zara and she sees a dog on the opposite side of the street, the two look briefly, Zara turns away and continues to sniff. I sometimes no longer praise verbally, but smiled to myself. If Zara looks at me, she will understand that smile!
I ask questions about a trigger if I am certain that Zara could not perceive it and will be startled, or if she has discovered something and cannot classify it. In the latter, the signal for something significantly lowers the level of arousal and I then often wait for her alternative behavior.
I also take a look if she doesn’t really want to look and avoids the trigger. I don’t want her to avoid things. Avoid / ignore triggers I know you don’t like something. If she looked, got to grips with the thing / person / animal, then it is ok for her! You could learn!
At Tali, things are developing very similarly in many areas. However, we often use the display of dogs as a reward. Tali would like to get in touch with other dogs. However, this is not always possible for various reasons. Instead of leading him past other dogs in his feet, if possible without eye contact with the trigger – I am writing this now because I read this request from many people – he is welcome to look again after he has offered an alternative behavior! It is even more great for him if he is allowed to sniff where the other man was.
In the forest, “pointing and naming” is so practical that we:
- “Watch Bambi”, “Watch Bunny” as a reward
- Ask Tali, where’s the XY? If he looks into the forest, sniffs and then looks at us with questioning eyes, it is valuable information for us. The area is “wild-free” for him, he has not found anything and so he is happy to move offline along the way.
One point refers to both dogs, regardless of the location. As a person, one is inclined to not always have full attention to the dog and the environment.
It is not possible for me! There are moments when I dream to myself, when my eyes don’t work at the back of my head or when the wind irritates my hearing. Good if the dogs watch out for you!
If I stand around and enjoy the view, I know when Zara taps my right foot with my paw or tries to nudge my palm to tell me – Mom, I saw a dog!
I dawdle with Tali through the forest, maybe still watch the lively activity of the little animals between the leaves on the ground, I am very grateful if Tali stops and looks patiently towards the deer until my brain sparks me – Tali has found something!
Everyone may now think about whether we can only hide problematic behavior in the cases described above.
Many people want a dog that, in spite of all its stimuli, which it holds ready for it, behaves in our environment best based on our ideas to more than 100%. However, a dog can only behave as its genetics and what it has learned so far allow! Depending on the constellation of people, dogs and the environment, this poses greater challenges in training. Even I as a human being can’t get 100%!
Changing behavior takes time. I notice that every day in myself. The more emotionally involved I am, the harder it is for me to change my behavior. I allow this to my dogs as well. They get all the time they need to study. We continue to train, from one stage to the next. Where will the journey lead? I dont know. Sometimes I think the dogs’ potential is almost exhausted and then they surprise me again. And now I know that a lot more will be possible. I look forward to our further journey together!