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It seems obedience training has been misunderstood by many to be the cruel shaping of a dog into a machine to do one's bidding. Perhaps this is the result of early obedience training techniques that taught forcing the dog to obey (compulsion) as integral to the training; or perhaps it's that most spectators at obedience trials can't imagine their own dogs ever doing the exercises, or that many dogs don't seem to be enjoying what they're doing.

Whatever the reason, many approach obedience training with anxiety, and a certainty they and their dog will fail.

What if we recognize that our every interaction with our dog is training?

Dogs and humans speak a much different language but, interestingly, we both communicate through body language and sounds. Just as you are attempting to de-code and interpret the body language and sounds of person's with whom you interact; your pup is attempting the same thing every time the two of you interact. You made associations when you were young that taught you human verbal and body language. Your pup needs to make the same associations to learn what you are trying to communicate. (Hopefully, you are observing your pup so you can make associations and learn what your pup is trying to communicate with you as well.) This is one of the primary reasons consistency in any training endeavor is an absolute pre-requisite for success, and why house training and teaching a dog to come when called so often fail.

In training our dogs, we must ask ourselves if our messages (i.e. verbal and physical behavior) are consistent. How, exactly, are we showing our dogs we approve of what they're doing? How, exactly, are we communicating disapproval to our dogs? Some of the ways I show approval include smiling, clapping my hands, higher and excited voice tones, the phrase "Good girl", food rewards, and petting. Some of the ways I show disapproval include lower and somewhat sad voice tones, somewhat sharper speech, glaring facial expression, and stiffer body posture. I avoid yelling, avoid using the phrase, "Bad dog", and almost never use physical punishment such as striking or jerking on a lead.
 
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