Some Dogs Need More Clarity
I want to give you a situation that you are probably all too familiar with; You are headed to a party with your husband. Prior to leaving, there are certain things that you and your husband both need to know to be comfortable to head out. These include:
- What time do I need to be in the car ready to go?
- What time do we need to leave?
- Whose party is it?
- Do we need to RSVP?
- What is the dress code?
- Who else is going?
- Do we need to bring food?
- Do we need to bring a gift?
- Is it BYO?
- What time does it start?
- What time does it end?
- Where is the party?
- Will we need an UBER?
It is totally normal for one person to require more clarity about something than another. This applies to our dogs as well.
Now think of a time that you have needed clarity, and someone is wishy washy or unclear in their responses. It is not only incredibly frustrating, but also can be anxiety provoking. Especially something that you already feel uncomfortable about.
Dogs require a clear understanding of how they can navigate through their world in order to remain safe. Clarity is achieved by providing clear communication, structure and by having consistency. Uncertainty contributes to developing stress and the more clarity we can provide to our dogs, the less stress they will have.
Examples of GOOD clarity
- The rules of a household are the same in every context (for example, if the dog is not allowed to jump up on guests, then this is enforced every time the dog interacts with guests)
- Commands are enforced all the time
- Expectations are clear
- The dog is consistently set up for success
- The dog understands when they are allowed to be released or break from a position (For example, if the dog is commanded to stay on their mat, they remain on the mat until released)
Examples of POOR clarity
- The rules that the dog abides by changes from person to person
- The dog is allowed to do something sometimes and is not allowed to do it other times (for example, the dog is allowed to jump up on the bench, and then when an important event is on such as a birthday, they are told off for jumping on the bench)
- Behaviour that is unwanted is inadvertently reinforced (for example, if a dog jumps up and the owner pats it to put it down)
- Commands are given and not enforced
It is important to recognise that your dog misbehaving may actually be a miscommunication on your part, perhaps you weren’t clear on your expectations and the dog isn’t clear on how to achieve success. You may also have one dog that totally gets it and another that needs a bit more clearer communication from you.
If you can’t get your message across the first time you give the dog instruction, something is wrong in your communication. This will not be fixed by repeating your cue over and over or by raising your voice. The only way to fix this is by returning to foundations, cleaning up the language you use with the dog (both physical and verbal) and teaching your dog what your expectations are.