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Reducing Background “Noise”

with 2 comments

ImageDogs are pretty smart.  With the right training, they can learn countless cues and associated behaviors.  They can range from simple behaviors like sit to complex behaviors like putting away toys.   Occasionally, dogs have trouble understanding a cue.  Typically cues are taught verbally and accompanied by a hand signal.  Sometimes “background noise” contributes to the dog’s confusion.  Consider the following nuances that can undermine a handler’s effectiveness.

*Environment: If you’ve never practiced cues outside of the training area, proofing is required.  Dogs don’t easily generalize.  Sometimes dogs need to be trained from the beginning if the environment changes.  Using luring (food to guide the dog) or shaping (waiting for the dog to offer a behavior and marking and rewarding it) dogs can re-learn the association between the cue and the desired behavior. 

*Consistency:  Use the same word (verbal cue) and the same hand signal for the behavior every time.     

*Verbal chatter: Dogs are not linguists and it is difficult for them to “hear” the cue sit if it is cluttered by irrelevant chit chat.  Say only the cue and say it only once.

*Body language: Many of the hand signals used in basic obedience can easily be drowned by distracting body language.  Fidgeting with leashes, treats, treat bags, hair, hats, etc. can be very confusing to a dog.   

If your dog seems confused during training sessions, try taking a video of your session to see if you are undermining your training with background noise.  Once you can see things from your dog’s perspective, you can work on making things easier for your dog.


Written by dawnhanna

March 27, 2012 at 10:04 pm

2 Responses

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  1. in all communication systems, maximizing the signal to noise ration is critical. And with dogs it’s no different.

    Science of Dogs.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    • Good point SOD! Imagine if I practiced this in my human relationships too!


      May 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm

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