Half the Equation

We always say “Trust Your Dog”…. but does your dog trust YOU?

A lot of times handlers have trust issues with their dogs and they are constantly being told to trust their dog.  I think the dog’s emotions and need for security gets lost in translation. Fixing trust issues are fundamental to improving and advancing as a team.  But what about your teammate?  How does he feel about YOU?

How do you know if you have trust issues?

The biggest indicators to me are comments about “my dog lied to me” or when the dog has sourced a hide the handler says “show me”. These two things are probably the biggest indicators of trust issues.

The phrase “My dog lied” is probably my biggest pet peeve.  Dogs Don’t Lie.  They are misinterpreted and they do what they get rewarded for.  If the dog has been rewarded for a Sit, in frustration he may Sit.  It’s not a lie.  It’s simply his way of ending a frustrating situation.  Or in the case of misinterpretation, the handler fails to recognize the dog’s changes of behavior or the handler talks the dog into a hide.  This too is not a lie,  Remember that dogs will exhibit changes of behavior on chipmunks as well as Birch!  If you find yourself using this phrase, is the dog frustrated or are you misinterpreting him?  Or maybe you had your hand in your treat pouch and your dog performed a flawless final response (again, doing what he has been rewarded for).  All of these things point to trust issues.

What does a trust issue look like?

Does this look familiar and how do we move from left to right?

Trust begins with YOU.  Seriously it does.  You can’t expect your dog to up and decide to be different.  YOU have to change something.  Whether that is mental or whether you need to all of a sudden make calls you didn’t make before, YOU have to do something.  TRUST is at LEAST 50% of the game.  And there is no “I” in TEAM and all of that.  Your dog doesn’t mean to give you false alerts…  really and truly!  There is something there, and it’s usually in your reward history.

Figure out what is driving your False Alerts

Is your False Alert caused by YOU?  Well yes, almost entirely YES!  Look to the human side of the equation…  did you reach toward your reward when you saw a change of behavior?  Did you slow down your steps near that cold box?  Did you crowd your dog?  Did you put too much emphasis on the handler prior to the search?  Are your rewards TOO enticing?  Did you ask your dog “Show Me”?  All of these and more can build a Finely Tuned False Alert.  Bottom line is TAKE OWNERSHIP!!

What do you do now?

Once you have figured out what is driving your false alerts, you can change it.  It’s important to build your dog’s confidence again…  so go easy on those hide placements.  Also, it’s important to NOT do blind hides when you are trying to rebuild trust.  If you know where the hides are, you can make sure that your dog gets rewarded for finding the hide.  The bottom line is that you have an emotional creature as the other half of the equation.  It’s so important for your dog to feel confidence in himself and confidence in YOU!