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!
What if you don’t knoe(nor do your instructors) what is driving your false and have not been able to figure that out exactly?
How do you proceed to fix it if you don’t know what caused it?
Honestly, false alerts can be caused if not by the handler then by air flow considerations… perhaps the dog is confused or thinks that fringe odor is correct. You might need a different set of eyes. And… knowing what caused it is different than knowing how to fix it!
If you video the search, you can critique yourself. Watch your body language and see what messages you are giving your dog. You also have information from the dog that is easier to spot if you slow the video down and watch.
Or maybe we haven’t taught a clear enough correct alert? This is what I have decided with my girl and I have now determined to go back to the start and make clear to my dog what I want for a clear alert rather than accepting what she did naturally. I don’t want to be ‘guessing’ – I want to be sure. The mistake with the false alert was mine NOT hers!
Thank you for this. Your diagrams was very helpful !
I’m crazy snout turning the equation 180 degrees and looking at the dog and hos trust
My experience is Aldi that the bug problem lies wirh the handler – “they always know nettet”, but who has the Nose?
There is a reason why the dog alerts ehether it is source or not
Instead of being annoyed by the dog one must look at the context and of course the cooperation
I tend to get impatient or little frustrated when my dog gets frustrated
Although I’m aware of this I’m sure my dog is feeling it
This is a contant focus in my training and the reason why trainingpartners are indispensable
I’m so glad you blogged about trust. Trust and confidence go hand in hand, and they both are critical to foundation. For the longest time I had a dog that had the ability to work out complex hides, but she lacked the confidence in herself, and would look to me frequently when things got tough (especially in trial) causing frequent false alerts. We went back to basics doing lots of simple drills and offleash exercises until she developed the confidence in herself, and I could trust her again. We’re not perfect, but going back to foundation was critical to our success!