Obedience Without Mindset is Useless | 3 Core Skillsets Your Dog Gets From Solid Obedience Training

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Can your dog sit? Hold a stay? Come when called?

75% of dog owners tell me their dogs can do these things during an evaluation

Now, what if I brought my dog around? Could he still do all those things?

Of the previous number of dogs, now we’re down to less than 5%

What about if we started doing some retrieval work around you… then would your dog listen?

Less than 1%


 

Obedience is tricky because it’s slowly changing in our world. It’s not what it used to be, it’s not valued as much. I’ve heard many people make the reasoning that they don’t care if their dog doesn’t need obedience and I’m here to tell you you’re completely right. Your dog doesn’t need obedience. He needs the skillsets that obedience provides and by getting those skillsets it will get to a point where you no longer need to use obedience commands.

My approach to obedience and teaching commands is so different from others that I still have yet to find a way to effectively market it. The teaching phase is about creating cooperation and building trust, then the dog learns the point of the command, then we proof the command and teach the dog about “respect of command” where he is not taught to fear disobedience, but learn to accept whatever the stress is that is causing him to be pulled away… this is not your standard “sit for the cookie” type approach. It goes deep within the dog. Often food is not introduced until much later in the process if it gets introduced at all.

So here are the top SKILLSETS and MINDSETS your dog gets from doing obedience properly

Impulse Control

If you ask any trainer that I associate with, the vast majority will tell you that training is so much more about teaching a dog about Impulse control than it is about teaching him how to sit, stay, come, down and heel. Dogs come into this world of ours with a go-getter mentality, but the problem is many of our dog’s natural impulses are wrong and can get him into trouble in our world. Don’t chase the small furry things, we call them pets too. Don’t growl at grandma when she’s pinching your face or at the kids when they hug you to much, learn to walk away. You can’t meet every dog that you see while we’re walking, some of them aren’t socially adjusted anymore.

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Impulse control is the number one thing I address through obedience training. By teaching a dog how to control his natural impulses and think through choices based on past experiences (rather than what first pops into his head), he learns to work off the cognitive side of his brain instead of the impulsive side. This dog will walk away from grandma and the child, be aware of but not chase the squirrels and be able to walk nicely on leash past all forms of distractions.

Deference

One of the funniest but also most annoying things about my personal dog Rocky is when he gets frightened. He’ll bark a loud booming bark at whatever is causing him the stress (often times without even breaking a down stay) and then he’ll stare at me… bark again, stare at me. I’ll tell him to be cool and that is the end of it except some barks under his breath, but he tries to contain himself. When I first met Rocky, he would have torn off and barked aggressively at things that caused him stress, but now he has the impulse control and deference to understand to check in with me and make sure I’m aware that he’s unsure about something as well as ask for information in his little annoying way.

See, in our world, our dogs need to learn two things:

  1. Many things you might find strange or threatened by are normal and they won’t hurt you (like bikes, rollerblades and skateboards)
  2. Trust me to handle it!

This is a prime lesson I want dogs to understand. If you feel unsure, timid, nervous or insecure put your faith in me to tell you what I want you to do instead of acting impulsively as you might in nature. This is why it’s so important for the human to have the proper emotional response (and no, that doesn’t always mean acting stoic towards the things that scare your dog.)

Awareness

In order to achieve this deference though, your dog must be aware of you. He must know where you are, what you’re doing and where you’re going in order to follow you (this is not a positional thing as some might assume—I can lead just fine from the back of the pack).

This is one of the first things that I teach when training a dog to off leash reliability, and I do so by allowing the dog a large amount of freedom on a long line in order to do two things: 1. Remove the novelty of the world and 2. Teach the dog to be aware of me rather than thinking I’ll always be aware of him. (see my post about why your dog isn’t coming when called)

I don’t require military focus (though teaching a rock solid focal command can be cool and is useful for handling that impulse control thing we were talking about), but instead I mean a rolling awareness of my location and movement at all times, even when nothing physical is holding us together such as a leash, which is natural for social animals like dogs. 51% is the minimum amount of attention my dog must have on me, but outside of that percentage, he can do as he pleases. 51% attention on me is kind of like owning 51% of your company’s stock—others might own part of your company but you have the controlling interest. This means no matter what the dog does, your 51% means he’ll pick coming back to you over chasing the squirrel. He won’t always be happy about it, but the understanding of pack before impulses is something that’s important for survival.


Obedience without mindset is useless. Without the skillsets and mindset behind the commands that the dog is learning, what you’re teaching—or have at your disposal—is a series of tricks or suggestions that have no place in the real world and no real power. What dogs in our society tend to have is a large array of suggestions, but no real commands. The funny thing is many people think they must be overly firm to teach commands and solid obedience and that’s simply not true.

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