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21.01.2022 19:02

They say that habit is an iron shirt. And it's as true for dogs as it is for people. They like their habits, their certainties and their regularity. It helps them feel safe and comfortable. And it would be a shame not to take advantage of that!

A stereotype helps fearful dogs a lot. A regular routine, a familiar place to rest, walks to the same places. It is through this stereotype that we can help them feel calm and confident in everyday life. On the other hand, we can help over-sovereign dogs by breaking this stereotype. Taking them to new and unusual places, changing their daily routine or washing their bed frequently.

Certain habits can help us control them. If your dog is used to walking you rather than you walking him when you come home from work, it will be really hard to change his behaviour at this point. On the other hand, if you manage to create the habit that your dog is already focused on you when you leave the house, that you give each other a lot of attention outside and cooperate, it will be easy to work with him even when you are not in the mood.

I often see this at the training ground. In the beginning there is a dog who is not at all responsive to his owner, doesn't take treats, ignores toys. And we have to make a really big effort to get him used to paying us that attention, playing with us, or training for treats. But once the dog gets used to it, the job becomes awfully easy. We don't have to draw attention to the toy for a long time, just show it to the dog. The treats no longer have to be scented sausages, but just plain kibble and the dog is ready to cooperate with us in advance.

I'm not saying that it's easy to create such a habit. But if you persevere, you'll get an awful lot back. Any good habit will make your job much easier in the future. And it doesn't matter if it's a habit of paying attention to you outside, of being used to playing with you outside, or just getting used to being told to stop before the road. It's a habit, and that's an iron shirt. If you build it up, it will be very difficult for the dog to break.

And little rituals that prepare the dog for future events can help a lot. It can be the preparation of training aids. My dogs are very good at knowing when I'm preparing a tracking lead for a walk, and when I'm preparing a tracking lead for trail work. When we go for a walk and when we train. When I want them to look for a dropped object and when to work on the trail.

Simply because I behave a little differently for each activity and always the same. So I prepare them in advance for what's to come. And they know. They prepare themselves internally and it makes it much easier to work with them.

A lot of people will say that the dog has to obey and work the same way all the time. But even we don't perform the same. It's different answering an email on a weekday morning and doing the same thing on Sunday after lunch. While it's not challenging, our willingness to work, commitment, and drafting of the email will vary. And the same is true with the dogs. I'm not saying you can only ask your dog to stop on the side of the road in familiar places where he has a well established habit. But it will be easiest there. And if you really only train it in a few select places, the dog won't generalize it to every road, that's something to remember. Likewise, if your dog is regularly pulling frantically on the lead at the start of a walk, not paying the slightest attention to you, and sniffing every corner, you'd be better off starting by changing this whole behaviour and gradually replacing it with attention, rather than just concentrating on walking calmly on the lead.

Šárka Ševčíková 

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