K9 Communication; Simplify the Negative!

By Eric Gonzales….
D(Eric Gonzales, columnist with the Doral Tribune for many years, served overseas with a K9 unit of the U. S. Armed Forces. – Ed. Note).

Eric Gonzales and Max

The biggest issue I find with most handler/canine relationships is miscommunication.

Many of the dogs that I handle in the presence of their owners is usually followed by compliments due to the manner in which their dog will act or perform while I’m handling them. (Mind you, most of these dogs have been with their owners for weeks, months, or even years before my intervention).

It’s important to understand that dogs learn psychologically, based on patterns and routines. Only proper communication will avoid frustration when  providing commands to your dog.

Miscommunication usually results in the dog appearing as though they are refusing to obey the command. In return, the owner becomes annoyed and frustrated which, in many instances, can turn into aggression behavior (from either you or the dog!)

Such miscommunication often occurs when a positive request is simultaneously followed by a negative act. Whenever a correction is simultaneously given with the command, the dog learns to associate the command with the correction.

That easily results in ‘miscommunication’ because the dog begins to perform (anticipating the correction) while his demeanor appears shy, fearful, or scared when the command is executed.

The objective is to associate the correction with a word (which is not a command) that will follow, if and when the dog fails to comply. Once the dog understands the difference, you will then share the word (not the command), and the dog will comply by responding to the last command given. Negativity should only be associated with the word given which is never the command.

It’s also important to discipline yourself from constantly repeating yourself before implementing the negative word. I often see owners commanding:  “Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!”  — immediately followed by praise, once the dog actually does sit.

The problem: you’ve praised the dog after the dog’s response to the fourth “Sit!” command. Whenever a command is given, it should be immediately followed by the “negative” word before repeating the command again.

The dog must be psychologically associated with the negative word with the correction, not the command. Once the dog comprehends the negative word (when used appropriately), the dog will then respond to the command,.

For example, I’ll command: ” Max, Sit! Phooie!” (pronounced “FOO-EE”) which happens to be my negative word.   Once heard, Max usually will sit.   Why? Because Max simultaneously associates the negative word (Phooie) with a correction.

Eric Gonzales, president and founder of Gonzohaus K9 Services (GK9S),  is a retired Correctional Officer K9 Sergeant, Police Cadet graduate, and the author of “Dog Training for the General Public.” To reach him for questions and concerns with your four-legged companions, please feel free to email him at eric@gonzohausk9.com or tel. him at 305-749-7376, or by contact through his website: at www.gk9s.com.


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