I talk to pets. I say please and thank you to them. You may think I’m a bit crazy, but there’s method in my so called madness so please do read on. I remember when I first set up my business and a lady who I admire very much for all her qualifications and all the work she does to help for animals contacted me to enquire about my solo dog walking service. I remember emailing her back (very quickly!) and asking her where the best location was to meet with her and her dog to go through dog’s routine and any commands she uses with her. Knowing what I know about dogs now, that word, command makes me cringe – I think it conjures up a demanding superior idea, that a dog has to obey me and my requests and that, perhaps, they should know what’s expected of them instantaneously without training. I prefer the word cue a lot more. The word cue is a indication like a hand gesture so a flick of the hand downwards so indicate you would like your dog to sit, similarly the word ‘come here’ may be a cue that’s used to ask your dog to come back to you when called.

I use the words please and thank you with dogs not because I think they understand these words (that would be silly) but it reminds me of my relationship with them. It’s a partnership, and if the dog doesn’t do the action that i requested it’s not because it’s trying to be dominate or disobeying me it’s because whatever it is they’re looking at (hello birds!) may be far more interesting and rewarding than me. Or squirrels.. And you know what, that’s okay. I want dogs to have fun! As long as they come back to me when called if it would cause a problem (say they went up to a dog that was on the lead), then this is something we’d work on together through positive reinforcement training by using fun games and high value rewards. I don’t tell them off. They’re being a dog.. and if someone told me off for coming back when I eventually did I’d start not wanting to come back at all.. why would i want to spend time with a moaning shouty person when there’s much more other fun things around me?…

 

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