There Are Two Types of Dog Behavior
What’s acceptable and unacceptable? It’s up to you to establish and set these standards for your dog’s behavior. It either is, or it isn’t.
When you start your journey with a dog, you have to decide what is and isn’t acceptable. It pays to define this right from the start, then implement systems and training to guide your dog along the appropriate path. Most people have a very loose standard for their dog’s behavior. They often fail to plan adequately for those unexpected house guests, gates left open by the kids, loose dogs on the street or critters in the park. It’s at these times, when a very high standard is needed to match the situation, that their training tends to fail.
Pretty much all obedience falls into this category. You need it when you need it, which may only be 5% of the time but… that 5% is the time when obedience might save your dog’s life or you from getting sued.
The most glaring example is the person that tells me their dog “knows sit” in their initial intake, or at our first session after their dog just jumped all over me at the door.
A lot of these dogs “know” how to respond to the sit command when it’s dinner time,
or the owner has a cookie or there’s nothing else going on, but their ears seem to close when a big distraction comes around. It’s not that they don’t understand the command. They’d just rather do something else at that moment. A higher standard for an acceptable response to the sit command fixes this problem, but first, we need a definition.
The standard for “sit” should be - butt on the ground immediately and until told otherwise, regardless of distraction, distance from the owner or any other factor. This needs to happen the first time the command is given, every time the command is given. Just for the record, and because someone who can’t achieve this standard may tell you otherwise, this isn’t some arbitrary standard I made up for the purpose of this article. If you’re going to employ your sit command in a real life situation, this is the only definition that works. Sit needs to mean sit. What your dog does in a challenging situation is either acceptable (meets the standard) or unacceptable (they aren’t sitting when told to do so). The first part though, is establishing a real standard (definition) for an acceptable response.
Don’t forget - training, whether it’s athletics, academics or dogs, is simply preparation for when the real world throws a challenge your way.
Define what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior through the lense of what you need under pressure, not what’s OK around the house or when you have a cookie in your hand. That way, you’re ready when the challenges show up later.