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Dog Training Priorities


Many people wonder why their dog behaves well and obeys perfectly when there are no distractions, but as soon as they get outdoors, the dog seems to "forget" his commands. To me it seems obvious that working with your dog indoors is completely different than working your dog outdoors. Indoors, the object with the highest value is that cookie. But value is relative. Your dog will sit for a cookie in the kitchen, but will he come-when-called when there's a deer running through the field? Most likely not. There's a huge difference between "knowing" their obedience commands and actually feeling attracted to the handler no-matter-what (which results in natural obedience).
This is why we make such a big deal about indoor/outdoor protocol. Personally, I don't really care if my dog will sit for a cookie (most dogs do this without any training). What I do care about is if I'm going to be able to call them when it really counts, before they run into the road or chase after that deer.
It's also why I place very little emphasis on "obedience" (or tricks) and prefer instead to see uninhibited engagement with the handler. Would you rather have a sit-pretty or a stellar recall? The choice is yours! Naturally, we can shape all the behaviors people want to see their dog perform. But in my process, the first things I work on are: Trust and Safety, Emotional Connection and Physical Contact, Engagement and Play (Attraction to Handler), and *then* we channel that attraction (drive to connect) into Down/Stay and Recall.
Channel their energy however you like, but just realize that EVERYTHING you do with your dog is training. Letting him chase deer is TRAINING him to chase deer. Giving into demand barking is TRAINING him to bark for demands. Let him run away, he's learning to run away. Altercations with other dogs = more dog issues. And so on and so forth. So please be conscious of how your dog spends his time and on what does he spend his energy? Where does he put his attention? You see, your dog has a pure drive to connect with his environment. He's either going to connect with prey, playmates, strangers, a trash heap, a leaf pile, a stick, etc., OR he's going to connect with you (whichever thing produces the best feeling).
I like to put my dog's energy in the bank and then spend it on important things: the training necessities, so to speak. This is why we recommend: crating, the attention diet, less obedience and more connection, massage and lots of foundational core work. I don't even like to encourage exercise. Of course, all dogs need physical exercise. But it would be infinitely more productive to help a dog with "issues" learn how to speak, push, collect, relax/settle, and play than it is to walk them for 5 or 6 miles a day. Trust me, I've tried the tire-them-out method to no avail. (Once they are trained, take them for a marathon and I won't complain!)
The main goal should be to help them become emotionally grounded and balanced, then they will give you total credit for everything that makes them feel good. They give you credit when you help them move well, complete the hunt, win the toy, melt into belly rubs, etc. They give you credit for resolving their stress and bringing them back to neutral. They give you credit for being the most fun, most exciting thing to play with and chase after.
THAT is how we train dogs.

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