Clear, Concise and Consistent, Again!
I wrote Clear, Concise and Consistent! (below) back in February of 2015 when I added a new boy puppy to my pack and was working hard on training him to be a gentleman as well as a competitor. It’s hard to believe that boy is now 2 1/2 and is a beautiful, well-trained Champion Polish Lowland Sheepdog heading off to his next round of competitions—and usually a gentleman.
Well here we are again with the newest addition, Newman’s baby sister Bliss, also headed for a big show career. So it seems like a good time to remind myself, and maybe you too, how important our communications are in helping our little ones do well—two legged or four!
Clear, Concise and Consistent!
I come to you today as a humbled psychotherapist and a long-time hobby dog trainer. What caused this humbling? Meet the newest addition to my household, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Newman! I keep this picture of Newman at 8 weeks handy to remind myself of how I adore this rowdy 30 pounds of fluff, now 4 months old, when he snags another new sweater, runs off with another sock before I can get it on my foot, or he decides we should PLAY! instead of go to sleep for the night…again.
I understand how important early training is and it happens here every day, multiple times a day in mini sessions. Newman is doing remarkably well, especially for such a young boy. The important aspect of training that I forgot was my part, the part where I need to be clear, concise and consistent in what I expect my puppy to do, and not do. Newman reminds me every day, and with each new lesson how effective my communications are and aren’t, just like my human kids did. I got and I get frustrated with them all, but I have to own that I am the problem and therefore need to be the solution.
I am not suggesting that anyone’s young human child is a dog, or that anyone’s puppy is a human. I am saying with certainty that the way we adults communicate to both human and canine kids has a lot in common. What is the difference between telling a dog “down, down, down, down” while the dog is up and not paying any attention, from telling a child to “brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth, how many times do I have to tell you to brush your teeth!?”
Here is the list I am posting for myself of the basic rules for concise, clear and consistent communication to youngsters of multiple species. I thought you might want a copy, too.
* Choose your words carefully so that you are communicating what you intend to communicate and make sure body language is consistent with the message you want to deliver. If it is clear my message is not clear, I need to find a better way to say it.
* Less is more. Say what you mean, and say it once. No lectures or long explanations, do it.
* Time out is just as important for adults as it is for youngsters, maybe even more. If you are tired or stressed, you are going to communicate that you are tired or stressed. If you mess up, take a break, forgive yourself, and vow to learn and do better next time.
* Remember to praise good behaviors rather than focus on the negative. Including a cookie as reward is really motivating–just ask Newman!
Photo by TRR Photography