Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
What is your dog doing?
It’s funny. When I ask this people almost always answer the wrong question. He’s acting shy. He wants food. These are answers that come from our brain. These are answers about what we think our dog might be feeling or thinking. But the question is what is your dog doing? The answer to that question does not come from our brain. It comes from our eyes. Look. Pay attention. What is he doing?
We dog trainers (you as a trainer) are in the business of behavior. Behavior is what our dog is doing. Behavior is physical movement in time and space. Behavior is verbs. Watch. What is your dog doing?
Is he walking? Is he running? Is his chest moving? Is his tail wagging? Are his ears twitching? Is he licking his lips? Is he barking? What is happening now in this moment and in this place? These are questions for our eyes. What do we see?
I like to do this. Sit and relax in a chair or on the ground. Watch your dog. Observe without judgement. It’s more fun if he doesn’t know you are watching him. Track his movement. Take note. What is he doing? Don’t worry about good or bad. Let go of what your dog might be thinking or feeling. Notice the actions, your dog’s behavior. Try not to interrupt. Be the dispassionate observer. Jane Goodall. David Attenborough. Ethologist on safari.
After a while go back to life-as-normal. Think of what you saw. What did your dog do? Are there some things you would like to see him do again? Set aside right and wrong. Think of the things you’d like your dog to do more frequently. What would you ask to see again?
I suggest a short list. Maybe it’s just one action. Observe and reinforce. You can use food. Observe and reinforce. Turn it into a habit. Your dog looks at you. Reinforce. That’s one example. He sits when you walk in the door. Reinforce. That’s another example. Dogs do these things all the time. You’ve seen him do it.
Because you were watching and paying attention. That’s where training begins.
Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, Texas.
Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA
Anyone who’s worked with me knows I preach this all the time: It only takes a small shift in the environment to change behavior (sometimes in a big way). And there aren’t many things smaller than an itty bitty microscopic virus.
Michael’s Dogs Houston dog trainers Victoria Thibodeaux and I are staying flexible and shifting our behavior in response to the change in our environment (I’ll say the name – The Coronavirus that causes Covid-19). Here’s where things stand right now.
We are still doing in-home dog behavior consultations and training lessons. There is no change in our schedule. However, you will notice some slight changes in our behavior.
- We will ask if we can wash our hands at the beginning of our appointment and maybe again at the end.
- We will ask that you have your own treat bag (the kind that can clip on to your shorts or trousers). We will not be passing our treat bag back and forth.
- We will provide you with your own clicker and ask that you keep it. We will also not pass clickers back and forth.
We are waiving the cancellation penalty for illness. You can now cancel or ask to reschedule within 48 hours of your appointment if:
- You have fever or other flulike symptoms (even the day of the appointment). Call and cancel or reschedule. Note: we will reschedule a minimum of 4-weeks later (time for you to recover and self-quarantine).
- Anyone in your household has the virus.
- You have been exposed to someone outside your household who has the virus.
We are on the honor system here. Do not cancel or ask to reschedule if:
- You forgot your child had a game the same evening of our appointment (they are all probably cancelled anyway).
- Your hairdresser had an opening and you want to go to that instead.
- You had too much wine last night and you are hung over today.
- Any other non-health related reason. Please, just be cool about this.
We will not risk your health in the interest of our financial bottom line. That would be selfish and stupid. We will cancel or ask to reschedule if:
- We have fever or flulike symptoms. Note: I have seasonal allergies. To make sure I am not otherwise sick I’m taking my temperature twice daily
- We have been exposed to anyone with the virus in or outside of our own household.
Remote Consultations – We will maintain our commitment to you and your dogs even if you or one of us is quarantined. I’m happy to say Victoria and I have been ahead of the curve when it comes to offering effective remote dog behavior consultations. We will be suggesting these for cases that are most appropriate. We will also honor your request to work remotely with us. Here’s a link to our Video Remote and Phone Consultations Page so you can learn a bit more about it. I’d also be happy to chat with you to share more information about how they work.
Quick Recap: Here are the main points to rememberer.
- We’d still love to see you in person.
- Let’s be thoughtful about our in-person meetings (scrub-a-dub-dub).
- Rescheduling is fine – we may have to reschedule, too (but I hope not).
- Remote consults are a good option.
Here’s the other thing you know I teach and preach all the time. Behavior changes. That is the nature of things. We can expect the behavior of this virus to change. It will not be as intrusive a factor in our lives forever. We will get through this – and Victoria and I will be here for you and your dogs through it and long after.
Stay safe and stay healthy.