I see lots of different types of dogs in my training sessions. I often have a very brief window of time available to interact with and assess those dogs.
The trick is to find a way to communicate effectively with each individual dog. Out of necessity, I have found an approach that works well for me in the face of such diversity.
Different breeds of dogs have been bred to have distinct genetic patterns of behavior. This pattern is almost like a culture that the dog is born into. As humans, we can have too many choices. We can grow up to be doctors, lawyers, dog trainers, teachers or chefs. The avalanche of choices and possibilities for humans can sometimes be our undoing. Not so much for dogs, however. A pointing dog was bred to point. A retriever was bred to retrieve. A border collie, or Queensland heeler, comes out of the womb ready to herd something- if not a sheep or cow, then it will be mom, dad and the kids being herded. Sometimes those specific occupations aren’t available to a dog in our life, but the dog’s breed informs the way he sees and reacts to the world all the same.
When I look at a group of dogs that have come for training, the first thing I do is assess their individual genetic patterns. What I see determines how I interact with each individual dog. I connect with each owner and question them about what their dog has been trained and expected to do. For example, did that herding dog get some sheep to boss around? When a dog has been trained in accordance with its genetic propensities then the process can be fairly straightforward. I know those various training methodologies and the language associated with those methodologies. I can relate to the individual dogs through their culture.
Even when a dog has not been trained true to its genetic culture, the breed’s foundation and architecture is still there to be accessed. When a dog arrives for training wearing a Service Dog or Search and Rescue vest, it’s a good bet that the dog is still fundamentally a lab or bloodhound, Australian shepherd, German shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Vizsla, Jack Russell terrier, or Husky, etc. I’ve seen everything.
When I train, I begin by using the same approach and cues that would be standard for their breed’s culture and observe how this does or doesn’t resonate with the dog. I search for the common thread and go from there. You might be wondering about how to use this approach if your dog is a “mutt”. In this case, try to determine what your dog’s predominate breed might be and start from there.
Cross breed marketing has become very popular with many people today, with the most common varieties ending with “doodle”. What those dogs may lose in genetic focus, they appear to make up for in attachment to their people. Often, I will work closely with these “doodle”/human pairs and fairly quickly let them train together independently of me. I will shadow the pair, sharing training instructions from the sidelines.
Over the years, I have gained the experience needed to make it work across the spectrum of the dog world. Find out about your dog’s genetic breeding and study the way that breed has been trained and handled over generations. When you do this, you will discover that many of your dog’s quirky behaviors are rooted in his genetic ancestry. This will give you the guidelines you need to connect more deeply and effectively and communicate more clearly with your dog.
For more information about using your dog’s genetic patterns to better connect with and train your dog, please reach out to me at https://freerangedogs.com. We can set up an online conversation or an in-person training and fully explore and share the world your dog lives in.
NOTICE: I will be in Salt Lake City, UT in May 2023 to do rattlesnake aversion training. If you would like a spot on the training roster, please contact Jan Perkins at Live Oaks Dog Obedience at 801-891-2681; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://liveoakdogobedienceutah.com.