Compliance Lessons From My Dog

Ghost and Doug

My dog has taught me a few lessons about compliance. (That’s me and Ghost taking a well-deserved nap.)

Start early. We started dog training early to focus on developing good habits at an early stage. (We did lose a few shoes while he was a puppy.) It’s never too late to unlearn bad habits, but it’s better to not have them in the first place.

He wants to do right thing. The dog does not act with malice. He just wants to be a loyal companion. He may stray from the right path because he’s presented with a new situation and doesn’t know how to act. Or he was presented with an irresistible temptation.

Remove the temptation. It would be great if Ghost didn’t grab food off the kitchen counter. He doesn’t do it when we are watching him. It only happens when he is unsupervised. We can blame the dog, but it was better to focus on removal of the temptation. We had to train ourselves to not leave food on the counter when the dog is not supervised.

Quick response. Our dog trainer taught us that we have only a few seconds to give praise for good behavior and to give a negative sign for bad behavior. Once too much time has passed the dog no longer equates his behavior with the reward or shunishment.

Appropriate Punishment. IMG_1163[1] Hitting a dog only makes him angry. If you have failed to mete out punishment quickly (see above) the punishment will not affect bad behavior. With one of my kids or one of my employees I could sit down and discuss the situation. Perhaps I could find an alternative way to get my point across.

What could I do after coming home to find a chewed up library book? It was too late for that book and it was too late for shunishment. All I could do is set a warning for others.

Consistency. Ghost is deaf so I rely on sign language and body language for communication. If I give him the “let’s go for a walk sign” I need to take him for a walk. If I give him the “come” sign, I expect him to come. If I’m half-hearted about the meaning of my signs, he’s going to be half-hearted about complying with them.

I’m sure there are more lessons to be learned from my dog.