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Much ado has been made about reading your dog! Advice is often followed by the disclaimer, “… but you have to read your dog.” Well, what does that mean in real life, in practical terms, in application. Why is it important? When is it important? What if I don’t do it? How do I know if I am reading my dog properly? What’s the downside if I don’t read my dog properly? What's the upside if I do read my dog properly? If I'm not doing it (or not doing it right), how can I learn how to do it right?
 

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Jen and Brew
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IMO, When I'm "Reading the dog" I'm looking at the body language and what the dog is telling me. Like, Tail wagging = Happy. All dogs are different and will have different body languages meaning different things. You have to know your dog in order to read the language.
 

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whew, a book could probably be written on the subject!
But the first thing that came to my mind is that I need to "read my dog" to know why he has made an error, when he has.
Is it an "effort error", where he made a great effort but didn't understand the task or some part of it?
Or is it a "lack of effort error", where he just didn't bother putting up an effort.
My reaction will be very different depending on which it is.
 

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We are doing a lot of under the arc, backsliding, and between two guns blind work right now. An example of reading my dog is watching her momentum through the AOF. If I see a major loss of momentum or side to side scanning or if that nose goes down. WHISTLE!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
We are doing a lot of under the arc, backsliding, and between two guns blind work right now. An example of reading my dog is watching her momentum through the AOF. If I see a major loss of momentum or side to side scanning or if that nose goes down. WHISTLE!
After you say dead bird but before you send her, is she giving you clues as to whether she is thinking about heading toward the mark?
 

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Oh yes, the nose might be pointed at the blind but the eyes are looking or darting to the mark. In general if she drops her head, locks in looking straight out with no eye darting and you can see she ready to spring forward, we're golden. She will usually have a great line and can carry it quite a ways.
We are both learning how to play this game so it's probably taking us longer than most.
 

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Nope, we are taking just as long or longer :D

We are both learning how to play this game so it's probably taking us longer than most.
 

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I shoot, they fetch.
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I also take this to mean being conscious of the dog's stress level, and attitude towards the drill or lesson. Is the dog overwhelmed by what I am asking them to do, in terms of concept, difficulty of the mark/blind, environmental factors included, and therefore do I have to back up and do some remediation, remove factors, etc. If the dog has a lot of bottom you may be able to push them through a bit more than a dog who worries and then stops learning.
 

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Much ado has been made about reading your dog! Advice is often followed by the disclaimer, “… but you have to read your dog.” Well, what does that mean in real life, in practical terms, in application. Why is it important? When is it important? What if I don’t do it? How do I know if I am reading my dog properly? What’s the downside if I don’t read my dog properly? What's the upside if I do read my dog properly? If I'm not doing it (or not doing it right), how can I learn how to do it right?
Why is it important? It's everything. It's reading the dog in the moment and getting the right correction or lack of correction in at the right time, and it's reading the dog over time and getting the right course of action over time.

When is it important? Always.

What if I don't do it? I could be reinforcing the wrong thing or taking the incorrect approach thereby contributing to bad habits, hindering progress, and being unfair to the dog

How do I know if I'm reading my dog properly? I guess if I see progress after whatever I'm doing and whatever course of action I'm taking.

How to learn? I don't know, I guess seek qualified tutelage and practice - the same way I'd learn anything else.
Last time I was handling Gladys she was going off course, she's so fast I stopped her when our trainer pointed out she was about to correct herself so I stopped her for doing right. D'oh! :doh:

Sometimes when she seems stuck I think she's confused and he disagrees and says she's doing what she wants. I don't always agree with him. I feel torn because he knows more but she's not a lazy dog and I think she's just confused. I want to step back and teach more whereas he might want to ramp up the correction/pay attention more. I suppose that's why I'm in Junior land and he's in Master land.

ETA: Last time we had this debate I did step back and teach more and she did progress, so maybe there are ways to get to the same spot, I imagine my way is slower, that's ok
 

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I totally agree with Boomer’s Dawn!
I, too, believe that reading the dog is important from the time the dog comes out of its crate until he goes back in it. As Jen mentioned, you can tell what kind of mood the dog is in when he gets out and hits the ground … is it a happy day, is it a “I’d rather not do this today” day, or is it a “too happy” day? This morning, with my young dog I could tell that it was a borderline “too happy” day, but that was expected because he’d not had any marks in five days … and, not unexpectedly, he had an uncharacteristically large hunt on a memory mark. (He was hunting too deep, so I followed up with a couple of singles thrown angled-in to remind him that he doesn’t always get to drive deep for the mark, even if he is “too happy.”)
In furtherance of BD’s remarks, I believe that in training it is extremely important to read the dog in relation to each retrieve. For example, what if he misses a piece of cover. Why did he miss that piece of cover? If it was up close on a single, there’s probably no legitimate reason, but if it was a small piece at 100 yards, how do you know if it was a missed mark, just a bad line, or an intentional avoidance? That’s where the trainer who is keyed in on the dog may have the advantage over the less in-tune trainer … was there a drastic change of direction, was there a subtle but clearly intentional change of direction, or did the dog start out at an angle that took it around the cover? The answer will dictate the type of correction (or help), IF ANY, that the dog gets.
And BD, as for your approach of teaching more instead of issuing a correction, I’m in your camp! I want to make sure that my dogs know what they should do before correcting them for not doing it … it never hurts to take those steps … you can get that correction in after the teaching session.
 

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Much ado has been made about reading your dog! Advice is often followed by the disclaimer, “… but you have to read your dog.” Well, what does that mean in real life, in practical terms, in application. Why is it important? When is it important? What if I don’t do it? How do I know if I am reading my dog properly? What’s the downside if I don’t read my dog properly? What's the upside if I do read my dog properly? If I'm not doing it (or not doing it right), how can I learn how to do it right?
This is an exceptionally good thread and set of questions. I'm sorry it hasn't garnered more participation because it's one of the most important aspects of dog training.

EvanG
 

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This is an exceptionally good thread and set of questions. I'm sorry it hasn't garnered more participation because it's one of the most important aspects of dog training.

EvanG
Well, I could certainly think about it more. Because I haven't really gotten in the habit of reading the dog during marks.

Sometimes I ask our trainer "why did she do that?" and it's usually related to some factor such as falling off the hill, wind, cheat path .. I'm starting to recognize the more obvious ones myself such as a road. I have to get better at thinking like a dog.

Usually she has trouble with the first mark, I'll ask "why is she running around like a squirrel?" and he'll say didn't pay attention. I don't know what it is about the first mark, if she needs to get warmed up or most likely needs to settle down.
 

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I guess in my case is does the dog read you! As of this morning she finally got it. Threw the bumper, sent her for it, brought it back around me and sat with the bumper in her mouth by my left until I took it. No more dropping it by my legs. Two out of five were cigar holding.
 

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Debra1952
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The Other End of the Leash

What petrified me when I read it had to do with the sad experience I had with our last rottie. Isis was a bundle of issues, all of the neg aspects of the breed and many of the good. I worked with a trainer on learning on body language. I reread the book after Isis was PTS for attacking and biting me on Christmas Eve morning. I am so afraid to get any dog now. My Gabby I trust 100% to be a good golden.( Husband wants another rottie) I am afraid now and doubt my ability to train a new large type dog. Husband is not a golden fan-I posted about this before but treats Gabby well- how can you not! He prefers dogs that are more muscular and not as silly. I am the opposite. So I stopped reading her books except for her book about playing together. Sometimes this seems more of a marriage issue than a dog issue...
 

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How about a German Shepherd? I am personally timid around them due to a bad experience as a kid. Also one attacked my golden back in November. I was fortunate to meet two wonderful and very smart German Shepherds at Petco. Your husband may like them.
 

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Rose is the first pup I am training so I am a novice in my opinions. I do seek help from DH, training videos and thru reading books (I am more of an oldie books fan without the e-collars etc).
I am starting to believe that it is more of a dog/owner connection - we read each other. We have to read them so we can improve in our communications with them and they have to read us in understanding what we expect from them.
Last night I got frustrated that every single time Rose would drop the bumper at my feet and then come around to my left and sit. I said "NO NO HOLD it!" She came to my left and looked at me, head tilted as if trying to say "I have no clue what you want me to do, I am trying here and you are still not pleased!" I could tell in her eyes that she wanted to do it but just didn't know how or what exactly I wanted from her.
I put the bumper away and I was sort of down for the rest of the evening and she tried to make me happy all evening long by being her sweet self and laying down with me.
This morning she saw the bumper and she trotted happily by my side as if trying to tell me she thought about it all night and she knows what I want. She did it. The first time quite slow as if she was trying to read me and make sure she was doing it right. The next four times not as slow and so proud of herself though
DH just went home and did the same outside.
I guess I will give her a couple more times before we try to work on the speed - which at this point I am not sure how to do it. Maybe it is just a matter of building confidence - she goes quickly towards the mark but the return is not as fast.
 

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This was on an email list to which I belong, and I thought I would share it. Seemed appropriate to what we've been discussing:

Cesar Milan asked me how I train dogs. I replied with "I train the dog I am training." Cesar did not understand what I meant, and it appears neither do my peers. Recently I have been getting drilled on my training method.... so here it is.

Training is about getting into your dog´s head, and understanding what motivates him, what make him smile, and what concerns him. Once you have this, you have "IT"; A relationship with your dog.

Cookies cannot buy this. Something this precious and this complex cannot be purchased with a cookie.

You should be able to laugh at him for his silly antics, realize when he is trying but misunderstood your words compared with when he completely blows you off because you are not important compared to what is going on.

You must realize when he is stressed by his environment and needs more help from you, or when he is stressed by his environment and needs to be told to grow up and act like a man.

You need to be aware when something completely alien might be going on - is he sitting really slow because he hurt himself?

So the question still remains of "What method do I use." I train the dog I am training. There is no one thing that I can do to create the beautiful relationship that I have with my dogs. I respect dogs for who they are, I believe in their potential, build on their strengths, and chip away at their weaknesses. I build a relationship with them so that they care what I think and try really hard to please me. I truly "train the dog that I am training".

There are no rules for this process to take place. What is necessary for one dog might be detrimental in that moment for another. While in puppy class, I might instantly stop one puppy from dragging his owner, and I might request another owner to allow their puppy to drag them for two more weeks before we stop it. There are no absolute rules when it comes to training dogs.

Each dog has to be trained by his own criteria, working with what he brings to the table. Every dog has the same goals and directions, but we might get there fifty different ways, depending on the learning ability, emotional need and intelligence of the dog, and always considering the handling abilities and personality of the handler. This is a relationship, between one dog and one human.

How can you define that with one set of limiting rules, such as positive reinforcement?

Monique Anstee,
Victoria, BC
 
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