I was recently working with a family during their first session where I teach the fundamentals. How to make rewards and how to aim the dog at a target. While I was doing that, I was asked “How does this apply to solving our long-term problem of having our dog come when called?”. “Because we live on 25 acres and I don’t see how these techniques can lead to that.”
This is where advanced techniques come in, but I want to put in a bit of a warning here. I’m going to talk about techniques that are advanced. If your fundamentals aren’t very good, then starting with advanced techniques is not a good idea.
Building on Fundamentals
The advanced techniques really build on the fundamentals that you’ve taught your dog. Those are based on how you use your leash and how you use the food or toy. It’s also based on how you move your body and the timing of your voice. Advanced techniques minimize how much you use the leash. They begin to emphasize how important it is to pay attention to your gestures and what you’re saying. If you end up starting with advanced techniques the dog doesn’t have a clear understanding of what it is you want them to do.
Anytime I get myself into trouble in my dog training with my own dogs, I go completely silent and go back to those precious non-verbals. Then, as I clarify my message to the dog I will quickly progress to using the advanced techniques. Where I would show the dog it’s about my voice and the gestures I’m giving.
I compete with my dog in a sport traditionally called Schutzhund. Some now call it IGP but it’s all the same. In this sport, there’s some really advanced obedience. When the dogs and their handlers are competing, they’re doing three things particularly well. They’re doing stays, heeling, and recalls. When we compete in that sport, we’re only allowed to give one voice command or one hand signal to the dog. The dog has to do it right and the dog is completely off-leash. This is why when I’m training with you, I emphasize the fundamentals first. It’s important to make it crystal clear to your dog. I want you to be able to have voice control, the ability to give clear signals and other body language cues.
Just to reiterate, it’s not a good idea to start with advanced techniques before you’ve mastered the basics. You’re doing yourself a great disservice and you’ll inevitably have to back up. You’ll always be putting bandaids over the work you’re doing.