I was recently working with a family during their first session. This session is 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 wanted to put in a bit of a warning here. I’m going to talk about advanced techniques, but if your fundamentals aren’t very good, then starting with advanced techniques is not a good idea.
The advanced techniques really build on the fundamentals that you’ve taught your dog. Those fundamentals are based on how you use your leash, how you use the food or toy, how you move your body and the timing of your voice. Advanced techniques minimize how much you use the leash and begin to emphasize to the dog how important it is to pay attention to your gestures and what you’re saying. If you end up starting with advanced techniques, what happens is, the dog doesn’t have a clear understanding of what it is you actually want them to do.
Any time I get myself into any 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 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. Fundamentally, when the dogs and their handlers are competing in this, 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 a lot of times when I’m training with you guys, I emphasize the fundamentals first to make it crystal clear to your dog. I want you to be able to have all of those things like voice control and the ability to give clear signals and other body language cues.
Just to reiterate, if you’re starting with advanced techniques before you’ve mastered the basic techniques, you’re doing yourself a great disservice and you’ll inevitably have to back up or you’ll always be putting bandaids over the work you’re doing. I just want you to keep that in mind.