Remember when your grandmother scolded you for slouching when you were a kid? She was actually helping you become a great dog trainer.
It’s not uncommon for clients to get so focused on their dog during a training session that they forget how important our behavior is to the success or failure of training.
One of the most important things to remember — believe it or not — is good posture.
To really understand how important good posture is, it helps to know how dogs experience the world. Puppies are born with a fully functional sense of smell. Then, at about 9-11 days, puppies open their eyes and begin to experience the world visually. Puppies don’t develop their sense of hearing until even as late as 17 days.
Though 6 days may not see like a huge difference, it completely establishes the primary ways the animal will experience the world.
All of this is to say that dogs hear our nonverbal cues much louder than our verbal ones. So it is vital to project what you want with body language.
This principle is much more apparent in horse training because unlike a dog, which is smaller than the trainer, a horse is so large and powerful that it cannot physically be moved to do something. So when you go to retrieve a horse from a stable, horse trainers will tell you that you already have to know what’s going to happen, project it with your body, then go do it.
Whether it’s that you want to walk your dog instead of letting it walk you or you want the to perform a training command, say it first with your body. If you want your dog to perceive that your are the one in charge on a walk, show it. Pick your head up, straighten your back, keep your eyes forward and walk with a purpose. That will tell the dog, “I’m going this way and you’re coming with me. End of story.”
Jamie Walden is an experienced dog trainer and co-owner of See Spot Sit Pet Services of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.