Sending your puppy mixed signals

Dog behavior issues are often the result of blurred communication. The dog owner may not even know that the messages he/she is sending out are baffling to the dog. The owner of a well trained dog was not aware of his mixed messages during a long session of grooming. The dog became tired and attempted to sit. The owner, who wanted his dog to remain standing, yelled out “Don’t you sit Dell.” The dog stood for a few seconds in a crouched position, and, perplexed about what the word “don’t” meant, he tried to sit again. The confused dog was trying to obey the owner with what he thought was his owner’s command.

Establishing great communication with your dog consists of clear, consistent, distinct messages. A dog cannot respond accurately if the vocabulary or the rules change at whim on a daily basis. Another example of conflicting, mixed messages is shown by the owner who allows a behavior once in a while, punishes the dog for it at other times, and does not use clear cues to let the dog know when his behavior is not acceptable.

A dog who is praised for jumping up when the owner arrives home from a golf match is going to be encouraged, to the owner’s dismay and anger, to jump up when the owner comes home from a hard day of work. Unfortunately, few dogs are able to determine between the owner’s golf match jump up clothes and the owner’s home from a hard day of work stay off clothes. As a result, without any clear warning, the dog may receive a little slap for jumping up on the wrong clothes. The dog learns that jumping up will often be rewarded by praise and other times, for no reason at all, will be given a little slap.

The only lesson a dog could possibly learn from mixed messages is that the rules are unstable. Clear and consistent communication involves teaching a command for each desired and undesired behavior to let the dog know about acceptable behaviors. For instance, you can train a jump up command technique that tells a dog that jumping up is acceptable, and another command such as, “off” that tells him not to jump up on you. Mixed messages are very confusing to a dog. The dog can not establish a pattern to earn your approval, nor determine your reactions. A dog who cannot establish a way to earn his owner’s approval quits trying to please as a result, he becomes very fearful, doubtful and avoidant.

Signal Instruction

Learn better signaling techniques from pet training pros. You can find them or their instruction in various forms, online and off.

Find helpful workshops in your area by checking with local pet stores and librarians for any event postings they may have on their bulletin boards. Look in local print classifieds for info, too.

Call around form your Yellow Pages and seek info from local area trainers to see if they host classes or individual training and what the costs are.