Saturday, February 8, 2014

Wait/Stay... cutting out the unnecessary jargon

Due to my original interest in dogs being Competitive Obedience and Basic Obedience Training being at the core of what I do presently. I have always been looking to find ways to improve the fluidity of the dog's learning process and refine the communication between myself and the dog in such a way that it is almost easy.

While browsing through Youtube clips I stumbled across one filmed by the US company, Sit Means Sit Dog Training owned by Fred Hassen. This clip in particular hones in on allowing the owner to consider the relevance of using the 'Stay' command in their training programme. 

This gave me the opportunity to reassess my usage of the 'Stay' and equally the command 'Wait' also. During my time attending Obedience classes with my own dog the instructor always enforced the idea of teaching the dog the differentiation of the 'Stay' and 'Wait' commands. It was drilled into my head that:

 "Stay means stay there till I come back and Wait means wait there till I give another instruction."

I am sure those of you who are reading this that also attended local Obedience classes will probably have also had the same experience and Fred Hassen's video, for me, had completely turned my way of thinking about these particular commands on it's head. 

Fred offered the idea that when you command a dog to 'Sit/Down/Stand' then a dog cannot physically do anything more than remain or 'Stay/Wait' in the 'Sit/Down/Stand' position. So really if you have a dog that creeps forward or moves in anyway on a 'Stay' exercise or he comes before instructed when he's meant to be in the 'Wait' position on a recall then the dog is not sitting/laying down/standing. 

The concept of giving a 'Stay' or 'Wait' command, from my perspective, is purely a psychologically reassuring one. To be able to understand the true concept of a 'Stay/Wait' requires the ability to rationally and logically think, something a dog is incapable of doing. Which then clearly tells me that the dog does not truly understand the human concept of these commands which, in turn, means the theory of teaching these in the light of it being beneficial to the dog is flawed. 

While I have criticised the usage of these concepts rigorously above, I have actually found one minor advantage to allowing a 'Stay/Wait' command to be used. I have found it helps with teaching the novice owner/handler self discipline and to consider what they are saying and when it is relevant to give these commands, therefore, creating an awareness of their actions and thoughts in the present moment and their consequences whether they be good or bad. 

To go back to my original point about making communication easier between handler and dog. I have found that, all in all, the 'Stay/Wait' commands are what I would consider unnecessary jargon in your training programme. They open up the possibility for communication error on the handlers behalf if they get muddled up between the two for different exercises and they also, more vitally, open up the possibility for: difficulty in processing, confusion and eventual failure on the dogs part. While I see failure in some contexts as a staple part of a dogs learning process, in this particular context I feel it is totally avoidable and allows you more time to focus on training more engaging and productive things that cannot be miscommunicated. 

Remember, keep it simple... 'Sit/Down/Stand'... that's all you need to say to be understood if it is taught correctly!