does your dog really understand behaviors | Pupford

Does Your Dog Really Understand Behaviors?

Sometimes we like to think that our dog understands a specific behavior completely, but do they? How can we know when our dog truly understands a specific behavior?

Just because your dog knows “recall” inside the home, does that mean they “understand” recall?

Listen to today’s discussion and let us know what you think!!

Remember, your dog’s behavior almost ALWAYS needs some more practice and training 😉 And that really is one of the main focuses of this episode, that oftentimes you just need more practice.

In many cases, the recipe for success is more practice and less freedom for your pup.

Here are a few more things we talked about in this episode 👇

  • The trap many pup parents fall into with training
  • The rate of success you should shoot for with each behavior
  • Tools to avoid mistakes when working on new behaviors
  • How to maximize your dog’s likelihood to succeed in new environments, distractions, and moods

Podcast Episode

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YouTube Video of Episode

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A Poll of Most Difficult Behaviors in New Environments

Vote below to find out what behaviors other pup parents struggle the most with!

Full Podcast/Video Transcript of Does Your Dog Really Understand Behaviors Episode

MIKE:

Welcome to the Perfect Pup Podcast, everybody. We are happy that you are joining us today. Excited to talk with you about today’s topic. First of all, sorry for a little bit of lighting issues. We’re in a little bit different location today, but we’ll get back to normal quickly here on the next one. Today we’re going to be talking about how to know when your dog has truly perfected or really ingrained a specific behavior. We’re going to look at the steps to getting to that point, how you can test that type of behavior, how you can know when they’ve actually got there, and how you can feel confident about allowing them a little bit more freedom once they’ve nailed those behaviors.

 

DEVIN:

We are excited to talk about that. For today’s pup dates, you’ve maybe seen this, it’s been going around on social media, been a pretty popular article, but it’s phenomenal. So, a dog named Duchess, little small dog was lost 12 or 10 years ago in Florida. The dog slipped out the front door and ran away. They don’t know where it went. They figured it was lost. But the pup parent, she continued to pay for the yearly charge for the microchipping and updating their contact information every time they moved. 12 years later, the dog was found in Pittsburgh. It was obviously in pretty rough shape, but they were able to identify the dog via the microchip and get it reunited with its pup parent. 12 years later.

 

MIKE:

Do they have any idea how Duchess got there?

 

DEVIN:

That’s far. That’s not, like, a state or two.

 

MIKE:

That is far. Was that, like,  dogs living on the streets and catching scraps? Or did somebody pick it up and take it part of the way? Did they find it on the streets in Philadelphia? In Pittsburgh?

 

DEVIN:

Yeah. It was found under a shed, in the middle. It was cold and it was in pretty rough shape. So it looked like it hadn’t been living with someone. But you do wonder. And that’s what one of our article talks about. We’ll link it in the episode notes. But you’ve wondered like, “Man, if that dog could talk.” That dog would have a story to tell.

 

MIKE:

Stories she’d tell.

 

DEVIN:

But hats off to the pup parent, as well. The lady who continued to pay, continued to update her contact information. That’s dedication. In most people, I’m sure the stats are crazy. Like after X amount of days, the percentage of dogs that do come back, so super hot. That’s just a crazy story. It’s so awesome. I love that kind of stuff.

 

MIKE:

That’s great, they found her though. Twelve years, that’s a long time.

 

DEVIN:

Imagine that reunion. It’d be like… I wonder if the dog’s like, “Wait, who are you?”

 

MIKE:

I wonder how well it remembered them. That is awesome. They have a picture over there. Kind of like giving Duchess a smooch, and Dutchess is like, “Where have you been, man?”

 

DEVIN:

“Why did you leave me out like that?”

Toy Fox Terrier. So it’s just a little guy, too. Traveled over 1,600 kilometers. Look at this little guy. We’ll have that linked in the episode notes as well. You can check out this article.

 

MIKE:

Nice one, Duchess. Hope you’re getting a spoiled rotten now, right?

 

DEVIN:

I’m sure the dog’s living the dream now, eating steaks every night or something.

 

MIKE:

She better be.

 

DEVIN:

So that was the pup dates. Let’s roll into today’s topic. Mike and I talk about this a lot. A lot of you are probably in the thirty-day perfect pup community that we have on Facebook, where we have over 20,000 people in there. A lot of people asking questions. A lot of people saying, “Hey, this happened. What do I do?” One that we stumble into a lot, we see so many different people asking is, “Does my dog actually understand this behavior?” Or, in most cases, they’re saying, “My dog totally knows how to do this. Why is he not responding?” Or “My dog is usually really good at this. Why is he being stubborn?” And that’s, unfortunately, this pattern that we see a lot with people. I think we’re all guilty of it in one extent to the other. We practice for example, recall, inside the house. We practiced it for a while and the dogs getting it seven, eight, out of ten times. We think “Okay, my dog knows recall.” Then you go to a park or something…

 

MIKE:

Or you go in the backyard and then you go be like, “Hey, come on. Come on, Fido.” And they won’t come.

 

DEVIN:

They don’t come. Then instantly you think, “Oh, why is my dog being stubborn? They know how to come when called. They have a good recall.” We’re going to talk about how to avoid that trap. Because I think it is a trap, in reality. Right? You put yourself into this false sense of “My dog does understand. I can give them freedom.” So we’re gonna talk about how to avoid that, how to make sure that your dog truly understands behavior.

 

MIKE:

All dogs learn at different rates. Some learn faster than others. But in reality, the vast majority of the time it’s probably going to take you longer than you think to train your dog to understand behavior. If your dog is only six or seven months old, I would say it’s highly unlikely that they are nailing any behavior.

 

DEVIN:

It takes time because it’s all a repetition game. It’s kind of a numbers game.

 

MIKE:

And maturity.

 

DEVIN:

Maturity, as well. Yeah. And like what Mike was saying, every dog learns at a different pace. So not a hundred repetition is going to get you perfection at a specific behavior or task. It does take repetition. That’s the nature of reinforcement learning, where there has to be enough reinforcement and enough instances where “I did this, I got a reward. This is good.” for it to become ingrained like a sure thing with your dog.

 

MIKE:

So how do you know? How do you know if your dog’s nailing a behavior?

 

DEVIN:

How do you know? It’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s a specific answer, because as I was saying, every dog learns differently. But your dog should do it 95% plus. I said 95%. I didn’t say 90 because I don’t want you to think 9 out of 10 times. Because even 9 out of 10, with that one instance where they don’t do it, maybe they don’t understand it completely enough. When we talk about complete, most people they want to say, “My dog has a perfect recall.” like wherever, whenever, no matter the distraction. That would be a “complete understanding.” Where your dog is a hundred yards away, running around with 50 other dogs, and you can call them back, and they come back to you. That would be a “complete recall.” But the mistake that we make a lot as pup parents, as we say, we forget that that’s the end goal, but there’s so many steps in between. There are levels in between to get there. That’s one thought. It is remembering the levels of it. Let’s talk about how to get there, maybe versus knowing.

 

MIKE:

I think the basics of how to get there is the same thing that we talk about all the time. A lot of is controlling the environment. You need to start out by controlling or creating the environment right. You can start by getting under nailed behavior in your home.

 

DEVIN:

With no distractions.

 

MIKE:

With no distractions. Once you’re nailing it in the home, add some distractions. 

 

DEVIN:

And by nailing it, again, we’re saying 95% plus, inside the home, with no distractions, before you move on to anything else. It is recall.

 

MIKE:

So they’ve got to be really good at that. And then you’re stepping up difficulty after that. So start to go to the backyard, see if it works there. Go to the driveway after they’re good at that, see if it works there. You’re adding distractions. You’re adding different difficulties to them and seeing if they can do it then. Then at that point, you start to move to places like the park. So the way to get there is you start easy, you get them to nail it, you go a little harder, and a little harder, and a little harder. You have to baby step them into being able to nail it in the really difficult environments.

 

DEVIN:

For sure. And one point to add to that is that you need to be able to recognize like, “Okay, maybe I’m asking too much of my dog.” Because I think a lot of people have the right intentions and they start that way. They say, “Okay I’m going to get really good inside the house, and then I’m gonna go outside,” and their dog doesn’t get it. They instantly get frustrated and they think, “Well, what do I do now?” They get it inside, but they they don’t understand it in the backyard at all. Sometimes you have to find that level in between those two levels. Taking it as small as you can and recognising, “Okay they can’t handle in the backyard. Let’s try maybe in the house, with distractions.” or something like that. Finding those different levels of difficulty. I think a lot of people talk about it that the trait of a good trainer, because all of us pup parents are in essence trainers because we’re training our dogs, is knowing when to take a step back. Knowing when to say “Okay, I’m asking too much of my dog.” Let’s make it a little bit easier, get some victories. Get some quick wins back with our dog, and then step it up again. So, taking those incremental steps, a big big part of it.

 

One of the thoughts that we talked about before is, and I’m going to keep going on the recall example because it’s an easy example and it’s a tough one for a lot of people, part of making sure your dog fully understands is making sure that you avoid as many situations as possible in which your dog doesn’t have to basically do what you’re asking of them and get away with it. What I mean by that is if you’re working on recall and you’re like “Okay, my dog is ready to be working on this outside.” you can’t just let them run free and expect them to come back because every time that you ask them to come to you and they don’t, it’s like you’re taking a step backwards. Not in like “taking a step back.” 

 

MIKE:

Especially if running away from you gets them some type of reward. If they’re running away from you to go chase something, or meet someone new without you approving, or anything like that, they’re getting rewarded every time. It totally enables that behavior.

 

DEVIN:

Then you’re just fighting against this. You’re not only trying to build a good behavior, but now you have to break a bad behavior. So that’s where tools like a 30-foot long lead, or they make even longer ones, that’s where it’s so important. It’s not just “Hey, I’m working on a training session. I’m gonna use a 30-foot lead.” In a lot of cases it’s “Okay, we’re gonna go to this park. My dog is getting pretty good at recall. But I don’t want to give them full freedom off of a leash per se. So let’s do the 30 feet.” So just in case they do see something that’s enticing, they want to run off, you’re in control. Your dog can’t get more than 30 feet away from you if you have the leash in your hand. They’re secured on the other end as well. So it’s a safety tool in the sense of actually keeping your dog safe. Also making sure that you are protecting your dog from having these bad situations happen where they don’t have to listen, they regress in their learning they get reinforced, like Mike was saying, by other things. Using those types of tools is super important.

 

MIKE:

In essence, give them every opportunity to win. Do everything you can to ensure that they win. If you do that they’re going to engrave behaviors better.

 

DEVIN:

One final thought, one final topic is just remembering that, we were talking about this the other day, even when you think your dog is 95% in a certain environment, you need to take into account your mood and their mood. It’s called proofing. It’s not just “Okay, my dogs good at recall. Let’s try it at this park with this distraction, ‘XYZ’ different distraction.” But oftentimes it’s just doing it on so many different days, and when your dog might be feeling a little bit different, or might be more distracted, or less distracted, or your mood might be different. It’s just taking that extra basic, those extra steps in saying “I’m gonna practice this behavior in as many situations, as many environments, as many distractions and over many days,” so that you know that your dog is experiencing it, that they’re going to experience it in all types of moods, and in all types of mindsets. That’s the next step. We always talk about train in new environments, train with new distractions, but taking it to that next step above. Doing it so much that you’re hitting all the different moves that your dog might be in, and making sure they really get it.

 

MIKE:

Yeah. So they’ll have different moods, they’ll feel more excited, they’ll feel more bummed, you know. They may have something that’s bothering them a little bit that will cause them to react a little differently.

 

DEVIN:

You know, the thoughts on “does your dog fully understand the behavior”?

 

MIKE:

No, I don’t think so. I think that the key to all that, though, is just practice, practice, practice.

 

DEVIN:

Proof it as much as you can. New environments, new distractions. And one final thought.

 

MIKE:

Second one final.

 

DEVIN:

Second one final thought. Don’t give your dog too much freedom. It goes back to what we talked about earlier. The second you give your dog too much freedom, that’s when bad things happen. You start to think, “Oh, my dogs being stubborn.” but they might just not understand, and it’s okay.

Thanks for coming on guys. Thanks for watchening. Watchening? Listening.

 

MIKE:

New word. We come up with a new word every time we podcast, it’s fantastic.

 

DEVIN:

What was it? ROS, new operating system. And then watchening, which is watching and listening. So thanks for watchening this episode. If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you’re watching on YouTube. Subscribe, wherever you’re listening to the podcast. Leave us a review. Leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you guys. I think that’s it.

 

MIKE:

Yeah. Have a great day everybody. Thanks.

 

DEVIN:

See you guys.

Recap

Above all, don’t give up hope on your dog’s behavior. Simply taking the right steps to control the environment and continue practicing each day can reap huge dividends in the long run!

If you haven’t already, download the free Pupford app.

The app will walk you through how to train SO many behaviors. Each behavior has steps, a guided video, and products that will help ensure your success.

Have more questions about dog behavior? Ask them in the comments below!

Written by Devin Stagg

Since being deprived of dogs during his childhood, he and his wife decided to make up for it by having three dogs, two Lab puppies, and one grandpa Puggle. Meaning you won’t see him not covered in dog hair. When he’s not busy training his dogs and/or picking up their poop, you can find him cheering on Tottenham Hotspur and all Cleveland sports (yes, even the Browns).

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