“Every time you put your hands on the dog you are leaving fingerprints.” Ronnie Smith said that at a workshop I recently attended where he was the presenter.
I thought that was a great quote and so true!
Ronnie didn’t mean fingerprints as in smudge marks on the fur. 🙂
He meant that every interaction is a learning experience and those experiences leave an impression on the dog. How strong the experience is and how often it is repeated, will determine how permanent the impression becomes.
When I am working with clients, I like to make it clear that their dog is learning all the time. They are either learning what we want them to know or what we don’t want them to know.
Which is why it is so important we become aware of our own behavior and how it may be affecting our dogs.
Daily routines like feeding, walking, grooming and play all become “data” that influence the overall behavior of our dogs. If we are inputting data that develops responsive, calm and stable behavior, we end up enjoying a long and stress free life with our canine companions.
If we input data that creates anxious, frantic, or fearful behavior, the ability to fully enjoy the human-canine relationship will be more challenging.
Once you understand this simple premise you begin to grasp that training your dog is more about developing meaningful, routine interactions than it is about practicing rote skills. Obedience behaviors like Sit, Lie down or Walk nicely without pulling are hugely important, but only because we need to learn to USE them to create appropriate routines.
So your homework this month is to really pay attention to the fingerprint you are leaving on your dog. Is it improving the relationship or are you doing things that leave results you aren’t so fond of?
If you are looking for one simple idea to improve your dog’s ability to be calm around new people try this tip.