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My Dog & I: Getting a Leg Up!

Sometimes Life simply looks different from a new perspective. Consider how your house looked when you were small and how BIG Your Dad was back then!

This month I’d like to talk about the way your dog sees the world and how we might “talk” to him more effectively if we could see life from his point of view.

Most dogs connect with our bodies at our legs – somewhere around the knee to thigh point. Of course, you have the “big guys” and the “teenies” but generally, they hang out around the lower leg area.

Humans tend to want to communicate with their voices, their hands and their faces. Dogs tend to follow their noses towards their explorations…Let’s just picture it for a moment…Dog Nose position vs. Human Face position. They are pretty far apart. There is a big gap between the two worlds and we are constantly challenged to bridge that gap!

I recently invited some of my students to drop to their dogs’ level and “see” the world from that angle and although they may have thought that I was a little Kooky, they valiantly complied…The result was very interesting!

Of course, although several grown humans crouching around in a Church Hall could have been interpreted as “cult behavior”, the chance to view our world with a Dog’s Eye helped me support some theories that I have been trying to put across in our training sessions.

One of the first things I try to convey to my students (the Humans) is that the hand is generally the most difficult tool to use effectively when you are trying to show your dog something…even if it has a treat in it!! Hands are SO busy!

Our very sophisticated verbal ability is largely incomprehensible to your dog and your eye contact is often challenging!

So…what does a dog see first when he is walking beside you? Why your leg of course! Your left leg, if you are training with me. It stands to reason that if your dog wants to be with you – and most puppies do, that he will follow that leg…and it stands to reason that if that leg moves in his direction, he will want to move out of the way. There! That’s the beginning of the “HEEL” that everyone is looking for and you weren’t dragging him behind you, talking to him incessantly or staring intensely at him.

Sure, you may have to make that place really interesting with a treat or toy in order to entice him to stay there but you are marking the place where you want him to be without words or a facial expression. Your leg, is what you want your friend to pay attention to, not your hands or your face.

As Woman’s Best Friend, your dog, hanging out beside you, is in his Happy Place…after he learns that you are the source of a lot of the good stuff in his life, he will be glad to keep returning to that place. As a really good start on his “training” this is a solid foundation on which to build future skills. His connection with you physically will create a bond that will nurture you both and bypass a lot of the confusion that arises when we try to “teach” our dogs with our heads not our legs!!

After he learns to connect with that place beside you, we can start to include other parts of our bodies that are not in view…voices, hands and eyes too!! But don’t start with the hard stuff…begin where your dog lives and hold off on the “rocket science” until he finds the first base – YOUR LEG!!!

– Janine Lazarus. HashtagWV #101. May 2019. Follow Janine on instagram @goodladd_dogtraining and hire her at Goodladd.net!

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