What comes to mind when you think of “performance dogs”? Perhaps you think of dogs who perform in Dog Sports and Activities such as Agility, Freestyle, Herding, Hunt Tests, Obedience, Rally, Schutzhund, Treiball, Water Rescue, etc.? Dogs who perform jobs, for example, Search & Rescue, Service Dogs, Therapy Work, Scent Detection, Law Enforcement, etc.? Maybe you think of dogs who perform Training Demonstrations for Educational purposes?
What about your very own pet dog? Do you think of him when you think of a performance dog? You should!
I remind all my students, especially those in Basic Foundation Class, they have a “performance dog”. Together as a Team, human and canine will be performing a number of Foundation Skills multiple times, each & every day. Life long. Wow…that’s a lot of performances!
Think how many times a day you cue your dog to perform a sit, stay, down, wait, respond to his name and other “attention getter” cues, come when called, to walk on leash with you, etc.
Think of the all environments & distractions levels you ask your dog to perform in – your Home, Yard, Neighborhood, Car, at a Friend’s House, at a Park, the Vet Clinic, at Dog-Friendly Stores and Businesses, in Class, in Hotels during travel, etc., and each with varying amounts of people, dogs, other animals, smells, sounds, activities, etc.
Not only are pet dogs expected to perform each and every day and in a variety of environments & distraction levels, but they are expected to do so reliably. Talk about performance pressure…!
It’s a good thing you help your dog with rehearsals (hint, hint)! Lucky for him, you know enough to recognize YOUR role in these performances (nudge, nudge). Reminder that your dog’s performance depends on YOUR performance. The quality of his skills depends on the quality of YOUR skills. I encourage you to video at least some of your training sessions. Video is required homework in many of my classes. I also film students during class. Video Assessment / Coaching and teaching students the art of Self-Assessment are two of my favorite tools for helping students improve their game by focusing and fine-tuning their eyes.
The daily expectations placed on pet dogs are just one of the many reasons I emphasize building and maintaining JOY, VALUE & PRECISION in skills used at BOTH ENDS of the leash. Starting with the crucial Basic Foundation Skills, e.g., Response to Name, Sit, Down, Stay, Wait, Come, Connected Walking, Proper Timing, Proper Use and Control of Energy / Arousal, Maximizing Reinforcement Variety, Proper Rate and Delivery of Reinforcers, etc. Skills used every day, life long. JOY, VALUE & PRECISION at BOTH ENDS of the leash…must haves.
So, the next time you are “wow’d” by a dog you see performing on TV or at a public venue, remind yourself to be WOW’D by your very own dog. The next time you refer to him as “just” a pet dog, or feel you are taking “just” a Basic Class, practicing “just” a sit-stay, or think you don’t need to work on your timing or to video yourself because it’s not that important…THINK AGAIN.
Polish & Perfect his and your Foundation Skills! Rehearse for performances! Be PROUD of your Pet Dog! The two of you are a Performance Team with multiple performances each and every day!