Dogs flourish with clarity. Mixed messages lead to trouble. Often times I go into homes where the family is having relationship difficulties with their dogs. This is mostly caused by inconsistency. For example, one person is strict and has the dog working for treats. While another person is basically tossing treats the dog’s way just for breathing. Much of the time, this is the same problem when it comes to rules and safety. The dog has different rules with different people … all in the same house.
Dogs want clear communication from you. Mixed messages confuse them. This is why you need to start being aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it. I always recommend filming a short session with the client working with the dog so you can view and discuss the video afterward. It can be eye-opening for people to see themself at work. People are often completely unaware that they didn’t follow instructions correctly.
Mixed messages pitfalls to look for:
- How many times are you saying a command? (I have counted someone saying “sit” 9 times for 1 sit)
- What does your dog do to get rewards? (I am referring to behaviorally not just being cute)
- What does your dog do to get their bowl of food?
- Are you having patience with the dog?
- How soon do you give a reward/correction/marker after the behavior?
Inconsistent actions create mixed messages, this is why everyone needs to get on the same page.