I was chatting with some clients yesterday about the benefits of practicing handling skills with the dog at home before venturing out into the big wide world; practicing getting Owner and dog to work together, so if need be the owners can show their dogs escape routes if their dog wasn’t coping with a certain situation (in this case other dogs). Whilst chatting it occurred to me, having just read a book with a collation of servicemen’s individual accounts of war in Afghanistan, that’s that what they do- they practice drill after drill until it become second nature, so that their brain kicks in before the panic or nerves has a chance to.
‘We got penned in for a wee bit – a good ten seconds. Then we ran to a ditch. All the section were in different places by this stage, taking cover. But it (the contact) was all soon over. It lasted about 10 mins. We didn’t take any casualties, but one of the snipers was sure he hit one of the Taliban. It all happened so quickly. You go through the drills – which meant the fear didn’t hit me until it was more or less over and then you can think about it a little bit. I can honestly say I wasn’t scared because it all happened so quickly. You just had to do what you had to do and return fire. I thought, once it had calmed down: If you listen to orders and training, you can get through no problem. So that was our first contact, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be our last.’
Range J Armstrong, The Royal Irish Regiment
‘Spoken From The Front’ edited by Andy McNab
I also ask my client to build up the layers, get it right at home and the take it outside the front of the home and if it’s going well build it from there. Dogs also need to learn things in context, which is why you hear of many people saying ‘Well he does it in class’ but have you practised it outside of class, in a field, on a beach, in a forest, in different contexts?
Practice makes perfect! When I do socialisation work with my own dogs and clients and their dogs, I create a safe environment for everyone to learn and so that the owner can relax knowing that nothing bad will happen, this way they beginning to relax and that feeds to their dog. I also get them to slacken off the lead, of which I have got them to use an 8 metre static line, which gives their dog an element of freedom. It amazes me how much of a difference you see in their dog’s behaviour once the tension has gone and a dog that could actually be labelled aggressive begins to change its normal reaction because we have taken the owner’s stress out of the situation. I take responsibility of the situation and calmly talk everyone through what we are doing, what needs to be done and how the dogs feel about the situation, rather than the usual panic the owner endures they can now relax and begin to learn without fear and panic.
This is when the home practice comes in and really shows because without thinking the dog responds beautifully to the owner in a high adrenalin situation and the dog sees their owner calm and making great canine decisions, so now they are working as a team.