“The Communicative Approach To Training Theory.” An Excerpt…

Posted: June 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s been awhile since I posted here, and I apologize, but life is beginning to return to some normalcy, and the book is nearing completion.  Here’s a brief excerpt for your perusal:  Enjoy!


  The Six “L’s” of the Communicative Approach

There are many ways to communicate with your dog. For the purpose of publication, the communicative approach is founded on six separate features that play pivotal roles in making this possible. I’m going to give you the only bullet-pointed list that goes with the Communicative Approach to Training Theory. I will expand upon each of them in turn. It is my intention that you examine each point, and understand the implications of each one. They are not techniques to be honed. They work with formal training methods, not replacing them. You still need to learn about your chosen method of training. But go beyond them, and embrace these attitudes, and you will find success beyond your expectations! These are not in order of importance. The priority can, and will, change and be adjusted any and even every day.
* Love Your Dog
*Live With Your Dog
*Listen To Your Dog
*Learn With Your Dog
*Learn About Your Dog
*Learn Your Chosen Method Well

You will find each of these bulleted points addressed thru the remainder of this book. Are they the entire program? Well, Yes. And No. You and your dog will find your way thru your lives together in a unique way. That’s the nature of communication, and bond-building. But these simple points will guide you thru a lot. Make them your own, make them work, for you and your dog.

Love Your Dog

I may be accused of treading the minefield of Anthropomorphizing our dogs. I promise you that I won’t, but there are good, demonstrable reasons to include “Love Your Dog”, into the process of the Communicative Approach. Let me start with the axiom, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done To You.”
That’s right, the good, old-fashioned, but time-tested, “Golden Rule”. This outstanding piece of wisdom was originally written in the Bible book of Matthew chapter 7 verse 12, about 2000 years ago. It’s origin sometimes gets lost these days, but it’s good life-counsel no matter the situation. I believe it important to recall the words of Jesus Christ in this context. No translation of the scripture says, “Do unto just other human beings…” Nope, they all say some derivative of “others”, allowing for the conclusion that it applies to all living creatures. Okay, Bible lesson finished. That didn’t hurt a bit did it?
All of the separate parts of the Communicative Approach, could technically fall under the umbrella of “Love Your Dog”, but there’s more detail to each and every one that is important . Therefore I’m using love as a separate feature.
First of all, what is your definition of “Love”? Just think it over for a bit, as there are many ways to describe love. For my purposes here, I will define Love as, A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a friend…the benevolent affection of Man for his charges …A strong, warm, personal attachment. This is not romantic love, nor is it the love of principal. No, it simply means that you are trying to treat your dog as you would like to be treated if you were a dog!
Now imagine that you are your dog. See the world thru his eyes, smell thru his nose, hear thru his ears.
From the day you brought your puppy or rescued dog home, he looked to you for nearly everything. You were the source of food, water, play, care, comfort, security, and leadership. Loving your dog means giving those things freely and in proper amounts. Allowing your dog to know, and trust, that you will always provide these things. Being prepared and willing to provide the best of these things that you can is part of loving your dog. Does your dog spend most of his time locked in a crate, or small room alone, because you’re busy? If your dog becomes sick, do you make sure that you consult a Veterinarian? Do you carefully make decisions regarding vaccinations? (This is a touchy subject, as some common vaccinations are actually dangerous and unnecessary). This requires that you make informed decisions. Will you take the time? Will your dog find itself tied outside to a post or tree in cold, heat, rain, or snow, left to create a path that it paces alone, wondering where his pack has gone? Referencing the Golden Rule, would you enjoy that lifestyle? Your dog has a sophisticated and active mind. Will you fulfill his mental needs with active play, exercise, and stimulation? Understand this: 15 minutes a day is not enough. Most behavioral problems have their source in boredom, inactivity, and lack of communication. Loving your dog means fulfilling these needs, and it takes time. Maybe more time than you realize. Never let it be more time than you are willing to give, for your dogs sake. This is a big reason why shelters and rescues are so busy and filled with dogs. Or should I call them “refugee’s”?
Is your dog an “At Will” employee? Meaning that you can “fire” him for whatever reason at whatever time? Many dogs are “re-homed” (read: “Gotten rid of”) when they become an inconvenience. Some of these are even euthanized because they become more responsibility than people want. Let me re-phrase that so you get the full impact. Some people have their pet dog put to death because they no longer want the responsibility. I grieve at the lack of “Love” that human beings are capable of demonstrating.
To sum up: What does loving a dog involve? Time, effort, money, resources, more time, research, and a bit more time. But the end results are more than worth the efforts.
You will always find that “Love” is a part of every facet of communication. It is simply putting yourself in your dogs paws and asking yourself, If I was a dog, and my owner did that to me, how would I feel?

I will give you a few examples of actions that let your dog know that they are loved and secure. Some of them will be instantly dismissed by “trainers” as foolish. Which is fine by me, as most trainers that I know who enjoy success with dogs do some of them behind the scenes, out of the public eye. Those trainers that are more concerned with having success with “owners” than dogs, will roll their eyes at my suggestions. After all, the dogs don’t pay them, the owners do.

As you initially bring your puppy into your life, and your home, there is a great need to replace several basics that your puppy relied upon for survival. The warmth and comfort of his litter. These needs are vital, and require that you understand the separation that has now occurred. Replacing those needs is now your responsibility, and honor.
For the first eight weeks of his life, the puppy has been immersed in warmth, comfort, discipline, and provision. His mother supplied all of these things, only rarely leaving her pups unsupervised. Young pups even require assistance from Mom to eliminate waste at first, a service she provides instinctively. The littermates provided warmth and comfort, in the form of what I like to call the “puppy pile”, which the mother often presides over until the pups grow to sufficient size. Do your level best to provide the intimacy of familial warmth. This can be in the form of providing your puppy an article of clothing in their crate, allowing limited access to your sleeping area with your supervision, and feeding the puppy an occasional meal strictly by hand. Think closeness, security, bonding.
Further, your puppy was provided with play. His littermates and he rolled, bit, chased, and otherwise entertained themselves every day. Sometimes, mother dogs will provide games of “chase me”, as puppies become physically able. They require “play” their entire lives, but especially as young puppies. Give them plenty of opportunity for playing.
Here with our pups, we have created what we like to call an “Adventure Box”, that we place the puppies in for brain-stimulating fun. It’s nothing more complicated than a 3′ x 3′ PVC constructed box with various bells, balls, and assorted toys hanging off it. We may hide little bites of food inside, place wind-up toys there for exploration, or any number of things bound only by your imagination. Be careful not to place anything loud or frightening there. It’s a place that should encourage exploration, curiosity, and even a little puppy mayhem. It should be fun above all.
I mentioned a word above that you should focus on. That word is “Adventure”. Your puppy, and later, your dog, needs an adventure every day. Exploring his yard, his home, his neighborhood, his family. Be cautious about what you allow puppy to get into, especially before his immune system is fully operable. Supervise him closely, but allow him some freedom to explore his world with his eyes wide open. Introduce him to people when possible, but do so cautiously. Most people, especially children will tend to approach too energetically, which might alarm the pup.
Another thing we love to do with puppies, is the Obstacle course exercise. Filled with toys, large pillows to climb, wobbly floor devices, small stairs for climbing, perhaps a large shallow container of water or plastic balls, a small teeter-totter, tunnels, and other items, it will provide all of you with many laughs, and great adventures. Your creativity is the only thing limiting you. Do things with your puppy or dog every day. There is no better way to love your dog than to make him a part of your daily life. Lots of people have dogs, and I’d like to switch gears for a moment to address this.
Many people “own” dogs. Not all of them “love” their dog. Some because it’s a status symbol to have a cute little dog in your shoulder bag. (consult People Magazine) Others because the dog is used as a tool to achieve some dubious and highly questionable honor or personal glory. (Think Michael Vick) Others don’t think having a dog thru with any understanding. (Hey…A cute little puppy! That would be a great Christmas present for the kids! What breed is it?) Others have the wrong motive entirely. (I want me a dawg that’ll attack anybody that comes around my house or property!) All bad reasons to take a dog into your family. Mostly bad for the dog.
But there also those owners/trainers that do pursue good, interactive, training for the dog, and for themselves. Credit to these good people. It’s a light-year ahead of the others. Yet something is missing.
It can be observed at schutzhund, agility, and formal dog shows. Dog’s incapable of socializing properly with people and other dogs, so they spend the balance of their time in a crate, often covered with a blanket to keep the dog insulated. The dog’s life is simply to perform when commanded. They are trained as little robots
We’ve just addressed “Love” your dog, which is a fundamental feature of communication. None of what follows can work without it. Let’s now move to the second “L”…

Live with your dog.

You will quickly notice that having a dog seems to take over your world. Maybe that’s just my experience, but I’ve noticed that dog-people seem to gravitate to All Things Dog. I guess that this is only fair turnabout, as a dog centers his life around his human.
My day generally begins at 6AM, or on those all too rare days, just before 7:30 AM. When my eyelids open, Hans is immediately alerted by that innate sense that dogs seem to possess by providence. One of my people has stirred! Time to get up! That’s part of living with a dog. It’s also one of my favorite parts. Hopefully it will be a habit that lasts for your dogs entire life. You become the center of the dogs universe. You are his very reason to wake up, to be by your side. Your bond is strong and healthy. How do you earn this bond? Where does it come from, and how does it grow? It starts early.
Hans was crate-trained as a young puppy, and he still sleeps in his private den occasionally, as his proto-ancestors did, warm and safe with familiar smells and sounds. The instant he hears my wife or I stir, he is out and on duty. I love this part of his day when his face appears over the edge of the bed, he licks his chops, and he jumps onto the bed. He needs to go out and relieve himself, but his first thoughts are of his family. Is everybody okay? Can I help? This leads to finding a snuggle spot on, or between my wife and I. Hans will lay there on the bed, usually across us, using the full force of his weight to say, I’m here, and ready to work!
Many trainers and owners will insist that dogs should never be allowed onto your bed. They may cite dominance theories, or contend that this behavior is not healthy for humans, or dogs. But really, consider what our goal is with the communicative approach. We are building a bond, a relationship. The place where we sleep is integral to our health and happiness. It is a nest of security, warmth, and physical closeness. It is a place of intimacy, and calming. What better way to build a bond with your dog than inviting his inclusion in that environment? You can control how often and how long this is allowed. Teaching the dog to be mannerly, and returning to his own bed when the time arrives is not difficult, and should be taught immediately. But the closeness of this acceptance will affect both you and your dog in positive ways that are immeasurable.
A rhythm will likely develop that you and your dog will miss when it’s interrupted or absent. Our two, one hundred pound German Shepherds, are obviously not going to fit onto our queen-size bed with two humans at the same time. So they have developed a pattern of trading off after a self-imposed time limit. When we initially go to bed at night, one or the other is welcomed onto the bed while we read, as is our habit. This usually lasts no more than thirty minutes with ours. Then the original occupant will secede their place, and retire to their “cubby” located in our large bedroom. Then dog number two is allowed a length of time in the nest with us, until we are ready for lights out. Then a simple command sends that dog to their individual bed. We have noticed many times that upon retirement, we will hear a loud, pronounced sigh from whichever dog has left and settled in. This marks their being “off-duty”, and ready for deep sleep. It sounds like contentment to us, and well-being. The reward for making happy dogs. This has become a “marker”, a guidepost in our day, and we look forward to hearing it.
It goes back to that wonderful quality, your bond with your dog. It’s attainable, and much to be desired, because it will affect the quality and success of your training together. As evidence of that statement, I offer the following observation, born from experienced observation of the dog world.

Many dogs are well-trained to perform various tasks. Agility, protection, obedience, scent work, therapy, personal assistance, law enforcement or other work. But when exercise, work or competition is over, it’s back into the crate or kennel. I have observed “well-trained” dogs that were no more than tools to their handler. When a carpenter finishes using his hammer, he puts it back into his tool box and closes the lid. Done. My personal observation has revealed to me that my dog and I work more effectively when we are “working together” as friends. Does your dog understand that he is only released from his captivity when you expect him to work? That the remainder of his time is to be spent within the confines of a very small space while you leave him to do your thing? Although much improvement has taken place within the law enforcement community, and the actual training of law enforcement dogs, this used to be an issue in the profession. An officer would take his dog to work, but when the day ended, the dog would be remanded to a kennel, in a less than comfortable block building, until his handler returned for another shift. The relationship, the bond, or lack thereof, between man and dog was purely professional. Dogs treated in this manner often attacked their handlers and ended their careers. An officer got injured by a dog that he neither understood, nor trusted. Two valuable assets ruined at one time. These days, most K9 officers are real “dog-people”, and want to serve in what has become a privileged position. Officers not only live with their dogs, in their homes, but the family becomes part of the dogs sphere of love and influence. Socialization and relationship becomes central to the equation of training and behavior. The dogs transcend being “just another tool”, and become trusted partners.
Here’s a short test. Ask yourself, Does my dog work well when he’s off-leash? Does he come when he’s recalled without hesitation? Or more specifically, Does he want to come to me? Or is he headed in the opposite direction? Try this exercise: Allowing a family member to hold your dog in place, run away (no toys or food treats allowed) in full view of the dog, about 25 yards, and then find a place to hide. If your dog was then released, would he “track you down” as fast as he could run? Or is it “out-of-sight-out-of-mind”? Does the dog care where you are? Or is he more interested in anything else? It’s important for you, as the runaway, to disappear at the end of your track. If your dog has no interest in finding you, your bond needs work. The dog must be motivated by something to be truly effective. In this instance, it’s as simple as this: I love my master more than life itself, and I must find him immediately so that we are not separated anymore.
How do you build this type of relationship?
Training and bonding with a dog takes time. It’s not just an every Saturday afternoon for 30 minutes. It starts when you get up in the morning, and ends when you go to bed at night. It involves formal training, play-time, nap-time, meal-time, and even some canine style rough-housing.
In the beginning of my career, I advised attendance to, and took part in Puppy Pre-schools. Fifteen or twenty puppies and their families, all gathered together to “socialize”. There were obstacles to climb, tunnels to traverse, vacuums to contend with, and various other activities. Normally, these “classes” lasted 4 or 5 weeks, one day per week for a couple of hours. This type of class can be useful, even beneficial. But be armed with this proviso: They can often be viewed by the “Trainer”, as a Profit-Center of their business and a living way to advertise their further training programs. Those programs will be two or three weeks “in-residence” programs, apart from you. You will simply pick your dog up when it’s finished. Supposedly, you will have a “trained” dog. At least the “professional trainer” will have a trained dog, but you have been excluded from the program. I soundly disagree with this mentality if you want a “trained-dog” for yourself. You Must Be Involved In The Process for real success. If a puppy school is more about advertising future training for your dog than actually involving you and your family, walk away. If you have certain breeds, (German shepherds, Malinois, Dobermans, Huskies and others) you will be told that you will NEED the trainers help with the whirling dervish that you have brought into your home. The “trainer” will go to great pains to inform you that this dog will only respond to “his” (or her) program, and that without his (or her) help, you have the makings of a disaster. While I have no problem with making a living, I will advise you to only hire a trainer that is as interested, and capable of teaching you, the owner, as he or she is in teaching your dog. You must be deeply involved in the program, at your dogs side, and holding the leash. I am seriously opposed to Board and Train programs, if you want a dog that responds to you as the handler/owner.
There, I’ve angered an entire industry, an entire segment of dog-trainers. Sorry gang, but handing over a dog that has been trained for weeks by an outsider, and then given back to the owner with a “whole hour” of reintroduction/instruction is irresponsible, and not affective. Especially with the working breeds. Find a “trainer”, not a salesman. Sadly, there are many people that hang out a sign that proclaim themselves as dog-trainers. They are certainly great “salesman”, and often have impressive facilities. They are great business people. They exist to make profit from whomever will lay down a couple thousand dollars for their “programs”. You are only required to open your wallet.

So what should you do? Interview trainers. Ask big questions. Interview their customers. Ask for their opinions and experiences. Better, and somewhat easier, find a local club that does obedience, agility, schutzhund, or some other discipline, and get to know people there. You will find guidance, meet people of like-mind, and find your “trainer”. Or better, a mentor, and even a group of mentors.

Such a club is only the very beginning of what your puppy requires. You must both enroll enthusiastically into the school of “you”. You must be the most interesting thing in the world to your dog.
During this time period, at home, let your puppy wear and drag around a light leash in a supervised atmosphere. It allows him to get accustomed to it. Also, play hide & seek games with toys or small treats. Make it a game, not a work session. This is also a good time to develop focus from your puppy. Using a happy, encouraging tone of voice, speak to your pup, while moving excitedly in front of him. Get his attention by being interesting to watch. When, and only when, the two of you have eye contact, give him affection. Give him praise, call him by his name. I like to name this behavior, “focus”, verbally to the puppy, immediately. Even the small gestural signal of pointing to your own eyes while verbalizing “focus”, can aid the puppy in learning this important behavior. Dogs read hand signals exceptionally well. Before moving on, I want to bring in another important side discussion. The use of treats in training:

You will have far less need for a pouch full of oily treats when teaching this way. You are the treat. One of the pillars of the communicative approach is to limit the use of training with treats. Use praise and affection instead. Early on, when I began training, I wore a pouch on my belt so that treats were plentiful, and at the ready. In some ways, I paid the price. The dog wouldn’t do anything without being paid to do so. A huge majority of trainers, looking for the quickest results, rely heavily on treats. Yes, it works. But the dog becomes spoiled, and your bond will have been built on a shaky foundation. Don’t ever rely on treats to anchor your training together. Shortly, you will be the focus of his eyes whenever you are together. I use them at the beginning of scent training, and I am in no way condemning them as a tool, but learn to work without treating every time you have the simplest success. Save them for after the whole lesson is finished. Why? Because it will allow you to be the most interesting thing in his world.
I will be taken to task by many trainers that use food as their training foundation. I will be applauded by many others. Those who are wholly dependent on treats, risk behavior problems that will make their appearance later on in the dogs life. If you want dependability in your dogs obedience, don’t begin by anchoring them in the treating habit. As an example: A client had a dog that learned when he stole loose articles of clothing, such as socks or underwear carelessly left about, he was paid to release the article with treats. Gradually the dog got to the point where releasing the article required more and more desirable treats from his two-legged servant. The dog “learned” that if he wanted a tasty morsel, it was only a stolen sock away. This is extremely difficult to train away, so don’t start it in the first place. This behavior will always be present with this dog, unless extreme measures are taken. Measures that work against the communicative approach.

Building the bond involves being together as much as possible. You need to make the effort of taking your puppy, and later, your dog, everywhere allowable. Take your puppy with you wherever possible during these first 2 or 3 months, being careful to watch over the pup when people or other dogs approach. These are formative times for the pup, and a bad experience becomes a life-altering experience.
This covers the early weeks of your bond-building. Make it fun, and make it interesting. Help your puppy to want to be with you. Look for interesting, but safe places to explore together. Let him try stairs if he is so inclined, and different types of surfaces that are safe.
Living with your dog is much different than just training with your dog. In our home, the dog is present and well-behaved when we eat, have company, clean house, or whatever the family is doing. His private den (his crate) is beside our bed, (which actually makes a great bedside table). My point is simply this: Live with your dog. Don’t treat him as a rake that hangs in the garage until you have leaves that need to be raked. Will he get in the way occasionally? Yes. Will you wish that he’d go lay down somewhere out of the way sometimes? Then teach him courtesy, and a solid “down-stay”. Given time patience, and training, your dog will be no more annoying than your children.

One bit of counsel is necessary here, for the good of many. Do Not, please, purchase a vest or cape online or anywhere that says’ “Service Dog In Training” accessories or “Therapy Dog” identification, and attempt to take your dog into establishments that do not normally welcome dogs. This is becoming more and more common, and the practice is causing huge problems for those that actually need the assistance of a truly trained and certified Service Dog. Trained Service dogs do not jump up on people, attempt to steal food in restaurants, bark or lunge at passersby, or urinate/defecate inside. Yet, this is being seen more frequently than ever before. There are professional organizations that provide and train specifically selected dogs for these needs, for people that need them. Nine out of ten “dog-trainers” are not even qualified to train true Service dogs adequately, and even fewer, to train the human part of the team. A new title being bandied about is “Emotional Support Dog.” A title and need that I fully support as vital. But these do not constitute a Service Dog as described by ADA standards. Carrying a chihuahua into a restaurant in your over-the- shoulder bag is not a Support dog. Walking an eighty pound Malamute into any store because you believe he is trustworthy is both foolish and illegal. Be responsible please. Tragedies have happened, and will continue to happen, if every dog owner takes unnecessary risks like this. Access to public places will be severely curtailed for legitimate users of Service dogs, and that is truly tragic. I understand that this may anger some, but I make no apologies. Currently, there are very few written laws regarding this issue. Many are held up in the halls of the lawmakers, waiting to figure out how someone can make money off the law. This needs attention.
There certainly are places where pet dogs are welcome! Many Building Supply stores such as Lowes, or Home Depot, Rural King, and others welcome well-behaved dogs. Take the opportunity to visit them with your puppy on-leash, and enjoy the socialization and the attention. But use common sense. Not everyone in the public will provide a positive experience for your puppy. Closely monitor how people, especially young children, approach the puppy, and don’t allow anyone to give the puppy treats.


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