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This week’s Tail was written by Jelly, with a little help from her favorite handler, Lori Schneider. Jelly wants to explain how important it is for you to give your dog a job. No dog wants to be, “just a pet.” As the human, it’s your responsibility to find the job your dog is best suited for.

— April 16, 2013 —

JELLY BARKS OUT ON “SAY WHAT YOU MEAN,
MEAN WHAT YOU SAY,” and do it with authority.
by Jelly (with a little help from her favorite handler, Lori Schneider)

Hey everyone, this week’s Tuesday’s Tail is coming from me, Jelly a 2.5 year old Rottweiler girl who found my forever home one year ago with Daniel McElroy and Amy Kelley. For those of you who are regular Bark Avenue Playcare (BAP) customers, you have undoubtedly seen me in my gatekeeper position eager to greet and take treats from training, daycare, boarding, and grooming customers. This is a busy place, and I have many friends here and well, you might say my eagerness for treats has added a few pounds to my girlish figure. Hey, I want to keep the customers happy!

You might have read about me in last week’s Tuesday’s Tail when my Dad wrote about my therapy dog training and the difference between humans handling dogs versus dogs handling humans. I love to speak so I’m barking out the canine perspective on the subject of handling.

From my front desk location at BAP, I get to witness my Dad’s training with dogs and their handlers and often times I play a role in his training exercises. This is a lot of fun and why? A. I am learning. B. The reward for showing my understanding of commands is praise and more treats. Sure, I love treats but along with all my other canine friends, we love to learn and receive high fives and hugs from our human handler for our accomplishments. Having a great human handler is pawsome but the alternative is frustrating as it denies us of achievement. Let me ask you, would you like to go through your entire life without any personal achievement? Of course not! So now that I am convincing you of becoming a great human handler let’s go over a few things. We canines get confused when handlers want us to do one thing yet their direction is different from what they mean. Think of it this way. If someone asked you to get them a cup of coffee and when you came back with the coffee, they say “I didn’t want a whole cup of coffee, I just wanted a half cup,” obviously, the direction for what they actually wanted was unclear. In the canine world, clear direction is a key element to our consistently following the commands of our handlers. When I attended the Canine Therapy Corps (CTC) practice and test sessions this last March, I saw some great dogs taking the test. They all had the potential to pass like me but their human handler’s direction confused them. Some dogs received multiple commands for the same exercise. Yikes! As an example, my understanding of the “heel” command is to walk together with my handler on their left side. This begins when I receive the “heel” command while my handler is stepping forward with their left foot. I stop when the handler stops and wait for the “heel” command to begin walking again. If my handler said “heel” and then changed my command to “come” but meant “heel,” and then added in “let’s go,” I would start doing my own thing and in fact become the human handler. We really need our humans to be consistent with saying what they mean.

Once your commands are consistent, say what you mean with authority. Dogs have a pack leader mentality, therefore we’re smart enough to know when a human has leadership mentality. Of course, my Dad as a trainer has leadership mentality and I am never confused about when he is commanding me to do something. This is for the simple reason that he starts every command with my name. “Jelly sit” versus “sit” gives me great clarity that he wants something from me. It also creates urgency in me to respond so I can receive his praise. When I took the Canine Therapy Corps test, there were nine dogs and many handlers gave their dogs commands without addressing them by name. While waiting my turn, my ears perked up when I heard a handler say “sit” but which one of us should sit? Was the handler talking to all nine of us? Unfortunately, the dog that was testing did not experience human leadership and possessed confusion about who should sit therefore the response was no response.

Training is hard work but once we reach our potential, it makes us happy and confident dogs. Not every dog at the CTC test had a raised head and lifted tail like me revealing confidence in my handler and myself. Unfortunately, some handlers expressed how they were there just to have fun with their dogs. Mixing playtime with work is confusing to us. If you want to have fun with us, take us to the park, swimming or shopping for a new toy. If you believe in us as great working dogs that can be of service to others, then commit to being a great handler. Remember, saying what you mean and meaning what you say makes us a great dog team. Not all of my canine pals want to be couch potatoes. Some are scratchin’ for your leadership so give it to them! If they pass the CTC test too, it will open doors that are fun for both of you.

Hope to see you at Bark Avenue Playcare soon and don’t forget the treats! Woof!!!

THE END

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