Concepts are the starting point and the basis for a dog to make a decision, good or bad. There are 12 main concepts that we look to grow in our dogs that great well behaved and balanced dogs.
- The first is Optimism. An optimistic dog will think that everything is good, respond positively and have a really good outlook on life. Anytime they come across something novel, they will think its cool and not react. The opposite can be said about pessimist dogs, as often they have a lack of confidence, react to novelty and are more difficult to train. Children especially can be very novel to our dogs, these tiny people walking on all 4s making weird noises are very confusing for dogs and if a pessimist dog hasn't seen one before, they can react. Pessimism in dogs is a natural instinct, in the wild they needed to be wary of strange noises and movement in case there were predators. Now that dogs are kept as pets, they are slowly becoming more optimistic animals.
Luckily, we can change a dog from pessimist to optimist and also increase optimism in a dog.
- The next concept is Generalisation. This means that a dog will do they same thing where ever they are when asked, or react in the same way to similar circumstances in different surroundings. For example, we want our dogs to be able to come back to us when asked, not just in the house, but also away from other dogs and people in the park.
Generalisation without optimism isnt always a good thing though. If a dog is scared of another dog, say a black and tanned poodle that once barked in his face, a good generaliser would then be scared of all black and tanned dogs in all areas. However, if a bad generaliser had the same experience, then they could only be scared of that specific black and tanned poodle, in the same place in the park at the same time of day.
- Next we have Arousal. Arousal is and inherent personality trait, however we can still harness our dogs arousal. Ideally, we would like to train our dogs arousal to become like a well used light switch, easy to switch from high arousal to low arousal. As mentioned previously, high arousal + anxiety = fear response, and this is something that we would like to avoid!
- Tolerance of Frustration is often a difficult concept for young puppies to learn, they often can't understand why they cant have what they want when they want it. Luckily, dogs are hard workers, and when something doesn't happen that they have worked for, they will work harder to get that reward! Frustration can also cause a reaction, such as when a dog wants to see another dog but can't due to being on the lead, a reaction can happen that will look exactly like a fear response.
- Flexibility is a very important concept when it comes to training behaviours in our dogs. Flexibility is what allows our dogs to learn new things or try new behaviours that are different from something they have done in that environment before.
- Focus is quite self explanatory, where is your dogs attention? Is it out the window? Watching everyone and every dog while on walks? Running away when ever getting the chance? Ignoring Cues? We want owner focus! And theres plenty games for that.
- Impulse Control varies between dogs, whether it be chasing a squirrel, spinning, stealing food or simply barking. Some dogs can control their impulses whereas others act on a whim. With games, we can make it so our dogs can think before acting!
- Susceptibility to Reward is a must for game based dog training! This ensures your dog will work for more than just food, more than just play or even more than something that they find a desirable behaviour!
- Proximity is one of our most important concepts. We want our dog to want to be close to us, whether on or off leash, and we want them to value that proximity!
- Independance is the ability for your dog to think for themselves and act on their own accord (within reason) or be left alone without any problems.
- Resilience is the ability to bounce back even after setbacks.
- GRIT - Determination to reach a goal despite distractions....GRRRR!
Now think about your dog, which concepts do you think they could improve on?