Ignoring Your Dog and Knowing When

The picture was taken recently in a consultation with a German Shepherd cross hound.

whentoignoreyourdog
What you're seeing is the husband of a couple ignoring the best efforts of his dog to get his attention! Isn't he doing well?!

Notice a few things:
1) The toy near the dog that was used as an early effort to get people's attention.
2) The lead on the dog to aid a quick control if needed (and it was a number of times in the first hour or more!)
3) The perfect ignore by a determined client!

Is this really necessary with most dogs? Well, the short answer is no. The work and dogs I'm involved with is at the more complicated end of dog behaviour. This dog had worked itself into a stressful state based on a cycle of attention seeking that was being rewarded by attention from the owner. By use of the ignore the dog shown had settled from being somewhat 'mad' to becoming settled and more focused in a relatively short time.

I cannot emphasise enough that the behaviour you mark with attention (even negative attention can mark it) will reinforce the behaviour and you're likely to see more of it. Simple.

The difficulty comes with the fact that we as humans do not ignore, and dogs understand and respond to it far better than we can. You won't hurt your dog's feeling if you ignore it :)

I'm talking about selective ignoring of unwanted behaviours. Some of course cannot be ignored, and we may need to intervene in a calm way free from aggressive intent.

I also advocate the ignore upon homecomings. This is nothing to do with wolf behaviour (I know little about wolves...I work with dogs and humans) as I know it; it's just a simple case of waiting for the behaviour we do want, and to mark that behaviour in a calm way.

There you are. A few thoughts on what I felt was super picture that says more words than I can write here.

Sincere thanks to the gent in the picture.

Nick Jones MA, MCFBA

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