Lately it seems my best teachers are small humans younger than three years of age, four-legged pups, and expert dog trainers.
As we work to help Gracie-the-chocolate-labradoodle become her best and happiest doggie self, we are leaning on the wisdom of one Matt Luchinger, owner and trainer extraordinaire of NWB Dogs (North West Balanced Dog Training). He has a basic principle that not only applies to dogs, but could help us become our best and happiest human selves too...
Only say it ONCE.
When working with Gracie, and teaching her to respond to our commands, Matt is very clear on ONE point. Only say the command ONE time. For example, if asking her to “Sit”, we are to say the command word once, and then wait for her to respond by, well, sitting. There are several steps leading up to helping her recognize the word, and what is expected of her, but once it is clear that she understands what we are asking of her (which she does), when we repeat the word multiple times, we are training her that we don’t really mean what we say. That she can take her own sweet time and sit when she is good and ready. Not what we are after. Allowing her to ignore our request is setting her up for behaviorial issues, and potential risk of harm down the road. If that happens, Gracie is not the one responsible. That outcome lies squarely at our feet. We are the ones who have trained her not to take us seriously by giving her a mixed message, and if we could read her little doggie thought bubble, it would probably say, “Do they really mean it or not?”
The same can be said in our human interactions and relationships. When we develop the skills to say what we mean, and demonstrate that we mean what we say, everyone will be better served. When we have to repeat ourselves multiple times in order for get people to take us seriously, it might not be on them. Maybe we’ve been giving them a mixed message, and if we could read their little thought bubble, it would probably say “Do they really mean it, or not?”