Stillness as a Training Tool

Movement and noise draws attention, triggers the chase, speeds the come, escalates the interaction, adds to mouthiness, springs to jumping, builds excitement and indicates frustration.ReggiebrowncoatDec32014 004a

Stillness and silence creates a pause, slows all action, ends the interaction, stops the noise, starts the sniffing, leads to calmness and indicates quitting.Outside Winter 2007 041

But a body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest. So when trying to be a good trainer there is a challenge of inertia. Gaining the understanding of when to change and being able to change from stillness to active and back again is huge. Because our level of activity or inactivity drives the process.

When is stillness particularly valuable?

  • Anytime the dog/pup is pushing for unwanted/undesirable action/attention  – pulling on leash, rushing door/gate, charging at visitors/kids/you, vocalizing for release, jumping up, demanding petting, playing too rough – puppy biting, pawing … and when you want the dog to be still.

Often times people meet action with action, with poor results.

The answer (if you are the  keeper of reward or focus) is to freeze, stop, wait until the dog’s action stops. Start moving only as long as the prior undesirable thing doesn’t re-occur. This requires patience and a long term perspective. But the advantage is these common problems will not be problems for long.

*If a dog comes running at you, ruff up, barking or growling  or overexcited, and you’re not wearing a bite suit, stand still, look to the side and be quiet. This is a very powerful pose, one of unconcern, one where movement isn’t helping the charging dog’s prey drive.

If you want to bite train and you are wearing a bite suit (or if you feel daring like many kids do), run/move and wave your arms.

*If you want to teach loose leash walking, stop walking if the leash is not loose.

If you want to teach a dog to pull, add some resistance to the leash and keep walking. Resist a little  more but let them pull you to the spot they wanted to sniff or pee.  Good job, you’ve accomplished teaching your dog to pull harder on the leash.

*If you want polite sit for greeting, wait for it. If your dog gets up as you start petting, stop, stand up and only resume when they sit again.

If you want more enthusiasm and jumping up, pet or push at them when they get excited. Voila, rowdy greeter.

When is stillness/silence of little use?

  1. When the one being still/silent is not the focus or keeper of access to the reward. So if you are not important in the process you won’t be effective in changing it.
  2. When the action desired, like come, is negatively affected by stillness. So if you want fast or more action, trying to train by being still is counterproductive (even if your final goal is being able to be still and having the dog respond).
  3. When it’s time to move on to add the distraction of movement.

Any time you successfully used stillness? Any time it wasn’t successful? Could you figure out why?




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