Previously I wrote about why I believe it is important to think of our requests to our dogs as cues rather than commands. The quick summary is that when you “command” your dog to do something and they fail, you will feel frustrated and that they are to blame. Whereas if you “cue” your dog and they don’t understand your cue, you will start to search for new ways to help your communication dreams come true.
When we communicate with our dogs we must respect that words are our language, not theirs. When we focus on teaching dogs our words only for the sake of giving commands, we miss out on a whole other world.
A Massive Storm
A few months ago, Miles and I went out after a tornado, and during a multiple day storm. I had never seen our favorite trail so badly off! Miles was a bit worried about the huge fallen trees, and was confused by all of the safety fences. I was able to help him navigate the trail with a few cues. I never trained him to use these cues on trails — in fact they are cues that I originally taught him in completely different contexts (and my At Home Exercise For Terriers students might recognize a few of them!).
Because our relationship is built on collaboration and trust, my human words have conceptual meanings to Miles that extend beyond situational “demands” that aim to suit MY needs. They make sense to Miles and are a part of our collaborative relationship. We help each other.
Above video: Miles was unsure about a fence where there was no way for him to go around it. I said “under” and pointed where there was a gap just big enough for him, and he tried to go under it, trusting that I wouldn’t tell him it was possible if I thought he’d get hurt or get tangled.
Above video: Miles was unsure about a fence where he didn’t see a way to go around it. I said “out, around!” and pointed where there was is a gap on the side of the fence against a pine tree – which wasn’t obvious from doggie perspective. Miles headed out in that direction and then wrapped around the fence, trusting that I’d found a safe exit.
Above video: Miles was unsure about a big (the video doesn’t show how massive it was!) slippery fallen tree. There was not enough space under it for him to crawl and he wasn’t giving himself enough room to gain the necessary momentum for take off. I would guess Miles was coming too close because he wasn’t sure what was on the other side! I walked close to the log, said “out, go” to tell him to go out further away from the log, then I asked him to “stay” so I could get out of his way, then I said “ok! come!” so he’d be able to clear the log without falling short or slipping. Miles was able to hop the log easily and safely and trusted my multiple cues.
I couldn’t have felt warmer in the storm.
I truly do not believe Miles would understand my “words” at this level if he was just following orders. The words I’ve taught him have meaning to him that extend beyond demands that just suit MY needs. The words I communicate to Miles are a part of our relationship and life together. He understands what I am saying and trusts me due to our history of collaboration and trust.
Thank you for braving the rain, wind, and cold with me, little Miles. ❤️
PS in Miles’ defense he is very savvy at most trail impediments all on his own! And he often shows me easier ways, too…
Looking forward to a tv show highlighting Miles and you!!! You are both amazing.
You are too sweet Judy, thank you!
Wow – that is quite a lot of destruction! I very much enjoyed all the video examples and explanations. Miles is so clever, but it’s so beautiful to see the trusting relationship you two have built and that he can follow your cues even if they’re new to this context. And he looks adorable a little wet 🙂
Isn’t it? The woods is a lot less dense now. Thank you for your thoughtful look at the post! I agree about his fur looking cute a bit wet.. Why can’t we look that cute in the rain! Hehe! My Celtic side really shines in the rain 😉
You and Miles are an awesome team! Thank you for your tips!
Sailor is doing great. We miss you in the neighbourhood!
Thank you Marilyn! I didn’t want to leave, at all! We miss you as well! 🙁
Only here to say I adore you and miss you and now the border is open so you want to get together?
You can meet the newest addition to the pack!! – Possum!!
It would be great to see you and the little mini addition!!!
A wonderful example of what our dogs can learn but also what they can teach us. Thank you Emma, as always , for leading the way to better communication and trust with our trusty and trusting companions
Thank you for saying this Sue, it is exactly what I wanted to express!
OMG what a wicked storm! I hope the woodland animals were sheltering safe. Miles looks so confident and calm listening to your cues.. he really and truly has the most phenomenal, trusting relationship with you! It’s a joy to watch! Thanks for the lovely vids! All our best to you from me and Sally❤️❤️❤️❤️
The most devastating storm for the animals sadly was last years heat dome. I think it contributed to the fragility of the woods when the tornado hit! I am so happy you enjoyed the post!