from Chapter 2: The Magic Touch
The Old Way
For many years, I followed the long line principle. I put a six-foot cotton training lead on the dog and pulled him and called him and pulled him and called him, until I felt he understood what I wanted. Then I would take the lead off the dog and using an enclosed area somewhere, I would chase the dog to his owner. This eventually worked but it took a long time, usually four or five weeks, and even then I was never truly certain that it would work 100 percent of the time. But I was certain of keeping my weight down because I burned a lot of calories chasing dogs.
Even though chasing the dog to his owner without a leash was a new twist on an old technique, and worked, it was still limited, it still took too long, and in my mind, I wasn't 100 percent certain of having the control that I wanted over the dog with this behavior.
All this racing around, chasing, pulling, and complicated, involved, primitive form of teaching used to drive me up a wall, because I knew dogs were smarter than all this archaic teaching implied. The lack was in these traditional teachings, not in the dog. There had to be a simpler, faster, and more direct way to communicate this all-important command. After all, the mother dog teaches this quickly and permanently to her puppies without all this sweat and effort.
The Accidental Discovery
One day I was walking my dog Plum in Central Park. He was a puppy then and not yet the famous dog he was to become later. I let him free so he could run around and get some exercise. When I wanted to leave the park I called him to me. He looked at me, wagged his tail, and smiled as if to say, "No way." Turning around he bounced and bounded in any direction he pleased, doing whatever he felt like doing, as long as he didn't have to come to me. I chased him, I called after him, "Plum, come here! No! Sit, stay!!!" And of course he couldn't have cared less. He did whatever he wanted to do. He was free, he was faster than me, and he was in charge.
Out of frustration and now fearful of losing my dog, I threw my leash at him, and to my surprise, it hit him. It also surprised him, and he stopped in his tracks. He then smelled the leash, and looked at me. Again to my surprise, he came back to me. I was so relieved to get him back that I didn't think too much about the mechanics of what had just happened. I put his lead back on and we went home.
While walking home, I went over the episode in my mind. He was running, I threw the lead, he stopped, he smelled the lead and came back to me. The lead had become an extension of me, and he had immediately listened to that extension. It was as if I had reached out across a long distance to tap him on the shoulder and say, "Hey, Plum, remember me? Come over here." I was amazed at how simply and how quickly it had worked, this magic long-distance touch.
It's hard to believe that this simple, accidental toss of Plum's leash became the key that would unlock a door that allowed me in a flash to move from the past into a future that had unlimited possibilities in all dimensions of training and behavior. The change was total. It was revolutionary. This toss was the catalyst for how all of my training would evolve to this very day.
I had been looking for this answer, and Plum, with the help of Mother Nature, had given it to me.
Reached at a Distance Anytime and from Anywhere
Imagine this. You open the window to let in some air. Along with the air, a strange-looking two-foot being with large eyes and one large forefinger floats into your living room. Staring at you, he comes to rest about three feet off the floor, nose to nose with you. Are you nervous? Are you frightened? Are you angry? Are you annoyed? Or are you just plain curious? This creature then floats backwards a few feet, points a long finger at you, and you start to levitate. You're now suspended in space, a little frightened and nervous. You could possibly even be pants-wetting nervous. He moves you around a bit and then places you back on the floor. He asks you in a very nice way to come over to him. Do you listen to him? Or do you stamp your foot on the floor and obstinately tell him, "No, I won't." We think you will do as he asked. We know we would. We think you will listen to him not only because he's doing things that you can't understand, but he is asserting a power that you can't even believe exists. It's mindboggling to you.
When you learn how to use our throwing technique to show your dog how powerful you are, that you can reach him and touch him from anywhere and at anytime, it will have the same affect on him as the strange-looking two-foot being had on you. Your dog will listen. He might even be pants-wetting nervous at first, but he will listen. And listen perfectly, as if you truly were a respected parent. We don't know if you would love and trust the alien; we do know your dog will still love and trust you.
When the throwing technique teaches your dog to come to you, you are not simply teaching a solitary command. That's old thinking and old doings. The magic touch changes everything forever in the way you and your dog look and act toward one another. In this one swift move you will dramatically change forever your standing in the eyes of your dog. Why?
Two different species of animal are coexisting in your environment. Your dog and a strange-looking being, you. One of you is going to have to adapt to the other's lifestyle. One of you must become the dominant species. Right now your dog feels that he is, and this is with good reason. His sense of smell is better than yours, his sight and hearing are better than yours, he can run faster and jump higher than you. So why should he listen to you? Why should he be the one to adapt? You can show him your bank account or your new car, but he won't be impressed. What can you do to so impress your dog that he will hand the reins of dominance back to you?
Because your dog is not a primate, he has no idea how to throw or what a throw is and how you were able to accomplish this incredible feat. He is not physically able to throw an object; he's not built that way. If he were a primate, he would imitate you and throw the object back at you, probably with a better aim and much harder.
The throwing technique is a very powerful tool when used properly. In your dog's eyes you will become his total security blanket. You will be able to get his attention and teach him anything. Your dog will look to you for direction at all times and without a question. He won't play the come-and-catch me-if-you-can game anymore. Because now your reach extends beyond your fingertips. And far beyond the length of any leash. It's like tapping him on the shoulder from twenty feet away and reminding him to pay attention to you and to come to you if that's what you want. He will never understand your magic, he will just listen to it.
You will notice that when you toss an object at him, first he will look at it, then he will smell it. He will try to identify the object and how it got there. Since he knows your smell he knows you were the source of the thrown object. He will come to you. This will give you total control over your dog.
Here are a few helpful pointers to keep in mind; they are essential elements.
1. Use positive reinforcement. Means first your dog does what you want him to do, then you reward him by praising him. He should want to learn from you because he knows he is secure with you, he can trust you, and that by doing the right things for you, he makes you happy, and therefore you will make him happy. Then you can give him the whole wide world. Remember, any animal will mistake kindness for weakness and will look to take advantage of it. So only be a pushover and a softy when your dog listens to you.
2. Never use the word "no" as a punishment. If you claim to train your dog with positive reinforcement, why do you say "no" every time you talk to your dog? "No" happens to be a negative term.
Many dog trainers and dog owners claim to train their dogs with positive reinforcement. But they use the word "no" as frequently as they breathe. It seems to be another one of those all-encompassing, for every situation words that's supposed to solve any and all problems. It doesn't. You might as well name your dog "No," since it's said more frequently than his name.
"No" is so frequently misused in training that it actually will confuse a dog. But no matter how you say it, it's a negative term, and it's negative reinforcement, so don't use it.
Never use the word "no" when you are physically reprimanding your dog. For example, if you have to slap or shake your dog as a disciplinary measure when he does something wrong, don't also use the word "no." If you do, it then becomes a double negative and will be very confusing to him. It could work against what you are trying to teach him. Guaranteed your dog won't get the message you're trying to send to him. You're much better off using a sentence. "Don't do that again!" or "Stop it this instant!" or whatever you feel comfortable saying after you discipline your dog.
Showing your displeasure this way gives you a more natural body language and emphasizes that you are not happy much more effectively than the word "no."
3. Never call your dog to punish him. If your dog has done something wrong -- soiled your rug, chewed up your favorite shoes, or only destroyed the left leg of that beautiful old chair you found at a flea market -- wait until all those pictures in your mind of what you would like to do to him fade away. Calm down. Then go and get your dog; without saying a word to him, quietly bring him over to the scene of the crime, then show him you're not pleased. Never, never call him over to his dirty deed and then punish him, because you'll find that it will be the last time your dog will probably ever come to you. He will think that to call him means he will be punished.
4. When first teaching your dog to come to you by throwing, don't wave objects around in the air as if they were toys and don't try to teach your dog to retrieve at the same time. Keep whatever the object is, whether it's a slipper, a magazine, or a pair of socks, either under your arm or somewhere nearby. To brandish something in your hand when calling your dog, especially when first teaching your dog to come to you with this throwing method, would be like holding up an ax to me and then asking me to come over to you. I wouldn't. But once your dog does learn to come to you, and that shouldn't take more than an hour at the most, then anything you have in your hand after that won't bother him at all.
Don't try to teach your dog, especially a puppy, to retrieve or to fetch until you teach him to come to you. If you do it will certainly confuse your dog and our training method could be compromised.
5. To bribe or not to bribe. Don't offer your dog a bribe in the form of a food treat when asking him to come to you. Bad habits are learned much faster then good ones, even with humans. Dogs are very smart and learn very quickly to hold out for bigger and better bribes. You must make sure your dog listens to you first and then show him how grateful you are. Hey, you can spoil him rotten when he listens. We do.
6. Call your dog once; don't repeat yourself. When you call your dog to you, you should call him just once, not two times, not three times. Don't repeat yourself. If you repeat his name or what you want him to do, for example, "Max, Max, come here, come here, come here," the imprint might read in the dog's mind that he should come to you only if you say everything three times in succession and that his name is Max Max. The correct way to call him is just once and then make him do what you want.
7. Wait about ten seconds. You must hesitate for ten seconds after asking your dog to come to you. It will take your dog between six and ten seconds to get your message, think about it, and then to do what you asked him. For example: "Max, come over here." Give him about ten seconds to respond. This will be true for anything you teach your dog.
If you look at the second hand on your watch after you ask your dog to do something for you, you'll see that he will respond within six to ten seconds. Assuming that he has been taught the behavior that you are asking him to do.
8. Call your dog in your own way; don't use one-word commands. You don't have to create a separate, single-word, simple, incomplete-sentence language for him. Most dog books, dog trainers and dog experts will tell you to use one-word commands when training your dog. Their reasoning is that the dog will not be able to understand more than that. But then, why repeat the one word over and over again? "Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit." Sounds like a one-word sentence to us.
You went to school, you learned how to speak in sentences; you learned how to use grammar properly, so use it. Teach your dog from the very beginning to understand you the way you are. He can learn more and much faster if you teach him English the way you learned it.
When you're talking on the telephone, or to your friends, or with your family, anytime you are in a social situation, your dog will be listening and he will be part of the gang because he's part of your life and language now. Unless you communicate in your world with a language consisting of one-word, simple, incomplete sentences, well, in that case you should teach your dog that other language.
To clarify what we mean, Edgar Rice Burroughs's character, Tarzan, spoke this way when he was with Jane. "Me, Tarzan, you, Jane. Jane, see, Simba?" So, if you feel you're a Tarzan, then you can express yourself to your dog in Tarzan's language. "Me, Tarzan, you, dog, come, sit, stay, no."
We like to say, "Come over here" if we want our dogs to come to us, or "Let's go," or even "Come on," if we want our dogs to come with us. Whatever we want our dogs to do, we will ask them in a language that we were taught, English, and use it as correctly as we can.
You might also want to gesture with your hand for him to come to you or with you. All of this is okay because you must teach your dog to listen to you in the way you feel most comfortable and natural. Then your dog can learn from the real you.
9. You must be stationary when calling your dog to you. It's very important to be clear and direct when communicating with your dog. When you want your dog to come to you, you must be stationary and let him come to you. If you are moving when you call him to you, then he can't come to you, he can only come with you. Make sure that when you are first teaching your dog to come to you, you don't move around. It might sound silly to you, but it can be very confusing to your dog.
10. Always take him by his collar first. If your dog comes almost to you, then he really doesn't come to you at all. Your dog is the expert on body language and knows very well the length of your arm. He is always able to stay just out of your reach when you want him to come to you. To prevent this from happening, you must always hold him by his collar first before you tell him how good he is. This teaches your dog to come all-l-l-l the way to you. All the time.
Plum was trained not to go to people and not to let people touch him unless I said it was okay. So, he always stayed just out of everyone's reach. If anybody came over to touch him, Plum would move away from them, ever so slightly, just far enough away so that the person trying to pet him couldn't touch him, and didn't realize that Plum was moving, just out of reach. The person would literally lose his balance and fall down. I guess you could say that people always fell for Plum.
Copyright © 1997 by Paul Loeb and Suzanne Hlavacek