I have a really nice dog I’m working that has an issue of reacting without thinking … which can get him (and me :@) in a lot of trouble.
He’s not a hard dog nor one that has no desire to please – His “problem” is he just wants to “go” so the second he hears a command he reacts to what he *assumed* I said. He’s ready to “engage” the moment any word comes out of my mouth … and of course, because he didn’t actually hear what I said – it’s wrong a lot of the time.
So, it’s my job to help him learn how to listen and then respond not the other way around.
How I accomplish this is whenever he’s wrong I stop him and make him WAIT. I don’t just let him try to correct himself without stopping, thinking and adjusting himself.
Let’s use the example of him taking a wrong flank.
Lets say I give him a flank and he goes the wrong way. I tell him to lie down … but, if he lies down for a “split second” – and I let him spin around and go the other direction … he might then be going the correct direction BUT the “wrong direction” was NOT the REAL problem. The reason he made the mistake was because he reacted instead of thinking. So, just correcting the “way” he’s going is not going to fix the problem. He knows his flanks so that’s not why he’s getting it wrong.
I need to work on making every move he makes “slow, methodical and thoughtful”. By making him slow down and THINK before he moves … I’m working on his mind. I need him to relax enough that he can actually HEAR what I said instead of moving because he heard “something”.
I repeat the lie down softly and quietly. At first he would “twitch” every time he heard the words. If he got up I said “lie down” in a firmer voice … then the soft lie down. I wouldn’t let him move until he was calmly lying there LISTENING for the next command.
One other thing that intensifies his reactionary nature is losing his sheep. He’s always trying to get in a position where he feels in control … I need to teach him that speed is not the only method to control sheep. Showing him that no matter where he is if he will slow down (and stop trying to do everything at “mach one”) he can still control his sheep. So, I set it up (in a controlled environment) so his sheep get away every once in a while. Then we wait until he relaxes before I allow him to go retrieve them.
Again, I don’t let him just RUN … he has to go out with thought and purpose. Physical movement without thought isn’t useful to dog or person.