Kathy Santo's Dog Sense Episode 3: My Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Dog's Training Right Now
Kathy and Sarah discuss Kathy's top ten ways to improve your dog's training!
Kathy: Welcome to Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense, “Episode Three: My Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Dog's Training Right Now.” I'm your host Kathy Santo, and I'm here to teach you everything I've learned in my over three decades of training dogs, their families, competing in dog sports, writing about dogs, and being a guest on radio and TV shows. I am so glad you joined us today,and I'm also joined by one of my trainers, Sarah, who is currently training dogs in Fort Collins, Colorado. Hey, Sarah!
Sarah: Hey, everyone!
Kathy: So today I'm so excited to talk about the top 10 ways to improve your dog's behavior right now. And I know that you implement all of these ways with your students out there in Colorado as well.
Sarah: Yes, absolutely.
Kathy: And so the first one is...I'm going to let you do it. I'll make a little drum roll.
Sarah: Perfect! So the first one's going to be your “Release Cue.”
Kathy: And maybe people don't know what that is. The release cue is the recess bell. It tells your dog when they're done. And I see, and I know you do as well, so many people like ask their dog to do something. For example, sit, and the dog sits and they're, like, “Good dog!” And the dog just walks away like that.
Sarah: Yeah. Exactly.
Kathy: That can't happen. You have to tell the dog when I start and then you have to tell the dog when it's over. Alright, what's number two?
Sarah: Another thing just from the release cue is also to make sure that you're consistent with what words you're using when releasing your dog, and that goes across the board with the whole family as well. You got to pick one word and that's your release cue.
Kathy: Yeah, because it can't be, “Okay!” And the other one's, like, “You're done dude.” And then the other one is, “Break!” Like, it can’t. If you have people in your life training your dog with you, you need to have a meeting, you need to post something on the fridge and it says, “These are the words we're using.” Stop confusing your puppies and dogs by using every word in the dictionary instead of just one consistent word.
Sarah: Yup! Alright, so next up we have “Working In Different Environments.”
Kathy: Yes, because just because your dog can sit when you're in the kitchen facing north, holding a cheese stick does not mean they're going to sit outside. And yet, we hear this all the time, people are, like, “Ah! There was a squirrel and it was running in the yard and I told him to sit and he didn't and he knows better and he's just blowing me off!” No, your dog is reflection of you as a trainer and that's not to make you feel guilty or start heavily drinking. It's just to explain to you that your dog only knows what you've taught them.
Kathy: So if you were teaching this in a quiet environment, there's no transfer initially. Dogs don’t generalize like you want them to, or like people do. You can't sit them down on a rock and say, “Dude, look. Whenever I say sit, no matter what else is going on, you have to do it right.” I mean, like, I wish I could. We're working on that. We’re working on that.
Sarah: You're working on an app for that right?
Kathy: I am! There's going to be an app for that, but for right now, you got to dig in and do old fashion work. You've got to put the dog in multiple situations and teach them that the sit in the kitchen means the same thing as I sit in the yard with the squirrel and beyond.
Sarah: Exactly. So one way to get that is to then, so the next thing we have, is leverage what they want into training.
Kathy: Ooh, you do that one. This reminds me of episode two when we talked about “No Bowl Month”. Remember that?
Sarah: Yes. Okay.
Kathy: I think we just lost...
Sarah: I was distracted by one of my dogs.
Kathy: Oh, no!
Sarah: Yeah! So all the time. What? I mean all the time I used my dog's food, their breakfast or dinner or, if you have a cup of their lunch as well, to train them. Use that and use it in your training to help build your relationship as well, which we talked about in that episode.
Kathy: Right. Then when they see you as the person who owns everything and they have a working relationship with you, like, “Hey, what if I do this?” And you're, like, “Hey, and then I'll give you this.” And, and people get inky about this Sarah and you know, from your students, they're, like, “I don't want to have to train with food forever!”
Kathy: And you won't, I promise.
Sarah: We hear it all the time.
Kathy: Yeah, exactly. But for the time being in the beginning or when you're trying to get past an issue, this is what you need to do.
Sarah: Exactly. We can fade out the food later on, at the later date. But right now you need you to have to be able to pay them.
Kathy: Exactly. Alright. Now number four, “Be Consistent With Commands,” which we talked about and “Expectations.” So I feel that people, they watered down the training because the situation is chaotic. So, for example, if somebody comes in your house, your dog knows how to sit and you say sit and instead of saying they lay down and you're just like, oh, it's fine. Here's a cookie. You did something right.
Kathy: Yeah. We need to make sure that it means the same thing. And your criteria or expectation is the same every single time.
Sarah: Yup. And also, for another big one that we see a lot is for the place command. The place command means all four paws are on whatever you pointed to. Whether it's a place bed, a towel, a rock when you're out hiking, a bench at the park place means all four paws stay on your place bed that if one part comes off that's not place. And a lot of times that's the one that I see a lot that gets watered down.
Kathy: Right! People are like, “Oh, they still have three on.” Yeah, but tomorrow to be two.
Kathy: And then it will be just one. Then they'll just be near it and you're, like, “I don't know...they used to know this now that just blow me off.”
Sarah: Exactly. So yeah, if you yeah, if the expectations aren't clear the entire time the dog was going to get confused and at that point it's not their fault. It's the, it's the trainer or the handler/owner's fault.
Kathy: If we had a nest cam on people all the time, we’d cry about, but we would be able to point out these situations and explain to them better how to fix it. Alright, next. Ooh, I love this one! Plan and set the stage for your training session. So many people get inspired to train and they're, like, “Yes, I'm going to train the dog.” And they get the leash and the dog and the food and they're, like, “Wait, okay, where's my other leash? Okay, wait, oh, I need a toy. Oh, what am I going to do today?” And they waste, like, 20-30 minutes trying to figure out what they're gonna do. And now the dog is tired, and bored, and it just falls apart. So for me, I have a plan. And the reason I have a plan is because I write down every single thing that I do in training sessions. And no, it doesn't take me a long time. Brevity is a gift. It takes me, like, a minute to write down, “sit: terrible, work on it more. Down: Awesome. Next step is ready.” So it's like my little shorthand. So I pull out my notebook before my dog is with me. He's crated, he's gated, he's somewhere, but not with me. I say, “Ooh, today I'm going to work on doorway protocol and I'm going to do it in 10 minutes when I know the kid across the street walks his annoying dog on the front line, uh, and my dog's thinks that's really interesting.” So it's my distraction. And then I get my food, I get my dog, I make sure that the dog is really outside across the street. And then I start my session, and I also time it. I time sessions because I would train for hours.
Kathy: I had cut myself off, but I like my students to set a timer, because I want them to train the five minutes or the 10 minutes that we decided to do, so that they don't cheat and cut corners.
Sarah: Right. And your training session doesn't need to be an hour long.
Kathy: No. I mean, I wish it was.
Sarah: We would love to train for hours on end. Then it comes to a point where they're not learning anymore.
Kathy: Right. And you just sort of digging away at the progress you made. But that's why we have multiple dogs, Sarah, because we love to train and so we just go from one dog to the next dog. So we’re dog trainers. Oh, wait! And also setting the stage. I like to train in the bathroom with young puppies and dogs that are really distracted. Um, I have many videos of me sitting in a bathroom where the toilet papers off the role, the shower curtain is pulled, the mats off the floor and the window shade is pulled down. And by default, I am the most interesting thing in that room and I get a lot more engagement that way. And that's how I spent a lot of the early days with all of my new dogs and some clients dogs to just building that relationship.
Sarah: Yeah. That can be for puppies, or dogs, who are brand new to you, or do you, or if you’re working on engagement and attention. That's a great, that's a great stage to do it in.
Kathy: Because you set them up for success
Kathy: And you set yourself up to be the best thing ever. Ooh, I'm looking at number six, Sarah, and it's about “How Long Should The Training Sessions Be?” And we just talked about that.
Kathy: Five minutes. We love it.
Sarah: Yeah, so up next we have, so also, and this queues into exactly what we were just talking about, is “Know Your Dog.”
Kathy: Correct. Train the dog you have! Not the dog you wish you had, not the dog you used to have. Do you have a dog with a lot of endurance? A lot of engagement? Is he bored? Could he care less about, you know, the food that you have? I mean, you've got to stack the deck in your favor and you come into this with a hungry, lonely, and bored dog or puppy, and understand the needs of that dog to maximize every single second that you have with them. I also want to point out, though, that those sessions, if we say a 10 minute session, probably five of those minutes are are playing, you know it's like I do a of things, three or four reps and then “Woo!” tug toy and then we do a few more reps or something else and then I run away and say their name. So this is not just, like, sitting in math class, or whatever class you didn't like, where the teacher is just sort of drilling you. This is fun stuff, because in addition to learning commands, our dogs are learning to build the relationship with u. And as I always say, “The leash is not the relationship. The cookie is not the relationship.” What's going to save you when the dog gets out the house, or the yard, and he’s booking for the road. The only thing that saves you in that moment isn't the chicken mcnugget that you give him for training, it is how he feels about your relationship and what you have taught him is acceptable and where your criteria is for that come command. That's it. That's all you have. Just you.
Kathy: All right. So next “Control the Environment.” That's kind of our bathroom tip, right?
Sarah: Yeah, it really is. Yeah.
Kathy: Like, I'm not going to go train my dog in the middle of the living room when I have guests over or kids, you know, playing or outside in the yard when my neighbor's lawn people are there, I'm just not going to do it. I'm going to make sure that whatever level my dog is, he gets the environment he needs to succeed and grow. Not just stay at the level he's at, but go into the next level and advance.
Kathy: Alright, next we have “Training The People”. Oh, that takes longer
Sarah: When you get questions all the time. Like, you know, “Is this class, can we have this class with our kids, too?” Or, “Can our husbands come to this class?”
Kathy: Yeah. And we say that's a much longer class. Much, much longer. It's funny though, whenever I meet a new client and they bring their kids, I can always tell how well a dog training is going to go after spending an hour with them. Uh, yeah. So, yeah, you had to train the people in your life too. It's, if you're the only one training the dog and you're being consistent, yes, the dog will listen to you, but you could have saboteurs intentionally or accidentally retraining all the good stuff you're doing. So make sure everybody's on the same page. I will accept the answer of, “Well, I'm just not going to ask the dog to do anything from the people who live with you.” And that's fine by me. They don't want to participate. That's fine, but they can't use any of your commands that your training.
Sarah: Yeah. And also, I thought about what the, the game you used to play with your kids when they were little in the dog training.
Kathy: Yes. When they get there little baggies of food.
Kathy: Yeah. So when my kids were little, they come home from school and each of them got a little baggie and I called them “The Keys.” So if you had a key, meaning a piece of cookie, uh, dog cookie that is, you are allowed to say the dog's name. And so when they said the dog's name and the dog paid attention to them, they would throw them a cookie. And if they ran out of keys, they could just say, “puppy puppy.” And what that did was it maintained the dog’s intention or understanding of their name being something amazing that they got a lot of rewards for. And my kids were participating in the training and not undoing it. I train kids, too. Alright.
Sarah: I always use that trick. I love it. Okay, so the final thing we have is “Understanding Body Language.”
Kathy: Yes, because it's the native language of your dog. Imagine if you went to a different country and you didn't understand one little thing that everybody was saying. Well the problem is there's no communication now, right? So people are talking to dogs and they're, like, “Stop it. What are you doing? Blah, blah, blah.”, and the dogs are, like, “I don't get your language.” And they're telling you things like, “stay away,” or, “I'm afraid,” or “I'm unsure.” And you don't know their language either, so you're sort of blowing it, blowing by it and offending them and they're offending you, and it's just a hot mess. So what we want you to do is have a better understanding of what your dog is trying to tell you with their body, which is the native language of dogs. To do this, I created, well at the school, if you were in Jersey and you were in our classes, you would be able to come to a free body language seminar every single month. We do live dog demos, we do videos, we freeze videos, and we say, “Look at that, look at this. What do you think is going to happen next?” And most people are surprised when we freeze the video and they'd say what's going to happen next when we play the video, and something totally opposite happened. And so we feel that this education prevents fights and bites and also make your relationship stronger because who doesn't want to hang out with somebody who understands them? Right?
Sarah: Exactly. So huge. It's such like a big point that we have to get across to students is that they have to understand what their dog is telling them. Their dogs don't speak English, but they speak with their bodies. Like, they were always communicating with us. It's whether or not we understand them.
Kathy: Yeah. People are saying, people say to me, “Oh my dog's not doing anything,” and I'm like, “Oh, he is!”
Sarah: They are misinterpreting what they're saying. So you know that, they think it's funny when the dog is growling over them over a cookie on the ground or something and we're like, “Listen, this is going to progress to so much more than that.” They're, they're misinterpreting it too.
Kathy: It's like when people send us the Christmas cards and it's the kids and the dogs, or them and the dog and they're hugging or we just like, “Oh my God!” And so we wind up using them as instruction, like, “See this dog? Having a bad time, kids having a good time. Dog is having a bad time.”
Kathy: But to help you guys understand that what I've done is, I've taken that body language seminar that I give live and I'd made a Webinar. Now what I want to say, Sarah, and you know what I'm going to say, when I recorded this Webinar, I just did it for my students who know me and my level of sarcasm and snark...so...surprise! We're going to give it to you guys, but I want you to keep that in mind. I'm speaking to people who, we have a very familiar relationship with, so a little sassy just, you know, roll in it.
Sarah: Everyone needs to watch this, nevermind, your awesome commentary. It's just, it's so, it's so beneficial for everyone to be, to be learning this and then sharing it with your, if you have dogs in your family, share to every single family member, share to your neighbor, share it to everyone you know, so that they are also able to understand what, what they're seeing when they're looking at a dog.
Kathy: Absolutely. It's, it's really invaluable for everybody and we want everybody to learn from it, so we're making it available. All right, Sarah. Well, this I think was one of my favorite podcasts. I think this was, this is going to help a lot of people pretty quickly. And...
Sarah: We covered so much stuff!
Kathy: We did! And even if you just take one or two of these things and make that change to your life with your dog, uh, you're going to see a huge improvement. Alright, so that's it for this episode of Kathy Santo’s Dog Sense. Thank you, Sarah, for hanging out with me again. I'm reminding you guys to check out my “Canine Body Language Webinar,” and the link to that will be posted along with the podcast. Thank you so much for spending time with us, and I hope you'll join us again soon. If you do have any comments or show ideas, we’d love to hear them. So reach out to us through our website at kathysantodogtraining.com, And as always, if you like what you hear, jump on over to whatever subscription service you use to download this podcast from and like rate, subscribe, tell a friend, and share this episode somewhere to help spread the word so we can continue to create an awesome community of dog lovers and learners. Happy training everyone!