WHY the animal is NOT attentive to the trainer?

Author Baskina Sofya

Translator Maxim Moroz

хаски1) Animal is bored. Before you will be able to teach horse or dog something, you need to learn how to teach. You shall perfect your movements, try to synchronize the movements of hands and legs, at the same time giving a command. It takes time. On one training session I saw the dog owner with considerable difficulties in training. We released the dog “for a walk” (we were at the closed dog court), and started to repeat simultaneously the movements, that the owner should make while teaching her dog with “heel” command. On the fifth or sixth repetition, when the owner started to succeed, she found her dog near, and she did all, what was expected from her. Fixing this with promotion was very easy thing to make.

2) We set  a too difficult task, to which the animal is not ready. He tries to solve the task, but it is too complex. This results in a very long period while the animal gets no praise. He loses hope to solve the task and gives up. Behaviorally, this expressed as follows: the dog turns and walks away, with the nose lowered to the ground or looking into the distance; the horse starts to beg the treat insistently or even aggressively or also turns away.

3) The animal wants to get a promotion, even if this comes not from you. You demand from the animal to make some task solved (to make him understand and perform the required action). He loses hope to get a praise from you, but sees his congeners. He speaks the one language with them and for him it is much more simple to get a promotion — that’s why the dog runs to dogs and the horse — to horses. But we had no more than to break the task into sub-tasks, so the animal could easily cope with.

4) Our requirements are obvious — the animal understands that he must do something. But he don’t understands — what. He gets nervous and tends to pull back away. Dogs usually starts circling nearby, not approaching to the human’s hands, some rushes to lick us — like saying, I’m still a child, don’t touch me. And horses behave like all the gregarious ungulates in nature — when disturbed, they are looking for calmly grazing relatives and runs towards them (once they are calm, I will be calm there as well).

5) We failed to give him enough time to think. When we solve the task on the exam, we’ve got time to scratch our head, to tooth pens and drawing of scribbles. Animals, while trying to understand the skill, turns away, scratches, sniffs the ground, looks around. The horses makes a circle around her axis, lowers and raises her head, grabs the snow or grass with her lips. Wait! A minute later put the task to him again and wait again. Give the animal some time to think and he will make all as required. And if during the exam the teacher will stand behind you and will start to harass you to solve a task in less time, it is quite possible that you will lose all good thoughts about lesson (or about teacher, subject and yourself).

6) The unpredictable trainer makes the failure inevitable. But sometimes we may appear unpredictable for a dog very easily. This is because in the first training sessions we achieve the approach, and after 4-5 sessions we require from the animal to stay in stand or to walk away from us to the place. The unpredictability always makes animals very nervous. The unpredictability of the owner and environment leads to the most severe behavior problems of animals. When we are unpredictable, the animal immediately begins to yawn, stops to look at a face, he may try to escape and become aggressive to other dogs, or at least to go to a much more predictable relatives.

7) We are not giving the animal to make the decision. We are getting hurry and giving the animal ready solutions, simply forming a dog pose with hands or wearing a horse with additional rigging. We make such mistake most often when we want to accustom the animal for something frightful. And we demand him to come closer and closer every time. Actually we just beg him or pull forcibly. Sometimes it is enough to allow the animal to walk away from something frightful and to make an independent decision to approach only with one step and get a praise for it, and after that the animal solves this task completely. This is particularly applicable for dog training to pass the barriers and accustoming of horses to horse carriers, trimming machines, vacuum cleaners, etc. For the animal (and for us as well) only those things are valuable and unforgettable, that we decided to do ourselves! It seems magical, but it’s very simple and reachable. Once you reach a success on this way, you will never refuse it.

8) We haven’t noticed that the animal is tired. We have a great experience of marching in formation or sitting in a class for hours, and we already forgot how difficult was to acquire this skill of long attention or false activity. And finally we found some time to work! When a dog gets tired or feels badly, she glances at the owner more rarely, instead of commands execution she demonstrates the submission or (what a fabulous mind!) offers you something else — a toy, a walk, tries to draw your attention to anything else. When the horse gets tired, she also demonstrates the submission, or simply gets off from the human, or “plays deaf”.

9) The sick dog loses focus, in particular hormonal status, for example, during pregnancy or before \ during  the estrum.

10) Animal’s basic needs are not satisfied.
And one more thing. In my training sessions I never have any problems with lack of attention of animals (I train dogs, horses and cows). But that doesn’t mean that I don’t encounter this. I encounter this problem frequently. The animal uses the inattention to demonstrate his limits — in understanding of task or fatigue, and my errors, of course. I change my tactic immediately and sometimes this decision gets rewarded. For the dog or for the horse the communication with a human may be much more interesting than communication with congeners. When the primary needs are satisfied, the animal finds a need for recognition, respect, achievement of new — these are good reasons to cooperate with humans.