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The Importance of Listening

Updated on November 06, 2016
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The Newfoundland Club of America - responsible for the preservation, protection and welfare of the Newfoundland Dog in America since 1930.

When you open a door, where is your dog? Is he positioned directly in front of you waiting to fling open the door the instant a crack appears? Or is he a couple of steps back or behind you, allowing you to open the door with ease? When you feed him, does he sit patiently, watching you for a release cue, or does he dive into his food before you remove your hand? When your puppy is in the yard playing, and you call him, does he look up and run to you with enthusiasm? We all would like perfectly behaved puppies, but puppies don’t come factory-prewired. It is important to continue the process of training, and we need to do this training in different environments. Training is a learning process for both trainer and puppy, a process of developing communication and building expectation and confidence. As with children, you can’t put them in first grade, pull them out of school, then put them in seventh grade and expect them to perform at the seventh grade level. Setting small goals and building upon those, and ending each training session with a positive outcome and praise will help keep the training process enjoyable for both of you. Celebrate your successes!

"A dog that has learned to listen carefully will tend to pay more attention. A bit of meaningless chatter is fine every so often, but dogs don't speak our language and you don't want cues to become lost in the noise. When training, try not to talk too much. Effective communication comes through quality and clarity, not quantity."

— Karen Pryor

The more time that you spend with your Newf, the more opportunity they have to “tune in” to you – to learn to listen, to watch you and to understand what you want. Likewise, the better you “tune in” to your puppy, the faster you can teach your Newf. He is developing confidence in you every time you open the door when he needs to go outside, refill his water dish when he is thirsty, or greet him with enthusiasm when he comes to you. The relationship is developing by a calibration process, you to your Newf and your Newf to you.

There’s a famous anecdote about the trainer and behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar challenging a roomful of trainers to prove their dogs could sit on cue. "Of course our dogs can sit!" said all the trainers. But then Mr. Dunbar asked the owners to give the sit cue while they were lying on the floor. Needless to say, the dog did not sit. Why? The scenario was too different. The dog didn’t recognize even a familiar cue. Developing a relationship with our dogs means training them in many different environments and scenarios.

One great game to play with your pup is the "Hot & Cold" game uses verbal communication and vocal tone to help your Newf find a hidden treat or toy. Hide a treat when your dog is not looking. Use a calm tone for colder if your pup moves away from the hidden treat. Use a more excited tone for “hotter” as your pup gets closer to the hidden treat. This game increases listening skills. It also helps build the special “language” shared by you and your Newf.

Avoid the sand traps: be patient and consistent, praise well for successes, and don’t let your attention lapse at the wrong moment. Reward the right behaviors and reward with good timing. Remember that random reward is a powerful motivator, and that can work for you or against you (if your puppy learns to recognize when your attention is elsewhere). Use what you learn about your puppy to help him continue to learn. The reward for your efforts is the companion of a lifetime!

Reasons for a Dog Not to Listen

What do you think could be reasons why your pup might not listen to you?

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© 2016 Newfoundland Club of America


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