Ask the dog − freedom of choice in training

In training and the learning of new skills, situations may arise in which the dog may present a conflict or the dog’s motivation way decrease. The dog may behave in undesirable ways, such as pulling too much or, in frustration, whining or barking during movements. Sometimes the dog may again present a surrogate activity and leave the place during the exercise. It is impossible for the handler to know exactly what the dog is thinking, feeling or experiencing during the exercise, and the dog may not be able to act according to its emotional states or desires.

Changes in the dog’s motivation or, for example, fatigue, are matters that depend almost entirely on the assessment of the handler during the training. However, when motivation levels drop so much that they are reflected in the training, the situation has already been allowed to become well advanced. Likewise with fatigue, the handler often only notices the dog’s fatigue when it is too late. Training can be made more effective when the dog is more committed and the handler can take responsibility for the dog by creating a dialogue about the training, rather than parallel communication.

The traditional teacher−pupil philosophy between a dog and its handler is based on the idea that the dog is taught things that it can then perform in a competition or test situation, or even at work. Although the training may be carried out through positive reinforcement, the dog still has very little room to manoeuvre or have an influence. Attempts by a dog to have an influence are often manifested as being “rubbish,” or an unwanted activity, during training, and are often not given space.

Within the exercise, the dog can be asked about, for example, the length and time of breaks, the task to be practiced or the number of repetitions.

The Ask the Dog philosophy is based on learning together when working with a dog. A dog is an active actor that can communicate with the handler in many ways and the handler will listen to the dog. A dog’s genuine motivation can only be built through a sense of being in control, that is, when its physical, social, and mental security is strengthened.

The Ask the Dog method would like to give the dog a voice and wants the dog to be able to influence the handler in other ways than just to receive rewards. In the Ask the Dog method, the dog’s silent signals are amplified, and the dog is given a voice that the handler wants to listen to.

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