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  • John Whittaker

Dog Training by NDT: Commands (Don't be Charlie Brown's Teacher)

Updated: Sep 25, 2023


Dog training is as much about coaching owners as it is about training dogs. The greatest stumbling block for most owners is giving up being Charlie Brown's teacher.


Most of us would like to be loved, respected and appreciated. If we aren't always at work, hopefully we are at home. If not always at home with family, there's always our beloved pets. Surely, our dogs looks up to us. Maybe, but maybe not. It all depends on how you interact with your best friend.


Dog Training Commands: Two Problems


Do you ever give you’re dog a command, then repeat it? You might repeat it because your dog didn’t listen the first time. In most homes this doesn’t end with just repeating the command a second time. Often there is a third, forth and fifth command. The number of commands usually depends on if their dog gets around to obeying, has nothing better to do or “mom or “dad” just give up and stop trying. At this point mom and dad have become Charlie Brown’s teacher! No doubt about it. Just a noise in the background to tolerate, or straight out ignore.


There is one other common scenario that creates the Charlie Brown’s teacher effect. It’s when your dog obeys the first time yet you keep repeating the command to ensure he or she keeps doing it. This just dulls your dog’s awareness of commands. There is no reason to be attentive to commands after all mom and dad just repeat them.


In dog training you never want to give a command unless you can insure your dog performs it. When you simply repeat a command you sabotage both present and future performance. You are teaching your dog that you’re going to give him or her a command like “sit”, already knowing that it’s unlikely to be obeyed the first time, and that’s how your relationship works. What you’re doing is actively teaching your dog to disobey! You’re better off saying anything other than a command, and having him or her not do it. At least then you’re not untraining an important command.


Even Perpetrated by Dog Training Professionals


It’s one thing to not understand the dynamics involved in repeating commands. After all, this is dog training and you’re a dog owner not a dog trainer. Surprisingly, you’re not alone. A lot of older approaches to dog training like traditional marker training, or it’s child clicker training, continue to teach owner’s to repeat commands. Owners are told not to worry, you’ll just reward the good behavior so over time your dog will learn to obey. If your dog already doesn’t obey, teaching him or her to disobey more (hear commands and disobey them) is probably not the solution.


There are many different approaches to training dogs. Whatever approach you take if you’re teaching exercises like the sit, down or come be sure to never use a command without the ability to ensure your dog performs the command the first time, every time.


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