Dog Training Behavior – How Sensitive Is Your Dog?

Are you struggling with dog training behavior? Most dogs are eager to please and very receptive to training – provided we teach them properly. Just like humans, dogs learn through smell, taste, touch, sight and hearing, but a dog’s senses are far more acute than our own and selective breeding has heightened particular sensitivities of some breeds even further. Consequently, individual dogs will respond in different ways to different types of training.

Sight Sensitive Dogs
Collies, German Shepherds, Salukis and Greyhounds are all good examples of sight sensitive dogs. Bred specifically to watch over and protect livestock, or to chase down small prey, these dogs have exceptional eyesight and notice the smallest movement, even some distance away.

Sight sensitive dogs need to have the ground work of their training carried out as far as possible in a quiet and sheltered environment – an enclosed yard or garden is ideal – as they will be unable to give you their full attention if surrounded by lots of movement. These dogs also pick up on the slightest body movement and use visual clues to anticipate what we want of them – for example, a hand going into a coat pocket that contains a ball might automatically send your dog running in anticipation of the throw before it has even seen the ball.

Touch sensitive dogs
Touch sensitivity can vary even within the same breed group but, generally speaking, terriers and fighting breeds have been selectively bred to become less sensitive to pain and are, therefore, more tolerant of being handled.

Other breeds, however, can have a much lower touch tolerance. Dog training behavior can effected by physical methods, such as pushing down on your dogs haunches to make it sit, or pushing down on its shoulders to make it lie down, are not advisable with touch sensitive dogs. Such dogs should be trained using rewards-based positive training methods.

Sound sensitive dogs
Like touch, sound sensitivity varies from dog to dog but collies and Shetland Sheepdogs in particular are prime examples of sound sensitive breeds. Shouting at a Sheltie for something it has done wrong is completely counter-productive. Your dog will become fearful, anxious and confused.

Dog training methods for sound sensitive dogs should be quiet and gentle and, similarly to the sight sensitive dog, performed in a sheltered environment. Group dog training clubs with lots of noise generally do not work well for these dogs.

Mentally sensitive dogs
Mental sensitivity has less to do with breed of dog and more to do with our relationship with our dogs. Dogs that do not have a clear understanding of their status in the family pack and receive conflicting messages, will be less secure in their human environment and, consequently, less able to handle stressful situations.

Separation anxiety
Soiling, destruction, excessive barking – is likely to be an issue with such dogs when we leave them home alone because they are overly dependent on our presence and approval. Mentally sensitive dogs will also react badly to any kind of reprimand during training.

Remember, your dog training behavior must adapt to a mentally sensitive dog, therefore, requires a reassessment and rebalancing  of the dog/human relationship.

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