Contesting stack IMG_2124

Puppy contesting a stack.


A numbers game – When a dog you are handling challenges you, never give up.

When asking a dog to perform a particular task, many handlers simply give up if their dog continues to resist them. What these handlers don’t know is that if they had persisted, odds are that they would’ve eventually succeeded.

The fact is, engaging the cooperation of dogs to perform tasks is a numbers game. We don’t know how many times a particular dog needs to be asked to perform a particular task. It may be once or it may be ten times. What we do know, is that when a dog resists a request to perform a task, they are challenging our status as the ‘TOP DOG’ in the relationship.

For this reason, it is critical that when you give your dog a signal, you should never give up on the required outcome, no matter how many times you have to ask.

While this philosophy contradicts certain methods of obedience training, in my experience, this approach is a fail-safe way to garner your dog’s cooperation.

For example, some dog trainers believe that if a dog doesn’t respond to a first request, then an immediate physical correction is required. This response if based on the belief that the dog is behaving in defiance of the handlers instruction; that the dog is being ‘naughty’, ‘wilful’ or ‘belligerent’ and therefore cannot be allowed to ‘get away with it’. However, I consider this approach to be misguided and probably the worst thing that you can do.

The reason I say this is because I don’t believe that any dog is naughty, wilful or belligerent by nature. This belief is a cornerstone of my handling philosophy, a philosophy that I’ve applied to dogs of all breeds with success.

To recap this philosophy (that I’ve written about extensively in other blogs): Dogs are pack animals. They have evolved from the wolf and retain many of the natural instincts of the wolf. A feature of wolf packs is that the leader is the one who attains and holds this position because they never give up even though they are constantly challenged by others in the pack looking to test their continual will and authority to lead.

When it comes to handling dogs, the leader is the one who refuses to relinquish their position. So when a handler asks their dog to perform a task and the dog resists, if the handler gives up or changes the request, then they have effectively given up their position as leader. However, if the handler persists with their request, eventually the dog will concede and perform the task, and thus the hierarchy is maintained.

Now (and this is the best bit), even if the original request is challenged five, ten or twenty times (and I have experienced more), if you don’t give up, not only will your dog perform the task, but the next time you ask them to perform it they will do so more quickly and with less resistance. If you repeat this process consistently, it won’t be long until the dog performs your request without any resistance at all.

For example, when being stacked, your dog may move its foot. Your job is to put it back where you want it. If your dog moves its foot again, put it back and repeat until your dog ‘gives up’ and leaves its foot exactly where you want it.

Complete stack IMG_2130

Complete stack.


The moment your dog concedes and does this be sure to give them a BIG reward (you might want to start with a food and voice reward and, overtime, move to a voice reward only). If you are consistent and persistent, then the next time you ask your dog to stack it will take less and less effort until they will perform this task on your first command.

Remember, this has nothing to do with physical strength and everything to do with mental will. TOP DOG is a state of mind and when it comes to the numbers game, patience is your biggest virtue.

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