Okay, maybe stupid is a little harsh.
How about distactible? Or easily confused?
The point is, if you want a dog to understand you, talk simply. And if you want a person to understand you, do the same thing.
Dog Training Cues
Look at any list of the most important behaviors to teach your dog. What are the common cues to signal a dog you want her to do something?
We’ve all learned that our dogs listen better when we use a short cue, and the same cue, all the time.
A dog who hears “get over here,” “come,” “c’mere,” or “hey you” may or may not understand you want him to come to you. But if you use the same cue every time and pair it with positive experiences, your dog will develop a reliable recall (unless, of course, he’s a hound and just found a really good smell—pick your battles).
You might think teaching people is very different. After all, humans are capable of abstract thought.
But the barriers to communication with a dog also hinder humans—emotions, distractions, and lack of understanding.
I’ve taught first home buyers for the past 7 years. And most of them will describe their emotions using the exact same word: overwhelmed.
It’s my job to keep the message simple. Basically, you are important. You deserve to have your questions answered. If they aren’t, find someone else to help you.
All the other stuff I cover in a class-—improving your credit, how a fixed rate and adjustable rate loan works, negotiating a purchase offer—are far less important. If my students leave my class feeling empowered and able to ask smart questions, everything else should work out.
But sometimes I forget. I talk as if everyone can absorb thousands of ideas instead of distilling my words into concise talking points.
And I always regret it.
I was recently interviewed by our local weekly newspaper. And the resulting article feels like a hot mess. I blathered on and forgot that people can only understand a few key ideas (or training cues, if you like).
A disaster? No. But certainly a missed opportunity.
Good For Dogs; Good for People
Because I love Honey, I want her to succeed. I teach her a cue. The cue is simple. I use it every time.
I don’t actually think she’s stupid. I think she’s smart. And part of being smart is having a brain that knows how to sort through useless information to figure out what’s most important.
But I can also help her brain by not giving her worthless information to begin with.
It’s the same with the first home buyers I teach. Taking a class to understand a complex and expensive deal is very smart.
I don’t have to babble on for hours to impress them with all I know. I simply need to speak clearly and simply, use easy cues, and help them ask the right questions.
Steve Martin did a bit in his stand up act where he told people whenever they were around a little child to talk wrong. That way, when the kid started school and had to use the bathroom, he’d raise his hand and say, “May I mamoo dogface to the banana patch?”
I did something similar with Honey. But the trick isn’t on her. It’s on everyone else.
The cue I use when I want Honey to greet people calmly is “Four on the floor.” Most people repeat, “Don’t jump” which means nothing to Honey.
But I love watching their faces when I saw “four on the floor” and Honey’s paws become glued to the ground.
I like to think Honey enjoys a little bit of mischief too.
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