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As a trainer of a dog, you need to be sensitive to the concept of pressure.
If you lean over our dog, bending at the waist, you’re putting pressure on the dog. If you lean back with your feet closer to your dog than your upper body you are relieving pressure. Moving or leaning towards a dog adds pressure while stepping or leaning back relieves pressure.
Facing a dog frontally, head on, adds pressure and turning to the side, giving them an oblique look at the handler, is relieving pressure. Turn towards your dog and you are adding pressure or pushing, turn away and you are pulling.
When you add pressure you are likely to get a reduction in speed, a freeze, and/or movement away from the pressure by your dog. When you relieve it you will get movement towards the handler or to a natural working distance.
The environment is a constant source of pressure. A bunch of people, a crowd on a disc dog field, for instance, gives off pressure. Nervous dogs might not want to move into an area of the field close to the crowd. Barriers and signs can give off pressure that dogs will avoid.
In the city a sidewalk, wall, or street can and do exude pressure on you and your dog. Check out your training area and places you work your dog for things that might exude pressure and avoid them or use them to your advantage.
The relationship between dog and handler can be strained and impacted by performance pressure. This is important to understand for the competitive trainer. It is very easy to get caught up in your performance requirements or the requirements of your sport and put undue pressure on your dog. Performance pressure is also important for handlers of reactive dogs. You need to be careful that you don’t pressure your dog to perform in environments he cannot handle.
Don’t be Scared…
Pressure is not necessarily bad. It’s just a fact. Understanding how to apply and release pressure allows a handler to push and pull their dog around with their body. It will also allow you to avoid and repair problems quickly and easily and to help make behaviors happen.