When you think about training your pet, remember to take some time to understand how they process their environment. Is your dog a sighthound? Toy breed? Scent hound? Is your pet brachycephalic? These and many more characteristics may affect how your pet interprets the world around it.
For now let’s focus on one variable: eyesight. Most people jump straight to how well their pet can see. Is your pet blind? Or do they have ulcerations or scratches on the eye, past trauma to the eye, or maybe some clouding? A trip to the veterinarian can shed some light on most of these medical problems. However, what most people seldom think about when it comes to training is the shape and positioning of the eye itself. This can greatly alter how the pet comprehends what is going on.
Most dogs have a total field of view of 250 degrees, with an overlap of binocular vision of 75 degrees (for long nosed dogs) or 85 degrees (for short nosed dogs).
So, what does that actually mean? On average, that gives dogs about 60 degrees more peripheral vision then the average human being. There are many things that affect this as well – such as how deep-set your pet’s eyes are. A great example is Chow Chows. Their deeply set eyes greatly limit peripheral vision, so be careful when sneaking up behind one.
How does this all relate to training class? Let’s take a second to use our imagination. Picture a class where you have a German Shepherd, a Shih Tzu, and a Chow Chow all sitting next to their owners ready and eager to learn. As the class starts what might pose as distractions to each of these dogs?
Odds are the German Shepherd is going to see the Shih Tzu, the Bloodhound, the Chow Chow, all the owners in the room and any changes they make, and then the teacher walking in. The Shepherd will most likely find more challenge in waiting for the class then the class itself. Their eyes are positioned very similar to our own, forward facing and more centrally located then some other breeds, therefore allowing them to take similar short cuts we humans do.
(An example of this would be even though we see the lady with brown hair holding the small dog, she is not doing anything to peak our interest so we may just scan right over her without thinking about it.)
Let’s skip the Shih Tzu classmate for now and go on to the Chow Chow. The Chow Chow may seem like it has it all together, all the way up until something sneaks up and touches his back leg. Why did that take him by surprise? Was he not paying attention? The answer is: not necessarily, he simply may not have seen it coming.
Now the Shih Tzu will most likely be more curious about the action happening right in front of it than anything else in the room. The ball bouncing across the floor, the teacher walking into the room, or maybe the dog sitting right next to it will all serve as exciting distractions. Shih tzu have large protruding eyes, which make them typically focus on things directly in front of them more so than an entire environment.
Let’s wrap all this up. So, keeping in mind what we have learned, it might be more beneficial to work on desensitizing a Chow Chow to surprises, keeping everything you want the Shih tzu to focus on right in front of it, and working on the patience and attention span of a Shepherd.
Understanding your own pet’s point of view is important to think about when training any animal. Finally, remember every animal is different and has differing challenges, so be sure to find a trainer you trust nearby and don’t be afraid to ask for help.