Every dog owner and handler knows that certain canine behaviours can be puzzling. Today, we'll discuss one such behaviour: the phenomenon of "capping". To better illustrate this, I turn to a simple, yet telling scenario many of us might find familiar: the everyday walk.
The Relatability of the Everyday Walk
I find the analogy of a walk incredibly relatable for all dog owners. Picture this: You're standing by the roadside, you ask your eager dog to sit, and then upon releasing them, you feel like you're suddenly being yanked off your feet. Sound familiar? Welcome to the club. If this hasn’t been your experience, stick around; you're in for an eye-opener.
Every dog owner or handler is familiar with the concept of the “walk”. It's something drummed into us, almost like a rite of passage. But, I believe there's a widespread misconception about the importance of this routine. While walking has its values, in my personal opinion, it's overrated. It feels like a culture imposed upon us, suggesting it's the ultimate solution for a well-behaved dog. There are both costs and benefits associated with "THE WALK". Often, I feel the costs may outweigh the benefits, but that's perhaps a topic for another day. For now, let's dive into an illuminating example that many of us might have experienced.
Decoding the Concept of "Capping"
Enter the concept of “capping”. Capping in dog training refers more to a mental state or mindset the dog is in rather than a specific behaviour. It's about containing or managing the dog's internal excitement, energy, or drive. The art of capping dives deep into this: mentally bottling up the dog's eagerness, allowing it to build, and then channelling that heightened anticipation to your advantage in training - Instead of focusing on an external action they're showing.
When we discuss "capping", we're truly addressing the dog's inner emotional and energetic state.
Mastering the Concept of Capping
Just as steam builds within a pressure cooker when the heat is turned up, a dog's internal excitement, energy, or drive similarly escalates when they're in a state of heightened anticipation. The term "capping" can be likened to the act of sealing that pressure cooker, effectively bottling up the steam or, in the dog's case, their energy. Mastering the art of capping is essentially harnessing this bottled energy that can significantly influence training outcomes.
When used correctly, it can foster enhanced communication and understanding between handler and dog. However, if this bottled energy or "steam" builds up excessively and isn't managed or released in a controlled manner, the dog might not have the genetic ability or impulse control to contain it. This over-accumulation can lead to what I term "blowing a valve", where the dog starts "leaking" energy into other behaviours. Examples of this "leaking" can include vocalising, barking, jumping, or even biting. It's an overflow of that bottled-up enthusiasm and drive.
Yet, if the concept of capping is misconstrued or misapplied, it becomes more of an obstacle than an advantage. Many dog owners might inadvertently find their canines reacting more vigorously than anticipated, all because the application of capping wasn’t fully understood or leveraged. Properly understanding and employing capping can prevent such unintentional behavioural explosions!
So, how do we navigate this? Using rewards or distractions during those "capped" moments can be beneficial. By rewarding their sit or temporary pause, we redirect their focus. This helps modulate the burst of energy upon release, ensuring a more controlled transition back into the walk.
Consider a typical walk you might have with your dog. As you stroll, you request a sit. Your dog complies, but the moment you release them, there's an explosion of energy as they dash towards their next point of interest, be it a tree, a bush, or perhaps another dog. In their rush, they might pull at the leash, making the experience challenging for you.
Now, reimagine this scenario with the understanding of capping and its application.
As you walk your dog, you ask for a sit. Instead of just waiting, you reward that sit with food of high value to the dog, maintaining their attention on you. They're engaged, focused, and you've effectively redirected the building steam inside them. After a moment, when you sense their heightened anticipation, you release them. But this time, instead of them darting ahead, they continue in a controlled, loose lead walk beside you. Their prior excitement, instead of being directed at external stimuli, is now focused on you.
The walk becomes a collaborative journey rather than a tug-of-war.
Understanding our dog’s' emotional and mental states can lead to more informed and effective training methods. By recognising and employing concepts like capping, trainers and dog owners can build a more harmonious and productive bond with their canine partners.
• "Capping" refers to the dog's inner emotional state, not an external action.
• This technique is about managing the dog's internal excitement and channelling it productively.
• Capping can turn a dog's enthusiasm into a powerful behaviour, whether collaborative or uncooperative.
• The topic of "leaking" is an intriguing one, warranting a dedicated article in the future.
I'm eager to hear your thoughts and experiences.
How do you manage your dog's excitement during walks? Share your insights below!
Cheers, Ryan King.