Saturday, August 24, 2013

Let's Talk "Dog!"

The most valuable advice I've ever received regarding dog training was not to teach your dog YOUR language, but to try and better understand his. Sure, there are key words in your vocabulary that your dog can pick up on, but mostly it's the inflection and the tone of your voice that your dog responds to--not the actual words. It's best to get down to his level and communicate with him in a way that he can understand. You wouldn't bark at a baby, so you understand why yelling at a dog doesn't really work.

Here are some examples:

1.) Owner: My dog is so difficult on a leash. He pulls and pulls, so I bought him a choke chain and he still pulls!

Trainer: Do you know why he pulls? Because he can. You're physically allowing him to pull you. The discomfort of the choke chain is worth the excitement in the pull. Stop allowing him to pull you. When he pulls, snap the leash quickly one time and stop walking. The reinforcement is the actual walking. He'll catch on very quickly that in order to walk, he must walk at your pace, at your side.

Doesn't that make more sense than being dragged down the street and allowing your dog to do so?

2.) Owner: Our puppy steals toys from our kids and it takes us a half hour to catch her!

Trainer: Stop chasing her. It's a game and you're playing it.


3.) Owner: Our dog pees all over the place when we get home. She's so excited to see us that she literally pees on us!

Trainer: Ignore your dog when you walk in the door. Completely turn your back and/or walk right past your dog. Don't make eye contact. Don't greet her, nothing. When she is calm, you may walk over to her and give her all the affection you want--but it must be on your terms. (ps. This one was the MOST difficult for me because I'm the person who runs in the door yelling, "Who's a good boy??? Oh, who's a good boy?  Ohmygoodness I missed you so much!!!")

4.) Owner: Help!! Our puppy only pees on the wee wee pads half the time! How do I get her to pee on the pads all the time?? 

Trainer: You can't. You can't allow your dog to pee inside some parts of your house, but not others. You're setting him up to fail. He isn't going to be able to differentiate between an expensive rug, hard wood floors, newspapers or a wee wee pad. You have to be consistent in your training and if you'll allow him to go on a wee wee pad, be prepared for him to occasionally go where he's supposed to and occasionally where he shouldn't.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when training your dog is, "How is this working for us?"  If your answer is, "it isn't." then it's time to change your strategy.  In other words, if you say, "Our dog keeps jumping up on people! We shove her down, but she keeps doing it!" My immediate answer would be, "Then stop shoving her down. Because it's not working."  If you keep laying wee wee pads out, and she keeps going elsewhere, it's time to realize the wee wee pads aren't working. Dogs are very intelligent animals, but they aren't so intelligent that they understand sarcasm, language or impatience. They only learn to do what works for them, because they're animals. You can't not train your dog and then expect that he become a well trained, obedient pet. You have to teach him how you want him to behave because he only knows what's worked for him thus far. If the only way your puppy can get you to pay her attention is by peeing on your bed and jumping on you, guess how she's going to obtain your attention?

It makes so much more sense when you think in simplistic (dog) terms. Your dog isn't going to understand your language. You must communicate with him in a way that he absolutely understands. I always say, "Great dogs aren't born, they're trained." ......and that's what you sign up for when you take on a dog! It's hard work, but so, so worth it!

Don't forget to check out for awesome tips and helpful suggestions on housebreaking.

Happy Tails!

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