Are you a frustrated dog owner that feels you’ve tried nearly every method of dog training that’s available today? And do you always end up finding that nothing has worked for you? You know the pattern, they all sound great in the beginning, you try them for a while, but eventually your dog’s negative behaviours re-emerge or worse yet, escalate!
While I dislike being the fly in the ointment, is it possible that what’s really not working is your motivation and total commitment to stick to one method consistently, and over the long-term, to realize the results you’re seeking?
But, it’s not your fault!
Today we live in the reality of shorter attention spans, faster convenience, instant gratification and “Quick Fixes” being highlighted on most TV programs.
That’s all well and good when you’re watching a thirty minute TV program featuring your celebrity-dog-trainer-of-choice. But what people don’t see – and ultimately forget – is that all the long, tedious and boring footage has been edited out of the program to make it fit into less than 30 minutes, as well as making it more “dramatic” and “action-packed” to you the viewer; whether you’re sitting at home in your armchair or watching it on the train from your mobile device.
Unfortunately, what we humans have forgotten today (in the endless watching of YouTube “How To” videos and never-ending debates in online chat rooms about the latest harness vs collar or one training method over another) is one critical fact. The only way your dog is going to learn something new and positive is for you to close the laptop, shut off the TV and power down the mobile device and go and practice with them in the backyard. Yes, good old-fashioned work.
You see, your dog doesn’t know (or really care) it’s the 21st century. They don’t understand your always-on noisy TV, the endless tapping on your laptop or frankly, any other domestic contraption. They don’t comprehend the unspoken “rules of the road” that exist in their human’s world (but not in theirs). For example, WE know that it’s a definite no-no to pee on another dog or person. Or that it’s a serious social faux pas to happily hump another dog or even the leg of a guest that’s visiting your mum or dad. Mother Nature did not program these social idiosyncrasies into our canine’s DNA.
So, how do our dogs live in our fast-paced, contraption-filled, rule-abiding insane world without running back to the wild with their tails between their legs?
Simple, We Teach Them!
It constantly amazes me how well our dogs already adapt themselves to living in our crazy world that we accept as “normal.” Consider it for a moment; they live in high-rise apartments and walk down busy streets in bustling and noise-ridden cities throughout the world without as much as a blink of an eye! Or perhaps they live in the remotest parts of the planet, herding sheep at high altitudes on a snow-clad, icy mountain range, taking everything in stride.
Now look at your dog lounging at your feet. YOUR dog can do that as well! Why? Because that adorable creature, looking up at you with those huge puppy eyes, is one of the most intelligent and adaptable creatures who share this planet with us.
They have already proven this to us time after time as they help us with: Companionship, Security (police and customs), Herding (of almost any animal), Military (from bomb units to drug units), Assistance (guide dogs for the blind as well as other disabilities), alerting epileptic owners that a fit is about to happen, smelling out cancers in the human body
But all these incredible canines did not teach themselves how to do all those things. Their inspired dog owners saw the capability and intelligence in their faithful companions and challenged themselves to develop and enhance these innate dog abilities. We are a very resourceful race, us humans, but how did we get to a place where stopping your dog from jumping up or barking has utterly stumped us?!
So it really comes down to this simple question: how badly do you really want to change your dog’s bad habit? It’s really this simple, only those with the true commitment and dedicated motivation will succeed in creating their “perfect” dog.
Your full commitment is required if you want to make you and your dog’s life a better, more harmonious one. You have to be committed to getting over this behavioral hump and be able to visualize the ultimate potential. Motivate yourself to practice and work with your dog every day. You’ll not only be addressing and overcoming undesired behaviors, but also building a stronger bond with your dog.
If you find your knowledge is lacking and not up to the current challenge you’re facing with your dog, ASK FOR HELP! But ultimately, you have to commit to using that help and consistently follow through with it every single day.
DO NOT be embarrassed if you don’t know how to properly address the problem with you dog. There are always qualified professionals ready to help you with whatever situation or problem you might be experiencing with your dog. Professionals who can help you better communicate to your dog what it is that you really want.
Caution: the situation or problem with your dog will not fix itself; it will not fix itself in one session and cannot be fixed by someone else. Get back to the basics and practice, practice, practice with daily hands-on experience.
Just saying “this method doesn’t work for me” gets you nowhere, especially if you have only done it half-heartedly or inconsistently. Just like with any job, it’s time to engage a solid and committed work ethic – along with proper knowledge – in working with your dog!
Dogs aren’t robots, you can’t just type a command and it happens instantaneously! But, with patience, commitment and positive reinforcement, you’ll begin to see real, lasting results within a few weeks. Remember, dogs learn by experience; so go lead, teach and give them a positive, enjoyable experience and they will follow you to the ends of the earth!
I KNOW you have it in you!
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Is your dog’s chewing or destructive behaviour not only wrecking your home, but stressing you out or putting more stress on your relationship at home?
Have they chewed your furniture, your best shoes, destroyed parts of your home or garden and there seems to be no sign of stopping?
This is a really Big problem in a lot of dog-owning homes and I’m going to help you to not only understand why but help you stop the demolition!
firstly lets Bust a few Myths on destructive behaviour;
Myth One- Your dog is destroying things ‘on purpose’ because you have left him alone.
There is some truth to this but probably not for the reasons you think. Dogs don’t do things out of spite or for revenge, nor do they think, ‘I’ll show you what happens when you leave me here on my own’. Dog’s do not feel emotions like this, what is happening is that when your dog feels stressed, uncomfortable or anxious, it’s stress hormones in his body are heightened. What most dogs learn from an early age is that chewing releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ effect of these then help them cope with the situation.
Myth Two- Your dog looks ‘guilty’ when you come home so you know he’s been doing something bad
If ‘guilty’ means lowering their body or crawling, ears flattened, tail down or between their legs and eyes softened or almost squinting, this is very submissive behaviour from your dog.
If you come home every day to something that has been chewed or destroyed you will probably be in a pattern by now. On the way home you will be thinking about what has already been destroyed, this is going to annoy you, then you will be thinking ‘what am I going to find today when I walk in’ and this is going to stress you out further. Before you even walk in the door you probably have a big negative black cloud above your head. If you don’t live on your own it’s probably not just the dog who makes themselves scarce when you come home. Your dog has connected the dots and come up with You coming home = You in a bad mood
Even when we don’t find something chewed or the tell-tale puddle, we stomp around the house looking for evidence and growling at the dog ‘what did you do?’. Your dog is heading for the closest hiding place at speed because he knows you are in no mood for any kind of communication right now, better wait until the dust settles. Sound familiar?
OK, maybe your dog isn’t quite that bad, look out for these 7 signs below
7 signs that your dog is suffering from separation Anxiety
- excessive Panting
- Urinating or toileting inside
- excessive or obsessive chewing or licking themselves
- chewing or destruction of property
What is behind SA?
To put it in a nutshell, your dog, in his head, is trying to be the head of the household and is not coping with the stress of the job. Let me put this another way. A dog is a social creature, we all know this but what we dont always know or remember is that a dog needs a leader,a head of the family lets say. Someone to keep order, keep everyone safe and make the big decisions for the family. This of course is the humans role as we best understand our world of hoovers, UPS delivery guys, school runs, business hours, window washers, lawnmowers, sleep overs, holidays and so on that our dog will never, ever understand.
So how does your dog end up having this job? Usually because he has seen us lose it, sometimes quite literally. He has spotted a chink in your armour of being leader, there are many things here which can be seen as chinks but the main one is your inconsistent behaviour around the dog. Being human we are naturally quite lazy and we like short cuts and doing things the ‘easy’ way rather than the ‘best’ way. This isn’t how our dogs think though and if you aren’t leadership material, a new one must be elected! Here is where he gets the job whether he wants it or not. Why? Because a family must have a leader. It’s that basic. It is about survival of the family in what ever shape it comes.
7 Tips to being Head of the Household
- Leaders are cool, calm and confident, even in a crisis. If you’ve had a bad day and need a scream or a cry or are just not in the mood for dealing with your dog at this moment. Quietly put him outside or in another room, have a cup of tea and wait til you have calmed down before you say hello or deal with your dog.
- Be consistent with your pooch at all times. Check out my post on Consistency is the key to success
- Give your dog attention on your terms not his, when you are ready.
- Build up to longer separations by practising shorter ones while you are at home. Start closing doors behind you and stop letting your dog follow you everywhere. Ad breaks are great practise times. Limiting access to some areas of the house can help too, have some ‘No Dog’ rooms just for the humans.
- Give him some specific Boredom Busting toys. This will focus his chewing and give him something to occupy his mind. Kongs and Nylabones are good starter toys which are hard to destroy fast.
- If you have a real demolition expert, crate training is a great way to minimise damage. It also gives your dog his own space where he can take himself off to when he wants a nap. Again you must build up spending time in a crate and connect it with good things, like food. Apart from sleeping overnight in a crate I don’t recommend you keep your dog crated for more than 4 hours at any one time.
- If you are having big separation Anxiety issues, seek professional advice and help from a Dog Behaviorist or Dog Listener. Dog Trainers usually deal with obedience issues, SA is a much deeper issue and needs to be dealt with at the root cause which is usually something going on at home. You can contact me via My Website for more info or coaching about this issue.
I hope this helps you on your way to having a happier and more care-free dog. Please feel free to comment below or Sign Up to follow my helpful hints and tips by email- on the right hand side.
Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach
Canines have been our friends and companions for thousands of years, but do we really know how to speak their language?
Growing up around dogs, I was told I had a natural instinct or affinity for them. I was definitely magnetically drawn to them as a species , bringing any stray I found back home for some food and a cuddle, and still do. As I grew up I started reading books and watching programmes on the canine in general and I found that my logical brain had started taking over some of that natural communication I once had. I didn’t realise this at the time but it was only when I started to re-learn their language that I realised what I had forgotten.
Dog Listening, to me was like learning the magic words to open Aladdin’s cave. It brought back to me what I knew as a child, that a dog was not human, that it did not speak our language (no matter what you see on You Tube!) and they were a species with great kindness and we could learn a lot from them. I wanted to be their friend and enjoy their friendship, hopefully as much, I thought, as they would want from me.
Even if you have never had a dog as a pet, just sit and watch them some time without interacting (if you can, I know it can be hard). You will see their intelligence, their body language, how they interact with other members of the household, other pets and other dogs. Do they start the interaction first or join in later. Do they make direct eye contact or look away?Do they respond better to someone calm or someone who is not? I think we have forgotten in this interactive 24/7 world how to just be still and watch, like I did as a child. It will open up a whole new insight into their world and what they are trying to tell us.
I cant wait to learn what they can teach me tomorrow!
Follow my blog for more insights into your dogs world and how they fit into ours.
A great book (with lots and lots of photos) that every dog owner should own is
On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
I would love to know what you think of this article, please leave a comment below, thank you
Once you get through the house training, setting your pups boundaries and probably some basic training and all is going well, be prepared. Because it isn’t all plane sailing from here, just when you think you have the perfect pup, things might start to go awry! Dogs hit their teenage stage usually between 8 month to 18months depending on breed. Obviously personality has a lot to do with this too as a strong boisterous personality might start testing you and your rules more than an easy going personality.
What to expect
Expect the unexpected and you wont be surprised! I know that sounds very general but if your dog who is usually quite compliant and comes when you call him all of a sudden starts doing their own thing or seems to be almost disobedient in some ways, this could be the start of some teenage behaviour. The age range I gave you above is a general guideline but some dogs can start ‘rebeling’ earlier than this or even a bit later, if you are really unlucky.
What do I do when my dog doesn’t listen to me?
That’s easy, you go back to basics and start building a strong and trusting relationship with them. They are looking for a leader at this stage of their lives, in the wild this is when they would now transition from ‘pups’ were they would get away with everything, to ‘adolescent’ and they would start learning from their adult pack members and babysitters. This is when adults would start reprimanding unacceptable behaviour and they would have to start learning to become a valuable member of their pack. In domestic terms, you are reminding them of the boundaries you set as a pup by being consistent with your own behaviour. Play can be very important here, dogs learn a lot through play through interactions with other members of the family, like whether they are allowed to jump up, knock you over, can they start the play and will you follow, obviously at this stage if your dog mouths you, this should be nipped in the bud asap, especially if you have children. Mouthing should be dealt with by quietly and gently taking the dog by the collar and putting to bed or in the back hall and play ends immediately. No eye contact or speaking to him while you do this emphasises to the dog he has done wrong because you no longer will interact with him. After a few times doing this you will find he will get this quickly and think first before he tries to mouth, your timing is the key here. All play should be started by you and finished by you, the dog then will see you as making decisions within the family. Dont fall for the big eyes, waggy tail and the ball or toy in the mouth while you are sitting watching TV or reading or usually doing something that doesn’t involve the dog, that is why he is trying to get you to interact! (Smart puppy!)
The main thing is stay firm in your rules and keep building that relationship. For more tips and help with your doggy dilemas go to my website 4dogenterprises.moonfruit.com or follow me on Twitter @Bernie_Browne
As you may or may not know I am a Dog Listener, we use the dog’s own natural instincts and ‘laws’ to work for you and to better understand how the dog sees his world. It is an amazing way to communicate with dogs and it works because it was created by watching wolves in the wild, how they interact in a pack i.e. your family, how their heirarchy works (who’s the decision maker) and what are their survival motivators (food).
Did you know that most dogs living in most homes today think they are the pack leader? I hear owners say ‘No fido isn’t! I make him sit and wait before feeding him’ or ‘fido will do anything I say, I’m the boss’ or ‘I dont let my dog on the furniture or go through the door before me’.
Ok here are a few things to look for which you may not have even noticed before which tells someone like me that your dog is making decisions in your home and thinks he/ she is the Big Dog.
1. Your dog follows you around the house when you’re at home
2.Your dog sits at a high point in your house, like on the back of the sofa (looking out the window), at the top of your stairs, or even just on your favourite chair
3. Your dog is a fussy eater or doesn’t eat much, therefor you leave food down all day for them
4. Your dog initiates play or fuss, they come over and lean on you, drop a toy or ball in your lap or jump all over you when you come home
5. You dont walk the dog, the dog takes you for a walk!
Sound familiar? If so then you have been giving mixed signals to your dog and in the confussion your dog has become the decision maker of the pack. A very stressfull place to be if you dont know what you’re doing! Most dog’s dont even want this job, not all dogs grow up to be a pack leader and therefor they get themselves in trouble….. we call it behavioural problems!
Here’s what people think about the behaviours I have listed above first
1. My dog loves me
2. He likes to watch the world go by, it’s his favourite spot or he’s keeping my seat warm
3. He’s not greedy or a little picky so it’s easier if he helps himself
4. My dog loves it when I come home, he’s so pleased to see me and loves to play games with me
5. He love’s his walks and getting out… he’s energetic
We humanise our dogs more now than ever before and they are paying the price for it with a stressfull job they dont want. Therefore they are then becoming obsessive, compulsive, neurotic pets to some degree and it affects their health just like us humans.
Here is what the dog is doing in the scenarios above from the way he/ she sees the world
1. I am the leader – This is my baby and I have to make sure nothing happens to them while they are in my care so they aren’t getting out of my sight
2. This is my viewpoint to the world where I can see what’s coming and protect my babies, it is my right as leader/ decision maker to have the highest point and claim it
3. I am the leader and I have food so my pack can survive
4. I am the leader and you will give me attention when I ask for it
5. I am the leader so I must go ahead and make sure it is safe for my pack/ baby
What stands out more to you, that your dog is manipulating you or that they are doing a lot of very stressfull jobs? Hopefully the latter and that you want to change that. You can.
I’ll be writing more about this soon so stay tuned!