I first met the dog I would live with, travel with and love for 17 years in a small NCDL rescue centre, now Dogs Trust in Ballymena. My best friend, whom I was living with at the time had recently rehomed a dog from there and as we were both big dog lovers and now in our own digs, she promised me she would let me have my own dog too.
So the week before my 22nd birthday we decided to take the hour and a half trip up to the centre and have a look. I knew what I had in mind as I always loved lurchers with their sleek coats and slender aerodynamic bodies. This would be my chance to have one of my own. When we got there we walked around the pens looking at all the potential in those many pairs of brown eyes.
There were many lurchers, mainly greyhound crosses with soft eyes and a variety of coat colours and textures, nuzzling and licking our fingers through the wire. My friend could see I was falling in love and so excited, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. She agreed they were all quite beautiful but maybe a little large, as were living in a terraced house with only a small front and back garden, with 1 dog already.
I felt a little disappointed that she wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as myself for these beautiful and unwanted creatures but she encouraged me to keep looking, which is what we did. We stopped at every pen and squinted into the shadow to see who sat there or hid in the back.
On the last row I was losing my enthusiasm and wanted to go back to the lurchers, there were so many it would take me a while to choose one anyway. I walked around the corner and was met at the first pen door by this black jack-in-the-box. He bounced up and down the whole time we stood there but what I could see of this black blur was that he had the same shape of face as my lovely lurchers but that was all I could see. He was also a little smaller.
We asked one of the staff could they bring him out and asked about his story. The lady had a huge smile on her face and said in no uncertain terms that Jacko was her favourite as she slipped a lead over his head and brought him out.
He was in no way a shy dog, he greeted us with his whole body wagging and feet doing a jig and trying to kiss us amid all this crazy welcome dance he was performing. He was sleek jet black with a white stripe on his chest and he looked like a mini lurcher. Jacko as they had called him had been born in the centre to a white whippet mum, they presumed dad was a collie as he had a fluffy undercoat to the outer shiny flat coat and he was now larger than his mum had been. All his siblings had been rehomed, as had he, but he had been returned for being too much to handle by his previous owners.
It was love at first sight. His big brown eyes shone with mischief, love for everyone he met and a pure love of life and I wanted him to be mine. We took him for a walk which involved him pogo jumping half the walk in his enthusiastic way but I knew in my heart this boy was meant to be with me. I was his second chance.
We went through all the necessary paperwork and homechecks and the following weekend of my birthday we went to collect my boy who I renamed Solo, so as not to confuse him completely of his old name which I didn’t care for. He was more like a Han Solo my new ebony boy.
We soon found out he was a chewing expert, carpets, curtains and seat belts were his forte’, barking was another habit which took a long time to master but he had the company of my friends lovely dog Trouble to get him over his transition from kennels to home life.
Soon we moved to Oxfordshire to follow my career with horses and Solo’s first flight in a plane. I spent the whole flight imagining him escaping from his crate and bounding out the door as soon as the baggage handlers opened it and being mortified as images of us all trying to catch him as he chased planes on the runway haunted me! He didn’t I hasten to add but that was the kind of thing he could do.
The move to living in a more open environment with lots of exercise across big grass fields and spending all day with me while I worked in a large yard suited him down to the ground. He made lots of doggy and horsey friends although he always erred on the cautious side to any newcomer on 4 legs. Newcomers on 2 legs were met with his by now well known pogo stick impression and trying to kiss their face while they were still upright. His other trade mark was to gently put their wrist in his mouth, like a doggy handshake. This he only did with his true friends.
He was great with other dogs, he also showed an inbuilt ability for herding when needed and he helped me with many a shy or scared dog, encouraging them with his gentle ways that everything would be fine. He loved the water and the beach and chasing balls and especially if all 3 were combined. Then we could barely get him back to the car!
I couldn’t sum up his whole life in this one small blog but I wanted to let the world know that this funny, intelligent, kind and wonderful dog had existed in this world, if only to help me through life and remind me to keep my sense of humour and patience on many occasions.
For 17 years he was my shadow, my best friend, my confidante and my teacher. He taught me to never judge a book by it’s cover and that every dog deserves a second chance and has the potential to change your life for the better. They come into our lives like a guardian angel to teach us about ourselves and how to treat others, with kindness, with humour and with unconditional love.
And when they leave this world we know they have touched our lives and our hearts like no other creature ever could.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my ebony boy who will live forever in my heart.
For Solo x
Here at the The Dog Owner’s Coach, 2013 has been really busy! And that means a lot of fantastic, free information and gifts for you all through this year!
This FREE REPORT is hopefully one of many such gifts that you will find enjoyable, enlightening and even better, FUN! Our dogs teach us every day that there’s nothing better than learning and having fun all at the same time.
In this FREE REPORT, you will learn:
- How to understand your dog
- What motivates your dog to do what you want
- Strategies that work
- How to build a real relationship with your dog
- Stop doing what isn’t working
So click on this link CLICK HERE, go to the box with the big arrow in the top-right corner, fill in your information and receive this FREE, great info a lot of trainers forget to tell you … straight to your Inbox!
And please share your experiences with us as you’re using the 6 Secrets from your free report!
Have a great week from The Dog Owners Coach!
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So here’s the question; Is neutering really as kind to our dogs as we think?
This important study is worth a read for people thinking about neutering before 1 year old, especially with a pedigree breed.
Let us know what you think……
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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We all love our dogs to bits; but aren’t there just some habits – like jumping up – that can get a bit annoying after a while? (Imagine how your guests feel!) Then there are the attention-seeking habits you don’t even realize are happening.
Does your dog have your attention ‘on tap’ every waking hour of every day? Who exactly is living on whose terms?
Why do we accept some attention-seeking behaviours as just part of our dog’s personality? And when do those attention-seeking habits turn into truly “bad habits,” usually causing a dog owner to seek out professional help? Why do dog owners wait until they are at “the end of their rope” to start talking about changing or stopping these unacceptable habits?
Let’s take a closer look at some of our dog’s attention-seeking patterns that can often turn into habitual and challenging behaviours.
What is a habit? Here’s how “habit” is defined in the Dictionary.com:
1 [hab-it] Show IPA noun
- An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
- Customary practice or use: daily bathing is an American habit.
- A particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands.
- A dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality: she has a habit of looking at the bright side of things.
- Addiction, especially to narcotics (often preceded by “the”).
A lot of our own habits, as well as those of our dogs, fall under one of the five definitions above. When we focus on teaching our dog ‘good habits,’ we are aiming for the first definition. For example: when teaching a dog to “sit,” we repeat this behaviour repeatedly, usually with food rewards, until the dog starts doing it without thinking about it anymore. This pattern of behaviour has now become involuntary. This is what true “training” is all about. But what if demanding your attention on a 24/7 basis has become your dog’s new pattern of behaviour or habit?
Well, your dog is now addicted to your attention and will do ANYTHING to get it! (See definition #5 above!)
The Top 10 Dog Attention-Seeking (or addictive) Habits (some obvious ones are first):
- Jumping up on you (or others)
- Barking or whining at you
- Pawing or nosing you
- Bringing something to play with to you and demanding you join in
- Rolling over to get their belly rubbed (oh yes, it works every time!)
Below are some of the more subtle habits which – at first glance – might not seem to be about you at all or even attention-seeking. But each of these habits were developed or encouraged while giving your dog attention (either positively or negatively):
- Sitting on your feet, leaning against your leg or placing their head in your lap
- Playing or chewing something they are not allowed to have, turning it into a game
- Chewing or licking themselves (sometimes loudly)
- Chasing their tail or chasing light or shadows
- Barking at something when there seems to be nothing there
Now, these latter behaviours may start out as attention-seeking behaviours; but did you know that most of them can turn into almost neurotic behaviours if:
- Your dog is encouraged to continue the behaviour; or
- Your dog is under a lot of stress and uses one of these habits to cope with that stress?
I could go on and on with this list as dogs are highly intelligent creatures and know us inside out (sometime better than we know ourselves!). Where and whenever they received your attention, they will probably use that exact same behaviour again if something else doesn’t work to get your attention!
Well I may have already given this one away when I said “Instantly” in the title; because the easy answer is to just Ignore It!
The hardest part in stopping these habits is to be aware of them in the first place! Once you are more aware of your dog’s behaviour, ask yourself, ‘Is my dog trying to get my attention on their terms or mine?’
If the answer is “on their terms,” then look away instantly; moving your whole head, not just your eyes. Remember, they are trying to get your attention! So moving your eyes is good, but if your dog is a pro at this (and most are), they will simply move back into your line of sight. By moving your head away (along with your eye focus) you are delivering a stronger message to your dog that you do not want to interact at the moment. Try it! You will still be able to see your dog in your peripheral vision. Just do not look at him or her directly … doing so means “attention” to your dog.
Some of your dog’s behaviours are also about personal space. We all have personal space, humans and canines. Our dogs need to understand when we want our personal space back. You can use the technique of looking away (as you learned above) for more annoying attention-seeking habits as well … like jumping up on you. If your dog begins jumping up on you, either move away from the dog (if you are standing up) or gently (but quickly) push your dog out of your space and let go. Do not speak to them. If you’re still holding onto your dog’s collar at this point or if your hand is still lingering on their body, your addicted dog may very well misinterpret your real intent and enthusiastically try to make this into a fun new game! Keep your actions calm, assertive, yet gentle, so your dog doesn’t see your actions as exciting and engaging like when you DO want to interact with your dog.
Quiet confidence will effectively get your message across. If you do forget and speak to your dog, just watch how quickly your dog gets excited (or even overexcited)! (Translation: Woo Hoo, I just got their attention!)
You are now teaching your dog that attention on your terms is about Quality not Quantity.
For habits that are more subtle (but can still turn into more serious behavioural problems if allowed to continue) or if you are having trouble discouraging unwanted attention-seeking behaviour, seek a professional’s advice.
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Most pet owners know that owning a dog (or cat) offers many wonderful benefits. They make us feel loved and cherished; they are always ready and willing to listen and cuddle close whenever we need it. They also make us laugh and feel part of something much bigger than just ourselves.
If you have a dog, or cat, with a sweet, loving and generous nature, have you ever thought that they could also help other people like they help you?
For the past few years, my two Border Terriers and I have been visiting older people with dementia and more recently, younger people with learning or physical disabilities. These visits are known as pet therapy (UK) or animal-assisted therapy (USA) for individuals with certain physical or mental challenges or disabilities.
Doing pet therapy means volunteering your time usually with a registered charity like P.A.T. (Pets As Therapy) or a similar organisation. These charities are aware of which hospitals, residential and nursing homes, hospices, etc., are looking for people to volunteer with their pets. In addition, these establishments also know which particular clients are interested in meeting your pet; this guidance is critical in ensuring a pleasant and rewarding experience … as not everyone is an animal lover.
My girls seem to love these visits immensely, meeting and being fussed over by different people and I have to say it always makes my day too! Seeing so many faces light up with huge smiles all because a dog has entered the room.
Some of these same people may have had to give up a beloved pet in order to be looked after full-time and others may have lost a dog in their lives that they still miss. These visits always create and bring such joy and positivity to not only these people’s lives, but also for the dog and its owner. Without a doubt, everyone is left with happy new memories from one of these visits.
Did you also know that pet therapy is believed to improve things like high blood pressure, actively stimulate thought processes and memories and also help promote positive mental health? To see someone who barely speaks on a day-to-day basis start to chat and interact with your dog and then to the people around them about their own dog, is so satisfying and heartwarming.
If you want to feel like a beaming, proud mum or dad, there is nothing better than hearing from the staff that your visit was remembered for days afterwards by the same people who sometimes can’t even remember their own name or where they are! That is the power of the dog … connecting and offering unconditional love to everyone they meet! Just like your pet does everyday with you, your dog makes everyone feel good about themselves and always leaves behind a smile and new happy memories of the time spent together.
While it may not be the first thing that pops into your head when it comes to volunteering and animals, nothing beats volunteering with your own dog or cat for such a good cause.
If you would like to know more about this subject, please visit P.A.T. at www.PetsAsTherapy.org or Animal-Assisted Therapy at www.animaltherapy.net/How%20to%20get%20started.html today and make someone’s day brighter (including your own!) with some pet therapy.
I’d love to hear from you if you have volunteered with your pet or are thinking about it, please leave a comment or share your story below.
OK there is another new life coming into your home in the next few months and you are worried that fido or Trixiebell isn’t going to be the centre of attention any more. Will they get on, will they be jealous of the new baby? How do you keep everyone happy? Can you cope?
The good news is that if the due date isn’t for a few months there is plenty of time to get prepared when it comes to your dog. They may already know something is going on as you are probably preparing a nursery or painting or doing some kind of preparation for the baby coming home, they’ve noticed.
Now is the time to put down some ground rules for when baby comes, NOT when baby actually comes home. This means that by then these ground rules for your dog should already be ingrained and a habit. Rather than, not only a new human comes home but now your dog isn’t allowed to do certain things it was always allowed to do before, then you really will have your hands full!
Think about it, you are going to be feeding your baby very regularly, changing, trying to get some sleep etc so start with some ‘no dog zones’. The bedroom is a start as you will be spending a lot of time in here with your baby and you don’t want the dog under your feet or looking for your attention when you are trying to deal with a screaming baby. If your dog has always slept in your room or on your bed it is time to give him his own place to sleep, somewhere where he can actually be out of the way of all the noise and commotion too.
Start thinking about your dog’s routine and how it will fit around the new baby’s routine. If you are going to be up early or late it might be worth thinking about changing his walking routine or feeding routine. Do it now and get him used to it before the baby comes, then his world doesn’t become unrecognisable and he then starts to panic at all the changes. Dogs need their routines just like babies.
If you aren’t sure you can cope with the walking on top of everything else, why not think of paying a dog walker to take Fido or Trixiebell out at the same time every day and then you don’t have to worry about that part at all!
Baby gates aren’t just for toddlers, baby gates are great for separating space but your dog can still see everyone and still feel part of the family and not shut out completely. Put these in place now so your dog can get used to them and obviously make sure that they can’t get over them! Best to find that out now. Then when you do come home with baby he can see what is going on and smell and hear everything.
When baby arrives, bring back a blanket or something that smells of the new baby so your dog can smell it, he’ll also smell the new baby off you too. This will mean he will be more familiar with the smell before the baby even enters the home.
When you come home with your new arrival go and get the baby settled before you worry about the dog. If you have been putting new routines in practise this should be one of the major ones. When you come home or you are moving about the house, spend time actively ignoring your dog. This may sound harsh but most dogs have been given the information from us that they are the centre of attention by us making so much eye contact with them. This is like saying hello and starting a conversation with a dog. The dog then wants to carry on the conversation. Attention seeking dogs will do anything to ‘catch your eye’ and start that conversation. So by actively ignoring your dog regularly, on a day-to-day basis, your dog will start to learn that they only get your attention when you are good and ready to and not before. When baby comes it really will be when you are ready and not before!
Lastly, the introduction. This doesn’t have to happen as soon as you arrive home. Everyone will be tired and the baby may be sleeping. Do this when you feel relaxed and you have some time, like in the evening. Put the dog on their lead while mum comes in with baby and gets settled. If your dog gets excited about his lead, drop it and leave the room. Give him a few minutes and come back in, you want your dog to be nice and calm, not in a heightened state of excitement. Keep doing this until Fido knows he isn’t actually going anywhere and is calm, then lead him into the room.
Sit in a chair away from mum and baby and ignore the dog. Just have a chat and relax and wait until Fido is relaxed to. If he starts getting too excitable, jumping or barking, just lead him back into another room and leave him again. He will soon learn he must be calm when he comes in where the baby is. If however fido remains calm after a 10 minutes in the room, move a little closer and sit and chat again. The idea is to eventually get to sit beside each other, with Fido on his lead being calm and relaxed. With some dogs this might happen in one session. With others this may take quite a few sessions.
They will get it eventually, you are teaching them how you wish them to behave around the baby and what is acceptable if they wish to remain in the room with you. Remember dogs take their cues from us and if we make nothing of it and are calm and relaxed, they will be too.
And finally, Never, Never leave a baby or small child unsupervised with your dog. This is as much for your dog’s safety as for your child. Your dog is an instinctive and reactive creature and should never be left to make a decision on it’s own when it comes to young and unpredictable infants and toddlers.
I hope this helps you have confidence in your dog and your baby being around one another. It can be done and there are so many benefits to having a dog around a home with children. It just takes a little thought and practise to do it right and get it right.
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Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach
I am going to start with a truth which I tell all my clients; Not all dogs are treated equally. Small dogs get away with a lot more ‘undesirable or bad’ behaviour than big dogs. In fact I would put it to you that owners put up with 3 or 4 times the amount of bad behaviour in a small dog than they would tolerate with a larger dog.
Does your pet have a favourite spot on the sofa or your bed? Of course they do as I’m sure you do. We are all creatures of habit. But are the habits good or bad ones?
I know clients who have had to race to bed before their large dog got there or they would end up sleeping on a sliver of mattress. Or their favourite chair is no longer Their favourite chair it is now the dog’s favourite chair.
When I ask these owners as to why they have given up their comfort or beloved favourite spot they always answer with ‘it makes them happy’ and have a kinda dreamy look on their face as they look at their darling pooch sprawled in luxury and snoring lazily on the said favorite chair or sofa spot, while they take the ‘less favoured’ positions around the room.
Is this such a big deal? I hear you ask, does it really matter?
Well the answer is Yes, to both those questions because the canine is a species, much like ourselves who lives in a family orientated structure. Much like our own. Within this structure is the people or animals that look after the rest of the family, mum and dad, grandparents, the older, more experienced family members. Were you ever told as a child to not touch that as it was granddad’s or get up and let your mum sit down? That’s because there are certain benefits or perks to having a responsible role in the family. Why not, you look after the family, you bring home a wage to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. You keep them safe.
So lets look at it from the dog’s point of view. If the human gives out a lot of signals that are inconsistent, like for instance, they let you up on the sofa beside them for cuddles, great! Next day is the same. The following day you’re not allowed up but you wait til they go out of the room and you sneak on. Your human returns and sits back down and cuddles you again, great! What is your dog learning? That you know your own mind and have rules it needs to follow or that you are a bit of a push over?
Lets add to that. What if your dog has taken on the role of the responsible one for the family, you, your husband or wife, the kids and the cat? What if your dog took his role very seriously about the safety of his family. He chases off trespassers (barks out the window or in the garden), he takes you all out for a walk (he pulls on the lead and has bad recall), bringing you back safe. He might even tell you off if you over-step the mark (by growling or even nipping you). Wouldn’t you want the most prized position in the house for doing that job?
I hate to be the one to break this to you but you are probably not the real decision maker of the family in your household if any of that last paragraph sounded any way familiar to you. Dogs, like humans need boundaries and rules. If there are none of these in place as the dog grows up and matures they will make up their own set of rules to create some kind of structure to their lives, just as we would in a group of human strangers. It is in our instincts and our dogs to have someone in charge to keep the young and the weak safe. With someone making decisions and rules, everyone knows their place and hopefully everyone will survive.
So what if your dog doesn’t see you as that someone?
Usually some sort of chaos ensues in the household as the dog starts making up the rules as he goes along. Remember a dog with little or no experience of the world will be learning everything from scratch. He learns that the approaching footsteps to his door makes him uncomfortable and feel threatened so he starts to bark, the footsteps retreat (most likely the postman, paperboy or delivery man) and the dog has just learnt a valuable lesson. Barking makes the stranger go away.
So if you become your dog’s responsibility, in his eyes. Does it make sense that he feels he has to follow you around the house, especially as you sometimes have the habit of disappearing, sometimes for hours, and then re-appearing again? Does it make sense he feels the need to rush ahead and see what’s on the other side of the door, or that bush, or around the next bend in the path? He’s only doing his job! Right?
If any of this has made sense to you as you’ve read it and thought about it, make one rule today that you will stick to. The dog is only allowed on the bed/ sofa/ chair on your terms and when he is invited and be consistent.
He will love and respect you for it.
Read more about Consistency is the key to Success
Please feel free to leave a comment if you found this article useful or you are having trouble taking back your sofa!
Bernie, The Dog Owners Coach
We all want a well-mannered and relaxed dog around the house. To keep us company when we are on our own or when we have guests over. There is nothing worse or embarrassing when your dog wont leave you or your guests alone! But could it be you that is causing this behaviour?
Mistake no.1 Do you constantly talk to your dog like they are another person?
We’ve all done this, we are human and sometimes I think we just like the sound of our own voice, some more than others! We tell our pets, ‘I’m home! Did you miss me?’, ‘What have you been up to all day, wait to you hear about my day…’, ‘I’m just going out to [friends] house I wont be long’, ‘What would you like for dinner we have…’ and it goes on and on. I hope you’re laughing right now if this is you because we have all wished our pets would talk back to us, just once! But, unfortunately they never do or will because they are a dog.
Why is this so bad I hear you ask? Well for one, this is an exercise in getting things off our chest or looking for some love and attention ourselves but you are also training your dog to become an attention seeker through no fault of his/ her own. He’ll learn that paying you attention while you chat away all day long gets him something he wants too, you. You are his/her reward for just paying you attention, but then when you are busy, running late and in a rush or you have guests over, who’s still looking for attention and getting in your way? You got it!
Secondly, if your voice fills the room, day and night and becomes background noise to your dog. How does he know when you are saying the important stuff? We all learn to switch off after a while, I think they call it ‘Selective Hearing’. If your dog is paying you attention at the wrong times and not, when he is supposed to, it’s not his fault. Think ‘Does my dog need to know this information?’ before you speak.
Mistake no.2 Do you look at your dog a lot or constantly watch him?
I don’t know about you but I hate the idea of being watched. You want to keep looking over your shoulder all the time. This may come as a surprise to you but because dogs don’t speak a language, they use body language as their main form of communication. Eye contact being at the top of the list. OK here’s a little experiment for you to try with some non canine members of your family. Next time you are in a room with another human, don’t say anything and just look at them, keep your face neutral if possible and just watch them and keep making eye contact. I will guarantee you within a couple of minutes you are going to be asked ‘What?’
Do you get it yet? When ever you come in the door and look down at your furry friend and he looks back at you, you have started a conversation and he’s saying ‘what?’ (Probably what’s this nutter looking for now because they never tell me they just walk off and then they do it again and again)
Again we are rewarding attention seeking behaviour because we hold our dog in a constant non- verbal conversation which then becomes a habit. It’s one of the hardest things to do but stop looking at the dog when he doesn’t need to be in the conversation. A lot of ‘busy’ dogs are like this because they have an attention seeking owner! They only lie down and sleep when it’s time for the soaps on TV or the computer goes on. Sound familiar?
Mistake no.3 Do you tell your dog what to do All The Time?
OK this is my biggest bugbear and it’s with the humans, not the dogs. I know parents who do this too, so don’t be feeling left out anyone! You know the ones you visit or see in the park? ‘Stop doing that’, ‘come here’, ‘sit there’, ‘lie down there’, ‘wait’, ‘leave’, ‘I said No’, I could go on but I’m boring myself.
What you then create is a neurotic dog which needs to be around you all the time so you can tell it what to do or what not to do. Why? Because if it’s the only way it’s going to get your attention, good or bad, then that’s what he has to do – trying to work out what the hell the human wants it to do now.
Dog’s like children are intelligent creatures and learn by making mistakes and learning from the consequences of their own actions. If you Tell a dog or a child what to Do all the time then what are they going to learn? Exactly what you tell them and nothing else, probably. Like a robot. How about letting them learn self-control? Don’t laugh, it’s the basis for most positive reward training. Which we know to be the kindest and quickest way for anyone, human or animal to learn. Why? Because we will continue to do a behaviour in which we gain something good from doing that behavior. For example, we teach toddlers that if they say ‘Please’ they will get [name that reward*chips,lolipops,sweeties, etc*] what happens if they don’t say please? Nothing, they don’t get their nice thing. They think about it and then say Please! We aint stupid you know and neither are our dogs. Let them learn for themselves, you reward what you want to see more of, everyone’s happy!
Lets give them a break from our human world and our human ways and let them just be Canine. Be mindful of your behaviour and you will see a different behaviour from your dog if you do.
Happy dog= Happy owner
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Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach