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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Do you go for walks with your dog happily trotting by your side? Or do you feel like you are being dragged behind a heat-seeking missile with absolutely no steering (or brake for that matter), just waiting for disaster to strike?!
Ever wonder how some dog owners make walking their dog look like pure pleasure?
Ever wondered how an 11-year old girl can easily lead her pony without being dragged in every direction? (Especially when full-grown adults are being dragged off-course by dogs half their size?!)
Want to know their secret?
The answer is simple; they were taught to behave this way.
Someone put the necessary time, effort and knowledge into teaching that pony (or dog) – at a young age and before bad behaviour set in – what is (and isn’t) acceptable behaviour. We all know that a child would not be able to hold onto something as powerful as a horse, especially if the horse was young, wild and untrained.
So why don’t we think in the same terms with our dogs?
Imagine if you were to alter your mindset when it comes to your dog. What if you put a wolf in the place of your dog; wouldn’t you show greater respect for that creature and treat it differently? Now, what if that wolf wasn’t properly trained with care and kindness? Imagine the mayhem, fear and even injury that could result! Wouldn’t you feel responsible if you were to get this wrong?
So why do we look at our dogs so differently? If left untrained, wouldn’t they be as likely to cause mayhem, fear or injury as the wolf? Of course! So let’s start working on that new mindset below.
Teaching Your Dog
Puppies and dogs learn in the exact same way, by experience. Those behaviours that feel pleasurable will most likely happen again. Using positive praise and rewards will work, but only if you give these at the right time. For instance, your dog starts pulling on the lead and you start speaking to him, telling him to behave, go easy, slow down and so on. But when he is walking nicely beside you, he gets very little positive interaction from you. So which behaviour do you think he is more likely to repeat?
I always teach my clients to get their pup or dog happily walking beside them at home without the use of a lead. Why? Because this helps your dog quickly learn that they can be part of the team and get your positive interaction without being coerced or dragged into place. The idea is to make it fun – almost like a game of “follow the leader” – to help your dog learn to walk beside you. With lots of short 5-minute “games,” you will begin to easily ingrain this “good” habit or behaviour as a natural way of your dog walking with you, without consciously thinking about it.
Practise walking in different directions, stopping and starting, while encouraging your dog to stay with you at your side. Keeping it short and fun means you will both want to repeat this as often as you have time throughout the day. Once your dog understands he needs to be consistently at your side, you can increase and decrease your pace and do more complicated manoeuvres. Once your dog can keep up, it’s time for the next step!
You will now add the lead to the equation; because it is no longer the tool to “make” your dog walk nicely at your side. You have already practised (and achieved) that part! The lead is used to keep your “wolf” alongside you if it sees other distractions and to keep it safe from making mistakes until it learns the “way of the world.” A lot of social spaces demand that dogs be on leads; you and your dog can do this easily and happily now, because you have taught your dog that being by your side is a really nice place to be!
Once out in the world, remember you must keep letting your dog know you are still playing the game with the same encouragement of praise and some rewards. If your dog gets distracted by something, just stop and stand quietly, then change direction and call your dog to you, praising it when he comes.
Don’t set yourself or your dog up to fail.
Start with a 5-minute walk and – if all goes well – increase the walk time in increments (instead of going from 5-minutes to an hour walk in one single leap). How about doing two 10-minute walks instead of a 20-minute walk? This keeps things fun and fresh (for both of you!) and it’s probably easier for you to find the time in your day instead of taking a 20- or 30-minute block out of your busy schedule!
So, as you’ve seen, there really is no “secret” to having a well-mannered dog, it just takes some well-invested time, patience and knowledge at the beginning to be able to enjoy your walks with your dog for the rest of your time together.
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
I’d like to thank Donna for taking the time to write this post on Canicross in Ireland
I first seen Juneau in the background of a photo of a dog that was looking to be adopted.
At the end of August 2009 Juneau came to live with us. Juneau had very little muscle, so we knew we’d have to take things easy, we walked about 2 miles every second day to begin with. As he began to bulk up I knew that a walk would never be good enough, and being a husky (or part off) we could never let him off lead. I also knew that to keep with Juneau I’d have to stop smoking 20 a day, and do something about the extra few stone I gained and never lost after my second baby! I had read about canicross on different websites, I thought it was really interesting, it was somethign I’d love to do but i never thought I’d be able to run.
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!