Commandment #1, Never train a dog when angry.
I shouldn’t even have to mention this here. It should be a given. It should be right up there with these other, “no-nonsense” rules, but some people still don’t “get it.”
- Never hit your dog.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a hot car.
- Don’t forget about those other 10 Commandments, written by somebody else, millenia ago. Most of those are worth reviewing too, even if it’s just to make certain you’re on the right track with the rest of your life.
Dogs have real feelings and emotions and they are far better at reading your emotions than most people I know Even though I have never seen a Rottweiler with PMS, (and for that I am extremely grateful,) it doesn’t mean you can’t hurt their feelings. Their cognitive and emotional responses are nowhere near as developed as those that you and I share, but those emotions are still there and they play a huge role in how the dog will respond to you. A dog that loves and trusts is a lot easier to work with than a dog that fears you. Luckily, Dogs tend to forgive and forget a lot quicker than their human counterparts. Keeping this in mind, I spend a fair amount of time in my own head, getting out of my own way and getting grounded.
I use a combination of deep breathing and meditative techniques to eliminate stress and regain my focus. I have discovered over the years that dogs really respond better when I am “all there;” Focused, attentive, in-tune with nature and the dog that I am working with. If I give the dog I’m working with 100% of my attention I rarely receive less in return.
I am only human and I do become angry and frustrated on occasion. When I do, I quickly excuse myself, take a break and spend some time rethinking my methods. If the dog isn’t getting it, it means that I haven’t done my job correctly. I need to adjust myself or try a different method to motivate the dog into responding, with the desired behavior.
I will not apply corrections to an animal that doesn’t understand WHY it’s being corrected. I strive to make certain that the subject understands why corrections are applied and more importantly, how to make the corrections stop and what behaviors to avoid in the future.
Sometimes it’s simply break time. If you are uncertain in your methods, it is definitely time to take a break. It’s far better to err on the side of caution than
make a dog not trust you.
Commandment # 2: Mean what you say and always, follow through:
Be a leader. Your dog doesn’t want the responsibility of analyzing every potential threat. As the big dog, (the one with the higher brain function and the opposable thumb,) it is your responsibility to protect your dog; Not the other way around. Every minute that you are not actively training your dog, he is training you. Keep that in mind next time you tell Fido to sit and he looks at you as though you’ve lost your mind.
If this scenario sounds familiar it’s likely that you are a command repeater. You say sit. Your dog doesn’t even look towards your face, he simply ignores you. You say sit again. Maybe just a little bit louder this time. He actually favors you with a glance and cocks his head a little bit, but his butt doesn’t go anywhere near the floor. By the third time you give the command, you’ve started to get a little irritated and the 3rd time is the charm.
Do you know why your dog finally sat?
It’s because you began to sound angry. Your dog has likely learned over the time you’ve spent together, that the angrier you sound, the more likely he’s going to suffer consequences. (Maybe he’ll be grabbed by the collar and given a healthy little shake. Maybe he won’t get his Wednesday trip to the dog park like you promised.) The dog has learned that this is the right time to comply. If he doesn’t listen now he will be in trouble. Now there are consequences.
If you always repeat a command 3 or 4 times before your dog complies and actually performs the command, (which is usually after you get angry and he knows you are serious.) If you are doing this, you are actually training your dog NOT to comply the first time.
Keep in mind that One of the most basic principles of dog training is: If a behavior works for your dog, he will repeat that behavior. If it doesn’t work he will try something else.
Commandment #3: Be Consistent!
Consistency is key. How many times have you watched a frustrated dog owner repeat the same command 1/2 a dozen times, only to watch his dog pretend to be completely deaf?
If you enforce the behavior the 1st time the command is given, the dog will quickly realize that it is much easier to comply than it is to ignore you. Do not give a command unless you are ready and able to enforce it.
Do: Use the same commands day after day. Don’t use “come” one day and “here” the next day. Over years you can get to that point, but if you’re reading this, chances are, you’re nowhere near the level in your relationship where you can change the verbiage and expect consistent results.
Do: Incorporate hand signals along with the command. When you’re certain your dog understands what that hand signal means, you can practice by whispering the command and displaying the hand signal. When compliance is automatic, try it without the verbal cue and keep practicing until you’re confident that your dog will respond in most environments. Trust me, hand signals are invaluable in many situations. For example: LOUD Environments, when you’re sneaking in, (or out,) after curfew or when you are separated by long distances from your dog.
Commandment #4: Pay for services rendered.
Make it worth their while: Attention, Affection, Food, & Play are all currencies your dog may be willing to work for.
Most of us don’t go to work simply because we love the work. Many of us can’t stand our bosses but we go to work anyway. Why? For the paycheck! Don’t forget this important part, pay up! Especially if your dog is new to the household, until that bond forms, and long afterwards, you need to find ways to make your dog feel, valued.
For many, a game of fetch, a pat on the head, a walk around the block are all great currencies. I’m not a big believer in doling out endless treats as if that’s how you show your love. Too many treats and you’ll end up with an overweight pooch with bad shoulders / knees or other health issues like pancreatitis. That being said, your undivided attention is probably the #1 thing your dog craves. Make certain they get some of it now and again.
Now this is the hard part: Don’t give your attention/affection away for free. Your Dog craves a job, a purpose, a way to earn their keep, this job with proper praise and attention rewards is a pathway to developing confidence and pride. (Especially important with a shy or skittish dog. If you give everything away for free, these rewards will lose their value and your dog will begin to act and feel, entitled. This often leads to demanding behavior. Endless “demand” barking, bumping your arm while you’re eating, reading or trying to watch the playoff games on TV. Demanding your attention and affection. (We all know dogs that do these behaviors.) Giving it away for free and /or giving in, is an easy way to ruin a good dog.
Dogs need to feel that work drive and the good feelings that go with success. Don’t take accomplishments away from your dog, pay for services rendered with your love, affection and give valued attention for a job well done!
That’s it for this time,