This is the second in a series of blogs about dog training:
Training Foundation (you are here)
Overcoming Aggressive Behavior
8 Concepts to Understand Before You Begin Dog Training
Are You Committed to Training Your Dog?
Committment to dog training is the primary key to its success. There is no giving up in dog training.
There is a roller coaster of emotions ranging from extreme frustration when you’ve said “No” for the 35th time on a given day or are picking up poop from your living room rug . . . to absolute elation when your pup responds promptly to your command despite distractions or calmly greets you at the front door.
Let’s be serious here – dog training is domestication of a canine, a descendant of wolves. It’s true that most of the wild side is gone, but your dog is still a wolf in his individual breed “clothing.” Take a good look at your pup's teeth the next time you brush his teeth. Those nasty, muti-pointed ones were made for ripping and tearing flesh, not for eating grass.
Establish Yourself as the Leader of the Pack
You are the leader of the pack. Your dog is a member of the pack. If you cannot assume a leadership role, your dog will take it over. He knows no other way to live in the pack. When he takes over the leader's role, you can guess who will be training who.
One way to see this concept in action is to watch a few Cesar Millan (the “Dog Whisperer”) episodes on the web or on the National Geographic channel. Keep your eyes on Cesar.
Another good source of “alpha dog” information is the kingdom of pets Secrets to Dog Training media package (pdfs, DVD, audio). This media package reinforces the “alpha dog” concept throughout the entire set of topics.
Your Dog is a Family Member
Treat your dog as a family (pack) member, and he will respond accordingly. Do you take your dog with you when you go out (event permitting)? Or do you leave him home to fall asleep or chew the furniture in complete boredom?
When you work around the house, is your dog with you or not? Alvin likes to bite the broom, bark at the vacuum, and grab the rake outdoors. Obviously, your dog can’t help you mow the lawn, but he can be at least present for other activities.
Communicate with Your Dog
People talk is NOT a dog’s native language. He will NEVER, EVER understand your entire message. Maybe a few words. Certainly the tone of your message. And he will get a very clear message from your body language.
You need to communicate in dog talk. Of course, you won’t be barking, growling, or biting (unless you want to) – but you need to understand your dog’s body language and sounds. Alvin combines a sound (whining) with a look. He communicates “You left my treats on the counter and I want them” with a whine and a longing stare in the direction of the treats.
How do you learn dog talk?
Watch the animal! Try and figure out what certain body language means by his actions.
Search the Internet with keywords such as “dog talk” and you’ll get all kinds of help in many different formats.
A word of caution: get specific training information from known experts. They know what works the majority of the time. This is one reason why I finally leaned toward Secrets to Dog Training. Dog experts created this training.
Patience and Consistency are Mandatory
If you want to train your dog, but you are not a patient person, best of luck to you! You may be handing your dog’s training over to a competent one-on-one dog trainer. They’ll make fewer mistakes, but then you’ll need lessons from the trainer about how to use commands. And will the trainer show up to teach housetraining – the type of training that requires the most patience?
All dog training requires consistent application of the same activities in order for training to turn into everyday practice. For example, once you teach a dog to sit with a hand signal, everyone in the household should be using the same signal. If a dog is not supposed to jump up on one family member but is allowed to jump up on another, you will have one confused dog!
Rewards Work, Punishment Does NOT Work
Dogs respond to rewards of food, attention, and toys as long as the reward is immediate (within a few seconds of the request/command). When a dog’s action, whether it’s positive or negative, is rewarded, he is more likely to repeat the action.
Punishment does not work with dogs. Dogs cannot connect a whack on the nose with mischievous or otherwise bad behavior (from the human viewpoint). Punish repeatedly and fear and/or aggression will result. On an episode of "It's Me or the Dog," a snarling Boston Terrior would not let his owner touch him. Turns out she had been coming at him with a broom. It showed what the menacing broom looked like from the terrier's viewpoint. No wonder he became aggressive.
Show Respect for Your Pup
No matter how mischievous, aggressive, or destructive the dog, he will respond based on your respect for him. He senses how you feel by your attitude, tone of voice, and actions, no matter how subtle or how unaware you are of the way you are acting.
Dogs Deserve Excellent Treatment
Dogs DESERVE clean water, nutritious food, medical care, shelter from the weather, and our attention and caring. Training is what owners provide so that they can live comfortably with dogs.
If you are not willing to provide what dogs deserve, perhaps you need to re-think why you got a dog in the first place.