- Make sure your expectations of your dog are reasonable. Don’t expect your dog to acquire good behaviors until you train him to do what you want.
- When you begin extinguishing attention-seeking behaviors (e.g., jumping, barking in your face, pawing at you, stealing, etc.) expect these behaviors to get worse before they get better (known as an extinction burst). Be consistent in your training, and be patient!
- When saying English words to your dog (e.g., his name, commands like sit or down, etc.), do not repeat these words more than ONCE. When we nag our dogs by repeating and repeating, they learn to stop listening to us.
- If your dog ignores you, it is not because he’s being stubborn! It can be because whatever you’re saying might be confusing to him, or you might be using words that have become meaningless to him because you’ve repeated them over and over again.
- When asking your dog to sit, or when asking him to do anything, please stand up straight. Avoid leaning over your dog to address him as he may back away from you.
- WOMEN – avoid sing-songing commands to your dog. When you tell your dog to sit, say the word in a firm, but neutral voice. You’re not asking the dog to sit — you’re telling him to sit.
- Remember that when you reward your dog for a behavior, that behavior will tend to increase. This is known as positive reinforcement.
- If your dog is hyper, reward him for sitting, lying down or doing ANY calm behavior he voluntarily offers by giving him treats . You’ll notice that your dog will begin sitting and lying down more and more on his own.
If your dog starts to show inappropriate behaviors, and those behaviors get worse and worse, you will have to figure out who or what is reinforcing those behaviors. Remember that what can be rewarding to a dog is not necessarily rewarding to humans.
- Consider the breed of your dog when fretting over his behaviors. If you have a herding dog, this dog will tend to nip at children’s ankles, he’ll be more likely to chase children, cars, bikes, rabbits and squirrels and anything that moves quickly. If you have a dog known for protecting, your dog will bark at strangers. If you have a dog that has been bred to hunt rodents underground, this dog will enjoy digging.
- Never physically punish your dog for anything! Your dog will not trust you if you slap him. He will think you’re a bully and he will not respect you. He might learn to be afraid of you, but he won’t respect you! Also, someday he may choose to defend himself against your aggressive behavior toward him. His behavior toward other people may also be affected by your aggression toward him. Physical punishment creates a lot of fallout.
MEN – when speaking to your dog it is not necessary to yell. More often than not, a word spoken in a non-threatening way will get more of his attention than hollering.
- Your dog needs to know that you’re a good leader. When dogs do not have confidence in their humans to make good decisions, dogs instinctively feel that they need to “take over” and make decisions on their own. Your dog wants to know that you will never place him in harm’s way. Your dog wants to feel confident that his survival is your responsibility. If your dog feels the need to make decisions on his own, he will always resort to doggy-behavior. Dogs that think they have to rule the roost become hyper and nervous. Many times they develop very bad habits, like biting people, growling and snarling when they don’t get their own way. Help your dog to feel more relaxed by controlling all of his resources (e.g., food, toys, shelter, and all good things). He will become much calmer when he knows it’s not his responsibility to make important decisions. Follow the Nothing in Life is Free Program.
- Do not leave your dog’s food in his bowl all day long. “Free-feeding” causes dogs to lose their appetite. Dogs that have food out all day do not feel that their food is valuable. They think food grows in the bowl just for them. By offering two distinct meals per day, your dog will learn to eat when his bowl is placed on the floor. He will also see YOU as the giver of his food. If you have a puppy, feeding at definite times will help his digestive system become more regulated and you will be able to housetrain your pup much more easily.
- If you have young children in your home, and you have a computer, please go to the following website for extremely important information about how to keep children safe with dogs, and how to keep dogs safe with children: www.doggonesafe.com
- Never allow small children to play on the floor with any puppy or adult dog. When dogs get overly excited they tend to nip children on the face! Avoid making this mistake. Young children should either stand up or sit on furniture when playing with their dogs.
- Never leave young children with puppies or adults dogs without an adult to supervise — do not leave them alone even for one second!!
- According to the Humane Society of the United States, 12 year old boys are more apt to be bitten by their own dogs. Never allow your children (or your husband) to rough-house with your puppies or adult dogs.
- Teach your children to behave appropriately with your puppy or dog. Never allow children to pull tails or ears or to lay on top of your dog! Teach children that when puppy or dog wants to go into his crate for a rest, they should respect his need to do so.
- Learn to recognize stress signals that your dog tries to communicate. When your dog becomes stressed around your children, allow him to escape to either his crate or another room where he can chill. Teach your children never to bother your dog when he’s in this “safe space.” **To learn how dogs communicate that they are stressed, purchase the book, “ON TALKING TERMS WITH DOGS,” by Turid Rugaas. Also purchase the companion video with the same name. You can purchase these items at: www.Dogwise.com
- When purchasing puppies, do not take them from their littermates until 8 weeks of age. If you purchase a pup younger than 8 weeks, it will be difficult to teach him to have a soft mouth. Puppies removed from their litter too early tend to be nippy and play bite with hard-mouths. A pup needs to learn bite inhibition from his littermates before he’s brought into the home. You then must teach him to use his mouth softly (see my Puppy Packet for more information).
Begin training puppies as early as 9 weeks of age. The earlier you begin training, the less likely your puppy will be to develop inappropriate behavioral habits as he goes through his adolescence and enters adulthood.
- If you adopt an adolescent dog or adult dog from a shelter or rescue organization, be sure to start obedience training ASAP. The majority of dogs that wind up in shelters or rescue have not even been trained to sit.
- When adopting a dog from a shelter or from rescue, expect a “honeymoon period.” This period can last anywhere from 1 week to 4-6 months. This might all depend on how long it takes for your adopted dog to feel comfortable and secure in his new home. Once this honeymoon period comes to an end, your dog might begin showing some inappropriate behaviors that he had developed in his previous life. Be patient with your dog and teach him more appropriate behaviors by rewarding him heavily for doing what you want him to do.
- Start training your adopted dog in obedience after only a few days of arriving at your home. Let him know from the very beginning that you’re going to be a firm, but benevolent leader!
- When you train your dog, teach him the word you want him to learn AS HE’S DOING THE BEHAVIOR. For example, if you want your dog to understand the word, SIT, say the word “SIT” as he goes to put his butt on the floor. After about 5 times, test him to see if he understands the word by saying it first. If he sits then you’ll know he now understands what that spoken word means. Dogs will always respond quicker to hand-signals, as they communicate with each other using body language.
When using reward-based training, give your dog his reward within 1/2 second of his doing that good behavior. If your timing in incorrect, you might be rewarding him for the wrong behavior. For example, many people will take their dog outside to potty, but will then give the dog a treat after he comes back inside the house. The dog has only learned that he’s been rewarded for coming back in the house — not that he’s done a good thing by going potty outside!
- If during the life of your dog you notice any sudden change in his behavior, take him to the veterinarian for a complete physical examination. There are many serious illnesses that might cause a dog to change his behavior.
I wish you good luck with your dog, and I hope this article will help you understand your canine companions.
© 2009 Renee Premaza