Be Your Dogs Guide
Think of being your dogs guide as being a tour guide, while your dog is a world traveler. We want to use clear communication to guide, teach and train our dogs necessary skills, rules and boundaries so that they can become successful in their home and in public. Being a good guide will help you learn about your dog, while learning to set him up for success. It also allows you to start developing a stronger relationship through training and teaching.
Keep all the rules the same. Whether you have friends or family over, or maybe you are somewhere in public, be consistent and keep the rules the same. You always want to keep your training consistent as it will be the easiest way to communicate and teach your dog.
Be On The Dogs Program
Go at your dogs pace (not yours) and be on your dogs program when training. Each and every dog learns and processes things differently. We must be aware of our dogs learning style, his drives/motivations and his sensitives. This is what being on the dogs program is all about. Being on the dogs program means that we are being the most effective teacher for our dog. One of the biggest mistakes we all make is picturing our dog doing something right away with only the end result in mind. BUT ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY! Taking the proper steps and going at the dogs pace is paramount. Keep your sessions fun, short and don’t rush.
Understand The Emotional Side Of Your Dog
Just like with people, every dog is different. Some are confident and outgoing, some are soft and shy and some can be nervous or even fearful. Understanding the emotional side of your dog can help in setting realistic goals while implementing more effective teaching and training strategies. This is especially important for behavior modification programs.
Dogs Are Body Language Communicators
Dogs naturally use their bodies to communicate. They also look at our bodies to understand what we are communicating back to them. Typically, dogs are looking at our bodies before they listen to the verbal cues we give them. This is why some dogs learn hand signals quicker then verbal cues. The way in which we present our bodies can affect how our dogs perceive us and react towards us. For example, I suggest standing straight rather than constantly bending over your dog as this can cause a dog to feel uncomfortable. We should also have a calm body posture. This is a lot better than having a very stiff, forward, threatening and forceful looking body posture as dogs can find this very threatening and uncomfortable. This can cause some dogs to displays fearful and even aggressive behavior. This is also when some dogs may choose not to respond to cues such as sit, stay, come etc. Understanding how our body language can affect our dogs behavior and reactions is very important.
The Environment & Your Dog
The environment can affect a dogs behavior. Environments can affect the way dogs act, respond and focus (or lack thereof). Some environments can cause dogs to be distracted, over stimulated and even afraid. In order to set a dog up to succeed in different environments, we need to teach them. Each environment affects each dog differently. My point is, just because your dog knows how to come when he is called inside your house, does not mean he will understand how to come when called when he is running around with dog friends at a park if you have never trained him in that situation and environment. Typically, you want to train new behaviors to your dog in a calm environment with little to no distractions. Once your dog truly understands those behaviors and it becomes a piece of cake, then you can start making things more difficult and eventually start practicing in different environments.
Use Motivating Reinforcement
All living creatures, including us humans, repeat behaviors that are reinforcing. Determine what reinforcers motivate your dog and his drives. For example, my dog loves food and toys as reinforcement. I use reinforcers on a value system. The higher value the reinforcer, the more motivated the dog might be to work. Would you rather work for a five-dollar bill or a fifty-dollar bill? The same is true for our dogs. Boring dog biscuit or boiled chicken breast?
Living with and training your dog should be an enjoyable experience for the both of you. Keep your practice sessions fun. If you find yourself getting annoyed, impatient, or even angry, then end your session and take a breather. The more enjoyable things are for you and your dog, the easier things can become moving forward.
- Don’t use training tools and equipment that will harm your dog or cause fear. Instead, get your dog a well fitted harness, clicker, treat pouch and some high value treats!
- Location, Location, Location! – It is best to start training in an area with little or no distractions, where your dog can focus wholly on learning. Starting indoors is recommended.
- Remember dogs are not born to speak human. Don’t assume they know what we say and what we ask of them.
- Reward your dog for good behavior throughout the day! Every interaction with your dog is a “training session.”
- Don’t give treats away for free. Let your dog earn it.
- Training your dog to use a crate and exercise pen is very important. Never use these spaces as a punishment or timeout space. The crate and pen should always be a safe and enjoyable place.
10 Most Important Things to Teach Your Puppy
Socialize Your Puppy
Socialization is the process of introducing a puppy to the world. The most critical socialization window is before 12 weeks of age, but can last as long as 16 weeks in some puppies. This is the most impressionable time in a dog’s life, where she can learn to love, hate and/or be afraid of anything. Memories, associations, social bonds and relationships are forged during this time in a dog’s life, which can affect the way she interacts with the world. Early experiences have the power to influence a dog’s life. Puppies should be encouraged to explore and investigate their environment and the things in their environment. During this time puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals, environments, objects, textures, sights and sounds.
That being said, do not just place your puppy into these situations. Make sure your puppy is comfortable and enjoying each socialization exposure. Do not bring your puppy to places that might be scary like loud family gatherings, parties, etc. Start out in more controlled environments like the homes of friends and family. Make this fun by using food, toys and play. Over time, you can increase the intensity by going to more stimulating environments like public places.
Last but not least, attend puppy playgroups (not the dog park!) that are run by force-free positive reinforcement trainers so that your puppy can learn how to properly socialize with other puppies.
Prevent Separation Anxiety
Avoid separation anxiety and isolation distress by introducing alone time gradually. Using a crate and/or exercise pen during this process is important, but you must train your dog to enjoy the crate and pen.
Plan to take at least a few days off from work after your puppy arrives, so you can help her get accustomed to longer and longer periods alone. Play with her first so she’s tired, take her out to eliminate, and then put her in her crate or pen with a food-stuffed Kong or other enjoyable chew. Afterwards, sit nearby, reading or working on your computer. Slowly increase your distance from the puppy. Then start leaving the room for short periods of time. As long as the puppy is calm, start leaving the house for short periods of time, slowly building on the duration of time she is alone.
Teach your dog where it is appropriate to eliminate. Housetraining requires a lot of consistency and management on the owner’s part. Young puppies should be taken out every 30 minutes to 1 hour during daytime hours, and may also need one over night elimination break. If your puppy eliminates, give her some freedom in a puppy proof area to run around for 15-20 minutes. Over time, as your puppy starts to become house trained, you can increase the puppy’s free time. If your puppy doesn’t eliminate, bring her back inside and place her back in her crate for 10-15 minutes and then try again. Make sure to also teach your puppy an elimination cue like “get busy, go potty,” etc. and then reward right away after the puppy eliminates.
Puppies need to chew because they are teething. Allow your puppy to chew on her own safe designated chews. Each dog enjoys different chew toys. Some love bully sticks, some like pigs ears, others like classic Kong toys. Provide your puppy with many different textured chew toys. Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, so provide appropriate chews. Always supervise your puppy with chew toys.
Teach Puppy to Maintain Position
Teaching a puppy to sit or lay down is great! But can your puppy maintain that position until you release her? This is extremely important as it can build better self-imposed impulse control, which can help your puppy learn other behaviors down the road.
Possession behaviors, also known as “resource guarding,” is a natural survival behavior that can escalate and become quite dangerous if not addressed appropriately. Prevent this behavior by NOT reaching toward your puppy’s bowl of food while she is eating, or chewing a bone or toy when the puppy has these things in her possession. Do not tease or provoke your puppy as this can make things worse.
Teach a Recall Cue
Teach a recall that is fun for the puppy so that the puppy continues to respond over its life. Make returning to you the best game ever; using rewards, play, praise and games can help reinforce this cue.
Pro-Tip: Never use a recall as a negative thing or punishment!
Human Touch = Love
Teach your puppy that touch is a good thing. Do not over touch or restrain your puppy unless necessary. Teaching your puppy to enjoy handling and touching is important!
Enjoying the Car Ride
Introduce your puppy to a car with the engine off. Let your puppy play in the car with toys, and use treats to create a positive association. Next, turn the car on and do the same. Over time slowly move the car a foot, 5 feet and so on. Do not make the first car ride a traumatic experience like going to the vet or groomer. Instead, go to the park, go for a hike, visit grandma, etc.
Creating a Relationship
Positive training methods help build confidence and a relationship between owner and dog. Training, playing and spending time with your dog helps build a strong relationship. Furthermore, be your dogs advocate and don’t let friends, family, neighbors and other trainers try to change what you are trying to accomplish. You are your dogs advocate, be your dogs voice.
7 Frequent Training Mistakes
Attempting to teach your dog what NOT to do
Owners use the words like “No” to teach their dog what not to do. The word “NO” gives the dog very little information about what the dog should do. Instead, we need to focus on saying “Yes” or “Good Dog” to teach our dogs what we want them to do.
Chasing dogs when they have taken an item you don’t want them to have can reinforce the “chase” game. Playing chase or keep away is a fun game to a dog and can encourage your dog to steal items just so you will chase them.
Do not allow your dog to do anything you don’t want your. If you don’t want your dog to jump up at people then do not encourage it, especially when they are a puppy. All family members must be consistent with clear communication!
Physical Punishment and/or Yelling
Dogs do not understand why they are being physically or verbally reprimanded. Instead, they learn to become afraid and fearful. This can cause many behavioral issues and can cause the dog to become cautious of you and others.
Lack of Understanding Canine Body Language & Communication
As a dog owner you should have an understanding of canine body language and communication. Understanding body language and communication signals can help you better understand your dog and the way she feels about certain situations, which helps with the training process and the human-dog bond.
Lack of Physical & Mental Enrichment
Today there are many unemployed dogs. Dogs that were once bred for herding, hunting and protection are now sitting around sleeping all day. Give your dog a good run, hike, play fetch, do a fun training session, teach her games to get her thinking such as scent work and trick training. Using food dispensing toys to feed your dog a meal or snack for some mental enrichment is always fun too!
Dominance & Alpha
Veterinary Behaviorists and scientists have proven that these theories are not accurate, despite what you might see on TV or read on the Internet. Dogs are not trying to dominate us or become the alpha in our homes. These words are typically used to imply that the dog is “taking over,” but for thousands of years dogs have learned through domestication to live alongside us. Some dogs may have behavioral issues, but they are not being trying to rule your home. These dogs can obtain help from a positive reinforcement trainer and/or Veterinary Behaviorist. Dogs need a guide in the household to clearly teach behaviors, rules and boundaries. Guides teach their dogs and set them up for success!
- The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller
- Train Your Dog Positively by Victoria Stilwell
- The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
- The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell
- How Dogs Learn by Mary R. Burch & Jon S. Bailey
- Dogs by Raymond & Lorna Coppinger
- On Talking Terms with Dogs by Turid Rugaas
- Decoding Your Dog by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
- How to Choose a Trainer
- Understanding Puppy Socialization
- The Use of Dominance in Behavior Modification
- How To Manage Aggressive Behavior
- The Science Behind Positive Training
- Positive Vet Visits
- Find a Fear Free Veterinarian (Vets who use a gentle low stress approach)
- How to Find a Good Breeder
- Dog Food Advice
Canine Body Language:
- ASPCA Canine Body Language Webinar
- iSpeakDog (Learn about Canine Body Language)
- Understanding Canine Body Language & Communication
Kids & Dog Safety
Benefits of Positive Reinforcement
Like you, I love my dog! There are various dog training methods and as a dog parent, I highly recommend positive reinforcement.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement means reinforcing your dog for doing the right behavior. When a behavior is reinforced, it is likely to be repeated. Reinforcement can be in the form of treats, praise, toys etc.
- Proven results for both training & behavior modification for dogs of all ages and breeds
- Training becomes enjoyable for your dog as he/she gets rewarded for a job well done
- Teaches skills while setting boundaries and rules in a clear and consistent manner
- Fosters a powerful relationship between the dog & dog owner using a friendly & humane approach
- DOES NOT USE: physical force, intimidation, fear tactics, electric shock collars, chokers, & prong collars