It is a common scenario at Alaska Dog Works. A frenzied dog owner will call us nearly fanatical and begging for our help. The best friend they so desperately endear has become the canine equivalent of the school-yard bully. He pushes the owner around, jumps on the furniture, tears up your favorite pair of shoes or destroys your neighbors’ fancy new suit while your dog greets your guest at your door when he arrives at your dinner party.
Whether you are just starting out with a new puppy, an older shelter dog, or realizing that there are some behavioral issues developing with your current dog, dog training can be a valuable asset for both owners and their dogs. There is tremendous value in obedience training. Here are just a few reasons why every dog should know some basic commands:
· Training helps to establish leadership with your dog.
· Training gives your dog a job to do for the things in life he wants which you provide.
· It begins to prepare your dog’s mind for immediate responses to commands in social situations where he is required to sit/stay and down/stay.
· The consistency and repetition of simple sits and downs will begin to foster discipline in behavior.
· Training provides you with acceptable alternative behaviors to which you can redirect your dog. If jumping is inappropriate, redirect to sit.
The sit command is the easiest command to teach a dog and yet most people do not teach a well-disciplined sit. Most people teach their dogs to sit as young puppies, so dogs are already very familiar with and comfortable doing it, remembering all positive associations with the sit command-food, treats, praise, etc.
When I think of problem-solving behaviors in dogs, you would be surprised how many behaviors you can stop with a well-disciplined sit. Jumping, running out the front door, dog aggression, and yes, even barking, just to name a few. Think about it for a moment. If your dog is sitting, he cannot jump. The two behaviors are mutually exclusive. The same goes for aggressing on another dog.
Most people drop the ball in two places: weaning dogs off food treats too soon and distraction training. It really does not matter whether you use compulsion (no treats) or reward-based methods to train as long as the dog is obeying without treats when you have the dog on a voice or a hand signal. But here is where the real work begins distraction training. A well-disciplined sit means your dog has been “proofed” to sit around all the distractions to which he will be exposed.
Here are some helpful tips:
· Always train your dog on a leash so you will be able to reinforce commands. As your dog becomes more reliable you can move to off leash.
· Remember the 3-D formula for distraction training: duration, distractions and distance. You build time first (three-minute sit/stay) then add distractions before you add distance from the dog.
Please remember, because dogs do not generalize well, you must always vary the level of distraction, the locations in which you train and your distance from the dog. Command elements such as tone of voice and different people handling the dog work well too.
While this all sounds like a lot of work, it probably is. But it is all relative to your dog’s problems and your willingness to live with these problems or fix them and dramatically improve the relationship with your dog. A simple sit can solve many problems, but successful behavior modification will ultimately always begin and end with 100-percent compliance from you, your dog’s owner. Remember that you are the leader in this relationship and what you say must go.
If you are interested in training your dog the natural way give Michele a call at Alaska Dog Works. We can be reached at 907-841-1686 or through his website at www.alaskadogworks.com She has over eighteen years’ experience working with canines of all breeds. While Forto specializes in service dogs she often consults clients on becoming the pack leader in the dynamic relationship we have built with dogs.