If you ask a typical dog owner what their Top 10 list is, you are likely to get a list that is much the same as your own. Chewing/destructive behavior, barking, jumping, pulling on leash, separation anxiety, door bolting, not coming when called, reactiveness and similar out-of-control behavior, housebreaking/ marking, and fearful or aggressive behavior – you can have any or all of these with your dog.
It usually starts with the destructive problems, then counts down to “well, we’d like to fix it, but working on the other problems is more important”. People often get overwhelmed, especially when working with a puppy or rescue dog that tends to have all of the above – either because he’s been too “cute” and “hasn’t needed any training” or because of the past experiences or unknown history of the dog.
The good news is that once you start training your dog, it’s less about working on the specific problems and more about changing your relationship with your dog and your family. While there are no magic fixes, often changing the way you communicate with your dog and learning to set realistic expectations will start you down the path to the relationship you dream of having with your dog.
Teach your dog to love to learn by reinforcing good behavior – if all good things come from you, it will make perfect sense to your dog to look to you for instructions about what behavior is acceptable. Teaching good habits works for your dog too, and since dogs love structure and routine, it’s far easier to maintain with dogs than it is with humans. Consistency and learning how to communicate with your dog are key elements in your new strategy.
Catch your dog being good, reinforce the good behavior, and you will see the light bulb come on! Teach your dog that he can influence your behavior – he will learn how to make you reward him by showing you the good dog hidden inside and not his evil twin.
If you think that this sounds like good parenting, you would be correct, and although there are no guarantees that the Sit, Stay or Leave It command will work on your 6-year-old, the principles are the same.
For more info: If you are interested in learning more about clicker training or different ways to solve problems and communicate with your dog, there are many places you can start, including the link to www.clickertraining.com. As always, you can email me at TAMIam@training-spot.net with any questions or comments, or for help with specific issues that you are having with your dog. There are links to more resources at http://tinyurl.com/tracimurdock .