Dog’s Eye View: My dog flunked obedience class

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Laura Tyler

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

— So your dog flunked obedience class? That’s as bad as saying, “My dog ate my homework.” (Actually, my dog did do that once, but that’s another story.)

If you aren’t involved every day in teaching and reinforcing the behavior you want, your dog is probably picking up bad habits. And if you decide you don’t have time to train your dog, then he’s getting his information and schooling from his environment. That might include other family dogs or dogs loose in the neighborhood. He might learn the joy of counter surfing, destructive chewing and barking for attention. And the list can include boredom barking, mugging people by jumping on them, stealing things or using your new couch as a convenient toilet. Remember one of the tenets of learning is that an animal will continue to repeat behaviors that work to get them what they want. They will be inclined to eliminate behaviors that prove to be unsuccessful or not conducive to their survival.

Training never ends. Just like any good relationship, you have to keep working at it. We repeat this time after time throughout our classes and consultations. You have to keep up with your training. A six- or eight-week course is not a lifetime guarantee of good behavior. If you stop training, the behavior you have taught will begin to break down. Remember that your training time is an investment in the future rate of quality behavior.

I find it an enjoyable break when my dog brings an interactive toy or sits by my chair and gives me the “direct brain stare” indicating it’s time for a play break. She’s my office monitor telling me I’ve been at the computer too long. It’s funny that sometimes she’ll just come in my office and give a big yawn and stretch. Now my anthropomorphic brain kicks in and interprets this as, “Hi mom, don’t you think it’s time you got up and stretched? Let’s take a walk! You know how you get a headache from too much computer time? I’m here to remind you to go outside and play!” And so we do!

Play time for both of us is training time. Because the techniques I use are noncoercive, she’s always ready to learn something new. By the time we finish a short training walk, we’ve practiced at least ten recalls, come to heel, wait, settle down and, of course, any new trick we happen to be working on. A generous amount of sniffing and a pocket full of yummies and happy time with me are her only requirements. Once we get home, she’s off to settling down somewhere for a well-earned nap. My head feels better, and I’m ready to get back to work.

So who actually flunked obedience class?

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.

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