Dog's Eye View: 'Don’t give up the ship!' Relationship, that is…

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I often heard my Dad, who served in the Navy in World War II, use the phrase “Don’t give up the ship” when we were faced with a crises or an especially difficult challenge. It’s been part of my repertoire my whole life, so I decided to title this article using that famous phrase. In doing so, I’ll pay homage to the historical event that precipitated that quote.

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.

Dog's Eye View

This weekly column about dog training publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

The command, “Don’t give up the ship,” was given by the dying Captain James Lawrence USN aboard the USS Chesapeake in its encounter with the HMS Shannon during the war of 1812.

Little do we know when bringing home a new puppy or adopting an older dog that we are in charge of shaping a workable relationship with this new found family member.

The animal shelters are filled with “failed” relationships. For most families, simple applications in management and training develop lifelong good relationships. There is help out there is you need it. Don’t give up because the relationship isn’t perfect. It takes work to maintain the stability within the household. We often say, “Work on the relationship first, and then the training will mean something.”

For the little guy who now calls our home his home, we still are tweaking management and routine to help our new dog to be successful. Home life for us has altered in the past two months. We have changed the environment in our home to accommodate the needs of this new family member. We are critically aware of the need for supervision and management throughout the day, and we share the responsibility as a family.

A good trainer or behavior consultant can help sort through the options for better management techniques and teaching appropriate alternative behaviors for the family dog. Fix the relationship, manage for success and teach acceptable behavior.

The dog is an animal and yet we place so much of the responsibility on him to adapt to our routine. We blame the dog for not fitting in when we haven’t spent the time to develop a trusting relationship and teach the dog what we expect.

In the early days of my dog training career, we used leash corrections and “corrected” the dog until he finally figured out what we wanted. In other words, we put the responsibility on the dog to “beat the correction” in order to not be jerked by the leash. We spent a whole lot of time being the jerk on the end of the leash, needlessly correcting the dog for being too slow, too distracted, too “stubborn,” etcetera.

For the undying love we receive from our dogs, humans should learn to forgive like that. My early dogs excelled and forgave my poor timing, overblown expectations and did well in spite of me. I will never go back to those outdated punitive training methods.

Something I’ve learned throughout the past 30 years is to read my dog’s body language, teach her using positive reinforcement and become the guide and teacher my dog needs to make it in our crazy, busy world. Reinforce good behavior first. Set up the environment for success. Manage the environment to keep everyone safe.

Don’t get a dog if you can’t be flexible and modify your lifestyle to include this special being. Don’t throw one away without asking for help. Intervention and behavior modification can work, if everyone puts in the effort. Don’t give up the ship!

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25-plus 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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