February 23, 2012
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A young woman stopped me in the grocery store inquiring about training her “crazy” dog. Now, I don’t train dogs in the grocery store, but I did try to dispel a common misconception about how we perceive dog behavior problems.
Dogs are so good at reading our body language and are quick to learn the consequences of their actions. It’s how they survive. Labels such as “stubborn” can get in the way of understanding the real problem. Dogs know what works for them from past experience.
Giving a reinforcing food treat to your dog when he does what you have asked is one way of giving immediate feedback that he can understand.
People tend to think that a dog trainer’s dog is perfect. Dog owners who see trainers walking their dogs around town might think, “I wish my dog would be well-behaved like that one.” The reality is that many of us have dogs that are challenging, but trainers have the skills and take the time to train them. Over-the-top dogs require a lot of supervision, management and constant and consistent training. My 6-year-old English bull terrier, Stuart, is such a dog.
We’ve all heard it said, “A wagging tail means a friendly dog.” It’s risky to live by this statement because there’s more to the story.
The topic of hugging dogs comes up so often and has such important repercussions that it’s worth addressing again and again.
When I trained my first dog not to pull while on a leash in the 1950s, the only equipment we used was a choke chain and a six-foot leash. We now have so many choices of equipment that is effective and gentler on our dogs and us.
A friend recently shared a concern with me about her high-energy puppy. She said she was worried that she might “slip up” and the pup would learn something she didn’t want her to learn.
Thankfully, our equipment and methods for teaching dogs have changed dramatically since then. We now have so many more choices of equipment that are effective and gentler on our dogs and us.
Well-meaning but misinformed dog owners who let their dogs run loose may call out, “Oh, don’t worry. He’s friendly!” We hear it every day.
Dogs are all the same species, but their temperament, emotional makeup and attachment can be as different as with any two human beings.
We rarely tap into the fullness of a dog’s mental capacity during his or her lifetime. And, as with humans, it’s beneficial to start learning early and continue perfecting new skills throughout life.
As humans, our bodies can betray attempts to mask our intent. For dogs, body language is their primary form of communication.
Have you wondered why some dogs bark day and night in your neighbor’s yard? Have you thought there could be a connection between the breed, age or temperament of the dog as well as his environment?
Freedom alone can create an out-of-control dog. He may be headed for the animal shelter if he doesn’t get help. His freedom needs to be balanced with some rules and leadership.
Young? Athletic? Home alone? Bored? No, this isn’t a young adult looking for a date. It may be your dog.
Frequently we ask new pet owners why they got a dog. They often tell us that the new dog is “for the kids” or “to keep my other dog company.”