Stepping Stones

Often people will call me with a specific problem they are having with their dog, maybe it pulls on leash or doesn’t come when called. On my first visit I assess the dog and quickly decide my plan of action. I may start off teaching the dog a command such as “look” or working on problems I see in the relationship. If the foundation isn’t right I cannot always fix the problem until I fix the foundation.

It can be difficult for a client to understand, they may ask what does teaching a dog to “look” have to do with walking? Of course there are many reasons I may teach something else before working on the problem it all depends on the dog and the relationship with its owner.

While I do use correction and consequences in my training, a dog needs motivation, positive reinforcement, boundaries, respect and a calm handler. Dogs will see stress and frustration as a weakness sometimes causing behavior issues. There is a difference in using correction/consequences and using force. Before fixing any problem often other issues need to be addressed and fixed. As a trainer I need to be able to view a situation and then implement the proper plan of action to fix the problem. No two dogs are the same, and I always work in the best interest of the dog.

Once foundation pieces are fixed it can sometimes be quite easy to fix other problems as the dog is clear about the expectations. For some dogs it is just motivating them to learn and follow their handler. Consistency, clear expectations, motivation and leadership are all important pieces of the foundation of training your dog!

The Spoiled Dog

A spoiled dog is not a happy well adjusted, well mannered pet. Often a spoiled dog can be unruly, stressed, dominate and impossible to live with. We all love our pets and often will spoil them, but we first must remember that for a dog pack order and rank is what they live by. A dog needs respect and must respect the pack leader, this is more important than love in a dogs eyes. Continual spoiling of our dogs is not showing them love rather we are depriving them of their basic needs.

Dogs are social animals that live in packs, rank is necessary for pack survival. Imagine a company where everyone is the president each one telling the other what to do, nothing would get done. It is the same with a pack of dogs, one leader is required to lead the pack and make all the decisions. The pack needs a leader who decides when to hunt, play, find shelter etc.

Often spoiled dogs are allowed to do anything they want without boundaries and rules, chaos will surely follow. Spoiled dogs are the most difficult to train, often dominate and stressed as they are not equipped to be a leader but are predisposed to take on the role when no other leader is established. It can lead to many unwanted behaviors, aggression, anxiety, and dominance. I have seen people live with animals they are afraid of, dogs that won’t hesitate to use aggression to control their human and yet these people will still insist their dog is very loving most of the time. A dog that has been allowed to say “no” without consequence and ignore or control its owner is often a dangerous dog.

Being the leader of a dog does not mean you can’t love your dog, it just means your dog will follow and listen to you. Establishing leadership is not difficult, it means making the dog earn its privileges the same as humans work to earn money to buy things. Dogs earn privileges by making them sit before feeding, or stay before going outside, or doing a down before giving a treat. It is just simple commands, not done with anger but rather a calm relaxed tone. Leaders are not cruel they keep the pack safe, feed, find shelter and make all the decisions. When we are children our parents keep us safe, feed and provide us shelter this helps them to feel safe and loved. It is the same for our dogs they feel safe and cared for when we have consistent boundaries and rules. When you spoil your dog you are not giving your dog what it needs rather you are creating stress for the dog. Dogs thrive on consistency and knowing your expectations.

I have seen many times an unruly disobedient dog be put in the hands of a trainer or behaviorist and within a short period of time be relaxed, less stressed and obedient. As a trainer dealing with a spoiled dog can be both dangerous and difficult. Love your dogs by giving them what they need and you will be rewarded with a happy, well adjusted and obedient pet!

Root Cause

As a trainer we always have to look at what is the root cause for problems that clients have with their pets. An example is when a dog is asked to sit and doesn’t sit. The first question is:

– does the dog know how to perform this action ?

If there is any doubt the dog must first be taught the mean of the command “sit”.

The next step is to look at the relationship between the dog and the owner, if the relationship is not right or the owner is not clearly communicating to the animal this will need to be addressed and corrected.

Third is looking at the temperament, examples might be if the dog has anxiety issues or dominance issues these would need to be addressed by a behaviorist or experienced trainer depending on the temperament issues.

I also consider could it be a medical issue. I have seen dogs that will not perform certain commands as it causes them pain or discomfort. For instance a dog with hip issues, may feel discomfort when sitting therefore avoid performing the command.

Often I get calls and people will explain in detail the issues they are having with their animal but unless I see the dog and owner I cannot offer sound advice to fix the problem. Only by viewing the dog can I analyze the situation and develop a viable solution.