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 Relationship

The foundation between every dog and its owner is the relationship. This needs to be solid and built on trust and respect. Consistency is particularly important as it clearly lets your canine friend know its boundaries and your expectations. Define your expectations with respect and fairness and your dog will respond. Always teach your dog with rewards and positive reinforcement. Play and food are great rewards when teaching your dog commands. Your dog needs to trust you, you are in charge and it is your job to keep your dog safe from harm. Establishing leadership gives your dog stability, reduces anxieties and stress. You need to be calm yet assertive when working with your dog, frustration and anger should never be involved in training your dog.

Most owners consider their dogs as part of their family and just like any member the dog needs to know how to behave. A well mannered dog is one that owners can take with them to many places giving fulfillment to both owner and canine. Dogs require structure and predictability in their lives. Having boundaries and teaching expectations gives your dog stability and reduces stress and anxieties. Consistency in the way you handle and communicate with your canine builds respect and trust with your dog. The timing of your reward/correction teaches your dog clearly your expectations. Rewards motivate your dog and should be freely used in the teaching stage. Just like children dogs need to be taught to behave, training your dog is a responsible part of dog ownership. Having realistic expectations is important as often I have seen owners expect behavior from their dog that they have yet to teach them, this is unfair and creates stress for the dog.

Dogs need exercise, good quality food, play, affection and training. The efforts you put into your dog, will come back to you tenfold. Building a strong, solid foundation is the beginning of your bond and relationship and from where all training must start!