The Whole Pie! Not Just a Piece
How do I stop my dog from taking my shoes? How to I stop her from biting my pant legs, pulling on the leash? These questions are never ending. Everyone wants the magic pill. They want the well trained dog yet aren’t willing to or feel overwhelmed by the entire process of raising and training a puppy.
It’s never the dog alone, with a problem. It’s the dynamic of the team that needs to be addressed. One needs to consider the whole piece of the pie and we are a piece of that pie.
To enjoy a healthy well adjusted adult dog, time needs to be put into raising and training your puppy. Sorry folks, there is no magic pill. The amount of time and energy you put into being frustrated with your dog, constantly putting him in a crate or chasing after him for grabbing a shoe, can be spent training your dog to offer the behaviors that you want instead of punishing them for the behaviors you don’t like. We do this by setting him up to win.
So, what is setting him up to win? It’s the WHOLE piece of the pie?
EXERCISE your pup every day. In fact, 2 wipeout sessions a day is ideal. This means vigorously exercise your dog for at least 20 minutes in the morning and again in the early evening. These exercises include: fetch, playdates with other dogs, hiking, swimming, agility, running off leash in a safe area, etc. A tired dog is a happy dog.
TRAINING: obedience in distractions, social interaction with people and other dogs; get out of the house and out of the back yard and stimulate your dogs mind, allowing for the natural instincts to be nurtured. Training should be done in short periods of time throughout the day and at least 2 times a day. More shorter periods are better. This training lays a foundation of respect and encourages your dog to seek positive attention rather than negative because training is fun and positive, right? Right! It’s one-on-one positive time spent with your dog and after a successful training session, your pup will take a long nap because you’ve just stimulated his little mind.
LEARN to read dog body language. Knowing what your dog is telling you is an important piece of the pie. Without it you are missing an integral part of knowing how to be with your dog. Would you know if your dog was frustrated, anxious or confused in your training sessions? Would you recognize sniffing as a displacement behavior because he was confused by your communication? If you can’t communicate, you can’t truly bond.
SET your dog up to win. Don’t wait for something to happen and then deal with it. For instance, if you are going on vacation with your dog and he’s not used to the car. Have lots of mini training sessions going for short rides increasing the time and distance so that when the time comes, your dog is used to the car. Before you have your boss for dinner, invite dog loving friends over, using them to see what issues you may have with your dog, so that you can work on them before the big night with the boss. Planning ahead is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can train your dog. You are learning what triggers your dog beforehand and are better prepared to work on these issues molding and shaping your dog… setting him up to win.
EVERY interaction with your dog is a training session. Either you are training him or he’s training you. And I mean every interaction; from walking down the stairs politely, waiting for meals politely, taking treats politely, playing fetch, tug or going for a walk… are all training sessions. You are teaching your dog how to behave each time you interact, so everything you do with your dog is an opportunity to train, molding your pup to be a well mannered and well adjusted dog. If you have a dog with behavior issues, it’s more likely that you have unintentionally reinforced these behaviors. Dogs do what’s reinforced. So, look to yourself to find the missing piece in your relationship. Are you being consistent, trustworthy and reliable?
CONSISTENCY is key to successfully raising a puppy.
BE aware of how much you chatter. Do you say things like ‘stay here’ or ‘come here’ yet the dog doesn’t do what you’ve asked because you got distracted or busy? If so, you’ve just taught the dog that when your distracted, all bets are off and he can do whatever he wants.
FOLLOW through every time. Do you ask your dog to do something and then not follow through? When you don’t follow through, you’ve taught your pup that he doesn’t have to listen to you.
RESPOND DON’T REACT. Be aware of your own body language and energy. Dogs are highly reactive beings and love to get a rise out of us. If your dog is doing something you don’t want or like, respond in a calm manner, while redirecting and teaching your dog the appropriate behavior that you’re looking for.
SUPERVISE your puppy. A puppy is like a toddler. You wouldn’t leave a toddler unsupervised, so don’t leave a pup unsupervised either.
BE conscious of your own body language and energy. A dogs first language is body language and energy. They are watching your body language before they are listening to your voice. So, if your pup is grabbing your pant legs and you are getting frustrated, yelling NO stop it, while pulling your leg away, you are being reactive and this triggers the dog to think it’s a game. Tug-o-war with a toy or your pants is pretty much the same thing to a dog, so it’s up to us to teach him otherwise. This can only happen when we become more conscious of our own body language and energy.
Now let’s create spoiled rotten, disciplined dogs and enjoy the pie.
About the author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer, award winning author and dog body language expert loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. It’s available in iTunes and Google play. Jill has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients and their dogs for 40 years, to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. She also does online dog training, worldwide. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page