Do's and Don'ts of Dog Training
- Be the boss. Practice our unique leadership reassignment activities with your dog to maintain a healthy, happy relationship.
- Be a nice boss! The kind who gives belly rubs when the dog has been good.
- Play with your dog. Develop games that the two of you can play together, whether it's wrestling on the floor, fetch, chase, or something unique to the two of you.
- Bond with your dog. Set aside time to spend together. Learn what your pup likes and dislikes, what scratching spots are the best, what scares them, what habits they have- and which habits you'd like to change.
- Communicate. Learn how to read your dog, and how to tell if something is wrong. A person who has a great bond with their dog will be able to catch on to illness faster, have a better rapport with their pup, know exactly when they need to go out and which business they need to do (Katherine has a hound who subtly changes the carriage of his tail when he needs to go number 2, for example), etc.
Virginia and "Yanna" taking a moment to relax under the peach tree
- Be realistic with your training goals. You aren't going to have your completely untrained puppy become a world class obedience star in six weeks. A four year old dog who has had problems with anxiety its whole life will not make a complete turn around in a few days. There is no magical button for instant results, just patience, practice, and the knowledge that however long it took a problem to develop, it may take just as long to fix.
- Ensure your dog is getting proper exercise. Take them for walks or jogs, throw a ball, let them swim, buy a treadmill, enlist the help of a kid who lives next door, whatever works for you and your dog. Keep in mind that young dogs (less than 18-24 months) shouldn't receive much structured exercise. Their joints are still developing and they'll benefit more from "free play" exercises, running with their friends, chasing a ball, or swimming, for example. They need to be able to stop when they're tired. At 18-24 months they can have more structured exercise like jogging on a leash or treadmill for half a mile three times a week, or biking around the block. As they build strength and endurance the exercise can increase. When in doubt, ask your vet for help in figuring out the best routine!
- Use commands. When giving a dog orders, make it a statement, not a question. Be firm, but fair. If you ask, your pup is likely to say no!
- Use a crate. A dog's crate is the equivalent of our bedroom. It is the best place in the house that your dog can go to escape the noise and chaos.
- Correctly use a choke collar. They are perhaps the best correctional tools available. Keep the collar high. It should sit right up behind the ears and underneath the chin. If the collar is in this position, you will have no problem controlling the dogs head. If you control the head, the rest of the dog follows along!
- If your dog is pulling on the leash, pull to the side to correct, not back. This affords you more control as you shift the dog's weight off of its feet. If you pull straight back, it becomes your weight against the dog's weight.
- Keep your leash short and loose. If you need to tug on the leash to regain the dogs attention, tug and quickly release, always returning to the short loose lead.
- Always end on a positive note. Especially with a more advanced training session, be sure to end it with something your pup knows and loves, so they can go out with a bang.
- Go back to basics if you need to. If your dog can't seem to grasp the next step, start at the very beginning and work your way up. Reaffirming basic training is never a bad idea.
- Ask for help. Whether you encounter a behavioral problem, or just need ideas on how to train a cool new trick, two heads are better than one. A fresh pair of eyes can see things you didn't notice, and help you get on the right track. Even as professionals, we ask each other for advice, ideas, and a fresh perspective all the time, to ensure we're doing the best we can for each dog.
- Take your time with training. There's no need to rush, and doing so can lead to mistakes and a sloppy result. Getting solid foundations in place is key to a well trained dog.
- Give your dog a job. Most dogs, especially smart dogs, get bored without something to do. A bored dog gets into trouble. Train your dog to help out with something- guarding the car while you're shopping (when the temperature and weather permit), picking up socks and piling them by the washer, picking up dog toys, etc.
- Join a dog activity- agility, obedience, tracking, fly ball, dock diving, and many other sports are a great stress reliever and confidence booster for you and your dog.
Among "Jamie's" many fun activities, frisbee is a definite favorite.
- Let your dog rule the house. This is dangerous, and can lead to escalating problems of aggression, fear/anxiety, or even just exceptionally annoying behavior.
- Let the collar get low. If the collar is sitting around the base of the neck, or even just an inch or two lower than recommended, it can be uncomfortable and ineffective. When you tighten a collar at the base of the neck, it pushes into the trachea and causes an uncomfortable sensation that can lead to the dog hacking and coughing. It also provides far less control. Try it for yourself- place your hand at the base of your throat where a necklace would sit and push in. Feel how uncomfortable that is? Now try to move your neck and head by twisting your fingers side to side. No luck, right? Place your fingers at the top of your neck, right beneath your jawbone. Push in and.. nothing! You feel pressure, but no discomfort. And with a slight movement of fingers, your head turns from side to side with ease.
- Set your dog up for failure. If you know going into a situation that it's something beyond your pup's ability level, don't ask it of them.
- Encourage a puppy's bad habits. Yes, it's adorable watching your 12 week old puppy growl and snap over his food, and seeing a four month old jump up trying to reach your face for a kiss makes your heart squeeze. But when these dogs grow up and hit 50, 70, 100+ pounds, it's not cute, it's not funny, and someone could get hurt. It's far easier to break a new habit than an old one, so save yourself the strain, and teach them young.
- Go to a dog park. Probably not something you expected to hear, but dog parks aren't what they're made out to be. We know plenty of horror stories of dogs being attacked at parks. It's hardly a surprise, in an environment that's so difficult to control. Find a park to run your dog at for sure, but if there are dogs you don't know off leash, high-tail it out of there.
- Use a prong. We very rarely recommend the use of prong collars. If they aren't used correctly they can cause injury to the dog, and the majority of dogs don't need a correction as strong as a prong collar provides.
- Give a command if you don't intend to see it through. Dog training is all about consistency, every interaction with your dog teaches them just how far they can push the rules. So if you aren't going to get up and make your pup sit when they're across the room, don't give them the command.
- Introduce a new dog to yours in house. Always go to neutral ground (somewhere neither dog has been) when introducing dogs. It lessens the chances of one or more dogs being defensive of "their territory" and helps things go more smoothly.
- String up your dog, i.e.- keep the leash constantly tight. Your dog has the right to breath, first of all. And secondly, you aren't teaching them anything this way. Applying pressure to the collar is for the sole purpose of alerting your dog to an undesirable behavior. It should be a quick tighten and release, as fast as snapping your fingers, and done at the time of the misconduct. Keeping that collar tight doesn't let them know what they're doing wrong.
- Intimidate or scare your dog. There's a huge difference between "kind boss" and "terrifying person". Your dog will follow your commands if they're scared of you, yes. But that is never something you should aim for. It's not fair to the dog, and it's not necessary to get results.*
- Abuse your dog. Again, an abused dog will do what you want, but these are animals that we need to protect and nurture. To do anything less is simply abhorrent.*
*Abused and scared dogs are also far more likely to turn on and attack their owners. They get confused, volatile, and defensive, and rightfully so! While some dogs may behave at first, or even longer term, you never know when they'll decide enough is enough.*