Last Tuesday I was at a new Home Dog Training session in Decatur with my client and his Chow named Joey. Although Chows can normally be a little head strong and quick to react, Joey proved to be a very focused and excellent student. The important issues that my client wanted assistance with Joey were his propensity to steal food, dashing out the front door whenever it was even partially opened, and constant jumping on everyone. Joey quickly learned that these behaviors were inappropriate. My client was thrilled with Joey’s great success and the excellent results we were able to achieve.
As I was finishing up, my client mentioned that his brother was in need of dog training. He was about to get his first dog (as an adult) and wanted to make sure he was doing the right things. He wanted to be with us during Joey’s session so that he could get some pointers, but was called away for work at the last minute. We had spent over four hours covering all sorts of topics and practicing many exercises and my client knew he wouldn’t be able to properly instruct his brother on “the important stuff”. He asked me for a “shortened list” of “here are the really important things” that he could pass on to his brother.
I initially explained to my client that I normally don’t offer dog training instructions to dog owners and their dogs “sight unseen”. I ordinarily need to observe the dynamics between dog and master, their underlying natures, and the physical characteristics of the immediate environment that might come into play. With that said, I told him that, with the knowledge that he had obtained through today’s training, and some general direction on my part, we could get his brother proceeding in the right direction.
I started off by saying that the most significant thing to remember when dealing with dogs is the establishment of a strong and productive relationship. The relationship is vital because dogs are social animals. Dogs instinctively seek out rapport between other animals and humans so that they will understand their responsibilities and rewards within the group. Our dog does not respect or obey us because we bought him from the breeder or rescued him from the shelter. He has zero understanding regarding our human concept of physical ownership.
Our dog “checks us out” in order to determine if we have the ability to keep him safe, secure, and healthy as we coexist in our group. Depending on his observations of our actions, he may conclude that we are the care givers and providers of safety. He could also conclude that we are crazy. If that is the case, he will often take over the role as the group’s leader.
In a dog’s world, all focus, respect, and trust is bestowed on “the leader”. Because of this, it is critical that my client’s brother establish his role as “the leader” with his new dog. That is the only way that the appropriate relationship can be established. I offered the following insights:
- ALWAYS REMAIN CALM AND STILL. Body language is a major part of any dog’s communication and interaction. They utilize body language as their primary communication tool. When communicating, it is often the only method they use and they employ it over 80% of the time when they are “talking”. The most important part of this visual tool is passive assertion. The ability to remain calm demonstrates that you are not “out of control” and you are properly managing the situation. In other words, you are employing leadership and direction. Your dog expects that “from his leader”. When you are “calm and in charge”, he will naturally focus on you and your directions. I understand that this can be really hard to do. If you “don’t go nuts, yell at, or chase your dog”, he will focus and obey you. He will be “a good dog for you”.
- DO NOT ALWAYS BE GIVING YOUR DOG ATTENTION. The leader is the one who gets the attention. If you are always giving your dog gabs of attention, he will naturally believe that he is the leader. Since “he is the leader”, he doesn’t have to listen to you. Why is this? HE is the leader. By lavishing attention on him, you are TELLING HIM HE IS THE LEADER.
A common example of this and an error we all make is when we come home. We come in the door and our dog is waiting for us. He jumps on us and we immediately hug and pet him. We think nothing of it because we love our dog. But in his eyes, he instantly took control of us when we opened the door and successfully had our attention from that moment on. To be the leader we need to assure that we are the ones that have the attention.
Let’s review our “coming home” scenario one more time and try to understand what we should have done. When we came home and our dog demands our attention, we initially ignore him. Next, we must do anything to show him that we are focused on our needs first. This could be as simple as putting down your keys and wallet on the kitchen table. Now, on your terms, you can get his attention and call him to you.
- ALWAYS MAKE SURE THAT EVERYTHING IS YOUR IDEA. In a hierarchal relationship, it is the leader’s orders that are always implemented. To be a credible leader in your dog’s eyes, he must naturally understand that he must always submit to your ideas. This does mean that you have to be the big bully or hit and scare your dog. It is all based on our dog’s understanding of “social structure”. Our dog’s social structure is based on a safe group with a strong leader.
The bottom line is that whoever tells the rest of the group to do something, and the group obeys; is the leader. Think about it for a moment. You would never follow a fool.
So, if your dog sticks his wet nose in your hand, wanting you to pet him, do not pet him. He is saying “I want you to pet me”. If you pet him, you have responded to his order and told him he is the leader. He requires your constant focus, and he has earned your total respect. He said, “I want you to…” and you did.
To be the leader, you need to have your dog focus on you and act on your commands. You are his care giver, protector, and friend. He should be focused on you.
The correct thing to do if he puts his wet nose in your hand for a pet is to completely ignore him. Once he turns away, you can then call him to you to pet him. You have turned the tables and said to him, “I want to pet YOU”. Once he responds, he is naturally telling you that you are his boss.
When you can maintain your composure and have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish with your dog’s behavior, it is amazing how fast you can achieve great results.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.