Do you have an unruly dog that couldn’t care less about what you want him to do? Do you have a pup that is embarrassing to take for a walk because he pulls on leash like he’s out to win the Yukon Quest? Or worse, on walks he freaks out with a full blown hissy fit if he sees another dog? Are you ready to have a well mannered dog you can always be proud of? I’ve got a few tried and true tips that will get him on the right paw. Here are 5 things you need to start doing today:
- Hire a knowledgable and experienced dog trainer to help: Not just any dog trainer, and not always the one at the top of the search engine results. Anyone can put up a nice website these days. Get a CCPDT (that stands for Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers) dog trainer. CCPDT certified dog trainers are the only dog trainers that are rigorously tested for behaviour and training knowledge and have professional reference checks and proven experience. Yes, a good dog trainer costs money, but trust me: Do it and you’ll thank me later. Oh yeah: Certainly steer clear of any dog trainer who uses words like Alpha, pack leader, dominant, or uses brute force or training collars. (Just. No.) Here’s the guy that developed the terms used in describing pack structure telling us why those terms don’t even apply to wolf packs, let alone (much more evolved)dog packs:
- Set your dog up for success. Prevent what you don’t want, as each time the dog practices that behaviour, he gets better at it. Start looking for the right behaviour instead of the wrong behaviour. Decide on the exact behaviour you want from your dog instead of the bad behaviour. The answer to this should rarely be “Sit”. Let’s look an example :
Horton is a black lab who loves to counter surf. He is highly motivated to do this by the chance that he can grab and consume any food left on the counter, especially when no one is there to stop him. His owner decides that the behaviour he wants is for Horton to only eat food out of his bowl on the floor. So he stops leaving anything potentially edible where Horton can reach it. Then he actively shows Horton through reward based games that if it’s on the counter he can’t have it, but he can have it on the floor, and then after that, only in his bowl. If he makes a game out of it, it’s no longer a competition, and it becomes the dog’s idea to leave stuff on the counter alone and he stops looking there for treats and mental stimulation, and starts looking at his bowl. Horton is happy, the owner is happy.
3. Only when the dog does what you want, give him something he wants. If he doesn’t do what you want, he gets absolutely nothing, not even a dirty look. Always work with him on leash to limit his behaviour options to start with.
4. Let your dog start each day by hand feeding breakfast, a few kibbles at a time for attention and then for different training exercises. Have your recalcitrant pup on a leash for this. Schedule several short training sessions per day using a clicker and food rewards (this could be his regular food) for attention and focus. Once he is mastering that, actively train the behaviour you want. Here is a quick video of me doing attention training with my once rotten pointer, Jolene, who is now an amazing performing trick dog.
5. Make sure your dog gets adequate aerobic exercise and interactive mental stimulation. Toys and puzzle games (check out these ones on Barkpost!) are great, but they don’t take the place of frequent interactive play sessions, games and other activities with you. Check out activities like Canine Parkour, Canicross, Disc Dog, Tricks and the old favourite, Agility