The Goog Dog Training Tips
Here’s one that trips up so many! How could praise hurt? How could telling your dog “Good boy!” mess him up? Why on earth should I be concerned about praise and when I share it?
Imagine you’re taking a test. It’s a tough one. You’re concentrating as hard as you can to find the answers and do a good job. You’re focused…hard! And there I am, standing behind you, my hands on your shoulders, saying in a super happy, revved up tone “Man, you’re killing this test! Of man, you got this!! You are SO rocking this test!!”
Would that be helpful? (And even if I was just whispering it, would it still be distracting?)
Let me be clear, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use praise to clarify that your dog is doing a good job, or that he just completed an awesome exercise. BUT you need to pick your moments carefully and smartly…and you need to be conscious of delivery.
So often I see owners causing their dogs to make mistakes by praising (or over praising) at the wrong time. The dog … Read More »
“You’re going to ruin your relationship.” “You’re going to make your dog scared of you.” “You’re going to shut your dog down.” “You’ll crush his spirit.” “You’ll ruin your dog.” “You’ll create a ticking time bomb.” Or my favorite: “Your dog will slide into learned helplessness!” (Love that one!)
These are just a few of the fear-based messages that are lobbied about to try to scare owners away from using certain tools in training (especially prong and e-collars), as well as correcting their dogs for any unwanted or even dangerous behavior. The messages are built around all sorts of super scary outcomes. Ruining your dog or your relationship sounds pretty darn bad. So owners, being good folks, and not wanting to ruin their dogs or relationships, try all sorts of methods that will keep things happy, healthy, and “humane”.
The problem starts when owners find that these “kinder”, “gentler” methods leave their dogs, and themselves, stuck. The problem behavior doesn’t go away. The jumping, barking, biting, growling, charging, pulling, exploding, guarding, fighting, running away…continues. In fact, in many cases the issues get … Read More »
Dogs do what they’re allowed to do. It’s that simple.
If they bark, it’s because you allow it.
If they jump it’s because you allow it.
If they run away it’s because you allow it.
If they guard it’s because you allow it.
If they fight it’s because you allow it.
If they’re jealous it’s because you allow it.
If they’re nasty with other dogs it’s because you allow it.
If they’re possessive it’s because you allow it.
If they’re crazy on walks it’s because you allow it.
If they bark, snap, or growl at people it’s because you allow it.
Keep it simple and keep it real. Only when you own the reality of the part you play in your dog’s behavior can you begin to change it. Blame it on the dog and you’re guaranteed to have the problem forever, blame it on you and you’re on your way to fixing it.
What most folks don’t get, is that everything with your dog is connected. Every allowance or permissive moment, opens the door for another, seemingly unrelated behavior. They don’t realize that over-indulging your dog with love, freedom, and tons of unearned affection, creates perceptions about you that can lead to other issues. That everything you do or don’t do is giving your dog information about who you are and how he should respond to you. That you’re constantly dropping clues to your dog about what opportunities are available, as well as creating openings for instability.
When your relationship with your dog is lopsided, unbalanced, and based far more on “love” and spoiling than it is rules and structure, you’re going to have problems. (I think we all get that by now.) But the interesting part is that you never know how that information of permissiveness, allowance, and lack of accountability will show itself.
You think the spoiling might lead to begging or barking at you, but instead it leads to resource guarding. You think that allowing the pulling on the walk might lead … Read More »
When dogs go home from our board and train program we give the owners strict guidelines for the next 30-90 days depending on the severity of the case. Those 30-90 days are critical. They’re all about resetting your relationship. They’re all about changing your dog’s perceptions and associations with you and your home.
This is where so many training programs lose their progress. Trainers have lived a certain way with the dogs, have created a relationship based on this way of being together, and then they turn over a well-trained dog to the owners. A well-trained dog that knows all the commands, all the behaviors, and all the rules…with that trainer. Unfortunately, that well-trained dog still has all his or her old perceptions and associations (the relationship dynamic) with their owner.
And here’s the thing: relationship will always trump obedience commands.
You can have all the training in the world, but if your dog FEELS disrespectful, entitled, pushy, bratty, uncertain around you and your home, he or she will disregard commands, push against rules, feel uncomfortable, and likely revert to old behavior.
Changing the … Read More »
One of the most common misconceptions (and stories propagated by certain groups), is that using an e-collar or prong collar on a nervous or fearful dog will make them worse at best, and ruin them completely at worst. I won’t get into the agendas behind why these fear inducing ideas get pushed on owners, but I will try to explain why most folks misunderstand how these tools might actually help a nervous or fearful dog.
Here’s what I hear in regards to using these tools with these kinds of dogs: how is shocking and hurting already fearful dogs going to make them better? Why on earth would you torture an already fearful dog with pain to try to make them better?
Okay, so let’s clarify some stuff here. You don’t use the e-collar or the prong collar to punish the dog’s fear, you don’t say “bad dog” when the dog is fearful and shock it or pop the leash, I’m afraid that wouldn’t get you very far, and would in fact cause harm. No, you use these tools to train the dog … Read More »
One of the biggest challenges for owners (and trainers) is determining whether a dog is confused, bratty, or just not offering his or her best.
All of them require a different approach.
If a dog is confused we always want to help. We need to repeat the exercise, slow it down, lessen distractions, break it down into simpler pieces, problem solve (is it something we’re doing unconsciously with voice or body cues?), and perhaps guide more clearly and comprehensively. Correcting a confused dog will only make things worse, obviously.
If a dog is bratty we want to address the bratty. We want to disagree, correct, demand more, be exacting in requirements. If we don’t correct a dog who is being bratty we leave them and us stuck. Once they learn they can disagree and get away with it, you’ll usually see it get worse and worse. Not correcting bratty does the dog a disservice.
If a dog is just not offering his or her best, we have to figure out why. Is the dog not motivated? Is the dog unsure? Is the dog lazy? … Read More »
Few words are so loaded with baggage as is dominance. From books to tv shows, it started as a word to describe a dynamic and has turned into a word that conjures up oppression, fear tactics, bullying etc. But the word isn’t its baggage. And it’s a word, like it or not, comfy with it or not, that describes a dynamic that IS necessary in a healthy relationship with your dog.
Here’s the Merriam-Webster definition: the fact or state of being dominant; a dominant position especially in a social hierarchy. (Btw, your home is a social hierarchy!)
There’s no talk of bullying, or oppression, or fear. It’s just a dynamic. A state of one (whoever or whatever that “one” might be) being more dominant than another.
Let’s cut to the chase. Whoever is making decisions, setting rules and boundaries, controlling resources, and issuing consequences, is the dominant one. The U.S. Government is dominant. The DMV is dominant. The police officer that pulls you over is dominant. The mother and father who sets the rules and enforces them is dominant over their kids. And … Read More »
Okay, there’s more than one e-collar myth. Few tools seem to have as much mythology, fear, and misunderstanding about them as do e-collars. And it’s really a bummer, because few tools are as beneficial in helping dogs and owners to succeed as is the e-collar.
Let’s just tackle a few myths:
-E-collars burn dogs. No, actually they don’t generate heat, and are incapable of burning dogs. (Take some toilet paper and try to light it on fire with an e-collar.)
-“Yes they do, I’ve seen the burn marks!” What you’ve seen are pressure sores from the e-collar contact points pushing on the skin in the same place for too long. The e-collar receiver should be rotated to a different location every 4 hours or so so avoid this. (Also, some dogs have allergies to the nickel in the stainless steel, and need different contact points to avoid this issue.)
-E-collars are like electrocuting your dog. Actually, e-collars are much the same as a tens unit that us humans use frequently for physical therapy. There is no harm done to your dog. Every owner we … Read More »
Relationships are real things. You and your dog have one. It might be healthy, balanced, and awesome, or it might be toxic, disrespectful, and disheartening. Or maybe it’s somewhere in-between. Whatever it is, it’s been built by your interactions. What you’ve allowed. What you haven’t allowed. What you’ve asked for. What you’ve reinforced. Who you’ve been and how you’ve behaved.
Everything you’ve done has been information your dog has used to determine your relationship. All this information has told your dog who you are and what role you wish to play in his life. It’s also informed him about the rules of life. What is and isn’t okay.
While trainers can teach your dog behaviors, commands, acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, your dog is simply too smart and too emotionally evolved to take the information as universal. Eventually, if you don’t keep up the work, your dog will see the cracks. He’ll realize that while he knows and understands the rules and commands – consequences and expectations with you are different than with the trainer. And when he realizes there’s wiggle room, … Read More »
I talk a lot about leadership, and very little about companionship in regards to dog training, or just living with your dog. Here’s why.
Hanging out, doing what feels good, being “buddies”, sharing affection, just enjoying each other – companionship – are all easy. That’s the stuff we see ALL of our clients doing, without coaching or prompting. It’s the stuff that folks enjoy, easily gravitate to, and share with their dogs in abundance. It’s also the stuff that, in the absence of leadership, unhinges many relationships.
Leadership, on the other hand, is the hard stuff. It’s the stuff that isn’t as fun; the stuff that demands you do the uncomfortable or not-easy, in order to create a balanced dog and relationship. It’s where you prioritize your dog’s needs over your own. Where you do what isn’t as fun or enjoyable in order to create balance.
In all my days as a trainer I’ve never had to coach a client, not one, to be more loving, affectionate, easy-going, and permissive. But I have consistently had to coach folks how to shift gears and … Read More »
The 4th is an awesome day of hanging out, BBQ goodness, and family and friends time. It’s also a time for serious fireworks and even more seriously freaked out dogs. So many dogs struggle on the 4th with panic attacks, self-injury, and running away/getting lost.
Here are a few tips for today to help ensure your dog makes it through the 4th unscathed and hopefully even a little more comfortable.
If you’re going out and leaving your dog:
Be sure to crate him/her and reinforce the crate with leash clips or zip ties. (That way if he panics he won’t get out of the crate.) A dog left out in the house is far more likely to breakout of the house, damage the house, injure themselves.
Before you leave, wear your dog out with a vigorous walk/run/hike/play session, so they’ll be more likely to sleep and not be as easily upset by the fireworks.
Put their crate in a room that is less exposed to outside noises or outside flashes of explosions etc. Basements or rooms more to the interior of the house with no … Read More »