Does your dog constantly whine while you eat dinner? Is your puppy a jumping maniac when guests walk in the door despite you saying “sit”? Are you prying your dog’s jaws open to see remnants of Wrigleyville vomit even after you said “leave it”? It is frustrating, isn’t it?
Your dog’s job is to politely greet friends and family; walk calmly on a leash and entertain him or herself after you have had a bad day at work. How much training did you go through to be good at your job? I bet you completed more than a six week class and are thrown some easy tasks throughout your day to keep your skills sharp so you can be successful in your career. Your dog is not making wrong choices to upset you, he or she just may need your help to be good at their job.
Communicating to the people in your life. If your dog jumps on people at the door or worse, growls at guests coming in; the time to tell your guests what your training plans are is not while hugging them in your doorway. Your dog is much quicker than you and will have made multiple wrong choices before you even have a chance to react. Email guests before they arrive and tell them you are working on “sit” at the door or teaching your dog not to be afraid of strangers. On the street, cheer your dog on when people are much further away than your dog reacts. If you wait until he or she is lunging, you are simply reacting to bad behavior not training a new one.
Remember the easy tasks. We all need reminders on how to do what we do to keep doing it well. If you dog’s ONLY practice at “leave it” is while you are tugging him or her on walk after he’s eaten goose poop, you become the nasty person who just says “no” all the time. Once a week, simply think about one goal you have for your dog. If it is walking better on a leash, make it an easy task by dropping the leash and practicing INSIDE (never drop it outside) so you both become more versed in communicating with each other without you reverting to yanking on the leash.
Ixnay “uh uh” and “no”. Clients often ask what to do when their dog jumps, pulls, growls, lunges, bites, pees and the list of bad behaviors go on and on. If all you ever focus on is reacting to bad behavior, you will quickly become your dog’s ex-best friend. If your favorite person in the world followed you around and grabbed your shirt collar all day long, saying “no”, “no”, “no”, how long would you be friends? I am not saying a dog should not be told he or she has made a wrong choice but teach your dog what you want him or her to do. Start with basic “sit” and “wait” for greetings, leash, walking and other exciting things to build your foundation. When setting your goals for the first week, maybe your dog can “sit” for one second with a new person then do a “touch” as an appropriate greeting. Increase expectations only if your dog succeeds.
You are smarter than your dog, just think about what you want him or her to do rather than make wrong choices. If you spend a little time planning and a little time everyday teaching the skills you want, you will be happier because your dog will start making many more good choices.