I AM HOPING, in some future posts, to go into each point in more detail. For now, I just wanted to share some basic tips to think about, when training your dog/ puppy. As always, any questions or comments can be left on the website, or via Facebook or Twitter (as below).
1. Relationship and Behaviour
Building a trusting relationship with the dog is key. Nothing builds trust better than time – spend time with the dog, let them take all the time they need to come to you and to trust you. Physical contact helps to reinforce the relationship, the way in which you approach physical contact will also impact the way the animal interacts with you.
2. Control the Session
Remaining calm is a key component to remaining in control of the situation. Dogs are great at picking up on your energy and your mood; if you are stressed or anxious, they will pick up on this and be more likely to react to this; if you are calm and in control, they will feel relaxed and more likely to feel they can trust you.
If you feel like things are starting to get out of control, take a breath and step back – end the session if you have to, but keeping yourself and the animal safe, and as least stressed as possible, will benefit you both more than trying to push through. Knowing when to stop, and when to push through a barrier, is sometimes tricky.
3. Patience and Persistence
Just like people, dogs learn at different rates; they’re all individuals, with their own learning speed and strengths. If the dog isn’t getting something as quick as you would like, just be patient, and encourage any little successes – for example; if you are teaching a dog to give paw and they lift their foot but don’t give it, reward this and encourage this to help them.
Pictured below is Maggie, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who I worked with and trained. She was in a rescue kennels where I worked, and was very toy-aggressive; she would try to take your hand if you tried to take her toy… after 3 months of working with her, she was still very toy-possessive, but no longer toy-aggressive. She still had a long way to go, but it took 3 months to get her to such a positive place to work from. Try not to be discouraged if things aren’t progressing as fast as you’d like – go at the pace of the dog; persistently but patiently.
There is a saying that Altitude is Attitude – meaning, in terms of dogs, that the dog who physically holds the highest ground, also holds the the highest rank in the hierarchy; they see themselves as the Alpha, the dominant dog, the top dog. This is very helpful to have in your mind for any kind of training; a dog that knows their place (not Alpha), has boundaries and structure, is a happy dog.
Being able to interpret what your pet is saying, with body language and facial expressions, help in understanding what your pet is telling you and how they are feeling.
5. Praise and Reward
This doesn’t mean you need to stock your cupboards full of dog treats! Praise can be fussing with positive words, petting and/or play. If the dog breed you are working with is prone to weight gain, it may be best to choose other options of reward, aside from treats, and/or invest in some healthier treats (for example; when I was a teenager, my best friend had a border collie who loved carrots – this was a good way to reward her with a healthy treat).
6. Discourage Unwanted Behaviours Early
This doesn’t mean implementing negative training methods if your dog is not behaving in the desired manner; I mean this more in the sense of training your new puppy, or when working with an anxious dog or a rescue dog; let me explain a little…
Many behavioural issues in adults dogs come about by encouragement from us, because when this behaviour is performed as a puppy it’s seen as “cute”or “funny”. Let’s use tail chasing as an example; people laugh and fuss when a puppy chases it’s tail because it is amusing and/ or “cute” – this can lead to to tail chewing, often obsessively, and they can damage their own tail by doing so. This could just lead to damage to furniture, etc. when the dog is grown, and is too big to tail chase without knocking things over – thus causing the dog to be told off.
If your pup is doing a behaviour that could be (a) harmful to themselves in the future, or (b) a nuisance when performed by the adult dog, try to gently discourage this behaviour as early as possible, to prevent it from becoming an issue later on.
All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.
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