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As is my custom, when I find myself teaching clients a particular lesson over and over, I immortalize the lesson in writing. So, here goes ...
Pretty much every dog I train has some sort of behavior "problem." I enclose "problem" in quotation marks because that is what humans call it ... but that's rarely what it actually is. More accurately, the "problem" is just a simple dog behavior, such as chewing, barking, jumping up on people, nipping, whining, etc. Those are "problems" for us, but they are just ... what dogs do.
A new client recently asked me why he should pursue positive, reward-based training over a more punishment-based method. To be honest, I really appreciate questions like that.
It is easy for positive reinforcement trainers to assume clients are already committed proponents of dog-friendly training. But they often call us simply because they saw our advertisement or because a friend referred them to us.
Nobody promised me a rose garden, but sometimes I wish someone would have. Life has been stressful lately: teenager issues, running a business, multiple projects with tight deadlines, financial obligations -- you know, the same junk you deal with. But when life is stressful, I put on a happy face, work hard and try not to burden others with it.
However, my wife knows me well enough to tell when I am stressed, and she admonishes me to lighten my load, breathe and stop driving like a moron. But you probably won't know I am stressed unless I reveal it to you because I am clever and have a vested interest (which I like to call professionalism) in keeping myself to myself.
Dogs, however, are more honest than I am. They have no interest in being professional.
Today, I took my dogs out for a romp in a nearby field so that they could burn off some steam. About five minutes into our expedition, I noticed my coonhound, Roscoe, had his nose to the ground behind some weeds. I called him, and he did not come.
Here is a list of phrases I catch myself saying often enough that I thought they were worth memorializing. Most of them are geared towards teaching dog owners to exercise patience when training their dogs. If you have any to add to the list, I would love to hear them.
It does not take long for chewing-obsessed dogs to do a lot of damage. They can turn the legs of wooden furniture into sawdust, ventilate your shoes, make your shag carpet bald and un-upholsterer your furniture. The good news is, destructive chewing usually is easy to stop.
Here are a few tips for dealing with destructive chewing:
This article is not about training your dog to stop chasing your cat (although that may be the topic of a future article). It is about whether you really want to train your dog not to chase your cat.
Clients occasionally ask me how to train their dogs to not chase their cats. The question always sends me into a moment of reverie about my home (zoo, really) ...
As a trainer, I never discourage dogs from barking to alert you someone is at the door. In fact, I think alert-barking is useful because it lets the person at the door know you have a dog (which could be discouraging if an uninvited knocker has ill intentions). However, some dogs become so excited by the doorbell that it is extremely difficult to calm them, much less get them to hold a sit-stay so you can safely let your guests in.
Few things fray the nerves more than a dog that barks incessantly for attention. In fact, constant yapping ranks up there with soiling carpets and dismantling sofas in the amount of frustration it causes owners.
To beat incessant barking, you must be consistent and patient. It may even become necessary to purchase some earplugs. But if you set firm boundaries and insist upon them, your dog will learn that barking no longer accomplishes his goal – your attention.
Humans need to feel connected to others, and we sometimes bond as deeply with our dogs as we do with those of our own species. However, the flavors of human-canine bonding can vary wildly. On one end of the spectrum are those who fall in love with dogs based on their looks, personality or intelligence. On the other end are those who become attached to dogs in order to fill the holes left by emotional wounds. There probably are as many variations of this bond as there are dog owners, and any variation can be unhealthy if proper consideration is not given to providing for the dogs' needs. So, what do dogs need from us?