3 reasons dog obedience doesn’t work!

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Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend ~ Corey Ford

When it comes to training your dog, many people think of or have taken their dog to obedience classes.   Obedience is great in that it builds a common language between you and your dog. Obedience builds trust and respect between you and your dog. Obedience can help control a dominant dog and create confidence in an unsure dog. Obedience can also help keep your dog safe.  An obedient dog is more enjoyable in that he can join you on adventures outside the home and will listen to you in any situation.  Many people are involved in competition obedience which can be fun for both human and dog.

So, if obedience does all this, why is it that we have heard many people say, “I took my dog to obedience class but it didn’t stick.” There are three reasons why obedience classes do not work for some people.

  1. Most people will work with their dog during class and will do the homework for the six  weeks that the class is scheduled for.  After this time however, many people do not work with their dog daily if at all.  People assume that the six-week program is all their dog needs to learn how to be a “good” dog for the rest of its life.  This thinking is comparable to saying  children only need to go through kindergarten.  A dog’s training goes on for its entire life.  Basic obedience teaches a dog basic commands that you then use daily for their entire lives in many different situations.
  2. People are not consistent with the training.  They may do obedience “drills” with their dog but do not work the dog in other situations such as in public, when guests come over etc.  The dog quickly learns that the human is not consistent; he only has to do these obedience commands during the drills but at no other time. Dogs are contextual which means you have to work your dog in every situation that you want him to be obedient in.  Obedience should be used in every aspect of your dog’s life; when  you go to the park, to a friend’s house, out for a walk, in your neighborhood, or to the veterinarian.  Anywhere you take your dog , obedience should come into play.  This is how you get an obedient dog in any situation
  3. Leadership or behavioral problems, not obedience.  Obedience classes do not solve behavioral problems and sadly people wait until they are having behavioral problems to start an obedience program.  Obedience helps with leadership and behavioral issues but alone does not establish leadership. Obedience with a solid leadership program is what helps solve behavioral issues.

Case Study:

Several years ago, on a camping trip, was a woman that had rescued a large dog that she brought with her.  The dog was tied out on a corkscrew ground stake.  On two occasions, the dog lunged and tried to bite two people, one being a child.  Upon bringing it to the woman’s attention, she put her dog on leash and proceeded to do obedience drills to show “how obedient her dog was.”  The dog performed the drills as expected.  Despite the dog understanding obedience, the owner clearly used obedience improperly.  It was also clear that she did not establish a leadership program with the dog.  The dog has an aggression problem that obedience can help if used in the right context.  Most importantly, the owner needs to put a leadership plan in place in conjunction with obedience.

The proper way to handle this dog was first to never put the dog in a scenario in which he could potentially harm someone or behave in an aggressive manner.  You cannot change a dogs behavior if he is tethered thirty feet away from you.  The dog should have been tethered to the owner.  At times when this was not possible, he should have been kenneled.  While on leash, the human could work on sit/stay and down/stay while the dog was tethered to her and around other people.  She would have the ability to reinforce good behavior, create positive associations with people, and also the ability to correct unwanted behavior if necessary.  She could have taught the dog what is allowed and what is not allowed around people.  Instead, the dog learned nothing accept that after an outburst he had to do obedience drills.

Obedience can create a trusting bond between you and your dog. Obedience is a great way to teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable in your home and in society especially if started early, practiced often and in the right context.

So, the next time you find yourself or someone you know saying that obedience didn’t “stick”, stop and consider these three possible causes and adjust accordingly.

 

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com 

How to get your dog to listen

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While walking a clients dog yesterday, I heard these words coming from my neighbors garage, ” Trixie come here, come on , come on Trixie, You want to go bye bye don’t you? GET OVER HERE NOW!!”

This brought to mind the numerous times in our dog training business we have heard people say , “My dog does not listen to me.” Our response to this statement is always, “It’s not the dog.” Actually, the majority of training issues are not the dog. The real reason for many problems is lack of communication on the part of the human. People assume dogs understand the human language without ever teaching or reinforcing that language. Lets break down the above scenario to better explain.

1) “Trixie come over here”

Mistake number one: The dog is not on leash.
Putting a leash on the dog gives you control and stops the dog from running away. The leash allows you to guide the dog into position.

Mistake number two: Too many words used.
“Trixie come over here” Is not a command. The dog clearly was not taught what the command “come” means. If the dog is not taught a command, she will not comply, she cannot perform what she was never taught. Even if she was taught the word, the man coupled it with a series of other words which confuses the dog.

Mistake number three: No motivation.
The man had nothing to reward the dog with and therefore no motivation for the dog to come to him. All the other fun things in the garage are much more rewarding to check out than the human who is saying words the dog doesn’t understand.

2) “Come on, come on Trixie”

Mistake number one: As stated above, coupling too many words together confuses the dog

Mistake number two: Repeating a command.
Repeating a command without motivation for the dog to comply. By repeating a command, the dog is taught to ignore your words because they mean nothing.

3) “You want to go bye, bye don’t you?”

Mistake number one: Humanizing the dog.
Assuming the dog knows what this statement means is humanizing the dog. When we speak to our dog in this fashion the dog hears, “wa, wa, wa, wa”
again, this teaches that words mean nothing.

Mistake number two: Putting a command in the form of a question.
Dog’s do not understand questions and commands should never be given in the form of a question. This statement is not a command as stated above.

4) The final and most devastating command, “GET OVER HERE NOW!” in an angry tone.

Mistake number one: Yelling at a dog.
Yelling at the dog to come to you is the most detrimental thing a person can do to the learning process. The person is teaching the dog NOT to come to him. You should never yell at, spank, slap or punish your dog in any way once he comes to you. By yelling at a dog after he comes, you are punishing him for coming to you. By yelling to get the dog to comply, you are creating a negative association with your dog coming to you. The dog will be less likely to come in the future.

Mistake number two: Again, not a command. Too many words used that the dog clearly cannot understand.

There are three stages when training a dog.

1) The learning stage
2) The reinforcing stage
3) The proofing stage

You have to complete one stage before you can move on to the next. Many training issues come from mistakes made in the learning stage of training.

The correct way for the man in the garage to handle this situation was to first properly teach the dog a solid recall and work on it daily. A dog without a solid recall should never be off leash. The man should be wearing a treat pouch, Rewards should be readily available when teaching a dog anything. If the man wants the dog to learn that the command “bye bye” means go to the car, he should teach the dog by saying the word “bye bye” and guiding the dog with a leash to the car, rewarding when he jumps in.

So you see, it is not the dog, it is the person who is failing the dog. Once you teach a dog to ignore your commands, You will have a more difficult time teaching them to listen in the future. Often times you will need a dog trainer to help. Remember the saying “Don’t blame me if you don’t train me”

By properly teaching your dog what words mean, and rewarding when the dog performs, you will have a dog that happily listens to you no matter what you say, in any situation.

The next time the neighbor wants his dog to go to the car it should sound like this, “Trixie come” (dog comes) , “bye bye” – (dog jumps in car!) 4 simple words, no frustration.

To learn more training techniques and to keep from making common training mistakes, visit our website and purchase our book Puppy Montessori!

http://www.supermutts.com/puppy-montessori.html

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs. She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior.

The truth about dog parks

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As dog trainers, we often get asked about dog parks.  We always tell people that in general they are a not a good idea.  Yes, dogs should be socialized with other dogs but only in a structured environment.

Many dogs are taken to the dog park to burn off pent up energy. The dogs at dog parks are generally out of control and in a “frenzy” type of play style.  If your pet gets accustom to this kind of play, he will think it is normal and will greet all dogs he meets with this play style which could cause a fight.

If a problem does ensue, most owners are not paying attention to their dogs at dog parks as they are socializing with the other humans and rarely assess what their dogs are doing.  Many people also do not know the subtle signs dogs give that signal a fight is about to ensue.

Puppies should never be socialized at dog parks.  If you have a young puppy and it gets attacked or mauled by an out of control dog (or dogs)  at the dog park, your puppy most likely will become dog aggressive and will never be able to trust other dogs again. All socialization for puppies should be kept positive.

Many people take their dogs to the dog park to socialize with other dogs regardless of if they are good with other dogs or not.  The problem again is that at a dog park, not all socialization is good.  Dogs play rough at dog parks, which often time leads to a fight.  If this happens to your dog, you may be creating a dog that becomes fearful of other dogs or becomes dog aggressive.    Socializing a timid or fearful dog at a dog park is never recommended.  If you try to socialize a fearful or timid dog at a dog park, the chances are that the dog will become overwhelmed and become more fearful and timid.

Not all dogs at the dog park are vaccinated.  Some dogs may be carrying diseases such as Parvo, Canine cough or Canine flu.  When you socialize your dog at the dog park you are potentially putting him at risk for these diseases.

After viewing our posts on Facebook of our doggie daycare, many people ask us how all of the dogs  seem so well-mannered regardless of size.  The answer is twofold.  First, we evaluate all dogs that come to our daycare to see if they are a fit for our establishment.  We do not allow non socialized, aggressive  or bossy dogs participate.  Second, we establish ourselves as leaders of the pack from the beginning with rules, boundaries and limitations.  This creates harmony within our daycare pack even though the participants change every day.

When dogs are put in a “pack” situation be it a dog park or a daycare setting, they will immediately set out to create a pack order.  If dogs sense no leadership, that is when trouble ensues.   In trying to establish pack order, dogs will try to mount each other, bully each other and play rough with each other, all of which will usually lead to aggression.

There are several more appropriate ways to socialize your dog than going to a dog park.  Taking your dog to a daycare that has experience with dog training is one. Generally doggie daycare requires that all dogs be vaccinated which reduces the risk of possible disease transmission.  When looking for a daycare you should question about the size of the groups, how they evaluate the dogs and should find out if they allow bossy or aggressive dogs in their groups. Some daycare allow and sometimes encourage rowdy play and others have more structured play groups and encourage manners.  Choose one that best fits your dog.

If you have friends or family with well-mannered dogs, you can socialize your dog with them. The key is to keep it positive and not let one dog bully the other.

Obedience classes are also a great way to socialize your dog in a structured environment. Not only will you and your dog benefit from the training but the dog will also learn self-control and how to be mannerly when around other dogs. Puppy classes are a wonderful way to socialize puppies. Look for a class that allows short periods of structured play time rather than out of control play.

One instance that it would be appropriate to go to an off leash dog park is to proof your dogs training in a high distraction environment. Dog parks are not the place to train a new behavior however. All dog training starts in a non distraction environment. As the dog is trained, you increase distractions slowly until you finally work the dog in a high distraction area. This is only done after the dog has maintained his training in areas with fewer distractions. If you are training your dog to a high level of obedience or service work, then a dog park could serve as a high distraction environment.

There are some dog parks that are “leash only” dog parks in which all dogs must be kept leashed. With all dogs being leashed, the dogs do not get far from the owners and are under some form of control.  The owners can decide to let their dog play with others or not.   If you are set on taking your dog to a dog park, we recommend finding a “leash only” dog park or find a dog park that is not to populated. Fewer dogs equal fewer chances for problems.   We also recommend giving your dog a good long walk before you go to the park to drain any pent up energy.  A tired dog is less likely to get into trouble.  If you take your dog to a dog park it is imperative that you control how your dog responds to other dogs and how other dogs respond to yours.  By providing your dog with leadership he will always look to you for guidance and protection.