By Fran Buell, APDT
Bare Paw Dog Obedience
Sometimes people choose an older dog for their canine companion and have to deal with a problem behavior. Understanding why your dog does what he does, and how to handle the situation correctly, can help resolve problems quickly. Here are some basic guidelines that apply to nearly all problem situations.
Control the dog and you control the situation.
By using a training collar and lead, you can control the dog. For many dogs, their training equipment means business, not playtime. A dog on a lead cannot run away, chase people or other animals, and the owner has a chance to help the dog understand what he can and cannot do.
Instead of saying no, give the dog something positive that he can do such as "sit" or "heel." This positive approach means you can praise the dog for good behavior instead of simply yelling at him.
Allow a dog to be a dog.
Often, what owners consider problem behavior is simply normal dog behavior that they find unpleasant or annoying. An example is digging, which is a natural canine activity, but is distressing to a proud garden owner. Instead of scolding the dog for what comes naturally, think about setting up a small area for the dog to dig in by burying treats in a special area that can be designated as his garden.
It is unfair to the dog to change your rules depending on what you are wearing, who is visiting or the kind of day you have had. It is very confusing to the dog to allow him on the furniture, and then scolds him when he gets on the furniture when you have guests. Whatever your rules are, keep them consistent.
Have your dog earn what he wants.
If you are the wonderful owner who walks, feeds, pets and plays with your dog when he demands it, you will create problems. From the dog's point of view, you are an owner who can be trained. Teach your dog to say please by sitting, lying down or following some simple command before you give him what he wants.
A dog is often confused by changing words or commands, by repeating them over and over again without showing the dog what is meant, and, worst of all, assuming that the dog understands. It is also important to remember that while we are using words to communicate, dogs are masters at reading body language. If your body language tells the dog one thing but your voice tells the dog something else, chances are he will believe your body language. When you bend down, shaking your finger and scolding "No, no, no," the dog may think you want to play because your body language is being interpreted as "Let's play" in dog body language.
Exercise, exercise, exercise. The most common cause of problem behavior is boredom and lack of sufficient exercise. A tired dog is always a well- behaved dog.
Provide mental stimulation. Have your dog hunt kibble or treats hidden throughout the house to keep him occupied while you are gone, or purchase one of the many stimulation toys for dogs in which the dog must work to receive the kibble or treat inside.
Understand your dog's genetic heritage.
If you know about the genetic heritage of your dog, you can better understand why your border collie herds the neighbor kids, why your Jack Russell terrier constantly digs and why your golden retriever is constantly bringing you items. When you understand this, you can decide how to work with your dog's instincts and where to concentrate your training.
Train your dog.
Every dog should have basic manners. Take time to train your dog on a consistent basis using kind, positive methods on your own, at an obedience class or, with problem behavior, under the direction of a professional trainer. The sooner you begin working on a problem, the sooner you will have it solved.
Questions? E-mail email@example.com. Happy training.