The more I learn, grow and evolve in my field, the more I dislike the word ‘obedience’. It denotes subordination. Our dogs don’t owe us, if anything we owe them. I think a solid education taught without force and with plenty of positive reinforcement would be a great starting point.
Lately I have been calling behaviors like sit, lie down, come, loose leash walking, leave it and off ‘everyday moves’ or EDMs. These are things the pup already knows how to do; it is just much easier, fun and safer when he does them reliably for us. I think that the ‘EDMs’ we would like our dogs to do are similar to our parents teaching us manners as we grow up. Knowing how to do particular things and behave in certain ways in certain situations can help us get along better in life. Perhaps be welcome in more places too. When we are gracious and patient we make the world a nicer place for ourselves and for others. The same goes for our pups. When we take the time to teach them certain behaviors this may allow them to be out with us more often and to feel safe and calm in life.
The pet industry is a multi billion-dollar industry but the dollars in the dog sector are barely being spent on education. The majority is being spent on food and vet bills with a tiny piece of the pie going towards training classes. Preventable behavioral problems remain the number one reason dogs are relinquished or euthanized so it seems to me more attention to training and behavior could go a long way to help ensure that our dogs are able to live long, happy lives.
There is a process involved in your dog’s education; a series of steps necessary in order to achieve a particular outcome. This process often requires a financial investment and it will require your time and energy as well.
The early steps look like this:
1. Decide what you want to learn and who will teach you. Special consideration is to be taken with puppies that should not be denied an early education. They have specific needs that must be met within a certain time frame.
2. You learn.
3. Your dog learns from you.
4. Use everything you and your dog are learning and apply it into everyday life.
Front door etiquette for your puppy is an important set of skills to teach early on in the game plan! And no I am not talking that malarkey about your dog having to go out the front door behind you!
The doors and large windows in our homes can elicit excitement in a pup. There is the opportunity for viewing or smelling or greeting that can cause a puppy to become over aroused or stressed and ultimately become a problem.
As with any of the preventative exercises that we do, we embark (pun intended) on them with a knowingness that this is predictable doggie behavior that just might get them into some serious hot water (putting it nicely) if we don’t pay attention and do our due diligence.
You can teach your puppy that the front door is not such a big deal. Even if their favorite person arrives bringing treats and toys. Santa, is that you! (I know your weren’t expecting him to use the front door) No matter what is happening at the door you want to be able to get your pup to settle with relative ease and play it cool.
Hey all you puppy people, games are the way to go! Your training sessions should feel like a game. Aim to make them fun, short and lighthearted. With some practice under your belt you can start to put these skills into play in ‘real life’ situations. Just like all the magic that happens with your pup’s education, training is all about layers. Teach your puppy basic skills and build upon them as he learns and matures.
Here are some foundation behaviors for you that teach a puppy the ins and outs (pun intended) of door etiquette. Continue reading
I have a challenge for you. For one day I want you to observe your dog, play with your dog, and work with your dog without judgment!
I have a vivid childhood memory of being at my Grandparent’s place. We were celebrating a birthday for my younger sister in their beautiful back garden. My Sis and I were messing around as sisters will do and my Grandpa Johnny got impatient with us. What I remember so clearly about this was what my Mom said to her father, she gently chastised him and informed him that kids will be kids. I felt so good when she defended us from my stern Grandfather. It felt liberating and safe to be me!
I think the quality of any relationship can be enhanced with an absence of judgment. This is no easy task! We are constantly labeling and defining everything in our lives. Events and people are condensed down to good or bad. Things make us happy or make us sad. Maybe we are missing some of the richness of life when we view things this way.
We have a propensity to do this with our dogs too. Whether it is teaching a puppy the ways of the world, or working on more complex moves with a more mature dog.
New puppy parents frequently want more from their pup than what is realistic. Or get impatient when everyday behaviors, like come and loose leash walking take time to train to fluency.
I am not going to call any of this bad. That would be judging and today I am taking myself up on my own challenge : ). Today I am going to hang around with my dog and simply be with her and have fun. We will work on moves, some that I have been working on for months! We will play and walk. Sometimes she will pull me, sometimes she won’t. She will mostly always come running when I call. I hope that I contribute to her feeling good and safe and free to be her, I think I do.
If you feel inclined to take us up on this challenge maybe you will share some of your experience of that day with us here.
Picture an ape swinging from the jungle canopy making her way from point A to point B. A pod of dolphins leaping skyward out of the water and then splashing back in again, a frog hopping or swimming through a pond. How each of these animals moves on the earth is different. Swimming, swinging, slithering, soaring, hopping, no legs, two legs, four legs, wings, fins! Wow!
Imagine if you were required to keep up with a pod of sea lions, take a walk with a kangaroo or keep pace with a snail for a day. Hmm.
With that image fresh in your mind picture what it means to teach our four-legged puppy friends to walk with us. Let’s think about the finer points involved in teaching another species to amble along at our pace. To not do the things they want, but instead pay attention to us.
Does a dog naturally walk in a straight line the same way you do? No. A dog will move forward in different directions, often making turns and big circles, choosing not to follow a sidewalk or a well-worn path but rather, their nose!
So this is the first thing to consider when we complain about unruly pups on leash. How are we going to interest our dog to walk this way? Continue reading
I live in a busy city with many things competing with me for my dog’s attention. I need to be on my game and engage my dog giving her good reason to check in with me. Enter The Recall Warrior. I practice calling my dog multiple times everyday. On the sidewalk, parks, in the house and in the yard. Each time making it worth her time and effort. I pay well over the going rate! If I’m half a block from my walking destination I may go for 5 recalls before I get there. Just running a few paces in the opposite direction calling her to ‘come!’ Take the time to condition a rock solid Recall with your dog! It’s fun and with it comes peace of mind.