Let's talk about dogs
Below you'll find information, common misconceptions, and helpful infographics that you can use daily, in between training sessions, or even as refreshers. I'm here to help, and my goal as a trainer is to strengthen your relationship with your dog, and your knowledge about your dog.
"My dog should know better or my dog knows better"
There is a common misconception that owners think their dog should know better. Dogs simply do not work or think that way. They don’t know or understand how to live with us, or what we want or expect from them, unless we teach them about our expectations of them and their behavior. Teaching dogs about their behavior is extremely important to do in varying settings and different circumstances. Just like when you are teaching a child to ride a bike on the pavement road, they do great! Then, you take the child onto a dirt road, and they have a hard time riding their bike there. You don’t have to re-teach them how to ride a bike, but you might have to take couple of steps back and remind her what she has to focus on. Dogs experience this as well. Your home is not very distracting for your dog, but the backyard might be. The wind is blowing interesting smells towards you, the neighbor’s dog is barking, the birds are chirping. She knows those behaviors in the backyard, too? Awesome! She lost her mind on the street? Very common! If we had a nose like our dogs, we wouldn’t be so surprised. With cars going by, each of them have a different sound, not to mention people walking around with other dogs, people riding bikes, and children playing. Each of these are unusual distractions your dog might not experience in more controlled environments (like your home).
The truth is, your dog doesn't know better. Dog's brains do not work the way human brains do in that sense. It may seem that a dog "knows better" when that dog goes up to the owner after the behavior that is being corrected, and the dog’s body language is showing some submission. The reason is: when the dog is showing submission, it can be fear. So the dog knows better, because if she doesn’t obey, there are going to be consequences. Not good ones, that's why the dog is showing submission, saying, please don't hurt me. You never hit your dog? You don't have to, to make them feel bad. Dogs can feel threatened from our voice, the way we stand, the way we look at them. Dogs are very sensitive and deserve kindness, just like you and me.
Be kind, teach them in the way you would like to be taught!
Live with your dog less stressed
Dogs love to be motivated to learn something new, create a learned behavior, or simply do what we ask of them. We can motivate our dogs by showing them what we would like them to do, and provide great consequences. That being said, we can provide good or bad consequences. That means that we can ask dogs to work for us, giving them rewards (good consequences) or we can make them work for us so they can escape pain or discomfort (bad consequences). We have to remember that dogs don’t speak our language, so we have to teach them cues. Cues can be verbal and/or hand signals, and provide things that our dogs enjoy as payment, such as a favorite toy or treat. This will help our dogs understand what we are asking them to do, and keep their and our stress levels low. Sometimes we forget that we are sharing our homes with our dogs, and while we often say they are our kids and family members, we have to make sure we don’t anthropomorphize them and learn about the way they try to communicate with us and the way they often feel in certain situations. While we as humans love to talk in full sentences and keep our conversation interesting, our dogs might not understand that “go to bed” and “lay down, Fido” means the same thing.
Here are some other ideas how you can live with less stress with your pooch:
Physical and mental exercise:
Many dogs are in their home over 20 hours a day. We all have needs, and our dogs do too. Daily walks, playing fetch and training sessions throughout the day makes a big difference in our dogs’ life. Of course, breed and age is a big factor in your particular dog's activity level. Walks, play time and 10 minutes of training can help to meet your dogs’ needs.
Teaching appropriate behaviors:
We as humans say no for many things, we often tell our children “No, don’t touch that” or “No, don’t do this, because you are going to get hurt”. But telling our dogs “no” to many things, they can’t distinguish between “No, don’t chew on that” or “No, don’t jump”. That’s one of the reasons why they don’t stop what they are doing when they are told "no". Instead of trying to tell our dogs what not to do, let’s teach them the things we want them to do. An example: if they like to steal tissues often, let’s teach them “leave it” or “drop it” and give them a toy. Do you like to enjoy your dinner in peace, no pups begging at the table? Teach your dog to settle down, but don’t forget about the good consequences, a stuffed Kong or bully sticks will do.
Being in an exciting place:
Think about when you take your child to the splash park. Wow, so many things to see and things to touch and play with. When we take our dogs in a new place, all the different smells and new sights are super exciting. They have a hard time controlling themselves, and we have a hard time being patient with them as they explore their surroundings. But the more often we can check out new places, the less exciting they will be. The less novel these places become, the easier it will be for you to get your dog's attention and for your dog to do the things you are asking them to do.
Dogs do dog things, like barking, chasing squirrels, eating poop, stealing food off of the counter, and digging. These are all normal behaviors. How can we deal with these behaviors? Asking for professional help, like enrolling in dog training classes with a certified, positive reinforcement trainer or having private classes benefits you and your dog's quality of life so much. Understanding the whys and dos of a family pet will give you a better way to communicate with them and build a solid relationship of trust with them. Stay away from trainers who talk about being a pack leader (dogs are not pack animals), telling you to dominate your dogs, or using aversive training tools, such as choke chains, prong collar, and shock collars as these tools have many undesired side effects on the dog's physical and physiological well being.
lastly, Have fun with your dog!