That’s it! Three things that you have to learn as a dog owner and you’ll fix 90% of your dog-related problems and have a happier dog in the process. The catch is two of them you’ll have to teach and the third is a skill that you must work on…
Thought you were getting off with a get rich quick scheme? Noooo…
The first thing I think every dog owner should know is how to “interrupt” a behaviour with the goal of both “stopping it in its tracks” as well as making the dog think twice about doing it again. I think it’s monumentally important to understand how to influence your dog’s behaviour as a human using things that dogs use with each other… things like spatial and social pressure are important to both understand and use, but this one principle is key as well.
First, you need something that will snap your dog out of an excited, adrenalized and highly-aroused state of mind. There are two things I recommend: 1. Pet Convincer/Pet Corrector 2. A technique brought to my attention by Gary Wilkes which he calls Bonking. A Pet Convincer and a Pet Corrector are very similar in nature but different in application… both are canisters of compressed air that make a loud “HSSSS” sound which most dogs aren’t to fond of. My Lab is the only dog I know of that the noise doesn’t bother, so if you think your tough Rottie won’t be touched by this tool, try it before you jump to that conclusion. The only difference is a Pet Corrector is a “disposable” device where as the Pet Convincer has refillable cartridges so you can reuse it over and over. Also, the Pet Convincer can be applied directly to the dog’s skin where the Corrector warns not to.
Here is a link to the blog by Gary Wilkes in regards to the Bonking Technique: http://clickandtreat.com/wordpress/?p=370
The remaining two things are skills your dog must be taught:
1.) how to respect and listen to the leash
2.) a place command
Now when I say “listen to and respect the leash”, that doesn’t necessarily mean structured, high and tight heel. It does mean, don’t pull me all over the place, don’t walk in front of me and don’t stop and smell the roses if I don’t choose to. The main rules when a dog is on leash should be as follows:
- I decide where we go and how fast we get there
- Respect my space and I’ll respect yours (that means, if you cut in front of me or walk under my feet, get ready to be stepped on… best to just stay off to the side)
- When we’re moving together, I decide the distractions we investigate… that means if there’s squirrels, other dogs or the neighbor cat, I want you ignoring them and focusing on our pack activities
If you have a dog with issues like reactivity on leash, the above methods and tools will help you “interrupt” that unwanted behaviour.
I’m not going to get into why I allow my dogs to lead me and that doesn’t make them dominant… that’s for another day. Best way to teach respect for the leash is with a long line where they have ample opportunity to simply wander and explore without tension. Also, it’s significantly more fulfilling than simply walking. Dogs explore their world through their sense of smell, so it’s best to let them see the world that way. You’ll find after a few days of this, your dog will be much calmer and happier after the walk.
Teaching the Place Command
I plan to do a video on my YouTube Channel about this at some point, but for now, I’ll give you a step by step with some problem solving.
Step 1. With a leash on your dog make sure he/she is comfortable walking over whatever you expect them to be placing on. In most cases, it’s just a dog bed which their most likely fine with. After you can guide them over without any resistance, move to step 2.
Step 2. Stop them on it. At this point, they might be doing this step by themselves but if they aren’t, stop them on the bed by applying pressure on the leash in an UPWARD fashion. It doesn’t have to lift them off the ground, but it must be enough to stop their forward motion. Let them know they’ve done well!
Step 3. Start walking short distances away (no more than 6 feet at the start… so if you have a six foot leash, don’t reach the end). One of two things will happen: 1. the dog won’t get off the bed, in which case they get love for staying 2. they get off the bed, at which point you mark the mistake with “no” and replace them on the bed. It doesn’t have to be overly firm (unless your dog is warranting being firm), just guide him back on with the leash.
Step 4. Build clarity. Look for things that might encourage your dog to break the Place Command and then mark it with “no” and move him back onto the bed. Be aware if you’re being unfair… for instances, if whatever you do for a distraction is still causing him to break 3 reps later, make it easier for him to understand or less distracting by making it less intense.
A good test I give my clients is have your dog hold a place command while you’re watching your favorite TV show. That’s thirty minutes! And every time he gets off, simply say “no” or “ah ah” or whatever you’d like to stay to mark a mistake, and replace him WITHOUT CONFLICT! That’s the important part. Some dogs are looking for that spike in adrenaline and drama; don’t give it to them! Do it calmly and insistently and eventually they’ll let it all go and relax.
You can use this one command in many different ways: your dog follow you around the house getting under foot? Place Command. Your dog trip up your guests at family gatherings? Place Command. Your dog constantly begging for attention? Place Command!
And those are your three things!
1. The ability to stop and influence behaviour fast!
2. Respect for the leash
3. A place Command
I can promise you that other trainers would say I’ve left out a lot, but for me and my experience, if more dogs had basic impulse control from the place command and an understanding of how to go with the leash and the human could stop bad behaviour quickly, I’d be getting less calls.
If you’re interested in learning these skills from me personally, please visit http://www.wadesdogmanship.com for information on my Dogmanship Essentials program where all the above and MORE are covered!