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List: Posted: 12/10/10
Training your dog has as much to do with training yourself as it does your new four-legged family member. Dogs live their lives by routine, as well as an ingrained pack mentality where there are leaders and followers. If you don't want your dog to rule you, you have to establish yourself as their pack leader.
Being a pack leader means you are strong, but also trustworthy. For your dog to look to you for guidance, your dog must feel safe with you and know what to expect from you. Since dogs can't talk, it's important to communicate with them in a way they will understand. It doesn't make sense to punish a dog for not understanding you if you are only using speech.
Imagine being transported to a strange place and being locked in a confined space with people who only spoke a foreign language that you do not understand. Each time they speak to you, it only sounds like gibberish, but they scream and punish you for not understanding what they want. Pretty soon you'd just cry out "...tell me what you want and I'll do it!" This frustration and confusion is what dogs experience. Repeated negative training experiences like that only teach a dog to be full of fear and anxiety which lead to behavioral problems, and more punishment from uneducated owners.
Interestingly, dogs have an average intelligence of a three to four year old child. The same techniques that work well with dogs translate into things children need as well -- such as safety, structure, and knowing how to fit in successfully with the rest of the family. A great way to train your dog without intimidation is to establish a regular routine. When you take your dog outside to potty, use the same times 7 days a week. When your dog knows what time to expect going outside, they will be less likely to potty in the house. If you enforce the rules sometimes and sometimes not, then your dog (or your child) will comply with the rules sometimes and sometimes not. You can't blame your dog for not being consistent unless you are consistent.
Whether you have a toy dog or a 100 pound Labrador, dogs have the same mentality. A large dog doesn't do well with intimidation either. When training your dog, don't be rough. Large dogs are sensitive and don't need to be yanked or choked in order to understand you. Training is faster and more effective with love and rewards, rather than fear and punishment. Remember that puppies are like newborn babies and full grown dogs are like three year olds. They lose their attention span easily and don't have the ability to grasp more than one simple concept at the same time.
When training your dog to walk on a leash, they should not walk ahead of you. They should be one step behind you because you are the pack leader. If your dog tries to dart after something interesting, don't yank them or swat them (don't use a choke chain). Instead, keep a firm hold on the leash. The tension they create on the leash is enough for them to understand they are doing something wrong. Continue to walk properly yourself without reacting. Your dog will get the message. A light touch on their side is enough is get their attention back on you and away from the distraction. Walk times should also be routined.
Training a dog takes patience and dedication. Carry liver treats in your pocket and reward them when they behave according to their training. Do not give them treats while walking, but if during a walk you command them to "stop" or "sit," give them a treat for performing that behavior correctly. Give them a pat or rub and say "good dog" in conjunction with the treat to reinforce the behavior and boost their confidence in good behavior.
When training a dog, obedience classes are a good idea. PetSmart and other pet stores offer in-store training sessions led by dog behavior experts. Make sure to be consistent in class and at home so your dog knows what is expected of them at all times. When you training your dog with love, treats, and positive reinforcement; you'll be amazed at how fast they learn. Your dog loves you and wants to please you.
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