People are always impressed at how well my own dogs listen, and want to know how they get their dogs to listen as well. So here are seven things that I’ve found are very essential to getting your dog to listen:
1) It’s important to understand why dogs do what they do. There have been thousands and thousands of books have been written about it, but it all can be summed up in 6 words: DOGS DO WHAT MAKES THEMSELVES FEEL GOOD.
I know, you’ve been told that dogs just want to please. It’s true, they want to please….themselves.
Dogs are like humans in that they want and need more than just a bowl of food and a place to sleep. They need affection, company, play, to run and jump and chase, to go for walks and see new things and meet new people, poop and piddle, chew up stuff, and bark, and yes, even bite.
So when your dog chews up your shoes, or soils in the house, or bites your mother-in-law, don’t get angry. Your dog is not being spiteful, or dominant, he is simply being a dog, and obeying his genetic mandate. And understand that it’s YOUR FAULT that he does those things because you haven’t taught him not to.
2) All those things your dog we were just talking about that your dog wants and needs, they make splendid rewards. Knowing how, and when to reward can make all the difference between a dog that listens and dog that does not.
Most dogs live on welfare. They get pet when they want to, fed when they want to, and walked when the want to. Is it any surprise when they start to think of his owner as staff? It’s a completely upside down relationship.
3) Reward often. Many owners misuse treats as a bribes to plead with the dog to listen and wonder why the dog won’t come unless the have a cookie in their hand. Often times, owners inadvertently reward bad behavior–they don’t mean to, but they do and then they think the dog is being stubborn when its just a miscommunication.
The smart trainer uses life rewards and play as rewards for good behavior already performed. It may seem to be a subtle difference, but it is a very important one.
4) Engage your dog in the training. By that, I mean the dog has to be a willing participant in the process. Think about the teacher in school that you learned a lot from, they really caught your attention and got you excited about learning. The same is true about your dog. You can’t get your dog to listen to you if you can’t even get him to look at you.
5) Trust. You have to have your dog’s trust. Dog’s won’t listen when their owners make a habit of calling to punish them for some misdeed, or do something unpleasant like putting them in the crate, or clipping their nails. Or tricking him by using a cookie to lure him close enough to grab–those tricks just teach him to play keep away and be fearful of hands.
6) Practice. Nobody ever got good at something without practice. So if you want to be a good teacher, you need to practice, and your dog needs to practice. Decide which behaviors are the most important and work on those. Integrate training into your day as much as you can so the line between training and living and playing becomes fuzzy. Practice everywhere: in the house, in the yard, at the pet store, at the park. If the only time you practice is in class, he’ll only obey in class.
7) Be your dog’s best friend. Keep him healthy, Dogs that don’t feel well are often cranky and have accidents in the house. Be realistic about what you expect from your dog. Is it good enough if he comes 9 times out of 10 out of fenced yard, or do you want a dog who always comes when called, even if there’s a cat to chase? The first example is an 8th grade education and the second one is a PHD. Don’t give your dog an 8th grade education and expect him to act like he’s completed college.
Have fun with your dog. Training should make life better for the two of you. Do things with your him. Go to new places and experience new things with him. He is your fellow traveler and if you open up to him, together you can find a world of new people and new experiences that you never knew existed.