You would think with all the information out there, with ease in which you can learn just about anything these days, that people getting a pup or a dog, of ANY breed, would at the very least, take a few minutes to learn what kind of dog they’re getting, what the basic ideas of training are, and try to use them. Not in this area! And certainly not on some of the sites I am on. Yahoo answers for one. Why I go on that site when all it does is aggravate me is beyond me. Apparently I’m a sucker for punishment. And facebook groups. The ones for Great Danes really upset me. Of course being the breed of my heart, it always upsets me when I see them in the hands of owners who are not even willing to learn more in order to better the health and welfare of their dane. Some of the things I read make me so frustrated it’s a good thing I’m sitting behind a computer screen miles away from the person lol. Once in a while though, I will come across someone who genuinely cares about their dog, who genuinely wants to learn more about the breed itself or how to improve on training, behavior or perhaps nutrition. The food issue seems to be one of the most common questions. On the occasions when the asker actually appreciates my advice or suggestion, and can better the life of their dog because of it, it makes all the aggravation before that worthwhile. MOST of the time lol.
The “I want to stud out my merle dane”, or “breed my ten month old obviously poorly bred, unstable female dane” ones just burn my butt though. Those people don’t WANT to learn. They don’t want to hear the truth, and sometimes I just have to ignore them all together. A facebook friend of mine tells me not to go on these sites…I think he might just be right lol.
Anyway….back to topic. So I’m walking home yesterday with Luke and we come across this lady and her boyfriend holding a sharpei pup. I’ve seen the pup before but every time I’ve walked by she scoops him up into her arms and snuggles him close as if the big bad people and dog are going to eat him. Now…I could see it if it were the drug dogs walking past, the ones that lunge and growl and foam at the mouth to get at othe dogs, but everyne around here knows tht Luke is well behaved and is great with small dogs, and pups especially. Anywho she goes on to say that this pup is terrified of other dogs, and babies him, totally reinforcing a fear which to be honest I don’t think is really as bad as she makes it out to be.Infact…if she would just let the pup get on his own feet and meet a nice dog or two, she just might find that he’sn not afraid at all. So I told her…you have a breed that needs to be socialized ALOT…NOW. He needs to be exposed to as many people, situations and dogs as you can find and soon, before the fear period kicks in and he becomes antisocial and ends up with fear aggression towards everyone and everything. I didn’t want to come right out and tell her that by her acting teh way she was, she was the one who was infact teaching him that dogs were bad and something to worry about. I’m sure we all dont need a lot of prodding to conjure up the picture of the little purse puppy who’s held way up in his Mommy’s safe and loving embrace, all the while yapping like a maniak, biting and snarling at everything t hat moves past? Well this is what is happening, only soon…this won’t be your little shih tzu or yorkie..this will be a medium/large breed with tendencies to be aggressive to other dogs and sometimes people. JUST WHAT WE NEED…another nasty dog in the neighborhood. And the worst part, is that in a year or two, after they’ve totally taught this dog all the wrong behaviors, it will be either locked up like a criminal because it can’t be trusted…or it will be sent ot the shelter or pawned off to some unsuspecting innocent on Kijiji, when the owners have “no clue why he’s like this but he’s just not safe, we just dont have the time, we cnat have a vicious dog around our kids”,etc. Hmmm…I wonder WHY he’s like this? Just remember I tried to tell ya!
Which brings me to the online dog forums, yahoo answers and facebook groups again. It never fails. People will wait until the dog is exhibiting behaviors they don’t want….before going online asking for anyone they can find to somehow fix it. None of them seem to comprehend the concept that you train a dog by showing them what you WANT them to do first…not by waiting until they do the wrong thing and correcting them, expecting the poor dog to understand why he’s being corrected and what in the heck he’s supposed to be doing instead. I don’t know….this just never seemed to be difficult concept for me to understand. Even when I was a young kid and Mom was bringing home a new dog, different breeds every other month, and I was the one who had to train them all, I always enforced the behaviors I did want by praising and or treating, before ever correcting. To me, it’s like sticking a kid in college without ever having gone to school before, and expecting them to start writing exams, doing speeches, and then smacking them when they don’t have a clue what to do.
I suppose if Luke were a human, he’d have one hell of a big head lol. An ego the size of North America. Because since the minute I brought him home, and literally every day since….he has been told a million times a day how good he is…ho proud I am of him…for the simplest of things. Things I never set out to teach him, he learned through watching me, through being praised for doing the right thing when I really didn’t even realize it. Looking back, I can see how certain behaviors were ingrained in him naturaly just by always acknowleging them and praising him for it.
Example…when it was time to teach him “sit”…I didn’ set out to lure him into a sit. I didn’t push his bum down and then add the command. I didnt yank on the leash or pull up on it to force him into a sit. I simply praised him every single time he sat on his own, then taught the actual word/command sit by adding the word to my praise. He’s playing around the house with me, stops, and sit….I’d say “GOOD SIT!!!!!” big praise and a treat if I happened to have one on me.
lt took maybe two or three times before he had that command down flat. And all by me reinforcing a behavior that was totally natural to him and not trying to force it. Same thing with the “down” command. Every time he moved into a down on his own…big praise, add the command. Kiss…same thing. Heel, same thing.
But what I really got to thinking about the other night, was all the little things we dont set out to teach, things that aren’t tricks, or commands we want them to learn like stay or come or sit. Every time he waited for me to go down the stairs or walked beside me, I praised him and thanked him. I still praise him to this day, for things he has known how to do since day one. When we’re walking on leash and he’s doing it right…he gets praise. When we walk by lunging dogs and he is calm and behaved, he is told how good he is. When he chewed on his own toys and not my things, he was praised and rewarded. Little things that most people never notice their dogs doing RIGHT because they only focus on the dog when they are making mistakes, I have always reinforced and praised without thinking about it. It truly wasn’t a conscious thing on my part. Maybe that’s part of the reason some people see us together and think he’s spoiled. Because he is noticed and loved on for every good thing he does natural or otherwise. I don’t and never have, waited for him to make a mistake to correct him. And when he IS corrected, he knows why and what he SHOULD be doing, because he was shown the RIGHT way to behave. And all in a non training like way. That’s the best I can explain it really. I don’t stop praising him for doing things he knew how to do a year ago. He doesn’t get a treat everytime he sits, but he knows that I am still just as happy with him today as I was last year. He never has to go around with his head down, nervous and unsure what to expect from me. He never has to wonder…is this the right thing to do? Am I doing this wrong? Is she going to yell at me, smack me, yank on me? Once in a while he has his stubborn moments…and once in a while you have to convince him that he really wants to do the right thing lol….but he really is a good boy…and always was. I’m just glad that he KNOWS he’s a good boy.
My point in all of this I guess is….never take the good your dog does for granted. Let them know, every day, when they’ve done somthing right. Don’t wait until they mess up a bit to notice their behavior. Notice all the little things and make sure they know you’ve noticed. If you have a new pup, start out on the right foot by showing them from day one what IS expected of them, instead of always being there to correct to them for something they don’t understand. Try your best not to lose patience, because being frustrated with them teaches nothing and only upsets them further. Don’t expect too much too soon. Take the time….some dogs take longer than others to learn. Each dog will have a different motivator…things that make them want to work for you more than others. Find what works best with your individual dog and stick with it. Don’t give up when you don’t see results right away. And if you’re trying to rehabilitate, or change behaviors already ingrained in the dog, remember that in order for them to choose the RIGHT thing, they need to understand what the right thing IS first.
Not only will you get better results from it, but the bond and closeness you will share with your dog will be much stronger for it. Everyone wants to know they are valued….important, doing someting right. Just because you’re dealing with a dog doesn’t mean the same principal doesn’t apply 🙂