To continue on where we left off….
Another hugely common mistake new owners make when first bringing home their new pup, and for the first few months of their lives, is allowing behaviors that they won’t want continued into adulthood. There’s no doubt about it, it takes a pretty tough person to say no to a brand new pup. The little face looking up at you with such love, excitement and trust, melts your heart and steals a part of your soul, leaving you unwilling to say that big bad word..”NO!”.
What we dont’ take into account, is that much of, if not most of what our dogs learn about life, social behavior, how to interact with other people and animals, and proper behavior in the home, is learned in those first few months when the cute overrides our sense. It is imperative, that we realize that every single moment of the day from the minute we bring home our new pup, is a potential for learning. Be it positive behavior or negative.
I find many dog owners seem to think that training is a chore. We take out a certain amount of time per day to work on things like “sit”, “Come”, “Stay”,etc. We forget that each and every interaction we have with our dog during the day, is indeed a training session. A time of learning, shaping behavior, teaching our dog what behaviors we want, and preventing those we do not want. Looking at it in this manner, and living by it, makes training SO much easier! It means that you are steadily and constantly working with your dog, even when you’re simply sitting down watching a tv show, or putting food in their bowl, every time you go to let them out to potty. Everything, even the most seemingly unimportant, means a lot in the end.
It is MUCH easier to work with and train a dog when that dog knows exactly what behaviors we want from them, expect from them and behaviors that please us….rather than waiting until they do something we want to correct…and expecting them to understand what it is they’re being corrected for and why. A dog that isn’t taught how TO behave, won’t understand what it means to NOT behave. Make sense?
It is a wonderful idea, to establish what “house rules” you want your puppy,and later on, your adult dog, to live by. These rules should really be established before you even bring Fido home. If you live in a family setting, or with anyone other than yourself…these rules/guidelines should be clearly discussed and decided on. It is imperative that each member of the household understands the rules, and how you will go about teaching them. If every member of the house has a different set of guidelines, or allows different behaviors…and if they go about training differently, it is going to be MUCH harder for the pup to learn, and quite confusing for them. All guidelines should be simple, clear and easy to understand.
That means..if you’ve decided no dog on the furniture…NO ONE is allowed to let the pup on the furniture. Period. No excuses. No special occasions. Later on, when the dog is older, more reliably trained, and more mature…perhaps you can then start showing him/her different scenarios in which he’s allowed to go on the furniture. But allowing it one moment and not the next when first training, is not going to work well for most dogs and will indeed only make the dog not trust rules…since rules change so very often for no apparent reason in the dog’s mind. This is one of the hardest things for families to accomplish. Because we all see things differently, each member has a different bond with the pup, a higher or lower threshold for what behaviors they can ignore and what ones they can’t. But to successfully raise a well behaved pup who understands their place, it really is important to do our absolute best on this.
People don’t realize that you don’t have to be in “training mode” with clicker and treat handy at each moment…in order to teach your dog. Nor do you have to always give cues, or lure behaviors in order to reinforce them. A great example of this is the “sit” command. Go online and there are at least a dozen different methods given by various trainers on how to teach “sit”. When really, it’s quite simple. No luring necessary, BECAUSE…the sit, is a natural body movement that every single dog, cat, person and animal does. Every day, multiple times per day.
Rather than put a dog on lead, pull up on the lead, push down on the back-end, lure with a treat,etc….the easiest and most common sense way to accomplish this, is simply reward and praise each time you notice your pup doing the sit naturally. If you are supervising your pup properly, which every dog owner SHOULD be doing in the first place, it won’t take long to teach this, as they will be sitting multiple times throughout the day. Each time they do? BIG praise…and add the command “sit”. Not only is this easy, it also helps with dogs that are a bit more stubborn minded and like to think THEY make the decision to do the behavior 🙂 Same thing with the down command. A lot of dogs do not take well to being physically forced into down. Especially those who have fear issues or who are reluctant to put themselves in a vulnerable position. Rather than force them, causing more anxiety…simply wait for the natural behavior to occur, and praise/treat accordingly. No fighting with the dog, and you get the results you want. Relatively quickly too!
Again…rather than wait until your pup is exhibiting behavior you do not want….teach them what behaviors you DO want, by always supervising, being close by and noticing their movements and actions, so you can then tell them when they are doing the right thing. Pup is sitting calmly at your side? PRAISE. “Good sit”. Pup comes up to you and doesn’t jump? Praise..good puppy. Pup barks once or twice to alert you of something, then stops barking….BIG PRAISE…”Good quiet”. You are teaching the pup long before excessive barking becomes an issue…that it’s ok to alert you, but once you’ve been alerted and acknowledge the situation, pup must then quiet down.
REMEMBER::Consistency is EVERYTHING when working with dogs, old and young. Use the same command for the same behavior, praise every time you see the good behavior, even after they’ve already learned it. Luke is 2 years old, and I still thank him for telling me when he has to go outside to pee. I still thank him for heeling properly, for quieting down after alerting me to strangers near our house, for waiting patiently for his dinner.
So, pay attention to your pup. Sticking a pup in a crate for most of the day, may make potty training easier for you, but it doesn’t teach the pup how to properly interact and behave in the home and out. That is up to you. They don’t come to us already knowing everything. It is our job to teach. Patiently, fairly and with the understanding that each dog is different. Each one will learn at their own pace. Each dog may require different methods of training than others. Some may be food motivated, some toy motivated. Some may just want praise. Learn about your pup, what motivates them, what makes them tick. Observe them in all surroundings and see how they naturally react. Make all of your interactions with your pup positive and rewarding for both of you. Training a pup can be hard work yes, but it should never be a dreaded chore. It’s a part of everyday life, and should be, for the entire life of the dog. Make it fun, make it simple. Make it a bonding experience for you both. And make sure the entire family is on the same page. I will share some more in-depth methods in a later post….