The walk is for the dog, not for you. Yes, you read that correctly. I will likely ruffle some feathers with this one, but that’s fine with me.
Let’s say you have a dog that has exhibits undesirable behavior such as jumping, counter surfing, eating shoes, getting into the trash, and things along those lines. Management may be the answer to your prayers.
What is management, you ask? Management in this scenario means managing the dog’s environment. I am a big fan of management when it comes to dog training. Rather than leave a dog to its own devices and expecting it not to succumb to temptation, YOU need to take control by managing the environment.
Example: Fluffy is a trash fiend and every day you return to a home littered with garbage. You huff, you puff and storm around the house picking up the mess – all the while thinking Fluffy “knows better”. Well, it is highly likely that Fluffy does not know better. Have you actively trained Fluffy to abstain from trash digging while you aren’t present? I think not.
In this scenario, punishment is totally out of the question. You have to catch a dog in the act - or within 3 seconds - for the animal to make a correlation with why it is being punished. I AM NOT ADVOCATING PUNISHMENT, in fact, I am making an argument against it. Continue reading to understand what I am saying.
So, Fluffy gets into the trash daily for months and you two have a routine. Fluffy meets you at the door, you see the trash and get a scowl. Fluffy then makes herself smaller and/or tries to slink away. It is NOT because she “knows better”. It is because your facial expression is different from the happy face you usually greet her with, there is also likely a change in your breathing.
The body language Fluffy is exhibiting can be better understood as appeasement or calming signals – not guilt. I honestly don’t think dogs waste time with the emotion we humans know as guilt.
Dogs are masters at sensing/reading the slightest changes in our disposition/emotional state. Because of this, we humans think that dogs “know better” when they have, in our eyes, misbehaved. This is almost always not the case.
Dogs are animals, we must not forget this. They are prone to foraging, one of the many things mother nature saw fit to program them to do. If I were a dog and with access to a trash bin with ham in it, you’d better believe I am going to get to that ham.
Why tempt fate and put dogs in unnecessary situations that only result in our frustration? There really is no reason for this. With all the tools we have within our reach, things like trash digging should not be an issue.
What is the solution? For the scenario of trash digging there are multiple solutions ranging from getting a high-quality trash can that the dog cannot open, putting the trash can in a cupboard or pantry, restricting the dog’s ability to roam the house while left unattended with baby gates or a crate, and the list goes on.
The fact of the matter is, management not only makes life with a dog easier – it makes it more enjoyable. It’s more enjoyable because you’re not walking into a trash party after a long day at work.
By managing a dog’s environment, you take away some of the likelihood that the dog will get into “trouble”.
Recognizing what motivates a dog is mission critical for effective and successful training – oftentimes you have a secret weapon(s) at your disposal you aren’t even aware of. Every dog is an individual – with their own style of learning and motivation. The following refers to things that motivate a dog in a positive and pleasant way.
Urinary incontinence in dogs can be caused by a variety of things. Among these are old age, medications, surgery, anxiety, bladder/kidney issues, a urinary tract infection – these are just the causes I am aware of.
Having a 13-year-old dog, I know firsthand how stressful dealing with a dog’s urinary incontinence can be. Bea’s first round of indoor accidents was caused by a UTI and back pain. Thankfully modern medicine and an awesome veterinarian fixed the initial problem.
We control so many aspects of our dog’s lives from when they relieve themselves to when they eat. I suggest we make it a priority to give our dogs more choices in their daily lives when it is safe to do so. The results of giving a dog virtually no choices can range from frustration, loss of trust, boredom, shutdown, aggression or other behaviors that are not healthy or desirable.
What is a “poisoned” cue? A poisoned cue is a cue that the dog has made a negative association with a cue. This is likely to happen when you decide to use punishment in your training. Your cue is no longer just a means of communicating to the dog what you’d it to do – it has become a sort of threat. This is just one more reason why punishment and aversive techniques are not a wise decision when it comes to training your dog. A poisoned cue cuts down on reliability and can sour your relationship with your dog.
A solid recall with your dog does not happen by accident – it takes time, patience, and a strategy to teach the dog that coming to you when called = AMAZING things. Oftentimes, people poison their recall (aka spoiling the cue) by inadvertently teaching the dog that coming when called results in bad things).
You get more of what you expect and reinforce, not necessarily what you want when it comes to dog training. You may very well be reinforcing your dog for the very behaviors that you don’t want. It is important to be aware of what your dog is doing but also what you are doing - you are sending all sorts of signals to your furry friend!
Training should be a part of your dog’s life, no matter its age. It is important to be mindful of your dog’s cognitive and physical abilities throughout its life, especially when you are training your dog.
I would say, the first and foremost question to ask yourself when training a dog is “what do I want the dog to do?”. You need to narrow down what it is that you are wanting to teach the dog to do. Not everyone is going to want the same thing out of their dog, so it is important to ask this as both a trainer and as an owner.