Training: A daily ritual that lets your dog know what is acceptable & appreciated & what is NOT acceptable and not appreciated.
Dog training is really very simple! Just REWARD the dog when he does something you like. IGNORE the dog when he is doing something you don’t care about either way. And CORRECT the dog when he does something you don’t like. Ah…but the secret really lies n understanding what rewards & corrections are!
Petting your dog is a reward. Praising your dog with kind words is a reward. Food is obviously also a reward… toys/play time.. YES definately a reward!
But did you know… Picking your dog up can be a reward. Scolding your dog can sometimes be a reward. Letting your dog in the house can be a reward. Letting your dog outside can be a reward. Actually, ANYTHING that gives your dog pleasure or enables him to be in your company can be seen as a reward!!!
No wonder dogs misbehave.. we think we are telling them not to do something & they think, “hey great! Mom is spending more time with me!!”
Scolding your dog in a low firm voice, spanking your dog, putting your dog in another room, NOT touching your dog, ignoring your dog, giving a sharp tug on the leash, blocking your dog from doing a behaviour, making a loud noise… these can all be corrections. Basically anything that you do that your dog would rather you NOT do can be a correction.
So, if Fido is barking at your visitors & you yell at him & he doesn’t stop (he may think you are joining him in barking the visitors – opps thats a reward!), so you try to spank him but he dances out of your way still barking (now he thinks you are playing – opps that’s a reward) and you finally out of frustration trap him and pick him up (yea! mom’s holding me – another reward) and put him in another room (where he continues to bark but at least it is muffled) have you achieved your goal of him being social & quiet when you have visitors over??? No, it is pretty obvious that nothing was achieved except Fido got a lot of rewards, your blood pressure was raised & your visitor may never be back… hmmmm…. just might be useful when unwanted guests arrive???
Easy enough to point out what you shouldn’t do… but in the above scenerio, what SHOULD you do???
Prevention & positive intervention are usually the best. Step one. Teach Fido some words. Useful words for Fido to know: Sit. Stay. Come. Drop (or Down), Back & Go to your bed. Once Fido knows these words & will usually do them when you ask, then proceed to step two.
Step two. Don’t wait until guests actually arrive. Ask a friend to help you train Fido before guests arrive. Have your friend knock on the door. Fido barks. You let him have 3 barks, then you say, Good Boy & shove a treat in his mouth. Fasten his leash to his collar & HOLD the leash. Say “JUST A MINUTE” to your friend & tell Fido to sit & stay about 5 feet away from the door. (make sure you can get to the door & open it without letting go of his leash) Pop another treat in his mouth or praise him with petting and quiet words. (don’t use a toy or play as a reward for this one… we want Fido relaxed, not hyped)
Now with Fido sitting (or laying down) quietly, open the door for your friend. If Fido gets up or barks, then close the door on your friend & without saying a word to Fido use the leash to position him back where he was and say “stay” again. (no treat or good boy this time & do NOT touch him with your hands!)
Then try opening the door again. repeat step two until you can open the door & your friend can come in & Fido stays where you put him without barking. If Fido is really clever & stays put AND barks then try having him stay laying down. If he STILL barks, then treat it as if he got up & use the leash with a sharp sideways tug as a correction. Don’t say anything… just correct. If he stops barking the second you turn around to correct him, then go to him and do the correction anyway. He has to understand that he will get corrected if he barks even if he shuts up when you look at him.
Step 3. After your friend is in, let them proceed you into your family room (or wherever you entertain) and you follow with Fido following you. When you sit down to talk, have Fido be on his bed & stay there. Correct with the leash as often as you need to. Make sure you do not let go of the leash until Fido has proved to be dependable.
Don’t stop with just one friend. Let all your guests know ahead of time that you are training Fido & to please be patient with you. Don’t loose your cool or get impatient or frustrated. Dogs don’t learn from angry, frustrated or mean handlers. You must be matter of fact & sort of detached when making corrections & quietly pleased when rewarding.
Many trainers train with all positive reinforcement. I am a HUGE supporter of positive reinforcement to teach a dog. Please use positive rewards to teach Fido his basic commands, sit, stay, down, come, heel & go to your bed. Once he knows the commands & will do them on request, then and only then, can you use a correction when he fails to execute a direct order.
As a rescuer I get calls daily from people that want to give up their dog for behavioural issues… issues that can be corrected with unpleasant, but not hurtful or mean corrections. I would rather see a dog have some unpleasant moments & get to stay with his family, than to end up in the shelter wondering why he was abandoned by the people he loved & was trying to protect.
Dogs that bark at visitors feel that they are in charge of deciding who stays & who goes. Taking control over this will let your dog know that you are the one that makes those decisions & will prevent him from escalating the behaviour into biting guest that don’t take the hint & leave.
As I have time, I will dedicate some pages to training the basic words your dog needs to be a good companion/family dog. I encourage you to take your dog to a training class whenever possible so that you can have hands on practice with a qualified expert.
If you are having a problem with your dog & can’t find a trainer that can help you, please feel free to send me an email & I will answer you with some suggestions. My goal is to have dogs stay with their families!!