Life with dogs is an adventure – that we share our lives so successfully with another species is amazing. Like any relationship, friendship with a dog calls for trust, good communication, self-control, and patience. Yet we humans bear the yeoman’s share of responsibility for ensuring that things smoothly. Most of the clients who hire me to help with behavior problems benefit quickly from two basic steps for raising happy, healthy and well-adjusted dogs.
1 – Management: Dogs have no sense of right and wrong. They behave to acquire pleasurable experiences and avoid aversive experiences – it’s that simple. Limiting their options to safe and acceptable places/activities ensures your best friend won’t learn to enjoy chewing, digging, scavenging or eliminating in and on your valuable possessions. Create a confinement area with comfortable bedding, toys and water for your dog to hang out when you can’t supervise. The old saying about “an ounce of prevention” is never truer than with raising dogs.
2 – Training: Have a clear idea about what you want your dog to DO in any given situation (as opposed to what you want him to stop doing), and reward him with attention, treats and play for those activities. Want your dog to walk nicely on leash? Carry treats and reward him for striding along by your side. Want your dog to lie quietly in the corner while your family is eating? Place a mat there with a treat to entice her, and deliver more treats when she goes to / stays on the mat. Daily training for rewards builds a repertoire of good habits that make life together cooperative, satisfying, and is MUCH more enjoyable than having to punish your dog for the infinite number of unacceptable behaviors.
Bob Ryder, CSAT, PMCT-4, CPDT-KA