In my experience as a dog trainer, many of the people I work with have assumed that solving behavioural problems between a dog and a family is as easy as a one time visit from a dog trainer or behaviourist. Unfortunately it’s not; if it was it would make my job a lot easier! In my experience, it’s not just about training the dog but the owner as well, I can’t express that aspect more.
Being an effective leader is essential – the dog needs to understand that you and your family are in charge. Every second you spend with your dog it is taking in vital information; you want to make things as clear to the dog as possible. Behavioural problems in most cases stem from the misleading behaviour from the owner and family. It’s not about being aggressive or domineering, but simply letting the dog know that it doesn’t have to stress about protecting it’s family.
I will go right back to basics and explain very simple methods of communication you have to be aware of to make sure there is a good line of communication between you and your dog.
Absolutely essential – and that’s why I’m putting this first. A great deal of leadership comes down to body language. Much communication between pet and owner is
expressed without saying a word. Dogs can easily read body language that may seem weak, tentative or quiet. However, a dog can also detect aggressive postures and body behaviour which, rather than helping control the animal, may make things worse. That said, a dog will recognise a projection of assertiveness and authority through positive training.
To assert your authority to relax rather than threaten the dog, these are some of the positive actions he/she will recognise:
- Keep your head upright and posture high.
- Avoid any sort of direct eye contact until you are ready to interact, especially if the dog is showing signs of fear and anxiety, as eye contact can be perceived as threatening.
- Avoid things like direct finger pointing, which can again be threatening to some dogs.
- When rewarding your dog make sure you express your appreciation clearly. Smile and open your arms; he will read your welcoming body language positively.
Decision-making & Action
When you make a decision on anything, it must be firm, final and immediate and your dog must understand this. This is often easier said than done and it won’t always work, especially during the puppy/adolescent stages. Dogs often protest with gesturing or barking; try and avoid this as much as you can and if they behave this way, make sure you ignore it at all costs. Having lived with mischievous Beagles most of my life, I know this
behaviour all too well!
Again, ensure you are being firm, but not violent or aggressive, as this will only make things worse.
Tone of Voice
This is perhaps the most obvious step but often a problematic area. Dogs are just as good as humans when it comes to detecting the tone of voice. The reason I mention it last is because it works alongside the other two steps and they must be consistently used or your dog will become confused.
- Make sure your tone of voice and commands are clear
- Use short phases and commands: sit, stay, paw, dinner (their favourite one, obviously!)
- Try to make sure all commands are used in with conjunction with the dog’s name, especially when you have more than one animal in the house!
- When praising the dog, along with body language, deliver it with a smile and a soft, welcoming, reassuring voice. He may not understand what you are saying but will recognise the tone with which you say it!
Hope these hints help! If you have any questions with any aspect of this topic or positive dog training in general, feel free to drop a comment below or tweet me!