Thursday, September 19, 2013

Introduction for Basic Dog Training clients


Congratulations on making the very important decision to bring your dog to obedience class. 

Some decisions have a ripple effect which lasts far longer than the original moment of decision.  

The decision to train your dog will certainly have long reaching positive impact on all of your lives.

In this class you and your dog will have the opportunity to learn and practice behaviors such as SIT, DOWN, and COME, but the benefits go far beyond that.  You will gain a better understanding of how your dog’s mind works.  This will give you better behavioral results, improved attention and an overall enhanced relationship with your dog. 

Training is key to making your dog a valued family member.  In 1998 a study was published in the Journal of Applied Welfare Science which followed how much training dogs who were relinquished to animal shelters had received.

The results are dramatic, but not surprising.

Of the dogs relinquished to shelters:

Trained by Owner                            62     %
Already Trained when Obtained     15.1   %
Attended Obedience Class                4     %
Trained Professionally                       1.2  %

The guidelines below will start you on the path to making fair, firm consistent rules for your dog that will allow him to become the sort of canine companion you hope for.


Consistent fair rules, achievable goals and the ability to understand others are the hallmarks of good bosses and fair parents.  That is your role for your dog.  If you can be fair, consistent and fun your dog will follow you anywhere.

First off, set rules and be consistent.  This means you and your family members must all have the same expectations for your dog.  Are they allowed on furniture?  Do they sleep in the kitchen or in the bedrooms?  Do you want them jumping on people? 

If you don’t want dogs on the sofa when Grandma is over, don’t let your dog on the sofa.  If you don’t want your dog jumping on your company, don’t let her jump on your kids.  Have a family meeting and agree on the rules.

If you set consistent rules and stick to them you will rarely have to correct your dog. 

Be Fair - If you are house training a dog, it is not fair to expect them to go 9 hours without eliminating.  You are probably much larger than your dog, so it should be easier for you.  If you think you can go from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm without visiting the facilities, try it.  Then arrange for a neighbor, dog walker or doggie day care to give your friend relief on days when you can’t help them out.

Before you become frustrated with your dog for any reason take a deep breath and ask yourself if you are being fair.

Don’t scold a dog for something you laughed at yesterday.  You rewarded the behavior.

Pick up your stuff.  Once you have had your dog for a while they will understand the difference between their toys and things belonging to people.  But for the moment pick up the shoes, put your Grandmother’s needlepoint pillows in a box, and close the doors to the kids rooms.  If you leave it out and it gets chewed by an unsupervised new dog, it’s your fault, not the dog’s fault. 

Be Patient – You are asking your dog to change behaviors.  They are in the habit of jumping, barking, pulling on leash, etc.  If you have ever tried to stop smoking, lose weight, or not bite your finger nails, you know changing behavior patterns is hard and takes time.  Accept that your dog needs time too.

Set Boundaries – “Start Small”  New dogs don’t need to have the run of your home and property all of the time.  They should be indoors when you can’t supervise them so they don’t learn to dig, bark at other dogs or escape.  They should be confined to a crate or one dog-proof room when you are not watching them indoors.  Give them chewies, or a stuffed kong, but don’t feel badly about putting your dog in an appropriate, comfortable crate with toys and good things to gnaw for a few hours a day.  As your dog matures they will earn more freedom and trust.

Speaking of boundaries, Dogs should not be leaping on visitors at the front door.  Leash your dog when you are expecting company, or put your dog in another room.  Ask people not to greet your leashed dog at the door.  Walk guests into the house, have them take a chair, and when the dog is calm and polite they can greet your guests.  Take the emotion away from the door.  If your dog really reacts to the doorbell consider putting up a note requesting visitors call you on the phone instead of ringing the bell

Keep Your Dog Busy.  Plan exercise for your dog, fast long walks, jogging, fetch, tug, swimming, and even gnawing at a kong stuffed with sweet potato and yoghurt and frozen solid can be mental exercise.  But plan how to keep your dog busy.  Like kids, a busy dog is sometimes a good dog, but a bored dog is going to get into trouble.  

Only use a Dog’s Name for good thing.  If you say SPARKY!  Get out of the Trash!   SPARKY, BAD DOG, NO CHEW!, SPARKIE, Drop my Shoe!  SPARKIE BE QUIET!!.  Then when you say ‘SPARKIE COME,” Sparkie is likely to think you are mad again and avoid you at all costs. 

This brings us to HOW DOGS LEARN

Dogs learn by association.  They do something and the result is rewarding or not rewarding.  If they are rewarded they will do it again.

If your dog thinks the word “SPARKIE” means he is in trouble, he will avoid you when you use that word.

This is why it is so important not to unintentionally reward (or punish) your dog.

If my dog wants attention when they are in their crate and they start barking I reward them when I go into the kitchen and say “Quiet!!”  To the dog, the logic is, “I barked 10 minutes and mom came and talked to me, next time I’ll bark 20 minutes.”  If you want your dog to be quiet in their crate, don’t go near the crate if they are barking.

If my dog likes to play outside, and every morning I say “Sparkie Come,” and then I drag him inside and put him in his crate,  “Sparkie Come” will mean….  If you come near me now I will put you in jail for 4 hours. 

Commands like COME must have a long history of positive association if they are going to work in an emergency.  Never ever call your dog to you and then scold them or make them unhappy.  You are teaching them NOT to come.  Instead call them back inside while you still have time to give them a treat, talk to them and let them move about before you put them in their crate.

Dogs are not moral creatures.  They do not ‘know better.’  They simply know that they did something and found the result rewarding or not rewarding.  

A dog that finds a sandwich on the counter and eats it has been rewarded for jumping up and looking on the counter, he will do it again.  If you come in five minutes later, wave the empty paper plate while yelling at your dog they will look ‘guilty’

These are called Appeasement Gestures.  They are used by animals (including humans) when confronted by a potentially dangerous creature.  If you yell, wave your arms and scowl your dog will likely hunch, tuck his tail and look away.  There is no connection to the sandwich eaten five minutes earlier.  Your dog just thinks you are a little crazy and potentially dangerous and they are trying to look small and non-threatening.  (This is the same for house training mistakes.  If it’s on the floor it’s out of your dog’s mind as well as his tummy.  Yelling won’t teach your dog a thing.  Clean it up, use enzymatic cleaner, and move on.)

As your dog’s owner/mentor/parent/teacher it is your job to be aware of potential pitfalls and prevent your dog from making mistakes.  If your dog is making too many mistakes ask yourself how you can be a more proactive dog owner.  Manage your environment so the dog is not rewarded for unwanted behaviors in the first place.

Dogs learn by association.  They repeat behaviors they find rewarding.  We are going to make listening to you a very rewarding experience.  We will use food, play, and real life rewards to teach your dog that paying attention to you, and doing what you want, is a lot of fun and the best way to get access to things they want!

Things to bring to every training class are:
A hungry dog, do not feed them for 6 to 8 hours before they come to class unless they are a very small breed puppy.
A six foot leash (no retractable leashes)
Great treats,  Chicken and hot dogs often motivate a dog very well
A long, soft tug toy, something your dog will enjoy holding in their mouth
If we are training at Tailspins on Whitemarsh Island the floor can be cold..  consider bringing a bathrug for your dog's comfort when they down.

I hope you are looking forward to getting started.

Questions are always welcome.

We hope you join Catnip 'n' Biscuits and Train This Dog on Facebook.

Claudia Black-Kalinsky, CPDT-Ka
Cell:  912-677-2861