To put it simply, I teach owners to train in a way that they will have no regrets.
If somebody tells me, “We hit our dog and it worked,” I simply reply with the foundation of all dog training:
“A dog will always continue to do what gives it the greatest benefit.”
Of course it is to its benefit to not get hurt.
However, I have NEVER met anyone who has watched his or her dog take its last breath and say, “Man, I wish I had yelled, hit and kicked that dog more!” Nobody.
Positive reinforcement sometimes takes more time and creativity, but it is always worth the effort.
Someday I will change my company name to Sit Stay and PLAY Academy. Sit Stay Obey Academy might imply rigid, authoritarian style training. Yuck.
The truth is, the best way to cut down on dogs’ pesky behaviors (nipping, jumping, barking, etc.) is to let the dog be a dog, for at least a few hours a day. Some people think by letting a puppy play nip with other puppies it will reinforce the nipping, however it typically cuts down on it.
Think about it. What are you wired to do? Are you a runner? A reader? A painter? If you don’t get a chance to do what you are wired to do, do your family members find you more relaxed/pleasant to be around when you abstain from these things? No. Once we do the things we were born to do, we have a sense of peace and fulfillment. We are less irritable, less annoying and more enjoyable to be around.
Puppies, especially, have so much energy. There’s only so much they can do with their seemingly boundless energy. As they say, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
Now, I am not necessarily a fan of dog parks. While you would think that people would only bring dogs who like other dogs to a dog park, many people think, “My dog doesn’t like other dogs, so I need to socialize it and bring it to a dog park!” That’s like bringing someone who does not like snakes to a snake pit for the afternoon, thinking that will help them. No. Not only would it be terrifying for the snake-averse person, but the chances of a snake getting hurt or killed would be high.
Just like you prefer your kids to play with good-natured kids, you should set up play dates for your dog with other good-natured dogs. Or, there are places, like Waggin Tails (in Fulshear) where they temperament-test your dog. So, for instance, a friendly, but rough-and-tumble dog will get to play with other friendly, but rough-and-tumble dogs.
If no other dogs are available to play to allow your dog to be dog for a while, then my job (as a humane trainer/behaviorist), is to find fun activities for the dog to get its “dogness” out, without driving the family crazy.
I have actually been accused of being a Mom who had “too much fun with her kids.” Luckily, I followed my heart, even though I was told, “Your kids are going to think life is all about having fun!”
Now that my kids are grown, I can honestly say I have no regrets of the hours spent playing with them, bringing them to parks and taking them on picnics. No regrets tucking them in at night, reading to them, laughing with them and listening to what made their sweet hearts tick with happiness or hurt. Zero. I DO have regrets for the times I was too harsh.
When kids feel misunderstood or neglected they often turn to alcohol and/or drugs. Dogs often get destructive.
A dog’s life is short. Treat them in a way that when they take their last breath, you will have no regrets.
October 17, 2018
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