For a dog to live in your home under your rules, you need a way to communicate. Communicating with an animal, who doesn't speak your language, the old saying "actions speak louder than words" has never been more true.
Here are some tips for creating a consistent environment.
Take the Time to Plan
As a family, take the time to sit down, think through the day in the life of the dog and agree upon a plan.
Here are some common questions:
- Where is your dog going to sleep?
- Is your dog allowed on furniture?
- Where does your dog sit in the car?
- Do you want him to sit and wait at doors?
- Where are they allowed to go outside?
I could go on and on, but the point is that if everyone in your household agrees upon what they expect the dog to do during the day, it is going to be easier for the dog to understand. If one person lets him snuggle on the couch while watching tv, it is going to be hard for the next person to tell him to get off the couch.
The message that you send to your dog should be clear. Mixed messages will confuse your dog, may lead to anxiety, and frustrate owners when they see unwanted behaviors. These things can change but everyone should know they are changing and agree to the changes.
"Down... I mean Off... I mean Down!"
It takes time to teach your dog behaviors. Longer than you think. And, probably longer than you want. While patience is a key ingredient, so is consistency! You will want to use the same word every time. You want to use the word once. And, you want to use your marker, such as "yes" at the same time every time, which is right when the behavior was performed.
You have dreams of what you want your dog to do, and for the most part, you are the only one standing in the way of those dreams! In order to see a progression of desired behavior, you must practice. The more you practice, the faster you will see the dog learn. For example, I want Max to be able to fetch a beer (I mean water!) from the fridge. I was practicing about once a week and at that pace, I had to spend a good amount of time refreshing Max about what I wanted. I made slow progress. He was even a little frustrated and confused. I then decided to switch the training to five minutes a day every day for a week and we made significant progress. He went from biting on the towel to opening the fridge in a week! And, now when he walks by the towel, he looks at me and goes to bite the towel. If you want to see behaviors progress, you must put the time in.
When your dog is doing unwanted behaviors and don't have time to train the behavior at that time, management will help you send a consistent message to your dog.
For example, let's say your dog jumps on people when people come into your house. You are currently working on the command "off" but your elderly grandparents are coming over and you need to help them with their bags. This isn't the best time to train but you don't want your dog jumping either, so you manage the situation. You put your dog behind a gate with a toy filled with his favorite treat and get your parents situated. In this example, you are setting everyone up for success.
If you give a dog an inch, they'll take a mile. If you let them pull you on the leash, then they won't know anything better. It is your responsibility to decide what you want them to do in certain situations and follow through on getting that desired behavior. Whether it's staying in their own bed all night or walking next to you, motivate them to do what you want and be consistent in your communication and training to get the dog to do what you want.
If you need any help with any undesired behaviors, contact TheTreat for training help!