By John Knight | SDUN Guest Columnist
Dogs have a distinct and different psychological make up than humans. Their need for food, water and companionship are pretty much the same as ours, but what makes them different is the need to know who is going to keep them safe: a pack leader, if you will.
If you do not step up to the plate and become that leader, your dog reluctantly will. This leads to unwanted misbehavior on the part of the dog. If you want your dog to listen to you, then you must become a good pack leader: fair, firm and giving lots of praise and love.
While your dog may be extremely ill-behaved, firm and consistent training can stop 99 percent of bad behavior. Your dog does not need to be hit, kicked, whacked with a newspaper, or have their nose rubbed in a mistake, and he does not need a choke chain, spike collar or electric collar.
Remind your dog there is great pleasure when he is listening to you. Train him to sit for his dinner, sit and wait at doors, walk without pulling, and to sit when meeting visitors. Dogs are pretty smart and can sit and wait in difficult situations if you have originally taught them to sit in a calm setting.
Teaching your dog patience is essential and can be achieved by teaching your dog to “down” or stay for five to 20 minutes. This will assist your dog in self-control and give him a productive job to perform around distractions and visitors.
Commands are given one time. Repeating a command too soon or too often will teach your dog that you are not serious about commands. Don’t give a command unless your dog is looking at you with attention. If he is not looking at you, he will most likely ignore the command.
Ignore your dog when he demands or nudges you for attention. Pack leaders award attention on their own terms, not when their dogs demand it. The same applies to the situation when a dog persistently pushes toys at you. A pack leader will initiate play and choose when the play begins and ends.
This keeps a dog on his toes because he never knows when the fun begins. When your dog comes to you for attention, make him earn it first by making him do some basic obedience, then love him up and play with him.
Provide consequences instead of punishment. Dogs learn little from time outs. Time outs may give you a little quiet time and teach him to settle himself, but it won’t teach him to stop the original misbehavior.
In some situations ignoring may teach your dog to stop a limited number of behaviors. An acceptable consequence is a firm “no” combined with a clap of the hands. If you are serious, your dog will get it.
Dogs figure out what certain words mean, but they don’t understand sentence structure. Avoid talking to your dog like he is a person. Some intelligent and well-behaved dogs can pick out a word or two in a sentence, or they can intuit what you want.
Body language is a great way to communicate with your dog. Stand up straight and tall using a firm, calm voice when giving commands. Do not back off until your dog acknowledges your command and complies. Never yell at your dog; this only frustrates you and confuses him.
Pack leaders are always in control and treat the members of the pack like family, not enemies who need to be punished. Punishment does not educate your dog. When he is misbehaving, give a firm verbal correction, praise when he complies, and then show and guide him to what you want.
—John Knight is a Certified Master Dog Trainer and Behavioral Therapist. Sit Stay Come Dog Training focuses on training dogs with issues relating to barking and aggression. He also has a Puppy Bootcamp performed in the client’s home. Reach him via his website at sitstaycome.com or by calling 619-270-2244.