First I am not a dog training however I have had dogs in my life as long as I have been able. We have had mostly Labrador retrievers and always from a registered breeder. Full blooded Labradors are a joy to raise and live with. They are also stubborn, hard driven, compulsive retrievers that can be a challenge to train. They are eager to learn and please so they are potentially great subjects for training.
I think they should change the name of this activity from “dog training” to “owner training” because it is usually the owner that needs to be trained first. At least from my experience it was always me that was supporting some ‘bad’ behavior in my pups. I will say, fortunately I have not had to deal with any aggression issues. So, from the perspective of a dog owner that has been through his share of puppies and adolescent dogs, here are my Secrets to Dog Training.
Number one secret to dog training is “the owner must be patient”. Dogs are INCREDIBLY sensitive. Most of their communications go on without a sound so they are constantly in tune with non-verbal signals that the owner or other dogs are giving off. Ever been depressed and sit around all feeling sorry for yourself. Then good ol’ pup comes up and calmly cuddles or pressed close. Not to mention all the stories about dogs being able to sense heart attacks, seizures and other physical illnesses. When training or simply walking the handler must stay calm. This takes tons of patience.
I have a “puller” now. He is every bit of eighty pounds and was the runt of the litter. This only means he is a little shorter than the average Labrador. On the walk that means he is lower to the ground, strong as an ox and impossible to handle when he wants to be. I have found that the only way to communicate to him by staying calm and clearly showing him what I want him to do. Pulling and yelling at a dog, or at least my dogs, does no good at all. I’ll be damned if I am going to do something for someone when they are yelling at me and it’s doubtful that a dog will either. The only thing that has worked to curve this behavior has been me having the patience to stop EVERY time he starts to pull and remain stopped until the instance he gives slack on the lead then start again. He pulls, we stop.
This leads into my second secret of dog training, “consistency”. It may take thousands of times repeating the stop and start on the walks before my dog actually gets it. Consistency will create a habit out of the behavior that the handler is trying to impress on the dog. Dogs are definitely creatures of habit. Once when my female chocolate Labrador was not feeling well I made a fuss over her to coax her into eating. We repeated this ritual a few times and it was kind of cute. Now I have to go through the same routine every meal or she stands and barks at me until she gets a little attention. Probably not a behavior I really wanted to teach but it is still fun.
My final secret to dog training is “stay positive”. As I mentioned before dogs are extremely sensitive. If you are in a bad mood believe me, your dog can sense it. If you are angry, tired, preoccupied with something else and feel you cannot give your dog 100% in the training session or walk then do not pick up that leash. It is better to skip a session than to communicate the wrong signals. Your training, at this point, will not be consistent as you will likely be dumping your frustrations on your do through your corrections. Even though the movement of the correction may be the same the intention will be different and that’s what your dog will pick up on.
So train yourself to practice “patience”, “be consistent” and “stay positive”. Attitude is everything and your dog can read your attitude better than any person you have ever met. I am not sure what dogs learn from us but I do know that I have gained wisdom from being around dogs that I would have never had the chance to learn by being solely around people. Thank God for Dogs!