After completing a professional training program many owners often experience a period of frustration. Their dog is not performing the commands all the time, his inappropriate behaviors have not completely disappeared, the dog may have even began trying to avoid his owner. Many owners are left asking, “Shouldn’t training have made the dog better?” It is at this point that most dog owners will throw up their arms and settle on the idea that the training did not work. In actuality the training has not yet become a way of life for the dog.
So how does training become a way of life? Through structure, consistency, and leadership training will soon become second nature to a dog. However, it is the owner, not the dog, that must follow through with these three principles.
Dogs love structure. If you are giving your dog enough structure you will find that he is always looking to you for guidance. This allows him to just be a dog. He no longer has to make decisions for himself and things become much easier and less stressful. Set rules for your dog. Rules can be simple: no furniture, sitting while being fed, limited toy selection, no jumping or pawing, no excessive barking. Make the rules clear by enforcing them all the time.
Use a crate or kennel more often. Many owners use kennels only when they are leaving the house or at night. Try using it when you can’t supervise your dog. The kennel is not a prison, rather it should be viewed as your dog’s bedroom. Make it enjoyable and never use the crate as a form of punishment. Give your dog a toy to play with to avoid boredom. Always praise your dog when he goes into his kennel and remember to not be over excited when he comes out.
Use your commands during every day activities. If you only use them during training sessions your dog will begin to think he only has to do them during these sessions. Have him heel along side you as you navigate the house. Make him sit while you get a snack. Put him in a down while you check the mail. Use his place mat command when watching TV or eating dinner. The more you use (and enforce) his commands the quicker he will begin to understand that he is expected to do them at all times.
This is probably the most crucial part of training. Your dog is always watching and learning. If you lighten up on the rules or do not enforce a command even once your dog learns that he can sometimes get away with not listening. Once this happens you will find that he will often begin pushing the boundaries more and more. In order for training to truly become a way of life you must enforce all commands and rules all the time! This is where most owners fall short. They feel that their dog is behaving well and become lacks on the rules. All of a sudden it takes two or three repetitions of the word “sit” before the dog actually does it. They walk into the living room to find their furry friend laying on the couch. The dog begins barking at everything. Basically the dog has decided that their owner is not serious about being in charge. To a dog that means that he must be in charge and, therefore, can do whatever he wants.
Consistency is not about being militant. It is simply enforcing rules. You must be serious about the rules and follow through with the appropriate correction when needed. It is also important to follow through with praise when the dog is doing well. Acknowledging your dog’s good behavior will go a long way. Your dog will want to make you happy and receive praise. By marking his good behavior with this praise you are increasing the chances that your dog will want to repeat the good behavior more often.
In order to become your dog’s leader you must provide structure and consistency. If your dog has no rules and you never follow through with appropriate corrections then he will not see you as a figure of authority. Again, if you are not in charge then your dog is. Dogs that jump all on people and furniture, bark all the time, or do not perform commands when asked are not “bad” dogs. They simply don’t believe that their owners, or any human, is in control. Very few dogs are natural leaders. When forced to assume the role of leader most dogs will take over; and this is when we see inappropriate behavior. This “bad dog syndrome” is frequently the result of poor leadership on the part of the owner.
It is important to repeat that leadership, consistency, and structure do not require an iron-fisted dictatorship. You do not have to be your dog’s parole officer. All you have to do is simply expect more from your dog. Set rules that are clear and easy to understand. Enforce those rules all the time. Use your commands all the time. Correct your dog when needed and always praise him when he is doing what you’ve asked of him. Remember that it is your responsibility as a dog owner to make training more than just a cute trick. By providing structure, remaining consistent, and establishing yourself as a leader obedience will soon become a way of life for you and your dog.