Dogs, having descended from wolves, are pack animals who, right
from the beginning of their lives, are sensitized to social hierarchies.
This will be a constant throughout the dog's life: All dogs need
leadership. At first, pack leadership (the figure of the alpha)
is exclusively revealed in the mother. However, early on in the
development of the litter a pecking order among the pups develops,
and each littermate fits into a particular role in the pack. This
is partially how the individual personality of each pup begins
to manifest itself. We can learn from the mother how important
it is to be a firm, yet benevolent Alpha. The mother commands
the absolute respect of the pups, yet at the same time their love
as well. When a pup goes to its new home, it becomes a member
of a new pack, and will begin to act like a pack member, testing
its limits, trying to determine where it fits in. It is absolutely
essential for the owner(s) to assume the role of alpha in their
pup's life. Understanding early socialization is an important
element in assuming the alpha role. Democracy is a forbidden word
as it applies to the dog/human relationship. While many owners
have negative associations with concepts of leadership drawn from
their human experiences, they have to understand that dogs require
a leader and that this must be their role. Owners know far better
than their dogs what is in the dogs' best interest.
I think that the way we work with dogs is something that is adaptable to any training approach. Our focus isn't exactly on method. It's much more focused on attitude. The attitude that we bring to raising a dog. That's applicable whether you're training in just basic obedience or more advanced levels like Schutzhund training or off-leash training, CD work, Search and Rescue. There has to be an underlying attitude that is present in an owner's relationship with their dog that carries through, regardless of what type of training they are doing with the dog.
I think that the communities appreciation of dogs in general has grown throughout the years. You can't be with dogs, you can't work with dogs, keeping an open mind and really listening to them without coming to understand them in a deeper way. The longer that I've worked with dogs, the more insights I get, the more things I'm able to detect in a relationship with a dog. Those things are grounded in experience.
Training doesn't make the dog into a robot. You don't always
have to have the dog on a training exercise. There are going to
be times when you just want to enjoy the presence of your dog.
You want to be able to go out and run around in the field, or
go take a walk in the woods. That's a natural aspect of having
a dog. What training does, is allow for the freedom to do those
types of things spontaneously. Often what owners complain about
is how the dog will start getting giddy and happy and then they
can't stop it. The dog winds up going a little berserk. What training
gives you is a foundation where you can really control the dog
according to the circumstances.
There can be a number of reasons why a dog doesn't learn: they
may be confused, distracted, afraid, or just plain stubborn. What
is necessary is that we continuously pay attention to our dog,
and adjust our training as necessary. For example, if your dog
is making the same mistake repeatedly, you'll want to step back
to the preceding exercise and work on that for a while, rather
than allowing the current mistake to get reinforced in his mind.
Then, after the lesson, you can review the particular exercise
you were working on and try to determine what the problem was.
Was your dog confused at your command? Were you sending a mixed
message? These are quite common with novice owners, and it's important
for any trainer to learn to spot them in himself. For example,
in the exercises we have already covered, there are a number of
common errors that give your dog the wrong message.
I would like to think that the way we approach dogs is something that is adaptable to any dog training approach. Our focus isn't exactly on method. It's much more focused on attitude. The attitude that we bring to raising a dog. That is applicable whether you're training in just basic obedience or more advanced levels like Schutshund training for example or off-leash training, CD work, Search and Rescue. There has to be an underlying attitude that is present in an owner's relationship with their dog that carries through regardless of what type of training their doing with the dog. I think that the community's appreciation of dogs in general has grown throughout the years. You can't be with dogs, you can't work with dogs, keeping an open mind and really listening to them without coming to understand them in a deeper way... okay... the longer that I've worked with dogs, the more insights that I get, the more things that I'm able to detect in a relationship with a dog. Those things are grounded in experience. Sure, training doesn't make the dog into a robot. You don't always have to have the dog on a training exercise. There are going to be times when you just want to enjoy the presence of your dog. You want to be able to go out and run around in the field, for example, or go take a walk out in the woods. That's entirely healthy, it's a natural aspect of having a dog. What training does, is it allows for the freedom to do those types of things spontaneously. Often what owners complain about is the dog will start getting giddy and happy and then they can't stop it. You know the dog winds up going a little berserk. What training does is it gives you a foundation where you can really control the dog according to the circumstances and according to the desires.
I know that if I can control my dog in whatever situation life throws at it, I can be entirely relaxed with the dog. I don't have to be uptight that I'm walking the dog down 5th Avenue in New York City for example. I know my dog will be able to handle that. I don't need to be particularly concerned when I walk my two dogs out in the woods. I know that I'll be able to exercise their good recall and get them back should they be distracted with an animal or something like that. I mean basically having a dog is a responsibility, just like having a child is a responsibility and yet do you look upon having a child as a burden, as something that is sort of a pain in the neck? Well, the same way you don't look upon the dog as an inconvenience, as a nuisance, in spite of the fact that it's going to make you... that it's going to require that you make some sacrifices in your life. Thinking of a relationship in terms of being a burden, I think is an entirely bad way to think about having... you know... about a dog-human relationship.
Yeah. training frees you to enjoy your dog and to allow your dog to enjoy you. That's what training does. Training gives you a greater possibility to enjoy your dog.
Yeah... and to share a relationship with the dog that perhaps you might have only read about in books... okay... it allows that reality to take place. That's what the purpose of training is. The purpose of training is not to put five neat little exercises on your dog that you can entertain your friends with. That's entirely beside the point. Training is meant to free you and your dog to enjoy each other. To enhance the relationship. To provide a foundation that will go on for the next 10-15 years. And think of it, 10-15 years is a pretty good long time.
Many owners are intimidated by the prospect of training their
dog. They believe it requires special skills that are beyond them.
While it is true that training is an art that requires a certain
amount of practice and perseverance to master, we have found that
it is well within the scope of most people's abilities. What is
essential is clear teaching, and a certain amount of regular practice.
The nice thing about this is that practice can be incorporated
with other daily activities you do with your dog: a walk for example.
There is no pressure to learn everything in a day. Training is
a process that extends throughout both your own and the dog's
life. Don't expect the dog to learn its exercises immediately.
Novice trainers can easily grow discouraged if they expect the
dog to be trained in a week, or if their own mastery of the commands
and techniques takes some time to acquire. Persevere! Always keep
the long-term goal in mind: a relationship with your dog that
is mutually fulfilling and enjoyable!
The purpose in establishing a firm foundation in the basic exercises is to set up the optimal possible conditions for including your dog in the many facets of your life. Training is intimately connected to deepening your relationship with your dog. While we recommend that you begin working your dog in an undistracted area, once your dog achieves a solid understanding of the basic exercises, it is essential to start challenging his understanding by working him in increasingly distracted circumstances. This not only tests his understanding and willingness to please you, it also prepares him for the circumstances he will be exposed to in everyday life with you.
Begin by working him in your front yard or driveway, or even in the local park. Be especially sensitive to holding his attention by maintaining eye contact with him, pointing frequently towards your eyes, then releasing your gaze. Keep your training sessions quick and peppy, and try to think of everyday applications to the obedience exercises. It is important to set up practical situations in which your dog's obedience will be applied and tested, when you are fully prepared to correct him as needed, in a manner that will guide him into desired behavior.
It would be so much easier if we could explain to our dog what
we wanted them to do. Needless to say, that approach doesn't work.
We have to approach training in a manner that respects the type
of creature that the dog is. Dogs learn by trial and error, by
making mistakes. Far from being indications of a deficient character,
mistakes are opportunities to learn both for you as well your
dog. By applying simple behavioral principals to our training
sessions, we can make rapid progress with a minimum of stress.
In this connection, remember that dogs tend to seek what they
find pleasant and avoid what they find unpleasant. Thus, in training,
you'll want to use only that amount of force (negative reinforcement)
necessary to get the dog to change its behavior to what you're
asking; the force of your leash corrections, for example, will
depend on what the dog requires to correct itself. As each dog
is an individual, what might be too heavy for one dog will be
insufficient for another. To find the proper level for your own
dog, you'll have to experiment, starting from a lighter correction,
to one that is sharper. Your dog's response will speak for itself.
However, after the correction is made and the dog adjusts itself,
praise your dog immediately, so as to associate in its mind the
praise with the specific behavior it is doing. That way, it will
begin to prefer following your command.
Proper socialization is absolutely crucial to the overall training and development of the adult dog. The better a dog is socialized to the world around it, the easier it will be to train, and the happier the relationship with the new owner will be. One of the important early responsibilites of an owner will be to provide their dog with regular socializing experiences once they take charge of the puppy, exposing him to all sorts of different people, objects, and environments. As the pup begins to mature, it is quite natural for it to begin to express independence, dominance, and mischievous tendencies. The pup that seemed so wonderful at twelve weeks of age, suddenly can be much larger, and usually becomes quite a handful to control. Owners who have poo-pooed formal training as unnecessary, now realize how important it is. Even owners who exposed their pups to puppy kindergarten training (KPT) will need to plan on formal obedience training once the pup has reached 6 to 9 months of age.