Archive for January, 2011

Getting your dog to Listen!

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

From leash manners to dog to dog aggression, jumping on people at the door to non stop barking – the majority of issues I see are partly due to poor communication. Often, there is an underlying cause for the issues that can be worked through, but in order to fully rehabilitate your dog – he has to listen! I’ve written a couple of blogs already about the miscommunication that occurs between a man and his dog, but here are a few steadfast rules that will ensure that when you have the right directions for your dog to follow, you can carry them out fearlessly and successfully!


CALM – take a deep breath before saying a command to your dog. Since greetings at the door are such a common concern, we’ll use this as an example here. If the appropriate command for your dog in this situation is Wait, make sure you say it calmly. Imagine – your dog has heard a doorbell, and he’s experiencing all kinds of excitement and anxiety, and suddenly you run over to him, grab him hard and shout in a panicky voice “Wait”!! It’s like someone grabbing you by the arm and yelling “Relax!!!” Is that relaxing? If you demonstrate a calm demeanor, your dog will be more likely to calm down as well.

CLEAR – here is what normally happens to a person when their dog charges the door to greet a guest “Wait! Buddy, Wait!!!! Don’t you move, stay right there!! You have to stay there so I can let Jane inside, and don’t you jump on her!! Stay there!”. You had him at Wait!! Teach your dog what Wait means, and when you want him to use that skill, use only that word. Adding sentences and stories only confuses the dog and also increases his anxiety, as he no longer knows what’s expected of him. It also helps to annunciate – meaning, say the word with a clear voice, rather than while still chewing a piece of muffin. He should hear the W, the AI, and the TTTTT very clearly.

CONSISTENT – always ask your dog to do the same thing in same situations. If you want him to Wait a few feet back from the door when someone arrives, always have him do this. He should not have different rules for different people, i.e. when Grandma comes over, you have to wait – but when it’s just Jane from next door, you can go right over and say hi. The dog should begin to automatically know what to do upon the sound of the doorbell….”bell rings, I wait at the carpet at the bottom of the stairs till Mommy says I can go say hi” This is much better and simpler than “Bell rings!! I wonder who it is? Do I have to wait this time or can I just go say hi like I really want to? I’m gonna try to go say hi first since that’s more fun and hope Mommy doesn’t make me wait”.

CONFIDENT – I used to have a teacher who always said “say what you mean and mean what you say.” A part of that lesson was to learn that if you had conviction, if you believed what you were saying, other people would understand it and believe it as well. Your dog knows when you’re lying, so if you don’t really mean what you’re asking him to do, or if you don’t believe what you’re asking him to do is the right thing to do, you will not convince him of that either. Sort of like when it’s really funny how your dog reacts when he gets in trouble, and then you try to fake it in front of your friends and he doesn’t respond the same way he does when it’s real. If you are hesitant, unsure or unsupportive of the command or method that you’re executing with your dog, it’s not very likely that he’s going to do it. If you can imagine in your mind that your dog is going to Wait on the carpet while you open the door, and you really believe he can do it, you’ll be much more successful in actually getting him to do it.

So, relax, give a calm, clear command the same way every time, and have faith in your dog that he can do it! You’ll be a lot closer to achieving the levels of behaviour that you really want in your dog!

If you have a trainer that is asking you to do something that you believe is wrong, harsh, or you are in any way uncomfortable with – tell your trainer!! Any canine professional worth their salt knows that if you don’t believe it, you won’t do it. Besides, there are lots of ways to teach a dog one simple thing, so an accomplished trainer will be able to provide alternatives that you are more comfortable working with.


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