Wouldn’t it be fantastic if magic pills existed? A pill to make you drop 20 lbs. A pill to make you ace a test. A pill to make you regrow your thinning hair. A pill to make your dog behave precisely how you would like. As the saying goes, “If wishes were fishes, the sea would be full.” You have to go to the gym and skip donuts to lose 20 lbs. You must study hard to ace tests. You must, err, wear a baseball cap to hide your thinning hair? And you must work with your dog to help him behave as you’d like him to.
When you make the decision to bring a dog into your life, you are making a roughly 15 year commitment (obviously that varies depending on their current age, breed, etc.) Have you ever been in a 15 year relationship that never experienced a bump along the road? Perfect communication from the very first day? Not a single fight or bad day had? Yea, me either. Well guess what? The same goes for your relationship with your dog. There will be bumps along the road and frustrations to be had. The important thing though is to remember that you have made a commitment to this animal and his well being depends on you not giving up at the first sign of trouble. Together you can work through problems and find a solution. It may take a little trial and error, but you can do it!
Did your dog chew up your new pair of leather pumps? He did not do this to spite you. Dogs are just not capable of that level of cognitive reasoning. He might however have been stressed or bored. Does your dog destroy his crate while you are away? Your dog is not “bad”. He is probably scared or confused, suffering from isolation distress or separation anxiety. Does you dog nearly pull you over when you walk him on a leash? Your dog is not a “jerk”, he just hasn’t been taught how to properly walk beside you. Whatever the problem may be, it is your job to try and understand why your dog is behaving the way he is. And, here’s the most important part, you must then seek out resources to help you work through this problem with your dog.
Below are a list of resources that are fantastic places to start if you are experiencing a behavior you would like help modifying:
– Your Pit Bull and You – This website (and Facebook page) is constantly posting fantastic pieces about force-free training. No matter the breed of dog you own, I highly recommend checking them out as you will be able to find an article for nearly any issue you may be experiencing.
– Two Pitties in the City – Yet another resource for fantastic tips and training methods, all force free of course, for any breed of dog. Bonus if you are a pittie fan though, because their pups are impossibly cute.
– Love and a Six-Foot Leash – This should come as no shock, but this blog shares plenty of tips and suggestions for force-free training as well. Bonus! They just had a
puppy baby and therefore are sharing plenty of tips for successfully bringing home a baby while keeping their pups happy and healthy.
– Training Tuesday: How to Survive Separation Anxiety – This is probably the most comprehensive, complete, and easy to read article in existence for dealing with separation anxiety and/or isolation distress. Additionally, And Foster Makes Five is just a great resource in general for tips and tricks. They even have a weekly training post!
If you are experiencing behavioral issues that are potentially dangerous to you or your dog, I urge you to seek professional help. It’s true that professional trainers can sometimes be costly, but isn’t it better to invest in a healthy relationship with your dog than risk destroyed property or a sick dog (that’s probably going to cost you more than that trainer anyway?) I sure think so! Because of the not-so-fantastic information that finds its way onto the internet you need to be diligent in your searches though. Look for key words like “force-free”, “reward based”, “positive reinforcement”, etc. Science based training is growing in popularity and quickly proving the old, outdated methods of past decades as just that: outdated and ineffective. Wouldn’t you rather have a relationship based on mutual understanding and trust than fear? Me too! Look for the same type of key words if you are perusing articles for help or ideas. If you are reading a piece and it’s all about dominating or proving your “alpha” status,
run screaming continue searching. And remember, there is no “magic pill”. You might have to go through some trial and error before you find a solution to whatever your problem may be. Dogs are individuals after all. And your individual dog, that has dedicated his entire life to loving you, definitely deserves you making the effort to understand his needs.