Dogs and people seem to have had this mutual admiration thing going for each other for a very long time.
How long depends on who you ask: one group of scientific authorities says 16,000 years, but let’s not forget that there is another group of scientific authorities that says that the love fest between Fido and society, could have started as far back as 40,000 years, or as close as 27,000 years. I suppose in the grand scheme of things (considering that earth has existed for four billion years), those two numbers are close enough to be almost one and the same.
Please consider that in all those thousands of years, it is only recently that we have found in this symbiosis a scientific method of relating with our dogs.
Use Science-Backed Evidence – Back in the day, the only known and accepted method of living, working, and training dogs was based entirely on negatives – you do something wrong, you get a negative outcome, also known as punishment. All evidence now proves that the rough and aggressive methods of yesterday bring out a like-kind response, which creates both fear and discontent in the dog.
Thank goodness we have progressed past this antiquated method of thinking. There is now an overabundance of proof that Positive Reinforcement, a.k.a Operant Conditioning (i.e. petting, praise, treats, affection) for doing the right thing, will make Fido far more likely to repeat the action that brought the positive.
The guaranteed outcome of training with this positive method is a happier, well-adjusted and far more loving dog that is safe and sound and comfortable in his place in the pack. Be it People, Poodles or Puppies, a protected and secure environment is what induces correct behavior, mutual respect and learning. *
Don’t Rock the Boat – A dog crave a routine of unbreakable rules; it is these rules that provide him both the comfort and security of knowing his place in the pack. Admittedly, it takes sincere determination from us humans to adhere to any rules. For example: It’s 10 below zero, and you don’t want to bundle up to take puppy out to potty, so you procrastinate. Now puppy has no choice but to go in the house. Do you really think that he understands that it was just too cold to go out to potty? No he does not; all he understands is that he is now allowed to go in the house.
Or, puppy is not allowed to jump on people, but you deem it acceptable and forgivable for puppy to jump all over people when the doorbell rings. It is these kind of inconsistencies and erratic behaviors (as puppy sees it) that will undoubtedly cause confusion and insecurity. These negative emotions will eventually lead to a challenge of pack position.
Teach in Thin Slices, Not Lumps – Don’t be a lumper. Lumpers pack way too much information into one event for a dog or puppy to understand. You need to break it down into tiny individual components (thin slices).
Did you learn calculus as part of Math 101? Probably not, so please don’t expect too much too soon from Buddy. For example, you have trained Buddy to do a nice solid sit/stay in your living room. Now you want to show off his newly found skill so you take him over to your neighbors. Buddy has never seen your neighbors or has never been in their house for that matter. Don’t you think you are expecting too much of him to perform formal obedience at a strange place, with new odors and new people if he has never been trained outside his living room? You need to slowly introduce him to new sights and places (thin slices), starting with a nice and quiet new surrounding that has few or no distractions, building up over time to more varied and exciting environments. When puppy is well socialized to new people, places and things, then you can ask for a performance.
The Leader of the Pack – I know that by saying “Be the leader of the pack” may sound a bit harsh and controlling, but a true Alpha leader, in a dog pack, is also the most proficient and knowledgeable member of the pack. And being in total control provides confidence and gains the pack’s respect.
Remember that when interacting with your dog, you are obliged to assure puppy a quiet confidence that you are in control. I promise that if you show you are a secure and confident leader, will bring out the kind of self-assurance in a dog that only comes from feeling safe and secure in his pack.
There you have it, know these basic rules and keep them in mind at all times. Any dog that interacts with you will have no choice but to show respect, trust, and obedience that is due a confident, fair, and secure leader.
* For a detailed explanation of this scientific method called Operant Conditioning, or as it is informally called Clicker Training, please go to the feature article. I guarantee you will be happy (and so will your dog) to put this training method to good use.