Learn To Be The Guardian
A lot of problems that most trainers come across are due to the dog 'ruling the roost' and dictating what happens in the home - this can not only lead to dangerous behaviour, but causes stress within the dog as they do not know what their role in the family should be.
The aim of all my exercises is to not only physically and mentally stimulate your dog, providing a fun and stress-free environment, but also to assert your position as their 'Guardian', the one who makes all the important decisions, taking any burden off of your dog and letting them just be a dog!
Your dog, far removed from a wolf, is not attempting to take over your family when displaying unwanted behaviour. Instead, he is behaving like an adolescent, one who needs a parental, guiding form of leadership that is...
'...established when a pet owner can consistently set clear limits, communicate the rules by immediately rewarding the correct behaviors and preventing access to or removing the rewards for undesirable behaviors before these behaviors are reinforced'.
I would also recommend reading the 'Teaching Your Dog To Co-operate' and 'Play Time With Your Dog' articles in the right hand column to provide you with a few tips on how to help your dog learn to co-operate with you and increase your bond with them.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
I can't stress enough how important it is exercising your dog is and how much exercise is needed entirely depends on the breed of dog you have.
Dogs who do not get enough exercise can be at best boisterous and lively and at worst dangerous and aggressive. On top of this, your dog's digestive system and overall health is triggered by exercise - it helps them with going to the toilet, burning off excess calories and of course every dog needs to be able to go and run around just to have fun!
I would recommend that you allow for your dogs to have at least the following every day:
1 x Morning walk for at least 15 minutes or more;
1 x Midday walk for at least 1 hour with majority off-leash if possible;
1 x Tea-time walk for at least 15 minutes or more;
1 x Late evening walk for at least 15 minutes or more (this really helps with preventing night time toilet problems).
These times are meant as a guideline for the average non-sporting dog, but will vary with breed and age.
If your dog is a smaller 'toy' breed or lap dog such as a Chihuahua or Yorkshire Terrier then they may only need a small number 15 minute walks a day to stay happy and healthy.
A sporting dog, hound or terrier breed like the Retriever, Beagle or Jack Russell will need more exercise with lots of off-leash play.
Teaching Your Dog To Co-operate
There are a few guidelines that I recommend you use to help increase the bond and co-operation between you and your dog.
These guidelines are not meant to make your dog into a robot zombie dog. they are simply a way of saying "I am your guardian and I have certain rules that I want you to co-operate with me on. If you do, you will be rewarded for it ":
It can change a shy and timid dog into a confident dog, an aggressive dog into a calmer dog because you are setting rules and routines to follow. I recommend you try these guidelines and see what difference they make to the relationship between you and your dog:
Reward Your Dog For The Right Things - What many owners do not realise is that without knowing it, they can reinforce bad behaiour by giving in to their dog when they bark or cause a fuss and give them food as a way to quieten them.
As a responsible guardian to your pet, only rewarding them when they are calm, quiet or performing the action you want will show them that this is the correct behaviour you want from them.
Set Your Rules And Limits And Stick To Them - Dogs prefer a uniformed set of guidelines and limits whether this be in how they interact with the family, play with toys and behaving outdoors on walks. It is confusing for any dog if you set a rule one day and then ignore it or encourage your dog to break it the next day.
Encourage your dog to sit at doorways or when you want to attach their lead. If you don't want them on the couch then use a simple 'off' command and reward / praise then when they come off. Always keep things simple and never punish your dog for breaking the rules, instead praise and reward then when they get it right, they'll soon understand!
Don't Give Up! - Some owners think that training will be a quick fix solution, but the truth is that it takes a lot of dedicated and hard work to see the results you want, but the end result of a perfect partnership between you and your dog is incredibly rewarding and can really change both your lives.
Training Is Key - There are many types of dog trainer out there, but if you want the best for you and your dog, always look out for a trainer who's ethos is to use positive reinforcement (rewarding and praising for good behaviour). For most dog owners I recommend joining a dog training class, they help provide a social setting for your dog and can be a lot of fun, you can find a list of ADTB instructors who take classes on the ADTB website.
For owners who prefer training on a 1-2-1 basis this is where I can help. My aim is to provide training for you and your dog on a more personal scale with weekly training for basic, intermediate and advanced courses. You can contact me to discuss this in further detail.
Play Time With Your Dog
If you want to have a happy relationship with your dog, you need to dedicate time to be with them.
Every day set aside at least 30 mins where you concentrate on just playing and socialising with your dog, whether this be playing ball in the park or a fun game of 'Find The Treat' somewhere in the house, this is necessary to form and maintain a bond between you and your dog and also for your dog's general wellbeing.
Ball Play - If you have an active breed of dog then I would suggest you start to play ball with your dog as this is the best way to stimulate them both physically and mentally. It is also is the quickest way to tire out your dog and make sure they get the most out of a long walk in the park or on the beach.
The type of ball to buy is dependant upon your dog, some prefer tennis balls, others like rubber or hard plastic ones. I would recommend either standard tennis balls which last longer than the pet ones, or the hollowed out rubber balls with a bell inside - guaranteed to get your dog moving!
Please, never ever throws sticks for dogs. I have read too many stories on dogs that have being badly injured or even killed when chasing sticks and an end of branch has lodged in their throat or pierced an eye. For your dog's safety use balls or tugging ropes for games of fetch.
Find The Treat - Did you know that dogs have only 10% of the taste abilities that we have? But their sense of smell is 10,000 times better than our own?
I find that when playing Find The Treat it is better to use what are classed as 'high value treats' such as roast chicken, cocktail sausages and cheese as they not only have a stronger smell than dry biscuits, but they are a greater reward for your dog as well.
Start off by letting the dog see and smell the food you are going to hide, then either place them in one room and close the door or get someone to hold your dog while you move around the house or garden placing items of food in visibile or hidden locations. Remember to make it easy for your dog the first few times, until they understand they have to use their nose to find the food which you've hidden. Your dog will love this game, no matter what breed they are and I promise their tail will be wagging as they sniff out the food!
Please remember that if you feed your dog a lot of treats to alter their main meals accordingly so as not to overfeed them.