Yay, I’ve got a new dog! Now what?
Here’s a question: is it best to let your relationship with your dog develop on an ad-hoc basis, kind of warm and fuzzy and organic, or should you adopt a structured approach that lays down the ground rules right from the start? You probably know the answer. How many owners of nutty, uncontrollable dogs do you know who are now regretting not having trained them properly?
To train a dog well, there is a need to understand how they think. Dog logic is a little different from our own, but simple enough once we have grasped it. So it’s a two-way process in which we train ourselves to our dog as well as the other way round. Probably about 70% stuff the dog needs to learn and 30% stuff the human needs to learn. Understanding what’s going on between those squirrel detectors on a dog’s head will lead to a harmonious relationship with a biddable dog who loves you and is eager to please. Failure to embrace dogthink is likely to produce a grumpy, confused, chewy, barky, skittish animal who doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going, for whom life with his human is a baffling series of unstructured events.
As a reminder that it works both ways, here’s a list of 12 things humans do that annoy dogs.
Dogs love games and they will soon pick up the rules with enough treats and repetition. Eventually you can take away the treat and the dog should still do the taught activity out of habit. Sure, they have personalities of their own. But there are some universals of dog training that help to mould an obedient companion for life. What would you rather have? A furniture-chewing, bark-happy, undisciplined maniac or a dog who looks into your eyes all the time to check he’s doing everything right?
According to IOA’s online course Dog Behaviour & Training, it’s all about the accurate timing of reinforcement and/or punishment, and consistent communication. If your dog has pooped in the wrong place and you discover the poop when it’s cold and then go and yell at the dog, it will probably have no idea why you’re yelling at it. It might have a vague sense of guilt about something it did, but isn’t sure whether the yelling is to do with the poop or something else. And anyway, says this course, yelling at your dog is pointless even if the timing is right. With module titles like ‘What every dog secretly craves’, this is a journey into the space behind the soulful brown eyes where dogs’ primary motivations live. Welcome to planet dog, where positive reinforcement is what gets results.
The course guides dog owners, pet sitters, animal shelter workers and dog walkers in overcoming undesirable dog behaviours like pulling on the leash, food guarding, separation anxiety, inter-dog tension, aggression, bad manners, excessive anxiety, possessiveness and small dog syndrome. It offers a grounding in dog psychology and, crucially, teaches the right way to react to bad behaviour.