For those of you that already own a dog or dogs, most of this will come as no surprise to you. For the new dog owner or those aspiring to become dog owners here are a few hints, tips and pieces of advice from my own experience. I have trained dogs for fun, basic obedience, and Schutzund. My Doberman was the only one of her breed allowed in her Schutzund class of nothing but Shepherd’s and Malinois.
Having been owned by various mixed breeds, a Rat terror (ok, terrier), Labs, Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherd, and several others, I have found this information to be true to all breeds I am familiar with. Some of you may have varied results with your breeds.
Two things that are ultimately true in all breeds that I am familiar with: They are pack animals at heart, which goes back to their heritage, and the quickest way through the training course is through their stomachs. They adore you, they adore the food you give them, thus; you both win!
Not for the Faint of Heart
Remember your dog adores you, but by the same token they are pack animals and will try to dominate you no matter how small. You must at all times keep the upper hand and remain the pack leader. Men do not despair over the fact that Fido listens to “Mom” more than she does you. In the wild the pack leader is usually the alpha female. It’s her job to keep everyone in line, fed and an ever watchful eye out for predators wishing to do harm to her “pack”. Some ways to keep your status is to not let Fido sleep in the same bed with you. While this is a seemingly harmless act, it puts Fido at the same level as you. In the same den as it were, thus you are now equals. So, you might find him/her listening to you even less than before. Provide him/her with a nice dog crate without the door but with nice bedding inside for smaller breeds (this makes a nice comfortable safe cave in which they can also withdraw to when not feeling well, or nervous), or for larger breeds, a nice soft large pillow bed in which you can tell Fido to go to bed as you shut out your lights.
Next, never feed Fido from your plate. Bad juju. Scraps aren’t good for a dog and it can get other behaviors; not so welcome behaviors the go ahead. A good answer would be to feed Fido at the same time. That way he/she still feels part of the family and has no recourse to beg. By feeding your dog scraps, either out the back door or straight from your plate, will encourage them to take candy from strangers as it were. I have seen dogs poisoned this way. Most dogs when never given food scraps do not develop a taste for them and will refuse them when offered.
The best gift you can give your dog out of love is basic obedience training. Sit, down, stay, heel. Maybe a couple of other commands, but for the most part these will suffice. A dog that has these commands under their belt will be 90% safer when taken outside then a dog with no training. You want to be able to control your dog, but don’t be controlling by yanking them around, or using harmful manipulation techniques. You can teach you dog these commands in another language which I always found pretty cool. Remember: your dog is a perpetual 2 yr old for the majority of its life. Its attention span when training will only be a few minutes so try to keep training to about 10 minutes at a time, but you can do it several times a day. Stay focused with your dog; don’t confuse him with constantly changing cues. Say what you mean, and mean what you say! If you want him sit, then say “Fido sit”! Be firm, but not mean, or don’t shout. Use a snap to your words. You have to sound in control. If you sound simple or begging, like, “Fido sit, sit Fido, come on’ Fido sit for me”. This will never work. As you tell your dog to sit hold the treat enough over its head toward it’s back this will initiate a sit position. Use healthy treats during training as you don’t want to give Fido a weight problem as he learns new tricks. There are a lot of wonderful books out there and great websites to help you with these tasks, you don’t have to go it alone!
Good luck to you and your “Fido” or “Fifi”, and may you always have the pawfect relationship, because it won’t be perfect, but it will be wonderful!