by Jordan DeWald
Do you see people taking their well-behaved dog on a walk, while yours in dragging you and stopping to smell every distraction? Do you go to a dog owner’s home and watch with amazement at their dog’s good behavior, while when people come into your house your dog jumps the couch beside the guest? You may be thinking you just have a bad dog or, one who just isn’t that smart. Jimmy Nikolopoulos, with Complete Canine Control, explains how that likely is not the case. It just takes patience and consistency to build the necessary relationship with your dog so that they will learn the appropriate behaviors.
“When you have a new dog, whether it is a puppy or an older rescue dog, the most important place to start is building a relationship, bonding, and building trust with your dog,” Jimmy says. “Everything else builds on that foundation. Your demeanor, mentality, and energy speak volumes to your dog. Reward positive behavior and do not reward bad behavior. Performing tricks is not the earliest signs of success, it is how the dog responds to your leadership.”
“The first step to build that trust is to use what dogs are motivated by: food and play. Engage the dog in activities and when you call and they come to you, give them a treat.” suggests Jimmy. “When they follow you, look at you, give them a treat. It doesn’t always have to be a treat, it can simply be their food. Let them recognize that you (or the family member doing the training) is where they go to get fed. It is the rewarding that builds trust. It teaches the dog to pay attention to your voice, body language, and movement.”
After a time of doing this training indoors, move outside to the back yard where there are distractions. Continue to use treats as a motivator, building engagement. After a while, the food as a reward can be slowly replaced by petting and reactions like “good boy.” When they do not follow directions, the response should not be negative energy. They simply don’t get rewarded. The training continues to progress over months. Once the dog trusts its environment, you can begin training on walks and continue in other environments. Your goal is to establish leadership so instead of letting the dog walk in front and determine the pace, the dog’s focus should be on you and they should walk beside you at your pace.
Consistency is important but the time commitment is not enormous if you do it regularly. Jimmy says just 10 minutes daily of training can shape your dog over time so that it exhibits the behaviors you are hoping for. Make sure training time and playtime are different. Their engagement with you is where they get their energy out. When the dog mentally has to concentrate on what will get your attention, they will get worn out faster than simply taking them to run around the yard. Play can be seen as free time after the training session. It is also important to monitor your mood. If you are stressed or in a bad mood, do not train them at that time. Wait until you have a moment to calm down because dogs sense your negative energy. Training simply will not go well.
Jimmy reaches down to pet one of his dogs, Dutch. “These simple behaviors on your part, done regularly, will shape your dog’s behavior over time. It takes patience, which is the most difficult part of all of this.”
If you need a little extra help, Jimmy offers his years of expertise in dog training through Complete Canine Control at 817-975-2339. You can reach out to him for guidance particular to your dog.