Today’s blog is going to give you some key points to think about when you are trying to take control to help your dog in a few different situations.
Take control to help your dog. So, let’s focus on two major things from a dog’s point of view:
Give your dog space to run around and they will gladly take it over and be a guard dog for you, protect their space, their house, or just think you gave them all this cool stuff to figure out how to get into. Dogs view space as something to own. If you give them the back yard to roam and they have any natural instincts to alert bark, guard, hunt, dig, and/or protect, they’ll happily do it. It could be from insecurity or genetic instincts, but either way they feel you have given them all that they need to make that happen!
Same thing goes for in the house whether you are home or away. Dogs are bred to need to be told what to do or they will do what comes natural to them. Barking, hunting, running, jumping, mouthing, biting, digging, protecting and more. With no limitations or inhibitions taught, their “dog-ness” will truly run wild. They view space in your home or yard as you giving it to them to have as their own. If they aren’t being told what to do with it or if no one is around, they’ll do what comes natural to them.
Yes, the exception does exist! Of course there are exceptions. When my husband and i adopted our first German Shepherd together, in an apartment, I knew all the pitfalls and I was ready for them. We spent a year being very strict. He was already a softer shepherd mindset wise, so we were lucky there. Anytime he looked in the area of the window or door leading to the courtyard, that was a “no, don’t even think about it!” On the rare occasion he got up to sniff under the door, absolutely no. That wasn’t his door, it was mine. Then he was crate trained for when we left and a little every day to maintain some separation. As we learned he wasn’t much for barking or protecting…he was more a relaxed and calm family dog that was easy to influence most of the time, we loosened up on the rules and the space he could have. He was only ever protective of us and himself a few times, not related to the door or our home. Within another year he worked up to having free roam of the apartment. We never had an issue from him. It was a rarity, haha! None of my other dogs before him or since could have that type of freedom. Everything changed when he was put on medication at an old age for cancer and thank goodness we had done that original crate training, because he took right back to it luckily when we needed him to. I hope that truly conveys how I understand there are exceptions and so that advice just isn’t for you, but it’s for so many others.
So what do you do? It’s something you aren’t going to want to do, LOL. Trust me, I know, you won’t want to do it, but it is the best and only way. A leash when you are home. Your dog, when not crated or confined to a small space or kennel should have a leash on him/her, attached to you, at all times. Sounds like a crazy amount of work, but think about it…every time your dog jumps on the couch you don’t want him on, it’s a fuss or worse, to get him off. Use the leash and guide and then prevent. The dog hears a noise and heads to the door, use the leash to stop him and redirect. Dog is bothering kids out in the yard playing. Use the leash to walk your dog around the kids and do some obedience to tell him what you want him to do instead. Dog keeps bothering you while you are working, use the leash to guide out and away from you and into a sit or down. It allows you to tell your dog no and then what you want him to do every time. You’re able to do this without getting emotional, grabbing the dog or coaxing the dog trying to convince him to listen. Every opportunity to teach your dog how you want him to behave should be done with a leash for guidance. It will change your life in a few weeks/months, then you can go to the dog dragging the leash when supervised.
Pulling and Sniffing
Stop letting your dog pull to sniff on a walk and stop walking towards things on your walk. I know that was two things, sorry. Let’s start with the no sniffing. You know how I get rid of probably half of bad behavior on a walk? Correcting pulling to sniff. The dog needs to care about where I’m going. If I let the leash go a bit or permissively slow down to let the dog sniff when he wants and how he wants, there is no way that dog cares what i have to say when a dog walks by and startles him, excitements him or reacts barking. Go after the dog’s brain and state of mind when he’s calm. Stop trying to just correct or redirect when they are aroused. They can’t learn as much that way. Every time you take your dog for a walk and they pull towards a bush and you take one step in the direction that they pull, or let the leash go a bit, you are rewarding them pulling, being in control and proving to them that you are not someone to follow or listen to. Tough love i know…sorry. That’s the way it is though.
Of course, there are exceptions and i’ve met plenty of those. I’m not getting into them this time though. Just know that I know they exist and those people can keep walking their dogs all unstructured like with no repercussions and the rest of us will be jealous!
The second point of the second point is to stop walking towards things. This is for a few reasons. If you want your dog to listen to you on a walk and care about what you have to say and where you are going, then you need to start controlling your environment. That means when a bike, dog, kid or person with several bags is headed right for you on the sidewalk, you need to be the one to bubble out and around.
Try to take one to five steps (depending on how much space your dog needs to listen to you) in towards your dog, bubbling out and around something or someone and then back where you were walking before. Think of it like a horseshoe. This does so many things I could write a book on it! It puts your dog in follower mode where they feel you are taking the lead and they learn to follow rather than feed off their environment so much. It shows your dog you control the space, which helps them be more respectful and more relaxed. It takes social pressure off of a dog, which is important because many dogs feel so uneasy with a leash on in social situations.
You have to imagine from their point of view. Anything, even a bike a foot to the side, coming straight, looks like its coming right at them. If they are nervous, they will feel that pressure rise and rise. They feel like no one is advocating for them or protecting them by controlling their environment. If the dog is excited, they will feed off of that, getting more and more amped up until you won’t be able to control them. That teaches them to feed off their environment rather than learn to be relaxed.
Changing the dog’s direction helps them learn how to deal with so many challenges in their environment, with you being the guide they learn to follow. If something is too hard for them, do lots of practice redirecting, which is a complete 180 and keep walking 10-20 steps, then turn back and repeat till the dog settles and the distraction is gone. Take control of your dog’s direction.
These are serious tools that trainers everywhere try to teach owners to do with their dogs to help make them more relaxed, trust their humans to take care of them and properly teach them the rules they need to be successful.
I hope it helps you at home.
Ruff Beginnings Rehab