So often I get calls and e-mails from owners who can talk for hours about their situation and how bad it is. They list the problems they are having, but they just as well could say they are having every dog problem ever written about.
These cases, and most problems, should start back at the basics, and when that’s the route you take, suddenly what was once unmanageable and infuriating will become much more relaxed and hopeful.
So if things seem overwhelming and you are looking for how to get things going in the right direction – start here:
- Play hard to get – too often dog lovers give their dogs everything in exchange for nothing. This is not the basis of a healthy relationship whether it is between two humans or a human and a dog. Give attention, toys, food and play to a dog that is behaving in a way you like. Love your dog by focusing on the bigger picture and not by focusing on what is easy to do.
- Own your space – a mentally healthy dog and human should be able to be alone and entertain themselves. Even if it’s not preferable, it’s a skill that is required to survive in the modern world. If your dog always HAS to be on your lap, or HAS to be underfoot, encourage him to be on his own. Don’t let dogs touch you all the time unless it is something you want and have requested. Simply not allowing dogs to be all over you will be a good start to solving problems (jumping, harassing guests, etc) and creating a strong minded independent dog. You can share space sometimes of course – I love cuddling with my dogs – but when the time is right and both parties want it.
- Learn to walk your dog – It’s not that hard to learn how to productively walk your dog. This is something tangible that you can accomplish and build upon. If you master the walk, you are on the same page, you are bonding, and you are giving your dog the most basic of jobs to fulfill him on a deeper level. For many dogs, the walk is their only chance to not only work, but to leave the property they live on – make it count!
- Use structure – It doesn’t have to be forever, but with a new dog or a dog that needs a restart, their day should be structured. I don’t mean structured as in everything is timed out and planned, but I mean their time with you should be quality time, even if it’s not a lot of time. So when they are not crated, they should be actively training, tethered to you, walking on a leash, productively playing with you, etc. Milling about the house does nothing to help a dog other than to help them learn bad habits. Chasing your dog around and reacting to his mistakes is not a good or quick way to train your dog. As the trust and understanding grows, their freedom can grow with it.
- Practice follow-through – When you give a command or create a rule, make sure that you stick to it. Having a structured routine will help make this easier because you will always be in a position where you have strong influence. This idea is so important because this is how your dog will learn about who you are as a person. If you set out to walk your dog every morning when you wake up, do it. If you don’t want your dog walking in front of you, don’t get frustrated and let them pull because you’re tired of changing directions or correcting them.