Dog Training - 8 Ways to Cut Down on Behavior Problems

You've performed three of the most important tasks for a dog owner: decided if you were right for a dog, determined what dog was the best for you and taught your best friend some manners. That should be about it, right? Wrong!

You have an ongoing relationship with your pet, just like you do your children or your spouse. It's important to maintain the relationship if you want it to be fruitful. If you don't, all of that training you've done so far will be for naught.
Sometimes, though, like all relationships, the one with your dog can be rocky.

Even well-trained owners have dogs with behavior problems when things change. Dog have been known to act out when their owners being working more hours, go back to school, have a baby or get married. Dogs aren't themselves when they are ill or in pain. Some dogs are just never quite right because of problems inherited from poor breeding.

Here are nine things you can do to make sure your well-behaved dog stays that way.

1. Don't forget that you are leader of the pack. Remind yourself that your dog is genetically programmed to be part of a group and to obey the leader of his pack. If you don't provide him consistent strong, yet fair, leadership, he will try to become the leader. If he becomes the leader by default, behavior problems will increase exponentially. Here are some tips to make sure he remembers you are his leader:

- Don't let him pull on his leash.

- Don't put the leash on your dog until he sits quietly.

- Don't let him get away with bad behavior.

- Always eat before he does.

- Don't chase or play rough games like tug-of-war with your dog.

- Don't allow him to bite anyone.

- Always go through doorways before him.

- Try to always be calm, fair and confident when dealing with your dog.

- Don't give him anything - attention, food, play - without him doing something for you first, like sitting on command.

- Don't allow your dog on furniture without your permission.

- Protect your dog from other animals or people who try to harm him.

When you are a strong leader, your dog will respect you. With this respect comes an innate desire to please. He will love you and want to obey your every command!

2. Train with your dog every day. Just like with humans, any behavior you train your dog to do will be forgotten if he doesn't practice it. Work with your dog at least 15 minutes a day on an aspect of his behavior. This is important, also, to remind your canine that you are the leader of his pack. Try to teach your dog something new every month or two. This will keep him challenged and give you both a sense of accomplishment. Most dogs were bred to do some kind of work, and if you don't give your dog purpose, he'll become bored and develop behavioral problems.

3. Make sure to give your dog treats and praise. Continue the technique you've used to train your dog. People tend to get complacent, and before you know it, Spot is hogging your bed and dragging you down the street by the leash. To make things worse, he won't listen to your commands any more. To prevent this, make your dog perform an act of obedience to earn praise, petting or a treat.

4. Never strike or yell at your dog. Hitting or kicking your dog will have about the same effect that it would on a spouse or a child - it ruins the relationship and breaks down all the trust your pet had for you. Some owners use physical abuse to train their dogs to fight for money. Others believe, erroneously, that abuse will make them become better watch or attack dogs. Statistics show that thousands of dogs are killed or injured by people every year. No matter how frustrated you get with him, never, ever strike your pet.

Dogs don't respond well to yelling. All it does is get your dog more stressed, which will more than likely make his behavior problems worse. Everyone loses their patience from time to time, but remember that your dog only responds to fair leadership.

5. Get your dog proper medical care. Your dog needs a checkup at the veterinarian annually to make sure he's in top form physically and to receive yearly shots to prevent rabies and other diseases. It's important to go to the same vet every year so he or she can monitor your pet and notice any evidence of problems. All dogs need a teeth cleaning from time to time, too, to keep them healthy. If your dog is injured or sick, he needs to get proper medical attention. Your veterinarian can also give you advice on behavior as well as diet, breeding, training, and puppy selection

6. Attend obedience training. As an absolute necessity for getting a good to a positive relationship with your dog, be sure to take him to a six-to-eight-week-long obedience class, before his first birthday if he's a puppy, as soon as possible if he's an adult dog. A good trainer will teach you the basics and what a good dog/owner relationship is.

If you have an adult dog, don't worry. That old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is not true! A dog of any age can learn good behavior. Both you and your dog will benefit. He will learn some good behavior and to respect you, the leader of the pack. You'll learn the subtleties of your dog's behavior and how to act in a fair, yet dominant, manner. Obedience training is great way to teach an "only dog" how to properly socialize with other dogs and people.
Whether you are alone with your dogs or in a group of people and animals, your dog will learn how to behave.

Here are some tips to help you determine what obedience class is the right one for you and your pet:

- Ask your friends, family members, vet or groomer for
recommendations.

- Be sure the trainer uses positive reinforcement and no methods that hurt or frighten the dogs.

- Choose a trainer that focuses primarily on group classes. Although it may seem like one-on-one training might be best, group classes give both you and your dog to observe other people and their pets. Your dog will also focus on your commands, not just those of the trainer. Some owners do both individual and group classes.

- Make sure there are separate classes for puppies and adult dogs. Dogs between eight and 16 weeks should be in puppy classes. You may also feel more comfortable with a trainer who offers beginning, intermediate and advanced obedience classes.

- Ask the trainer you are considering if you can watch a class. While you watch, note some of these details: Notice if the class is small enough that everyone can get some individualized attention. Watch to see if both and dogs and owners are having fun. See if the trainer provides lesson handouts. In a good class, you'll hear plenty of praise and commands in upbeat, yet firm, tones. Does the trainer give the owners other information about health, grooming or specific breeds? You want to make sure your trainer is knowledgeable about the whole dog, not just obedience training techniques.

- Ask your trainer if he or she knows several different techniques to work with dogs. This can come in handy if your dog doesn't always respond to the tried-and-true methods.

- Make certain that the trainer requires that dogs be vaccinated and certified healthy by their vet before enrolling in classes.

- Be sure to get a list of equipment you'll need to bring with you to your first class.

Once you find the right trainer and obedience class, make sure both you and your dog are prepared. Be sure to bring all the required equipment. Don't feed your dog before class - since treats are part of the reinforcement of good behavior, you want him to be willing to eat the treats, which he might not want if he has a full belly. Don't forget to do your homework! Practice between classes is essential to reinforce your dog's behavior.

7. Lean all you can about your dog, his breed, and canine care. You can never know too much when it comes to your dog. Learn all you can from books, television and magazines. Be sure just to take the time to browse at the pet supply store or your favorite online pet supplies merchant to see what kind of new products are on the market. A new toy from time to time is a new adventure for both you and your pet.

8. Keep your dog's home safe and stimulating. Giving your dog a fun, secure place to live will help to prevent bad behavior and may even prolong his life. Always have a number of fun toys available, including balls, chews and squeaky toys. Be sure to play with your dog daily to give him the necessary exercise he needs, to help you bond with your pet and to just have fun!
If no one is home during the day, leave a talk radio station on. Keep your pet out of areas of your home where he might eat something toxic or injure himself. Keep your fence well maintained.

If your dog starts to have behavior problems, don't despair! There's nothing to say that you can't start training him to change his behavior! With a little patience and perseverance, you will be able to eliminate most bad behavior. In the most extreme cases, you may not be able to stop the behavior, but with training your dog will show improvement.

Some problems won't be entirely eliminated, especially if you chose a dog that doesn't have the temperament for your lifestyle. But even some of these dogs can change if you have a good dog/dog owner relationship. Now we'll look at some of the most common behavior problems and how to re-train your dog to behave appropriately.

Marilyn Burnham
Author: 'Dog Owners Boot Camp'
The How To Guide, Dog Training Secrets Professional Dog Trainers Don't Want You To Know!
For More Information On Dog Training
Marilyn Burnham was the owner operator of 4 successful dog grooming stores in British Columbia, Canada for more than a decade. To spend more time with her children Marilyn made the decision to sell her business in the mid 90's. Get a copy of her book: ‘Dog Owners Boot Camp’ The How To Guide, Dog Training Secrets Professional Dog Trainers Don’t Want You To Know!

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