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Back to the Basics: Rebooting Dog Training

Work and love; these are the basics. Without them there is neurosis – Theodor Reik

Sometimes, our dogs tend to act out and maybe become more ornery than they normally are. Maybe the barking has increased, or suddenly they’ve started chewing on objects that aren’t theirs, or they’re getting into the trash. If these behaviors are new and are not normal for your dog, it’s important to take a look at what has changed in your interactions with your dog. It could be they are in need for a different balance in the training and guidance

that you are providing them, which is done through the PAW Method. You can learn more about the PAW Method here.

First, let’s revisit the Activity level. Take a good, hard and honest look at the activity level your dog has been getting. If there has been any decrease in your dog’s activity, then it might be time to take a look at how you can provide them with a little more exercise. Take a serious look into a dog backpack, like I use with my own Ellis. Consider doing some agility in the house, or how about doggy daycare! Even treadmill training your dog! Anything to get your dog back to the activity level that ensure they are happy and balanced.

Next, take a look at the Work level your dog has been provided. Are they using their brains enough? A bored dog can tend to get into trouble so it’s important they are staying engaged and using their brains. Enrichment feeders are great for this. If you feel as though maybe their enrichment feeder isn’t providing enough work for them, you can again work on agility. You can also start to work on new commands or scent detection games. Get creative with it! But make sure your dog is using their brain.

Lastly, make sure you’re visiting the Piloting that your dog is receiving. Have you been answering their questions? Is your dog listening to, and accepting, your answers? If not, it may be time to revisit how you and your dog are communicating. Take some time to work on some Piloting exercises.

Remember the three steps in Piloting:

Control Yourself – use confident body language and make sure you are staying calm. There is no need for yelling or frustration when working with your dog. If you are angry or frustrated then walk away. It is important that you are in complete control of yourself physically and emotionally.

Control the Situation – don’t add more energy to a situation before you have the initial one under control. This means that, if there is someone at the door, do not open the door until you have your dog under control. There is no way you will be able to gain control of your dog after you’ve added the stimulus of another person. So think in small steps and control the first situation in front of you.

Answer the yes or no question – dogs are very binary. When they are engaged with something (staring at treats) they’re asking (in a very pushy way) whether they can have the treat. If you don’t say no with your body language, then they will assume they can have them. So it’s important to always answer their questions. Other questions they can ask: Is that dog a threat? Can I chew on your shoe? Can I come up on the couch? Is that squirrel trying to kill us all?

Here’s a great exercise to do with your dog. Make sure to incorporate all 3 steps in the Piloting process (note: do not attempt this with an aggressive or resource guarding dog).

- Grab a few treats and set yourself up with a wall behind you. Focus on your body language. Are you hunched over? Then straighten up. Make yourself tall and act as though you are the most confident person in the world. Are you calm? If not, then maybe do this another time. If you feel like you are in control of your emotions then move on.

- Show your dog the treats so they know that you have something interesting. Once they are engaged, judge how close they are to you and if you have control over the situation. If your dog is next to you and encroaching your personal space, then it will be necessary to back your dog up a little bit. Pretend your dog is as tall as your belly button and walk into their personal space. They will back up and once you have the desired amount of space between your dog and the wall behind you, remove your negative body language by slowly backing up. If your dog moves towards you, then use your body language again to back your dog into the desired spot. You may have to do this a few times until your dog understand that they are to respect the space you have set.

- Once you have control over the situation, slowly back up and place the treats behind you. If your dog starts to go towards the treats then use your body language again to back them off of the treats. Make sure that your dog is engaged with you or avoiding looking at the treats. If they are looking at the treats then they need the answer that “no, you cannot have these treats”. Once your dog has accepted the answer that the treats are not theirs, then calmly pick them back up.

- Remember, your dog doesn’t get the treats. Just because they’re named "dog treats" doesn’t make them automatically theirs. What you did is just work on making sure your dog understands that when you say no (through your body language) you will follow through and enforce the answer. This immediately puts more money into your Piloting piggy bank.

Exercises like this work on your communication with your dog. Your dog understands your “no” and “yes” answer now. Working on this daily will help solidify this and help your communication between you and your dog.

So, if you’re having some new issues with your dog, revisit the PAW Method. Take a good and unbiased look at what changes there have been in your everyday routine. If there have been some outside changes (new routines, new people in the house, etc) then it may be time to up all 3 a little for a while. Use the PAW method as a gauge to see where you can increase or adjust your dog’s piloting, activity and work levels. This will help your dog stay balanced and happy.

And remember to Keep Calm and Pilot On!

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training in Cleveland Ohio


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