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Wolfman K9 Obedience: So you have adopted a new dog from a rescue or purchased a puppy from a breeder ...

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So you have adopted a new dog from a rescue or purchased a puppy from a breeder ...

So you have adopted a new dog from a rescue or purchased a puppy from a breeder and obedience training was a requirement. You have researched different trainers and are not sure exactly what you need or whose services you should use. As you evaluate what training program to sign up for, it is imperative that you consider the following – training is for life.

There are a number of individuals out there that claim to be dog trainers and they make a number of statements as to how they can assist you and promise quick results or cheap fixes. There are a lot of gimmicks out there that may provide a quick fix to a problem, but the reality is, only the symptom has been rectified and not the underlying cause. So you follow the gimmick and it works for a while and then the problem reappears and the cure you were promised doesn’t work. So you get frustrated and start to search for the next person with a bit of witchcraft to provide you with the next ridiculous solution to the symptom you just haven’t resolved. Another training program is signed up for and promises made and you put out the money again and start to participate and hope for a resolution to the problem. Or you watch some TV shows and see how a “professional” addresses an issue, not knowing how many takes it has been to get the desired results for that episode and you try to mimic what you have seen and not fully understood the underlying dog psychology that predicts the behaviour you are trying to correct and how your actions can influence your results.

So what are you to do?

First, understand that time is involved in training a dog. It is a commitment. There is no such thing as a quick fix and it doesn’t end after a six week course with a diploma for your wall. Your dog is a sentient being that has feelings and thinks. Your dog will learn the commands you teach as long as you are consistent and persistent. Repetition is key and training has to be constantly applied. There are no instant fixes or a dog that you acquire that is preprogrammed with commands that you can instantly activate.

Second, gimmicks, toys, or food are a failing system. When a distraction is too powerful for your dog or he is not hungry, no matter what you offer him, his drive to investigate will take over and you become frustrated as your dog will not listen. You lose confidence in the commands and get discouraged. “What’s the point in training if my dog won’t listen?”

Third, a sterile environment is not a real environment. Training in a room with rubber mats and everyone doing the same command at the time is not natural. It is a made-up situation designed for the benefit of the trainer and not the dogs and their handlers. You need real life situations and experiences to produce the desired results – a dog that listens and responds to his owner. A dog that expectantly waits for direction from their handler and wanting to know what is expected of them.

Fourthly, stimulate and cultivate the love and affection of your canine. Reach your dog on their level and encourage the development of their loyalty. Your dog will want to do anything for your love and affection and not for what you have in your hand or pocket.

Fifthly, know your breed. When you decided on your dog or puppy, did you truly do the research necessary to understand their temperament and the history of the breed? A lot of the behaviours that you are dealing with are a direct result of what your dog was bred for. You can’t ask your dog to go against their canine instincts but you can learn how to direct their behaviour. This will make for a much more peaceful coexistence. You may have to learn how to stimulate your dog.

Lastly, get to the root of the problem. Anyone can treat a symptom, but it takes a specialist to solve the underlying issue that is causing the behaviour. There is truth to the adage that the “proof is in the pudding”. Seek out the specialists that have proven results. Go watch them work. Ask questions. Talk to their references. Go with an open mind and listen. Be receptive to the solutions – it may not always be the one that you were looking for or be completely opposite to what you expect. It’s about your dog and not you – don’t let your vanity get in the way of solving the problem.

All of this takes time. It requires you to learn the commands and apply them in many different situations. Yes, there is home work!! You need to practice, and practice, and practice! You are not going to get instant results. You have to earn the respect, love, and loyalty of your canine. They are going to screw up, test you, and challenge your abilities as a handler. You have to rise to the challenge and be consistent with your commands time and time again. Do not falter or waiver. You do not need to be harsh, rather you have to teach and teach and teach and this is a lifelong process. You didn’t learn everything in six weeks so why should you expect your dog to? You need to instill confidence in your dog and this is done through exposing them to new situations and experiences and confidently leading them so that they know how to react and act. They need to be able to overcome any fears they may have and trust that their handler will not put them in a situation that is too overwhelming for them to deal with. There needs to be trust on both sides of the leash.

Society today demands that our canines are well behaved and the general public is intolerant to a dog that is not under control. As their owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that you provide your canine with the necessary training and guidance required to achieve this. Just as your parents took the time to guide you as you were growing up, you must take the time, patience, and instill the knowledge in your dog to ensure that they become good canine citizens.