I have to admit...I tend to be critical about things, trying to perfect what cannot be perfected. That includes ensuring my dogs are well-trained and their bad habits like (lunging, barking and jumping) are kept at a minimum. As dog parents we try to do the best we can! Am I right? Here are a few tips and lessons I have learned along the way to make sure I am doing my best to keeping my dogs feeling their best.
1. Realize their form of communication is different from humans.
Dogs are not humans, meaning, they respond to our words and body language differently than humans do. We tend to humanize our dogs which isn't wrong, because they sure do have personalities! The way we instruct them and teach them has to vary from how we would teach a toddler. We have to figure out how to communicate with them in their language.
If we told a dog to "use their words" they would bark! If dogs could talk, could you imagine what yours would say? I can, and it'd be hilarious!
2. Educate yourself.
Although we think we have everything figured out... let's be honest, we don't! When Daphne was 1 year old we use to go to a dog park, one day it was crazy busy and everyone was getting along just fine. Suddenly two new dogs came in the park and a fight broke out. Of course it was in the middle of the entire pack, and I see Daphne brawling with an older female lab.
From that point on she was never the same. She had one or two good friends she would play with, but walks were a nightmare! I knew a few months after seeing her become very fearful and reactive to new dogs I had to do something to help her.
I searched online and found a local dog trainer who came over and helped her greatly, but after he left that form of training just didn't stick! I even spent 15 minutes each day to practice what he had showed me. I'd ask myself, "What do I do now?"
I felt like I was failing my baby girl! After we moved, I found another trainer. This one had a different approach and has trained thousands of military and police dogs and rehabilitates "aggressive" dogs. I went over to their farm and he worked with us for four hours. It wasn't all commands, it was teaching me her body language, what to do if I see her body tense up and to be patient. His approach was more straightforward and less of a food or "babying" approach. He was a very commanding trainer and it was amazing to see her take commands and relax.
What I learned wasn't just to read her, but to understand her breed. Granted, she has a few breeds in her, but she gets very fixated on things and loves to chase bugs and squirrels. Food motivated? NOT AT ALL! It's important to give her a job and be a confident leader.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
Even four years later, I still practice our commands on every walk, we wait until she calms down to put her leash on and I bring training treats with me to reward her for her good behavior. Seeing a dog on a leash is still worrying to her, but she doesn't react like she use to. Instead, I taught her to sniff and pee, which causes her to look away and not stay focused on the other dog.
It is a constant battle, and I was told she may never be an incredibly social dog park dog again, but she is relaxed and happy with the activities we do together. I know her limits and try not to stress her out by going to loud, crowded events because that doesn't make her happy. She has always been a worry wart even as a puppy.
She is incredibly stubborn but very smart which is awesome until she doesn't feel like doing something. Ever had that happen? Never!
4. Not all dogs are the same!
This is the most important one of all. Our second dogs, Sojourn is an Alaskan Malamute with what we think is German Shepherd. He is a quiet gentle giant and doesn't want any problems or to make too much noise... unless the doorbell rings.
When we adopted him at 11 months, he was hyper and pulled on the leash and tried to escape multiple times. I dedicated time to train him with treats and he was food motivated! It's always been interesting to see the differences in training techniques that have to be used in Daphne versus Sojourn.
What works for one dog, may not work for another! And guess what? It's ok!
Just like us humans, dogs have qualities that need constant work. I've learned to embrace the humorous qualities and the ones that can be annoying (like bringing me something from my closet every time I get home.)
5. Relax and enjoy time with your furchild.
But they love you so much. That is why I created All Bark Boutique, with the goal of bringing every dog joy wrapped up in an everyday treat. They makes their nose happy and tummies happy which makes their "hoomans" happy, too.