1- Be calm
Dogs will never respond to frustration or anger and all you communication will suffer if you can’t remain calm. If you lose your cool by yelling and screaming, your dog will not be inclined to listen to you. Dogs will only follow a calm, stable person. Energy is also contagious. If you get all worked up and give your dog lots of energy, he will get more amped up and send it right back to you. The reverse is also true though. If you can stay calm – even in chaos – your dog will be affected by that as well.
2- Reward on your terms
Everything in life that your dog values is a reward. And whatever you reward will be repeated. Make sure that all rewards are coming on our terms, rewarding a behavior and
If you’re not paying attention you can be inadvertently rewarding excitement (like giving food before you dog is calm), jumping (greeting him when he’s up on two paws) and pushiness (letting him out the door like he’s shot out of a canon). Always make sure your dog is doing the things you like before he gets anything he values.
3- Make him say please
All rewards should come through you. This is basic resource control and is super important in providing structure for your dog. If he wants something of value, he needs to get it through you. All I really ask is that he says “please,” which is a pause and eye contact. So before he goes to his food bowl, he looks up at you asking if it’s okay. When he wants to go out the door, he looks up at you, waiting for you to give him permission. This will fortify your relationship and make you the gatekeeper of all the good things in your dog’s world.
4- Have rules
It doesn’t really matter what your rules are, it only matter that you have rules. That includes sleeping in bed, going on the furniture or anything else. It’s all okay if you’re okay with it as long as it’s on your terms. Dogs thrive on structure and need our guidance to figure out how to live in this very strange human world. And if you don’t set some rules and teach them to your dog, he will make it up like a dog – and that’s not going to fit in with your human lifestyle. Have a family meeting and decide what your rules are, make sure everyone is in agreement and then enforce them.
5- Think big picture
When deciding upon what rules you will have with your dog it’s very important to think not only what you want with your family in your home, but how do you want your dog to behave with guests and in a variety of environments. For example, if you have a big dog and like to wrestle and play rough, that may seem like no big deal to you, however it’s all or nothing with dogs – always appropriate or never acceptable. So if you allow your dog to play rough don’t get mad when you invite your niece over and your dog tackles her. Always think outside your world and create rules that work everywhere and you’ll never be limited with your dog.
6- Train alternate behaviors
If your dog has some bad habits you would like to change, instead of trying to stop them why not teach him to do something else in that situation. Let’s say your dog jumps on you when you get home. We know what we don’t want him to do – jump. Wouldn’t it be nice if he sat instead? Sure! So let’s teach him to do just that. The key is to practice what you want BEFORE you need it. So in the above example you need to work on the sit by the door before you come home after being away for 8 hours. Whatever you don’t like, just show your dog what you do like.
7- Use passive exercise.
We all know that dogs need lots of exercise and no matter how hard we try it’s impossible to keep up with their exercise needs. And if they have excess energy it will often come out in destructive ways. Since you probably can’t quit your job and run your dog all day you need find some passive ways to exercise him. One way is to give your dog cool stuff to chew on. My favorite options are bully sticks, tendons, antlers, raw bones (never cooked) and Kongs (no rawhide – it’s bad for your dog!). Kongs are great because you can take your dog’s food and mix it with some peanut butter or wet food, freeze it and make him work for his meals.
8- Get out of your yard
Fenced in yards seem great for your dog, however, if abused they can be a real detriment. If your dog spends too much time in your house and yard and never gets out to see the rest of the world it makes his bubble of comfort very small and leaves him very under stimulated. Think about if you had to spend your whole life in the same house – even though it may be very nice I think you would go a little stir crazy. So get your dogs out to more places and give him lots of new things to see, hear, sniff and experience.
9- Learn something new
Our human lives are pretty boring for dogs and our busy lifestyles can make it hard to squeeze in some time for our pals. That’s why I recommend teaching your dog something new every so often, It could be a new command, trick or game, something that you can learn together. This will give you motivation to spend time with your dog, give your dog something fun to do and help you both to communicate better. I recommend giving yourself regular homework to do to make sure you stay on track and set aside the time to do it.
10- Address issues ASAP
I see too many people that notice a behavior issue with their dog and don’t do anything about it, hoping it will get better. Guess what? It never does. It will only get worse through repetition. All issue can be improved upon but only if you are proactive and address them. The sooner you do the easier and less time consuming it will be to treat. The longer a dog has been doing something, the longer it will take to counter condition it. Don’t wait. Recognize you have a problem and start working to improve upon it so that you don’t have to call me in a year to treat something that can be easily taken care of right now.