Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Confessions from a Dog Trainer

When people find out I'm a dog trainer conversations often lead to talk of dogs and owner confessions. Fortunately, I love talking about dogs and helping people better understand why their dogs behave the way they do. It isn't uncommon though for people to look ashamed when they tell me about their dogs and supposed bad behaviors. "I let my dog sleep with me, I know I shouldn't."  "I feed my dog people food". The truth is these behaviors aren't frowned upon by all trainers. In fact, I do a lot of things with my dog that people think leads the dog to be *gasp* dominant. Well here are my confessions.

*I let my dogs sleep on the bed....and the couch.
        Both my dogs know an "off" cue and when given will get off the bed or couch. If they ever growled at me I would not allow them there.

*I feed my dogs from the table.
        I like to reward good behaviors. When my dogs are lying down quietly next to my chair I reward them for it. They are not jumping on the table at any point in a day looking for food. 

*My dogs go out the door before me.
        It is easier for me to send both dogs out the door or down the stairs in front of me. I can make them wait but it doesn't make them dominant to go first. If they were pushing past me and knocking me down we would do training to change that.

*I don't always make my dogs heel.
       I allow my dogs to sniff on walks. On a crowded street they would heel. 

*I play tug with them, there are rules.
      If my dog misses the toy or bites me, they game ends. Tug teaches your dog good self control and impulse control. If your dog continually bites or lunges for the toy I would recommend a different game.

The fact that my dogs get to do these things does not make them dominant. It is how I have trained them. At any point if I don't like how the behavior has developed a new training protocol will take place. If you find your dog doing any of the bad behaviors, growling, stealing food, pulling on leash, then I would recommend training. The training will help you strengthen your relationship with your dog and allow you to still enjoy your dog for who they are. 

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