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The Four Essentials For A Great Dog – Part 2

Knowledge, Relationship, Management & Training
By Don Hanson | Mar 01, 2016

Last month I told you that I believe that every dog has the potential to be a great dog if his person: 1) has adequate and up to date knowledge about dogs, 2) is committed to developing and nurturing a relationship with his dog, 3) understands the importance of managing the dog and its environment, and 4) is committed to training the dog. All of this needs to happen throughout the life of the dog, as just like us, the dog is a living, breathing entity that is constantly learning and changing.

I discussed the importance of obtaining key pieces of knowledge before you even start searching for a dog and explained that the relationship between you and your dog will be the foundation of all that you will do together. This month I will address the remaining two essentials to having a great dog: management and training.

Management

Management is one of the simplest ways to resolve a behavior issue, and in my experience is ironically, one of the hardest things to get many clients to consider. Far too often when someone has a behavioral issue with a dog he looks for an elaborate training solution when all he needs to do is to change the dog’s behavior by manipulating its environment. Management is simply taking the necessary steps to ensure your dog is not placed in a situation where it may not behave appropriately. In its simplest form, it translates to: If you do not want your puppy chewing on your new shoes, then do not leave the puppy and the shoes in the same room unsupervised.

I believe that management is essential to your dog’s training because every dog has, at least, two trainers: 1) his guardian and 2) the environment in which the dog spends its time. While you may spend an hour per day training your dog, your dog has the potential to learn from its environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The environment in which your dog lives may consist of other people, other animals, noises, odors, tastes, and visual and tactile stimuli that all have the potential to reward your dog. If you do not initially control your dog’s interaction with its environment, he may quickly learn behaviors that you do not want, such as tearing up magazines, chewing on bedposts, or jumping up on people. While providing this management may seem incredibly time consuming, when done properly, it will pay off as you will eventually be able to give your dog free access to your home.

Part of managing your dog also involves meeting its physical, emotional, and social needs. These needs are: 1) making sure your dog adequate access to water and appropriate food, 2) ensuring that your dog is free from physical and emotional discomfort and things that may cause the dog harm, 3) making sure that your dog has access to veterinary care and is free from pain, injury, and disease, 4) ensuring that your dog is free from fear and distress, and 5) making sure that your dog is free to express behaviors normal for the breed. The latter is especially important to consider before you get a dog, as not all normal behaviors are always appreciated by dog guardians.

Management is simple and profoundly effective. Just do it!

Training

Training involves teaching your dog and controlling the learning process. The objective of training is to have a happy dog that fits in with your lifestyle. I believe that every dog will benefit if it is trained to:

  1. Allow you to take away items that may pose a danger to it,
  2. Allow you to brush and groom it,
  3. Come when called,
  4. Walk politely on a leash,
  5. Sit or down when asked,
  6. Leave things when asked,
  7. Allow you to be near it when eating,
  8. Cope with being left alone,
  9. Quietly welcome our guests and us without jumping,
  10. Tolerate teasing children, and
  11. Only urinate and defecate in specific locations on our schedule.

These are all foreign concepts to a dog and may be dangerous to the dog if it behaved this way in the wild. A feral dog that waited to be offered food and allowed it to be taken from him would not survive long. We must remember that dogs have instinctual needs to protect their food and themselves.

It is our responsibility to make sure our dog is trained to understand our world. When we do so, our family and friends welcome our dog and our dog is accepted in public places, and thus is allowed to be with us more frequently.

Working with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer/Professional Canine Trainer-Accredited (CPDT or PCT-A) can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to learn how you can best train a dog. Whether you work with such an individual in a group class or private one-on-one training, these highly skilled individuals can show you how to get the behaviors that you want through rewarding the dog. Equally important, they can help you learn how to extinguish the behavior you do not want, things like jumping up on people and stealing socks.

When choosing a trainer, look beyond how close the trainer is to where you live, the day of the week that classes are offered, and the cost of the training. The most important characteristic to look for in a trainer is how he trains. Insist on a trainer that is committed to force-free, fear-free, and pain-free methods. That means that the trainer will not be talking about dominance and alpha-rollovers or using tools like electronic shock collars, choke collars, or prong collars. While these tools and methods were routinely used in the past, organizations such as the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), The Pet Professionals Guild (PPG), and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) are unified in their recommendations that these tools and methods should NEVER be used in the training or the behavioral management of dogs. They are not only unnecessary but they are counter-productive as they inhibit the dog’s ability to learn and often make a dog reactive and aggressive.

Dogs can be wonderful companions, and the best way to make sure that happens with every dog is to: 1) acquire the knowledge to understand your dog’s behaviors and the language unique to the dog as a species, 2) have fun with your dog every day as one part of nurturing your ongoing relationship,  3) manage your dog and its environment so as to meet its needs while preventing undesirable behavior, and 4) invest time and energy into training your dog not only for your benefit, but its benefit as well.

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, and Certified Professional Dog Trainer. He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/  every Saturday at 12 Noon. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.