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Dog Training Myths

September 20th, 2013

Dog training is an essential part of ensuring that a dog is happy, healthy and safe. Some dog training can be relatively easy; many dog owners are able to teach their dogs basic commands, like sit and stay, without too much trouble. But dog training can be difficult, confusing or even frustrating! It makes matters complicated when myths and legends about dog training enter into the equation. There are many myths about dog training, some of which can actually confuse or frustrate a dog—or its owners. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly spread myths about dog training, and how the facts measure up.

Myth: A dog knows that they’ve disobeyed because they look guilty.

Dog_Training_MythsThis myth is incredibly common–and incredibly untrue! While the debate as to whether or not a dog can feel guilty in same way that a person can is still up in the air, the “guilty look” that people see in their animals is not the product of a guilty conscience, but a learned behavior. A dog can pick up on the body language and vocal inflections of their owners. When an owner sees that something is wrong, such as a chewed up couch or a puddle on the floor, they will typically react by becoming upset; their pet will react accordingly by appearing “worried,” because they know that this behavior will appease a human who is displaying upset or angry types of body language. The dog does not necessarily know that it’s done something wrong—it is simply picking up on human body language and reacting accordingly.

Myth: A puppy should be six months old before training begins.

This myth likely originates from old school training methods which typically used heavy or spiked collar corrections, which meant that the dog should be old enough to withstand the potential corrections from the collar. Today, however, positive reinforcement training has done away with harsher corrective methods. In reality, you should start training your puppy as soon as you can! Puppies will likely take longer to train because of their shorter attention span, but there is no reason that you can’t begin your puppy’s training as soon as possible.

Myth: A dog that can’t be trained to respond to a certain command is stubborn, stupid or dominant.

This myth often leads to frustration both on the part of dogs and their owners—but it doesn’t have to be this way! It is true that some dogs may be more stubborn against training than others. However, these dogs simply require more patience and a better understanding of the situation from a “dog’s point of view” from their owner. Imagine that you are a dog—are the commands you are giving clear and consistent? Do they make sense? Would you want to obey them? Before you write off your dog as dominant, dumb or stubborn, take the time to think about how your dog perceives the training and adjust your own actions accordingly.

Dog Training Mistakes Small Dog Owners Often Make

September 18th, 2013

Small dog breeds have been popular companions for hundreds of years—Marie Antoinette was a fashion of small dogs and pugs, which she doted on in her palace. While some smaller breeds of dogs are considered to be work dogs, most small dogs are bred in order to be family pets and home companions. The term “lap dog” comes from the fact that many of these smaller breeds enjoy snuggling into their owner’s lap.

SDog_Training_Mistakes_Small_Dog_Owners_Often_Makemall dog breeds are very popular. However, they are also considered to be at a higher risk for behavioral problems, largely due in part to mistakes made by their owners. Among all of the dog breeds, small dogs are usually those who are the least trained or poorly trained, which can result in injuries, undesirable behavior and “attitude” problems in the dog. The following are the most common dog training mistakes that owners of small dogs often make.

Mistake #1: Letting Their Size Create Indulgence

Would you let a massive German shepherd jump up on a houseguest when they walk through the door? No. Likewise, you should not like your small Chihuahua or other small dog breed jump up on your houseguest, even though they likely won’t reach your houseguests knees on their hind legs.

Unfortunately, far too many small dog owners indulge their small dogs because of their size. Behavior which would be absolutely unacceptable in a medium or large sized dog is suddenly cute or adorable in a small dog. This mistake can result in a number of behavioral problems, including aggression, over-protection, and even safety hazards to the dog or people who interact with the dog.

To avoid this mistake, small dog owners should ensure that they train their small dog just as well as they would larger sized dogs. Basic commands and dog etiquette should be taught regardless of size.

Mistake #2: Long Training Sessions

For dog owners who do train their small dogs, there are still mistakes to avoid. The most common mistake made by small dog owners who do strive to train their small dogs is having training sessions which are too long and arduous. Most dog breeds are not patient enough for very long training sessions. Small dogs are especially prone to quick boredom or inattention due to their generally lower attention span. Dog owners may mistakenly believe they should train their small dog until they get it perfectly—this method, however, may cause the dog to become frustrated, bored and annoyed with the process.

To avoid this mistake, plan micro training sessions instead of longer ones. This will allow the dog enough time to learn and practice new tricks without making them bored or listless.

Mistake #3: Being Aggressive or Domineering

An all too common mistake made by small dog owners is being too aggressive or domineering with the dog. Small dogs are easy to frighten, and a human looming over them or yelling loudly may cause them to become nervous, skittish or even aggressively defensive. If you do need to take control of a situation, get down on the dog’s level and use a dominant stare until the dog looks submissively to the ground—then reward the dog for its behavior. Never shout, hit or physically threaten your dog.

Can a Dog Be Impossible to Train?

September 16th, 2013

Countless dog owners have dealt with the frustration that comes with a dog that is seemingly impossible to train. Many professional dog trainers have dealt with this all too common problem, which dog owners often describe as a dog that is “impossible” to train. But can a dog really be impossible to train? Let’s take a further look at why some dogs appear impossible to train—and how, if possible, to solve this all too common problem.

Can a dog be impossible to trainEvery dog breed—and indeed, every dog—are built differently. Some breeds were bred for hunting, others for sport, others for companionship, and so on. Through the years, certain dog breeds have been bred to be highly trainable due to their involvement in police work, entertainment, field and farm work, disability services and similar uses. Easy to train breeds include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweiler’s, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Poodles. Some dog breeds, on the other hand, have not been bred to be trainable. These breeds tend to be stubborn and independent. Difficult to train breeds include Pekingese, Bloodhounds, and Beagles. More often than not, these “stubborn” breeds have traits that make them respond less readily to dog training than others.

However, it is not impossible to train a dog that is resistant or stubborn to dog training. It may be difficult, and require plenty of patience, but these dogs can be trained—if the owner knows what they are doing. To train a stubborn dog, it is important for the owner to take a step back from the situation and properly analyze it by asking the following questions:

Why might the dog not be responding to my training?

The first question that must be addressed is why the dog is not responding to training. To illustrate this, let’s look at an example from an actual example from dog trainer Suzanne Clothier, who often hosts dog training seminars. During one seminar, she was presented with a dog that, according to their owner, would not stop sniffing the ground during the “heeling” command, no matter how hard they tried. The dog in question was a Bloodhound, who has been bred specifically to exhibit such behavior. In this example, the dog was not responding to the training because the training was attempting to break decades of built-in behavior which was natural to the dog.

Why should the dog respond to my training?

Dog owners should imagine this question whenever they are training their animal: “Why?” When a dog is presented with a command, the question of “why?” should be answered. For example: “Why come when I am called?” The answer, after training, will be that they will receive rewards and praise. For many breeds, especially those notoriously difficult to train, the question of “why?” is often not addressed well enough by their owners. A Bloodhound, to use the previous example, must be given a very good answer if they are being told they should stop sniffing the ground, a behavior which is ingrained in them. When the owner can sufficiently “answer” their dog, they will find that the dog is much easier to train—although attempting to reverse natural dog behaviors, such as sniffing in Bloodhounds, is often a fruitless effort.

10 Dog Commands to Teach Your Dog (Part 2)

September 13th, 2013

There some dog commands which are generally considered to be essential, regardless of the dog’s breed or their particular role—such as family pet, seeing eye dog, and so on. Although specific breeds or working dogs might require different basic commands than a typical family pet, most dog experts agree that there are basic commands which can help any dog breed and any dog owner. These commands are intended to help keep the dog, and anyone or anything that interacts with the dog, safe from harm and happy. In part 1 of this article, we covered the following basic commands: sit, stay, leave it and down. The following are other basic dog commands which are considered to be essential.

Okay

OKAYThe “okay” command release a dog from a previous command, such as sit or stay. For example: If a pet owner commands their dog to sit when a family friend comes through the door due to the tendency to jump on anyone when they first arrive, the “okay” command will let them know it is now okay to greet their visitor. Although “okay” is not as common a command as sit or stay, it is important for dog owners who have dogs that have difficulty recognizing when they are allowed to discontinue a previous command.

No

Although pet owners may not realize it, “no” is actually a command. When a dog is taught “no,” they are being taught that a certain behavior is not acceptable. This is a command that should be taught as early as possible, preferably when the dog is still a puppy. Certain behaviors, such as chewing furniture, jumping on furniture, or biting, can often be curbed by training a dog to learn that “no” means the behavior is not okay.

Drop It

This command, similar to “leave it,” will teach a dog to drop something which is inside their mouth. This command can actually be a lifesaving command, if a dog has grabbed something in their mouth which may hurt or even kill them. It can also be used to save personal items, like shoes or clothing, from becoming a dog’s next chew toy. Drop it can also be used when teaching a dog to play fetch—dogs which are stubborn against typical training may find it easier to learn the command when it is included as part of a game.

Heel

Heel is an often misunderstood command. Many pet owners believe that “heel” means back-off or get away. Heel is actually a command used during walking which teaches a dog to walk alongside its owner’s hip, rather than in front of the owner or behind the owner. In other words, the heel command teaches a dog to walk with their owner—not against them. Heel is absolutely essential for large breeds who may run or give chase when out for walks.

Stand

Stand, sometimes used as “be still,” is a command which teaches a dog to stand up and stop moving. This command is particularly useful for veterinarian trips, trips to the groomers, and home-grooming a dog. The stand command allows a veterinarian or dog owner to examine the dog without it moving around or becoming restless.

10 Dog Commands to Teach Your Dog (Part 1)

September 11th, 2013

Dog commands are essential to the well-being of dogs, their owners, and anyone—or any animal—that has an interact with a dog. Dog commands can help curb or prevent bad behaviors, dangerous behaviors, and otherwise unpleasant interacts. It is generally recommended that all dogs, regardless of their breed, are taught basic dog commands by their owners. What is included in these basic commands might vary from dog to dog depending on their role—for example, seeing eye dogs may be taught basic commands that aren’t necessary for sheep herding dogs, which may be taught basic commands which aren’t necessary for family pets. However, most dog trainers agree that the following basic commands are necessary for almost every breed and every role a dog might have.

Sit

10_Dog_Commands_to_Teach_Your_DogSit is the quintessential dog command. Teaching a dog to sit has numerous uses, many of which are intended to curb or stop bad behaviors. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: jumping on people, jumping on other animals, fighting, and chasing. Teaching a dog to sit is considered to be one of the easiest commands, and almost every dog breed—regardless of their stubbornness—can be taught to sit fairly easily.

Stay

Stay is another common dog command which is typically used in conjunction with sit or, less frequently, “lie down.” The stay command may be used to prevent bad behaviors, such as chasing or jumping, but it also useful for keeping a dog out of harm’s way. For example, a dog which is prone to running ahead on a leash may be taught to “stay” to prevent the dog from running into the street when it is not safe. Although this is a common dog command, it is not always easy to teach dogs to curb their natural behavior, which is to give chase and appease their curiosity. But teaching a dog to stay has benefits that will outweigh the patience and time necessary to teach them to obey this useful command.

Leave It

Dogs are curious animals and it is only natural for them to want to pick up new or unusual objects, such as items on the ground, food, etc. But it is not always safe or desirable for a dog to pick up something with his mouth—many items may be poisonous to dogs, hazardous to their health, or—in the case of pet owners—something that their owner does not want destroyed. Leave it is a command that will teach the dog to ignore something which they may want to pick up, thus sparing them potential harm or sparing a pet owner from having to buy a new pair of leather shoes.

Down

Down is a command which is similar to sit, although the position it teaches a dog is different. The down command teaches a dog to lie down, rather than sit, which is more comfortable for the dog when they must remain in place for a longer period of time. The down command is also useful in situations where people may be fearful of dogs, especially large breeds, when a lower position will make them more at ease.

2 More Dog Training Mistakes

September 9th, 2013

Have you ever overhead a fellow pet owner lamenting the fact that their pet just isn’t responding well to dog training? It’s a common complaint. But how much of these all-too-common laments are the fault of the pet—and how much are the fault of the owner? Although training a dog to do basic, necessary commands is a relatively simple process, there are many dog training mistakes that can get in the way of the dog’s learning process. Previously, we have talked about three common dog training mistakes: not training your pet often enough, which leads to a deterioration of the pet’s learned behaviors; repeating commands, which leads to a lazy response; and keeping training sessions too long or too short, which can cut down on the benefits of a training session. Next, we’ll talk about two other common and damaging dog training mistakes.

Mistake #1: Training your dog under limited conditions.

2_More_Dog_Training_MistakesDogs need to learn under various conditions. Some pet owners make the mistake of believing that their dog only needs to learn commands—once they have learned a command, they will respond to it no matter the situation or circumstances. This is simply not true. For example, if you train your dog to sit in a calm, quiet room and only in a calm, quiet room, the dog is not learning to obey with any level of distraction. If you attempted to have your dog sit down in a crowded, noisy room, they would be likely to ignore your command altogether or only respond slowly or halfheartedly. It is important to gradually train your dog under a variety of circumstances, especially ones that they will encounter during their daily lives. Train them in quiet rooms—but also train them in living rooms with running children or distracting relatives; train them outside with animals and other people as distractions, and so on. It is important to start training in a room with limited distractions: but remember, don’t limit the way that your dog learns.

Mistake #2:  Relying on treats.

Everyone knows that all you need to do to keep a dog well-trained is a bag of treats, right? Wrong. Although treats are a helpful way to begin the initial process of training your dog, they are not a viable or helpful way to keep a dog well-trained. Think about it: do you see police dogs or disabled-assistance dogs being given treats every time they obey a command? Of course not! Treats would only be a distraction and, in many cases, could cause health issues if given excessively. The key to keeping your dog well-trained without treats is using praise, affection and other types of non-edible positive reinforcement. When you are first teaching your dog, using treats can be helpful—but once they have gotten the hang of things, put away the treat bag and focus on using positive attention instead. Petting your dog, praising your dog, and otherwise making your dog feel special for having done the behavior is a much better way to reinforce training in the long term.

3 Dog Training Mistakes

September 6th, 2013

Have you ever overhead a fellow pet owner lamenting the fact that their pet just isn’t responding well to dog training? It’s a common complaint. But how much of these all-too-common laments are the fault of the pet—and how much are the fault of the owner? Although training a dog to do basic, necessary commands is a relatively simple process, there are many dog training mistakes that can get in the way of the dog’s learning process. Let’s take a look at the top three dog training mistakes and how they can impact the way that your dog learns—or doesn’t learn—your commands.

Mistake #1: Not training your pet often.

3_dog_training_mistakesMany dog owners find it tempting to teach their dogs a few tricks—such as sit, stay and lay down—and then give up the training process all together. Unfortunately, this common practice is a training mistake that can lead to a dog forgetting or becoming lazy with their commands—even if they used to be a pro at them. Think about it: If you took 4 years of a language in high school but stopped using it for 2 years, would you be likely to remember everything you did at the peak of your senior year? Of course not. To combat this process, you should continue to train your dog even after they have learned tricks. Practice “sit” during dinner, “stay” when you are out on walks, and so on. It will also benefit your dog to learn something new each month, such as a trick or more advanced command. This will help keep your dog’s mind sharp and their ability to learn more focused.

Mistake #2: Repeating commands.

Repeating commands is a mistake that is all too easy mistake, especially with independent and stubborn breeds. This mistake usually manifests itself like this: An owner gives a command. The dog does not respond. The owner gives the command again—and again—and again, until the dog finally, and usually halfheartedly, obeys the command. But the owner praises this late response is inadvertently praising a lazy, late response. The dog will then accept this repeated command, halfhearted response as the acceptable behavior. This is obviously not what a pet owner wants. To avoid this, remember to never praise your dog unless they respond to the command immediately. If you are having trouble getting your pet to respond right away, try treating the initial training like a fun game—involve lots of treats, affection and other positive praise.

Mistake #3:Keeping training sessions too long—or too short.

Dogs, like people, learn differently. Some dogs may take more training sessions to learn than others, while some might pick up a new trick or behavior in just one or two sessions. If you keep a training session going on too long, your dog is likely to become disinterested in the behavior. If you don’t keep it going long enough, your dog may not benefit enough from the training. The trick is to figure out what is best for your dog’s learning process.

Easiest Dog Breeds to Train

September 4th, 2013

All dogs, with persistence, can be trained. This does not, however, mean that all dogs are equal when it comes to how easy is it to train them or even what types of training or skills they excel at. Some dogs, because of their breeding history, are easier for pet owners and other trainers to actually train. These dogs range in characteristics like size, intelligence and even history—it may be tempting to think that only exceptionally intelligent breeds, like golden retrievers, are considered the easiest to be trained. But this is not so: the intelligence of a dog may make it smarter, but it may also make it more stubborn. And as any pet owner who has tried to train a stubborn dog can attest, a stubborn dog is difficult to train! Let’s take a closer look at the easiest dog breeds to train.

Australian Cattle Dog

Easiest_Dog_Breeds_to_TrainThe Australian Cattle dog has a long history of herding–they’ve been successfully herding cattle, hence their name, since the 19th century. Today, Australian Cattle dogs are popular choices both for as herding farm dogs and pet dogs; their intelligence makes them a prime target for advanced training that keeps their minds and bodies alert and stimulated.

Rottweiler

The Rottweiler has a long history as a skill-trained dog; they were often used to carry wood and other heavy items through marketplaces and from house-to-house because of their strength. Rottweiler’s are intelligent and are often used as police and law enforcement dogs because of their ability to be trained as a guard and attack dog; pet owners should take care to work with a professional when training a dog to guard and attack.

Papillon

The Papillion is a small, elegant-looking breed especially prized for their appearance and their intelligence. The breed was often kept by royalty and aristocracy because of its appearance and because the breed responds easily to consistent training.

Labrador retriever

When most people think of intelligent dogs, their mind goes right to the Labrador retriever. In the past, the breed was used primarily as a hunting dog. Today, the dogs are used in a variety of advanced skill related positions, such as law enforcement dogs, drug sniffing dogs, bomb sniffing dogs, search and rescue dogs–and even assistance dogs for people with disabilities. This breed is prized for its intelligence, quick learning abilities, and its tendency towards obedience.

German shepherd

The German shepherd, despite its tough appearance, is considered to be one of the most affectionate breeds of dogs! These dogs are also easy to train because of their intelligence and their ability to learn new and advanced skills fairly quickly. They are often used in law enforcement roles, such as search and rescue and police enforcement; some countries even use German Shepherds in the military.

Poodle

This may come as a surprise, but this dog associated with frills and frou-frou is a particularly intelligent breed that is easy to train. Although they were originally used as hunting dogs, pet owners today typically train them to perform tricks and other feats in dog shows.

Hardest Dog breeds to Train

September 2nd, 2013

Every dog, with some persistence, can be trained by their owner. But every dog is not created equally when it comes to how easy they are to train–this doesn’t mean that the dog isn’t intelligent, however. The characteristics of the hardest dogs to train range in size, intelligence and breeding history; both dogs that are easy to train and dogs that are hard to train have high intelligence. The factors which make a dog harder to train are usually not intelligence, but the dog’s breeding history and personality. Typically, dogs which were originally bred to be hunting dogs or other types of service dogs are easier to train than dogs which were bred to be lap dogs—but even this typical characteristic does not always hold true. Let’s take a look at the dogs which considered being the hardest to train.

Beagle

beagleBeagles are an intelligent breed that unfortunately has an overriding characteristic that conflicts with training: high independence! Beagles are highly independent, meaning that they do not respond as well to commands or training given by their owners, when compared to dogs like Labrador Retrievers who are exceptionally obedient to their owners. Although Beagles adore attention and affection from their owners, they are not always keen to listen to them.

Mastiff

The Mastiff is a large dog–some dogs can weigh up to 130 lbs.!–which, although intelligent, is rather difficult to train. Mastiff dogs are not only stubborn, which makes forcing them to respond to commands difficult. They may recognize and understand the command, but refuse to respond in the right way because of their stubborn trait. In addition to their stubbornness, the breed is considered to be sensitive; yelling and negative reinforcement should be avoided and replaced with kindness, soft voices, and plenty of sweet patience for these large and loveable dogs.

Pekingese

Training a Pekingese has often been compared to dealing with a stubborn, pampered child—it’s a very apt comparison! The Pekingese breed is highly intelligent but stubborn and difficult to train; they usually pick up on behavioral training, such as housebreaking, easily. It is obedience training that they actually resist the most. The breed is also very dominant, which makes it hard for pet owners to establish a ‘top’ relationship that makes training a dog to obey more difficult. Their stubbornness and domineering nature may have something to do with their past as the Imperial guard dogs of China—their special and privileged status in the Imperial court may have caused them to develop a greater sense of dominance when compared to breeds without this treatment.

Chow Chow

Like the Pekingese, the Chow Chow is a smart dog who enjoys affection—and getting its way. The Chow Chow can easily become a domineering breed, which is why pet owners should take special care in training them to avoid this often annoying trait from becoming too prominent. Chow Chow dogs are stubborn; training them will take patience, hard work and plenty of consistency.

How to Teach a Dog to Lay Down

August 30th, 2013

Training dogs to respond to basic dog commands is an important part of raising any dog. If you are a pet owner, you should know that teaching your dog these basic commands is a vital part of keeping them safe, happy and healthy. Commands are not just parlor tricks–basic commands, like sit and stay, can help keep your dog from dangerous situations; it can also help keep other people and animals interacting with your dog from having a potentially harmful interaction with them. Basic commands are also important for the socialization of your dog and to teach your dog basic etiquette—such as, for example, teaching your dog that it is not appropriate for them to jump up on houseguests or sit on certain pieces of furniture.

How_to_Teach_a_Dog_to_Lay_DownOne of the most common basic commands that pet owners teach their dogs is “Lay Down.” This command is used to teach your dog to assume a low, laying position. This position can be helpful in keeping your dog from jumping up on people or other animals; it can also help calm down the dog down if they become overexcited. It is especially useful for larger breeds of dogs, such as Mastiffs, Great Danes, and Saint Bernard.

In order for your dog to learn how to lie down, your dog will need to understand the “sit” command first. If you have not already taught your dog the “sit” command, you will need to accomplish that before tackling “lay down.” You will also need a treat or treats for this particular type of training.

Let’s go step by step through the process of teaching your dog the lay down command.

Step One

First, you need to command your dog to sit.

Step Two

Next, you will need to hold a treat over your dog’s head—it’s important that your dog is paying attention to the treat above their head.

Step Three

Next, you need to slowly bring your hand down, while still holding the treat, until it is lying on the ground. Then give the command: “Lay down.” You may also want to use a briefer command, such as “Lay” or “Down.” If you intend on teaching your dog the command “down”—as in, “get down,”—it may be more helpful to use “lay” instead of “lay down” to help keep your dog from getting too confused at the similar sound.

Step Four

If your dog has gotten into a laying down position, praise them and give them the treat. It may take some dogs multiple tries to get ahold of the idea—remember to have patience, especially with older dogs or dogs which are known to be particularly stubborn against training.

Step Five

Repeat this process until the dog has learned the command. You should eventually be able to accomplish the training without using treats; it is important to constantly reward your dog, however, with verbal praise and physical affection.