At Happy With Dogs it is our mission to help you enjoy life WITH your dogs. The key to being able to do this is to have a reliable foundation of obedience.
Dogs who are well behaved by human standards can go more places and do more things with their families, and because of this, have more enriching lives.
Their behavior also tends to foster feelings of love, play and connection instead of frustration, lack of control and overwhelm.
Having a foundation of obedience is not only necessary to teach dogs what behaviors do and do not fit into our human world, but also allows you to build solid communication and become a team with your dog.
We see pet owners as ambassadors responsible for showing their dogs how to fit in with humans. The first step to this communication is building a great relationship built on trust.
Once you have that, teaching obedience should be playful and fun.
A large part of what we do as dog trainers and pet owners is to inspire dogs to consistently change any behavior their human families find stressful.
Before covering how a foundation of obedience can do this, let’s briefly discuss dog behavior. Dogs are sentient beings, and at any moment, they make choices about what to do and how to behave.
Whatever they are doing, they are doing it for a reason. The choice supports them in some way, shape, or form. We don’t believe that any behaviors are bad in and of themselves, but instead that there is a time and place for them. It is our job to teach dogs what that is.
For example, your dog barking and lunging toward any passerby while on a leash can be embarrassing and make you feel out of control and unsafe. It is also scary and intimidating to all passerby’s.
However, if the passersby were all people who wanted to attack you, you may welcome your dog’s barking and lunging and hope it scared them away. Luckily for us, this is not the case, but we need a way to communicate that to our dogs.
Since behaviors can be changed, we don’t ever title a dog in its entirety by a behavior that it exhibits. For example, we would never say “that is an aggressive dog.” But we could say, “that dog exhibits reactive behavior toward any dogs approaching them while on a leash.”
Also, a dog’s ability to change begins with their pet parents opening their minds to the possibility. Words have power, and if a dog is continuously called “bad,” “aggressive,” “crazy,” etc. they are prevented from even having the opportunity to try to change.
At HWD, regardless of what issue a dog is having, we always start by building a positive relationship based on trust and a solid foundation of obedience.
This is true for everything from reactivity, extreme anxiety, jumping, resource guarding, leash pulling, being in constant fear, etc.
A dog needs to trust us and enjoy our company so they want to engage with us.
We need to have a way to understand each other. We have found the following commands and marker words extremely valuable in working with dogs and include them in all of our camp programs.
When mastered, they will give you the tools to prevent your pup from getting into trouble in the first place or let them know when something they are doing needs to stop.
- Sit: Sit means your dog should sit as soon as the command is given and hold until released.
- Down: Down means your dog should lay down as soon as the command is given and hold until released.
- Place: Place means your dog should get onto an elevated area that has definite boundaries (chair, dog bed, rug, etc.), and stay until released.
- Come: Come means your dog should come straight to you and stay there until released.
- Lets Go: Let’s go means your dog should walk with you and stay in your area, as well as leave a distraction to do so. No leash pulling allowed.
- Off: Off means your dog should stop whatever they are doing.
- Look: Your dog should look directly at your eyes.
- Good: Good means your dog should keep doing what they are doing. It is a positive marker telling them they are doing the right thing.
- Yes: Yes means your dog is released from the command. It lets them know that it’s free time.
- Nope: Nope means your dog should go back to what they were doing before. It is used to help dogs hold positions.
With all of the above commands, we teach a dog to hold the position asked for until released, without being asked to “stay”.
For example, once we ask a dog to “sit,” they should automatically stay in a seated position until released. For more information about how this works, watch our video:
As you try your hand at teaching these behaviors, introduce new concepts in a low distraction environment.
It helps dogs to stay focused and will make learning easier. Begin indoors in a room your pup is familiar with instead of outside or in a new location.
The same way humans go to a classroom to optimize learning instead of a sports bar, having a calm learning environment will help set your dog up for success.
Once you and your pup have an understanding of these behaviors, it is time to do them with increasing difficulty little by little with the “3 D’s”: Duration, Distance, and Distraction.
Start trying to hold the commands for longer, to be able to walk further away while your pup holds the position, start adding distractions, and start doing them in different environments.
For help teaching, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Working with you allows us to live out our mission, and we would love to help you enjoy life with your dog!