One of my favorite questions to ask clients is, “what do you want from your dog?” This seems like an easy question to answer, but most people have a hard time with it. It may take them a few minutes to actually sit back and think about what it is they really want from their furry family member.
Do you know what you want from your dog? Do you want a calm relaxed pup, or a pup that is always on the go? Do you want a dog that chases squirrels and cats, or one that can watch curiously, yet still keep walking past them? Do you want a dog that is polite with other dogs, or a dog that rushes up and assaults or mounts every dog he or she sees?
I think it is obvious what most people want. Most clients want a calm, socially acceptable, and focused dog. Is it impossible? Well, if we follow the typical rules/fads/suggestions surrounding dogs and their training, then yes, it really is impossible. Our society sets dogs up to fail by conditioning them to do the exact opposite of what we would like them to do.
So, is that all I can say to people? That they will never achieve the goal of having a calm dog? No, of course not. I have an entire pack of “high-energy” breeds that are calm, socially acceptable, and focused. This is not because I am a magician. I do not have fairy dust to sprinkle on them. I simply condition my dogs to be the way I want them to be.
For the last 10 years, I have been teaching people how to keep dogs calm. I am happy to see that this is now becoming a “thing.” However, please keep in mind you must not confuse your pups. You must stay consistent in all areas, meaning, if you really want them to be calm, teach them to be calm with all dogs. If you want them to “shut-off” in public, practice at home, etc.
So let’s talk about some of the confusing messages we send to our dogs every day:
- Chase/Prey drive…..all dogs have it; some can’t control it, others we condition to increase their prey drive by our daily routines. If you do not want your dogs to chase squirrels or cats, please do not play “Where’s the squirrel? Where’s the Cat?” game with them. Of course they are going to chase those little furry critters if they think you are ok with it! Oh, and they may even try to chase “Fluffy,” the little poodle up the road, because you said it was ok to chase little furry creatures.
- Hunt/kill….why?? Here is the real thought behind this: “lets teach a dog to chase a little furry thing at the end of a line back and forth, until their pupils are so huge they can’t even see straight, all in the name of….exercise?” Please go walk your dog in a calm and working manner. Don’t teach your dogs to chase and kill. We play with CATS this way to teach cats to catch and kill small animals. It enhances their ability to hunt. Do our domestic dogs really need this? No. True exercise=walking your dog.
- Improper play/dog parks and daycare…. There are very, very few dog parks and doggy day cares I will recommend. Why? Because dog parks and daycares have become an excuse to exercise dogs instead of walking them. A large percentage of dog owners now head to the dog park so they can let their dogs run loose and beat up on other dogs just to get “exercise.” Dog parks without monitoring are one of the main reasons we see an increase of reactive dogs. Honestly the Dog House Drinkery is the ONLY place in Central Texas (that I have witnessed), that truly monitors for proper dog play in their dog park. They do not allow biting, crazy chasing, mounting, etc. They strive for proper social skills, calm interactions and maybe an occasional quick chase. If you are going to a dog park or sending your dog to a doggy daycare for “exercise,” don’t! Instead, go walk your dog! You will get much more positive behavior out of your dog this way. If you allow your dog to beat the living daylights out of other dogs in order to tire them out, you will never achieve the socially acceptable dog you are looking for. Each time they see other dogs, they will walk on two legs until they get to mount, bite or assault the other dogs they see. And no, it is not really cute to the fearful or well-behaved pup you come across. It is pressure and causes dog reactivity. Even if your dog is “friendly,” it’s not appropriate for him/her to rush up on another dog to say “hello.” To put it in human terms, the happy “loving” drunk you see coming out of a bar that just wants to show you “love” by rushing happily up in your face and wanting to hug you, is probably not going to get a hug from you, right?? Even if they are happy, friendly and loving, it is inappropriate. Don’t let your dog be seen as the happy, loving drunk.
So, then the question becomes, how do I tire my dogs out? If you have not guessed already, I tire them by slowly walking them…not running or biking them. You can run a dog for miles and after a brief power nap, they are ready for more. Why? You are training an athlete to run the marathons. I am literally walking my dogs at a slow pace with an occasional down command to just observe and admire the environment around us. I prefer my dogs to be calm, quiet, and peaceful, so I condition them that way. Do I play with my dogs? Of course I do! My play is fetch and down…fetch and down… tug, drop and down…high levels of excitement, lie down, etc. In return, my dogs, yes, you guessed it, lie down when they are excited.
Please think about the behavior you want from your dog in all areas (home, public, with guests, etc.). Then you and your will be successful as long as you stay consistent with conditioning for the outcome you desire.
If you need help teaching dogs to behave around other dogs, hire a trainer that does not believe in letting them beat the daylights out of each other. Proper adult canine behavior is calm and not pressured.
Interested in more information? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we have classes for Proper Play between Puppies and Proper Play between Adult Dogs.
Stay calm and protect first!
Tara and the pack.