What kind of dog owner are you?
Almost always in classes or in private consultations, I get asked a question that begins with “How do I stop him from …….” The behavior can be nipping, barking, jumping, etc etc. My answer varies from case to case, but I always insist that people take a look at what their dog is doing and ask themselves, “How do I PREVENT him from …….” or “What can I teach him to do INSTEAD of or BEFORE the …….” By preventing and working with your dog before the bad behavior occurs, you are not only teaching better habits that will stick, but you are not allowing bad habits to grow and become a problem later. By being a proactive dog owner rather than reactive, you are setting your dog up for a lifetime of success.
Being PROACTIVE with your dog is much more helpful than being REACTIVE. There is a big difference between the two and can make a huge impact on your dogs behavior and the training process. This goes for puppy raising, working with fearful dogs, aggression general dog ownership. So what is the difference and how does that help me in training my dog?
Here’s a brief example of proactive as opposed to reactive;
Person approaches you on the street to greet your very social and excited 3 month old puppy.
- PROACTIVE owner tells person to please stop and not pet the puppy if it jumps, then gets their puppy in a sit and has the person approach as they reward or treat the puppy for sitting. (For puppies or dogs that are not able to sit with this level of distraction yet, this can also work with just dropping treats at the owners feet so the puppy just stands and is more interested in food on the ground than the initial approach)The person is told to kneel down and pet the puppy before the pup can leap off the ground, and to remove attention if puppy jumps up. Result? Puppy learns to sit or stand for petting instead of jumping all over for it.
- REACTIVE owner lets person walk right up to puppy, as puppy pulls ahead on leash and jumps all over person. Person starts to pet puppy, telling the owner he doesn’t mind, but owner (frustrated after saying “off” six times) yanks puppy down and pushes on puppy’s wiggly excited rear end to get him in a sit. Result? Puppy learns to pull ahead and jump all over people for attention, and then is rewarded by owner for this behavior also.
Being a proactive dog owner takes WORK, constant work. It is a lifestyle in the way you work with your dog and the relationship you build. You are constantly one step ahead, not just waiting for your dog to fail so then you can train. It takes more effort at first, but because you are teaching good habits it means you will need to do less work later on. Reactive owners and their dogs tend to get frustrated because many times the training is inconsistent, so clear messages arent always being made to the dog and the bad habits continue or worsen. This message doesn’t just work in raising a puppy, but in working with aggression, fear, and so much more!
Proactive dog owners need to do lots of “set-ups” as they train. They don’t just take their dog somewhere and hope for the best. They enlist friends, relatives, nerdy trainers like myself, to help them teach their puppies and dogs good habits and set them up for success, rather than failure. It takes work, but it is worth it!