As dog trainers, we often run into the situation where most of the family knows that they have to train their dog and really want to get on the program. But, there is often one “hold out” that, for some reason, just doesn’t want to take the time to train their dog, doesn’t think there is a problem, or just doesn’t care.
In cases like this, we can still help the family and the dog to create a long and lasting relationship of trust and love. We simply have to appropriately define the roles and responsibilities of the individual family members. The most important dog training technique we use is to clearly define leaders and members. The leaders lead and the members follow. Guess what, that one family member who didn’t want to get with the program, like the family dog, is a “follower”.
As dog owners, we can keep our dogs inside the house or outside in the back yard. Many times, we keep our small dogs in the house almost all the time. On the other hand, many people get large dogs and only want to keep them outside. We always hear the term “Outside Dog” and think that it is perfectly acceptable to always have our dogs outside.
I want to propose the idea that always having your dog outside is not that great of an idea. Dogs are social creatures; just like us. If our parents always made us stay in our room and never socialize with the rest of the family, we would feel ostracized and this could even lead to bad or dangerous behavior.
The same is true of our equally social dogs. They need to create bonds and relationships with the entire family (pack). If we only interact with them during the few periods of time we are outside, that bond will not be created. They will not feel that they are truly part of our family and will act accordingly. This can cause misbehavior, not listening, aggression, and escaping.
Whenever we go out to train a new dog owner and their puppy and ask them to list their “a Priorities” of what they want to accomplish, they always tell us that they want their puppy to stop nipping at their hands. The funny thing is that their cute, little puppy is nipping at their hands because they are actually telling him to do so.
A part of a puppy’s communication is nipping. They are not trying to be mean or hurt us, they are just trying to get our attention. As babies ourselves, we used to cry and throw things on the ground. (…and there are some family members that still do that into adulthood!)
We also encourage this by constantly playing with them and getting our hands close to their mouth. Height and proximity are triggers for physical play and our puppy is simply following our lead.
We “humans” already take most of the world around us for granted. We have no problem in a car or a plane and understand that it is safe to walk in a crowd at the mall or a busy store. For some reason, we forgot that we didn’t always feel that way. We had to get used to everything around us. This normally happened because our parents, and mostly our mother, took us places time and time again. Every time we went to a place or did a new thing, she was always there to comfort us and direct us away, if needed.
When we move into high rise apartments or condos, we no longer simply walk into a door or go up a few stairs, we get in this crazy room that moves up and down. Strange people and dogs can jam in there with us and it can be bumpy, stuff, loud, and crowded. Our dog is often not ready for any of this and can become frightened and even aggressive.