Pages

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dog Training: Learning From Mistakes

I wrote an article for Dogster.com this past month, which you can read HERE, about training regrets and missteps. Charlie is the first dog I've ever had that needed training... all my other dogs were "country dogs" that just seemed to know how to behave properly, plus they had tons of room to roam to expend their extra energy.

Before Charlie, I had never had a dog on a leash except for vet trips or special occasions. Most of my previous dogs just walked along next to me. This is the first time in my life that I've lived inside city limits, on a very busy street. It was absolutely essential for me to train Charlie.

When I brought her home, I read all kinds of dog-training books to make sure I did everything right with her. Socializing and exposing her to all kinds of stimuli were my main focus:  I didn't want to have a reactive dog, I wanted her to be friendly with everyone.

I wanted a dog I could take anywhere.

Almost three years later, not all of that has worked out the way I planned. Charlie absolutely LOVES people and going places, but she's highly reactive to other dogs. After three separate attacks from other dogs while we were on leash-walks in our neighborhood, she's now very fear-aggressive toward other dogs. Basically, she's going to be the one to bite first just to make sure she doesn't get bitten. It's unfortunate because I have a difficult time trusting her around other dogs and err on the safe side by keeping her leashed.
....

The thing about dog training is that it never ends. You can't finish a round of dog-training or work through a trick-training book and think, "There! We've done it! Now we can just go have fun!"
 
Training is a constant and ongoing part of a dog's life. Everything they learn needs to be reinforced on a regular basis.
 
The good part:  this constant reinforcement develops a lasting bond between you and your dog! That is the best reward of all.
....
 
One of the books I read shortly after adopting Charlie was, The Loved Dog Method by Tamar Gellar. This was the book that opened my eyes to a way of training that I could live with - using positive reinforcement. Because Charlie is so food motivated, this method worked wonders on learning loose-leash walking! If you're struggling with training your dog, I highly recommend you take a look at this book and see if any of her methods will work for you.
 
Every dog is different and not all training methods work on all dogs. Experiment and see what works for you and your dog and make sure it's a fun experience for both of you! The ultimate reward isn't a treat or a toy... it's the human-animal bond.
 
Give your dog a hug today.
 
Charlie's puppy picture... isn't she just adorable???