So you’ve been to puppy classes, obedience classes, maybe even had one-on-one training, but your dog still isn’t behaving how you’d like him to. How could this be! This is the frustrating and confusing scenario that many dog owners find themselves in and we’d like to shed some light about why this might be…
Every time you interact with your dog you are training, whether you intend to or not. Dog trainer Suzanne Clothier puts this concept into words perfectly in her book ‘Bones Would Rain from the Sky’:
"The dog is a dog, twenty-four hours a day. His world is shaped by what you say and do, not just in training sessions but in every waking moment he is with you. Incapable of dishonesty in his own communications, a master of observation, the dog not only notices what you do, but he believes what you do to be an accurate reflection of the relationship between you. The relationship - the pivotal point on which all else turns - is built (or undermined) in every interaction."
Ponder this and think carefully about your day to day interactions with your dog. Do you insist that your dog shows self control at meal times? Do you expect good manners from them when you have visitors over? How about when your dog leaves the house – is it in a flurry of excitement as they barge past you or is it with a calm sit at the front door? When greeting other dogs on lead do they lunge towards them or do they sit and look at you to say please first?
Your dog is learning the rules, intended or not, every time you interact with them. How are they to know that you’ve had an exhausting day at work and can’t be bothered asking them to sit at the front door before a walk? They just learn that barging out the front door is now the standard of behaviour that is accepted.
Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t let loose and have fun with your dog – in fact this is a crucial part of strengthening your relationship and building trust. Just be sure to make every interaction count towards moulding your dog into a happy and polite canine citizen.