Whether it’s a young pup or an older dog from the shelter, there’s nothing like bringing a new canine home. Dogs provide years of joy and companionship to their owners, but unless they are properly trained, they can also bring an equal measure of hassle and frustration.
Obedience training ensures that your best friend is safe and welcome wherever it goes, and that it’s easy to live with. It helps to start early, but it’s never too late to begin training your dog, and obedience classes are a great way to ensure training is effective.
Laura Berger, who owns and operates Thinking Dog, a dog training and obedience school in Ferndale, shared the most common problems her customers have with their dogs as well as a few helpful prevention tips dog owners can practice at home.
Berger said “jumping up” is the number one complaint she hears from customers. This behavior is usually the result of people coming home to see their dogs after a long absence.
“The majority of people are so excited to see their dogs when they come home, they make a big fuss out of it,” Berger said. The dogs are excited to see their owners as well, and jump up to say hello. Owners might say, “No!” or “Down!” but they go on petting the dog anyway. This reinforces the bad behavior, Berger said.
An easy fix is to only give the dog attention when they have all four paws on the floor. If they jump up, ignore them. Cross your arms, turn your back and wait quietly until they settle down. As soon as they have four paws on the floor, pet them and verbally praise them to let them know you’re happy to see them.
Young dogs are especially prone to chewing on things that shouldn’t be chewed – furniture, shoes and other things you’d generally prefer to keep intact and slobber-free. According to the Humane Society of the United States, that’s because along with smelling, hearing and seeing their surroundings, puppies explore the world with their mouths. They also chew to relieve sore gums as their teeth come in.
Adult dogs chew too, for reasons ranging from boredom to fear. A lack of early training is often at the root of the problem.
Berger said a good dog toy is a powerful tool in ending bad chewing.
“The key is to redirect their focus when you catch them chewing,” she said. “Give them an interactive chew toy, throw a toy or play with them.”
It also helps to keep items you don’t want chewed out of your dog’s reach, use dog toys that are easily distinguishable from household items and give your dog plenty of exercise.
Pulling on the leash
Sometimes dogs don’t know their own strength. Berger said a lot of her customers complain that their dog pulls too hard on walks. “People are getting dragged around all over the place,” she said.
The leash and collar you use can help deter pulling, Berger said – and she doesn’t mean choke or pinch collars, which can hurt your dog and aren’t very effective.
A harness that attaches to the leash at the chest makes it harder for your dog to pull, as does a head halter. The way you control your dog on walks can also help change the behavior.
“Dogs are always out to reach a certain destination – usually something they smell or see and want to check out,” Berger said. Restraining your dog when it tries to pull you off the path and stopping the walk altogether until it’s ready to carry on can help teach Fido that you are in charge of the direction of the walk.
Incessant barking, not coming when called and chasing cars are some other problems that can be mitigated with proper training.
In general, positive reinforcement is the way to go and it’s never warranted to hit your dog. If efforts to control your dog’s behavior at home aren’t enough, obedience classes are a great way for your dog to learn new manners. Thinking Dog offers obedience classes from the very basics on up to advanced competitive obedience trials. Berger takes students in groups and also makes house calls. For more information, visit thinkingdog-lauraberger.com