Thursday, February 11, 2010

Patience, Grasshopper

So many of the behavior problems we pet owners face on a daily basis all boil down to patience (or the lack of it, to be more precise!).

This part may surprise you, is not the dog's lack of patience that is the problem :) How do I know this? Experience, my friend, experience. You name the mistake and I have made it at one time or another.

What are you teaching your dog? Everything you do is teaching him something-that something is not always what we intended!

If you feed your dog while he is jumping and crashing into you and the furniture, then guess what? You have taught him this!

"So how do I fix this!?!", you may be asking yourself, as your dog rockets around the room.

The answer lies in p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.

Take a nice, deep, cleansing breath, Grasshopper.

Let us begin.

First, if you want a dog that waits nicely before, say, eating his meal, you must be the one who sets the rules. Start by holding the dish out of his reach. Wait until he is not jumping around before placing the food on the floor. You may have to feed him in a small enclosed area (bathrooms are nice for this type of work) at first so that you can walk out if he cannot control himself. Trust me, he will quickly learn that to get his dinner, he will have to settle down first.

Bad habits don't start overnight-start slowly and work up to the behavior you want. Every day ask for a little bit more. It is not fair to punish the dog for something you taught him, is it? So no yelling allowed.

No speaking is necessary during this process, by the way. In fact, try not to speak at all- let your actions do your talking for you.

We chatter way too much at our dogs-it means nothing to them and in fact, over time your voice will become meaningless background noise-not because your dog is "blowing you off" but because you have taught him that your voice is just patter. Humans speak through verbal language-we say to someone "I hear you" when we want them to know they are understood. Dogs communicate through body language. More on THAT later.

Photo: Dexter waiting at the front door to be released.
This may save his life one day!

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