Steps To Becoming A Successful Dog Owner
Excerpt from the book: Assessing Aggression Thresholds In Dogs, Author Sue Sternberg
Successful Dog Owners:
- Have their dogs' attention. Attention is paramount - if your dog is looking at you, he cannot see all the things in life that can over-excite him, scare him, make him mad, etc. Successful dog owners never let eye contact go un-reinforced: they smile at their dogs, say "Hi," praise them, give them a treat, tell him he is a good dog, each and every time their dog looks at them. Teach your dog to look up at you as a cue and ask for it as much as you ask for a sit. Ask for eye contact before your dog sees another dog, or the neighbour, traffic, etc.
- Train their dogs - not just because they want them to sit when asked, but because all training (as long as it is reward based) is communication and the more you communicate with your dog, the more attentive he is and fulfilled. Reward-based training is fun and effective, and teaches the dog that his interactions with humans are not random. The dog can offer a behaviour that can be acknowledged, reinforced, and then the human can ask for a behaviour and the dog can acknowledge! This promotes more and more attention and eye contact from the dog and better and better behaviours.
- Maintain a minimum of ten discrete behaviours they can ask for and their dogs will execute happily and with joy. The core cues: sit, down, stay/okay, come, look at me--plus a handful of various tricks (paw, spin, sit-pretty, etc.).
- Spend quality time in nature with their dogs as often as possible. Access to nature is critical. A pet dog is an animal, first and foremost, and needs to be able to access his instincts - sniff and forage and hunt (without killing) and run and just be out in the natural environment.
- Touch and handle their dogs, confidently, gently, smoothly, proficiently, lovingly. They feel their dogs, find where they love to be touched and petted, find how hard or soft the dog’s favourite depth of petting is, and then use touch as a reward, as a shared relaxation event, as another shared bonding event.
- Engage in partnered access to a dog's instincts: Instead of, or on top of basic manner classes, successful dog owners participate in a dog sport. There is agility, barn hunt, tracking, fly ball, among many, many others. My personal favourite all-around dog sport that can fit any lifestyle and dog: Nose work. You don't have to be athletic, nor does the dog, and it inspires great teamwork and allows the dog to hunt, with you, for a Q-tip dipped in special essence oils, so no animals are harmed in this hunt!
- See the dog as a teammate in the sport of life. When out in public with their dogs, they are with them 100% - they don't multi-task. When they take their dogs for walks, they watch their surroundings, watch their dog, they don't check texts or window shop. Successful dog owners pre-empt situations so that their dogs seem to feel that the humans are in charge of the territory, and will keep them safe. The most successful dog owners stay on top of their dogs and situations, see events coming before they arrive, and use training and management to thwart bad behaviours.
- Understand that training and behaviour modification are for life, and that living with a dog is hard work, filled with compromise and honouring the dog's temperament and personality.
- Share joy. In this way pet owners build a bond, forge a partnership, earn the admiration, trust and respect of their dogs. Shared joy is play. Shared joy is a hike in nature. Shared joy is engaging in a dog sport together. Shared joy is a quiet, indoor massage. Shared joy is staying connected with dogs via conversation, eye contact, communication and by seeing the relationship as a partnership - each working to enhance the other's life.
Hope you enjoyed this chapter on being a successful dog owner!
The Team At Pooch Play Care