By Laura Potts, Digital Marketing Specialist at PetSafe
Are dogs’ personalities’ nature or nurture? I used to think dogs were sweet, hyper, or ball-obsessed because they were born that way. There wasn’t much we could do to change that. That’s certainly the attitude I took with my two dogs, Ellie and Lincoln. Lincoln is almost perfect. He came to us housetrained, friendly, and calm with no behavior problems. Ellie, on the other hand, brought some challenges. Her barking and possessive behavior challenged the love we had for her. I kept thinking, “If only she didn’t bark so much,” and “If only she could magically realize the error of her ways and change.”
So, when dog trainer Robin MacFarlane visited our PetSafe offices to show us how to train our dogs using our remote trainers, I jumped on board. Finally, someone could work with Ellie. I felt confident Robin would teach me how to transform Ellie into a quieter, calmer dog.
I teased Robin that she would have her work cut out for her once Ellie came. “Just wait,” I said, “You’ll see how challenging she is.” But, after Robin worked with Ellie and me for just an hour, our relationship was transformed. I was stunned to have a well-mannered dog trotting by my side and sitting quietly on command. And, frankly, I was embarrassed.
I had been blaming Ellie, but it had been me all along. Working with Robin hadn’t made Ellie into a whole new dog, it had transformed me into a more educated and consistent trainer. It has given us a way to finally start speaking the same language. My biggest “aha” moment was realizing, it wasn’t her, it was me. So, I decided to share some of the things I learned.
Pick one and only one word per command. One of my biggest problems came from using 3 or 4 words for everything I wanted Ellie to do. Instead of consistently saying “come” to get her to join me wherever I was, I would say “Come,” “Here,” “Ellie,” “No,” and the list goes on. No wonder she was confused and disobedient. Once I taught her the word “Come,” used the word consistently, and aided her learning with a remote trainer, the result was almost instant.
Follow through. Another mistake I learned was the half-hearted command. Nothing confuses a dog more than inconsistency in training. Robin stressed when I told Ellie to “Come,” it always needed to end with her standing beside me. Never issue a command that you are unable or unwilling to follow through on. It’s a quick way to undo your training efforts.
Remember the 3 Ds. Distance, duration, and distraction. They all play a key role when training. When starting out make sure the dog is close enough for you to correct them if they are having trouble. Keep training sessions and the length they have to stay in a command short. Start in a quiet or low traffic area to make sure they can focus. Each of the 3 Ds should be increased as you dog gets better. It’s pretty unrealistic to think our dogs will be able to sit 20 feet away from us for 10 minutes in the first training session. For example, after I could get Ellie to come to me from across my living room, I moved our lessons out to a yard to increase the distance between us. Then, I started working on the command in the dog park where there was more distance between us and many distractions.
After only a short time with Robin, I could see why Cesar Millan says he trains people, not dogs. It was me who needed the training all along. Once Ellie understood the commands, it was amazing how excited she got to do them. I can’t tell you how much of an impact it has made for us. She now knows “off” means to stop jumping on people, “place” means to go to her bed and stay there, and most importantly “quiet” means to stop barking. No more yelling and screaming at her. She gets it. Most importantly, she’d been waiting for me to tell her what I wanted the whole time. It wasn’t her, it was me.
What about you? What training tips have you learned along the way? Comment below and you’ll be entered to win a remote trainer to use to train your dog.
Laura manages the complete digital media presence for the PetSafe Brand. Laura also donates her time to helping improve animal welfare. She has helped saved the lives of many pets through her work and more directly by adopting two dogs of her own, Ellie and Lincoln who often accompany her to work and to volunteer events in Knoxville.