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Pet Parenting Articles

It’s Not You, It’s Me

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."

Before Laura trainer herself on training, she thought all the problems were Ellie's fault. Now, she knows she was making just as many mistakes in her training as Ellie was in her behavior.

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.


ABOUT LAURA 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.

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Consistency!! I trained my dane to ring a bell on the door when he has to go out. Everytime I would take him out I would put his paw on the bell and ring it and say “ring the bell” he does it faithfully…at 2am., 3am., 5:30am….oh and the best is when I am cooking (the stove is by the door) He will ring it and look at me, ring it again and look at me, then ring, ring, ring ring a ding ding ding!!!..he can get a little

Consistency and repitition have to be the two most important things when training.  I always try and show my guests the different commands/handsignals I use. We are currently working on greeting at the role. I’m trying to train my choc lab and Boston terrier a specific spot to sit at, about 7 foot from the door, where they should sit and wait for a release command. Next I’m going to work on how to behave once released but they are so excited. Any help/suggestions on that would be greatly appreciated. I have a petsafe remote trainer and have found it invaluable in my labs training. I am using it now to discourage digging in the back yard, consistency is the problem there.

Too many people when praising a dog for doing something correctly will say things like, “Good sit” when they sit properly. Unfortunately, it’s more confusing to the dog. The best thing is just ONE word, “Good” or “Yes” or whatever you choose, at the point of good behavior, followed with a treat.

Dustin, It is so easy for dogs to get excited to meet new people. Like Laura talks about in her post, it is best to teach them the command “Off” to mean to get off of or away from what they are doing. You can use it to discourage jumping, digging, or begging. I hope that helps!! We’re so glad you read our blog and love your Remote Trainer!!

Sue, yes!! Treating is so important. Have you used our Lickety Stik yet? I bet your dogs would love it!

Oh, yes!! Frenchy is trained to ring the bells to potty too. Often she uses it just to go outside! :)

I have learned that anything can be a command, even non-typical phrases. For example, I have a very hyperactive dog that likes to jump (not on people, just up) and try to get your attention when you get home. I ask her “How do good girls get attention?” and her butt hits the floor because she knows that’s the only way she’s going to get attention.

Ellen! That is so cute!! Isn’t it funny how dogs learn to pick up on how to make us happy? I bet your puppy gets lots of love when she sits down for attention! :) Thanks for reading.

What I learned from training my Kahlua is when she tries to jump on me I put my hand up and she sits down. when I ask her if she wants a treat she walks right along side me to her treat jar and sits gives me her paw to get her treat. Also when I feed her she walks along side me to fill her dish then walks back with me and stand there until i put it down and walk away

Dina, Kahlua sounds so sweet! I am so glad she has you! Thanks for reading our blog.

After reading through the other comments, it is safe to say consistency is the key.  Although my issue is with getting Tank (my dane)to come. He is 1 1/2 yrs old and we went through obedience training, but he is just so stubborn when it comes to “come” big problem is the neighbor across the road has chickens, so he is curious of course.  He just tunes me out…any suggestions?  A remote trainer most definitely would help me in this situation..I am scared he is going to be hit by a car,  so unfortunately when he goes out he has to be on a lead and I hate that.  I want to be able to let him have some freedom to run in the yard with out fearing he will run off. 
The other thing I am having issue with is he likes to bark and bark and grab my arm (shirt sleeve) while I am on the phone (like a 2 year old) it’s like he want’s my attention.  I try to stop this by making him sit and stay…but again he can be very persistant and stubborn.  Any suggestions to help me?

Stephanie, it does sound like you need a remote trainer!! Thanks for reading. Email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you have any further questions!

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I was “trained” by my dog trainer about 28 years ago, before the use of remote trainers. I did use one for my current dog because he would “attack” in the backyard thinking he was playing. It made the difference for that. Going out in the front yard was something my two prior dogs mastered and for that I used a long rope and patience. I would sit on the front steps while my dog would “roam”. The minute he got too close to the street I would firmly yank the rope attached to their chain collar. The dog did not experience any real discomfort and quickly found the boundaries of the property. I could go in the house and leave them outside only to find them there every time I returned. I would watch squirrels and cats cross the street but the dog would go to the end of the property and sit and just watch. Midnight, my dog now, has been a little more challenging than the others but will stay in the boundaries most of the time although I haven’t been able to leave him for any length of time by himself but he will get it eventually I am sure.

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