Focus: Getting the Dog’s Attention


Berbop on Santa's lap, with Dash

Bebop on Santa’s lap, with Dash

I see dogs with behavior problems most days of the week.  Pet dogs. Dogs that people have gotten as pets with  no plan  or strategy  to get the dog  ‘trained’.  I know the reason this happens is that  dog owners  not only get   wrong or incomplete  information from watching TV, but from the ‘experts’ who have never trained a dog, but who speak with authority, and tell these dog owners what to do.

This is more baffling and irritating (to me) because now, with the internet, you can find all sorts of good information. So, I guess people are lazy and stupid.  I can’t think of any other   explanation for dog owners allowing their dogs to be out of control.

One of my fellow dog groomers told me about a client of hers who just got a puppy.  It’s an Australian Cattle Dog puppy, and  it’s ‘already biting’ so they just keep it in the crate.  She tells me the  owners got the pup from a  Cattle Dog rescue. Really?  A puppy…and it’s already in rescue? Doesn’t that tell you that  too many people are breeding Cattle Dogs, and there are  not enough good homes?

OK, whatever.  I think this  family was expecting a Shih Tzu or Maltese pup, not a working dog, bred for generations to  chase and bite the heels of  sheep and cows.  In my last post about dog training,  I addressed spending a few minutes at a time  shaping the behavior of the dog to get the results you want.

I  offered to help the  family teach the dog to focus, and teach them how to get the dog’s attention, so they can start undoing  what  they’ve already ‘taught’ the pup, and start over….  since my co-worker is the actual contact, we’ll see how this goes…but this is what I am going to tell you all who  got pups under  six months old who are biters:

Most puppies that bite are reacting to something they fear, and are using their instincts to stop what (or who) is causing them to fear;

Or, they were bred to  bite first (react) and if you are planning on keeping this dog as a pet, you have to get his attention;

It’s up to you to make sure the  pup is getting enough exercise, enough rest, and a nutritious diet.  There ar no excuses.  if you are making excuses.  Admit you made a mistake and return the pup.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t go looking for another home for the dog—return it to the people who sold or gave you the pup. It is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY.

After exercizing the pup, have the dog sit, touch his temple with your finger then immediately touch your temple, causing the pup to make eye contact. Say, ‘watch me.’ IMMEDIATELY GIVE THE PUP A TREAT (the size of a cheerio.  Click with your tongue as you do this (unless you  have become very adept with a clicker). Do this several times a day.]

Start walking the dog on a leash—-with a martingale collar. NO HARNESSES. harnesses were designed so a dog can pull you, and you don’t want that.  A Martingale collar won’t choke your pup, but will restrain it.  Call  grooming shops, veterinarians, even your park district, to find out who runs dog training classes, and what they teach. You might not be the best dog trainer in the world, but the whole point of doing dog training is  bonding with your dog, and starting to communicate with and understand each other.There are also many  excellent dog training books available.  I like, “Good Owners, Great Dogs,” by Kilcommon & Wilson.

In any case, we’ve learned a lot about dog training and how dogs learn in the last several decades.  It’s all kind, and all positive.  If you don’t want to communicate with a dog, why did you get a dog?

 

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