Frustration is foe to both human and dog. Frustrated people make frustrated dogs; frustrated dogs make frustrated people. Frustrated people and dogs make mistakes out of frustration.
He shouldn’t do it.
He doesn’t listen.
He won’t come to me.
He should know better.
All said in that pinched, exasperated, teetering-on-the-edge tone.
Have you trained him? I ask. I always ask.
And the answer is always no.
Then how would he know better from worse? How would he know what you want? How would he know what he’s hearing? How would he know?
Do I sound frustrated?
It may surprise some to know that chewing, jumping, howling, barking, nipping, running and chasing are things dogs should do. These are normal and natural canine behaviors.
Training teaches a dog to behave the way you, a human, want him to behave — which is typically a deviation from natural animal behavior.
Dogs jump to catch balls, to chase butterflies, to intimidate squirrels, to play with other dogs. Teaching your dog not to jump on you is the beginning of showing him that it is not OK to jump on humans in general. You are teaching him an exception to his normal dog behavior — and he can learn this, from you, if you teach him.
Dogs chew because it feels good and satisfies a natural urge. You can’t take away the urge, but you can teach him that it is OK to chew on a Nylabone or a chew toy, and it’s not OK to chew on the leg of a chair. There is a difference. But you must teach him.
Dogs bark to communicate. It’s as natural as breathing. If you don’t want your dog to bark, ever, you shouldn’t have a dog. But it is reasonable and necessary to set limits on your dog’s barking. If he is trained to stop at “enough,” he will stop at “enough.” But you must teach him.
Puppies nip. Dogs howl. And anyone who loves dogs derives an almost giddy satisfaction from watching them run and chase and play and come to a screeching halt to collapse in the comforting shade of a tree. There is simply nothing better.
At the heart of dog training is compromise. You want there to be joy in the activities you do together. When you are walking together, you should be walking together. You don’t want to be dragged down the street, and your dog doesn’t want to be yanked and jerked into submission. Teaching “heel” is the compromise. When walking in “heel,” you walk together. Otherwise, your dog gets to be a dog. He gets to sniff and explore and run and chase and thrill you to tears simply by being himself: a dog, a great dog.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com, and visit him at http://www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to email@example.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
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