20 Reasons Why Your Dog Doesn’t Listen.
When it REALLY Matters, Your Dog Flat Out Ignores You!
by Kevin “The Dog Prodigy”
It’s time to put an end to all the guesswork as to why your dog plays dumb, deaf, or you swear you’ve become invisible, especially when it comes to _________________ (fill in the blank).
I bet you had no idea that there are twenty factors. This section is my favorite and the longest chapter of my book. It can easily be a mini book of its own. Some call it the crown jewels of the book. Let’s see if you agree!
Your Dog is Testing You or Doesn’t Feel Like Listening
Maybe you’ve been the provider, the spoiler, the mommy, the daddy, the buddy, the observer, or just the nagger, but definitely NOT the leader.
If we could read the doggie’s thoughts in a bubble above his head, it would read, “Oh come on. Who gave you the idea that I should listen to YOU now? Sit down, shut up and give me some treats or else I’ll pee and poo on your bed tonight. Take that, you dog trainer wannabe!”
Even if you are somewhat in charge, your dog rarely responds to you when it TRULY counts. This means he is testing you or even worse, playing dumb at that moment and at that location.
You’ve Been Brainwashed into Using Treats for Everything
“As long as you keep those treats coming, I’ll do whatever you ask” is what crosses your dog’s mind as you keep shoving goodies down his throat and call it training.
Be honest. Do you have your voice and praise with you at all times or a bag of beef jerky? Even those trainers who advocate bribery can’t do much without their pouch of hot dogs. If you don’t believe me, challenge them on it and wait for that “deer in the headlights” look.
This debate has already been discussed in great detail in chapter four (Biggest Scam in Modern Dog Training). If you haven’t read it, please do so. It is the most controversial chapter of my book for a reason. Otherwise, it’s like watching a movie halfway through. You can’t always guess what happened earlier.
You Are Mixing Commands and Not Being Consistent
You or another member of your family isn’t consistent or crystal clear with your commands. For example, one day, to stop your dog’s constant barking, you yell out his name hoping that will do the trick. And the next, you change it to: “Hey,” “Shush,” or “Knock it off.” And when you finally lose it, you grab a shoe and start chasing after your dog, screaming, “Shut the %$&# up!”
If the poor dog could talk, he’d say, “So which is it? Sounds like you guys don’t even know what you want! How should I?”
One of the key elements in achieving solid results is being clear and consistent with your dog. Most owners and even some trainers practice every day and still end up with a very weak or sloppy-trained dog. Again, this could very well be due to poor communication and inconsistency in your training method.
You Thought All Along that it Must Be Your “Voice”
Sorry, but there is no need to sound like your husband, boyfriend, son, or your father-in-law in order for your dog to take you seriously. In case you didn’t know, over ninety percent of dog trainers in America, and probably around the world, are actually women! I find it funny when some of you sound like Mickey Mouse when you are supposed to get firm with your dog, and growl like The Hulk when you need to come across as friendly or non-threatening.
Many of you make the mistake of dragging out the command, like: “Siiiiiiiiiit,” “Leave iiiiiiiiiiit,” or “Dowwwwn.” But, by doing so, you actually sound as if you are asking or singing to your dog.
Here’s the Secret: There should be no melody in your voice while giving a command. So if it sounds like a request, a nag, or a drill sergeant, you’ve been misled. I always tell my clients, “Don’t nag it, don’t drag it, and certainly don’t shout it.”
Even some trainers make the mistake of raising their voice while giving commands. Don’t forget the undeniable fact that dogs can hear three to four times better than us. So why bother yelling at any living thing that can hear better than both of us combined? Unless it is a real emergency, save those lungs when you REALLY need to shout in order to get your dog’s attention.
It makes me laugh every time I see a guy yell out a command and the walls in the room start to shake. All because the dog refused to sit, stay or lie down. Take it easy. Nobody’s getting killed, for crying out loud. Trust me; you’ll impress people far more when they see your dog responding to your instructions in a normal tone of voice. Let’s face it; any moron can scream!
Your Dog is Spoiled. These Dogs Always Challenge Authority
You’ve probably already read this on my (Spoiled Dog Test,) and it can’t hurt to bring it up again: Spoiled pooches, just like spoiled kids, rarely listen to you or anyone else. These dogs have you wrapped around their paw and they know it. All it takes is a temper-tantrum of barking, whining, scratching, jumping or bouncing back and forth; and you become hypnotized, find yourself giving in to your dog.
Perhaps the reason you let your dog run the show is because he happens to be too old, too young, too small, too handicapped or just too darned cute. Or maybe your dog has had a rough past so now you’ve given him a free pass to be a jerk or do as he pleases.
Some of you let your dog get away with murder because he’s missing a leg, an eye, or even worse, has a few months to live. The truth is you can still modify ALL of your dog’s bad habits to meet your expectations. Cesar Millan said it best: “Dogs don’t live in the past, but live in the moment.” Ironically, they are known to adapt to any circumstance and lifestyle.
Be honest. Your dog knows exactly what works on you and what doesn’t. So if you constantly baby her, you’d better be prepared for her to one day totally ignore you, or worse, embarrass you in front of your guests or out in public. From experience, your dog knows that you rarely follow through on what you say.
Sometimes it’s the spoiler who comes to the rescue. And I’m betting that person is most likely going to be your spouse, one of the kids, a relative, or the grandparents. These dogs pee and poo everywhere, beg for food, whine, and of course, use their annoying bark to get your attention. Some go from snapping and lunging, to full-on biting to make their point. (You guessed it; they are a lot like spoiled kids. Hopefully your kids don’t bite!)
Regardless of your method or philosophy, I think every expert out there would agree that the more you spoil your dog, the more he will ignore, challenge, attack people, other dogs, or some day, may eventually turn on YOU!
Your Training Technique Lacks “Diversity”!
We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice makes perfect.” But if I get a bit technical here, it is actually correct practice that will get you eye-catching results. In fact, when you carefully study topnotch trainers, you’ll find that they don’t always care about how often they work with their dogs. To them, how you train is far more important!
Think of dancing for a minute. Anybody can hit the dance floor and shake their booty and call it dancing. You see the same boring moves over and over again. There is no skill, no technique, no swag, no originality, and yet this person breaks a sweat honestly believing that they’re one of the best dancers in town.
Whether it is dancing or dog training, your technique, your timing, your posture, your attitude and your willingness to take constructive criticism, will ultimately determine your raw success!
Now, don’t contact me for dancing lessons. I love to watch others dance, but I don’t dance, run or jog. Besides, I’ve watched enough Law & Order and know too well that joggers are the ones who always find dead bodies or become the victims of an assault. That’s why I’m sitting safe and sound leaving my butt print on my couch, watching “So You Think You Can Dance”. And if you ever catch me running, it means the dog is chasing the Dog Prodigy!
Your Dog isn’t Off-Leash Trained to Listen From a Distance
Don’t you have a doubt or that nagging fear of how your dog may act once he gets loose? After all, no matter how careful you are, someday, somehow, your dog will run wild and play the “catch me if you can” game.
What’s sad is even if you are the careful or the responsible one in your family, you can’t always depend on your spouse, the kids, your roommate, or your gardener to close the gate behind him. This is why being able to get your dog to listen from a distance is a MUST!
It’s even worse if you are one of those careless owners who prefer to walk your untrained dog with no leash. Ask yourself: Are you confident enough in his command response when he’s not within your reach? How about when out of the blue another dog comes face-to-face with yours?
What if a kid wants to pet your dog, and he jumps up on him to show his affection or to take a chunk out of him? Don’t forget the neighborhood cats, the squirrels, or if you live in the country, the chickens, horses, skunks, bears or even sheep and deer. And I’m sure there are some of you who put up with lots of coyotes and mountain lions.
Sadly, the majority of dog owners are completely helpless in these situations. Be my guest! Yell out, “NO,” “HEY,” or “Get over here,” all you want, but you can almost hear your dog laughing, “Yeah right. You honestly expect me to listen to you when I’m not even attached to anything? Suuuuuuuure. I don’t obey much when I’m across the room or across the yard. So why should I mind you when I’m totally free? Keep dreaming… human!”
This is what you get when you feel sorry for your dog and let him have some fun by running free to get a little exercise.
Your ultimate goal should be for your dog to respond from a distance, in any room, any yard, any park, or any beach, just with voice control.
Keep in mind; a truly off-leash trained dog means a dog that obeys from a distance and around hard-to-avoid distractions. In simple terms, off-leash means complete verbal control of your dog under ANY circumstances. I’m not just referring to obedience commands like Sit, Stay, Down, Heel or Come. This also applies when you reprimand your dog from a distance with, “NO,” “Leave it,” “Off,” “Calm Down,” “Shush,” “Be Nice,” or any other command of your choice.
When you really think about it, even in your home or your backyard, 99.9% of the time your dog is without a leash and not within your reach. You need to be prepared for that “what-if” moment! I am known to challenge pet owners and even trainers with my “what-if” questions. In fact—
The more you think and prepare for every possible “what-if” scenario, the
more you are preparing your dog and yourself for the real-world.
If a trainer cannot prepare you for those “what if” moments, find a different one. As this clearly indicates their training only works around little or no distractions. I’ve seen trainers’ dogs act unruly and embarrass their handlers when they got loose around tempting distractions.
Dog schools that advertise advanced off-leash response and those who actually can back up their claim with their own dogs—or even better, with their clients’ dogs—are very hard to come by. After all, they should practice what they preach. Talk is cheap.
I’ve witnessed a few dogs attacking people or other dogs that belonged to these so-called trainers. Yes, you read that correctly! The trainer’s dog needed more help! So you can imagine what kind of “expert” these folks were dealing with. (It reminds me of a mechanic who push-starts his own car to work every day.)
You Haven’t Mastered the Art of Distraction-Proofing
We all know that life is full of distractions, yet many of you have little or no control over your dog when he is faced with your visitors, other dogs, or the mailman.
It’s all about that progression. You see, in order to distraction-proof a dog properly, you need to start in your backyard. Within a few training sessions, move to your front yard. Once you are able to get your dog’s attention in one area, see how well he obeys in an entirely new location.
After mastering those locations, move on to more challenging zones. As I mentioned in chapter one: You need to make your pooch street-smart. There are many circumstances out there that throw off even the most seasoned pet owners. This is why it’s best to be prepared for ANY possible scenario!
For example, your dog should never break the stay command. I don’t care if dinosaurs come back to life and start walking the streets, stay means stay. No matter what, your dog should NOT move from that spot.
Prior to hiring me, many of my clients could not make their dogs stay for more than a few seconds. And the dogs that were able to do it for a minute or so, wouldn’t even do that around dogs or when company was present.
Again, the main reason these dogs did not hold a solid stay was simple: All of them were taught to stay just because they were going to get a treat. My radar always went up every time I caught them licking their lips. The owners kept repeating, stay, stay, stay… gooood stayyyyyy…while the dog was drooling and staring at the treat five feet away from him. (WOW! Now that’s what you call the highest level of difficulty!)
Don’t you ever forget practicality in your training! You want to be so prepared that virtually nothing can catch you two off guard. We all know that relying on treats isn’t a part of real life. Even show confirmation, agility training, or flyball aren’t considered a part of our day-to-day routine.
Besides, how many of you really care about showing your dog? Yeah. Good luck competing at the next Westminster Dog Show with your fixed, mixed, or shelter dog. I know some of you might own a champion pedigree with real show potential, but from experience, I’ve noticed that the majority of people get their dogs spayed and neutered as soon as possible.
Are You on the Same or the “Sane Page” with Your Trainer?
In my years of dealing with thousands of dog owners from all walks of life, I discovered that people actually prefer a polite pet far more than a super-trained dog. And it makes perfect sense. Think about it: The majority of you could care less if your dog wins you bunch of titles, ribbons and trophies. (Maybe you’d enroll your pooch in “The Cutest Dog Contest,” but that’s about it.)
Don’t get me wrong; I have a tremendous respect for those who compete in obedience trials. Just like the Olympics, this is where you expect to see perfection! But let’s face it; not everyone is or can be a perfectionist. How about you? Would you rather have a dog that has manners or a dog that obeys like a soldier? And if you pay close attention to obedience competitions, you’ll notice that all of those dogs are performing a routine, a task, or another well-rehearsed drill. What you don’t know is even most of those exercises can’t always be put to use out in the real world. (Like doing bunch of black-flips: Impressive to watch and fun to do; especially if you can DO them—but just not practical.)
Now, be honest. Do you really care if your dog can jump over obstacles, sniff out a dumbbell, and drop it by your feet? I seriously doubt it. How about a marvelous heel right next to you? Just being able to walk the dog on a loose leash is enough for most people to throw a party. And I’m also certain that not all of you are crazy about teaching your dog to come to you with his nose perfectly aligned to your crotch. (Only a few of you caught what I just described there. Folks, I just went over a number of exercises in obedience trials.)
Bottom line, if you can get your dog to come to you every time, that is a wonderful thing! I think I’ve made my point. The Canine Good Citizen Test is what I actually recommend. Since this test really prepares you and your dog for practical things. There are no dumbbells, no hoops to jump through, and no need to have your dog constantly looking at you or your cool hand signals. But even this test will challenge your training foundation to its core.
Here’s why: If you are struggling to get your dog’s attention around minor distractions in your home, why make a fool of yourself in front of ten new dogs and strangers? It has been proven that dogs and people learn much quicker in a one-on-one setting rather than in groups.
In conclusion, you should always look for ways to get your dog to listen to you in real-world. And it can easily be accomplished without yelling, hitting or relying on that bribery nonsense.
This is where many desperately seek my help. They say, “Kevin, everything stops working when my dog _______ (fill in your reason). In most of these cases, I found that the owners didn’t have the slightest idea how to desensitize their dog.
Let me clarify: Why should you even bother asking your dog to stay for you in front of another dog, in front of your cat, or frequent visitors, when you can’t even get her to stay in one spot in your yard, living room or in your kitchen for at least ten to fifteen minutes? Can you honestly get your dog to stay put ten feet away from you with your front door/gate wide open? How about risking it without the leash?
!!! Here’s How Pros Distraction-Proof Their Dogs !!!
Top trainers are really into desensitization. Their goal is to get their dogs used to all kinds of diversions. Here’s a glimpse of their routine: They get their dogs accustomed to loud noises, kids playing and dogs that act differently. They practice around cats, squirrels, moving cars, garbage trucks, the vacuum cleaner and even the lawnmower.
From working around kids on skateboards and scooters, to soccer moms pushing strollers, they do it all. They condition their dogs to behave in front of the mail carrier, men in uniform, people in wheelchairs, and anyone wearing shades or baseball caps. And of course, they also get their dogs used to people of a different ethnicity and gender. Otherwise, any of these could set ANY dog off and cause him to bark, growl, lunge, or get very scared. My point is it should not even matter where you are, or even if you happen to run into someone who looks or acts differently! You and your pooch must remain cool, calm and collected.
You’ve been Blessed with a Very Stubborn Dog
Almost every dog that I’ve trained so far happened to be headstrong. Perhaps your dog’s ruling like the king or queen of your castle, but could act shy, timid or even submissive around dogs and strangers. Don’t you find this fascinating?
The majority of people whether they own a Maltese or a Mastiff, let that dog walk all over them. Some of these dogs aren’t even considered dominant. They are just consistent! Don’t forget; consistent and dominant aren’t the same thing. Now, most of you read the word dominant, and probably visualize a Rottweiler with a forty-inch neck. On the contrary, I could be referring to a Chihuahua or a fluffy Pomeranian that is as strong-willed as they come. I’ve also dealt with Golden Retrievers that had more alpha traits than a Bulldog.
One way you can definitely find out a dog’s stubborn streak is around distractions. Again, this could be another dog, a visitor, the mailman, a squirrel, a cat, or even a noise. And sometimes, there could be no reason other than you are NOT holding your dog’s favorite treat.
If we could hear those thoughts again, they’d be, “Look, I know what sit means. I just don’t want to do it right this second.” Or, “I know sit, you know that I know it, and I darn well know that I know it. I just hate to listen when I want to investigate other things! Got that?”
You Know Exactly What to Do, But You Just Won’t Do it
Many of you know precisely what to do, how to do it, and why you should do it, but you just don’t do it. These folks are even well aware of a specific tool that works on their dog. Does this remind you of anyone? Come on. Admit it. You either stopped using a certain tool, someone talked you out of it, you assumed that your dog doesn’t need it anymore, or perhaps, you gave it away. Often it is your spouse that made it disappear. And sometimes the training tool has nothing to do with it; you’ve been lazy or making excuses. It’s time to get back on track.
Look, we all know that practicing once in a while is better than nothing, but not nearly enough. Not only will your dog’s training response get sloppy, but he soon will start to test you all over again. Dogs are a lot like music instruments. They need to be tuned on a regular basis.
I cannot emphasize enough that your dog will NOT stay trained without your constant reinforcement. After all, isn’t this the case whether you are working with a private trainer or prefer the send-away option?Now, unless you are willing to literally adopt me, the maintenance aspect of the training is always your responsibility! So it wouldn’t be fair to blame me or your dog for your procrastination.
You see, when you are inconsistent with your training, then out of the blue, tell your dog to stay or heel perfectly; your dog will most likely play deaf and dumb with you. Here’s why: Your dog is thinking to himself, “Not that nonsense again. It’s been months or even years since you’ve asked me to do jack. So why NOW? Showing off again? Hey, I can give a paw. That’s all I’ve got. Check it out. Right paw, left paw, kisses and even rollover. Watch me grab a treat from midair without it touching the ground. There. This proves that I am smart, trained AND cute.” ”
You Blame Everything on Your Dog’s Age
Every dog has the potential to change for the better. That is just the fact. Your dog can easily be taught to differentiate between right and wrong; or what you’ll tolerate and what you will not!
It amazes me when I see many of you who don’t even bother to solve any of your dog’s bad habits just because he happens to be too old. I seriously doubt that you’d want people to remember your dog in his last years, or even last few months, as a dog that nobody could stand. I will say it again:
NO Dog is Too Old or Too Young For Training!
Studies have shown that a dog’s ability to obey commands and to act polite rarely has anything to do with his age. In fact, with a Diverse Method, understanding dog psychology, and your diligent effort, all dogs can change.
For instance, you can teach your dog the rules of your house and how to behave around your friends, strangers, dogs and kids. The age, breed, size or his past should not make one bit of difference. Think about this for a moment, even if your dog has been abused, neglected, or was running the show with the previous owners, what matters is what you are going to do about it from here on!
The right approach and a positive attitude will transform her into a new dog. You don’t have a dumb dog. She’ll soon realize that was then, and this is NOW. You’ll see the look that means: These guys act and do things differently than my previous owners.
Let’s say you have a dog that isn’t fully house-broken or marks inside your home and all over your lovely furniture. Perhaps your dog barks constantly, gets aggressive toward other dogs on walks, or becomes overprotective around your guests. Now, wouldn’t you want to get these annoying bad habits under control immediately? It just doesn’t make sense to put up with such bad behavior any longer, does it? Then please don’t pull out the age card again.
If a trainer made you feel hopeless just because your dog happened to be a young pup or an old grouch, you obviously have been looking in all the wrong places. A seasoned expert can easily plan out a program to eliminate or, at the very least, reduce all of your dog’s unacceptable behavior regardless of his age. I do it all the time and so do other top experts in their field.
No dog is too young, too old, or even too aggressive for me to NOT give it a second chance.
Let me give you one last example: Imagine that you have a seven-year-old dog in desperate need of training or behavior modification. Unless you own a Great Dane that, sadly, has a life span of 7-10 years maximum, I’m sure you’ll agree that your dog could easily live another four to five years of its natural life.
Now, ask yourself this question: Do I really want to put up with even more unruly behavior for a few more years just because of my dog’s AGE? Do you honestly believe that your dog will somehow turn into perfect angel as he gets older? Are you that optimistic or the word that I’m looking for is… that naïve? If so, wake up and smell the coffee! I promise that your dog will get far worse as he ages.
What Can You Possibly Teach a Young Pup?
About forty percent of my clients are puppy owners. Many even drop off or ship their dogs directly from the breeder to me. Surprisingly, I am one of the few in the business who will even talk to you if your pup happens to be younger than four months old. Once you start making some calls, you’ll find that the majority of trainers aren’t knowledgeable in puppy management. This is because they focus more on socialization and the obedience factor, but rarely on puppy problem-solving.
These are the trainers that throw puppy classes and just hope or assume that your doggie should housebreak itself. They’ll tell you to: just ignore your pup’s constant whining and barking. Some even believe that your dog will eventually learn to stop his nipping and jumping up on you or your guests without any effort on your part. Hmm.. I think they are actually referring to when your dog gets arthritis or when his age hits the two digits—whichever comes first.
Don’t forget that I am NOT just talking about teaching a puppy to sit, lie down, or to heel. In fact, having your dog respond to obedience commands might be the last thing on your mind. These cute pups do what I call a “psycho dance.” They fight and bite the leash, put the brakes on, shake their heads side-to-side and actually act… well, a bit possessed. (It reminds me of head-bangers in the middle of a mosh pit in those heavy metal concerts.)
Not Current on the Shots? Not a Problem!
Most people automatically assume that their pup needs to be current on all of the vaccinations in order to start any type of training. This is simply just another bad information! Think about it. You can have a trainer come to your home. As long as you don’t expose your doggie to outdoors until he’s at least four months old, due to the risks of Parvo and other harmful viruses, he should be fine.
For example, with pups that are younger than four months, I take the same measures and precautions as you or the breeder would in keeping its surroundings clean and sanitized. Again, you don’t need to put up with a young dog’s unruly behavior and a stinky house for a few more weeks, let alone a few more months—unless YOU want to. In fact, the longer you put off training your dog, the harder it will be to turn those bad habits around.
Bottom line, just because a trainer said that you can’t teach a young pup anything, doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Here’s the harsh reality: Whether you do anything or not, your dog is still constantly learning. I’m sure you wouldn’t want that learning process to include getting away with even more bad habits or finding new ways to cause you more headaches and frustration.
You Truly Are in Charge, but Only Half of the Time
I’ve been to thousands of homes and noticed something interesting. Of every twenty families, the man happened to be in charge in only two or three. The rest had the women if not all, making MOST of the decisions. Now, here’s what I don’t get: These women were rarely taller or physically stronger than their men, yet all it took was one dirty look and the rest was history. I’ve seen one raise that lip and lunge at the poor guy, making him jump back with his tail between his legs. (Talk about who’s the real alpha!)
What’s my point? Well, being in charge only half of the time isn’t going to cut when it comes to any breed of dog. This is why when you let your dog to get away with not listening, even if it is only ten or twenty percent of the time, it still makes a HUGE difference in how he obeys and respects you in general.
For you ladies out there, being in charge of your doggie is a lot like being in charge of your man. Let me explain: If you run the show eighty percent of the time, it’s certainly better than nothing. But until you really are in charge one hundred percent, your dog will most likely continue to challenge you. You’ll find that eighty percent gets pushed to seventy, and then sixty and then… well, you get the idea.
Again, you need one hundred percent authority over your dog or else you always will have that nagging doubt of your dog someday, somewhere, making a fool out of you. I am not saying that all of a sudden you become or act like a boot camp officer. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. The idea is to be firm and kind.
I once asked one of my clients, “So who wears the pants in this house, you or your husband?” Without missing a beat, she answered, “Oh Kev, he definitely wears the pants all right. I just tell him which pants to wear.” By the way, in England they call pants trousers. Just in case you British men play dumb with me and say, “Nobody wears the pants in this house.” Yeah, have a nice cup of tea and think twice, pal. That is, if your woman even lets you. (I love the Zen tea from Tazo. Let’s see if I get anything from them. Oh, did I mention that I can always make room for a Lamborghini in my driveway?)
Your Dog Wins His Way by Barking, Growing or Snapping
You try to move your dog off your lap or push him off the couch when he suddenly growls and shows you a nice set of canines. He may even lunge or snap in an attempt to really scare you! You jump back and say to yourself, “HOLY COW! I guess I’ll leave you alone, you brat!”
Here’s the doggie logic for ya: Your dog is thinking, “I will move whenever I feel like it. Got that? Now GET LOST! Grrrrrr.”
You see, every time your dog growls and charges at you or others and actually gets away with it, you lose your place in the pack, and your psycho dog wins! This is a very nasty habit that, if left alone, always gets worse. I doubt that you want your dog’s bad behavior to go from worse to worst! These are the dogs that need the help of an expert who specializes in dealing with canine aggression and dominance. To put it bluntly—
An average trainer, with average skills, average knowledge, and by accepting average cases, doesn’t stand an average chance.
Once you call a few dog schools, you’ll immediately notice that most of them are not experienced in dealing with aggressive cases. In fact, they don’t even accept them. That’s just the sad reality in the world of dog training: Teaching the “obedience component” is all they know and care about. A vast majority of trainers are completely clueless when it comes to problem-solving and behavioral issues. The other reason is the liability factor that many park districts or pet stores don’t want to deal with.
In contrast, I get a kick out of working with difficult cases. Here’s how I look at it: Any bozo can tell you to get rid of your dog. We need to get rid of the problem, educate the owners, and ultimately save the dog.
Your Dog is Sensitive or Acts Like it to Win Your Sympathy
The majority of pet owners can’t tell what is serious and what isn’t when their dog acts up! The reason for this is simple: Most of these dogs are ridiculously spoiled. So you can imagine why once you put your foot down and decide to get firm, your dog may give you the look that reads, “How could you? You forgot that I’m your baby?”
Some of these dogs have managed to even fool ME! I’ve had a few in my boot camp that barked, howled and screamed nonstop as if they were being killed. As I rushed in to see what was really going on, all I found was a dog standing, scratching, and staring at me with those googly eyes. I nicknamed the males “Oscar,” as in an Oscar-winning performance, and the females “Emmy,” for Emmy Award nominee. So if you have a dog with Oscar or Emmy Award potential, you will have to learn when your dog is acting and when it truly is a big deal. After all, you just know your dog. (And with some, it takes a pro with a trained-eye).
Don’t forget that all spoiled dogs have mastered giving you the sad-eye, innocent look, and that heart-melting whimper. As soon as you decide to get firm, some turn their back to make you feel horrible for establishing your authority. I mean, how could you? Did you already forget the cuteness? People don’t pay me thousands of dollars to tell me that their dog is awfully cute! (They also miss that cute Persian rug that their dog pooped on ten times so far.)
Admit it; your dog can be quite manipulative. I’m betting he knows exactly what works on you and what doesn’t. Don’t some kids get away with unacceptable behavior? In fact, didn’t YOU or your siblings try to pull some moves on your parents? Of course you did!
To be fair, some dogs truly are that shy, scared or sensitive, but the vast majority are amazing actors. Take it from someone who deals with at least ten to fifteen dogs on a daily basis. I’ve known a few that even faked a limp when they wanted to win the owner’s sympathy. (The dog is limping while the training is in session, but once you unhook that leash, he runs nonstop like a dog on meth.)
This is when an experienced expert can always tell the difference. And of course, just like us, if your dog is truly frightened or not as confident, he won’t respond to you as expected. Can you blame him?
You Never Knew How Well Your Dog Can Read Body Language
Would you believe that eighty to ninety percent of most communication is nonverbal? We all know that words can be deceiving and commands can get mixed up, but body language rarely lies. In fact, you can often get the real truth from someone’s body language.
You can tell a lot just by the way a person sits or shakes your hand. See whether they lean back, forward, cross their legs, or if they fidget repeatedly. How about the way someone stands? Pay attention to their arms. Are they crossed, on their hips, in their pockets, or held behind their back? How about the way someone looks at you or maybe even tries to avoid making eye contact. These traits all reveal a great deal about a person. Heck, sometimes you don’t even need to know what language someone’s speaking. All you have to do is study their body language.
Men do this to women all the time. You could say that we are good observers, but poor listeners. The truth is we are good at pretending that we heard you. My secret is to keep saying, “Hmm,” “WOW,” “Is that right?” “NO, she didn’t,” and my favorite of all, “You’ll figure it out. Just go with your intuition.” Listen up, men. Do this and you won’t end up on the Dr. Phil show. (Too bad most book readers are women and only a few guys will get their hands on my golden advice.)
Now, let’s see how your doggy reads YOU based on your body language and posture. You see, if you train your dog by constantly bending over, kneeling down, backing away or following her with your face, you are making the training routines even more complicated. In fact, by doing so, you are unknowingly giving yourdog the role of control.
It makes me smile every time I see owners and even some trainers get on their knees and slap the ground in an attempt to get the dog to lie down. Hello? The dog already knows where the floor is. And you certainly don’t need to have her follow your finger all the way to the ground either. This is simply tricking your dog into thinking that you are holding some sort of treat, which isn’t fair at all.
When you are able to make your dog lie down on command without any yelling, hitting or bribery, this proves that he has accepted you as the one in charge. To be precise, he is actually submitting to you as a sign of respect!
The only time you should break your back is while patting, praising, or when you are dealing with a fearful dog. Can you think of anyone who would approach a scared or a shy dog by standing erect with their hands on their waist? I hope not. Most of us know that is a dominant gesture and sometimes could be interpreted a bit confrontational.
Don’t forget that dogs are masters at reading not only the dogs’ but also humans’ body language. That’s why it makes sense to be conscious of when to stand up and when you need to get down to your dog’s level. For example, if you own a long-haired dog and his hair is covering his eyes, you won’t be able to fully communicate with it. Your dog will have a difficult time seeing your body language, your hand signals, facial expressions and the reaction or posture of other dogs. And it’s really not fair for your pooch to figure things out by relying solely on his sense of smell or hearing.
The rule of thumb should be: If you can’t see your dog’s eyes, then obviously he can’t see yours either. This is especially important if your pooch happens to suffer from hearing loss or has gone completely deaf due to illness or old age.
Your Dog is Overly Cautious with Strangers or Other Dogs
When we get scared, we either respond with fight, flight, freeze, or throw in an “F bomb.” Dogs aren’t any different. Some show fear only towards men. Some are afraid of every dog they encounter, and some become aggressive or fearful with anybody who walks in your front door.
If you’ve ever dealt with a skittish dog, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In the first few days, these dogs are in a state of observation. In other words, they are casing the joint! (Let’s see how many of you even know what the heck I just said there.) They carefully study your behavior to see whether you are loud, friendly, mean, strong, consistent, assertive, smart, psycho or just dumb. And, of course, they’ll test and challenge your training skill.
I’ve noticed this with many of my boot camp dogs. As I am evaluating the dog’s temperament and level of response, the dog is also carefully observing me and my actions. And let’s not forget trust. That’s right. We have to trust someone in order to accept them as a friend, a mate, or as our leader. Dogs observe humans with a very similar mindset.
How do you build trust with a dog? Well, with fearful, shy and abused dogs, use tasty treats with a nonthreatening posture. (Keep in mind; this is one of those rare occasions when treats could help in gaining the dog’s trust and confidence.) And with other dogs…oh, come on. You don’t expect me to reveal all of my secrets in # 16 now, do you?
You Are Boring or too Predictable with Your Training Routines
When your training exercises are too predictable, too long, or you always practice at the same time of the day and at the same location, your dog will most likely figure you out and would rather watch grass grow than have you train him like a robot.
If you don’t believe me; I want you to try this experiment: Tell your dog to sit for you thirty times in a row. You’ll see that the more you make him mind you, the slower and less responsive he becomes. Don’t be surprised if he gives you a dirty look, walks away, lies down and flat out refuses to get back up. You guessed it. I’m talking about playing “the dead fish game.” (He may even start chewing on his middle finger trying to extend it to give you the doggie bird.)
Again, if your dog could speak, he’d be yelling, “Dude, give me a break! I did so many already! Where’s the cookie? You know that I don’t work for FREE! I am done, FINITO!” (For some reason, they always say that last part in Italian.)
Bottom line, get creative and start training your dog in all kinds of locations. The goal is to never be predictable and keep things fresh and exciting. Challenge your dog by having him respond to you in different rooms and parts of your house. Once he obeys you fairly well indoors, move outdoors. Don’t skip the front yard, the back yard, by the fence, your neighborhood, local parks as well as those pet stores. By doing so, you test your authority, not to forget your dog’s command response in different settings.
Your Dog is Having a Bad Day or Just Doesn’t Feel Well
This can easily happen if the weather is too hot, too cold or too windy for your dog. For some reason, dogs get a bit excited and even agitated when it’s too windy. And of course, there will be times when your dog is truly sick.
Also, if you have a female dog and suspect that she’s going into heat, you’d better believe your training will NOT go as smoothly. You see, when you have a bitch in heat, she will get moody, feisty, and may even try to get away. You could also have intact male dogs trying to break into your yard.
Even super-trained dogs that are spayed or neutered can’t fully focus when a dog in heat is close by. I’m telling you, all it takes is one bitch to mess everything up. So please make sure that your dog isn’t stressed or in any physical pain before you start barking out bunch of commands at him. Just think of how YOU respond when you are sick. Some of us are able to pull ourselves together, and some cannot.
I will never forget the day I noticed a little blood in one of my shepherd’s stool. I didn’t think much of it then and still took him to his protection training. And that’s when out of the blue, he lunged at one of the trainers. Obviously, this was a big deal and I should not have ignored it. The poor dog clearly did not feel well that day and took it out on the trainer.
It’s amazing how well dogs read our body language. They observe our behavior, and in a way, pick up on our vibe. So, if you or anyone else in your household is not feeling well, your dog can easily sense it. Whether it is you or your dog that is feeling sick or perhaps you are having a bad day, it’s smart to skip the training. That’s right. Get some rest or do something fun or weird instead, like jumping on a trampoline in the nude.
You Never Gave Other Training Tools an Honest Chance
If you carefully study various breeds of dogs, you’ll immediately notice something interesting: Dogs in this day and age are much bigger, smarter, faster and even tougher than they were ten or twenty years ago. This is due to drastic improvements in breeding, vet care, medicine, and let’s not forget, the quality of dog food. And we humans in America are getting lazier, busier, fatter and more out of shape than ever.
You wanna supersize that? Go king? Jumbo? Add sour cream? Bacon? I say, “I want all that with a small dietCoke.” But to be fair, I always carry my own side of organic ranch dressing for my fries. Those darn fast food places never carry anything organic. Now that I’ve made you hungry or grossed out, back to the dogs.
It’s a no-brainer that our doggies have an upper-hand over our fat a**es. So how can we increase the odds in our favor? By using a tool that can get your dog’s attention even around the most tempting distractions.
If You Are NOT Seeing Much Progress,
Chances Are that You Haven’t Tried Every Tool Out There.
Some of these Include:
* A proper 4-6 ft leash for training and walking (not retractable, knotted or a chain leash).
* Proper collar. Preferably buckle. (Velcro and snap ons usually stretch and aren’t safe).
* Long line or rope (for distance exercises such as “come,” “stay,” or boundary control).
* Crate (to enforce potty-training or to prevent destructiveness and marking).
* Wee Wee Pads for housebreaking small breeds or apartment dogs.
* Playpen, exercise pen aka doggy gates (for portable boundary control).
* Wire mesh pet pen cover to prevent dogs from jumping out (found on the web).
* Doggy door to allow your dog to enter or exit on its terms.
* Dog run or dog pen (to prevent digging and destructiveness while unsupervised).
* Bark collars (the brands that impressed me are DogTra and Tri Tronics).
* Longer contact points for bark collars or remote collars (used for thick or long-haired dogs).
* Chain leashes or tie-down cables (for dogs that chew up their leashes).
* Metal shaker cans (to stop and control unwanted behavior).
* Spray bottle/squirt gun (only works on small or sensitive dogs).
* Vests that read: “Dog in Training” or “Do NOT Pet me”. (used to stop kids and irresponsible adults from petting your dog without your permission out in public).
* Muzzles (to prevent destructive chewing or serious biting).
NOTE: Baskets muzzles are much stronger and dogs can breathe and even pant through them much better.
* Remote electronic collar (for distance response and instant control of unwanted behavior).
* Underground wiring system (designed to keep dogs within your property).
* Electric fence (used for boundary and perimeter control).
* Doggie GPS Tracker: Texts you every time your dog/kittie leaves your property. Or, God forbid, if your dog ever gets stolen. Great for escape artists. Water resistant, battery lasts up to 30 days. (Too bad they don’t make one for kids yet. The brand that comes to mind is called, Tagg.)
* Choke chains (trainers who are into obedience trials or show confirmation swear by it, I don’t).
* Pinch collars (are better and much more humane choice than choking the dog nonstop).
* Covers made especially for prong/pinch collar (to prevent the links from popping out and to save yourself from those dirty looks you’ll get from others. It’s the look as if they just ran into Hitler walking his dog. This item isn’t popular in pet stores yet. So look for it on the web).
Let’s not forget the lovely lectures you’ll get from those who don’t know anything about you or your dog. (Hey, they are bunch of tree-huggers. These folks don’t even want you to poo anywhere, and if you do, you better wipe with some leaf to save the planet. Just give them a bear hug, pump your fist and shout: GO GREEN!)
NOTE: Pinch collars are also used by owners of big and strong dogs. And of course, many try them once they notice that the plain old choke chain doesn’t seem to work or has stopped working a long time ago.
It will amaze you by how effective the tools I listed above can be in your training. You’ll love the peace of mind you get once you put them to use. For example, the electric wireless fence is designed to keep dogs contained in your yard. They are especially useful if you live where traditional fencing is not allowed. These devices are also used to keep dogs away from the pool, the spa, or your garden.
You’ve probably seen some dogs that no matter what, did NOT leave their front yard. Next time, pay attention and look for a little black box attached to the dog’s collar. As you can see, technology has its advantages and it’s no different when it comes to the world of dog training.
The Worst Training Tools on the Market:
The most useless and annoying training tools in pet stores have to be the clicker, retractable leash, harness and martingale collar. What’s funny is almost all dog owners are either currently using one of these tools or have done so at one point in the past.
I have no doubt that if your dog is pulling you all over the place, chances are very high that you’re walking it with a retractable leash or, even worse, the retractable leash is also hooked up to some harness. Don’t feel bad; many of you have been misled into thinking that harnesses offer better control. When in reality, with a harness your dog can pull you much better using all of his body weight.
Again, both of these tools offer little or no control to stop a strong dog’s pulling or lunging—especially when he is distracted or agitated. Things always get worse when you two are faced with other dogs that get aggressive.
My point is that certain tools work, and certain ones do not. Some work for a while and some, when you really need them to work, won’t even faze your dog.
There is a tool specifically designed for EVERY breed. Your job is to find which matches your dog’s physical strength, intelligence, prey drive and determination.
It’s just not fair to expect an average pet owner to figure out all the pros and cons of different training tools on the market. After all, there are so many. Here’s a short list: Choke collars, pinch/prong collars, electronic collars, Gentle Leader, Halti, Martingale, Easy Walk Harness, or, I’ll say it again, that nonsense clicker.
Serious Flaws about Harnesses, Gentle Leaders and Haltis:
Answer this: Would you rather train your dog or restrain him? Any moron can restrain a dog. It doesn’t take much skill or technique. Harnesses are designed for dogs to pull and lead. If you still doubt this, just take a look at weight-pulling competition, search and rescue, and even dogs for the blind. When you see these dogs in action, you can’t help but notice that they are all wearing something similar to a harness. Many trainers even recommend the use of a harness with protection-trained dogs.
Now, head halters, which are known as the Gentle Leader or the Halti, are not much different from harnesses. It is the same restraining concept as the head halter for horses, goats and Alpacas. (Folks, it’s a dog, for crying out loud—NOT an Alpaca!)
Besides, the Gentle Leader isn’t as gentle as it sounds after all. As your dog pulls and you keep yanking on that leash, this repetitive action causes a dent or a bald spot on his snout. I see this scar mostly on Labs, Goldens, Shepherds, Dobermans, Boxers and Dalmations. There have been reports of dogs with strained necks and spinal injuries due to the use of this tool. This is because the dog’s neck is actually designed to take a lot of pressure and even a bit of abuse from other dogs. But you can’t just make the same argument about their spine.
Another downside in using head halters is that dogs never seem to get used to wearing them. They always scratch their nose or shake their head side-to-side, as if they are fighting demons. Many keep rubbing their face on the ground desperately trying to take them off.
Also, by training your dog with a head halter, you will have a very tough time getting it reliably off-leash trained. Since your dog will always know when he has it on. Think about it; you cannot leave this tool on your dog until he actually forgets about it. Many chew them up and rip them off their face in a matter of seconds. This especially happens the minute you run into a dog, a cat, a squirrel or a person your dog wants to greet or kill.
Let me give you another example that, as some say, “will seal the deal” once and for all. Just as you forget that you are wearing a watch, a ring, Bluetooth, glasses or even a thong (OK, maybe not a thong), your dog will and CAN get used to wearing a collar, pinch collar, or even a remote training collar. This is because all of these tools are made to fit around a dog’s “neck.” So most dogs eventually forget that they even have it on. Now, that is a fact!
Folks, it is impossible to create the same kind of feeling with a head halter or a harness! Again, this is why it is extremely difficult to get dogs reliably off-leash trained with the use of Gentle Leaders, Haltis or harnesses. (Besides, the dogs that I get for training chewed up these cheesy cloth straps and peed on them. So much for gentle. Thank God I haven’t seen any of it in their poop yet. )
But all kidding aside, if the Gentle Leader or Halti truly works for you and your dog, use it. This is a must with dogs that are too strong, too big, or their owners may have physical limitation. I’m talking about those of you who suffer from: Some sort of surgery, a bad shoulder, arthritis, tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. And if worse comes to worst, I totally agree with restraining a dog. Hey, it’s much better than having your dog cause more grief and embarrassment.
Sadly, Head Halters Always Tend to Scare People!
Here’s another undeniable fact: Some people will view you as wicked or inhumane when they see a pinch collar or remote training collar on your dog. On the other hand, head halters make your dog look mean and unpredictable! Keep in mind that the general public and a large number of dog owners are STILL not that familiar with head halters. So you can’t blame them for assuming your dog is on a muzzle. They will watch your dog like a hawk to see if he truly is unpredictable or a biter.
Everybody will clear the way and automatically think that you are walking “Hannibal Lecter”! Or, even better, you’ll feel like Moses, carrying a sign or a flag that reads, “Don’t worry. My dog isn’t wearing a muzzle; it’s just a strap to stop his leash pulling.”
Now, which do YOU prefer? Would you rather look like a cruel dog owner, or have the whole world think that your dog is a biter? I rest my case!
What Do Top Trainers Use with Their Own Dogs?
Successful trainers’ tool of choice happens to be the choke, pinch, or the remote training collar. Now, I know that as you are reading this, in some all positive training chat room, they are calling me a liar. But don’t take my word for it. Knock yourself out and research the heck out of this topic!
I’m referring to top pros that can back up their claim with their own dogs. They often have a list of clients with impressively trained dogs. (Again, I am not just talking about one super-trained dog that came with the trainer.)
I had the pleasure to observe dozens of obedience competitions, attended many seminars, and seen plenty of protection-trained dogs in action. So, unless you are another seasoned trainer, it’s fair to assume that you don’t know much about the world of dogs or dog trainers.
Don’t forget that I am talking about the dogs that respond flawlessly under ANY kind of pressure. You guessed it: Every single one of them has been trained by the proper and humane use of the choke, prong, or remote training collar. Again, facts are facts.
But I also know that facts don’t always matter much to everybody. This is why it’s best that you actually watch these dogs in action. And I reassure you that you won’t see them on head halters, harnesses or retractable leashes. And as for clickers, other than using it for tricks, I honestly haven’t seen a real use for this device.
Those who swear on clicker training makes me sad. They click with one hand and bribe with other. And again, if we could read minds, that dog is most likely thinking, “Look at this moron. She honestly thinks that I will do this crap even if I don’t see OR smell any treats nearby. Keep clicking. As soon as I am off my leash running wild, I don’t care even if the clicking sound comes from a surround system. If it’s in high def, maybe!”
Now, let me ask you something: If top breeders and trainers in the industry believe in the proper and nonviolent use of these tools, why shouldn’t YOU? Again, use whatever that gets your dog’s attention—under any circumstance. That is just the smart and diverse thing to do.
Diverse Trainers’ Mindset about Different Tools
Trainers who advocate the “Diverse Method” are always open-minded and actually encourage you to experiment with variety of tools. After all, it is one thing for me to be able to control your dog by using a certain tool, but it is a totally different story when you try to do it all on your own. Don’t forget; it is YOUR dog, and she should respond the same way to you as she responds to me or anyone else.
HINT: You’ll know you are using the right training tool when it gets your dog’s attention anywhere, anytime and in front of ANY distraction. If the tool you are currently using truly works around dogs, cats, visitors, joggers and cars—then that’s the one you should always depend on. You’ll soon realize that the use of proper tools, combined with a positive attitude and a solid technique, will get you real and long-term results. Think and train “Diverse” and I promise you that you’ll make lots of dog owners extremely jealous.
In my programs, whether you choose private lessons or decide to go with my boot camp, I have a process: First, I study your dog’s personality, energy level, size, strength, prey drive, lifestyle and stubborn streak. Then, I observe and try to match it to your strength, coordination, physical capabilities and of course, your overall expectations. This evaluation helps me find that perfect tool designed for your dog.
It is virtually impossible to get the same level of response from different breeds with just one training tool.This is why it just makes sense to try every option before narrowing it down to the one tool that works the best. Only then will you know beyond a shadow of doubt which tool is the real deal and which is a joke. (A-hem. The clicker! I know. I don’t let go, do I?)
Your Dog Senses Your Poor Attitude and Uses it Against You
(The Most Important of ALL Reasons!)
You really need to have a winning attitude. I know this may remind you of a coach or a motivational speaker, but don’t automatically assume that your dog is un-trainable or just stupid. Let me reassure you that NO BREED of dog is un-trainable. Think about it; why would any breeder dedicate years of research and trial after trial in order to create a dumb dog that nobody can train?
I know many of you just can’t help but compare your dog to your friends’ dogs or even your previous dogs. But don’t ever forget that every dog is unique. Just as it’s not fair for you to be compared to your brothers and sisters, your dog doesn’t deserve to be compared to other dogs. Period!
Even if you happen to own a very big dog, you still should be able to establish your leadership. I’ve known dog owners whose dogs outweigh them by twenty to forty pounds, yet they still had complete control of their dog. What I find fascinating is it always starts with a positive attitude. And it’s not about how tall, how short, or even how strong you are; it’s all about how you think and act.
I once saw a comedian who happened to be a short fella. He said, “Short people don’t get much respect.” He then continued, “Heck, even short people don’t always respect another short individual.”
You’ve heard the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover,” but we do regardless. The truth is when you are only this strong, this tall, or this consistent; you better believe it that your dog will challenge you. Dogs especially do this more with those who lack skill or authority. This is why it’s best to rely on your raw determination.
Have you noticed that Tom Cruise is not very tall? Ask anyone who has met him in person or pay close attention next time you see him on the screen or in magazines. Now, he may be a short fella, but by the way he talks, walks, acts, and even fights on screen, you actually start to believe that he could kick anybody’s butt in a matter of seconds. (Much like Van Damme, who always did the splits, and then upper-cut the villain to the groin. Van Damme it. It’s just a movie.)
Cesar Millan is also another short fella, but gets the dogs under control. For some reason, people often guess me older, taller, and sometimes even lighter than my actual weight. (I’m sure they are just being nice about the weight.) But all kidding aside, I’m sure you’ll agree that most of these judgments are based on how you talk, walk, think, and even who you hang out with. I always say, “Show me your friends and I’ll predict your future. And if you have no friends, that’s not much of a future either.”
Now, if you are a female reading this and you let your dog push you around, you are not alone. After all, you are in charge of your household, in charge of your man, but NOT in charge of that dog. Isn’t that frustrating? I am not being sexist here; this is the case most of the time.
Women are also the ones who actually admit that they need help with their dogs. Ask any dog trainer. If it weren’t for the ladies, we would’ve gone out of business a long time ago! Unlike men, they actually ask for help and that’s one of the things I truly admire about them.
Now men, on the other hand… men, men, men. Love them or hate them, we are wired differently. Have you noticed how we rather get shot than ask for directions? Here’s a typical guy’s rationale: I was never lost to begin with; I just wanted to explore another route. Is that wrong? To be curious and try a completely new road in the middle of nowhere? Who cares if everyone’s tired, hungry, scared, and the car is nearly out of gas? (Why do you think that most GPS devices are in women’s voices? It’s the voice of reason; desperately trying to get through our thick skull.)
Speaking of travel, those of you who haven’t traveled much outside the U.S. just don’t know how great this country really is. I’m telling you, the more you travel outside the United States, the more you’ll appreciate it. America, hands down, is the best country in the world.
Here. It will take me a second to prove my point: Have you ever heard of anyone who, once they finallymade it to Greece, dropped to their knees, looked to the sky, held their hands together, and yelled, “Yeah baby!!! Greece, here comes papa!” But when people make it to America, it’s a totally different ball game. (Now, I love Greece and love Greek food even more. So you’d better not just give me a plain Greek salad when I finally make it there.)
So next time your neighbors complain about your barking dogs or the economy, just shout, “Hey pal, this is America. Love it or leave it!” (Hmm… I love America, but man, have you guys studied Europe’s healthcare system?)
So, Did I Miss Any Other Reason? I Seriously Doubt it.
Actually, the only other reason for your dog not listening to you is if you knowingly or unknowingly taught your dog to misbehave. For instance, if you let your dog to chase a laser light, now he’s fixated on the floor and goes after every shadow. You gave your dog some table food, and now he keeps begging or hovering around the table every time you eat. You taught your dog to bark on command to get a treat, and now he won’t shut up every time he sees your mouth moving. You tapped on your chest to invite your dog to jump up on you, and now he body-slams you every time HE feels like giving you a hug. It was always funny to say, “Go get the kitty,” or “Where’s the kitty?” and now that he almost got hit by a car chasing after some stray cat, it’s not funny anymore. I think you get my drift.
You see, the term “trained” can mean different things to different people. It could mean housetrained, leash- trained, obedience-trained, off-leash trained, trained to have manners, trained to know in which room or part of your house your dog is allowed and not allowed, and of course, trained to be friendly. Some of you only care for your dog to be manageable around other dogs and your guests.
If you honestly believe that your dog isn’t that bright, it is most likely because he’s more stubborn than you anticipated. Dog owners confuse these two all the time. In fact, I rarely deal with dumb dogs. I am not saying this to make you feel better. I speak from training and rehabilitating thousands of dogs in over two decades. But, here’s—
How Positive Trainers Make Their Case!
Let’s accept this cold hard fact: Treat-trainers are usually pretty convincing in selling their lies. This is especially the case when their bribery nonsense stops working. They will try to convince you that it is either your fault or the dog’s fault for not seeing results. Don’t fall for it.
You know your dog better than anyone. So I have no doubt that you can tell when he’s playing you, or when he’s just being stubborn. But as soon as those yummy treats and timeouts stop working, these morons come up with ridiculous excuses. Some of them act like a veterinarian or a behaviorist and swear that your dog suffers from some sort of chemical imbalance. Some just to sound smart, diagnose it as an early malnourishment or poor breeding. Sorry, but you are actually dealing with poor training, not breeding. And some recommend drugs for your dog.
Give me a break. Everybody knows that drugs come with their wonderful list of side-effects. To solve diarrhea, the drug may also cause dizziness and vomiting. Now there’s a solution! Once I am dizzy, light-headed and start to throw up left and right, who cares if I can’t make it to the bathroom? I won’t even notice that I crapped my pants. (As Charlie Sheen would say, I am WINNING! Duh!)
The magical pill Viagra may help you down there, but did you know that one of its side effects is: hearing loss, sudden blindness, stroke or even a heart attack? (I am not making this up. Be my guest and research it. Hey, at least we’ll cross over, umm… very happy!)
Now, do you honestly think your poor dog will be able to tell you what else is wrong with him after being prescribed doggy Prozac? Then be sure that you do your homework before you consider the use of ANY drug.
I’ve been able to solve many tough cases that other experts labeled as un-trainable, untrustworthy, or just hopeless. Some of my clients were told by their previous trainers that their dog would need to be locked in a crate, be muzzled for the rest of his life, or put to sleep. Wait a minute! That is killing the dog, not putting him to sleep. Am I missing something here? Let’s not sugarcoat it.
We are not talking about a fight where one drops the other guy like a bad transmission and he goes na-night. I am sick of reading and hearing this term. Now, if your dog is too old, too injured or too sick to be saved, use this analogy. But if you are just giving up on your dog and deciding his fate, don’t say that you had to put him down or to sleep! For most of my clients, the dog is a part of the family. And to some, they were just that: another dog!
A client of mine shared her experience with me about calling the ASPCA. She needed some suggestions or recommendations on what to do with her dog’s aggression toward other dogs. She didn’t even get a chance to finish her sentence, when the woman cut her off by saying, “Sure. Just bring him by. We’ll put him down for you.” She was shocked and heartbroken and told me, “Kevin, it sounded as if she was eating her lunch while sipping on her soda. No compassion whatsoever!” And here you thought they were all supposed to love dogs and educate people on different alternatives.
Just imagine if numerous doctors diagnosed you or your loved ones with an incurable disease. But there was just one expert who, despite others’ skepticism, promised a remarkable recovery. Only one. Would you still doubt him/her? It’s hard not to. But if they have an impressive record to back up their claim, it would definitely make you think twice. It is no different when it comes to the majority of owners who seek my help with their dogs.
Be Realistic! Is Your Dog Really that Hopeless?
I’ve had dozens of clients tell me, “Every trainer I’ve worked with, said that my dog will never be able to __________ (fill in the blank). Now, the question they ask me is straight to the point: How can I possibly promise a different outcome?” My reply never changes: “That is their opinion and it also proves their expertise in dealing with that particular issue.” In most cases, it is only their assumption, NOT a fact!
You see, if you have honestly tried everything within your power with little or absolutely no success, then and only then can you call it a fact. Even so, under those circumstances, there still might be something else you could have tried, especially if you had known about it.
So I always tell these frustrated pet owners, “Either give your dog another chance or accept what everyone else tells you. The choice is yours.”
What surprised many of these doubting experts is how I managed to
turn-around their most challenging cases without yelling, hitting, bribery or even the use of drugs.
Don’t forget that, according to them, most of these dogs were hopeless. So I guess that makes me some kind of miracle worker. Or, maybe I just got lucky. Mohammad Ali said it best, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.”
As you probably can tell by now, one of my favorite TV shows is Dr. Phil. In one episode, he featured deaf-blind triplets. You read correctly! Triplets who were deaf and blind. The most amazing part of their story to me is the dedication and the unconditional love they received from their parents. Just imagine taking care of someone who is deaf and blind. Now try taking care of not one, not two, but THREE of these precious babies all at the same time. They are the world’s first deaf and blind triplets. Why did I bring this up, you ask?
My point is simple: When people are that dedicated, they will go through hell to make things work. You need to be committed to your dog and actually believe in him. After all, nobody can take away your belief from you. Giving up is just too darn easy. But those who do not, definitely get to enjoy the outcome of their hard work.
Now, whether your dog is old or young, bright or slow, cute or ugly, big or small, friendly or vicious, you can still stop, or at least, reduce all of these issues:
* Jumping up on you and your visitors
* Peeing and pooping all over your place
* Lunging every time he sees an aggressive or friendly dog
* Dragging you on a leash for the first two blocks of the walk
* Begging and stealing food off counters
* Barking constantly in your presence or absence
* Ignoring your commands
* Knocking down the kids with no sense of weight or size
* Picking on or even attacking your other dogs
* Chasing cats, cars, squirrels, bicycles and kids
* Encouraging those committed joggers to jog even faster
* And worst of all, growling, snapping and literally trying to bite at strangers, at you, or your loved ones.
If your dog acts like a maniac, most likely it is because you let it get that far. And if your dog is well-mannered and sets a great example, I’m betting it’s because you put in hours and hours of training and behavior modification to make it happen. People rarely get lucky with a well-mannered dog. Just as polite kids don’t grow on trees or fall from the sky, neither do well-behaved dogs.
In conclusion, everyone will judge you based on how your dog behaves. Some of you always say, “Oh, he’s my baby,” or “She’s my girl.” Then make sure your baby doggie isn’t going to kill actual babies and is under your total control. Don’t you hate parents who have no power over their kids? Believe me; the majority of people feel the same way when they run into a wild dog and a clueless owner.
Providing a good home, food, water and medical attention is only half of your responsibility. Teaching manners, yes, manners and etiquette is just as important and necessary. But sadly, many dog owners struggle with this and it’s all because of lack of knowledge or giving up too soon.
You can’t get much further if you don’t know where you are at the moment. Whether you are a first-time dog owner, experienced dog owner, a part-time trainer, novice or an old pro, these twenty reasons will let you know EXACTLY where you stand and what you need to do from here on.
Written by Master Trainer and Canine Psychologist, Kevin “The Dog Prodigy”