Whether you have just gotten yourself a new dog and want to show it off a little or have an older dog that you want to begin teaching some manners to, it is good to know that all dogs are by nature trainable. If you are thinking of getting a new dog keep in mind that although all dogs are able to learn, some breeds learn some things faster than others and not all the things that dogs can learn are good or desirable. Certain breeds are predisposed to certain activities such as Alsatians being naturally good guard dogs, pointers and setters being good hunting dogs and collies and kelpies being good herding dogs. If you would like to know more about picking a dog that best suits your needs and lifestyle then go to “choosing a dog” but for now on with house training. The idea is really quite uncomplicated: to train a dog well you must…well think like one. Unfortunately many of today’s dog lovers tend to think of their four legged canines as pampered movie stars complete with all added the luxuries. Something that must be understood right from the start is that dogs are just that: dogs. They do not understand the words that you are saying to them no matter what language you use. They can’t for their lives figure out why you get so happy when they bark at unwelcome strangers but so mad when you start barking at the local postman. Dog’s lives revolve around three things: playtime, meal time, and time with you. The exact order of these three main pillars of a dog’s life varies from canine to canine. Following are some pointers to help you think more like a dog. Pack life: That lovable little pooch sitting on your lap actually descends from the wild wolf that you see rampaging through documentaries on the Animal Channel. While our housedogs have obviously lost much of their wolf characteristics some things have remained. A sharp sense of smell and hearing to aid in hunting, their specially designed teeth for biting into and eating meat and, for the informed owner, most significantly of all their need to be in a pack. Your dog considers you and your household to be its pack/family. Once you understand this you can use it to your advantage and also avoid many potential problems. All packs have a leader, the one “top dog” that all the other “dogs” respect and follow. Most dogs are happy letting someone else take the responsibility of being the pack leader and will submit to your leadership easily. However there are dogs that are exceptions to this rule and almost any dog if it perceives that there is no leader will try and step into the role in order to protect its “pack.” Dogs understanding of home life revolves around the principle of rank and file, after all a leaderless pack in the wild would be dangerously susceptible to attack from competing packs. Alpha dog: One of the first steps to being able to successfully train your dog is to maintain your status as the leader of the pack. It is paramount that you are firm and consistent with your dog so that it understands that your word is the law and it can’t just do as it pleases. The cuter the dog the harder it is to keep this simple rule but it is one of the keystones to any effective training program.
In the event that you have already been relegated a ranking lower than your dog’s in its mind you are going to have to work a little harder to regain the position that you as the owner must maintain. Don’t serve your dog its food until after you have eaten, only play with it when the game was instigated by you and never yield to your dogs desire to sit in your favorite chair or to sleep on your bed at night. If your dog resists your attempts to “pull rank” don’t ever give up or surrender but also do not under any circumstances hit your dog or become enraged at it. You could cause it to attack you in “self defense.” If you continue having problems the best thing to do is contact your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist.