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  • Leading the Pack with Calmness and Consistency

    Tuesday, June 30th, 2015, 9:04 pm

    All dog owners want their dogs to listen to them, but we see so many people struggling in this area. If you want your dog to listen to you, and to have control of your pup in challenging or exciting situations, your dog needs to see you as the leader of your "pack." In order for your dog to see you this way, he has to both trust you and respect you. How do we earn our dogs' trust and respect? With calmness and consistency. These two characteristics are a running theme for us when dealing with our furry clients here at The Connected Canine in San Fernando Valley, CA.

    Many dogs come to us feeling like they have to "handle" things and "take care of" things that make them uncomfortable because of less than effective, believable leadership, so they lash out or react by barking, growling, lunging, and other aggressive behaviors. These kinds of behaviors can cause trouble when you’re around other dogs and humans, especially children. But even the most fearful and reactive dogs can learn new ways to deal with uncomfortable situations with….you guessed it: calmness and consistency.

    Your pooch has to be able to see that you'll:

    1) Control her by calmly addressing any behavior you disagree with

    2) Control the environment around you by consistently making choices that will keep you both/all safe

    3) Control yourself by calmly keeping your negative emotions (anger, frustration, self-doubt, mistrust of others, etc.) in check

    We show them that we, as their guides and leaders, are calm and consistent- remember those are two super important traits of a leader - and by doing so earn their trust and respect.

    When your dog is here with us at The Connected Canine in one of our programs, we teach them to trust us by "advocating" for them. We never let anyone approach them or enter their space without our permission. We make sure that we assess situations, other dogs and people, and make the best choices for them. That kind of stuff goes a long way in a dog's mind toward creating trust. When your dogs can sense that you have a handle on things, they don’t feel as compelled to react with the kind of crazy nonsense they've gotten used to. Then they feel more inclined to trust you to lead them through situations that once made them uncomfortable without having to resort to old, bad habits.

    Establishing trust and teaching basic commands to puppies or newly adopted dogs from the get-go can help prevent problem behaviors before they start.

    Quick tip: If you make obedience commands non-negotiable by sharing calm, consistent (there those two words are again!) reactions and consequences, then your dog will learn to make better choices by defaulting to what it knows (like obedience commands! :)

    Once we're 100% certain that a dog knows what we're asking of them (sit, down, come, and the like) we start to make sure that these commands are rock solid by adding a training method called the 3 Ds: Distance, Duration, Distractions.

    "Fluffy, sit. Good boy." Then we add distance (for instance) by walking a few steps away and making sure the dog stays in "sit" position. If Fluffy breaks command, no problem - we calmly share a correction and put him back in command. Fluffy soon realizes that we have more patience than he has stubborn ;)

    We add distractions, like rolling a ball by Fluffy, or adding other dogs playing to the picture. Vacuum cleaners or scooters work too.

    We add duration by asking Fluffy to hold a command (like "place" command) for increasingly longer periods of time, even with all kinds of challenging stuff going on around them. This is how we "proof" the commands.

    It's pretty amazing, but once the dog learns that these things are truly non-negotiable, problem behaviors disappear simply because you have shown the dog exactly what is expected through calm, consistent leadership.

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