Q: Why is it that despite being really good at obedience tricks, my dog is still reactive on walks?
A: Obedience is great to bond with your dog, as well as to mentally stimulate them and start to control certain behaviours. However, your dog must absolutely trust and respect you as a leader in order to remain responsive in a more anxious or excited situation. The first thing to consider is if your dog is getting enough exercise. Energy is very much the enemy of obedience! Secondly, are you consistent with RBL (Rules, Boundaries and Limitations)? Consistency can be a challenge in itself, but once achieved, you dog will start to trust and respect your decisions and therefore will listen. The perfect outcome is that when your dog is unsure of how to handle a situation, rather than making their own assumptions, they should look to you for advice.
Q: Can my dog sleep on my bed? … Should my dog be allowed on the furniture? … Can my dog sit on my knee?
A: The answer is yes! The key to all of these types of queries is that it is YOUR choice, not your dog’s. You must call them up when you choose, and not just allow them to jump on the furniture, your bed, or you (!) without invitation. This makes it clear who is the alpha and who makes decisions! Remember a happy dog is one that has no responsibility and few choices!
Q: Can I stop my dog barking…at the window? at the door? in the garden? altogether?!
A: The simple answer is no! Barking is as natural for dogs as crying or cooing or laughing for babies. It is a key feature of communication. What you can do is understand why your dog is barking and show them that you understand their message but its not necessary. For example, if your dog barks at the window when a stranger walks past, they are likely warning you to a possible threat. Acknowledge that with a firm ‘Thank you’ then position yourself between them and the window to show them your are in control of the situation. The WORST thing you can do is shout at them! By doing this, you are joining in with their vocalisation in their eyes! They don’t differentiate between you shouting at them or shouting at the stranger! Plus, with this, you are suggesting there is something to shout (or bark) about and therefore are perpetuating the reaction!
Q: Do I have to walk in to my house first to ‘claim’ it?
A: No…the key is whether you invite them in? Do you make them wait at the door to acknowledge their status? It needn’t be a big deal, but make them sit and ask for eye contact maybe, then open the door and tell them to go in.
Q: On the lead, does my dog have to walk at heel?
A: No. They walk where you allow them to walk. It is often easier to develop the ‘working walk’ technique if you are in their peripheral vision as it means they can see easily when you stop/change direction, however, once they have mastered that and are focused on you when walking, they can walk where YOU choose!
Q: Can I still have cuddles with my dog, or do I have to be more strict to get them to behave?
A: Absolutely! You must! Dogs need EDA – Exercise, Discipline AND Affection! Just like us all, they just need the right balance between the three, hence the term ‘balanced dogs’!
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