Have you had fantasies of your dog being “better” in public? Would he be less shy? Less hostile to other dogs? Less bouncy? Quieter? You’re not alone. Most dogs have at least one issue that keeps their owners from feeling great about public appearances. While these issues are normal, they are stressful – for you and the dog! And your natural responses in these situations may be making things worse. Your tension travels right down the leash to your dog.
Rest assured, almost every issue can be improved if not completely corrected. It’s a matter of making an effort, having a little patience and using the right training methods. A good starting place is to ask yourself what sort of relationship you want with your dog. Do you want to be his trusted friend? If yes, then avoid harsh training and painful tools. Go with positive reinforcement, which teaches the dog that things you ask for are worth doing, and that you can be trusted.
Next, ask yourself what your expectation of “better behavior” looks like. Be exact. Can you picture the behavior? If not, you’ll have a hard time teaching it to your dog. Knowing what you’re looking for will reduce frustration for you and your buddy and speed the training. If the behavior you want has more than one step, break your training into small steps, and work on them one at a time. Avoid trying to do too much in one lesson. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Don’t ask your dog to learn a complicated skill in one lesson. Take your time with training, and always end every session on an up note.
Last, remember that it’s unrealistic to expect your dog to be a “Disney dog” – loyal, handsome, quiet, friendly, protective, gentle, AND a mind reader. Set fair and reasonable goals. My goal for my own dogs is to have enough manners that everyone can enjoy them. I want them to be generally calm and friendly (when they don’t feel threatened), to give me their attention when I ask for it, to come when called and to be mostly quiet when in the house. I also love for them to know a few clever tricks, but those are mostly for fun. And fun they are, because training time together is wonderful for all of us.