1, 2, 3 for a Balanced dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Is your dog out of control? Does he jump on company, surf your counters, run laps around the house, and destroy everything in sight? While there’s no magic fix for dogs who act out, there is a three-step process that will make a vast difference in your pup’s behavior. Make these changes and your dog will be more relaxed, more attentive, and more receptive of the training that is necessary to mold him into the ideal companion.
Step 1: Your Terms
Your dog must understand that you are in control. It’s time to walk, play, and cuddle when you say so, not when the mood strikes your pooch. Every day when you wake up, and every day when you get home, cease to provide attention, food, or a walk until your dog is calm and submissive. When you pick up his leash, if he goes nuts, put the leash away and sit down. He must understand that he will not get the fun and exercise of a walk until he is relaxed. Once he is calm, attach the leash, make him sit and wait. Do not let him get up until he is calm and you say so. This simple process shows your pooch who’s boss, putting you in a leadership role before you even step out of the house. It also shows him that only calm dogs get what they want.
Step 2: The Walk
Depending on your pooch’s breed and energy level, experts recommend that you walk your dog at least twice a day, every day. The vast majority of dogs who act out do so because they are not getting enough exercise, and thus cannot be blamed for finding another outlet. A tired dog is a happy dog. If you walk your pooch until he is tired every morning, and again in the evening, he will be more relaxed, and far more receptive of training.
Dogs in the wild take pack walks everyday and take all their commands from a pack leader. Walking your dog properly is an unmistakable method of reminding him that you are the pack leader. Start every walk on the right foot by using a Halti Head Collar or a Gentle Leader. These halter-style head collars are engineered to place your dog’s attention on you. Rather than pulling back on the neck of the dog like most collars, which causes them to instinctively pull back, these collars pull the dog’s entire head in your direction with even the slightest correction. Instead of a power struggle, your dog’s attention is placed where it belongs, on you, the pack leader.
Don’t let the appearance of these halter-style collars fool you. They are not muzzles, and do not serve the purpose of muzzles in any way! In a Halti or a Gentle Leader, your dog will still be able to eat, drink, pant, bark, and bite.
You will be amazed at the difference a head collar will make the very first time you use it. Don’t fret if your dog absolutely hates this kind of collar. He will probably use his paws to try to remove it, and give you big sad eyes, but be strong. If you continue to use a head collar twice a day, every day, he will get used to it quickly and you will both enjoy your walks more. Also, avoid using a retractable or extremely long leash. A short leash gives you better control and a shorter line of communication to your dog.
When you leave the house for a walk, make your dog sit and wait until you have walked out the door, then command him to follow. The simple act of walking in and out of doors first is an easy way to exert your dominance. When walking along the road, always walk against traffic with your dog on your left side. Never let your dog walk ahead of you, you are the pack leader and thus always in the lead. Your dog should walk quietly at your side at the pace you choose. If he stops, gently encourage him to keep walking. This will not be difficult with a head collar. Make sure you decide when it’s time for him to stop and do his business. It helps to have a specific spot where you stop every day, because your dog will get used to waiting for this one spot, and will be less likely to sniff around for a spot before he gets there.
You should walk your dog for thirty minutes to an hour, depending on the size and age of the dog, and how long it takes him to get sufficiently tired. Experts also recommend that if you are not capable of walking far or fast enough to give your dog sufficient exercise, you can walk your dog with a backpack to get more of a work-out out of a shorter distance. Talk to your vet about what amount of weight is appropriate for your dog and how far they should walk with their pack.
Step 3: Time To Eat
When you get home from your walk (don’t forget to walk through the door before him and make him wait until you say it’s ok to come in), it’s time to feed your pooch. This helps your dog understand that after he has done his daily work, and has behaved properly, you, the pack leader, will reward him by allowing him to eat. In the wild, the pack leader eats first and all the other dogs wait until he gives them the ok. Use this instinct to your advantage. Take your dog to where you feed him his meals and ask him to sit and wait. Measure out his food and fill his water bowl and place them on the floor or in his feeder. If he lunges for the food, pick them back up and ask him again to sit and wait. Place them down again and again; every time he lunges, pick them back up. It should only take a few times for him to realize that he will not be given his dinner until he waits for a command from you. Once he holds his sit while the bowls are on the floor, give him a release command like “ok” or “go ahead,” and let him eat.
If you continue this procedure every single day, and maintain complete consistency, your dog will begin to understand that you are in charge and that you provide the guidance he so craves. He will look to you for direction in more circumstances. You will also be providing an outlet for his energy, so he will be significantly less likely to act out around the house. Of course, there is much more to training the perfect dog than what is explained here, but these steps will make life a lot easier for both of you, and help put you back in the driver’s seat.