How NOT to Pick A Dog Breed.

Posted on November 6, 2019September 19, 2020Categories Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Featured, Kids and Pets, Please Share, What Would a Trainer Do?

Here are some biggest factors that people consider when picking their next dog… and why they shouldn’t.

Picking your next family member is an important decision. We find that most families put serious thought into the type of dog they get.

But even in cases where the family thought carefully before picking their dog, we trainers find ourselves often wishing that our clients had picked a different breed.

Why?

Well, here are some biggest factors that people consider when picking their next dog… and why they shouldn’t.

Size:

“I don’t have time to exercise a big dog” or “I want a dog that can go on hikes with me” are common responses when we ask why a client chose the breed they did.

Unfortunately, people assume that big dogs need more exercise, when size has very little to do with exercise requirements. A Newfoundland needs far less exercise than a Jack Russell Terrier, for example.

Size also doesn’t affect how much space the dog needs. A giant hearthrug is sometimes more suitable to a small apartment than a small ball of unbridled energy. A greyhound needs a couch. A terrier needs a farm.

What size does affect is the cost to care for the dog – big dogs eat a lot, and when they get sick they need much bigger doses of medication.

So by all means consider size, but only for very concrete reasons such as strata bylaws, upkeep cost, and physical work required (a yorkshire terrier should not be considered as a wheelchair pulling dog, for example).

Fur coat/shedding:

Many dogs are picked because they shed less. Totally valid. Shedding fur is a pain in the butt. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that short haired dogs shed less than long haired dogs.

Anyone who has owned a lab or a pug will tell you that they shed TONS of fur, far more than a golden retriever does.

Sometimes people think dogs who don’t shed are hypoallergenic. This is not, in fact, the case.

My own husband, for example, is very allergic to Poodles. They make him sneeze like crazy. We bought a Bernese Mountain Dog partially because those big, hairy, shedding Alpine draft dogs do not aggravate his allergies.

One client of ours bought a pug because they are the only breed that doesn’t make her break out in hives, even though they shed nasty amounts of hair.

Studies have showed that nonshedding dogs drop just as much dander (skin cells) as shedding dogs, and it is in fact often the dog’s saliva which people are allergic to.

That being said, different types of dogs seem to have different types of dander, so many people are allergic to labs but not to wheaten terriers, for example. But rather than assuming that nonshedding = hypoallergenic, test your allergies on the breed of dog you are considering first.

Finally, remember that if you are buying a mixed breed, such as a golden doodle, that a wide variety of hair coats come out of mixing two breeds together. Some have poodle hair. Some have silky hair and shed less but still some. Some have terrier-type hair and shed all over the place.

Mix breed dogs are often healthy due to hybrid vigour (non-inbreeding) but their temperments and hair coat are less predictable so take that into consideration.

Intelligence:

“I heard they were really smart” is a popular reason for getting a particular breed. But do you really want a smart dog?

Smart dogs take a lot of work.

It is harder to train a highly intelligent dog. They question your every decision. They look for loopholes in every rule. They test boundaries just for the fun of it.

If you want a dog who will figure out how to unlatch their crate and get into the garbage while you are out of the house, then get a smart dog.

If you want a dog who will happily snooze the day away and obey you happily and willingly for the love of all things holy do NOT get a highly intelligent breed.

But is that really what you want?

While dog trainers appreciate the lightning speed and the obsessive workaholism of a Border Collie or Belgian Malinois, your average family does not want or need that kind of intelligence.

Dog trainers constantly joke about it, making memes like this:

Most people don’t actually want smart dogs. They pick a dog breed for intelligence and then hire us to fix that intelligence.

They really want willing dogs.

Intelligence usually only refers to how quickly someone learns, or how easily they can solve a problem.

Slow and steady often wins that race.

My Bernese Mountain Dog doesn’t pick up on stuff with the laser-beam focus that my sheltie Odin did. But she’s willing and she gets there and she is a much, MUCH easier dog to live with than Odin was when he was her age.

Odin was smart but he was a holy terror of a puppy.


Trainer Amelia’s Boxer, Doug, was dumb as rocks.

He was also the sweetest, happiest, friendliest, most loving dog you could ever hope to meet.

Doug was a great dog.

Doug was a Trick Dog Champion who would fetch you a Kleenex when you sneezed, and then go put it in the garbage for you. He could dunk a basketball into a basketball net, roll himself up in a blanket, and throw away his own poop bags.

You don’t need a smart dog to get a good dog.

Temperament

Roscoe watches over Baby Jane in Hope, BC

“I heard they are really loyal and loving” is what people often say about their breed of choice.

Guess what? All dog breeds are loyal and loving. They are dogs. We have selectively bred them to be our helpers and companions for millions of generations.

The selfish, unloving, vicious jerks didn’t make the cut.

Every single breed in the Kennel Club database will be described as affectionate/friendly/loving/gentle/loyal.

Every single one.

Any dog with a solid stable temperament will love you and work to please you. Dogs are just like that.

Temperament is the least predictable aspect of a dog breed. Within any breed you can get fearful dogs, outgoing dogs, anxious dogs, and bomb-proof dogs.

Temperament testing is largely useless, too.

Service dog schools have poured a lot of money into trying to predict a puppy’s adult temperaments, but it has been found again and again to be pretty futile. We change so much as we grow and learn that you simply can’t predict the future from a brief snapshot of a puppy’s behaviour.

Someone who lives with the puppy can tell you if they are brave or shy, clingy or independent, but that’s about it.

The physical characteristics of a breed are much more predictable than the personality of the dog in question. They’re all unique individuals, after all.

So What’s The Best Way To Pick A Dog?

While all of the above considerations are things to think about, there is one very important step that many families skip.

Know What Your Dog Was Bred To Do

Dog breeds were bred for a purpose.

While nowadays breed choices hinge largely on things like size or coat type, it used to be that dogs worked for a living, and the dogs who did the best at their jobs were bred and used to parent future generations.

The standard “look” of the breed you love was usually fostered after the fact by fans of the breed who began selecting for appearance. But originally the dogs were bred because they loved to do the job and they were good at it.

That means that your Labrador Retriever comes from generations upon generations of dogs that loved to carry things in their mouths.

Your Border Collie comes from generations of dogs who love to run after sheep and make them go where they are supposed to go.

Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel comes from ancestors who made particularly excellent companions.

Know what your dog was bred to do, because there is an excellent chance that your dog is going to want to do that thing.

Do not get a terrier if you want a dog that will lie still and sleep all day. Terriers are bred to hunt for mice and rats, and will spend much of the day patrolling. They won’t want to eat out of a bowl – they’ll want to earn their meals.

Do not get a Newfoundland if you want a hiking companion. They were bred to sit on a boat all day and occasionally help haul a fishnet onto deck. Short bursts of energy are the best you can expect.

Do not get a Beagle if you want a dog who hangs on your every word. Hounds are bred to go out and sniff out prey all on their own. They think for themselves and don’t appreciate being given orders. That nose will be on the ground and they will track that rabbit no matter how many times you call.

Do not get a Cavalier King Charles if you want a hearing-ear dog to alert you to fire alarms and ringing phones. That dog is not going to get out of a warm and comfy bed to let you know that your boss is calling you.

Are there retrievers out there who don’t pick up everything in their mouths? Yes.

Are there terriers who sleep all day, rather than barking at passers-by from the picture window? Yes.

Are there hyper-intelligent pugs who need to be kept mentally stimulated to prevent them from thoroughly outwitting their owners?

It’s… hypothetically possible, okay?

My point is that yes, weirdos exist in every breed, and temperaments within breeds can vary widely. However, it is a very safe bet to assume that your dog will really enjoy doing what it has been bred to do.

You can start by looking at its AKC Group.

The American Kennel Club groups dog breeds by purpose.

Sporting Group:

We owned one Labrador (Dawn of Kezar) who, after being broken as a retriever, was taught in a few weeks to take hand signals and quarter her ground back and forth ahead of the gun. No one watching her valuable work would pretend that she crashed the weed thickets with the speed and dash of a Springer. . . . But this Lab loved to quest for game. To the ‘hunt ’em up’ command and a wave of the hand she would bang into the brush and tall weeds to find pheasants for us, always staying within easy gun range. Most upland bird hunting is, of course, done with the pointing and sporting spaniel breeds, and in these dogs ability to retrieve is especially important from the standpoint of reducing crippling losses of upland game.” – Bird Dogs in Sport and Conservation 1948

These are dogs bred for finding or fetching game. Spaniels, Retrievers, Pointers and Setters all fall into this category.

Because these breeds were meant to follow the hunter’s instructions and then return, they tend to be obedient and eager to please. Because they had to be brave enough to put up with loud gun shots, they tend to socialize easily. And because they did not need to guard anything, they tend to be friendly and easy-going.

There is a reason that service dog schools use retrievers – they are emotionally tough, can handle a kennel environment, and they can handle accompanying to the new summer blockbuster action flick. They also love to work.

They also all love to chase birds and need a moderate to high amount of exercise.

As long as you can meet those exercise requirements and give your sporting dog some jobs, they make great family friends.

Hound Group:

A group of villagers were watching the sport, and close to the line a woman was standing ; but Rufus paid no heed to either, and went on hunting every inch of the line until reaching the outside boundary, clearly defined by one of Gibbs white flags. Here he came to his first serious check, being out of view for some minutes in a wood. On coming into sight he ran heel for a distance ; but, encouraged by Collett, he at length regained the line, and rattling down into the valley, where scent was warmer than on the higher ground, he ran into his quarry in exactly one hour and ten minutes—really an excellent performance. – The New Book of the Dog, 1911

Hounds are bred to sniff out, track down, and sometimes kill game.

This group, which includes Beagles, Fox Hounds, and Basenjis, tend to be independent thinkers and problem solvers who don’t spend much time taking orders from their handler.

The best hounds were the ones who never gave up and didn’t come running back to the boss for help the moment the trail went cold.

Anyone who has ever read Where the Red Fern Grows knows how stubborness – doggedness, you could call it – was valued in hound-type dogs.

Expect it.

If you want an independent family dog who isn’t too clingy, consider a dog from the hound group. Many of them have high energy requirements, but beagles are medium energy while Bassets are practically ottomans.

Working Group:

THEY OFTEN DRAG CONSIDERABLE LOADS.’ so far from resenting their duties they positively enjoy their work. It is said, indeed, that there is only one day in the week on which a Belgian draught dog is unhappy, and that is Sunday, when he remains at home inactive. – The New Book of the Dog, 1911

The working group is the group with the most dog breeds that should have big red flags on them saying “Not For Beginners”.

Ranging widely from herding dogs to guard dogs, any breed in the Working Group was bred for a very specific task and you should keep that task in mind before you buy.

Most dogs from the working group want to do their job and if you don’t give them a job then may Dog have mercy on your soul.

That being said, there are some truly wonderful companions in this group and most dog trainers choose Working Group dogs. I have never owned a dog that didn’t fall into this category.

Because of the variety of tasks a working dog could perform, this is the group where it is most important that you read the fine print on the history of the breed.

The Doberman is a wonderful example.

Dobermann was a tax man who wanted a dog to accompany him on his rounds and protect him (tax collectors are strangely unpopular). He combined the guarding tendencies of a Rottweiler with the rabid workaholism of herding breed dogs and ended up with a dog very similar to what we now call the Doberman Pinscher.

The result is a dog with the fierce intelligence of a herding breed dog with the possessiveness of a guard dog. Which, depending on what you want in a dog, is either awesome or a big fat YIKES.


That being said, don’t rule out a breed just because it belongs to this group. Many of the drafting breeds make calm, loving, and hard working family members. Just know what the dog is bred to do, and think about how that might affect your dog’s personality.

Terrier Group:

He may be very usefully employed by those who follow rabbit shooting in cover, for his perseverance is indomitable ; and, when of the rough or wiry-haired species, thorns and bram-bles have no account with him. The family of the terrier is the most domestic of all the canine race, and one that has lately made, and is still making, great progress in the higher branches of science known to its genus. The species called bull-terrier is capable of training to almost any purpose for which the dog is required. – The New Book of the Dog, 1911

Terriers are mostly vermin-hunters – bred to keep rats out of barns, kill foxes, or dig badgers out of their sets. Some did it competitively, with people betting how many rats a dog could kill.

Because of this, terrier tend to be feisty, independent, and quick-witted. They learn fast, think for themselves, and love a good challenge.

Some terriers were bred for dog fighting – mixed with bulldogs and thrown into the arena for bloodsport. If your dog comes from one of these lines, be aware that extensive dog socialization is a must.

Terriers have a ton of personality and are a lot of fun. They love to do pretty much every task there is… except stay home and sleep.

Toy Group:

“We find that these little dogges are good to assuage the sickness of the stomacke, being therunto oftentimes applyed as a plaster preservative or borne in the bosom of the weake or diseased person, which effect is performed by theyr moderate heate. – Dr Caius, quoted in The American Book of the Dog 1891

Toy breeds often are miniaturized versions of breeds from other categories. It delighted wealthy ladies to have a pet which looked like a doll-like version of popular working dogs. Thus the Cavalier is a miniature spaniel, the Pug a miniature mastiff, and the pomeranian a miniature spitz.

Toys were used as the playthings of the rich and indolent and as living hot water bottles for the sick and the poor.

Because they were bred specifically for size or unusual appearance (such as hairlessness) they are more prone to health problems than sporting and working breeds. However, with proper care most Toy breeds have very long life expectancies, often 16-17 years of age.

Most Toy breeds maintain the personality of the breeds that they originally came from, but tend to have more clingy natures and don’t do well alone. Many of them tend to be one-man dogs and can be standoffish with strangers.

Most don’t stand up to rough handling and many are not good with children – Pugs and Cavaliers being notable exceptions. Pugs can be positively rough-and-tumble and make excellent family dogs.

Toys are not for everyone, and they are certainly not the animated stuffed animals they are sometimes mistaken for. Please research carefully about the breed’s health and temperament before you get one.

Non-Sporting Group:

This is the biggest catch-all of the breed groups. The breeds in this group are usually here because they were (at least in recent history) bred for looks more than for one particular job.

This is where you find many of the most distinctive breeds such as Dalmations, Poodles, and Bulldogs.

If you’re considering a dog in the Non-Sporting category, read the history carefully. Some, like the poodle, are so wonderfully versatile that they make excellent dogs for all types of owners. Others, like the Chow Chow, are only suitable for very specific types of homes.

Many Non-Sporting breeds come with severe health problems – a side effect of being bred primarily for appearance. Bulldogs have chronic skin problems and sometimes need surgery to be able to breathe comfortably. Dalmations are prone to bladder stones. Poodles – especially the smaller poodles – are notorious for their terrible teeth.

The Takeaway:

No matter how cute you think a particular breed or breed mix is, or no matter how much you have heard about the dog’s personality, it is important to know what a dog was bred to do.

If your dog is a mix, consider that your dog could want to do either or all jobs bred into their ancestors.

Because while every dog is their own unique person, if a dog comes from a long line of dogs who liked to do a particular job, you need to ask yourself if you want a dog who loves to do that particular thing.

That doesn’t mean your dog can’t do other jobs.

All dogs, for example, have a tendency to guard the family home, particularly when left up to their own devices. This was the first job dogs ever did for humans and so it is in the genetic makeup of every dog, though some breeds are more territorial than others.

Toys, in particular, often take up guarding because they are frequently treated more like cats than like dogs and lack enrichment and other “jobs” so they default to the original dog job – barking at everything.

Ultimately, all dogs are reasonably intelligent, as domestic animals go, and are capable of learning new things.

So Bernese Mountain Dogs, who are lumbering farm and draft dogs, can learn to do agility. Dachshunds, bred to dig our burrowing animals, can learn to play flyball. Pugs can become Trick Dog Champions.

In fact, experienced trainers often delight in training a dog to go beyond its breed and wow other trainers.

But when you are considering a family member, it’s important to understand that every dog has a purpose, it is up to you to help them fulfill it…

…Not train them out of it.

This Is Why Your Dog Is Hooked On Treats

Posted on March 7, 2016June 7, 2019Categories Common Mistakes Owners Make, DogsTags , , ,

Pugh_dog.jpg

We use a lot of treats when teaching dogs a new skill, for several reasons: Treats are highly motivating, quick to deliver, and easy to carry.

But once your dog has learned that skill, treats should be phased out. And yet we meet so many people whose dogs obey them “only when I have a treat in my hand”.

There are three main reasons why dogs get hooked on treats.

Reason 1: Your Dog Only Gets Treats If You Are Holding A Treat

Dogs aren’t stupid. Well, they aren’t the most intelligent creatures on the planet, but they do have brains. If you hold out a treat and say “sit” and your dog sits, and then gets a treat, your dog learns that a treat in the hand = a treat in the mouth. Then, you tell your dog to sit when you don’t have a treat on you. Ever hopeful, he sits anyway. No treat appears, because you don’t have a treat.

So what has your dog learned from this? Unless your dog is an utter moron, he has learned that there is no point in sitting if he doesn’t see a treat. Dogs quickly develop a “show me the money” attitude about obedience. They want proof of payment before they will do the work.

The Cure:

Always carry treats on you, but don’t always give them out. Show your dog a treat, tell her to sit, and then pat her on the head and carry on without handing down the treat. Then tell her to sit with the treat hidden away, and when she sits, give her the treat.

Your dog will quickly learn that the presence or absence of a treat has nothing to do with whether she will actually be paid for her work. So she starts thinking, “hmm… maybe it is the QUALITY of my work that matters…” and she will offer you faster, better, more eager obedience in the hopes that this time she will earn a treat.

Reason 2: You Give Out Food For Free

I see it all the time – I ask a client to get their dog to sit, and they pull out the Pupperoni to motivate their dog. Meanwhile, there is a bowl of half-eaten kibble lying on the floor.

I have to ask – why is that food there? A half-eaten bowl of food tells me several things:

  1. The dog doesn’t love the food.
  2. The dog is being given more food than the dog needs.
  3. The dog doesn’t respect the food because it is freely available.

The Cure:

Don’t free feed your dog. Give your dog a small meal that can be finished in a short period of time. If your dog doesn’t eat it, pick it up and put it away until next meal time. Better yet, make your dog actually earn meals. In an ideal world, your dog would work for every mouthful of food she gets. Breakfast can be doled out bite by bite in return for good behaviour on a walk. Dinner can be served kibble by kibble during a long down stay while you eat your own meal.

But some foods are easier than others. If your dog is on raw, it’s hard to serve piece by piece, unless you break it into frozen chunks and make your dog earn each chunk during a short walk.

Even so, your dog’s meal should be served after your dog has been required to work, and if your dog isn’t interested, pick it up. A few hours of hunger won’t hurt your dog and will certainly motivate him to work for the next meal.

Reason 3: Treats Are The Only Reward You Use

Treats only work when your dog loves them and feels hungry.

What if your dog is full, the treats you are holding are not particularly appetizing, and your dog would much rather play with another dog than come get that dry, tasteless treat that he isn’t even really hungry for? You guessed it: your dog will simply keep playing with his friend.

The Cure:

Too many owners rely  on treats to motivate their dog, and ignore a whole world of other motivations in their dog’s environment.

The best reward for your dog is whatever your dog wants most at the current moment. If your dog really wants to go play with his friend, he is going to pay approximately zero attention to your treats. Even if you do manage to get him to obey you and then reward with the not-so-motivating treat, you have just wasted your money in feeding a treat that your dog didn’t even really care about, when you had a much better reward at your finger tips. The real reward that your dog wanted was to go play with the other dog!

So USE THAT.

If you watch your dog for a day, you will see that there are lots of things that your dog wants in life. She wants to go outside, she wants to sniff that post where all the other dogs pee, she wants you to cuddle her, she wants to chase a squirrel, she wants to sleep on your bed, and she wants to play with her ball.

What is the point of chasing after her with treats when you have all of these other great rewards available?

Every time you let your dog go outside, or sniff a post, or chase a ball without asking her to work for it, you waste a reward. You might as well just walk around throwing chunks of steak on the ground for your dog to eat  – either way you are giving out free “treats” that your dog didn’t have to earn.

When your dog wants something, ask your dog to do some obedience, or a trick, to get it. Then, instead of fishing a treat out of your pocket, give your dog the thing that he wants!

This way, instead of requiring treats in order to work, your dog will work for you because he knows that it is the best way to get what he wants – EVERYTHING!800px-Mother_and_son_with_dog_playing public domain.jpg

Accepting And Guiding Your Dog’s Choices

Posted on January 12, 2016Categories Animal Behavior, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Training MethodsTags ,

stubborn bichon

Photo Credit to Gareth1953

People are always trying to make their dog be good.

They drag the leash this way and that, choke the dog, pick up the dog, physically force it to do what they want while insisting “sit sit sit sit SIT!”. But it keeps on trying to misbehave. Unless something changes, they will live in a constant state of war.

Don’t fight your dog. Don’t try to force your dog to do your bidding, because it will just make the dog wish he didn’t have to.

Isn’t it better to have your dog actively choose for herself that she wants to please and obey you? Isn’t it better for her to see food on the coffee table and choose not to steal it, or to see a cat and choose not to chase it?

Instead of trying to make your dog behave in a certain way, set up a world in which your dog will actively choose to do so.

Set up basic positive and negative consequences – if the dog sits, he gets dinner. If he doesn’t, then no dinner. If the dog walks close to you, she gets to continue her walk and gets the occasional treat. If she goes up ahead and drags, the walk stops. Too bad for her.

Then let the dog make his or her own choices.

At first those choices will be the wrong ones.

He misses a meal. She only gets to go three feet down the front path.

You don’t yell, you don’t nag, you don’t force. You simply accept the dog’s choice and enact the consequence that comes with it, good or bad.

Then the dog decides that he doesn’t like this. So he chooses. He chooses to sit. He chooses to walk nicely on leash.

You can’t make a living thing do anything. You have to respect that they are independant living, thinking, feeling beings who make their own choices for their own reasons. Your role is to guide them by giving them reasons to do what you would like them to do and let them choose to do it themselves.

And if they do the “wrong” thing, then that was their decision and we respect and honor it… as well as the consequences that come with it.

A dog’s life is too short to spend fighting. You and your dog should be a joyful team, not opposing armies in a battle of wills. So drop the war, take a look at how you would like your dog’s behaviour to change, and then set up your dog’s world so that it will be easy for her to choose to do so.

And if you need help… you know where to find us!

You Don’t Need Treats Forever: How To Give Your Dog A Gambling Problem

Posted on March 13, 2013Categories Animal Behavior, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Training MethodsTags , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Hooked On Treats?

photo credit to Elf

When we come to your home and say that we want to teach your dog to sit, lie down, stay, and heel (as well as play dead, close your cupboard doors, ring a bell to go outside, spin in a circle, fetch your keys, jump over your leg and so on…), the first thing we will do is ask you to bring out the high value treats.

Many owners are reluctant to give their dogs treats.

They know too many people (maybe including themselves!) who have dogs who will ONLY obey if they have a treat in their hand.

No one wants to bribe their dog into being obedient.

Nor should you.

What you do want is a dog who obeys you eagerly each and every time you give a command.

How do you do that?

By giving your dog a gambling problem.

Let us take you through the process one step at a time:

Continue reading “You Don’t Need Treats Forever: How To Give Your Dog A Gambling Problem”

Common Mistakes Dog Owners Make: Not Watching The Puppy!

Posted on January 16, 2013Categories Common Mistakes Owners Make, DogsTags , , , , ,

In this series we discuss some of the most common errors we see owners make, and how to address them.

Letting The Puppy Discover How Good It Is To Be Bad

Puppies are constantly learning about the good and bad the world, and unlike you and me, their definitions of “good” and “bad” don’t involve morality.

courtesy of dogshaming.com

courtesy of dogshaming.com

Dogs don’t understand right and wrong.

If a dog gets to eat food, and it tastes good, then that is good. If they try to get food and they can’t, that’s bad. How you feel about it doesn’t really enter into the equation.

If your puppy discovers that food in the garbage is easy to reach AND delicious, then your puppy will grow into a dog who is obsessed with getting into the garbage.

If your puppy discovers that shoes are fun to chew, then your shoes will be in constant danger thereafter.

If your puppy finds out that he can poop behind the couch and no one gets mad at him, then you will be constantly finding little presents hidden back there.

The same goes for destroying furniture, eating rugs, shredding kleenex, surfing counters in the kitchen and all of those other fun occupations that your house contains in abundance.

Once your puppy has discovered the joy of raiding your counters or eating your table leg, there are things you can do – but it will be very difficult to fix the problem.

There is one thing that will prevent all of these problems arising in the first place:

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Deconstructing Dominance: The Science Behind Wag The Dog

Posted on September 29, 2012April 25, 2021Categories 100 Reasons To Love Wag The Dog, Animal Behavior, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Training MethodsTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Your Dog Fighting For Dominance?

Perhaps one of the most commonly touted tenets of dog training is “be the leader”.

Whether the family dog is jumping up, growling, biting, or tugging at the leash, owners are advised by professionals and dog hobbyists alike to “lead the pack”.

It sounds good, and it’s an easy line for lay people to take – “Oh, your dog is misbehaving? You need to be the pack leader and be more dominant.”

Advice for how to do to do this usually involves things like going through doors first, eating first,  or turning your dog upside down, all of which are supposed to mimic the behaviour of wolves in the wild.

People think that they shouldn’t sleep with their dog, shouldn’t let him on the furniture, and shouldn’t share their table scraps.

When we meet a new client, we often listen to embarrassed confessions of doing all these things… and then we surprise them by telling them the truth: If you don’t mind your dog on the bed, it’s not a problem. You won’t create a struggle for power if your dog cuddles with you on the sofa in the evenings.

Yes, if you want your dog listen to you and respond to you, you certainly need to be the leader in the relationship. But that doesn’t mean you need to dominate your dog.

The Science Behind Dominance

Continue reading “Deconstructing Dominance: The Science Behind Wag The Dog”

Common Mistakes Dog Owners Make: Coming When Called

Posted on February 2, 2012Categories Animal Behavior, Common Mistakes Owners Make, Dogs, Training MethodsTags , , , , , , ,

In this series we will discuss some of the most common errors made by dog owners, and how to address them.

Training The Dog To Run Away When Called

This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many pet owners accidentally train their dog to run away from them!

Coming when called should always be a happy occasion.

Once your dog is off-leash, the only control you have over him is your past history of rewarding him for returning to you. If you have not built this history strongly enough, then reclaiming your dog may be quite a challenge.

Continue reading “Common Mistakes Dog Owners Make: Coming When Called”