It’s been almost a year since Lloyd (my weimaraner) passed away and I am getting a new puppy soon- an Irish Setter. Good grief! What are my expectations? I need this puppy to come when called, sit when asked, play nicely with people, my cat, and dogs, toilet outside, not chew my house apart, and to be a dog that I can include in family activities. Sound familiar?
This is probably (in part) the kind of list you have, or had, when you brought your dog home. Nothing too crazy, I don’t need a dog that jumps though rings of fire, or will call me when Jimmy is lost down a well! However, I will still need to spend considerable time training him to perform to my basic expectations.
So much of successful dog training relies on measuring our expectations of our dogs. These expectations need to be considered in amongst the boundaries of your particular lifestyle and the personality of the dog you have. Every family has a different set of rules, these rules need to be taught to your dog.
Spend time teaching your dog how to behave in situations they will be presented with in their lives. Ah! I hear you say, my dog is so good at home but it all falls on ‘deaf ears’ when we go out. Be specific. Dogs do not generalise well, and need to be trained in different environments.
You are your dogs’ teacher and guide in this world of humans. Set your dog up for success, but more importantly set yourself up for success, train when you are calm, not in the heat of a difficult moment. Know what behaviour you are going to reinforce and be confident and consistent about it. Train when you have fresh meat and your dog is hungry. You are competing for your dogs’ attention so you need to make yourself very attractive, fresh meat with a hungry dog is great for this.
Once you have mastered the behaviour in practise then you can try it in reality. However, this will only be a small part of dog training. Most of your time is spent in practising the behaviour. Be realistic about your dogs ability and your expectations.
Katarina (maybe I should just get a robodog)
Picture courtesy of- www.countrytalk.co.uk