Sunday, January 04, 2009
By MARCIA WHITE
It's another new year and time for many humans to follow through on resolutions to change their lives.
In that spirit, is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks?
We asked two area dog trainers to offer their tips for tackling four major dog behavioral problems. Both trainers say yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Sheila Lobel of Belvidere, NJ, owner of Good as Gold K9, says her part of her approach of positive dog training "is based on the belief a dog won't listen for one of three reasons”:
It did not learn the request.
It is not being motivated enough.
Distractions are more difficult to ignore than completing the desired behavior is.
"A lot of dog training needs to start on a leash," Lobel says. This is especially important for dogs which run away.
It usually happens that when a dog is let outside without a leash and begins to run, people yell and chase after the animal. That turns it into a game for a dog, she says.
Good behavior outside starts with good behavior inside, she says. Work on games indoors like "find me." Command the dog to come and offer a small treat or toy to fetch as a reward. Increase the game's difficulty. When the dog has gotten the hang of it indoors, move outside.
Lobel says she always keeps her dogs on a long line or tether outside while training. If the dog will not respond to the call to come, "Don't yank the dog. Pick up the line, gather it up, go to the dog and motivate it to follow you."
For a dog that wants to run out the door every time someone opens it, keep the dog on a leash and practice having someone open the door. If the dog pulls toward the door, make a U-turn, walk the dog backwards and have it do a "sit," "wait," or "stay" command with praise and rewards until the proper behavior is established.
Effective dog potty training must begin immediately if you have a new dog, and can work if you have persistence with an older dog, Lobel says.
Give the dog's bodily functions one word, like "business" for example. Say the word, take the dog outside on a leash and walk the animal to its favorite spots in the yard.
After the dog goes, repeat the word and give the dog a treat.
Inside, observe the dog at all times and find the keys to its body language that will tell you when it has to "go." While 20 to 25 percent of dogs will eventually scratch or bark at the door to alert you, the sign may be something very subtle, Lobel says. Until the dog is no longer having “accidents” in the house, that dog must be watched by the owner so that the pet’s “signs” are immediately recognized and the dog learns that outside is the only place to use for elimination. The owner will miss training opportunities if the dog is unsupervised.
There are probably as many schools of thought on dog training as there are breeds out there. These suggestions are starting points, and many people are willing to help you bring out the best in man's best friend.
Good as Gold K9, 908-475-8882; www.goodasgoldk9.com.