A Quick Guide to Succeeding with Your Dog

Usually most people get a dog so that they will have a companion to share enjoyable time with.  They don’t get a dog so that every day will bring challenges, and their life with their new “family member” seems like work, work, work.  To make life easier for all of you, I’ve offered you ten basic pieces facts that will help you if you use them.  You’ll have a great start on how to succeed with your dog.

  1. Exercise is one of the keys to a happy, calmer dog.  Dogs need it physically to keep them in shape, and it is a great way to bond with your dog. It is also a great stress reliever, and is truly crucial for your dog.  Dogs need to be exercised mentally and physically. 
  2. Dogs do not speak English, (nor other languages), but they are great at reading their owner’s body language, tone of their voice and facial expressions. They do speak, but their communication is through their body language and how they respond to you.  Learn their body language when they’re calm, excited, afraid, etc., and you’ll learn what to expect and how to deal with them.  Be their guide.
  3. Dogs are not self-correcting.  Saying “NO!” over and over again may sometimes get them to stop doing something some of the time, or may intimidate some dogs.  The solution is to get your dog’s attention, and provide an alternate activity for your dog to do.  Then praise him for it.
  4. Consistency is crucial.  You and your family need to plan how to develop good behaviors and how to phase out unacceptable ones.  Example: “No jumping” doesn’t mean most of the time.
  5. Praise and reward.  Dogs love to please us!  They’re much more likely to develop good behaviors if we remember to praise them for doing well.  It can be saying the word “YES”, or “GOOD”, or it can be a treat, a game of Fetch, etc.  The reward has to be something that the dog enjoys.
  6. Punishment can intimidate, and it doesn’t help the dog, or show him what he should do.  It also can endanger your relationship with your pet, and can cause some dogs to “shut down”.
  7. Staring hard at your dog does not help to stop them from doing something.  Remember, to succeed we have to understand dog language, and a dog translates staring as an “invitation” to react.  If the dog was meeting another dog, that stare sends out the invitation to play, lunge, bark, growl, etc., depending on what each dog thinks the stare means.  When a human stares at the dog, thinking the dog will “catch on”, the dog will react but not always appropriately.
  8. Be your dog’s guardian and guide.  It is absolutely not necessary to dominate the dog.  Work with your dog instead of yelling, hitting, or locking him up in a crate for long periods of time.  Your guiding him will take him a long way.  He will learn to listen to your requests and become an eager learner.
  9. Know your dog. Is he listless, is he sleeping more than usual, is his tail level when he’s comfortable, up when he’s on alert, tucked if he’s afraid?  When and how do his ears move?  Does he slouch down or get really rigid when something happens?  Is he acting normally?  Do this, and you’ll get great clues on what he’s thinking, how he’s feeling, if he needs a break from people, or even if he needs to go to the vet.
  10. Reach out for professional help if needed.  Get a positive trainer to assist you with unacceptable behaviors, or to teach manners and obedience.

Congratulations! Your dog will appreciate your efforts, and you’ll both be rewarded by his new behavior.

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