As Humans, we can hardly fight our urge to talk to our dogs. Often a calming, therapeutical, and amusing way to interact with our pets, our urge to jabber can also be counterproductive to your training goals.
Dogs interact with each other, “command” each other, “punish” each other and “reward” each other with body language and very little sound. They use posture, body position, eye contact, ear position, etc to convey their messages. Put together into a whole, they emit an energy, or intent, that is as easy to read as a billboard for other dogs.
You can control your dog much easier by resisting the urge to command, shout and beg him to obey.
Do you want him to stop chasing your screeching 2-year-old nephew? Don’t holler the dog’s name from across the room. Raising your voice sometimes startles a sensitive dog into stopping for a moment, but more often, actually adds excitement to an already chaotic, unwanted behavior. Simply go to the dog instead, and using a strong, assertive energy, stand up tall and block the dog. Use a quick jab in the hip to switch his attention to you, or a sharp “hey” – something quick and strong to get his attention switched from the inappropriate target.. Using your biggest, strongest energy, direct the dog away from his target by pointing, sending him to his bed, or otherwise sending him away from the child. This can work when the dog is rushing excitedly after anything – the cat, a chicken, a dropped hot dog…you get the idea. Don’t be afraid to put a leash on him, let him drag it (only when supervised, please!) so you can use a leash to correct and redirect.
Another time people resort to shouting or too much talking is when the dog won’t come when called. If you have any doubt at all that the dog will not come – do not call! Go calmly and quietly to him, take his collar and bring him in. Practice calling him, taking his collar, and feeding treats at non-distracting times to reinforce the come command when it’s not a critical situation. Calling twenty times, getting louder and angrier each time only teaches the dog that you really only will come to get him when your voice gets to a certain pitch. After you’ve trained your “come” command with food, in non-distracting environments, call him ONE time in more challenging environments, being prepared to go in to help him by retrieving him by hand. Do not resort to yelling and repeating.
Jumping on people is another point that tempts people to repeat themselves and yell. When the dog approaches a person, or you, simply go to the dog with the strong demeaner described above, in the chasing scenario, and block him *before* he jumps. Tap him back near the hip to switch his focus, then strongly block his way and point him another direction with your hand, arm, body, eyes and strength of intention. Really crazy jumpers are easier to block and re-train when on a leash. Dogs must be taught to respect people’s space. Do not let them crowd your door, your visitors, your children or you.
Use that calm, strong, energy – not your words, and certainly not anger. Anger and frustration is perceived as weakness to dogs. Take a breath, and relax for just a second if you need to.
It’s a wonderful thing to indulge in a new quieter, happier, calmer way to control your dog. (p.s. Yes, it works with kids and spouses too! )