By Adam Casper
Casper Dog Training
From the moment you have woken up, tired from a full night of battling for real estate in your own bed that your furry guest has claimed you then need to cook some eggs for his breakfast. It's clearly not for you or your kids but so the family dog doesn't "freak out." Everything in the house has become his. Your spot on the couch, socks, shoes, underwear, TV remote control, food on the table or kitchen counter and even the garbage cans have become his. How did this happen?
Many clients I've had begin their training of their dogs painting the picture of the above mentioned. The dog barks almost constantly, steals and destoys personal items, doesn't play with the dozens of toys you bought for him and all human food left unguarded is stolen and eaten (even though some of the food makes him sick). So how did this happen?
There could be several reasons why but the most likely of all is that you wanted to please him. In doing so you've created a monster. Probably the biggest issue is that you've handed over the role of the house leader or boss and now work for the love and affection of the dog with hope that he will see you as the house leader if you buy him a bunch of toys, cook delicious meals and share your bed. Of course this is not the case.
Regardless of how and when you lost the role of leader, you can get it back!
The first thing you need to do is begin basic obedience training focusing on impulse control which is a fancy way of saying patience. The most simple ways are getting the dog to sit then present him with a high value treat in Palm of your open hand. As he begins to move forward, even a tiny twitch, close your hand and withdraw it from the front of the dog while saying in a firm tone "LEAVE IT!" This should be repeated until the dog will not make a move toward the treat. In time if you are consistent, you can apply that command to anything from food on the table to another animal you encounter on a walk.
Another easy command is the "watch" command. This one's purpose is to have the dog stop whatever behavior they are doing and look into your eyes. The watch command serves a dual purpose. First, the dog is lured to stare into your eyes. Naturally if the dog is looking at you they can't look at the squirrel, treat, toy, food, etc. Second, Your dog and you firm up your bond with each other. Once the dog can reach over 30 seconds of direct eye contact the dog has mastered self control and patience while waiting for you to give a command or reward. Basically if you have guests over your house and your dogs sitting politely staring into your eyes, you have a well behaved dog. In summary your dog can't get into trouble if they're busy staring at you.
"WATCH" is extremely simple but important. You can use it for inside and outside of the house. To begin get a high value treat. Have the dog sit and put the treat in between your thumb and index finger, bring the treat next to your eye (left or right it doesn't matter)and say your dogs name then "WATCH." Hold on to the dogs gaze for as long as possible. It's best to count to 30 seconds which is the goal.
So instead of shouting "NO! NO!" at your dog simply and firmly state: "DOG'S NAME leave it" then "DOG'S NAME watch. If your dog walked away from the high value item (food, animal, toy or person) and looks into your eyes instead you've established proper boundaries and have become the leader of your house!