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It’s extraordinarily rewarding to share your life with a well trained, well behaved dog - a relationship built on mutual respect.  Where, through effective leadership and instruction, the dog has a full understanding of what their expectations are and fit into your world.  Those treasured relationships - when you experience them, or witness them - are typically the result of hours and hours of time committed to working together with consistency, repetition and patience.  A great companion and/or excellent family dog and/or therapy dog and/or working dog and/or competative sport dog are all built upon the same basic foundation skills.

It is important that all dogs are reliable, well socialized and well behaved, but the larger the dog, the more powerful the dog, the more independent thinkers, require a greater commitment to the level of training.  It is a necessary responsibility to learn the skills and rise to the occasion.  

Each dog is a ambasador to the breed.  The public perception and experience of a dog impacts the reputation, understanding and success of that breed.  The impression of a balanced, reliable, well mannered dog, benefits the breed and is an assest to the overall dog culture.

Visualizing exactly what you would want from your adult dog and how you would like that dog to behave ensures that you are moulding their behaviour from the onset.  Training starts the first weeks of the puppy's life and building on the initial efforts of a good breeder starts the moment you take posession of the puppy.  A crate and houseline will be the fastest route to success.

By 8 weeks old, puppies are fully capable of understanding and learning as an adult dog (but with less attention span).  Either you are training the dog how to behave or it is training itself by default and they may not be the same ideas!

LEADERSHIP - A preffered word over “alpha” is quality that is the sum of a variety of components, of which some are outlined below.  

TEACH - before you can expect a behaviour from a dog, you must first teach it.  Hollering “sit” at a dog does not teach it the behaviour anymore than hollering “algebra” at a student teaches them math.  Don’t assume that the dog “knows” what you want.  Dogs, in general, have been developed to work with humans and they aim to please.  More often, a dog that is not responding appropriately to a command does not have a solid understanding of the expectation.  It is the responsibility of the traininer to modify their techniqes to a manner that the dog can understand.

TIMING - dogs have approximately one second to make the connection between their actions and the trainers response.  That’s pretty close to immediately.   When a dog makes a good choice or does the correct action, immediate feedback will ensure that they understand how they were successful.  If you do not see the dog make an error within that one second time frame, then any mistake is the responsibiilty of the trainer and it is not fair to repremand the dog.  Supervision is key - if you can’t supervise, crate.

CONSISTENCY - if you don’t want a dog on furniture, NEVER allow them on furniture.  Choose specific words and/or sign language for actions/commands and stick with them.  Dogs respond well to black and white thinking.  Some dogs will challenge your committment to consistency more than others.

CLEAR - ensuring that the dog can understand what you are asking whether by choice of words, tone of voice, demonstration, sign language, use of tools (leash, collar etc).  Crisp and to the point - long sentances of explanation or command words mixed into sentances are difficult for dogs to understand. What can be intended as polite or kind by the trainer can be interperted as confusing to the dog.

FIRM - meaning what you say and providing follow through.  Saying commands once and if the dog does not oblige (but has been taught the command), then calmly making sure the action takes place.

CALM - frustration is real, but has no value in dog training.  Yelling, repeating commands, getting angry, reprimanding unfairly or anything where the dog is wearing the shortcomings of the trainer is not helpful, nor is it fair to the dog.  Take a break - stop working while you are still the dog trainer you want to be.  Staying calm keeps unproductive energy from transfering between the dog and the trainer and erroding the relationship.

FAIR - if you don’t want a behaviour from an adult dog, then don’t allow an 8 week old puppy to rehearse the behaviour.  Changing your mind about a behaviour at some random point, or at random times is not fair to the dog. A dog is not able to understand why they would be rewarded for a behaviour as a young puppy (by touch and praise) and suddenly repremanded for the same behaviour at a later date.  An example would be jumping up - if it’s not a behaviour you want from an adult dog, then don’t pet or encourage a puppy for doing the same.  Or if you don’t want your adult dog to drag you across the street to visit another dog, then don’t accommodate a puppy that attempts to do the same.

REWARD - ultimately, when a good bond as been established between a dog and trainer, the most valuable reward the dog can hope for is your praise, your smile, your attention, your touch.  Until that time, luring to demonstrate behaviour or rewarding for good choices will be useful to build skills and develope the relationship.

PROACTIVE - is much more effective that reprimanding.  It prevents a dog from rehearsing unwanted behaviour.   If you suspect your dog is going to chew shoes, deal with the situation before it happens.  Re direct.  Show the dog what is appropriate to chew.  Train the dog.  If the puppy is unsupervised and  is provided with an opportunity  to get to the shoes and chew them, the issue is two fold - first, they have rehearsed unwanted behaviour and secondly, they have rewarded themselves by the "feel good" of chewing on the shoes.  

TEACH WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO - these are not the same to a dog.  Because they learn to pee outside, does not mean they understand that also means that you don’t pee in the house.  It’s a separate training exercise - train to pee outside and train NOT to pee inside.  Repremanding a dog for a behavour that you don’t want does not teach it what you do want.  

SOCIALIZATION -  The correct definition of a well socialized dog is one that does not feel the need to interact with their surroundings. The dog that is confident and comfortable to walk by other dogs on a loose leash.  A dog that will lie relaxed under a table at a bistro.  A dog that understands not to lurch out at people passing by.  A dog that can be walked comfortably through the farmers market, or sit and wait at the vets office.  A dog that exhibits emotional control. A dog that is confident and comfortable with a variety of situations, locations and sounds.  Socializing a puppy involves getting that puppy out to as many places and have varied experiences to build their confidence and get training underway.  A socialized dog is also one that tollerates handling - having nails trimmed, grooming, teeth cleaned, vet examination, an unanticipated hug from a toddler.  “Socialization" is often misunderstood as “playing and interacting with other dogs” or that a well socialized dog is one that enjoys the company of other dogs.  Puppies of similar play styles can enjoy the company of other puppies and some dogs continue to enjoy other dogs into adult hood, but many dogs do not.  And not all dogs like all other dogs. 

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