Gaining respect from your dog
Prerequisite: Temperament Evaluation/Settle Exercise
Dogs are pack animals and all packs are governed by a top dog. That top dog is you! You control all of your dog's valuable resources, and "he who owns the gold makes the rules."
Dogs absolutely love and crave leadership from their humans. Being in charge is very stressful, and can cause anxiety or aggressive behaviors because they feel responsible for the family, and that's a big load to carry. They much rather you lead the pack.
The following exercises are designed to put you in the leadership position and to teach your dog valuable manners skills.
Remember: If you're planning on interacting with your dog, you MUST be able to back up what you say. That means if you are with the dog and supervising it, the dog is ALWAYS LEASHED and ready to work.
Table Manners and the “Leave it” command
Dogs have poor impulse control. When they want to pick something up with their mouth, they normally just dive in! That's not always safe or respectful. Nobody appreciates it when their dog helps themselves to their plate of food or steals things off the counter. Many things that dogs like to pick up are gross! (Think litter boxes, discarded trash, goose poop etc). The Leave It command is designed to address these issues.
1. We begin this exercise with food (any dog-appropriate food will do - treats, bits of cheese, bread, hotdogs, etc). If you are having trouble getting your dog's attention, you can simulate eating the treat first.
2. With your dog leashed, hold the leash in one hand (loosely) and food in the other. With your treat in hand (at about shoulder level), give your dog the ‘leave it' command. Then drop your hand near the dog (not too close) and hold it steady.
3. If your dog goes for the food (even sniffing!), give a quick "AH-AH!" and give a light leash-pop for a correction. Do NOT pull the food away. DO NOT repeat the leave it command. If the dog tries to get the food again, repeat your “Ah-ah!” and leash pop correction.
4. Watch your dog's body language. Praise your dog when they show body language that refuses the food by turning his head away, stepping back, sitting very still, or turning eyes away, praise. Remember that in the learning phase, you may go back and forth from praising to correcting and back again.
5. After observing body language and praising the dog for demonstrating patience and manners, and you are ready for the dog to take the food, give the ‘release’ command and allow the dog to take the food. Alternatively, you can reward from your hand, and pick up the food off the floor.
Repeat this training several times, with several different food items. You can gradually work on moving the food or toy closer to the dog, but remember not to repeat the 'leave it' command, or to yank the food away if the dog tries to take it. Instead, give your "Ah!-Ah!" and leash pop.
Practice this exercise at least 2 to 3 times daily with your dog. Get creative and show your dog different examples of when you might ask them to 'Leave it.' Use meal times and work on leave it out of a bowl. Toss the food on the ground (don't let them get it!), etc.
Freedom of Movement and Door Safety – the “Wait” command.
The leader of the pack does just that. LEADS. The Wait command is vital for safety, as it prevents door bolting, and allows the leader (that's you!) to be sure that it's safe for the dog to be on the other side of the door. It also instills respect for boundaries and space in the dog, as they are not always rushing through openings, down or up stairs, and taking people out at the knees.
1. With your dog leashed, move towards a doorway. As you arrive at the opening, turn your back to the door so that you are between the door and the dog. If your dog is still invading your space, apply some spacial-pressure by shuffling your feet towards the dog to back them out of your space.
2. With the leash held loosely, give the 'wait' command.
3. Step through the doorway.
4. If the dog tries to go through the opening with you or before you, immediately body-block the opening (you'll have to be quick!) and give a leash
pop correction with the “AH-AH!” and begin again. Do NOT repeat the ‘wait’ command.
5. When your dog is calm and holding themselves in position, you are ready for the dog to come through. Give the ‘release' command. After your dog comes through the opening, offer them a treat and/or praise.
6. Practice this exercise whenever your dog is going through a door that leads to the outside world. Safety first!
Sleeping space is very valuable to dogs. The leader of the pack gets the best resting space - the leader sleeps wherever they want to. Never try to show affection to a dog while they are sleeping (it's the number one way children are bitten by their own dog). Your dog should only be allowed on your furniture with your permission and invitation. You are the leader.