story: Jon Lewis photos: Kara Stewart
TIPS FOR TRAINiNG YOUR DOG
What has a tail that wags, four paws and the ability to simultaneously melt your heart and drive you up a wall? It’s your dog, of course. Looking for more of the heart warming and less of the wall climbing? Two longtime North State trainers offer a few tricks that even old dogs (and their owners) can learn. Ideally, the training starts as soon as the cute-as-a-bug puppy shows up with a good attitude and a clean slate, says Carla Jackson, who has been training for 14 years and operating her Jackson Ranch for Dogs since 1999.
The trick, for humans anyway, is to be generous with praise and stingy with the privileges. “It doesn’t hurt to start out with giving no privileges,” says Jackson. “It’s not cruel and it saves a lot of heartache later on. It’s a rare dog that doesn’t try to get over on somebody. There’s nothing wrong with easing into it. “It’s like a new job: everybody has to pay their dues or else you grow up to be a jerk,” Jackson adds with a laugh. “You can give them freedom after training; otherwise it’s akin to giving a teenager a Maserati and a credit card. It’s just too many liberties.”
Cari Bowe, another veteran trainer, agrees. “The fallacy is all you add is love. The nightmare is the puppy that’s allowed to jump on people, play wrestling games, eat whenever he wants and has a doggy door. He’s been given all the privileges that should be earned, not handed out.”
When puppyhood is a 24-7 party, dogs have a tendency to become “overly exuberant and hard to control,” says Bowe, who has been training dogs for 20 years. “A dog who knows his boundaries and knows his place in the family becomes more calm, more attentive and easier to live with.
“Oftentimes, when owners see they are not doing their dogs any favors by lavishing them with privileges, dogs have more respect for them and become more productive members of the family. They are not vying for leadership. Dogs are inclined to follow a leader, and if they don’t have a leader they tend to make up their own rules,” Bowe says. “For some dogs, it doesn’t matter at all, and there are some who become out of control or even dangerous.”
However, effective dog training does not have to resemble a canine version of Marine boot camp. In fact, the more fun it is, the better the results will be for both dog and owner. Jackson’s approach is to set the dog up for success, and she does that by administering treats and praise to reward appropriate behavior so that, with any luck, the dog will believe that doing what’s asked is the best, and only, option available.
TWO dog problems and solutions Jackson, who offers one-on-one training, listed two problem behaviors she often hears about from her clients, along with training tips to correct them.
1. House training “I’m a big fan of crate training,” says Jackson. “There’s a lot of resistance to it, and some people think it’s cruel, but it’s actually a kindness, given dogs’ denning instincts.” Crates provide dogs with a sense of security and they give owners control over feeding and where the dog is allowed to go. “It makes sense to them instinctively. They like to keep the den clean and it gives you control. You take them out and praise them and it becomes a habit to go to bathroom outside. You start small, and gradually expand the area,” Jackson says. Jackson advises against free-choice feeding. “If they’re eating all day, they’re going to the bathroom all day. Especially puppies, who have to go a few minutes after eating. It’s another recipe for success.”
2. Learning to come when called “This is one of the most important things you can teach your dog, and it’s the command that gets messed up the most,” Jackson says. People shouldn’t be fooled by gullible puppies who will follow your every step. “Dogs need to know what ‘come’ means. Start on a leash, with a fabulous treat to call them away from a distraction.” Owners should practice the “come” command often before risking off-leash outings in dangerous areas. “Give him no choice. When he hears that word, he’s got to think there’s no other choice. “It’s important to follow through. There’s a million ways to teach your dog not to come,” she says. If the dog is rummaging through garbage, you call him and he comes and gets punished, the dog thinks the punishment is for coming. Another way it can backfire is saying “come” and then putting the dog in a kennel for the day. “Don’t have any negative consequence for coming. It should always be a wonderful experience,” Jackson says. “You have 12, 14, or even 16 years to give your dog all kinds of freedom, but a very narrow window of opportunity to train them. You don’t want to plant that seed that they have an option of not coming because they’ll never get it out.
Carla Jackson and Cari Bowe collaborated on an interactive DVD titled “Your Family Dog—Leadership and Training.” It is available through www.dogwise.com or www.jacksonranchfordogs.com [email protected]