Be the Change You Want in Your Dog

Every year, millions of dog owners take their furry friends to “dog obedience classes,” thinking that in a few weeks, the dog will magically have stopped jumping, barking, digging, chewing, or otherwise wrecking havoc. When the changes don’t happen, the owner complains “the training didn’t work” or “what a waste of money” or “my dog is untrainable!”

The most important and glaring piece of the training has been overlooked completely: you.

Even if your dog performs perfectly during a training class, the learning is wasted and forgotten if you are inconsistent, impatient, or lazy.

Dog training starts with you

Imagine a child growing up in a home where the rules change from day to day, consequences are erratic, and one parent gives in while the other demands discipline. What if one day “go to your room” means “go to the kitchen” and, unable to read the parent’s mind, the child goes to the wrong place? Imagine how that child would feel if one day the parents switched from speaking English to Russian and expected the child to understand what was being said.

If you are unable to dissociate your dog from your own human nature (and personality), it can cause terrible confusion. Dogs cannot read minds, and dogs do not speak English.

The kindest act you can bestow is to “treat your dog like a dog.” This means learning about the traits and instinctual behaviors of your breed (or breeds) of dog. It means learning to “speak dog”—that is, learning about how your dog communicates with his body and actions.

As a dog owner, you must first train yourself. Research the underlying reasons for your dog’s actions, and replace the word problem with behavior. Commit to rearranging your schedule, if you need to, so you can provide consistent exercise and training time with your dog. Make sure that everyone in your household is on board with the training methods.

Every dog owner is a dog trainer

If you dedicate yourself to providing clarity and consistency as you work with your dog, your training rewards will increase a thousand fold—as will your dog’s love and respect for you.

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