In this article, we offer six simple tips that will improve your dog’s general behaviour and attitude. You can implement one or all of them. Try one at a time and see what happens!
Give affection and attention on your terms.
Don’t let your dog demand or expect your attention. Many owners aren’t even aware that they do this until it’s pointed out to them. It is best to share affection and attention when you want to not when they want it. Barking at you, jumping on you and nuzzling you for attention should not be allowed or encouraged if you want to earn your dogs respect and trust.
When they are in a passive, relaxed state of mind and not seeking it, invite them into your space then. It’s not the amount of affection we are saying to limit, it’s the way it is done.
Your dog demanding attention or asking for a pat is not necessarily because they are trying to show love. They may be asking you to reaffirm their status, jealous that you are talking to someone else or ignoring them or just addicted to your stimulation, attention or energy. Not only is this helpful to improve the general attitude, but it teaches them to be patient and develop self-control – life skills they will need in other situations. It is not natural or healthy for them to expect instant gratification and it is your responsibility to support them with this type of thing in daily life.
Don’t rely on treats to get the behaviour you want.
Giving treats and talking to your dog in a high pitched voice as your main method of training is usually counter-productive. It is not impressive to them and not how anyone wants their leader to behave or communicate. It can easily set you up to be seen as a treat dispenser that they need to do tricks for, and can foster an attitude of “what’s in it for me?” Your approval should be the reward!
Treats are fine to give at random but should not be used to bribe. Dogs trained this way often become hyperactive and demanding (and anxious) and are regularly medicated because of it. Rewarding with warmth and feelings of approval and appreciation are a much more effective and respectful way to communicate with your dog if you want to create a calm and balanced mind. If they won’t do things for you unless you have a treat, this is an indicator that you don’t have your dogs respect.
Reward an attitude, not a body position.
We encourage you to share affection or allow privileges only when your dog has a respectful attitude and a relaxed mind. This is huge. If you share affection when your dog is excited, pushy or anxious you will accidentally encourage, approve of and anchor this mindset and this often leads to dogs showing symptoms of ‘ADHD’. We regularly see anxiety misinterpreted as excitement. Similarly, only start things like affection, putting a leash on or coming into your house when your dog is calm and relaxed.
It’s important to notice that although your dog may be physically still, such as when you ask for “sit”, it does not mean they are calm. The physical action of sit is not what is creating respect, it is the dog’s attitude to you in that situation that determines this. At the door for example, I would rather my dog stand up while being passive and respectful and waiting to be invited inside, than to be in a sit position loading up ready to burst into the house. If you dog does both, great, but on its own, “sit” is just a trick and won’t accomplish much.
Make sure your dog gets enough exercise!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but we are CONSTANTLY surprised at how much this is under-utilised and under-rated. Simply put, your dog needs enough exercise to drain his energy. Having excess energy will quickly make your dog restless, anxious, hyperactive, frustrated and/or distracted. A DAILY walk is the best exercise you can give your dog (letting your dog pull you down the street does not count!).
Funnily enough, leaders LEAD. If you want your dog to respect you and listen to you while you are in public places or around other dogs and people, you need to be accepted as their leader. In which case, you need to insist that they walk by your side on a loose leash when asked, and wait for your invitation before sniffing, exploring etc. We have found the best way to achieve balance is to give a mixture of calm, structured exercise (on lead) and free time. This gives your dog fun, freedom, intensity and variety and also provides essential opportunities for concentration, focus, resisting temptation and respect. You want to achieve fitness in both body and mind.
You may be surprised how much your dogs diet can influence their behaviour. We have seen huge changes in a dog’s behaviour by simply changing their diet. Anxiety, hyperactivity, frustration, being destructive, moodiness and irritation can be directly linked to eating the wrong food. Just like us, processed food that is far from its original form after being heat treated, dehydrated, loaded with grains, preservatives and additives can affect your dogs behaviour in a profound way.
We personally feed and promote a natural, raw diet (based on the B.A.R.F Diet philosophy) and avoid processed dry food or canned food as much as possible, no matter how expensive it is or how shiny the packaging is. If dry food is included we recommend only Australian made, grain free blends. We encourage you to do your own research here and experiment with your own dog. The days of blindly following advice given exclusively by vets and doctors are over. They usually memorise and regurgitate the information they are given by the companies that lobby for and educate them, and are taught to focus on and treat symptoms, not preventative and holistic health. Educate and empower yourself in this area as it essential not only for your dog’s behaviour and physical health right now, but for their longevity and overall quality of life.
Educate yourself to be the best owner you can be.
Unfortunately, this is very often overlooked. We notice that most owners focus on training their dog, but rarely do they spend time on training themselves and understanding how their own behaviour and responses profoundly influence their dog. To be an effective and successful guardian, and have a consistent influence over your dog’s behaviour, you must first understand dog behaviour and psychology!
Having a healthy relationship and being able to clearly communicate with them depends on this. The feedback you provide in every moment (things like self-conduct, energy, body language, attitude and emotions) is vital in shaping your dog’s responses and future behaviours. Although similar in many ways, humans and dogs have key differences that need to be understood if we want to live together harmoniously and give them happy lives filled with purpose, inner peace and dignity. Do yourself and your dog a favour and educate both of you Smile
Do you feel you would benefit from in-home dog training? Get in touch with SitDropStay in your area today!