Dog on the Couch

2016-05-05 06:00

WHY doesn’t my dog listen to me? It is almost as though he chooses not to be obedient to my commands. Is he stupid or just stubborn?

Concerned

The key to your dog becoming compliant and co-operating with you depends largely on your becoming an exciting and valued friend to your dog. It is far better to think on the lines of encouraging cues and co-operation rather than to expect blind obedience to shouted commands. A patient, positive attitude will set the tone for turning away from corrective training which relies on forcing the dog into obeying you, resulting in a chain of confusion, distrust and a breakdown in the human-canine bond.

To get your dog’s attention and compliance you need to become a source of all good things – walks, play, grooming, toys, affection, treats and meals.

Decide on one or two actions you would like your dog to do, such as ‘sit’ or ‘down’, and then teach these cues by rewarding her with a high value treat, something she will find irresistible. That way the act of complying with your requests will be associated with rewards that make her feel good; it will activate the ‘searching’ centre in her brain and she will be giving you her attention when you need it. Once she is responding reliably, gradually begin to fade out the chosen reward by treating intermittently only. Remember some dogs may be better motivated with toys, play, praise or an affectionate pat, rather than with edible treats.

Your dog isn’t unintelligent. She’s just a different species with different needs and another language. To live in harmony together, we need to make an effort to understand this and be sure we are playing our part. You can do this with your dog by fulfilling her innate needs. Make sure there is adequate companionship, exercise and stimulation. There are many effective ways of teaching the behaviours that you find lacking.

- Susan Henderson© (accredited animal behaviourist)

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