Dog’s Eye View: Construction project or remodel
The toolbox analogy has often been used in dog training, because, as trainers, we have a toolbox. In it we have collars, leashes, crates, baby gates, etc. Knowledge is our instruction book. From my first dog to my current dogs, I can probably fill a garage with the number of toys and equipment I have collected.
My user’s manual is a huge library of books and DVDs and thousands of hours in classes, seminars and workshops. I have used many tools to build the behavior I like in my dogs. I’ve also used my toolbox as part of my management program, depending on what my dog needs at that moment.
What is it going to take to bring a new dog into your household? Behavior is constantly under construction. The foundation for raising a great dog and a great relationship starts with that new puppy. Early training and positive socialization helps build a stable temperament. Setting up a reliable life schedule for the little one builds confidence and encourages him to keep learning. Training early and often, along with consistent management, spells success and a stable, well-constructed foundation.
Even a new house with everything freshly bought requires regular maintenance. Over time, things age and become less efficient. We can use this analogy in our training relationship with our family dog. If we stop training, thinking it’s enough and the dog should know it by now, we soon see behavior begin to degrade and little problems creep up, kind of like paint peeling or the plumbing going out. Our dogs need school to be in session year-round, and periodic review keeps training fresh and expectations high.
Our older, adopted dogs are more like a remodel job with legs. Often, they come into our lives with a very weak foundation and shaky construction. Sometimes, we need to take one room at a time in tackling this job. Basic house manners, building trust and compliance, setting expectations for how you want this dog to adapt to your family: These are not always easy tasks. Problems emerge during the first several months, as the dog begins to exhibit behaviors we have not expected. The relationship with a new older dog needs a supervisor on the job at all times. We need a different instruction book for some of these remodel projects.
OK, so now you might be thinking I have a very superficial view about dogs. Actually, I’m head-over-heels in love with both my dogs. If barking in the backyard at a new dog in the neighborhood doesn’t get the response I want, I reach into my toolbox and choose something else instead of the verbal cue to shush. I pull out management, bring the dogs in and shut the dog door. I don’t ask twice. It takes a bit more effort, but it’s done then.
Were I to holler out the window four or five times, my dogs would surely think I was barking, too. That would turn up the fun factor for them and the frustration factor for me, but I digress.
Foundation training is the base for all other behaviors to succeed. A weak foundation will crumble through time. Our skills are the regular repair and upgrades our relationship needs. My 11-year-old dog, Skippy, is like a vintage home: beautiful in her sound, reliable trust and solid in her skills and expectations. She continues to remind me that we are never too old to learn something new and has added much to my toolbox
And my 5-year-old dog, Max? Oh, what a delightful, precocious little dog. He is a tiny house still under construction.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than years of experience. She has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is a certified nose work instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.
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