Teach your dog the “F word”
One of the most important skills to teach any age dog is how to handle frustration. There are two major factors that function as folly’s to finding fido’s with fantastic behaviors (Hee He). Fear and Frustration are the two common denominators in dogs with major behavior issues or aggressive traits. Dogs who grow up never learning how to deal with frustration can be very difficult for the average owner to control in stressful or distracting situations. There is a phrase we dog trainers hear all the time, “he is a perfect dog at home.” Clients tell us how well behaved their dog is as long as there are no other people, dogs, cats, children, noises, distractions or changes to the home environment of any kind… not sure that is a bragging point. But we get it, the dog has a concept of behaviors you like and how to succeed but has never learned to generalize those behaviors to places that are distracting or different from the primary training environment (the home).
One major reason dogs do well in class room training settings but struggle out in the real world is something called “location based training”. If your dog learns pattern behavior in a studio or classroom and practices once a week for 6 weeks they will probably get pretty proficient in that space. Then owners need to be encouraged to take that same skill set and take a step backwards. Start the exercise again in a new place, and another, and another. Trainers try very hard to get a dog to GENERALIZE the behavior to 6 different locations or situations before they consider it to be a skill set they can rely on. Training does not happen in the classroom, coaching does. We coach owners on how to go out and train their pooches.
I say it all the time. Dogs Do What Works. One of the biggest things I hear from owners who’s dog frequent dog daycare and dog parks is they can’t walk past dogs on a leash or sit next to a dog in public because their dog goes crazy barking and pulling to get to the other dog. Dogs are becoming rather over-stimulated. Think about what behavior we are practicing every time we go to the dog park and daycare; ignore humans, wrestle and chase dogs. This is extremely fun and rewarding for dogs. All dogs should have social interaction and dog play but it is said for every 10 minutes your dog plays with another dog for “exercise” they should spend an hour with you. Wow, think about that ratio. It is difficult for dogs who spend multiple days a week in “pack” play groups to understand when they get to approach and interact with 90% of the dogs they see that they will not be aloud to see the one approaching in the street. The dog becomes frustrated and pulls and drags the owner to the dog on a tight leash. Perhaps the approaching dog does not find this behavior to be a correct greeting in the dog world (face to face is rude) or has some leash aggression issues himself. Now we have a problem.
I find the best way to train dogs is through play. Work away from food and teach the dog to work for a ball or tug toy. They you can recreate frustration and excited energy through play time. If you have a toy that your dog only gets to have when he plays with you he will go crazy to play “the game” and you will have to work through frustration when your dog is barking, jumping and demanding the toy. Teach him that calm behaviors are rewarded. For instance many of the dogs I work will be working to earn a tug toy, they only way to win is to lay down. So jumping, barking all get ignored but then the dog lays down and the game is ON!
Think about what it means to have a well socialized dog. It is simply a dog who is safe and in control in public places. It is great if your dog likes other dogs and plays but if your dog can’t sit at a coffee shop without going insane when a dog walks by he can’t get to, you may have an over-socialized dog who doesn’t know the “f word”.