Question: What are the most common, fundamental errors you see dog owners committing?
Answer: This is a great question, and at the risk of sounding ugly, Iâll say probably the biggest mistake I see people make is getting a dog on impulse. Typically, these folks werenât ready for the potential 10-year commitment having a dog entails. Dogs need a leader and they need exercise, so when we get a dog, weâre signing on for at least a decade of dog walks, rain or shine. Amazingly, some dog owners didnât think of that at first. But walking your dog each day is just the start.
Even though your best friend has an amazing capacity to learn, itâs incumbent upon the human pack leader to facilitate this process. That means the first nine months to a year are going to be a vital part of Fluffyâs learning process. Sometimes I see new dog owners who arenât totally committed to that, but this part is much easier than raising a child! Nine months or so, and youâre done … for life.
The only real variable in dog psychology and behavior has to do with where a particular dog falls on the dominance/submissiveness scale. Dogs who are more on the submissive side are more likely to cosign your leadership and are generally easier to train.
If you have a more submissive doggie, oftentimes you donât have to be a so-called âdog trainerâ or do everything by the book to get a pretty great result, and I see this play out every day. But if you have a more dominant dog, and youâre not committed to being his definitive leader and teaching him some simple, basic rules and boundaries, itâs inevitable youâll have problems. Thatâs very predictable.
And in the absence of definitive, consistent leadership, most all dogs except the extremely submissive ones will find the one human pack member who they can leapfrog in the pack order. All potential dog problems are more easier to deal with when theyâre addressed as a puppy.
In the absence of appropriate leadership and training, your dog will more than likely start doing pretty much anything he wants to. And beyond that, depending on the dog, may develop some serious behavioral problems that ultimately arenât his fault. His owner wasnât committed to molding him appropriately. This means we must put intention and attention on this important detail. And whether you get a puppy or an adult dog, your most important tool in working with, and shaping his behavior, is patience.
So even though simple dog training is not rocket science, it is another language. But we donât inherently think like a dog, so itâs a language we need to be able to understand and speak on some level. Can you find everything you need to know about that online or at the library? Absolutely. You could even teach yourself how to sort out an older dogâs behavioral problems using those sources. It might take some time to sift through all the information out there, but itâs doable. And because not every single theory on training your dog is perfect, the more information you gather, the better.
I often hear people say their dog is âspoiledâ but in my book, just because your dog lives a comfortable, American life, doesnât make him spoiled. Your dog is only spoiled when he has objectionable behaviors, and weâve basically given in and allowed them to continue, instead of doing whatever it would take to turn those behaviors around. And itâs pretty rare that a so-called dog problem cannot be fixed.
Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who âteaches dogs and trains people.â Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or dogsbestfriendflorida.com.