Before You Consider a Dog Trainer, Consider This!

Dog training is a common need sought out by pet parents. It can have such an amazing and positive impact in you and your dog's journey together. There's a lot for you both to learn from that to reach your goals, further enhance your relationship and communication with one another. However if I'm being completely honest with you, I get at least one phone call a day from dog owners seeking dog training support but in my opinion, oftentimes.. 1. What they need is not to provide their dog with training, but rather just a better understanding of their dog's core enrichment needs, which can prevent the need of formal training. 2. They could have completely avoided reaching a point of frustration with their dog and needing my help, if they had put into place a simple routine of mental and physical stimulation outlets. Let me expand on these two points a little further. No dog (or any relationship for that matter) comes with a manual of everything you must and mustn't do, and so it's 100% of the time a good idea to consult with a professional, to make sure you're on the right track. That said, something that a lot of dog trainers don't dwell too much time on, is the idea that you can prevent most, if not all of your dog behaviour concerns, if you first practice a daily routine of fun, alternating and tailored exercises and activities that will keep your dog's brain constantly feeling mellow, calm, relaxed. Basically fulfilling the idea that a tired dog is a happy dog that is far more likely to stay away from "trouble" and is thus much easier for any pet parent to guide.

Let's go through a couple of examples of this: Leash Training & Reactivity I'm starting off with a rather difficult one, simply because it's naturally challenging for a lot of dogs to focus in outdoor settings, especially when they're young. However it's one thing to help a dog focus in distracting environments, vs trying to help a dog that has learned to respond to said environments in a reactive (aggressive if you will), frustrated, overwhelming way. How both the need of in-depth leash training and behaviour modification while on walks can be prevented is by first and foremost starting with leash training exercises in/around your home. Often called the Umbilical Cord exercise, this is where you use a hands free leash to walk your dog around your home and rewarding them for doing so calmly, while slowly adding more distractions like toys, doors slightly open etc. This specially useful and important for puppies and it makes for a great exercise to provide your dog with instances where they are required to understand, think and focus on the activity at hand because you're not just opening the door and heading out for this exercise, but rather walking in and out of your home, slowly letting your dog know that you have his focus as things get more distracting, little by little. This in itself is a must, and wonderful way to stimulate/tire your dog's brain, to the point where they will be more focused on you and the idea of coming back in to take a well deserved break, rather than the idea of simply bolting out the door the moment it opens! This tackles the beginner skills needed to have your dog walk on leash while maintaining good and constant communication with you! Another way to prevent issues with the above is to find a safe, controlled and recurring environment where your dog will get to freely socialize with other dogs of a similar age, demeanour and size! Unfortunately this is where most owners will turn to the dog park, however this is an unregulated environment, with dogs and pet parents of different backgrounds, mentalities and experiences, that will not always have your dog's best interest at heart. But if you can do a bit of research and find the ideal setup for your dog to get their need to socialize, play and meet new dogs, you will grow with a forever friendly pooch!

Nipping, Barking & Destructive Behaviours

This one is a lot easier to tackle and the key again is preventing the unwanted behaviour! Make sure you continuously provide your dog with proper outlets to their physical and mental energy. Kongs and walks are great but always best provided as a cooling & relaxing little activity, at the end of proper enrichment activities, such as snuffle or puzzle games, scavenging, digging, nosework, socialization with other dogs, hikes & more. Put it this way, if your dog is awake, looking at you, pacing back and forth around your home, following you around, it's the first way he or she is telling you they're looking for something to do, before they find something on their own and exhibit unwanted behaviours. Lack of Focus & Poor Decision Making Skills Enhancing your dog's decision making skills comes down to When. When did you put your dog in the scenario where they were presented with the choice to bark or not bark, to run or not run, to chew or not how, and How where they feeling at that moment. Chances are, most of the scenarios your dog is presented with is not at the right time and thus not the place the way you'd like them to. That's because we need to remember that if we provide our dogs with both physical and mental enrichment BEFORE any new activity, then they are far more likely to respond in a mellow and relaxed manner that allows them to think, and also gives us time to 1. Reward them for not practicing an unwanted behaviour (this is all the training you will ever need!) and 2. More easily guide them towards a different choice, if ever we find that they still need a bit of help. Let's take the example of a loved one coming over. If they're going to be visiting at 5pm, make sure that between 4-5pm, that your dog has gotten what he needs in terms of activities, so that he can give you what you want and consider as a proper greeting at 5pm, where you will then be less likely to experience overexcitement, jumping, barking and more!