How much of what you say to your dog does your dog believe? Many people think solid bombproof obedience can only come from being physically domineering or bribing them with treats. You need to develop a relationship with your dog where your dog chooses you over the distractions no matter what the situation. You accomplish this through patience, clear communication, repetition, and follow-through.
People really tend to struggle with follow-through. Whether they think they are short on time or want to take a quick way out most owners will give commands, that their dogs will ignore, and they let them. Each time this process happens your dog is losing more and more respect for the command. I see clients all the time that tell me how well their dog listens…most of the time. They like to tell me their dog really is obedience trained. No, a dog who only listens when they feel like it is by definition…NOT an obedience trained dog.
Your dog needs to listen to you the first time, every time. It doesn’t matter how interesting the squirrel, cookie, mailman etc is, your dog needs to follow their commands. You accomplish this with follow-through. If you follow through with every command you ever give your dog their entire life they will have no reason to ever doubt what you say.
One of the best places to start working toward that kind of compliance is on the small stuff. Does your dog only sit when they feel like it or when you have a treat in your hand? Maybe your dog only pulls on the leash when they get excited. It is during these critical times when you need to follow through with your dog and mean what you say. Owners perpetuate their dogs’ poor behavior all of the time by humanizing them.
Your dog is not a person. You are not helping your dog in any way by trying to treat him like a person. If you want to show your dog how much you really care for him you need to care for what he is. Dogs crave leadership, structure, guidance and affection. You need to provide this to your dog. By allowing behaviors because he’s “being cute” or “doesn’t feel like it” you are setting both yourself and your dog up for serious stress. To a dog the world needs to be very black and white. This is allowed, this is not. It is unfair to your dog to let him mind only half the time and then when it is a situation of his own safety or that of someone else’s you suddenly expect him to be reliable.
You create reliability in your dog or unreliability in your dog by teaching your dog you always follow through. Let your pup know that a command ALWAYS matters because you as his leader have always followed through on any command you have ever given.
Remember: Your dogs want structure. They want leadership. Training is a 24/7 lifestyle, not just an isolated event.