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Habits of a Highly Effective Dog Owner

As a Central Valley dog trainer, I have the good fortune to train all breeds of dogs of all ages and sizes. I also get to interact with many dog owners from all walks of life. They have two things in common: 1) they love their dog; and 2) they have a behavior problem that needs my help.

When dog owners think about dog training, they often think I am going to work mainly with the dog. In fact, I work mainly with dog owners to change their communication with their dog.

You may remember Dr. Stephen Covey’s wildly popular book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Although it was primarily written for business owners, many of the principles apply to dog owners as well.

1. Be proactive.

Do not wait for your dog to make a mistake and then correct him. Most people wait until there is a problem and then yell “No” “Stop” “We potty outside.” Unfortunately, your dog doesn’t understand the command of “No.”  You are speaking in English and your dog speaks dog.

What do I mean by that? Dogs are taught from their Moms and litter mates how to communicate with each other. Mama dogs don’t walk around yelling “No!” Instead, dogs use body language and tone of voice to communicate with each other. This is the language Bark Busters uses.

It is your job as pack leader to proactively teach your furry companion how to act in your home. If you don’t, he will take control.

For instance, when you bring a new puppy home, show her immediately where she is supposed to go potty outside. Stand there until she does and then reward her with praise.

2. Begin with the end in mind.

What is it you want to accomplish? “Stop him from barking or walk correctly on a leash?” What do you want him to be doing instead? Wait by the door and not bark? Walk calmly by your side on a leash? You have to know your desired outcome before you can correct the behavior. Then you can develop a game plan to stop the unwanted behaviors.

3. Put first things first.

When you get a new puppy, there are so many things they need to learn that it can become overwhelming. You need to take it a step at a time.  The main thing is you want to keep your dog and your family safe. Basic obedience like “sit,” “come,” “stay” are very important. So is house training. Make a list of everything that is urgent and important or not urgent and not important (like doing tricks!)

4. Think win-win.

You are going to spend the next 10 – 15 years with your dog, so you want to make sure you have a great family companion. Your relationship with your dog needs to be based on mutual love, trust and leadership. Establishing yourself as the pack leader is very important. Understand you don’t need to be a bully to do this. Bark Busters achieves well behaved dogs without any negative methods such as prong or shock collars. The only hand you should put on your dog is a loving one.

Your dog wants to be well behaved – many times he just doesn’t know how.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Your dog is speaking to you all the time with his voice and body language. Although dogs bark for a variety of reasons, you need to figure out why your dog is barking. Is he bored, afraid or being territorial? What humans interpret as aggression, for instance, might have an element of fear behind it. That is why Bark Busters always gets to the “root” of the behavior before we try and fix it.

6. Synergize.

You and your dog are a team. Understand your capabilities and limitations and his. We have seen some dogs accomplish amazing things by being therapy dogs or service dogs. Others excel in agility trials, whereas, others are great family companions. Every dog has his strengths and celebrating that will make you a lot happier than focusing on any weaknesses. 

7. Sharpen the saw.

Understand that not a day goes by that your dog is not learning something. There is no short-term fix. Training a dog takes patience and repetition. It is not something that should be done haphazardly (when you find the time).  Every minute you spend with your dog is a teaching moment. You don’t want to be inconsistent in the messages you send to him. Leadership and consistency will allow him to develop into a calm, confident dog who truly understands what is expected of him and which behaviors are appropriate to choose on his own.

I am often asked, “How long will it take before my dog is trained?” The truth is, there really isn’t an answer to this question because there should not be an “ed” on the end of the word train. You and your furry friend are going on a lifelong journey of fun and education.

Bark Busters Central Valley stands ready to help you. Call Bark Busters and Barbara Gazley today to get started on the right paw!

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