By Jean Sutherland

     When we first arrived at Lakeside our Suzy was in terrible shape. She had separation anxiety from the drive down and was completely out of control with anxiety. We hired a dog trainer, who really trained us not her, and set to work. He worked miracles. With my Maggie Muggins, there is just no help. She is as smart as they come and has us completely baffled. She is a purebred Mexican dog and I swear she only understands Español. As you will see below, most of the work is done by the owner and not the dog.


     The timing of corrections AND praise MUST be impeccable. It is TOO late to correct or praise if the dog is not doing what you want to reinforce.
Reinforcement MUST happen AS the behavior is happening.


     If you do not want Poochie on the couch, then he should NEVER be allowed on the couch. If you do not want your dog to jump up on you when you are going out, then he also should not be allowed to jump up on you when you are wearing jeans. If you want your dog to lay down and he doesn’t, follow through by showing him what you expect. The best way to lose your dog’s respect is by not following through on commands.


     If Poochie is lying quietly on the floor chewing a bone, tell him what a GOOD DOG he is! Even if you have a difficult time getting your dog to follow a command, being angry will only make it worse. You need to lose the anger and let him know he is good for coming (through clenched teeth, resisting the urge to strangle him!). After all, he DID come to you. Dog training class instructors have a MUCH more difficult time getting dog owners to PRAISE their dogs than they do in getting them to correct their dogs!


     TELL your dog, don’t ASK him! If he doesn’t comply, then SHOW him! However, FIRMNESS does NOT mean MEAN! Develop a tone in your voice that he will recognize as “Oh, oh, he means business!”


     HELP your dog to understand what you want from him. Once he has a good understanding of what you expect, then you can correct and show him the appropriate behavior. When teaching, break each exercise down to small portions. For example, when teaching STAY, the dog cannot be left while the handler walks across the room. Instead, the handler, after giving the stay command steps directly in front of the dog, standing toes to toes, and counts to FIVE. The handler then returns to the dog and PRAISES it the distance between dog and handler can be increased as the dog begins to understand what “stay” means.
     Also, the length of time the handler is away from the dog can be increased as the dog learns what “stay” means. As the dog becomes steadier and has a clearer understanding of “stay,” distractions can be added, like other dogs, kids playing etc. Often if a dog does not understand a command, it is because it was taught too fast and with too much assumption on the handler’s part. The exercise needs to be broken down into small increments and re-taught. Good luck with your best friend.
     (The shelter is currently overwhelmed with puppies and kittens and we need help with puppy and kitten food. If you can help with a donation please let me know. Jean (766-
2694) Anita (01-387-761-0500).