As with many dog owners, my dogs are more than just dogs, they are my family.
I get asked all the time how do you do it? No this isn’t a SJP movie, and I don’t run around the house wearing Manolos . Instead it’s Old Navy T-Shirts, jeans and flip flops (yes even in winter!). This is my life living with 4 Shih Tzus, 1 Malti-poo and a Peki-huahua.
I have a strong belief that dogs learn good behaviors with positive reinforcement. Dogs are excellent learners and the delivery of punishment can seriously damage your relationships with your dog. Training with rewards, not bribes, creates a dog that is always eager and happy to learn.
As a professional dog trainer, I always tried to relate dog training to raising children. Now don’t get your panties in a bunch because I am comparing, but I have observed that good parents show their children how to do things by demonstrating or talking to them about the situation. Demonstrating something either by luring or actually performing the task itself can benefit the dog greatly. And yes I have actually crawled through an agility tunnel for my dog to know it was safe to go inside! Building trust between myself and my dogs is very important.
So what is my secret to training dogs? First off I believe that you need to come to grips with the fact that dogs don’t understand English. Telling them to ‘Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit’ will go no where unless you give them some type of direction to what a sit is. Yes after a bunch of times telling them and they finally get bored your dog will sit. But how will they know the next time? So it is best to show him the behavior we are wanting and then rewarding him for that behavior.
So before I begin my adventures in sharing my techniques with you, here are the basic tools in my training ‘bag’:
- Collar, Leash & Harness
- Smile on my face
Why the smile on my face? Keeping a smile on your face keeps a friendly tone to your voice… try it! Can you sound mean or demanding while you are smiling? I can’t.
Over the years I have developed my own techniques in training various basic manners skills with positive reinforcement methods. So maybe some things I show you will be new and some may be old, but as long as we get to the same end result is all that matters.
To speed things along I have created my own videos.
Shih Tzu Training Tips: Introduction of a Clicker
The first thing we will learn is capturing a dogs attention, a focus skill which we will later call a positive interrupter when working with distractions. For now we are going to teach our dog to look at us in the eye. We will eventually link this behavior with either a word or a sound and NOT the dogs name. Why? We (humans) have a habit of using a dogs name all the time and without proper reinforcement a name can lose it’s power in gaining a dogs attention. We want to be able to build a ‘whiplash’ reaction of a dogs head when they hear that particular word or sound.
Shih Tzu Training Tips: Focus Skill
Though this may seem like it is a simple skill, it is a crucial building block in the training relationship between you and your dog. Join us next week as we incorporate this skill in training a loose leash walk.
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Kimberly Gauthier says
I love the title. We have 4. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up with a 5th. LOL
Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Easy | Feeding Raw Dog Food Isn’t As Easy as 1 2 3
Kelvin @ Dog Kennel Whisper says
This is a great idea for starting dog training. I’ve just gotten me a new pup and I’m extremely interested in trying to do the training myself. Especially the basics like “sit” and “come”. The tip about using a particular word and not the name was really interesting and I’ll have to incorporate that into our next sessions. Thinking about it I can see how that could be better. Thanks and keep those tips coming, Christine!
Tzu Mom says
If you are just starting out I would definitely recommend the book The Thinking Dog: Crossover to Clicker Training by Gail Tamases Fisher. If you have never trained using a clicker I would start here. She makes it easy for the everyday person to understand 🙂 Good Luck!