1) If you want your dog to listen to you, talk less.
Human beings are verbal communicators. Dogs are not. Yet people think that the more they say something, the more their dog will understand. The truth is, the more you say, the harder it is for your dog to pay attention. The best way to get any dog to focus on you is to get very quiet, and communicate with your body and the energy you’re projecting. That’s the language dogs instinctively understand.
2) Use direct eye contact sparingly.
Direct eye contact to a dog can mean they’re listening to you, or they perceive you as a threat. It can also signify who’s in charge, depending on who initiates the eye contact and who responds. The pack leader will usually initiate direct eye contact, and they’ll reserve it for occasions in which they’re making a point. So if your dog walks up to you and you always look them in the eye (as humans do with each other) you’re putting your dog in a power position in your relationship.
3) Walk with your dog beside or behind you at all times.
The walk is key in determining the pack’s hierarchy. The pack leader always walks in front, and will use force to keep other pack members from getting in front. Realize that your dog doesn’t think you’re being “nice” when you let them walk in front of you, they think you’re acting like a follower. This will directly impact whether or not your dog respects your leadership.
4) Always enter and exit doorways before your dog.
Dogs will frequently stop in the middle of the doorway in order to block the other pack members from passing. Subordinate dogs wait, dominant dogs ignore those they perceive to be below them in rank and push their way through. If you consistently allow your dog to enter and exit doors ahead of you, you’re putting them in a leadership position.
5) Don’t yell or raise your voice when communicating with your dog.
Humans frequently try to use a raised voice or angry tone to communicate their displeasure to their dog, thinking it’s an incentive for the dog to do what they want them to do. Dogs are non-verbal communicators, so they pay attention to the energy that’s delivering the words, rather than the words themselves. Loud voices confuse your message, and project unstable energy, which the dog perceives as weak. Dogs do not follow weak leaders, so not only are you clouding the message, you’re undermining your authority by yelling.
6) Don’t tense-up on the leash when you see another dog, person, cat, motorcycle, or any other thing your dog has reacted to in the past.
Let’s say you’re on your daily walk, and nearing the house with the “yappers” in the yard. They make your dog crazy every time you pass. Just yesterday your dog almost pulled you into the bushes trying to get to them. This time you get ready: you pull up on the leash, wrap it tightly around your hand, and brace yourself. Your dog immediately starts lunging, which you interpret as the dog knowing the yappers are near. In reality, the death grip you now have on the leash told your dog there was something to become anxious about. Think of the leash as a direct line of communication between you and your dog. A “loose leash” tells your dog to relax. A tense, tight leash says “watch out!”
7) If you don’t want your dog to beg for food, never feed them while you’re eating.
Even if you’ve been giving your dog “treats” from the table for a decade, all you have to do is stop. Your dog will likely continue to beg for a short period of time, but if you consistently ignore this behavior 100% of the time, they’ll simply quit without any further training. Dogs do what works to meet their needs. When something stops working, they stop doing it. When you stop giving your dog treats, your dog will stop demanding them.
8) If you don’t want your dog chewing on shoes, never give them a shoe to play with.
Dogs live in a black and white world. If you offer shoes to a dog to chew on, then all shoes become fair game. Some dogs will chew on shoes even if you didn’t give one to them because they want to be close to your scent. You can prevent this by storing them out of your dog’s reach, or by training your dog to ignore them in favor of appropriate chew toys.
9) Never try to soothe a barking, lunging, or growling dog with affection.
Petting a dog, or telling them “it’s OK,” or “you’re alright,” etc., when they’re behaving aggressively, or are in any way out of control, nurtures that behavior. The best thing you can do is to object to the behavior.
10) Walk your dog at least 30 minutes every day. Younger dogs, high-energy breeds, and dogs with separation anxiety need at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Lack of sufficient exercise is at the root of most of my clients’ problem behavior. Separation anxiety, aggression, excessive barking, excessive digging, property destruction, and a whole host of other issues can frequently be resolved with appropriate exercise. If you’re wondering if more exercise will help your dog, double the current amount for the next 3 weeks, then evaluate their overall behavior before and after the increase. If your dog is a senior, or has any chronic illness, check with your vet 1st, then build up slowly. Puppies should be walked, not run, until their bones and joints have fully developed.