Posts Tagged ‘Positive reinforcement’
I was walking my two dogs on East Capital Street last week when a jogger, large Labrador in hand, ran right in between me and the person I was talking to. Literally. I was astonished. Not that it makes any difference, but I don’t have small dogs. Or unintimidating dogs. One is a 110-pound German shepherd, and the other a small-ish, but still substantial, pit bull. Nothing transpired, except my chin dropping nearly to the sidewalk in surprise. Clearly both dogs combined had more intelligence than this jogger.
We hear many tragic cases of dog interactions going badly. The truth is though, it’s not always, or even usually, the dogs’ fault. Dogs are dogs. We are humans. We’re supposed to know better. Common sense goes a long way.
So here’s my living-successfully-with-your-dog lesson 101. In five easy steps. (1) The first is to believe in reality. Some dogs just don’t like other dogs. Or people. And some are, as we like to say “reactive,” which means their buttons get pushed whenever they see another dog, or person, or squirrel, or falling leaf. It’s their nature.
(2) The second rule is that some dogs don’t do very well at the dog park, the least manageable places to secure your dog from anything other than cars. To many dogs, a dog park is a big, bad cocktail party, where everyone is drunk and trying to grab the last tray of pigs-in-a-blanket. It’s not pretty.
(3) Rule number 3 is that yes, you do have to do some training. All dogs benefit from this. And they enjoy it. Dogs, like all of us, need boundaries to be successful in our world. Go to a positive, Certified Pet Dog Trainer. And bribe, bribe, bribe. About three-quarters of a dog’s brain is devoted to smell and taste! Food is magic. And it works for training. You should take every aversive training tool, prong collar, electric collar (the worst!), and choke chain, and place them under your right rear car wheel and drive over them. Twice. For reactive dogs, these only make things worse. For other dogs, they’re just cruel.
(4) Get control of yourself, and your dog. If you have trouble exercising control, by all means keep your dog on a leash. And not those retractable leashes. They do the opposite of what a leash is supposed to do. When you need to get your pup back in a hurry, you’re just kidding yourself if you think you can do this with the magic touch of a button. And for heaven’s sake, get a harness or gentle leader, if your dog becomes a whirling dervish in a neck collar. They make all the difference in the world.
(5) And finally, be a human. We have an obligation to control our dogs. Don’t run smilingly to meet the neighbor’s dogs if you’re not sure what the neighbors dogs are like. Assume that no dog is a bomb-proof, safe hound in a city. And don’t run your dogs through a group of other dogs on leash, or kids chalking in a hop scotch course on the sidewalk. Cross to the other side if you can. We’ll take turns.
Keep control of your dog. Just because your dog lives to meet other dogs, that doesn’t mean other dogs want to meet yours. Be safe. And keep your dog safe. That means good parenting, some common sense, boundaries, and a plastic bag. And ask first before approaching a human and his dog. We’re all just trying to get our pups safely walked and home before dinner, too.